Creativity: The First Step to Innovation

How would you describe the color blue to a person who can’t see color?

After a minute of blinking blankly, the Kendall Square Association (KSA) staff began to break through our conventional ways of thinking and untangle this question on a recent Monday morning.

“It’s like hearing a melancholy sonata.”

“Blue is the sensation of breathing in cold air.”

“Deep and refreshing.”

What started as an idea from YeSeul Kim, our VP of Strategy & Operations, has now become a KSA Monday morning tradition. We’ve found many benefits from beginning our weeks in this way. For one, the exercises are fun ways to bond our new team. The activities also get us to think differently on a regular basis, engaging our poetic, artistic, and even scientific sides, according to that week's challenge.

Anatomy of a Creativity Exercise

An excellent creative exercise should puzzle you and make you think harder. Take for example one of our earliest exercises involving a photo of an ordinary city street lined with a row of trees on either side. But why was one row of trees taller than the other?

The KSA team’s answers ranged from the obvious (“shorter trees are younger and planted more recently”) to the scientific (“east vs. west orientation,” “soil composition”), to the mildly catastrophic (“ant infestation,” “used for firewood,” “pruned by accident”), and even whimsical (“taller trees listen to Beyonce”).

Some of our most memorable exercises tapped into our artistic sides and surprised us with our own talent. One morning, we all received a sheet of paper with a square and triangle and were told to complete the drawing. It was fascinating to start from the same exact place and see how differently our minds worked when we applied our dose of imagination.

Ideas for Your Organization

The Kendall Square Association is a next-generation community platform that connects, advocates for and advances the goals of the world’s leading innovation ecosystem. Creativity is at the core of this community, thus we keep it at the core of our organization. We absolutely believe we’re better Kendall advocates because of this creative routine and we hope you’ll try some of our favorite activities in your workplace.

  • Inspiration — Go on a field trip and take 3 photos of things that inspire you.
  • Beyond Seeing — Light a candle. In three minutes, write down everything you observe in the flame.
  • Observing with 5 Senses 1) Describe the sound of waves. 2) Draw an image that best describes your favorite song.
  • Words Matter — Write an acrostic name poem (first letter of every line in the poem is a letter in your name) on any topic.
  • Brainstorm — 1) Think of 30 ways to use a pencil. 2) Tell us all the ways you can make an egg float.
  • Empathy — Almost half the world lives on less than $2.50 per day. Describe how your week would look like while spending $2.50 per day.
  • See the Future — Write down 10 products or services that you believe will be obsolete in the next 3–5 years.

We’d also love to hear your ideas. Please share your creativity exercises with us via Twitter @kendallnow. As you know, we look for new ways to think differently every single week.