Dr. Sharon Livingston
The Wings of Imagination - Unleashing Our Creativity
When we talk about creativity, we tend to misinterpret processes that transform something old into something new as a fanciful flourish that manifests as if by magic. We revel in the insight, the surprise, the accident without understanding how it all happened.
As a result, we often continue to sit at our desks and await revelation. When it doesn’t come automatically, we become self-castigating and harshly judge ourselves as uncreative, blocked or barren, further stifling our potential.
Suppose instead of viewing creativity as an accident, or a gift bestowed to a lucky few, we looked at it as a process which everyone can tap into?
Creative insight and invention are actually the products of a series of smaller and less spectacular combinations and reintegration of concepts or perceptual patterns. We generally are not privy to the millions of nerve pulses or thought patterns that give rise to creative solutions. Yet these changes can be encouraged with a nutrient rich environment, good ventilation, the right temperature, exercise, and mind stimulating games.
So, instead of thinking of ingenious ideas as magically formed, we can view them as a result of concrete processes which can be altered.
While less romantic, the benefit of such simplification is that we can then study the various elements of the creative process and conceivably manipulate them to increase the incidence of innovation and inventive thinking. In fact, this has been done in numerous successful experiments over the years.
Facilitating Creative Problem Solving
What most experiments in creativity have in common is an emphasis on the optimal structuring of the environment and interactions among the participants. These surroundings stimulate the most effective, most productive emotional states for creative thinking. When combined with interactive team building exercises, suggestions on how to work and carefully chosen, evocative excursions, these conditions make novel insights inevitable.
Amazingly, the most productive suggestion a leader can make to any ideating team is the simple suggestion, “Be Creative.”
What is a Creative Environment?
A creative environment should be structured as a kind of a “holding tank” -- a protected and relaxed setting which fosters a sense of security and acceptance of all emotions and ideas. This safe climate encourages participants to explore the recesses and grottos of their minds and to take the risks of meshing and revealing unusual connections.
Ideally, the creative session is conducted away from the interruptions of everyday business life. Off-site meetings have the additional benefit of novel stimulation, which leads to fresh associations, the building blocks of creative production.
While hotels often offer rooms and suites for these purposes, most specialists who work with business teams would concur that facilities known as conference centers tend to be more knowledgeable about the wants and needs of creative teams and are therefore better equipped to provide the proper supports.
Stimulating the Creative Process
Even though it might look like genius or instinct or the result of divinely inspired imagination, coming up with new ideas is really the result of a process:
There are 3 basic steps.
1. Identify those ideas that have already been thought of
2. Encourage controlled chaos [to break out of the box]
3. Invite reorganization and synthesis of new ideas
First, we have to confront the conflict of wanting to hold onto, but needing to let go of, the ideas that have already been considered.
These have to be acknowledged and preserved in a special space. You can literally write them down on a flip chart and hang them in a prized place in full view, where they will be revisited later.
This is important to do since it is likely that advocates of these ideas are in the room. In order for them to work constructively and be free to invent other ideas they need to know that their brainchildren or wards are protected and valued. And for the team at large, before we can think outside the box, we need to know what’s in the current box.
Second, we intentionally invite controlled chaos to help people push the limits and make new connections. Creative sessions are designed to provide a systematic cocktail of confusion, encouraging oxymorons and other unusual associations which at first are apparently unrelated to the subject at hand.
Finally, we need to push the reintegration and restructuring of our thoughts and feelings into unique but feasible ideas, inventions, packaging, strategic positionings and advertising platforms that are not only creative but practical in the sense that they can bring about positive business outcomes.