Why Creativity For Work?

Why should you care about bringing more creativity into the workplace? Don’t you need people to just get stuff done, without daydreaming? Well, yes, stuff does need to get done, and also there are good reasons to bring in more creativity.

In my workshop last weekend I spent a lot of time on creativity games that help exercise the creativity muscle. Just like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it. We covered a lot of ground, but today I want to tell you about one game.

I have a game called Disruptus in which you draw different picture cards and then do one of four things with them: 1) improve on what’s pictured; 2) use what’s pictured in a new way; 3) come up with a new way to do what’s pictured; or 4) take elements from two pictures and combine them to make something new. I find that some answers aren’t that exciting, but sometimes something great happens. For example, I had to improve on the weight machines at a gym. Now, I think using weight machines at the gym are a combination of boredom and pain, with a bit of humiliation thrown in. But I had to improve on them so – what if each machine were enclosed in a pod, and there was a video game you could play by using the weight machine? No one has to see you do it, you get to do something fun, and focus on something other than how much it hurts. I’d totally try that gym!

The thing about creativity is that sometimes it doesn’t give you exactly what you’re looking for. I mean, I’m not in the business of making games or opening gyms, so for me that business idea won’t get me far. But it sure could make someone a lot of money! And the more I stretch my brain like that, the more ideas I can get that might actually help me in my own business.

If you were to do this sort of game at work, you could use the boxed game Disruptus. But you could also brainstorm a list of things at work and use those instead. Sometimes having a custom made game works better.

(Many years ago, my then boyfriend now husband and I wanted to play the game Scattergories. But we didn’t want to pay $40 for it, and besides, we didn’t like all of their categories to begin with. We knew nothing about sports, for example. So we brainstormed a whole bunch of categories, and came up with some that were a lot more fun, like “things to do when you’re bored” and “jobs you’d be ashamed to tell your mother you do” and used Scrabble letters to pick from. Now when we play, we pick a letter and about a dozen categories, and try to come up with a word that starts with that letter in each category – and we know we won’t have to come up with any sports teams or players.)

What could you come up with if you started slowly, like “how can you improve on the soap dispenser in the bathroom?” and moved up to “what is a new way to deliver our product to our customers?” Not every answer will be useful, but sometimes even the crazy ones have something of merit to them. After all, once the concept of drones delivering items was impossible. So were self-driving cars. You never know what possibilities you might find in a game like this!

How can you see yourself bringing this sort of creativity game into your workplace? Can you set up a place where there is no wrong answer, and everyone’s crazy ideas are celebrated? I’d love to hear your own approaches to stretching your creativity for work.

Insight

Johan Roos, one of the creators of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, summed up it’s essence as:

“Seeing the same in a different way and
creating entirely new insights,
in enjoyable ways”

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A lot of people are trying desperately to find ways to see the old in a new way. How are we going to come up with the Next Big Thing? We need to find a way to get new ideas that can make us successful.

But think about this – how fun are your meetings? Do you even get insights from them? How rewarding are brainstorming sessions? Are they something everyone dreads?

I believe that being too serious, too afraid, or too disengaged can make any meeting tank. New ideas flourish in a more lighthearted environment. Anything we can do to help our meetings be important but not dry is invaluable. The more serious we get, the more heavy lifting each idea needs to do, and the more likely we are to reject it. With levity, we can let ideas float around for a while to see what about them is valuable, and let multiple ideas bubble around until some of them coalesce into a plan.

This is one reason why bringing in something like LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® can be beneficial – it involves play, which makes it more fun and lighthearted than more serious approaches, but it still gets serious work done. At the end of a workshop, you may understand more than you did before, have ideas of what to do next, compassion for where others are, and a group pride in the work done, without having to slog through some terrible situation to gain group cohesion.

It only takes one person being disengaged to make others stop paying attention; it only takes one person being afraid to keep others from speaking up too; it only takes one person being too serious to keep the atmosphere heavy and uninviting. I’ve seen one person stop brainstorming in its tracks more than once. It takes everyone to make a meeting work.

