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6 ways to embrace creativity in business


Written by Chris Hewitt

Creativity is part and parcel of what we do at Berkeley Communication, but it’s valued in all parts business. Why then, do businesses do such a good job of shutting the creative process down?

Creativity is not something you can switch on and off at will, but employees are often expected to deliver it on demand. It simply doesn’t work like that.

Scared into creativity

I was in a brainstorm meeting with a client recently where everyone in the room was literally terrified of the leader. The net result was no creative output whatsoever because the participants’ fear made them clam up.

As the CEO got more frustrated with the process, he became even more intimidating and things got worse. You get the picture.

Fundamentally, group creative discussions work better when people are enjoying themselves, are at ease with making mistakes and the environment is playful.

My experience got me thinking about other ways to avoid creative block and so I came up with these six.

Before you start to roll your eyes at the thought of ping-pong tables, bean bags and slides in the office, these are all gimmick free suggestions.

1. Brainstorms don’t work 

In fact, there are several schools of thought that brainstorms inhibit creativity. According to Harvard Business Review, social loafing creeps in because people put in less effort in a group than they would individually. Then there’s social anxiety which means we don’t get to hear the great ideas of the introverts. And many introverts are creative people.

If you must have a brainstorm, make sure everyone does their research beforehand and comes to the meeting with pre-prepared with ideas and. Then you will see them evolve creatively and practically as people ask questions and make suggestions.

The tone you set before the session is also important. You want people to come with ideas, but not be wedded to the specific details. You want the ideas to be a starting point for an open discussion, not a definitive answer to the question. That’s how you can shape better creative concepts.

2. Expertise is not required 

You don’t have to be an expert in something to be creative at it, but knowledge is important.

Whatever you’re working on, conduct your own research.

View related TED talks, search YouTube, find a mentor, use research, read the press, ask questions, delve deeply into the topic you’re working on. The more you know, the more ideas will creep into your head.

Equally, if you have experts in the room, make sure they don’t cut ideas down or dismiss them before they have had a chance to be explored. That external stimulus can be incredibly powerful but it has to be encouraged, not shut down.

3. Cuddle the dog 

Better still, move. Get up. Walk the dog. Go for a run. Look around you for inspiration.

Be mindful all the time of the challenge you’re working on.

Ideas come to us when they want, not when we want them.

Pay attention to your thoughts and have a pen handy – a shower-proof one if necessary. Or an app. Or send yourself an email. Whatever it takes.

If I’m driving, I use Siri to dictate the thought.

There’s always a way.

4. Think in problems

If you’re trying to find an idea to promote a product, think of the problem potential customers have.

Then think of the consequence if the problem is not solved.

So, if you want to promote a desk-tidy, think problem – an untidy desk. Then think of the consequence – poor productivity.

Whether flying solo or in a group, always ensure that ideas remain anchored in the problem to stress test their effectiveness.

5. Volume matters

Come up with lots of ideas.

If 99% are crap, then 1% is still good. Just keep going.

A good idea can be inspired by a bad one.

Mind-mapping is one way to do this by keeping the central idea (or problem) as the kernel and then branching out from there.

6. Keep it real

There are plenty of great ideas germinating in pubs up and down the country. You can hear them a mile off.

But great ideas are useless without effective execution which is why so many ideas stay in the pub along with the people who came up with them.

Keep your idea simple and practical. If you can’t explain it in a sentence, think again. And above all, can you execute?

And when you’re done, it’s always a good idea to ‘socialise’ your idea with people outside your professional circle to get a fresh perspective – a sounding board if you like.

So let’s end it there.

In the pub.

Cheers.