Creativity is of extreme importance for most organizations – whether it is required for new product or service development, solving problems, idea generation, etc. Creative minds are always welcome and needed, but experience has shown that such individuals make up only about 10% (or less) of all workers when it comes to certain professions. Such a low percentage shows a problem is present – are there any truly creative people in your business, and are they enough to sustain a never-ending flow of new ideas? Most probably that is not the case. This is why creativity nowadays is employed systematically, through diverse methods, two of which are going to be explored in this article. Those methods make sure everyone is involved in the creative process, and that the whole group can be innovative together.
Techniques to Trigger Creativity:
The first method we are going to talk about is the one that is most well-known: Brainstorming. It was introduced in 1953 by the advertising executive Alex Osborn. A famous quote by him states:
It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one. Alex Osborn.
When introducing the technique of Brainstorming in one of his books, Osborn came up with four rules, which he had found to lead to a superior idea and creative production:
- Avoid criticism at all costs– it can result in fear to share thoughts;
- Quantity over quality – because more ideas mean a higher chance to stumble upon the perfect one;
- Build on each other’s ideas – build new ideas on the foundation of already existing ones, mix and match them;
- Open up to outrageous ideas – innovation never comes from playing things safe.
The method is best employed when there is a facilitator that deals with the process only so that the team can concentrate on the innovative mission they have been set on. The facilitator must start off by stating the four rules and explaining them to the group.
Defining the problem
Then, the problem must be identified, so that all participants know exactly what they should be thinking about. A great way to establish the problem is writing it on a whiteboard, flipchart, etc.
After this is done, the idea-generating process can begin. Participants should tell the team ideas that come to mind. The facilitator’s job is to write them down on the flipchart/whiteboard so that they are visible and can influence the production of new ideas. The facilitator must also intervene if any of the 4 rules are broken and ensure everyone is participating.
The last step of the process is idea reduction. However, it shouldn’t be done right after the idea production session. Leave it for another time, another day maybe. The reduction can be done by everyone picking favourites or simply discussing all options.
Brainwriting was invented in 1969 by Bernd Rohrbach, a German market professional. He titled his technique “The 6-3-5 Brainwriting Method” because it involved 6 people writing down 3 ideas on sheets of paper for 5 minutes. Nevertheless, those numbers can be altered, and the technique has still shown to be as useful.
The basis of the method is to have people write down a problem on the top of a piece of paper. Then, participants switch papers and write ideas down that would help solve the problem on the paper they were given. It is similar to Brainstorming, as the same steps apply here. For better creativity results, a facilitator would be needed also. The problems could be whatever concerns the participants or related to the business.
Do not shy away from crazy ideas! Can’t get to work on time? Maybe your answer to that problem would be “try growing wings” and you should write that down. Who knows, maybe your crazy idea will be the stimulus that helps the next person come up with a brilliant one!
Why is Brainwriting better?
- it can be used to solve more than one problem at a time;
- suits shy employees, as it does not require speaking out in front of the group;
- idea generation happens a lot quicker because everyone is doing it at the same time.
Why is Brainstorming better?
- participants not only see the problem and solutions written down but also hear it, employing two sensory systems at the same time → more associations;
- co-workers get to form stronger bonds when communicating verbally;
- discussing ideas is yet another time when other ideas may arise.
Another great technique that could be used to facilitate creativity is the Reverse Brainstorming method. It approaches idea-collection from a different perspective, therefore giving your brain a new way to think about solutions (and most probably come up with some new ones). Reverse Brainstorming is also a great tool to keep problems from happening at all – prevention is the best cure, right?
The method is also amazing at turning the bad into good because it feeds on negative thoughts and criticism. So, how is it done? Well, quite similar to brainstorming, but reversed.
Make sure there is a facilitator willing to guide the process.
Don’t ask for a solution – ask for causation
When identifying the problem your team is going to be working on, make sure you word it correctly. Instead of asking “What can be done to better communication in the office?”, ask “How can we cause miscommunication in the office?”. This question would switch the point of view and make answering it a whole lot easier. It’s harder to think about what you could do to please others; instead think about what would be dissatisfying to you, causing problems in communication to arise. Moreover, criticizing and being judgemental comes naturally, whereas coming up with solutions is way more complex to do. Use that to your advantage!
Idea generation / collection
Everyone should consider the question and give their ideas on what the causations could be. Even though criticism is welcomed towards the problem, it still should not be present towards co-workers stating their opinion; crazy ideas are also still welcome because they could lead to the right one. Have the facilitator write down the ideas the team is coming up with.
Reverse the criticism
Once you have gathered all the ideas your group could think of, it is time to transform them into solutions. The best part is that this requires no work at all – if you just reverse a piece of criticism, it becomes a solution! E.g. Miscommunication could be due to bad internet connection that inhibits employees from emailing each other freely – that means that to resolve the problem, you could switch your broadband provider or a higher-paid plan. Simple as that!
Idea Reduction / Prioritization
Once all the feedback has been converted into credible solutions, it is time to evaluate which ones would help you out, which will not, and which ones should be worked towards first. This, as well as Idea Reduction in Brainstorming and Brainwriting, is advised to not be done straight after the idea generation session. It is best to leave it for later – another time or another day, so that the team members have rested in between and are not overthinking the problem, which could cause a creativity block.
The Reverse Brainstorming method is also perfect for preventing problems that have not arisen yet. If you are, for example, launching a new product, it would be difficult to think through all the details and creativity. That is from your perspective though. The fore-mentioned technique would help a professional team to think like the costumers, not the creators. By doing this, they will be able to ponder outside the box and identify features that would annoy them – e.g. the product is too big and clumpy to fit in its intended place or waiting 30 days for it to be delivered would be irritating. The solutions to those future problems are right there for you to see and deal with before an angry outcry from the customers comes about. That could save a lot of hassle later, isn’t it so?
Those three methods have their pros and cons, so choose the one that fits your team, purpose and environment the best. Why not try them all to see which one you like the most? They work so well because our brains are highly associative, so seeing others’ ideas fuels the creation of new ones. Whichever one you pick though, creativity is bound to be present at the table – let your team get the most of it! Approaching idea production systematically is the best way to engage everyone and achieve the best results. After all, many heads are better than one. Don’t wait for a creativity episode to strike someone, when you can have ideas popping one after another using these innovation boosting methods. And do not forget to KissTheFrogNOW!
This article was inspired by the following sources: