I believe that dips in confidence are the single biggest blocker to individual, team and organisational creativity.
We often think that creativity is about whether or not you can draw. It’s not. Creative thinking can apply to anything. You can be a spreadsheet superstar, a Moodle maverick or a clever content creator.
If you reframe creativity as ‘problem solving’ it will help you feel more comfortable and makes creativity feel like less of a dark art. Creativity is about solving strategic problems, spotting opportunities, making connections and making good ideas happen to deliver the best learning and development for your employees and volunteers.
All human beings are creative. Research shows that creativity is more about a state of mind. And when we are in a relaxed or playful state our subconscious keeps working away, making connections and solving problems. That’s why when I ask people where they have their best ideas it’s very unusual that people say, ‘sat at my desk.’They usually have their best ideas when they are not at work: in the shower, driving, walking the dog, asleep, talking with their children or even on the toilet.
It can be difficult to work in an environment when we are expected to deliver more for less, inspire audiences with different needs to want to learn and ensure that employees have opportunities for professional development.
Yet so many organisations put their employees under pressure to simply ‘be creative’ or offer up massively unhelpful phrases like ‘think outside the box’ but without providing any guidance about how to do that.
So here are some simple tips to develop your already excellent creative thinking skills:
Know yourself: You are already creative. Step away from your desk. Think about where you have your best ideas and make time to go there. If this means spending more time on the toilet then so be it!
Get more curious: According to Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, creativity is making new connections by putting old ideas together in new ways. Therefore you need to expand your portfolio of knowledge so you have more old ideas that you can put together when needed. So get more curious about the world. Read more books, go on a course, listen to a webinar and attend that talk.
Break patterns: As we get older we repeat the same patterns. You’ll have experienced this when you feel like you’ve been on ‘autopilot’, for example, got to work and not really noticed how you got there. This inhibits our creativity because we simply repeat these ingrained patterns. To help break them, change your habits. Start with the things you do on autopilot. Change your route to work, listen to a different radio station, watch something different on TV, go to a different place for lunch. All these small changes will help to create new patterns, new neural pathways and help your brain to be more flexible at making new connections.
Ask why: When we’ve worked in an organisation for a while we accept the status quo, we accept ‘how things are done round here.’ Wear a different lens, pretend you’re new and start asking ‘why?’ When a new employee starts, ask them what they’d change.
Make it so: It’s actually much easier to say we can’t do something. That means that nothing changes. However, confident creative thinkers have a restlessness to solve problems and make things better. They are constantly seeking to ‘make it so’. The process of making the seemingly impossible possible also helps to flex your creative thinking muscles.
Ban idea killer phrases: You know them. Those phrases like ‘we tried that before and it didn’t work’ ‘we don’t do it like that here’ ‘we don’t have budget’ ‘the board will never sign it off’. Stop using them. They may be true. However, the world changes fast and something that historically wasn’t the right solution might be now.
Say ‘yes and’: Encourage confidence in creativity by making a small change to your language. Rather than using an idea-killer phrase (even ‘yes but…’ is negative) change your language to ‘yes and’. ‘Yes and’ encourages people to keep thinking creatively, solve problems and keep making those new connections and creates an environment where creativity can flourish.
Practice: Like any skill the more you practice the better you get. The small changes you make every day will add up to powerful confidence in your own creativity.