On being creative

Being creative is good for the soul. This is, I know,  a sweeping statement. However, let me explain what I mean by this.

Creativity is about using all parts of our brain, both our logical, rational minds and our intuitive, more ‘open to possibility’ minds. This surely can’t do us any harm. In fact, I would argue that by doing this, we are more likely to be taking wiser decisions and living our lives in a fuller way.

So, what does it mean to be creative? 

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

That depends upon each individual. Each of us has our own possibilities for becoming more creative. Some people will have an interest in the arts, some will be interested in developing creativity and innovation at work. Some will be developing their writing or photography, and others may express their creativity through activities such as cooking or sewing.  There are many ways in which we can develop our creativity. What is important is to search out and find your own path to being creative.  If nothing else it will offer you a richer experience which you can carry with you throughout your lives.

What are the benefits of creativity?

A blogpost I shared last year offered some benefits of creativity and they are summarised here:

Working creatively can be motivating. It energises and can build up a strong sense of self-confidence.

Creativity can re-ignite our passion. When we are lost in working creatively we are in what  Csikzentmihalyi  calls a state of flow. Being in a state of flow leads to a sense of happiness. It is a form of mindfulness in which we are in the present, absorbed by our creative pursuits,  and not focusing on the past or future.

Developing a creative pursuit can open ourselves up to new opportunities and possibilities. A sense of positivity can result from creative pursuits. It is great to see and reflect upon something tangible that we have achieved. Who knows where this may lead in terms of personal change and development?

Becoming more creative is about doing things differently. Enjoying doing things differently will impact on our whole life and generate more sense of fun in our lives.

Working creatively can reduce stress levels. There is some evidence that stress levels fall when we are absorbed in a creative task, whatever our level of ability.

By becoming more creative we can become more productive at work. We begin to challenge the existing way in which things are done. and search out new and better ways of doing them.

By introducing a creative approach in the problem-solving process, we find that our skill at solving problems develops immensely. Creative problem solving enables and encourages us to see the big picture and not to go down the same road each time we encounter a problem.

Finally, being more creative will be less boring and you will have fun!

Bene Brown had this to say about creativity:  

“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity isn’t benign. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.

 So, suppressing our creativity can be negative for us.

During the recent lock-downs due to the COVID pandemic many people have turned to creative pursuits, and there seems to have been an upsurge in interest in these.

So how can you become more creative?

  1. Start by reflecting on what creative activities in your past have brought you joy.
  2. Start with small amounts of time and dedicate this on a regular basis to that activity. It need not be ambitious to start with, half an hour a day is good. Build up a habit of doing this.
  3. Find a buddy who has a similar creative interest and support one another. Arrange to meet/ chat regularly so you can make progress.
  4. Seek out workshops/training to follow to develop your creative pursuits. There are lots around that have free offerings. For example, social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter have interest groups or people to follow in different creative fields.
  5. Seek out other more experienced people in your creative field to follow and to gain tips on your development.

Finally, just do it. Start small and take baby steps and you will start to reap the benefits.

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. 

Create your vision with a storyboard

Many organisations talk about creating a vision for their future. However what many do is to create a vision statement. This just doesn’t work for me. Visions need to be inspirational and for this to happen they really need to soar above the limitations of words.

For this reason, I usually recommend creating a future vision through image work, at least in the first instance. To check out ideas for creating a vision using drawing, take a look here. In my next blogpost I will take a look at some other tools for creating vision, such as collage.

Ok, so you have an inspirational vision and you have shared or even better co-created it with your employees, colleagues, family. What next?

One process that you can try, is to create a storyboard to show both your future vision, where you are now, and the steps to get there.  This seems to be versatile enough to satisfy people who need a structured approach, and is also attractive to people who dislike a structured approach. For this latter category it can be fun to complete all the boxes using images.

To complete your storyboard

Take a large piece of paper and create 6 numbered  boxes as shown.

  • Put your vision image into box 6,  and in box 1 you put a picture to represent where you are now.
  • Brainstorm the gap between where you are now and your future vision. Find other people to work with on this.
  • Turn the ideas coming out if this brainstorm into actions.
  • Put all the actions down on a separate piece of paper and then work out where they fit on the journey from box 1 to box 6.
  • It  is often difficult to take those first steps from box 1 to box 2 . It’s a bit like stepping into treacle and you may get stuck. Working backwards from box 6 can help in this process. so ask yourself, what is the last action I need in place before I achieve my vision.

