The Environment of Creativity

The value system of a company can provide the environment for creativity. People can do their best if their work is: Good for the country, employees, customers.

Or as the Honda mission statement puts is “Joy to the employee, joy to the customer and joy to the country”. The typical corporate atmosphere is competitive and ruthless. People rush to satisfy their selfish desires for glory and the limelight. Any one standing in the way is viewed with anger and hatred. In such an environment, the individual uses 50% of his energy protecting his ego and his turf. So much energy is wasted on one-upmanship and putting others down. The total ability of the group to function is therefore severely compromised.

How much better is the nurturing environment. Here a person does not feel the separation between himself and others. He wants others to do as well as himself. He competes only with himself in the search for excellence. He acknowledges the champion in everybody. The person does not develop a single-minded infatuation with his own ideas but accepts the reality that others also can have great ideas. It is important to understand that we can have a win-win environment. In such an environment everyone will be willing to take risks and go through the process of temporary failures. He knows that in an experiment, there are no failures – only feedback.

John Phillip of Synectics speaks of the possibilities of improving team work to achieve common goals. The individuals in the team have a fixed amount of potential energy.

Each individual uses as much of his energy as is necessary to ensure his emotional survival i.e to avoid getting hurt and to lick his wounds or take revenge if he’s hurt. The balance of energy is available to devote to the task. Energy available to the group dramatically improves as the team climate improves. More energy is put into achieving goals. Less is spent on safe-guarding emotional well-being.

You achieve a team atmosphere where colleagues are a pleasure to work with, the boss is a good guy, there is excitement in the air and laughter too; and success in within hand’s reach.

Don’t indulge in the following if you want to foster creativity:

* Be pessimistic* * Preach / Moralize* *Be Judgmental* *Assume no value* *Make no connections* *Put the burden of proof on another person* *Take ball away from* *Ask questions* *Cross examine* *Give no feedback* *Be non committal* *Put on a stone-face* *Be critical* *Disapprove* *Be impatient* *Correct* *Name Call* *Blame* *Set up win/lose* *Be Competitive* *Make fun of* *Be dominant* *Command* *Order* *Direct* *Threaten/Warn* *Demand* *Do not listen* *Nit pick* *Interrupt* *Be bored* *Misunderstand* *Be Inattentive* *Act distant* *Pull pranks* “*Get angry* *Disagree* *Argue* *Challenge* *React negatively* *Discount/Put down* *Be cynical/skeptical* *Insist on early precision* *Point out flaws* *Use silence against*.

Actions that make you creative are:

*Listen* *Paraphrase* *Stay loose until rigor counts* *Protect vulnerable beginnings* *Take on faith* *Temporarily suspend disbelief* *Assume it can be done* *Share the risk* *Set up win/wins** Make it “no lose”* *Support confusion/uncertainty* *Acknowledge Credit* *Value learning from mistakes* *Be attentive* *Be interested * *Show approval* *Give early support* *Eliminate status/rank* *Be optimistic* *See the value in* *Focus on what is going for the idea* *Assume valuable implications* *Take responsibility for understanding* *Waste no energy evaluating early*

The Creative Environment

The first step is to separate idea generation from analysis. One of the main reasons why a typical business session does not yield too many breakthrough ideas, is because managers are too busy shooting down each others’ ideas. That is why meetings usually produce boring, bland, safe and often useless suggestions.

There are three elements involved in developing a creative atmosphere.

1) Extend effort

2) Suspend judgment

3) Postpone reaction

Extended Effort

Very often we tend to use the first good idea that emerges particularly if it is a good idea. That is why the enemy of a better idea is often a good idea. Very often you develop a single minded infatuation with your idea, thus shutting the door to other ideas. Extended effort involves spending a lot of time or simply generating a number of options. You could give your group a target: go on generating multiple options until you reach 100. Focus should be on idea fluency. The internal `Censor Board’ takes a vacation. All ideas are simply recorded in an atmosphere of nurturing and appreciation.

Suspended Judgment

Our parents, elders and significant people in our life start building up our internal `censor board.’ Any idea that sounds foolish or even different from the norm is immediately shot down.

Suspended judgment involves putting a fence around a new, germinal idea to protect it from judgment, criticism or attack. A new idea is treated with respect, with as much tenderness as a sprouting seed. This ensures a climate where the idea can be recorded and perhaps developed. Edward De Bono’s ‘PO’ and the Synectics `Springboard’ provide a protective shield for new ideas.

Postpone Reactions

The temptation to react quickly and sharply to an idea often prevents new ideas from emerging. Immediate reactions are often knee jerk reactions characterized by strong emotions like anger and aggression. The emotions prevent clear thinking. Locked into the `fight or flight’ mechanism, the body shuts down all functions except those necessary for survival. These parts of the brain necessary for survival are those we share with dinosaurs – the primitive brain. The higher levels of thinking, reasoning and creativity are temporarily shut down. So an angry, disturbed man cannot think very clearly. Providing a “safe place” for ideas to be shared without attack, results in a nursery of germinal new ideas.