Entrepreneur Coach Michael Noice wants us to understand creativity as the single largest determiner of success in the modern era. In contemporary business, “winning is not about being bigger, richer, or working harder than the competition. Increasingly, business success today goes to the entrepreneur who can come up with the most creative solutions to pressing problems”. With this in mind, how can you improve creativity in your business, and develop the solutions that will drive success?
Diversify To Personify
Noice’s first piece of advice is to hire and work with a diverse team. This doesn’t mean diverse in terms of goals. A unified purpose is necessary for the success of any team, in business or in other fields. It does mean diversity of background, ability, perspective, and point of view. Noice points out that the ‘lone creative genius’ rarely exists. More people working towards a solution will almost always find that solution faster than one person.
Depending on your position in your organization, you may have more or less control over the diversity of your team. Yet even if you are not in a hiring position, you can still focus on the diversity of your team. Even if there’s a uniformity to their backgrounds or interests, they’re still individuals with unique ideas and perspectives.
Get to know your colleagues, and you’ll see their uniqueness. There will be diversity of thought in virtually any group, even if it takes some conversation and discovery to illuminate. Encourage your team to brainstorm aloud and participate in feedback. This will bring out this diversity of thought and bring it to bear on your work.
Let’s take another approach to improving creativity: working the process backwards. While the traditional creative process involves gathering new material, working it over in your mind, stepping away from the problem, revisiting it, and finally shaping your idea based on feedback, Ryan Robinson recommends going in the other direction. Use reverse brainstorming to think not about the solution to the problem, but about the causes of those problems. This can allow new solutions to come to light through your changed focus and perspective.
Robinson also advocates the reversal of negative thoughts to increase creativity. Negative thoughts such as “This is impossible” or “I’ll never know how to solve this” can slow (or stall) thought. They encourage the rejection of possible solutions. Positive, affirmations like “I’ll figure this out soon enough” and “I’m open to any ideas we think of” are empowering and reassuring. They keep the mind open to developing and examining creative solutions.
Martin Zwilling has a fascinating insight on how to improve creativity: compare your creative thinking to dreaming. Now, of course, don’t take this to an extreme. We can all imagine a few dreams that we would never revisit in any setting, let alone in the workplace. Instead, think broadly about how dreams work. Their “idiosyncratic energy, colorful extrapolations on the same theme and nonjudgmental stance” are the elements that can improve creativity in your business.
When you and your team are engaged in the creative process, your thinking should be full of idiosyncratic energy. It shouldn’t be tied to conventional approaches, but instead charged by the openness of the task and the options available. It should allow for wide-ranging extrapolations and discussions of novel ideas, and discourage judgment of others’ ideas to ensure team members feel safe and comfortable contributing.
Zwilling also encourages a healthy amount of relaxation and patience. “New ideas do not arrive by timetable,” he correctly asserts. Creativity isn’t something that can be forced, or rushed to completion; it needs to unfold organically, in a low-pressure environment. Think of reaching creative ideas in terms of the way that you fall asleep. You strain and force yourself to fall asleep will not work, and might actually impede the process. Improve creativity in your business by fostering a reasonable pace in your team members’ work, and reminding them that in creative ideation, they can take more time to reflect and explore than in conventional problem solving.
Tune Out To Tune In
Then, there are some non-process related changes you can make that will also improve creativity in your business. Aubrielle Billig proposes lowering the lights to boost creativity in your workplace. She cites a German study that found that “dimming the lights can boost creativity, lower inhibitions, and even raise your determination”. She also suggests spending some time away from your screen, where most of us no doubt spend a great deal (if not all) of our time at work.
Abandon your devices for a moment and brainstorm elsewhere—on paper, or on a whiteboard. Visualize your ideas differently, and do it with others; stepping away from your screen should hopefully also involve stepping away from your solitude. Depending on your workplace, you may or may not be in close proximity to your coworkers. If you find yourself alone for most of the day, interacting with others can dramatically increase your creativity. New perspectives, combined with a new approach, can lead to more novel and creative ideas across your team and across departments.
There Are No Bad Ideas
Finally, Larry Kim suggests a way to boost creativity that seems a bit counterintuitive, but can truly enhance creative thinking. He suggests you think of a truly terrible idea as well as generating good ones. Imagine the worst possible solution to your problem—something truly useless, pointless, or silly. Then ask yourself: what makes this idea so bad? Where, really, is the problem with this solution? Then, ask yourself the opposite question. What about this idea is good? Which parts do work?
This exercise helps remind creative thinkers that very few ideas are total failures. That experimentation almost always leads to insight—even if it’s not the insight you expected. It also shows the strength of your good ideas; you’ll never realize how much you’ve gotten right with a product or design until you compare it to one that’s gotten almost everything wrong.
You’ll realize that a product you thought was successful in only three ways was actually successful in seven. You’ll realize one of the best parts of your product originated in your purposely ‘terrible’ idea. It’s sort of another way to work backwards, and it’ll create a deeper understanding of your goals and your markers of creative success.
From encouraging diversity of thought and background to working backwards through problems, lowering the lights to thinking about creativity like dreaming, there are a multitude of ways to improve creativity in your business. Fundamentally, you want comfortable, secure employees who value experimentation, varying their routines, and relying on each other for feedback and perspective. It’s a collaborative, forward-thinking approach that will lead to new and interesting ideas, day after day.