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Why creativity methods work better than you think

Back in my corporate days, when I suggested to use a creativity method at work, I faced resistance from time to time. Let’s have a look at my three favorite reactions:


“But I’m not creative”

Using a suitable creativity method sparks creative energy in anyone and everyone. It opens up minds and generates great new ideas. Let’s look at a practical example of a project kicked off using a creativity technique:

You are supposed to introduce a new tool in your department. And of course expectations are that it needs to run smoothly.

Step 1: Discuss how you can ensure that the tool will make processes WORSE. Let the team go crazy! They will find so many horrible ideas that you will struggle to stop them in their rage. So much creative energy. So far quite destructive of course, but still you are collecting a lot of ideas.

Step 2: Now turn each of the ideas around into a positive message:

“We need to make sure that the new tool makes us lose all our clients” turns into “We put ourselves into the shoes of our clients when planning the details”.

Two steps. Both quite simple and effective. And at the end, you will have found a few clever points that you would not have found without using this method. It’s called thinking upside down by the way.


 “Creativity methods don’t work”

Let me be clear: there is no guarantee that a creativity method works. But chances are very high that it does! A couple of hints to boost your chances of having a successful creativity session:

  1. Make sure that people involved can speak their minds freely. This must also hold true when several hierarchies are in the team. In this case, get the buy-in from everyone (also the managers) and when you notice killer phrases or other unkind behavior, then re-emphasize the agreement.
  2. Quantity before quality. We are used to filtering out immediately if we think an idea is bad. Resist that urge. Let the ideas flow and then afterwards you decide which ones you want to focus on. The person writing on the flipchart has a crucial assignment: writing. Don’t comment, don’t rate, don’t cross out, don’t filter, don’t re-arrange, don’t question. Just write!
  3. Manage expectations and take the outcome seriously. This one actually holds true for any meeting, but especially for creativity sessions. Lay out clearly to the participants that probably not all ideas can be worked on. And the ones you want to pursue need to be followed up on. Don't hide them in a drawer never to be looked at again. Or else people will claim afterwards that the method didn’t work.

“Creativity methods are a waste of time”

Sorry to say this, but most meetings are a waste of time. Formulating a challenge and using a creativity method to try to find a solution is significantly more effective than sitting around a table doing business as usual. Most creativity methods take between a few minutes to half an hour.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat in many meetings that had longer delays starting because the host was late. Or where coffee breaks took longer every time and ended up stealing one hour of meeting time. Or where technical issues with the phone, beamer or wifi consumed more time than a creativity method.

So why not “waste” those minutes on a creativity method instead?



Now that you are fully motivated to test a creativity method, here some final advice: google it and choose a method that you feel is suitable (trust your gut). Ask the meeting host if she is open to let you try it. You might get one or more of the three statements mentioned above. Now you know how to answer and how to get a yes. And then enjoy a wonderful creativity session with the team!

Let me know how it went!