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ARE YOU STRUGGLING TO BE MORE CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE IN YOUR WORK?

Dr Maggi Evans Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Consultant and Coach, Mosaic Consulting

 

Fresh thinking and creativity are recognised as core skills that help workers and businesses to thrive.  Most experts agree that innovation follows when these creative ideas are turned into something practical and of value. We often hear about the big and sexy innovations, the hubs and labs that are developing breakthrough new approaches and products such as Google’s X, with a mission to create ‘moonshot’ based businesses. But, in reality, most of the innovation that takes place in businesses is a bit more down to earth.

It may not always feel like it, but we all have the opportunity to share our ideas and innovate at work. This may involve finding new and better ways of working efficiently, delighting our customers, improving access to information or reducing some of the annoying things that stop us (in the words of writer and businessman, Aaron Dignan) from doing ‘the best work of our lives’.

Furthermore, it’s recognised that creativity and innovation are difficult to automate. So, as artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly takes over technical parts of our work, creativity is less likely to be automated. If you can increase your creativity and innovation you can make a bigger contribution in your current role, whilst also protecting your own employability.

How to start being more creative and innovative at work

 

Developing your creativity and innovation can be difficult – you want fresh thinking, but also want it to be practical. Many of us spend so much time in an analytical and critical head space, that it’s difficult to think from new and different perspectives… and often new ideas get trampled on, before they’ve even developed.

One really helpful way of thinking about it was suggested by Robert Dilts, an expert in the field of neuro-linguistic programming. His approach was based on the way that Walt Disney encouraged creative teams to develop their ideas. This suggests three roles or stages, each of which is essential for developing innovations:

  1. Dreamer – the dreamer is a playful role, full of curiosity exploring problems and challenges with a blank sheet of paper – coming up with ideas of what could be done without judgement
  2. Realist – the realist takes a more practical view, looking at how the ideas could be developed and implemented into something that adds value
  3. Critic – the critic then adds analysis, challenging the proposal, asking why and helping to develop and refine the thinking

Most of us are well skilled at being a realist or critic, so to be successful we need to be better at dreaming. We need to let the seeds of our ideas start to germinate before we expose them to the rational and critic. How? Here are some thoughts:

  • Give yourself some space. Many people come up with their best ideas when they’re doing something unrelated – for me it’s when I’m walking the dog! According to Twitter’s Bruce Daisley we need to urgently reduce our schedule and value the benefits of downtime, time when we’re not actively doing anything. It is in this space that our brains have the freedom to develop new ideas
  • Thinking time is essential not a luxury. Many leaders I speak with feel the need to constantly look busy. Busy-ness has become a badge of honour to show that you’re important, indispensable and trusted. As a consequence, we highly value our ‘doing’ time and undervalue our ‘thinking’ time. That’s a really warped perspective, as Bill Gates has said we need to really value our thinking time,  and see this as an essential part of doing our job rather than put it off for another day
  • Be curious and playful. Our ability to be innovative and to dream works best when we encourage ourselves to be playful and experimental. There are lots of tools and techniques to help us to take a fresh perspective on a problem or opportunity that we’re faced with. You could ask yourself what your ‘superhero’ would do, you could ask yourself ‘what if I had more time, limitless resources, what if I had to find a solution today… ?’, or you could consider where else this type of problem has previously been faced and resolved, and creatively ‘swipe’ that solution. There are lots of resources on the internet – one of my favourites is a (very old) book called ‘Sticky Wisdom’. It’s full of great stories and techniques
  • Create a positive environment. Feeling stressed, fearful or restricted are bound to limit your thinking and innovation. So, we need to create a positive, safe working environment, which includes working collaboratively with others, a sense of belonging, having fun, being willing to make mistakes and to talk openly. If you’re working with others on a new idea or an improvement, then spend time chatting or doing something positive first – this will help the ideas to flow

As the world of work continues to evolve, changing both the jobs we do, and the way we do them, our uniquely ‘human’ skills have never been more important. Now is the time to take proactive steps to become more creative and innovative at work. If we do, our employability today and tomorrow, will only stand to benefit.

So, if you want to develop new ways of doing things and think more creatively, give yourself the time and space, start prioritising your thinking time, and remember to have fun! If you do, you’ll soon start to notice your creative thinking and innovative ideas flow – for the benefit of both you, and your organisation.

 

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AUTHOR

Maggi is an experienced consultant and coach with international experience across a wide range of sectors including professional services, financial services, retail and FMCG.  She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and combines research and practice to develop practical solutions to drive business improvement.

Maggi has been a consultant for over 20 years, specialising in talent strategy and talent development.  She has a reputation as an insightful consultant, helping clients to reduce the ‘noise’ around an issue so they can focus and act on key issues which will make a difference.  Maggi is on a mission to help organisations, leaders and individuals to liberate talent.  Her first book ‘From Talent Management to Talent Liberation’ has recently been published.

 
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