Make, Do and Mend: Lessons on Creativity From Our Creativity Report

Recently we released our first report, investigating creativity in the workplace. It began as an open question of ‘what can we offer our newsletter subscribers?’, took on a life of its own, and after three months emerged fully-formed into the world as a 48-page printed publication including psychological research, crowd-sourced data, and interviews with practitioners.

We set ourselves a series of tough constraints on time, budget, and resources which challenged us to think differently. It’s been a brilliant, steep learning experience. One thing we learned, we wish we hadn’t — we asked 100 of you for your opinion and found that 74% were not maximising their creative potential at work. This is a HUGE untapped resource that we need to learn to make the most of.

So, to encourage you to add in a little creativity to your working day, here are four things that we learned or put into practice whilst creating the report.

1. Understand that anyone can be creative

The report opened up a lot of discussion about what creativity really is, both in the office and with contributors and interviewees. It doesn’t look like there can be widespread consensus any time soon, but it was generally agreed that we’re all born with a creative spark, even though some adults are a little rusty. The definition we work to is that creativity is the generation of new ideas. With this in mind, you’re being creative if you think of a new way to get to work, or to take the bins out with your hands full. Your ideas don’t have to be new to the world — just new to you, your customers, or your organisation. So start small, but do start.

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment

A Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, proposed a ‘zone of proximal development’ where we are best placed to learn and grow. We believe this holds true for both individuals and organisations — if you’re feeling comfortable, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. The best way to stay in your zone of proximal development is by trying new things in the form of small experiments. The report as a whole was an experiment, to see if people would be interested in learning about and embracing creativity. Your experiments don’t have to be what you’re doing, it could be how you’re doing it; Ian Sanders contributed a piece for the report, on how experimenting with your working environment can help your productivity. To maximise your experiments, do your research, move fast, and treat each one as a learning opportunity.

3. Prototype, prototype, prototype.

Ross Kemp of ASAP Watercrafts contributed a piece to the report on the value of prototyping. Often, it doesn’t occur to people to prototype, or the benefits are not fully understood. In reality, prototyping your ideas is a great way to communicate an idea, or to quickly examine its desirability, validity and feasibility. Your prototypes don’t have to be high fidelity — during the creation of the report, we used sheets of paper with scribbled boxes, post-its, powerpoint slides, printed prototypes, and rearranged cut-and-stuck research to get our point across. In the words of Lenny Naar: “never walk into a room without a prototype”. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a hastily assembled video must be worth a few million.

4. Collaboration is key.

Any complex problem or project must be solved collaboratively. Fact. At every stage of putting together our report, we received invaluable advice, input, knowledge and time from others. The most valuable thing you can do is crowdsource people who are passionate about your project, with a diverse skillset and experience. Cultivate and curate your network of individuals who are generous with their time and experience, and make sure you’re generous with your own. On that note — thank you to all of the contributors who made our report possible through their generosity and expertise — including David Foster, Ross Kemp, Marci Segal, Rowena Vestey, Lenny Naar, Gavin Strange, Ian Sanders, Simon Mosey, and our 100 survey contributors. We couldn’t have done it without you!

If you’d like to download our Yellow Papers report, sign up to our newsletter. We’ll send it straight to your inbox, as well as fortnightly curated content to inspire change-makers and creative folk. If you’d like to hold a physical copy in your own two hands (and why wouldn’t you?!) drop us a line at hello@weareunstuck.co.uk to purchase one of our limited print run.