Face it, nobody really understands what it means to “think outside the box”. This expression has become one of the biggest clichés in business. Yet, it remains as one of the most important ones as thinking “outside the box” is being associated with being creative.
« There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono
In today’s business environment, creativity and innovation are pre-requisites for sustainable growth. Creativity has become increasingly vital – it has been recognised as central to an organisation’s economic prosperity as it influences the development of new business visions, models, products and services.
Having that said, creativity is not easy to come by. Companies vie for the creative brains and struggle to induce creativity at the workplace. Why is it so hard? Do most people lack of the “creative gene”?
A recent Mercedes-Benz ad based on the left and right brain functions from adsoftheworld.com
Thousand of years of debate have no conclusive results so as to determine if creativity is innate or learned. However, one thing is for sure – anyone CAN be creative. The left hemisphere of our brain is often associated with language functions, and processes information in an analytical and sequential way; the right hemisphere focuses on visuals and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way. While we each have our dominant way of thinking, both sides of our brain function and work together. Even if we use the left-brain thinking predominantly, we can stimulate our right brain for creative thinking nonetheless!
Teresa Ambaile highlighted that creativity is made up of 3 components: expertise, creative-thinking skills and motivation. While the first 2 components require time and possibly professional help, companies can adopt several ways of fostering creativity within the organisation through motivation. Here are some of them mentioned by Mark McGuiness and Teresa Ambaile:
(1) Regularly engage in creative challenges to stimulate minds
(2) Grant greater degree of freedom around procedures and processes
(3) Provide encouragement and incentives for creative inputs
(4) Come up with a proper communication flow: open up internal communication channels for feedback and support, designate staff to look into and act on the ideas and feedback,
(5) Giving respect to all ideas and inputs
(6) Suspend evaluation: refrain from rejecting ideas and inputs the moment they are proposed as it would constrain creativity
(7) Encourage discussion for potential ideas: allow different thinkers to be involved, to analyse and build on each other’s ideas
While there can be many other methods to motivate your colleagues to provide more creative inputs, bear in mind that quantity does not always matter. As how an article on Allbusiness.com puts it, “When we think about creativity in organizations, we usually focus on how to generate new ideas from as many people as possible. But that’s not all there is to it.” It is vital to place equal importance from start to the end – explore great ideas, work on them and see them transform into concrete projects, products or services.
Yet, the most important part of motivation is to have a motivator – the change driver who is capable of infecting everyone at work with a burst of creativity. Hence, the next time you want your staff to think outside the box, you will need to start with yourself!