Not just Creativity, Innovation too! Here are my top ten strategies for boosting creativity. This will help your business get along in challenging times.
- Knowledge is a key Innovation component. Use what you already have and try to learn from as many different sources as you can. Read things you might not normally read or do things that you might not normally do.
- Many of the rules of creativity touch on judging. Build up rather than say ‘yes but’ and try to see things through the eyes of others.
- Many business people only ‘see’ things that are written in documents. To get different views why not model in some way (play doh, Lego, rich pictures) or perform some sort of visualisation for which many scripts are available.
- Allow time for things to grow. When experimenting, keep going around the loop if no final decisions need to be made. Try also to take some time out to reflect on what you are doing or to let your creative ‘right brain’ continue to work.
- Use all of the methods at your disposal to see what is going on around you. This means your physical senses as well as any ‘information gatherers’ that you employ.
- Doing is better than thinking so do lots! If you are managing an innovation project get your hands dirty. Don’t be afraid to go off a a tangent if you feel like it. Innovation only fails if you do nothing.
- Save yourself time. Don’t wander all over your marketplace looking for niches, simply look at your competitors and look in the places that they are not.
- If you work in a company that deals with one or more strands of continuous innovation then ignore this suggestion! If you are involved in an innovation programme then beware of creating too many ideas! Once you have got as many as you need, stop generating ideas and get on with evaluating them and put them into action.
- Be careful of ‘givens’, the rules that everyone accepts as true for no good reason. Patterns are good though as they help us deal with lots of thoughts at once, stopping our heads from exploding.
- If you are stuck, try redefining or reframing your issue in some way. You might like to just look from a different perspective or maybe use metaphor
What use is metaphor?
Keen followers of Agatha Christie’s fictional character Miss Marple will be familiar with her technique of mapping happenings of the wider world with things she could understand that occurred in her own village of St Mary Mead. So already we have a list of things that metaphor can help us with:
- Giving explanations to those unfamiliar with a concept
- Examining problem situations from an alternative perspective
- Reframing situations
- Communicating concepts to a wider audience
- Learning or making sense of a concept that we are not currently familiar with
Another interesting use for metaphor is within stories and for use as a more sophisticated business tool but that is an article all of its own. But how about the application of metaphor, will it work for everyone and will it work everywhere?
Where can we use metaphor?
We can use metaphor directly in:
- Creative Industries and the media
- Any other areas that rely on human interaction
Metaphor works best when individuals can ‘connect’ easily with metaphors. For example they are used to metaphor or storytelling and their lives are not littered with distractions. In developed countries we are buried underneath mountains of gadgets which we either rely on to automate our lives or which we take great delight in exploring in detail. We either want it to work or we want to read the instructions in detail. We do not wish to know that our new MP3 player is like a pepperoni pizza (or perhaps a more appropriate metaphor). I am speaking generally here, those who are emotionally intelligent will be using metaphor regularly.
In developing countries there is less technology and less complexity in life generally (but life is often very hard). People are often closer to their emotions. Storytelling and metaphors will work well here and have a very powerful effect.
What makes a good metaphor?
During a recent debate it was suggested that a good metaphor for a modern organisation was a jigsaw puzzle. I was not sure about this as it suggested to me that everyone has their place. I believe that people can contribute in many different ways. The originator of the metaphor then proceeded to explain it to me. When I suggested that a good metaphor should not require explanation they got a little upset!
A good metaphor should not require explanation. When someone suggests that a task or project is like ‘wading through treacle’ we instantly understand. This is of course unless we do not know what treacle is. Good metaphors should work for those who respond to different types of stimuli (audio, visual, kinaesthetic …). They must be easily modified and shared. Imagine the details of a house given to you by an agent. You like the garage, your partner likes the bathroom and the kids like the garden. You all know that you are sharing the same idea but have different perspectives. Others can also share and modify different aspects (the dog loves the garden!!).
Street artist Banksy is well known for challenging the establishment. Below is his take on PR and advertising. Whether you agree or not it should make you think.
People are taking the p**s out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. advertisements leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. Posters make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. Advertisers have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
F*** that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. In fact, they owe you! They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs. – Banksy
No this is not a statement from a fringe group who are avoiding the frayed nerves and expense associated with Christmas Shopping, cooking, boisterous children and upset tummies. Christmas is a time where a million and one things must happen and be in place (more or less) by the time presents are unwrapped on Christmas day.
To be honest most of us manage it. We enjoy (or tolerate) the influx of friends and family and for once we seem capable of multi tasking i.e. having a drink, fixing the tree, carving the turkey. Using Christmas as a metaphor, why can’t we do all these things in the workplace? Why can’t we encourage diversity, set objectives, plan and execute strategies?
A subtle clue might be in where the focus lies. As individuals, who do we focus on at work, who do we focus on at home (especially at Christmas)? Now think about where the most dramatic results are achieved!
So far we have considered taking Christmas to work, but what if it were to be the other way around? Here are just a few of the issues that might surface:
- Tall object with pine needles – removed for health and safety reasons
- Three Wise Men – disbanded because of contravention of equal opportunities policy
- Baby in a stable – social services involved, baby now in care, animal rights protesters angry because of displaced donkeys
- Larger house needed – health and safety dictate that there is not enough floor space per human/animal/present
- Christmas dinner cancelled – no proper workstation assessment carried out on dining table and various rickety items of furniture that we use
- No presents – Santa has not been on a manual handling course
- CRB checks on family mean that our relatives must stay away
- ISO assessors are getting annoyed because we want to have Christmas without first writing a Christmas procedure and having it approved
The list could be endless. There is a serious point to be made though. Yes we do need some frameworks to work within, and for someone to look out for the less fortunate and disadvantaged, but too many rules and too many people saying NO is stifling.
So its time to decide whether in 2011 you wish to embrace a more creative and productive way of working or wither away under a pile of rules and red tape. Remember, if Christmas really was like work, it would be cancelled. Long live Christmas!
Since we have seen political and economic upheaval recently in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Greece, this quote seems topical. It is also a good example of reframing in order to sell a concept or to obtain good PR as opposed to actually solving a problem. Enjoy!
There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers. Richard Feynman