• Marianne Bateup

Common blindspots and how to overcome them: I'm not creative


This article is part of an Abilitise series on common blindspots people face in the workplace and in life and how to address them.


How often do you hear people say, “I’m not creative?” You may have even said or thought this yourself.

Often, people believe that they’re not creative and thus they might not believe they can be innovative in their company. When businesses try to encourage their teams to be innovative, many employees may question whether they fit into the company culture if they believe they’re not creative enough. This can be detrimental with businesses needing to be innovative and to undertake continuous improvement activities to stay relevant to their customers and employees.


However, whilst people may believe they are or aren’t creative, what they often don’t realise is that creativity can come from DOING, and not BEING. Engaging in creativity is not about whether a person is being creative, it is rather about doing creative activities.


Whilst doing creative activities, it is being practiced. Thus, you are also getting better at it. There are many tools we can use to practice creativity so that it can be more integrated in both, the workplace and life. Through utilising these tools and practicing creativity, you will get better and better, and thus will feel more confident about your creativity as well.


So, what are some basic tools you can use to DO and practice creativity?


Creativity Cards


Creativity cards may present a range of images which prompt reflection and creativity. For instance, a range of picture cards could be spread out on a table, whereby participants are then prompted with a question to grab the first one which captures their mind concerning the question asked. They then are being asked to explain why they chose this card for this question.


Using creativity cards provides a great way to stimulate creativity within teams. Creativity cards can be applied to multiple situations and scenarios and can encourage participants to draw connections between their values, thoughts, emotions and experiences to the cards presented in front of them. This encourages creativity through thought, reflection and sharing with other participants.


Brainstorming


The idea of brainstorming, as first coined by Alex F. Osborn, can also encourage creativity, but should be conducted according to four key rules:


1) When brainstorming, there should be no judgement. Anything goes.

Have you ever been sitting around a table brainstorming ideas at work when another team member tells you that the idea you thought of is not possible, and thus it isn’t written down? This is stifling creativity and can be detrimental to the brainstorming process.


2) Come up with as many ideas as possible.

This may include being told to brainstorm 100 ideas. Coming up with as many ideas as possible is essential in ensuring many ideas can be considered after the brainstorm concludes. It also enhances creative thinking.


3) Present wild ideas.

Have you ever been brainstorming with your colleagues in an environment where you don’t feel completely comfortable to say the craziest idea that comes to your mind? This can be detrimental to creativity and can harm the brainstorming process as breakthrough ideas may not be considered.


4) Build on the ideas of others.

Building on the ideas of others is an essential part of brainstorming as it encourages creativity and allows individuals to form connections to other ideas. It is essential that individuals understand that by building on the ideas of others, individuals are not stealing from each other, but are rather complementing each other, enhancing the ideas.


Allowing the flow of creativity whilst brainstorming is essential to both being able to practice creativity, and to conduct the activity to its fullest.


To exemplify the importance of creativity in brainstorming, here’s an example of when creativity is stifled by breaking only the first rule of brainstorming, having damaging impacts:


In an office with a very high ceiling, a lightbulb has broken, and the team are brainstorming ways to replace it. The team has been told to get 100 ideas up on the board to ensure as many ideas as possible are brainstormed. Somebody suggests that an elephant should be brought in, causing everyone to laugh and thus the idea is not written down or considered. This is breaking the first rule of brainstorming through showing judgement. If this idea had been taken seriously in the process of brainstorming, another individual may have been able to bounce off the elephant idea by being reminded of an elephant statue they saw in a garden shop. Right next to this elephant statue, there may have been a suitable ladder which would be perfect to assist with replacing the broken lightbulb.


While working on this article, I saw a video of a drone replacing a lightbulb. If this was brainstormed in an environment where the rules weren’t followed, it may have been thought of as an unrealistic idea which could never happen. Seeing this video made me smile, as it truly exemplifies the importance of creativity through a real life example.


Once the person running the brainstorming session has made it clear that the brainstorming stage is over, only THEN can people evaluate the ideas presented to find a relevant solution. This is the evaluation section.


Through brainstorming according to the rules, creative connections can form which can lead to better solutions.


Suggestion Boxes


Create a suggestion box for your team. This can be a physical box or a virtual one. Suggestion boxes provide the opportunity for the staff to express their thoughts and feelings through writing or typing notes or letters to the person who is in charge of the box – usually a manager or someone with authority. The person in charge of the box then reads through suggestions and decides on the next steps. This encourages individuals to be creative and share their honest ideas which could help the business. Some suggestion boxes are anonymous which is great for people to feel safe when they propose improvements. However, when people can put their names to the suggestions, you also have the opportunity to reward their creativity and effort in this regard.


Both the people who make the suggestions and those who implement them should be rewarded. This rewards and encourages creativity within a team as the reward demonstrates the desirability of this approach to the other team members.


Stop, Start, Continue


Similarly to the suggestion box, the activity of Stop, Start, Continue within your team can be a great way to encourage creativity. Through asking your team to express aspects which they believe should be stopped, started or continued within the business stimulates creative thinking and honesty. The way this activity is carried out can also encourage creativity through, for example, placing the words, ‘Stop’, ‘Start’, and ‘Continue’, around a room and using colourful sticky notes to make the respective suggestions.


When conducting these creativity activities, it is essential to remember that different forms of creativity work better for some than others. Thus, encouraging discussion and feedback about these activities is important in understanding and learning about what works best for the individuals within your team.


Creativity should be integrated into work cultures and individuals should be encouraged to practice it. Practicing different forms of creativity is important for both, innovation and continuous improvement within a business, and therewith staying relevant to your customers and employees.


Continue to practice it, because by practicing creativity, you’re doing it and getting more comfortable with it.


Abilitise offers creativity workshops and coaching. Reach out today!