Creativity Tips for the Corporate World
Creativity is often celebrated for the ability to deliver uncanny solutions to tough problems. Take the following example: The Hope Soap is obviously someone’s very creative brainchild — and it is credited to have decreased 70% of illnesses in the South African community where it was made available.
The Issue with Creativity
Creativity does not always translate into profit; just as it has potential for payoffs, it has equal potential for risk. Creative people take routes no one has taken before — and hence represent a danger for incurring additional costs, or delays in a project. This is why new ideas often meet resistance.
Tips for Creative Professionals
While much is written about developing creative thinking, very little is done to coach creative thinkers to operate constructively in the corporate world. The following are my personal reflections on ways for creative thinkers to more intelligently contribute their ideas and talent to their workplace. They are inspired by a talk by Sylvie Geneau, who has worked with the Cirque du Soleil and other organizations to support creative thinking at all levels of organizations.
(1) Define where to Invest
Creative thinking and analytical thinking are not mutually exclusive in most jobs. For instance, in my role as a product owner, I need to be rigorous when writing the technical documentation, so that both the client and the developers understand the work we are trying to accomplish. Creativity has no place in reforming the template of acceptance criteria, or the methodology with which we engage with clients. Creativity is, however, needed in the conceptual design of the solution; most design patterns will come from industry standards, but there is always this peculiarity in each project which forces to think outside of the box. This is where creativity should be invested.
(2) Identify the Core
On a mandate a few years ago, we were asked to imagine a disruptive idea for a forward-thinking client in a conventional industry. I had to think for a moment before designing my website and mobile app concept, to understand what the client’s company represented at its core. This enabled me to make drastic changes to the service, while respecting the spirit and identity of the brand. The following video represents a good case study on the topic. By understanding what was mandatory for flight regulations and what the brand stood for in terms of identity, Virgin was able to successfully create a new in-flight security video which became a viral hit. It was disruptive, but not destructive.
(3) Surround yourself strategically
Diversity means success. Teams gain a lot from both creative and analytical thinking. Coupling people with complementary skills can deliver outstanding results for teams: Creative or conceptual thinkers have a lot to gain from — and a lot to contribute to- professionals who have the analytical or grounded skills they may or may not have. Being exposed to team leaders who value creativity — and perhaps even to work closely with a creative team leader — can make a significant difference for creative individuals and their teams. In such a context, creativity is seen as a strength for the team and it is usually used to its fullest potential.
(4) Present your ideas intelligently
When presenting ideas, it is important to evaluate the target audience. With fellow creative team members, creative ideas can be shared with enthusiasm and excitement. When working with traditional mindsets, innovativeness should be downplayed and ideas should be presented as close as possible to familiar concepts or to what is already in place. In that case, emphasis should be placed on risk limitation and the idea should only be discussed when it has been thoroughly developed.
(5) Look for Fit
Creative professionals have a duty to adapt to their environment and to share their skills with others on their teams. They stand a lot to gain by not only forming partnerships with analytical thinkers, but also from developing strong analytical skills. However, a creative person must be supported by his or her environment. A culture which allows a certain amount of risk and even failure, and that values high returns over conventionality and safety, might prove a nurturing environment for an out-of-the-box thinker. Certain industries, too, may be more fit for creative thinkers.
This article stems from personal reflections after seeing the inspiring presentations of Sylvie Geneau, from CRÉnO-Innovation (“Créativité en Entreprise”) and Louise Laforce (“Mobilisation des Équipes”) at the Institut de Leadership en Gestion’s course ‘’Certification en leadership et habiletés de direction ‘’ (Learn more at http://www.institutleadership.ca).