Often we think of creativity as a trait – some people have it, and some people don’t. But several studies have demonstrated that creative thinking is impacted by a number of factors beyond innate ability. For example, the simple statement “please think creatively” was shown to increase participants’ creative fluency in a recent laboratory study. Sometimes, it’s not about the people. It’s about the environment, the expectations, and the permissibility to engage in creative thinking and work. Next time you’re seeking more creative solutions, be explicit and intentionally cue the creativity for yourself or your team. A few ideas to get you started… 1. Change the Setting…even it it’s down the hall to the break room. Want to spur creativity? Try altering the environment. Do something to put yourself or your team in a different environment. Go outside, remove the table, sit in different places, meet in the cafeteria, stand-up. I remember meeting with two of my colleagues to plan a large recognition event. Our ideas were traditional, old, and stale – not at all what we were hoping to bring to the event. One of my colleagues (thanks Jeff!) said ‘let’s get out of here’. So we moved our meeting a full 100 feet down the hall to the break room. The act of moving and sitting in a new environment, along with the intentionality of being creative, brought more ideas than we could implement, and the resulting event was a tremendous success. Environment matters. If you want to think of new ideas, go to a new place; even if it’s just down the hall.
2. Seek the 3rd and 4th option. Many of us like the simplicity of two choices: A or B, Yes or No, Steak or Seafood. However, many problems require solutions that may not be apparent until option 3 or 4. If you have a complex problem to solve, force yourself to create a third and fourth option.
3. Don’t Choose. Instead of choosing between the 3rd and 4th options, don’t. Instead, force yourself to identify solutions that provide the benefits of all of the options. As an example, most of us are often faced with the choice of spending or saving. However, over 10 years ago, Bank of America launched a campaign that gave customers the benefits of both. In their “Keep the Change” program, every time a customer used their debit card, the bank rounded up the purchase to the nearest dollar and transferred the difference to their savings account – allowing people to spend and save at the same time. So the next time you’re choosing between options that have different benefits, consider not choosing. Instead, force yourself to develop a creative solution that gives the benefits of both. Cue the cake and eating it too.