MORE and more these days, companies are asking their staff to think creatively on the job. Then they cross their fingers and hope it happens.
This situation is very frustrating, both for the leadership and for employees, but it also represents an opportunity for people interested in developing themselves and helping others to do the same.
If you are one of those who have recognised the value of developing your creativity, not just for the benefit of your career but also for your personal enjoyment, here are a few tips to help you along this colourful road.
Set your mind free
It can be difficult to be creative on demand. This doesn’t mean you’re not creative. You might just need to find the right place or the right atmosphere that will encourage your juices to flow.
If you are having trouble thinking in the office, it makes sense to deal with other work until you can get away, and then take a walk to relax your mind. A mind under pressure will often spin its wheels. A change of scene will often engage these wheels again. Let your mind wander, and you will be impressed by where it takes you.
Alternatively, you can do some of your creative thinking when you are even more relaxed, out for a meal with a friend or in a nice warm shower at the end of the day. If you think better when surrounded by nature, visit parks on the weekend.
Do what it takes to help your mind travel freely and uninterruptedly along its avenues of thought. Remember to bring a notebook so you don’t forget anything!
Once you’re back in the office and ready to discuss your ideas, do what you can to encourage a stimulating environment. If you have a choice between a meeting room with a window and one without, choose the window!
Most of us feel happier in natural light, and positive feelings help creativity along. If there’s time, consider having a creative meeting outside the office. If you go to a coffee shop, be sure to start brainstorming as you walk there, and keep doing so as you walk back. Brains benefit from movement, and from informal situations.
The more, the merrier
Talk things through with people you trust and admire. Because our experiences give us different frames of reference, our thinking is necessarily limited by our backgrounds.
Open up the idea you are working on with people of different backgrounds, and you will be reminded how many more perspectives there are than the one you have come up with yourself. Test your idea out on a variety of people, and you will enrich it and make it much more robust.
Another advantage to group creativity is that it can help make sure that your idea is both understandable and palatable to others. How awful it would be to start promoting an idea you came up with alone, only to find that elements of it are unintentionally offensive to a group or culture!
A lot of us have trouble building up enough courage to speak up about our ideas. There’s a voice inside us telling us that it makes us too vulnerable to do so, and that it’s best to keep quiet and see what others think. When we do this, our employers don’t get the best out of us, and what’s sadder, we don’t get the best out of ourselves.
If you struggle with this fear, it helps to remember that a lot of people feel the way that you do, and that they will be grateful if you break the ice and start talking.
If your boss is any good, she will make her appreciation obvious. Encourage yourself by telling yourself that if your idea isn’t accepted it’s only one of many, and it might just not be the right time for it. You can always come back to it later. Rejection of an idea is in no way rejection of who you are.
If you are a boss or team leader, remember that people do fear speaking up, particularly if their ideas seem unusual. Do everything you can to help your team feel comfortable expressing their thoughts to you.
Even if you are not sure what you think right away, keep your face friendly and say encouraging things. If you criticise an idea too quickly, you may not get any more ideas at all from that person. Can any company afford to stop their people from thinking and talking?
Developing your creativity and sharing it with others doesn’t make you vulnerable. In fact, in many industries, it’s not developing and sharing it that is dangerous. As with any new activity, it will take practice to feel comfortable doing it, but the sooner you start, the sooner your creativity will start enriching your life and your career.