Fostering creativity in the workplace

What’s the best way to harness the collective creativity of the entire group of people in your company?

The typical brainstorming session is a bust.  People consider brainstorming a waste of time, or a dead end, or a pointless battle, or a rubber stamp for some executive’s idea.  One of the primary results of the typical brainstorming session is jaded employees.  Surely we can do better!

I recently spent a weekend in a workshop focused on providing attendees with new skills for collaboration on creative projects.   The event was presented by Humantific, the people who have created the NextD movement, and it was hosted at the offices of Martha Stewart Omnimedia on the West Side of Manhattan.

It was a great workshop.  We learned about the various “styles” of innovation (idea generator, conceptualizer, optimizer and implementer).   The key insight is to appreciate the value inherent in each style. During the creative process, we learned, each of these styles must come to the fore in the appropriate sequence in order for a solid creative result to occur.   But if the styles clash, or if they are applied at the wrong moment, then the results can be rather painful for everybody involved.   There are lots of built-in assumptions and attitudes that can interfere with teamwork. Implementers tend to look dubiously at conceptualizers, and optimizers have  dim view of the random-access free association of the idea generators.   The fact is, you need all four perspectives in order to generate ideas and then shape them into a coherent result, but if the process doesn’t begin and end with mutual respect, the results are disappointing.

Much of this workshop was based on the research of Min Basadur, who pioneered this field long before the topic of “innovation process consulting” became a buzzword.

I found it incredibly useful and fun.  This workshop and the research of Min Basadur dovetails with my own research into collaborative creativity on digital networks.  I am planning to apply the insights gleaned from this workshop to my own business practice.  I’ll post my comments about the results right here.