Creativity may be one of the greatest human assets our businesses possess. What have you and your business done to increase your creativity reserve? Here are some thoughts for bolstering creativity at personal, business, and society levels.
I confess that imagination and creativity are human traits that I value to a very great degree. Perhaps I value them so greatly because I perceive that invention, innovation, problem-solving, man-made beauty, progress, and generally making things better all come from our ability to envision something new and better. Maybe I perceive these things because I value creativity so much. Either way, I believe that our ability to invent and solve problems may be one of the greatest human assets to a business.
Considering such a suggestion, what do you do to increase your creative prowess for yourself and for your business? What do you and your business do to improve its overall creative capacity? Have you and your business done anything to ensure that your potential for more creativity in the future is ensured?
Think about it for just a moment. Remove yourself from your own paradigm and consider the businesses or products that you most admire or wish to chase. Is not an element of success for those aspiration examples rooted in some form of creative, inventive, or innovative source?
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately. Let me share some thoughts about how to improve creativity at a personal level, for our businesses, and how and why we should invest in our cultural sources.
We don’t need to be artists or sculptors, or have a two-page long list of patents to our names to be creative. Creativity is simply our ability to visualize something that doesn’t yet exist in our own context. When we can take what we visualize and produce it, we have an incredible power. When we can produce a solution that benefits others and ourselves, we have a power to change things for the better.
Whether you consider yourself creative or not, there is no harm in exercising your imagination and creative skills. Even if you perceive that you are highly creative, there is no harm in polishing your skills. A bottom line truth is that whether your creativity is a talent or a hard-earned proficiency, or a limited lucky inspiration, our ability to draw on it, on demand, to solve a problem or invent something great is a skill.
Hone you skills so you can better draw on your creativity when you want or need it. Games and challenges are our most readily available or producible creativity aids. Anything that gives you a challenge and requires your concentration, observation, and visualizations skills to solve it, is a good exercise. Artistic hobbies are also effective. If you enjoy drawing, woodworking, model building, sculpting, or music, set your ego and embarrassment aside and make a habit of free-forming your own art instead of replicating others.
Thought games with your peers or your family are other great ways to stay sharp. Pick a topic of mutual interest and discuss how you might solve a related problem. Ask you children what they would do or where they would go if they had a rocket that could take them anywhere they would like to go. Then it’s your turn. Ask your friends how you might develop a better car or solve a political or economic conundrum.
If you engage in the thought games, keep them games. Don’t turn them into arguments. If a debate over beliefs crops up, simply declare that the group shall assume the belief to be true, for the sake of the game, and proceed to solve the problem. It doesn’t matter if you do. The point is to exercise your ability to observe, learn, collate information, and generate ideas.
If you don’t already enjoy a healthy habit of these kinds of challenges you might be surprised just how effective you can become after a few weeks of practice. With any luck you will become addicted and the practice will, therefore, be automatic.
Now, consider the power at your disposal inside your business if everyone on your team is so practiced. Also, consider the potential of tapping those well honed skills for most or all of your challenges rather than trying to solve them yourself or expecting your lonely “expert” on the subject to solve it, whatever it is.
Use the same thought games, board games, strategy games, brainteasers process to improve the creativity skills of your business team. Don’t force it, but enable and encourage it. Engage your peers and employees in the games and thought exercises. Better yet, make a habit of sharing real business challenges with your whole team. Whether they are real or invented, challenge your team to solve them.
There can be great advantage to challenging your team with real or realistic problems. It compels them to understand the challenge and, therefore, the business. This expands their big-picture perspective and gets them better enabled to help on more challenges. It also keeps them thinking about such challenges and how their own work might relate.
If you have your team members inventing solutions to customer challenges, you might very well end up with innovations or inventions that can be turned into profits. The more they practice, the more likely this might happen.
Sometimes, our businesses need an infusion of expertise or insight or inspiration that must come from outside of our own paradigms or understanding. Don’t balk at the idea of engaging outside innovation or product development teams to add to your creative processes.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to invest in your business’s creativity pool is to hire carefully. When you bring on new personnel, do you merely run through the checklist of experience and credentials and check for a pulse? I hope not. Build lines of questions for your interviews to gage a candidate’s creativity and problem-solving capabilities.
As much as I ran on about ways to inspire creative practice in the workplace, some people are simply more skilled or talented at creative problem solving. It can be a difficult skill to teach any given individual. Many really creative people are that way from a very early age and have developed their skills over a lifetime.
It is better to hire a candidate that is short a little experience or minus a software program credential, but has exceptional creative problem-solving skills. In the grand scheme, it is much easier to fill in a credential or mentor in a little experience, than it is to suddenly develop creative genius.
Also, I find that those individuals that are highly creative are, coincidentally, fast learners. I believe that this is because problem solving is fundamentally a learning process. I invite you to test that hypothesis against your own observations and experiences. If it’s true, that creative new hire will pick up any missing skills easily.
With that thought, I’d like to step beyond our businesses for a few words and thoughts. If we accept that creativity and problem-solving are indeed very valuable human assets to our businesses, and that hiring that creativity is one of our most powerful mechanisms, we must give some consideration to where that creativity comes from so we can get our hands on it.
Creativity is a collaborative effort between several elements of our mind and our psyche (at the least it is a team effort between our conscious and subconscious, logic and inspiration). This is why it is not easily developed with a single class or exercise. It takes time and effort to develop that teamwork within our minds. It starts, for most of us, as part of our childhood development.
I urge you to give some thought to encouraging, supporting, or otherwise facilitating the continuation of creativity-intensive programs in our schools. Art, music, and shop programs are often the first to get downsized or cut from public school programs. Yet, these programs challenge our creativity as much if not more than the “standard” academics. At least they challenge them in different ways.
I encourage you and your business leaders to consider investing in your business’ future creativity pool, and our culture’s future by investing in art, music, science, and shop programs in the school districts in your local area. As individual business employees, leaders, or owners, we may not have much direct influence over our government investment in such programs, but we can make an impact at a local level.
If a meaningful tax write-off is not in the cards for your business, consider sponsoring a chess club, science club, or brainteaser club at your local elementary school. Send one of your team, on a rotating duty, to the school once a week to teach, mentor, or challenge the students. It’s highly affordable, and incredibly rewarding. It also sends a message and makes a difference. Many schools would be very accommodating if you offered.
Creativity is an asset. The skill to produce real solutions from creative ideas is power. Invest in your own and your business’s creative capabilities and see if it doesn’t improve your overall performance. If you agree with what I have posited in this post, then I encourage you to invest in the creative future of our community by investing in our school programs. It’s something worthwhile to consider.
Stay wise, friends.
If you like what you just read, find more of Alan’s thoughts at www.bizwizwithin.com.