Have you noticed – there’s a lot of interest in having “innovative Ideas” in our workplaces. Many people wonder about how to create innovative ideas, or worry if their ideas are “innovative enough.”
What many don’t realize is that creativity is very important to the process of generating innovative ideas. In fact, after ten years of research into how to help organizations improve their innovation outcomes, I’ve come to the conclusion that …
Creativity powers innovation.
This statement may strike fear into the hearts of many: “You mean, if I’m going to be innovative, I have to be creative too?”
Yes, you do.
Fortunately, everyone is creative, in the right conditions.
Let’s take a few minutes to explore what these conditions might be.
How to Create Innovative Ideas: What Is Creativity?
First, let go of the idea that creativity is tied to the fine arts.
The true definition of creativity is much broader than that. For example, look at the title of this article: “How to Create Innovative Ideas.” We’re talking about creating ideas, not a sculpture!
Marta Ockuly, a fellow graduate of the Masters of Science program in Applied Creativity and Innovation, defines creativity as:
“The process of imagining possibilities and taking action to make them real.”
So, it’s about process, imagining what’s possible and taking action. Marta’s definition can be applied to anything that needs some creativity, whether it’s solving a tough business case, planting a garden, or writing a novel.
For me, creativity is:
An attitude that transcends paradigms and beliefs. It’s a soul-level yearning to fulfill a purpose, uniquely contribute, and leave a mark.
Jung identified creativity as one of five basic human drives – the need to express our creativity is primal.
In reality, all people are creative. And, regardless of your level of ability, creativity can be enhanced – it is teachable and it improves with practice.
Which brings me to the second condition….
Understand How You Think
While everyone is creative, we aren’t all creative in the same manner. The way you prefer to think impacts the way you use creativity to solve challenges and engage in innovation. We refer to this as your thinking preferences for engaging in that creative process we talked about above. When you understand your thinking preferences, you can manage and engage in innovation more effectively.
It’s easy to find out what your thinking preferences are. At BridgePoint Effect, we’ve been helping clients do that for over fifteen years. We do it with the FourSight Thinking Profile – it’s an online assessment that takes less than ten minutes to complete. FourSight is a research-based assessment developed by Gerard Puccio, Ph.D., Director of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at the State University of New York College at Buffalo.
According to his more than twenty years of research, people are strong in one or more of the following thinking preferences:
- Clarifiers: Get to the heart of the problem to solve.
- Ideators: Generate lots of original ideas.
- Developers: Create solutions and generate polished plans.
- Implementers: Make things happen.
You might have noticed how you best contribute to teams. This can give you a hint about your thinking preferences. Are you the person who comes up with lots of ideas, or the person who asks questions? Do you prefer to develop the details of a solution, or implement it? Or, more than one or all of the above?
Understanding your thinking preferences helps you use your creativity to solve problems and engage in innovation much more effectively.
Have a Process and a Shared Language
Being creative by yourself can be lonely.
So, once you’ve connected to your own creativity, you’re ready to learn how to use your creativity with others. This is important because innovation is a team sport, and like any sport the best teams reach their goals when they learn how to play well together.
To help teams do just that, I introduce them to a process for innovation called creative problem solving, or CPS. CPS is proven to significantly enhance a team’s creativity because it introduces a shared language, rules for use, and guidelines for creative thinking.
Mastering the use of CPS turns a team from merely functioning, or outright dysfunction, into innovation champions. It gives teams a way to organize and structure their thinking, and rules and guidelines to get the most out of everyone’s creativity. CPS is backed by over sixty years of research and has been proven to significantly enhance creative behaviours and creativity skills in anyone who learns and applies it. It can be used to tackle any challenge that needs new thinking in any area of your business, and can be used alongside any business process.
Once you know the basics of CPS, like any skill, mastery comes with practice. At BridgePoint Effect, we help teams get that practice by coaching them as they learn to apply their new creativity skills to solve a real problem in their workplace.
By practicing how to use creativity to understand challenges, and generate, develop and implement their ideas, the team also learns the things that are hard to teach in the classroom, such as how to reframe resistance and develop the resilience to keep moving forward no matter what comes their way.
And over time, CPS becomes a standard operating procedure for better thinking.
We Need Creativity More Than Ever
We live in a VUCA world, one characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Whether you’re an individual, a leader or a consultant working in a private sector, non-profit or government organization, you’re being asked to deal with change and solve problems, the likes of which you’ve never seen before. We can take a cue from the United Nations, which has underlined the importance of creative problem solving by challenging people to find innovative solutions for their seventeen Sustainable Development Goals through the use of creative problem solving. You can read about this in their designation of April 21 as World Creativity and Innovation Day.
Fortunately, we all have the capacity to be creative. And by understanding how we are as creative beings, how we think and how we innovate with others, we can find the creative solutions we need to survive this VUCA world.