Creativity Is There Already, Nurture It

This is about valuing the creative potential in all of us, and trying to create room for it to flourish. Each of us has the ability to be creative, even if this only exists in small amounts. Such skills can be enhanced and amplified by employing the relevant tools and techniques.

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Something in the Air – Holistic Innovation and Creativity

Holistic innovation and creativity – read my exclusive interview with Peter Cook of Human Dynamic which was originally posted on the Innovation Excellence forum. You can now read it by clicking on this link.

Peter asks questions such as ‘what innovation demons do you want to purge?’ and ‘what is the future of creative thinking?’. Peter’s love of rock n roll also mean that there is a musical reference. In this case you can listen to Something In The Air by ThunderClap Newman.

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The Map Is Not The Territory

the map is not the territoryTo have a shared understanding with one or more people it helps to understand that the map they use may not be the same map as you do.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioners tell us that even though we may believe other people are like us, the truth is that each of us has our own personal perception of the world. As human beings, we respond to people, situations, events and circumstances through our internal maps. Our maps can be likened to a camera lens filter. Every experience we have from the moment of birth to the present serve as filters through which we perceive current events and situations in our lives. These filters, or maps, influence our reactions and decision making in the here and now. Two people who share an experience will often notice significantly different things about that experience, respond differently and store different memories of the experience.

So NLP tells us that “the map is not the territory”, it is our individual interpretation of the territory. Great, NLP folks can tell us something useful, but how is this useful to us?

Being relatively new additions to the business leader’s toolkit, creativity and innovation are topics that inspire a huge number of articles and books to be written. Some of these contain insights and wise words but many are ‘how to’ books. Remember that these are ‘maps’, somebody else’s perception of what is happening/has happened in the past. Not only are many context specific but much information is often left out.

Many an innovation initiative has become de-railed because someone has read the book and failed to appreciate that it is not a step by step guide, a map that covers all eventualities. By all means buy more books and consult widely about the territory that you are entering. Also remember that as long as you have your wits about you, exploring can often be the best way to map out your own territory.

For the same reason, creative techniques should also be properly researched. Some such as visualisation can cause distress if used incorrectly and others can cause anger as well as not having the effects that you were anticipating.

Remember that to explore new territory you need to obtain or create a map especially when passing on knowledge to others. How often has the CEO’s speech been misinterpreted because employees do not share the same perception or vision of the company? Never forget that “the map is not the territory”.

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Working With Aliens, a useful creative technique

Working with Aliens is just one of a series of techniques in which random stimuli are used and alternative viewpoints are adopted. It works best with well defined problems or where new products or services are being considered.

To start, define the problem or situation as best you can and brief those who are taking part. A group of half a dozen or so is ideal.

Imagine that an alien spaceship has landed on earth and the aliens are looking at your problem or the object that you have described. Next try to imagine what sort of questions the aliens would be asking, what would they be curious about? Many of the checklist techniques can provide some guidance here. A possible list could be:

  • What is the purpose of this?
  • How does it work?
  • Why does it have to be this way?
  • Why do these earthlings use these materials?
  • Is it useful to me?
  • Can I eat it?
  • Why does this matter, and to whom?
  • Is it worth any money?
  • Is there any other value?
  • Could it be used for …..?

These (and other questions) should be asked with childlike innocence i.e. assume no familiarity with earthly concepts.

The questions may throw up some ideas which indicate that the original starting point was flawed. If this is the case then revisit the problem definition stage of the creative problem solving process. If some common themes emerge then record these and use them as random stimuli for further excursions or use a form of association to group some of themes to see if they suggest further options, choices or ideas.

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Introducing SCAMPER

SCAMPER is an idea generation tool that can be used either solo or in groups. It is best used for generating ideas about something that you wish to modify in some way such as upgrade or enhance a current product or service. You need to create a ‘problem statement’ e.g. How might we make our car go faster?

SCAMPER is an acronym as defined below. Select a letter from the list and read its trigger word and associated questions. Ask yourself what new ideas do this word and questions suggest or try to associate the question and trigger word with your original statement. Record your ideas and then repeat this as many times as you want, each time picking a new letter from the SCAMPER list. Note you do not have to use the letters in sequence.

Substitute: what might you take away and put back in its place? What might you substitute, replace, exchange. Think of who else, what else, other ingredients, other material, different approach?

Combine: what two or more things might you put together? What could you combine this with, what sort of blend or alloy, assortment or ensemble?

Adapt: how might you change something to solve the problem? What could you do differently, what else is similar, have we done this before, what can I copy?

Modify, magnify, minify: what can be made bigger or smaller? How would things change if the object were made bigger or smaller. What could be increased or reduced in size or which attributes could be enhanced or diminished?

Put to other uses: what might be used in a different way? Can this be used for different purposes, does its properties suggest other uses, do its properties such as size or weight suggest other uses, can it be used in another context?

Eliminate: what might you get rid of? Can you leave something out, condense or concentrate, remove parts, make lighter?

Rearrange or reverse: what might you mix up or move around? Can you reverse roles, turn upside down (backwards or inside out), change perspective, alter timing, change objectives?

Your recorded ideas may themselves be combined or investigated further if necessary. Note these may not be sensible ideas (although they could be) and may just suggest ways forward for you or your business.

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