What I do for a living is teach people how to unlock their inner creativity, how to have better ideas, and how to make those ideas a reality. I fundamentally believe that all business needs a bit more creativity. Because the truth is even if you are smart and you have great data – you might get to a 5 or a 6 –but the only way to get to a 10 is to take a creative leap. Now in doing so, you do risk hitting some 2’s – but you must quickly learn from the 2’s and then you will be able get to more 10’s. We all have creativity – we just need to know how to tap into it. I am going to give you some things that you can do every day that add more creativity and help you turn those ideas into reality.
My belief is that when creativity is flowing throughout an organization – work is a lot more fun and work is a whole lot easier. But there are many things that get in the way of that. The good news is - when it comes to creativity – there is no such thing as the right way or the wrong way. It’s very much about you and how you choose to show up. In order to do that we have some very simple behaviors that you can incorporate into your day to day life. My belief is that it is the simple stuff, the stuff that you do every day and that you do consistently – that is the stuff that creates impact. Nothing I am going to say is amazingly technical or incredibly complex. All of this is easy to do. The problem is that often we don’t get to do it because work gets in the way. And to be honest we get in our own way of doing great work.
Ok, first tip – you must have a POSITIVE MINDSET.
You must approach problems from a world of possibility. We often kill ideas before they have even had a chance to live. Now I am not saying that we should go through life with a ridiculous overly optimistic mindset, but what I do recommend is that when we have identified a problem, we get positive on delivering a result.
True confession, I have been leading creative sessions for the past decade and a half of my career. And every single time I hear a new idea in one of these sessions, my instinct always says “Ooh – that’s an awful idea.” Because as human beings we have a built-in negativity bias. We are hard wired to react negatively to change.
Ok, now, that we have acknowledged that bias– we can do something about it. What I have learned to do to counteract that negativity, is to keep that thought inside and not to articulate it. Instead, I have learned to listen to that inner voice and say ok there is a problem here with this idea but how can I make it better, how can I make it useful, how can I make it work. And that is what being positive is all about.
Ok, next tip. - GET OFF AUTO PILOT
We spend most of our business lives on auto pilot. The research suggests that we spend 80% of our time on auto pilot. Now the problem with that is if I were to ask you the question – how can we fix “X” while you are on auto pilot the answer is always going to be well let’s just do what we did last time - which is no way to be creative. So what we actually need to do here is a bit of unlearning. And by unlearning I mean – recognizing that we have got to let go of the old in order be able to move forward. We need to not hold onto things too tight just because that’s “how it has always been done before.”
And to do this, we need to break off of auto pilot. My suggestion is that you pull yourself off of auto pilot just three times a day. Ok, but how? Simple - take a walk, get outside, breathe in a bit of nature. eat a proper lunch – not at your computer, chat with a co-worker. Nothing major – but something to pull you out of work mode and into a more fun and playful mood. You’ll never get completely off auto pilot but if just three times a day you can step off that treadmill and just check that you are using your skills in the right way I think it’s invaluable. Nothing welcomes in auto pilot better than a habit of doing something the exact same way, every single day.
Ok, third tip – MAKE IT REAL
Once you have your idea to a point that you can take if off the page and make it a reality – do it. Do it quickly, easily, and as cheaply as you can. Once it’s real - you can try it out and start to learn from it. You will have something to get feedback from and start to gather data. You will know if it worked or if it didn’t and you will start to have ideas on how to make it better. And from what I have seen the organizations with the best cultures around creativity are the ones that make things real all of the time.
What makes great innovation - realness. Realness is what makes the difference not only in creativity but also for the energy in the room. It helps you learn. Your idea is no longer an intellectual exercise, it is a visceral experience. Now you can experiment, you can learn and the learning is something that you can reapply forever.
Fourth and final tip – BE BRAVE
Every time creativity comes to play in your organization there are people who will literally dread it. It’s new, it’s different – they don’t like it. And it’s a perfectly human response. In order to really embed creativity what we need to do is encourage more bravery. We need to own up to the fact that we are scared of doing new and different things every now and again. We need to create an environment where people feel safe to express themselves and take some risks because not everything you do will work. We all have terrible ideas. But the truth is unless we share those ideas with the world – how will we know whether they are great or awful. As individuals we need to be personally brave but equally as important as an organization we have to be brave.
So, how we do create these kinds of environments of trust and safety? First, we need to master the art of feedback. One suggestion here – when you are ready to take your idea out into the world, you (as the receiver of feedback) tell the feedback giver specifically what you would like feedback on. This allows you to receive feedback in a very pointed and focused way that will be easier to take in and easier to take action upon. Another suggestion, there is a format for feedback that I really like and I have found to work quite well. You as the giver of the feedback ask – what do you think works well? What do you think can work even better? This prompt really takes the sting out and makes the critique actionable, allowing you to really take the feedback in and make the necessary improvements.
So – my Top Tips. First, inject positivity when you are having those new and different thoughts – without positivity nothing will survive . Second, pull yourself off of Auto Pilot. Break habits and take deliberate action to make sure that you are getting your brain to a place to spot new opportunities and connections. Finally, just do it. Make things real. Do it quick, do it on the cheap, and you will change the energy in your business forever. And remember, all of it takes a heavy dose of bravery.