Creativity, environment and progress

There are many instances today of people being creative. Be it through art, music, work, technology or science, creativity is a constant as much as change is. People finding new and different ways to express themselves and to find new solutions to old and new problems.

In the context of work, though, we seem to have lost practise in being creative.

Ask anyone at work what they enjoy doing in their spare time, and almost inevitably it will be described in a way which allows them to be creative, experience creativity or allows them a place to excel in some way.

I spend a lot of my time finding ways to inject a sense of creativity into how people work and what they experience. What I’m conscious of, always, is that I have to follow a set of principles.

The first is to be really clear about the problem we’re trying to solve. Sounds almost obvious, but without a clear brief, you could end up designing a solution for the wrong problem. Getting clarity on the problem, then, is vital.

Next is to find out what’s currently happening. Be it through data gathering, data intelligence, anecdotes or otherwise, I need to have a sense of what already exists. After all if the system works, why break it?

What this also informs me is what are the constraints in place. These constraints are vital to being creative. Constraints – perceived and real – are what can be broken and constraints are what we often circumvent when reaching a new solution.

For me what happens next is where life gets interesting. Once I understand the problem, what works and what constraints are in place, that’s when I can start challenging the norm. That’s when I can start inviting ideas. That’s when creativity happens.

I can start to use tools and techniques as simple as brainstorming to advanced techniques like Six Thinking Hats. Regardless of the tool I use, it’s about the environment I’ve created for creativity to happen.

My final principle I believe in is that good ideas can come from anyone. A lot of people will claim they haven’t got a creative bone in their body. That’s because they’ve been told to not be creative in pretty much their entire adult life. Create the right environment for it to happen though and everyone can contribute. Doesn’t mean everyone has to come up with a solution, but it does mean everyone can provide insight and advice on how to make something happen.

There are whole job titles and companies set up in helping unleash creativity in different ways. Kudos to them. The problem every organisation faces is how to enable creativity in useful and progressive ways internally.

And I’ll let you into a secret. It’s not about taking the team on a team building day to experience creativity. It’s about facilitating it to happen in your work environment.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

3 thoughts on “Creativity, environment and progress”

  1. Good stuff Sukh. I’m not convinced about constraints; they can become a launch point to jump from but too often become limiting factors that prohibit truly creative thinking. We create to subvert the rule, not to focus on the outcome.

    There’s a whole industry around creativity and innovation now which, as you suggest, can’t be made on a course. Interestingly, I think to facilitate creativity in the workplace you need to make it tough.TS Eliot said:
    Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity

    Similarly, I strongly believe necessity is the mother of invention and if you want to be truly creative then you have to be up against a deadline/sanction/penalty that will stretch your approach and thinking. To be creative you need to challenge and be challenged; too often the lack of creativity itself becomes a problem to be solved. That becomes navel gazing of the worst kind and I’ve been on some awful creativity courses where they’ve almost imploded analysing why people can’t think creatively about creativity. To dilute creativity to asinine activities and neutered models limits our thinking

    Creativity requires delinquency, heresy, discomfort and transformational thinking. It’s more than 9 dots and 4 lines, paradigms and rope bridges.

    1. In my mind, when you talk of deadlines/sanctions/penalties – those are constraints. Thanks for helping clear it up.

      Navel gazing about the creative process is not helpful – much like it’s not helpful debating about the value of the L&D function. If you want to make change happen, that is the call to action. Use whatever tools or techniques are available, and get on with it.

      Delinquency, heresy, discomfort and transformational thinking. There’s a hotbed of insight just waiting to be unleashed right there.

  2. The key thing in this for me is how creativity becomes a way of life in orgs – big ideas, small ideas, big facilitated sessions, quick fire sessions with a few colleagues together.

    And a critical step is bringing the word ‘creativity’ off it’s very high pedestal that most people have it on. Like you say Sukh, most people have spent their lives since childhood having their belief in their creative abilities drained out of them.

    Big opportunity here!

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