What are you doing to make your meetings work? How do you keep the atmosphere light, inviting, open, and full of possibility? How do you keep people from shutting everyone else down? And how do you find new insight?

Constraints on Creativity

I got to be a substitute leader for Nora Scully’s Art Spark today. I asked people to build what gets in the way of creativity, and what supports creativity for them. These are some of the responses:

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What gets in the way of being creative is having too many thoughts in my head pulling me in too many unrelated directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is what I need to be creative – all the parts laid out in front of me, but with some clear space to work in. I need time and space available, but I also need to see all the options to figure out what can go with what.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is me in my DJ booth. I don’t really DJ, but I like to play music to set a mood or create a soundtrack for an event. I like to help people come together through music.

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I get my best work done when everyone is doing their part like a well-oiled machine, and I can rely on other parts getting done. So I can relax and focus on my part.

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What supports your creativity? What gets in your way?

Playing While Messy

I haven’t done a creativity game in a while, so I wanted to share this one with you. I like it partly because it takes something messy and turns it into something creative and fun.

Start with a stain on some paper. Maybe you put down your coffee cup. Maybe a leaky pen. I’m using a paper stained with grease:

The first picture is of the paper with the stain on a desk, the second picture is held up to the light to make the pattern easier to see.

The challenge is to turn this random collection of blobs into something different. Maybe recognizable, even. This is what I did:

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I looked at my little critter and thought it needed a place to live, so I kept doodling:

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I even gave it a friend in the lower left hand corner. A friend just as lumpy as it is, but without the dramatic coloration.

I would like to note that I am not a professional artist. I’m sure that some people could turn this into a work of art. I just doodle. If I can do this, so can you. You don’t have to share the results of your doodling, but give it a try. It’s a great way to open up possibility thinking – what could this random stain turn into? What do I see in it? How can I transform it? How can I bring out its essence? How can I play with it?

As I’ve said before, and I’m sure I’ll say again, creativity is like a muscle, and it needs to be exercised. The more creativity games you play, the more you practice open-ended possibility thinking  – the more creative thinking you have the rest of the time, too. So when your job, or your life, needs creative thinking, you will have more new ideas because of practicing creative thinking.

Another creative exercise – give your doodle a caption or a title. I find this challenging, which is why I’m including it! Maybe: Fluffy Finally Finds a Friend. Or: Yes, He’s Part Rottweiler and Part Dragon. What do you think it should be called?

Hearing Every Voice

I care a lot about getting every voice heard. Sometimes people get talked over because they are introverted. However, it often goes along with social status. Straight white men are the most likely to be uninterrupted. If you are a woman, or gay, or a person of color, your chances at being heard go down.

I will be speaking about Hearing Women’s Voices in a Man’s World next week at the EBWN meeting. If you’re local, I’d love to have you come out and hear me in person!

   “Hearing Women’s Voices in a Man’s World”

You are invited to join us for lunch and a great presentation by keynote speaker, play professional Talia Dashow on Wednesday, August 2nd.

Have you ever been in a meeting where only the most powerful or extroverted (or male) people speak up? Businesses lose money when people don’t feel able to speak up – there’s higher turnover and lower efficiency. Talia helps teams make meetings a safe place to speak up so all employees are engaged, happy, and productive.

In her presentation, you will learn:

  1. Techniques to even the playing field so that every voice is heard in a meeting.
  2. The importance of hearing every voice in the group.
  3. How to create safe spaces for new voices to emerge.

Talia DashowOne of Talia’s methods in her presentations is using LEGO® bricks which are more interactive, engaging and memorable for groups.

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Talia has studied how people communicate for decades, starting with her own struggles to learn how to connect with people, and then observing how individuals and groups interact and work best together. She has received training in community mediation and in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY and has combined that practical knowledge with her creativity and playfulness to help people “play well” with others.

Don’t miss this great presentation, beautiful golf course views, fabulous lunch, fun networking, and opportunities to learn and grow. Gentlemen are welcome.

 https://ebwn.org/hearing-womens-voices-in-a-mans-world/

 

The meeting runs 11:30-1:30 in Alameda, California. Let’s play with LEGO® bricks and talk about how to get every voice heard!

