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Sure-fire ways to unleash more creativity in your business

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I know many people in business settings who view themselves as "creatively challenged." They simply think that they are not creative. Untrue. We all have the capacity for vast levels of creative thinking. While certain disciplines tend to draw more "creative" types, such as advertising, the arts and industrial design, I believe creativity exists within all parts of a business. The trick is to help people unlock their creative potential to solve problems, to create new problems for competitors, to make the workplace more engaging and to contribute to the bottom line.

Below are sure-fire ways I have found to help unleash more creativity in an organization.

  • Set expectations. With expectation-setting you are giving your people the permission they need to overcome the "self-editing" behaviors that limit their ideas. Expect creativity in your people. Recognize it, nurture it and reinforce it.
  • Use comfort or shock. Imagine a continuum ranging from comfort to shock. Creating the right conditions along any point of this continuum can help frame the need for expansive thinking in your people. Shocks can come from inside and/or outside the organization: For example, you might reduce resources to force new thinking; create short, immovable timelines (pressure turns coal into diamonds); or change the scene by going offsite to a more comfortable, relaxed location.
  • Practice divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking allows you to generate as many ideas as possible from the simple to the complex and from the relevant to the non-relevant. Convergent thinking allows you to combine your ideas into a more logical form. The outcome is an idea set that can merge to form a creative insight to inform a strategy, business model or other innovation.
  • Combine ideas into a new form. Often innovations come from two dissimilar ideas combined together to form something completely unique. Look around and you'll see that ideas abound outside your department, your company, your industry and even your culture that, when applied to your unique problem, can provide an insight that has escaped so many others before you.
  • Slow down before you speed up. It is tempting to jump right into the solution space. Slowing down up front allows for observation, for sensory input and for looking beyond the obvious to allow deeper processing. Then creativity can explode.
  • Practice "future hindsight." I call this method "future hindsight" because, as humans, we can leverage a unique skill to think in a future tense. Use this technique to project yourself into a future timeframe and look back at your present situation. When you do this you'll see obstacles are not so large or so permanent. You can examine your current state with a different lens. Then you can begin to imagine what you need to happen in the future, and set a path to get there more clearly.
Remember that creativity for its own sake is art, but creativity with a profit motive is business. Business tries to rationalize and make things more efficient. While creativity is not always the most efficient process, it can be transformative.

Randall Rozin is global director-brand management and marketing communications at Dow Corning Corp. (www.dowcorning.com). He can be reached at randall.rozin@dowcorning.com, or via www.linkedin.com/in/randallrozin.

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