managing creativityEmbracing Creativity or running a creative thinking session is not unlike running a theatrical performance – it needs both stage management and direction.
Such activities can of course vary widely in scale. You may be working on your own; you may be chatting informally with one or two others; you may be running a classic small-group brainstorming session or even working with large groups. In all cases you must pay attention to the following components.

People – the ‘cast’ of the drama If you have the luxury of choosing people to work with then this may present a dilemma. On the one hand, you want as much diversity as possible, because that is where new insights and connections will come from.

On the other hand, they must work well together, because creative work requires a high level of personal openness and risk taking, and a lot of interaction.

If possible you should:

  • Choose people who have the skills to manage high levels of difference comfortably.
  • Design sessions/meetings so that they are less sensitive to the adverse effects of large interpersonal differences.
  • Facilitate the session in such a way that you ‘manage’ adverse effects as (or before) they emerge.
  • Choose people who can tolerate wide levels of difference
  • Choose people who are compatible temperamentally, but differ widely in their area of expertise

People are less likely to be ‘thrown’ by minor interpersonal clashes if they have a reasonably solid personality, a degree of self-awareness, and a good sense of humour. Avoid big status differences, unless it is very clear that there are excellent, pre-existing, levels of trust between the people involved.

Have fun! Laughter and a light touch can defuse many tensions and manage the expectations of participants so that they know this will be a somewhat ‘special’ event, with unusual people. Remember, it is usually easier for people to feel uninhibited and take risks with a group they will not see again.

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