I’ve got a lot to be thankful for when it comes to my career. I’ve has some great experiences, learnt from some of the best and been part of a lot of great teams. One of the highest performing was a team of three that I was part of early on in my learning career.
My first job in learning was part of the Learning & Development team at an attraction in the UK. We were a team of 3 and what made us such a high performing team was that we each had our unique strengths. Jess, my colleague was the creative one, the “ideas” woman. When Jess moved on to bigger things she was replaced by Jason who was equally as creative. Both had the most amazing knack for coming up with brilliant ideas. And it wasn’t just an idea, it was a constant stream of ideas almost like a leaky tap.
My role was to work out what we were going to do with those ideas and how to turn them into reality. I was more the organiser and great at getting the resources together.
Once all of the what’s and how’s were decided, in came my manager Jo who was given the gift of the most incredible attention to detail I had ever seen (I’ve had a couple managers with this gift. It’s one I need to work on). Along with her attention to detail, she was also brilliant at ensuring things got done.
Between us, we were the complete package. A truly high performing team!
I loved working on that team and I always knew my place and I would never dream of trying to come up with ideas. That was for Jess or Jason. I was simply not creative enough.
It was the same manager, Jo who first told me that I had the creative thing all wrong. I remember sitting in a performance review with her talking about wanting to develop my creativity. “I don’t have it in me” I remember saying and I distinctly remember her response. She told me that it was complete rubbish. She said that everyone has the ability to be creative, we just have to know where to find it.
Ok so I didn’t exactly believe Jo when she told me that but all these years later I realise that she was absolutely right. It’s good news too because creativity in its various forms constantly shows up in top skills lists for the future of work. That’s right, creativity is a must have for your 2025 self and there’s plenty of ways to flex that muscle!
For many of us, past experiences and already having answers can hold us back from really getting creative. When we have a challenge we tend to refer back to what worked (or didn’t work) before. Rather than trying new things, we get stuck in the same old cycles over and over again.
Asking questions can help force us to think differently. It stimulates conversation when problem-solving in groups and it challenges our go-to response. Here are some simple yet thought-provoking questions to inspire your creativity:-
If I knew that I couldn’t fail what would I do?
How can we do x better?
What would (insert world’s leading expert here) do?
What’s the craziest way we could do x,y or z?
If I had all the money/time/resource in the world, what would I do?
Curiosity might have killed the cat but it also brought us some of the best inventions like smashed avo and smoked salmon.
The next time you’re feeling stuck, try a creative question discover what creative ideas you can generate.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Part of the reason we end up stuck in a rut is that we get too comfortable being comfortable. I said it before that a little risk is good for you, after all, how do we know what we’re capable of unless we’re willing to fail. For a few years, we had an unwritten rule in my house. I would do most of the cooking and my fiance would cook dinner one night a week. When it came to his night to do the cooking the kitchen would be an absolute mess. Dishes everywhere and all sorts of random concoctions plated up. I always felt a little guilty about how much effort he put into trying something new and delicious for dinner.
More often than not, his creativity paid off and dinner was delicious. We found some great new recipes as a result of his play. It didn’t always work out — banana chicken anyone? — but if he hadn’t had a go, we would have missed out on some great dinners!
Remember, if it wasn’t for that leap of faith, we wouldn’t have coffee, eggs or a moon landing! The next time you’re unsure, give it a go. Worst case scenario you end up with banana chicken for dinner and you order takeaway instead.
Change your physiology
There’s no shortage of studies which have found that walking boosts creativity and while I’m definitely not one, we all have that friend who swears by a head-clearing run to generate their best ideas. Many of the business world’s top execs also recommend walking meetings or just getting out of the office as a way to reset and get creative.
A 2014 study by Stanford professors published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition found that a person walking was able to produce twice as many creative responses compared to those sitting. It didn’t even matter whether they were indoors or out, it was the simple change in physiology that made all the difference.
Use new tools
I recently ran a time management session for my team offering them various tool to help improve their time management. I wanted to demonstrate the importance of the time we spend planning but it’s pretty dull subject matter. How did I prove my point? I asked myself the question above — what’s the craziest way I can get that message across? The solutions? I got them to play with jigsaw puzzles.
It would have been just as easy to tell the group why it’s important to plan and let’s face it, we all know it. Does that mean we all do it? No, most of us are great at jumping straight in. The jigsaw puzzles got everyone moving, created some competition, facilitated conversation and most importantly, served as a memorable reminder to plan.
I learnt a while ago from working with a great learning company — Management Consultancy International — that no tool is a bad tool when it comes to creativity in learning. The weirder and more wonderful the tools, the more likely they’ll be to help learners achieve their outcomes. So the next time you need to create something impactful, think jigsaw puzzles, tent poles, LEGO and lots of post-it notes!
The next time you find yourself telling someone that you’re not creative, remember that lack of creativity is a myth. We’re all capable of being creative when we want to be. Flex your creative muscles often and they’ll serve you well when you need them.
Until next time,