Inject creativity into your work

Inject creativity into your work

Creativity is not restricted to particular professions. Istock image

One of the myths surrounding creativity is that only certain types of people can be creative.

While painters, writers, dancers and filmmakers are expected to exercise their creative muscles, most people feel that less esoteric professions like accounting, data analysis or software development don’t necessarily lend themselves to creative thinking.

Nothing could be further from the truth, argue Tom Kelley and David Kelley (yes, they are brothers) in their book, Creative Confidence.

In fact, they assert that “we are all creative.” However, many of us stymie our own creativity by falsely believing that only a select minority are creative. Unless we acknowledge our creative potential, we are unlikely to harness or realise it.

The duo define creativity as drawing on your “imagination to create something new in the world.” It could be a new product, process or programme. At the d.school at Stanford founded by David, the two brothers teach people from diverse departments how to unleash their power of innovation.

So, nerdy scientists, suave business students, analytical lawyers and fledgling doctors, who don’t necessarily view themselves as imaginative, learn how to think like artsy designers. According to the Kelley brothers, every profession stands to gain from creative approaches. 

The Kelleys aver that most innovation involves three aspects — technical, business and human. As most scientists and engineers are trained to think technically and companies typically zero in on the business angle, the authors urge creators to factor in the human component. Forming an empathic connection with the end user of your products or services lies at the heart of design thinking.

By encouraging their students to generate novel ideas and prototype them, the authors find that their pupils grow in creative confidence.

Defeat the defeatist 

Unfortunately, formal schooling, as the late educationist Sir Ken Robinson rues in his much-viewed TED talk, often dampens children’s creativity, with many students believing that they are incapable of coming up with original ideas.

This defeatist thought pattern then precludes people from trying new things. As a result, they don’t exhibit creativity, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, the first step of becoming more creative at work is to leave the naysayer in your head at the door.

Seek out experiences and opportunities that kindle creativity: Talk to your customers, watch them use your products, role play customer experiences. Based on your observations and customer feedback, consider how things may be tweaked, improved or overhauled so that all stakeholders, including the customer, are more satisfied.

As advocates of design thinking, the Kelleys don’t just advocate brainstorming, planning and discussing. In fact, they are biased towards action and urge you to act.

Generate as many solutions as possible.

Then consider which ones can be potentially implemented. Your first few attempts can be rough and inexpensive prototypes. But they should give you an inkling whether your idea is worth pursuing and refining. If not, you don’t lose much as you haven’t invested a whole lot of money or time.

Should your prototype exhibit potential, then you may work on honing and fine tuning it till you achieve a desired result or experience.

Act with intention

Another hallmark of designers is that they bring ‘intention’ to every task. Whether it is the way you arrange your desk or even organise your desktop, you realise that there are umpteen choices you are making every day, often without thinking through them. But when you realise that mundane acts like naming files and assigning them to folders is linked to your productivity, you begin to understand that acting with intention benefits you and the organisation.

When you achieve small successes, you boost your confidence to attempt more creative endeavours.

Beginner's mindset

The Kelleys have also observed that a fear of failure is one of the most potent forces that hinders people from taking creative plunges.

But one of the ironies of a creative life is that it is replete with failure. The only difference is that creative individuals don’t allow failure to impede their progress, rather they learn from their mistakes and continue to persist.

By repeatedly transforming new ideas into prototypes, they further their creative proclivities. The authors suggest that you label your creative attempts as experiments. This will reduce the expectations that other people have and you can move on if your endeavor doesn’t fly. 

Adopt a beginner’s mind and try to reframe problems and questions from novel angles.

Like a traveller who absorbs sights, sounds and smells, pay attention to detail you might otherwise be oblivious to. Talk to colleagues across departments. You never know where your next idea might emerge from. And, ensure that you schedule downtime into your calendar as many creative leaps are made when people are in a relaxed frame of mind. 

(The writer is an author and blogger) 

 

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