By Allison Goldberg
Remember concerts? Dinner parties? Vacations that weren’t coronacations? Don’t worry, no one does.
The trouble is that taking a break was never just about the break itself; it was also where we got our inspiration. That festival, that museum, that guy spinning a burger on a parasol – these events, whether consciously or not, brought new ideas to the forefront. While it’s perhaps antithetical to start an article on creativity with a hackneyed quote by Steve Jobs, he is famously quoted as saying “Creativity is just connecting things.”
In quarantine, we don’t have as many triggers for new ideas. Fewer things happen in our day, giving us fewer things to connect. The result is that we stare blankly at each other through Zoom, burned out and waiting for inspiration to strike. To combat this, managers must set a positive tone for meetings and provide them with more structure than normal in order to make sure that creative ideas are offered and diverse perspectives are heard. How do they do that? Fire everyone and start over. Just kidding. Games.
This exercise is a simple way to kick off any meeting or brainstorm and reignites one’s ability to think outside the box. It also helps create a culture where “wacky” ideas are allowed, which is key when cultivating creativity at work. Start with a simple object, e.g. a cup. What are all the uses for a cup other than… as a cup? A pencil or paintbrush holder, vase, bug catcher, dangerous boxing gloves, party hat, chair leg extenders, tiny fishbowl, place to store snails. Move from thinking outside the box about objects to thinking outside the box for work related tasks and campaigns.
Yes And Coupled With McKinsey’s Obligation to Dissent
Theater and improv dorks everywhere are excited that “yes and” has become common knowledge. So we’ll spare you the nitty gritty on that one. Start off a meeting or brainstorm with a round of it, where each team member must accept and build off of the previous colleague’s idea. Then, level it up with McKinsey’s Obligation to Dissent. On the surface, this skill is about making space for even the most junior person in the room to speak up if they feel a direction is wrong. But it’s also important for combating biases that may be present and unrecognized, or falling prey to groupthink. Continue around the virtual room with “Yes And”, but assign team members the obligation to dissent when they see due cause. This will help give brainstorms structure, spark creativity, and help ensure that everyone is heard.
The 6 Hats Technique
Remember in grade school when you were told to put on your thinking cap? Now imagine that there are six different caps, each a different color, and with their own modes of thinking. There you go – that’s psychologist Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. When a problem is intractable and/or in need of a creative solution, or when a request is too broad, it can be beneficial to engage in directed thinking. The white hat looks at just the facts, the yellow hat is the optimistic, positive hat, the red is emotional and intuitive, and so on. The other beneficial way this technique can be applied is to make sure that all voices are heard. If you happen to have 6 people in the room, assign each person a hat. Then, each team member knows their unique role and is empowered to speak up.
While it may seem like an extra burden to implement these activities, in the long run you’ll boost morale and productivity – in addition to coming up with more creative solutions. Take the time to strategize, and then start to think outside the box – your shoes would make great bookends, by the way.