Exercising and exciting your team’s creativity

Innovation is developed, it is not inherent. The practice of being creative, taking new approaches, looking at things from a different point of view, and committing to evolve your work is all part of cultivating creativity. You learn creativity like you learn to read. And like reading, you become more fluent, have a richer vocabulary, and are better able to communicate the more you do it.

We have opportunities to practice creativity every day in our work. Here are some tips to help you be more innovative in your daily work and throughout life.

Starting a project and feeling overwhelmed?

  • We love an FAQ. Frequently asked questions are not just for your audience. They’re a great way to start a new project. Begin by listing out every question you have, and you imagine your audience will need to know. Then, go get the answers! Once you have this brief in hand, you’ll be able to communicate effectively. The analytical information will be out of the way, and you can focus your energies on the best ways to express and share the information.
  • Hammer it out. That is, force yourself to just do it. Starting doesn’t necessarily take inspiration, it takes grit. With grit comes discovery. The work of just talking, writing, and drawing your ideas out will give you a foundation to work from. And Rome wasn’t built in one day. Pace yourself and work in sprints since most brainstorming happens fast and furious. So, hammer it out bit by bit.
  • Change your perspective. Seek inspiration from other industries instead of competitors. Change where your work environment. Turn on background music. Both subtle and significant environmental and intentional shifts will shift your thinking.

Feeling stuck at work mid-stream?
  • Move stuff around. If you’re finding it hard to write or prepare a presentation, try moving things around. Just like arranging furniture in a new apartment, move words around and play with your sentence structure. For example, starting with the punchline gives you an attention-getter to unpack in your story. Or if you’re unsure how one idea in a presentation connects to the next, focus on what you’d say to connect one slide’s main point with the next. If there’s not enough connective tissue, change the order!
  • Team up. Find people at work who think differently than you do. They’ll introduce different perspectives and contribute fresh thinking to your work. Find a neutral space, preferably with a whiteboard, and tell them about your project. Push them to ask questions and make recommendations. Ask them if they have faced a situation like yours before and how they handled it. You’ll get unstuck, and likely build an advocate for collaboration in the future.

Seeking general inspiration?
  • Hang on to things that inspire you. When you see something that you like, hold on to it. Pay attention to what it is that you like. Is it the way it’s constructed? Does the message grab you and why? Is there something that interests you about the design? Ask yourself what and why and think about how you might make your piece evoke the same delight.
  • Have an “Ignite Day”. We need to give credit where credit’s due. This idea was introduced by a colleague of ours and stuck into the fabric of our teams. Here’s what you do. Set one day (or a half of a day) aside for your team to go do something that is, on the surface, unrelated to their job. Ask them, “What have you always wanted to learn?” “If you had a day all to yourself, what would you do?” You may be surprised to find them doing all sorts of extraordinary things. Someone who is afraid of heights might go zip-lining. You may have a staffer spend a day taking photographs of the landscape. Whatever the activity, they’ll inevitably have learned something about themselves or that can be applied to their role. And they’ll certainly appreciate the gift of time you gave them to practice being a life-long learner. And they’ll have practiced trying something new.
  • Ritualize inspirational time. Set aside time to think about things other than your work tasks. It might be an hour on a Friday afternoon or one afternoon a month. Whether you love TED Talks, visiting museums, hiking in nature, drawing, or playing a game of chess… time away resting your brain and allowing it to solve other kinds of puzzles is important. You’ll return to your work sharp as a tack!

Give one of these ideas that feels right to you a try. Share the ideas with your team. You’ll find that being intentional about practicing creativity (or getting unstuck) will ultimately become habit. As it’s said – the destination is the prize, but it’s really all about the journey. So, we encourage you to take a road you haven’t traveled and see where you end up!