Monday, May 11, 2009

Creativity in Business

Innovation Games leverage the essential elements of creativity in business. There are five such elements* managers can provide their subordinates to enable creativity: Space, Time, Time, Confidence and Humor.

Space. An area away from phones, interruptions, and distractions must be provided. It helps to have plenty of writing or doodling room. Creative thinking can not be disturbed.

Time. Enough time must be set aside for the creative process to begin. An hour and a half is good. Once you have retreated to your safe creative space you will find you'll spend the first few minutes worrying about all the things you have to do. This is fine --- let these anxieties pass. Then you will be able to think about your problem clearly.

Time. You must give yourself (or your group) enough time to reach the best solution. This may mean multiple creative sessions (Cleese's example was that the shooting script for "A Fish Called Wanda" took 13 drafts). You will feel on edge because you haven't solved the problem. You will want to take the first semi-reasonable solution and go with it. You must resist this and maintain the tension of the unresolved problem until you reach the best solution, not just an adequate one.

Confidence/Permission. Criticism is not allowed in creative sessions. Allow all ideas to be put into play. Allow junior members to speak first, and don't allow senior member to ridicule them. People must feel they can take chances with incomplete or unreferenced thought. As ideas are tossed around, allow the occasional illogical transition. This is often the key step to a new view of the problem and a better solution.

Humor. Humor is an essential part of creativity. A main element of humor is the unexpected connection of two unrelated concepts. This is also a key element of creativity. Enabling humor starts the brain's analogizing mechanism. Some groups use computer generated random juxtapositions of key words just to stimulate thought.

So, the five elements of enabling creativity are: a space/time bubble in which to think, give yourself enough time to reach the best solution, empower the participants, and relax enough to play and have fun with the ideas.

*Taken from a talk given by John Cleese

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