Where does Creativity happen?

Inspiring meetingsThis is a question that often passes our lips. Where does Creativity happen then? One possible answer is ‘everywhere and anywhere’ but really the original question ought to be better framed. For instance are we talking about where creative activities might take place within an organisation? Maybe we are talking about the mechanisms by which individuals might come up with creative ideas or which parts of the human brain are being used?

So I shall try to shine a light on both of these areas.

Traditionally Creativity would have been found in areas such as Marketing or Product Development, or rather that is where you would have been told to find it and where employees would have been given permission to be creative. In fact Creativity can be found (and always could be found) in all parts of an organisation. The big difference is that now we know that all employees can be creative independent of their job function. This means that in order to tap into this creativity the mechanisms that are used to capture and recognise ideas must have a greater reach.

There are also issues of permission and the ability to handle ambiguity for those in management positions. Things are no longer confined to neat boxes.

But where does creativity happen for individuals? The actual ideas are formed in our heads (the easy bit) and then we have to externalise them somehow (often the hard bit). We can be creative anywhere but creative situations fall into a small number of categories. We are often creative when faced with adversity or tight deadlines. However, over do the challenges and we often give up. The right amount of pressure is critical.

Creativity is often found where there is some sort of tension (not necessarily war like tension). People with varying backgrounds and opinions will often create the right atmosphere as long as they can respect the viewpoints of others.

We can be creative individually but often need to dream or daydream. Either that or distract the part of our brains that screams ‘no you can’t do that so that the creative part of your brain can have a party.

These are only my opinions. It does not really matter where creativity happens just as long as it does.

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The Creative Egg or The Creative Chicken?

Which comes first the chicken or the eggWhich comes first, and do we care? You may think that organisations are creative and think they must come up with ideas. You may see organisations that generate ideas and then think that they must be creative. So which comes first?

If we try to work out the solution to our little dilemma we will be here for ages. In a way creativity and ideas are just manifestations of something else that is going on.

Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming due to a rash of untidiness. He could not be bothered to tidy up before going home and then going on holiday. A month later he returned to discover something strange growing in one of his petri dishes and realised that something significant was happening. Further investigation led to the discovery of penicillin.

Creativity (and ideas) come about through friction and tension. This can be effort vs laziness, humour vs seriousness, chaos vs order and so on. When these tensions occur then unexpected, and sometimes seemingly trivial things happen. All we have to do is simply be ready.

Some say that luck is what is required to come up with a good idea to exploit. This is not true, what is needed is serendipity. This is a piece of good fortune coupled with an ability to realise the significance of the lucky event and the ability to take action.

So whether you are trying to be creative on your own or as part of a large organisation don’t get bogged down in systems and processes (QA will probably favour the Chicken and HR the Egg) just keep an open mind and be ready!

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Do you ask the BIG questions?

There are many lists of things that highly creative people do. I’m not going to replicate one of those here but just leave readers with one question to answer:

Do you ask the BIG questions?

Creative people are curious and highly creative people are very curious indeed. Rather than just wander through life they will wonder how, what, why, when etc about almost everything. They will not be trivial questions like ‘I wonder why Mrs Jones painted her door blue’ but more profound like ‘If you could track the water molecules in a river, where would they go?’ or ‘If the mountain came to Mohammed, how many lorry loads of rock were there?’.

Such thoughts lead to other things, ideas get played with or maybe shared and then the Eureka moment happens!

Creative people also have a habit of saying ‘Hold that thought’ and then going off on another tack or suspending belief completely. One of my favourite quotes is from an old children’s favourite – Winnie The Pooh.

“Hallo Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?” “Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”

So do you ask the big questions are are you concerned with how many hours it is until you can go home from work? Do some homework, think big, daydream, go off-piste with your thinking and play. Let me know how you get on.

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Calling all CEOs – here are some ways to encourage Creativity

As CEO, if you want people to be creative, you must be prepared to implement their viable ideas. Employees will soon work out that your support of creativity is a sham and will hold back on the creativity. After all, what’s the point in making the effort to develop and promote ideas if they just get ignored?

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