I’ve spent as far back as I can recall deeply believing I was both professionally and personally a deeply practical person, that being said my wife would disagree based on my DIY skills! Alongside this I felt I had little or no creativity skills, saying on many an occasion that I can barely even draw a circle!
There were reasons for my belief, at school I did reasonably well at maths, I enjoyed the black and white of the answer. I struggled more with English for instance where there wasn’t necessarily a ‘correct’ answer. I have also over the year refused to watch television and films that in my eyes couldn’t be real. I did make a small exception for James Bond!
I will also admit I haven’t had a great desire to be overly creative, I’ve spent my working life attempting to put in place practical mechanisms to succeed. If there was a need for thinking creatively, I would put some time in my diary to do so. For me this would be trying to make a PowerPoint look attractive for instance.
Creativity in the workplace of course goes well beyond the ability to create a striking PowerPoint presentation. It plays a role in pretty much every aspect of business, with a number of studies making a direct link between creativity and positive business results.
In late 2018, Ian and I began creating our first classroom training course, something that was entirely new to me. I had the best part of 20 years professional experience, great tools that I have used and a number of strong success stories. However, putting this with my beliefs and creating a two day training course wasn’t as simple as putting it all down on paper and structuring it to deliver.
Unwittingly this was me starting to understand the need to be creative. Before we go any further, I would like to clarify what we mean by thinking creatively, starting with a great quote.
“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs
I like this quote because of its simplistic nature, and for someone that had not given creativity too much thought it helps me understand. For instance, how can I connect my experience to delivering that to a classroom. Or how can I connect how I work with my customers and create a model that new colleagues could find value from.
So, for me, creativity is the act of turning knowledge or ideas into reality. The reality element comes from my desire to be practical, for me there is absolutely nothing wrong with having great thoughts and ideas but the true value comes from turning those into value for yourself or others.
Creating our classroom training and now online courses has opened my eyes to how being creative is something I enjoy and also how good it been for me. My eyes and mind were opened by a need but there are some simple steps to help support creativity, particularly in a work environment. These purposely focus on the individual. Of course the culture and leadership of an organisation can and does play a huge part in fostering creativity, but for now we are looking at this from an individual basis.
To allow ourselves to be creative we have to understand what it is we are looking to solve or achieve, once that has been defined, the next stage is to act on what is known. Creative moments generally follow all that came before it. At this point it’s rare though that your mind will switch to allow you to have that ah-ha moment immediately.
Generally, I have found you need to take yourself out of that environment, allow your mind to think in a different way. For example, sitting in front of a laptop for hours is unlikely to allow your mind to be creative. You need to allow your mind to wander, think about different scenarios, play out the challenges and give yourself the chance for that idea to come into your mind. You will need to let the thought percolate a little, play it over, consider how it fits against differing scenarios. You might get lucky and your immediate idea works, however more likely your ideas will end up not being the final answer. I’ve found that more often than not my initial idea leads me on to a second, third and fourth idea.
I’ve found the best way for me to get the creative juices flowing, is running or believe it or not cutting the grass! If we’re too sedentary, we never break out of the mindset we are sat in. Your’s might not be running or cutting the grass but finding that way of allowing you to free your mind is vital.
My final piece of advice is to free your mind of any belief that your ideas aren’t valid. Whether it be when writing, drawing, talking, thinking, discussing, if you have no fear of failure then you dramatically increase your chances of the creativity flowing. The best way to do this is surround yourself with like minded people that enjoy hearing new thoughts and being challenged that there are new ways, pushing themselves to increase their skills and knowledge.
There are many benefits that you gain from thinking more creativity, a number of them revolve around collaboration. A good example of this is when you have a challenging scenario you will want to bring people together rather than ploughing ahead on your own, increasing engagement and adding value to conversations. Whilst the benefits of this are clear both for your customers and your company, you will be enjoying working as a team, gaining new perspectives and allowing your newly creative mind more opportunity to expand to new thinking. You will find yourself wanting to seek new thinking more and more.
I have also seen that thinking more creatively is not just thinking about the here and now and solving an immediate need. One of the biggest challenges in workplaces is acting more strategically, rather than constantly putting out fires on those smaller tactical areas.
Whilst there are a number of well renowned tools to help you be more strategic, I believe that can only take you so far. Aligned to learning these tools, to make them successful and for you to be truly strategic, developing new and innovative plans, you must be thinking creatively. This is a deep subject (one that warrants a post of its own) but by working hard to let yourself think and be creative, you will be getting more strategic all the time.
I would like to finish on a quote that sums up what I have learnt over the past year or so.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” Maya Angelou
Creativity clearly brings further creativity. It has taken until now to realise that I do have a creative streak and the bigger revelation, I love it!