Creativity is one of the most sought after skills in the workplace.
It should come as no surprise that top multinationals are looking to hire inventive thinkers: Research shows that creativity can drive innovation and resilience in organizations.
Tech giant Google has evolved by innovating the way we all use the Internet. Electric car maker Tesla cited a collaborative working environment for “solving the world’s most important problems with talented individuals”.
Still, sharing ideas can be messy when coworkers don’t understand or support new concepts—or if they put them off. Research offers some concrete ways to facilitate idea formation, both individually and in groups. But first it helps to know what feature you are trying to provide.
So what do employers mean when they talk about creativity?
What is creativity?
There are many definitions of creativity. Most mention originality and problem-solving.
Well-known psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi may have said it best when he portrayed creativity in the workplace as an idea that is considered something new by other experts in the field and the general public.
In my research, I explore the creative process in the context of higher education, advertising and leadership.
In 2019, I created a course at the University of South Carolina called Creative Thinking and Problem Solving to help college students thrive in the workplace, where most problems won’t have exact answers and they don’t have study guides or feedback from teachers Will be I’ve noticed that after filling bubbles in life-long multiple choice tests, some students may work in gray areas where any solution seems intimidating.
And yet after graduation, most of my students will be seeing job descriptions that mention creativity as one of the most desirable soft skills.
The corporate trend toward group problem-solving dates back almost eight decades. Advertising executive and business guru Alex Osborne coined the term “brainstorm”, which he describes in his 1948 book “Your Creative Power” as “using the brain to solve a creative problem”—and in commando fashion. To do so, in which every storm strikes him. Purpose.” His target was quantity: 10 of his employees submitted 87 ideas for an ad campaign in just 90 minutes at once.
Although brainstorming in teams can help colleagues bond, debate and exchange ideas, its effectiveness has been questioned by researchers in recent years. Many organizations continue to use this process. Public recognition of his views puts people in the limelight, making them vulnerable to criticism. Lack of confidence can also challenge creative thinking.
Many resources have surfaced offering strategies for building personal creative confidence. These include embracing failure, playing the game, and overcoming the fear of being judged.
Team brainstorming challenge
Because individuals look at problems from different perspectives, research shows that groups with diverse disciplines, backgrounds, beliefs, knowledge, and skills produce the strongest, most unique results. Brainstorming among people with different types of expertise holds individuals accountable for contributing suggestions from their specific domains.
Successful group work requires focus. My research is important for carefully defining the challenge, task, or problem. This includes gathering key data and outlining limitations such as time frame, budget, available resources, technology and any other constraints. Launching this way helps the team to select the best idea generated by its collaboration.
Nurturing group creativity requires an environment that encourages risk-taking, constructive criticism, and teamwork. Creating a culture that is conducive to creativity must be done deliberately in ways that counter personal fears of rejection and a tendency to self-censor or criticize. People should be empowered to speak.
It is necessary to establish three key guidelines:
Focus on the quantity of ideas generated, not their quality.
Avoid criticism, judgment, or defense of ideas during the brainstorming period.
Don’t put limits on “wild” ideas, no matter how bad, outrageous, or impractical they may be, recognizing that every idea is worth expressing.
Brainstorming sessions can be more productive if participants do some independent work first.
In a group, this can be done together in minutes or even days, with team members writing down their ideas individually and later sharing with the group. This process, known as divergent thinking, can also be done virtually through collaborative websites such as Miro, Mural, and Figma. Working individually ensures that everyone brings ideas and everyone’s voices are heard.
Next comes “convergent thinking.” The group evaluates proposals to identify the best innovation or solution to the problem at hand. Building on someone else’s idea is encouraged.
There are many other approaches to group brainstorming, such as “design thinking”, in which quick brainstorming sessions lead to tangible prototypes. In the “six thinking hats” method, group members focus on each aspect of the proposed idea one at a time. For example, they will discuss the negative aspects, then the positive, emotions, risks, and possibilities for each solution.
While brainstorming can be a daunting process at times, it procures ideas and promotes team bonding. And it’s important to remember that within a space where everyone feels free to express themselves, good ideas can come from anyone.