“The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive.” –Warren Bennis
In day-to-day work with our set objectives, regulations and limited budgets, it’s often hard to see the value of investing in some creative thinking. However, in a more competitive world with an increased focus on productivity, setting aside time to do some creative group thinking might just be worth the investment.
Who knows, you might discover greater efficiencies, fabulous new work practices or even a new product! At the very least, encouraging team creativity will enhance collaboration and problem solving in your work group.
Creative or innovative thinking often begins with an attempt to solve problems. In the late 1990s Apple solved the problem of a bulky portable CD player by creating the iPod. Toyota solved process issues by creating a production system that is held as a model of business innovation. Google solved the problem of accessing the myriad of information on the internet by building a unique search engine.
Of course, most of us don’t work at Apple or Google and couldn’t imagine creating an innovative device like the iPod or an internet breakthrough. But creativity is not always about inventing something that will become a worldwide phenomenon.
An innovative approach to an everyday workplace problem can still have an immense impact – how about finding a new way to market a product and renew its appeal? What about an approach to customer service that improves company loyalty? Or developing a faster way to process orders?
Some ways to create an innovative and problem solving environment with your team:
- Encourage and coach team members to come up with options for solving their own day-to-day problems – “What do you think our options are here?”; “What else can we do to improve this?”
- In team meetings, recognise those who have come up with a new way to solve a problem, market a product or help out customers (or other problem solving, creative ideas).
- Champion the team to build on ideas – sometimes the first idea may not be the best, but it is a starting point. “How can we build on this?” “Where else could this idea take us?”
- Have regular team meetings to focus on big issues, strategies or projects. Facilitate the day with some basic ground rules e.g. “No limits!”- try not to limit ideas by thinking about company policy, the way things are normally done or even industry regulation. (The point is ideas generation and the necessary ‘filters’ can be applied later).
- Bring in an external facilitator to run an ideas generation day – be it how to focus on customers, how to improve efficiency, how to market products – an experienced facilitator will help draw out the ideas.
- Provide a creative environment – welcome appropriate fun and laughter in the workplace; have stress balls, coloured pens, note pads in team meetings (many of us think best while doing something with our hands); bring along music for team meetings; take the team off site – whatever it is, do something unusual to encourage thinking differently.
- Invite someone from another department or company to project meetings – fresh ideas and insights are often initiated from another perspective.
Whatever you do to create an environment that welcomes thinking ‘outside the square’, you will find that over time the small effort it takes will be repaid with a more focussed, involved and collaborative team.
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