For people who are less structured, this can remain as a loose journey based upon some big action steps. Drawing them can be fun and inspiring.
If you are a more structured person then you can work with defining each step and adding targets etc to them.  Bullet proofing can be helpful at this stage to check out what can prevent and what can help achievement of the final vision.

This process can be used in many different ways. for example, I have coached people to use it to develop their strategy, or to map out their personal and professional development. It is also very useful as a process withing creative problem solving to pull together the different stages of the process.

I hope this has given you some ideas for working with putting vision into reality. The next step to take is to do exactly that – take some action!

 

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. The use of storyboarding and how it fits into creative problem solving is covered in this book.

Creative Problem Solving when working alone

We are living in extraordinary times, and it is even more important not to shut down our minds to new ideas. When we do, we often leap into solutions for our problems. Creative problem solving (CPS) is an approach which encourages fresh and open thinking. However, with more of us living in a confined situation, due to COVID 19, how do we work on CPS techniques when we are working alone?

One approach is to use technology to set up virtual meetings and I am sure that many are doing this. However, we can work successfully alone in a creative mode. There are many possibilities in the technology field for working alone, such as this mind mapping software.

However, working with a screen all day can be counterproductive. Often, we have our best ideas when doing something away from our desks such as going for a walk, taking a break, even while we sleep. It helps to prepare our minds to allow ideas to incubate while we are doing other things.

So how do we prepare our minds?

I propse here to lead you through an approach to the three-stage process on creative problem solving whilst working alone. You can of course try any of these techniques on their own.

Stage 1: understanding the problem

In the same way as we prepare in group problem solving, we can use techniques to explore the problem. I favour using imagery for this and suggest you draw the problem as a rich picture or put together a collage to represent the problem. This is an activity you can do  alone. You can virtually share this with others if possible as it helps to get  reflections and  perspectives around the problem..

After working visually you can then pull all the elements of the problem together using mind mapping or a fishbone diagram.

Stage 2: Exploring solutions

When we understand what the problem is, then we can brainstorm ideas to resolve it. This is also something we can do on our own, even though input from others is so much better.

Other techniques you could try include using metaphor as a prompt for new ideas. Find a random image from magasines or photos you find online,  and ask yourself, in which way is this image like your problem. Note what comes up. don’t search for anything spexiific, it is imporatnt that the mage you choose is a random one.

At this stage you could select your best solution and move onto stage 3 or collect your ideas together into a storyboard.

Stage 3: implementing the solution

At this stage of the CPS you start with some bullet proofing to see if your ideas are viable. Some techniques you can do on your own might include drawing up a help/hinder diagram or a force field analysis. Both identify the forces that would work in favour of any ideas being implemented and those that would work against.

A fun approach to try on your own is the Disney strategy. Although this is normally done with others.  Place three chairs in a triangle ,  marking each one  to represent one of the three roles, Dreamer, Realist or Critic.  Then spend a short time in each position making the case for the idea you are bullet proofing. Note the arguments that would be made in each position, and on the next round adjust your ideas to take these into account.

When this is finished, after  three or four rounds, collect any insights or changes you have made to your ideas and start to build your action plan.

If you have used the storyboard then this becomes your action plan and you can add in more detail as the plan takes shape.

You can find all of these techniques and more in the book, Creativity cycling that I co-authored with Tracy Stanley.

Stay safe, stay creative.

 

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached people  in a variety of corporate settings, and developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently published a book on creativity for leaders with Dr. Tracy Stanley, entitled Creativity Cycling .

Testing Ideas with the Disney Strategy

When working with the three stage creative problem solving (CPS) process, the third stage is to test possible solutions before they are put into practice.

As with the previous stages, this stage requires both a divergent and convergent phase. In the divergent phase, one of my favourite tools to use is the Disney Strategy  to do the testing.

This can be a fun way of looking at the factors that can help or hinder the implementation of a solution. It’s based upon Walt Disney’s way of working, and developed into a tool by Robert Dilts, one of the founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

It simulates the kind of feedback that could be encountered when a solution is put into practice. So, it unearths the barriers there may be to implementation. It then offers a process for reflecting on how these can be overcome.  This process can be a very valuable way of testing any ideas before presenting them to wider audience. It’s a kind of bullet-proofing.

