Monday, April 29, 2013

Three questions to foster creativity at work

According to the latest IBM CEO survey, creativity is a key influencer of success in the workplace. This isn't a surprise given the VUCA environment today's workers now find themselves in: people, markets, products, and other components of business need to stand out. New professionals are expected to leverage their creativity and unique point of view. With creativity comes job security and advancement.

Thousands of pages have been written about creativity and how to cultivate it within oneself. But those pages can be long forgotten when you or a team have been slogging through a problem or issue for hours without coming up with a possible solution. Take a break for 10 minutes and come at your problem using one of these questions:

How would an outsider approach this? Looking at your problem or issue with an outsider's eye will spawn creative solutions. Think of the cracks in walls where you live that you have come to accept and ignore. An outsider will notice and point out these cracks, flaws, etc. and where you do not as you're too close to the problem. Short of bringing an outsider in (which would be creative itself!), put an outsider's eye on your issue and see what develops.

What sacred cows are we upholding? The meeting can only be face-to-face. The project has to involve IT. The CEO has to deliver the message. Sacred cows in an organization or within one's practice can be disruptors to creative thought and innovation. The absolutely intractable ones should be acknowledged and compensated for...but I would encourage you to question whether or not that sacred cow truly is a sacred cow. Or is it one that you have made up to be a sacred cow?

What if...?
 An excellent question to ask to play with seemingly "far out there" options and possibilities. When a course of action seems implausible, outlandish, or difficult, use this question to play with the possibility of what might happen if you took the risk and succeeded.

As Einstein famously said "we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." Use these questions to assume the role of "creative disruptor" in your work and reap the benefits of your insights and new ways of thinking.

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