Things for teams to try: Improving Creativity

It's not what we do but how we approach what we do that is key to improving creativity at work.

10 Creativity - team

1. Play!

Being playful at work fuels our imagination, creativity and problem-solving capabilities. We collaborate more, take risks and push ourselves out of our comfort zones to explore different perspectives or solutions.

How to do it:

  • Make time for designated “play” sessions, especially around complex problems or for horizon scanning in decision making.
  • Play the “alien game”, for example, to explore scenarios that mirror real life situations: imagine your team has landed on an alien planet and is asked to solve problems and recognize opportunities facing its inhabitants. When your environment is foreign and remote, you're more likely to come up with fresh ideas.
  • Sing together! It's an aerobic activity that increases oxygen in the bloodstream, creates positive energy and connects you to others.

2. Move your body to move your mind

Changing our environment and physicality can energize us and fuels creativity.

How to do it:

  • Try walking meetings - especially for controversial, sensitive or frontier conversations.
  • Move your workstation to another team and learn how they see the collective work you do.
  • Take meetings in parks; nature has a calming effect, making us more relaxed in the way we think and work together.
  • Bring plants to the office - then you'll have to get up to water them!
  • Find ways to get more physical activity into your daily commute.

3. Build a cognitively diverse team

In most contexts, it's better to hire for cognitive diversity but the challenge is we're attracted to people who are similar to us. This is good for simple problems, but for complex problems we need to work at the edge of what we see as possible. In fact, in Rebel ideas: the power of diverse thinking Matthew Syed makes the case that in most contexts it's better to hire for diversity than the best.

How to do it:

  • Ask those in recruitment roles to really push themselves to explore candidates that are cognitively diverse.
  • See where there are opportunities to mix teams so that different voices and ideas are elevated.

4. Explore what it feels like to be creative

All teams - whatever their function - can improve creativity. When people have the opportunity to step out of their day-to-day work lives and think outside the box together, we see a bump in overall happiness. Businesses typically benefit from all the innovation too.

How to do it:

  • Try running a workshop to help the team explore what it would look and feel like to work more creatively. These often brings up new things to try, and new ways to approach issues or solve problems.
  • Try using hack days to help revive people after a setback.

5. Improve how you fail

A culture of failing fast improves the creative process because it encourages us to try things we would normally avoid. By framing failure as an opportunity to learn, we can boost curiosity and positive mindset.

How to do it:

  • Use Friday Pulse to help the team get into the habit of exploring what didn't go so well with the prompt to share frustrations each week.
  • Hold specific sessions to explore what went well and what didn't at certain milestones through the year - eg. the end of a busy season, culmination of a project or launch of a new client.
  • Remember to be kind: a helpful way to discuss failure is to imagine talking to a close friend. How would you talk to them about what went wrong? What sort of reassurances would you offer them?

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