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Success and Creativity

Creativity is the eighth C in the twelve part series of the C’s of Success.

Creativity can be considered the catalyst for competitive advantage at both the individual and organizational levels of performance. Creativity can separate individuals and make one unique or seen to be unique in the eyes of others. This perception is sometimes the only thing that separates the individual from others in the eyes of customers, managers and peers.

What is Creativity?

Wikipedia defines Creativity as…

Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight. An alternative conception of creativeness is that it is simply the act of making something new.

This is about as accurate as I’ve seen regarding the pure definition of creativity. While this definition is universal in nature, and research studies have shown that all individuals possessed high levels of creativity during their youth – yet, only a small percentage of people consider themselves as creative or possessing creative skills.

What happened between our youth days and our adult days to lower our creative abilities? Well, there appear to be two primary reasons:

  • First, our school systems repressed creativity – preferred structured learning without any interruptions or question or curiosity regarding reasoning. In order words, everything was forced into a box rather than free flowing and open to most options.
  • The second reason was personal. We found that others (particularly parents) did not like the traits of creativity people – getting into things, asking lots of questions, experimenting with any combination of things or just plain being totally spontaneous rather than structured and formal. In other words, we learned to just go along with others for safety reasons.

The fact is we all have creativity within us and it is only a matter of using it more often – like a muscle that needs exercise to grow – creativity needs mental exercise to furnish within you.

What is Individual Creativity?

Individuals who use their creativity are more inclined to reach their potential in life. Why? Because they are willing to try new things or create better responses to the questions of others. When individuals have activated their internal creativity clock, ideas flow from within. Their biggest challenge is the ability to prioritize the list of possibilities and then execute the ones with the biggest payback relative to time, energy and need.

Another interesting fact as we are dealing with an economic downturn is to realize that some of the greatest inventions of all time came during the decade of the Great Depression. To me, this is just amazing. During the worst of times, some of the greatest inventions were created. One of the identified reasons for this phenomenon were the needs of the times generated the catalyst or spark of creativity and innovation of ideas.

There is no rational reason for individuals to limit themselves with the use of their inborn trait of creativity. The key is to stimulate your creative skills by using them everyday. One of the fastest methods for gearing up the creativity powers within you is to use the “Twenty Idea Method” every morning. Here is how it works…

  • Take a piece of paper (I know you want to use a computer – well okay – paper and pencil work just as well however.) and at the top write a question to a problem you want to solve or a goal you want to achieve.
  • Down the left side of the paper write the numbers one through twenty.
  • Now comes the fun part – begin writing the answers to the question at the top of the page.
  • The first five to ten answers will come relatively easy.
  • Now the hard work begins until you have trained your creativity to work well for you. The next five answers are more difficult and you begin to doubt the success probability of the exercise.
  • The last five are really difficult, yet, you are now explaining your perspectives and beginning to tap into additional resources of the brain. You are lowering your guard regarding acceptable logic and the assumptions you have hung on to with gusto. You are looking for answers to finish the exercise.
  • Now after finishing the 20 answers, review your answers, pick the one that seems to hold the most promise for results and make a commitment to do it!
  • Since you have or will be taking action on YOUR ideas or answer, your own brain begins to register this new activity as SERIOUS.

Once your own brain begins to believe you are serious about this creativity thing an interesting thing will begin to happen during the day. You will get more ideas and solutions to problems popping into your concious mind than ever before. Your personal Genius has shown up again. Keep using it and you will gain a competitive advantage at work and others will enjoy being with you – because you are so smart!

What is Organizational Creativity?

The greatest thing that organizational creativity brings to the marketplace is innovation. Innovation comes in many forms -new products and services, new technology, new processes and systems, improved work flow and process design, better and more effective marketing, and high energy ‘anything can happen’ work cultures. This last element is critical if you are looking to attract the brightest minds and best talent to your organization.

One word of caution for the organization. Always look at the total effect on the system when implementing a new innovative idea. I have found only one flaw regarding innovation –  a lack of attention to how extensive the impact of the new innovation. Are all the processes up to date with the new methods, are their limiting steps or choke points being created by the new innovation, is training preparing the people to properly use the new innovation (overlooked too often) and is everyone involved communicated with regarding launch dates and availability?

Creativity is a great thing for organizations in all industries and we are seeing new titles are the higher level positions showing up – Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Creativity Officer, President of New Product Development, etc. There clearly is a desire for more creativity in organizations today. Will there be enough creative minds for these new functional groups to become effective. Only time and the ability of individuals to kick start their dormant creative powers will empower organizations to truly take advantage of creativity.

One way to begin is to use the Twenty Idea Method in group or team meetings to solve pressing issues. The key is to get everyone involved. You can limit the answers to twenty or push the limit higher – yet, remember the key to activating the creativity power of the group is to take the answers and use at least one immediately to create a change.

A second method is Brainstorming. Very similar to the Twenty Idea Method yet it is different and was designed specifically for groups or teams to use. The process is simple and the results are usually outstanding, So here is the process…

  • Pick a topic that needs an idea, solution or breakthrough for the group to be effective. Write it as a question and put it at the top of a flip chart.
  • A couple of rules have to be stated before starting the process. No judgments – No “that won’t work” – No limits to the number of ideas – extensions of answers is allowed – best behavior is expected
  • Ask everyone to share an idea or answer. You can go around the room getting everyone involved initially and keep rotating around the room until someone asks to pass.
  • Open the floor for random ideas and statements – be sure that ALL RESPONSES ARE RECORDED even the silly or stupid ones (sometimes they actually become the best answer after much discussion)
  • Continue until all ideas have been presented and written down.
  • Take a break or go to another topic for a period of time.
  • After some time, ask if there are any additions at this point and record.
  • Now, it is time to evaluate the quality of the responses and narrow down the list to a manageable number and again execute on the idea with either an action plan and commitment or someone taking ownership and launching upon the execution of the idea. In fact, it is a good practice to have everyone on the team involved on the execution of ideas generated. Involvement equals commitment.

There you have an overview. Again, there is more information about creativity and the power of creativity in creating advantages and uniqueness of individuals and organizations. As a organizational leader, you will need your people to utilize creativity – whenever they need to use it – if you want to stay ahead of your competition.

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Voss Graham

CEO / Sr Business Advisor at InnerActive Consulting Group Inc
Voss Graham is an Organizational Architect with 30+ years of experience designing sustainable business growth for organizations of all sizes. Creating the Strategic Focus with the Executive Leadership Teams, he uses Systems & Process to ensure the Drivers for Business Growth are Executed at the Highest Levels. Voss is available as a Speaker for your conferences or company meetings - contact him at 901-757-4434 or use the LinkedIn or Facebook direct messages.

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Voss Graham

Voss Graham is an Organizational Architect with 30+ years of experience designing sustainable business growth for organizations of all sizes. Creating the Strategic Focus with the Executive Leadership Teams, he uses Systems & Process to ensure the Drivers for Business Growth are Executed at the Highest Levels. Voss is available as a Speaker for your conferences or company meetings - contact him at 901-757-4434 or use the LinkedIn or Facebook direct messages.