Continue reading “Testing Ideas with the Disney Strategy”

Better Brainstorming and how to achieve it

Last month I wrote about stage 1 of the creative problem solving process (CPS). Today’s post is about the second stage, exploring options to resolve the problem.

The first part of this stage 2 is to open up to all possible approaches to resolving the problem. There are many techniques which you can use to do this, and a lot of them are based upon brainstorming.

Brainstorming is something that is much abused and  I want to share with you ways in which you can improve it.

Brainstorming

Let’s start with your experience. I am certain that you will have experienced that time when someone has suggested that you all brainstorm a topic. It might be, for example, ideas for the next marketing campaign, or ways of handling customer feedback.

So, it goes something like this –‘lets brainstorm’ -then you all get together and throw a few ideas out. One of the ideas gets picked up and a discussion follows. During this process you may not have noticed that one of the more introverted members of the team is very quiet. At the end of the 15 minutes allocated, you have a direction to move on, however is it the best? and have all members of the team felt that they have been heard? I would bet that the answer is no these questions.

Continue reading “Better Brainstorming and how to achieve it”

A picture tells a thousand words

Last month I wrote about the Creative Problem Solving process (CPS) and its importance in tackling complex problems. Picking up from there, I will now review the first stage of the CPS process, which is to gain an understanding of the problem. This stage consists of a divergent followed by a convergent phase as shown in the diagram here.

This is crucial because often the wrong problem is ‘solved’ if there is not  enough time spent on determining the true nature of the problem.

A typical example could be the following:

You have been told that there is a problem with the productivity of a team who also have a high level of absenteeism. The team leader has assumed that the problem is to do with levels of motivation. She has asked for them to be offered an increase in pay as a solution as this team are crucial in the setting up of a new product line.  After a process of fully exploring the problem, it is established that the levels of motivation are low.  However this is considered to be  an effect, not the cause of the problem. The cause is that the team have been recruited with a low level of competencies needed for the current tasks they are performing.

Continue reading “A picture tells a thousand words”

Why Creative Problem Solving?

It was widely reported that in 2016 the World Economic Forum cited creativity as one of the top 3 skills organisations would need by 2020. The top skill which has been consistent in their reporting is critical problem solving.

Critical problem solving is much improved when a dose of creativity is added because many organisations get stuck in loops of thinking.  The saying, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ is so true.

Creative problem solving is an approach that offers opportunities to develop both critical thinking and creative approaches to problems. The result is that better and different solutions may be identified.

Continue reading “Why Creative Problem Solving?”

Assumptions and how to challenge them

What are Assumptions?

On a daily basis we all make assumptions. Some are conscious however many of them are unconscious. Those that are unconscious have become habitual ways of thinking.

Assumptions serve a useful purpose

They provide a short cut in our thinking. For example, I assume that health professionals care about my health when I go to see them. I don’t need to think this through, although with any new practitioner I may be wary and check out my assumptions in advance by seeking feedback from others. On the other hand if I am walking down a city street at night and I hear footsteps coming up behind me I assume that I could be in danger and start to react.

What happens when we make assumptions?

We often receive self-confirming feedback. Perhaps not always in the case of the danger at night, thank goodness. However, if we assume that someone is going to act towards us in a positive way then we show this in our attitude towards them and it normally gets reciprocated. Equally if we assume someone will be hostile, our actions show this and this is also often reciprocated.

The Ladder of Inference

I have written previously about assumptions and referred to a framework called a Ladder of Inference first proposed by  Chris Argyris.  Continue reading “Assumptions and how to challenge them”

Why image based creative tools are better than words

Recently I have facilitated  three creative workshops, 2 which were focused on creative problem solving and one which was a process of personal development. The common denominator in each was not just that they were creative but that I used drawing, images and collage as tools in the process. The results underline the value in using image based work in problem solving and change. Continue reading “Why image based creative tools are better than words”

Why Creative problem solving is more effective than ‘non-creative’

 

I have been working with creative problem solving (CPS) since the early 90 ties, and have facilitated many groups using CPS. I have also used some of the techniques in other ways, with people one to one and as part of a facilitated workshop on change. The reason I am passionate about this approach is that it works! Continue reading “Why Creative problem solving is more effective than ‘non-creative’”