Harvesting your team’s creativity

This week is International Ideas Week, where organisations are encouraged to focus on creativity and innovation, understand that they have a vast untapped resource of creative ideas, and implement programmes to harvest employees’ ideas and turn creative thought into innovation.  Here we offer some tips on how to encourage your teams to tap into their creativity.

Einstein said, “Every child is born a genius.” In most cases, the reason why most people do not function at genius levels is because they are not aware of how creative and clever they really are.

We could call this the ’Body Builder effect’.  No one would look at a person such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and think how lucky he is to have been born with such tremendous muscles. Everyone knows that he, and people like him, have worked many thousands of hours to build up their bodies so they can compete and win in body building competitions. Your creative capabilities are just the same. They actually grow as they are used.

You don’t need to spend thousands of hours to increase your creative thinking abilities, by practicing a few simple exercises and applications, you can start your creative juices flowing, and you may even amaze yourself at the quality and quantity of good ideas that you come up with.

First, we have to define creativity. One of the very best definitions of creativity is, simply, “improvement.” You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an artist in order to be creative – that’s a myth. All you have to do is develop the ability to improve your situation, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. All great fortunes were started with ideas for improving something in some way.

There are four generally accepted parts of the creative process:

  • Preparation, where much of the work is done;
  • Cerebration or rumination, where you turn the matter to your subconscious;
  • Realisation, where the idea comes to you;
  • Application, where you work out the creative idea and make it worthwhile.


Of the four, preparation seems to be the most important, and it involves gathering the right data and asking the right questions.  You can begin building your creative muscles with focused questions. Some that you might think of are the following:

  • What are we trying to do?
  • How are we trying to do it?
  • What are our assumptions?
  • What if our assumptions are wrong?


All improvements begin with questioning the current, existing circumstances. If you are not making progress for any reason, stop and think, and begin asking yourself the hard questions that will stimulate your mind to consider other possibilities.

The second way to build your mental muscles is with intensely desired goals. The more you want something and the clearer you are about it, the more likely it is that you will generate ideas that will help you to move toward it.

That is why the need for clearly written goals and plans for their accomplishment is repeated over and over. Also, the more you write down your goals and plans, and review them, the more likely it is that you will see all kinds of possibilities for achieving those goals.

The third generator of creative-thinking muscles is pressing problems. A good question to ask is “What are the three biggest problems that I am facing in my life today?”  Write the answer to this question quickly, in less than 30 seconds.  When you write the answer to a question in less than 30 seconds, your subconscious mind will sort out all extraneous answers and give you the three most important ones.

When you have your three most pressing problems, ask yourself, “What is the worst possible thing that can happen as a result of each of these problems?” Then ask yourself, “What are all the things that I can do, right now, to alleviate each problem?”

A second key is concentration. Put everything else aside, and concentrate single-mindedly on focusing all your mental powers on solving one single problem, overcoming one particular obstacle or achieving one important goal. The ability to concentrate on a single subject without diversion or distraction is a hallmark of the superior thinker.

A third key is an open mind. The average person tends to be rigid and fixed in his thinking about getting from where he is to where he wants to go. The creative thinker, however, tends to remain very flexible and open to a variety of ways of approaching the problem. The average person has a tendency to leap to conclusions and determine that there is only one way to achieve a particular goal. The superior thinker, on the other hand, tends to be more patient and willing to consider a variety of options before moving toward a conclusion.

As creative thinking goes; there is one phrase that sends a shiver down my spine. Thinking outside the box, no other phrase has done so much to put people off creative thinking!

Just as fuzzy thinking leads to fuzzy answers, clear thinking leads to clear answers. You can if you think you can!

By Tom Robinson

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