Pipeline Lifeline

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I’ve been thinking about how information travels through organizations. There are formal ways – when you are done with this report send it to these people – and informal ways – “Hey Pat, what do you think of this?”.

Proximity is important for the informal communication. I think that open offices were designed to increase this type of casual, spur of the moment, spontaneous communication. Sometimes ideas can be fertilized and grow from chatting with your co-workers. Works in progress can be seen before they are finished and fixed with less effort and expense.

My husband has a bunch of his team on another continent, in a very different time zone. Almost all of their communication must be formal. Daily required status updates. Daily feedback. There are no chance encounters over lunch or getting office supplies.

It seems like people are liable to think the worst of others in these situations. With no face to face contact, no chance to explain what’s going on, when someone doesn’t implement the feedback given it’s easy to assume ‘they just don’t respect me as their director any more. That makes me angry. I’m going to be vindictive or snarky in response.’ Which makes them less likely to implement my instructions. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

These conflicts can show up even in people in the same building, if there’s no contact between them. I was talking to someone at a party recently who said his organization is full of silos. “We” don’t want to talk to “them” if we don’t have to.

Sometimes the divisions happen because each department has a different priority, and it can feel to people that those in other departments are out to get them. Sales just promised a feature that engineering can’t produce in the time allowed. Engineering just made a feature that sales can’t figure out how to sell. What were they thinking?!?

I know all of this is human nature, but it makes me sad. I see people becoming less flexible, less open to input, less likely to encounter new ideas, less likely to offer creative ideas. I know what amazing things can happen when people work together, but there has to be trust to do that, and these silos sap trust.

It would be interesting to map how information flows through an organization. There’s probably already a diagram of who reports to whom, so there is some understanding of the formal process. But where does feedback really come from? An artist might get the design from the concept artist, official feedback from the art director, informal feedback from other artists, and office gossip from a friend in HR. The art director might give feedback to artists, get feedback from the VP, and come up with new ideas from chatting with marketing over lunch. I’d love to bring in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to examine where the bottlenecks are, who is connected to whom, which departments are in silos, where there is cross-pollination.

Who do you talk to at work?

Two Great Tastes (that taste great together)

What happens when you take two cutting edge methodologies, and mix them together?

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Honestly, I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited about the possibilities!

I met with Steve from the Ask Matt business game (click here to see more) yesterday to brainstorm how we could work together. He and his colleague Daniel and I all built models from LEGO® bricks, then joined them using the Ask Matt connectors.

In the example above, the lower right model represents facing fears and taking risks, the one in the upper middle represents the creative process, and the model on the left is a better future. We think taking risks can help with creativity – and being creative can help face fears. Hopes for a better future can influence creative thinking, and taking risks is necessary for creating a better future. I added in play as a way to help people practice taking risks. This model could be expanded out – what other things can help people take risks? What else is needed for creative thinking? How else can the hope of a better future influence us now? In technology? Social thinking? There’s plenty of room for more information to be added.

One of the things I love about the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology is that it can be used to develop complex ideas and metaphors and emotions. It’s possible to use them for strategic planning, in all the complexity of people and their desires.

Ask Matt is much more logical in its approach, but it is also designed to show connections, see what influences what, and it is more clearly set up to help people figure out how to get more of what they want. It shows a road map of what pieces need to be in place to get more of the results you want.

Combining these approaches could be very powerful. Instead of just writing down an idea, you can think with your hands, figure out the parts that really matter, and build a complex concept. Then, instead of connecting those parts with more LEGO® bricks, you can use the arrows and feedback loops and mapping strategies of Ask Matt. This combines strategic planning methodologies in a powerful way.

One way to use the LSP strategic planning is to find out where you are now, figure out what forces are working on the organization, and then figure out what happens if things change in those forces. Another way is to imagine where you want to get to, and build pieces to help you get there. Ask Matt is a third way, which may prove to be more flexible and clear than the first two. We will have to try it out and see! Who do you know who wants to be on the cutting edge to try it out?

This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!