|Photo credit: MAVEN
As a trained physicist, one of my golden rules for travel is; the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It sounds rather smart on its own, and can be thrown out there in a "I know better" tone now and then. Applying the straight line approach to everything, however, would rob us of rich experiences, creativity and quality. The same applies to how we lead our projects.
There certainly are cases for knowing where you're going and using a straight line to get there, like when doing housework for example. Let's just get it done so we can get back to work and play. And nobody enjoys being painfully dragged in circles by a directionless manager or client at work. We may think efficiency and straight line approaches will give us the best outcome, but do such approaches also stifle creative problem solving?
Creativity lives in our daily lives. At work, most worthy projects or product development exercises require creative thinking to reach their true potentials. Engineers tap into creative thinking to find the best materials or applications for their solutions. The developer relies heavily on creativity to find a way to solve or hack a "never been done before" task, or just to find a way to harness existing technology to bring smoothness to the assignment.
Creativity and collaboration go hand in hand. The natural path for finding a creative solution usually involves two steps forward, one back and a few side steps. Sometimes you need to dance around a little (and yes that can mean in complete circle(s)) to get to a place you didn't originally know you were going. How can this wiggly path fit into a world of demanding deadlines and stretched resources?
Here are some tips to inject creativity into your projects:
- Plant the seed early. We solve problems in our subconscious. The earlier you share a "heads up" note about an upcoming challenge or project the better prepared your team will be to access quick solutions they didn't know they had
- Dedicate a create space and adequate, non rushed time to your project kick off and creative meetings
- The kickoff environment should be relaxed. Did you know laughing is a great contributor to unleashing creative ideas?
- Start your verbal project brief with why. If your team can get behind the bigger purpose of your project, they will have more emotional energy for the project. Emotional energy increases creative thinking and contribution.
- The bigger the why - the better chance you have of emotional energy becoming a spark of passion (passion is a mega creativity enhancer)
- Lose the straight line structure. Opt for free flowing conversation
- Set storming ground rules, like no idea is a bad one and every idea leads somewhere
- Remove limitations; if there were no limitations how would you do this
- Lead by example, use encouraging supportive language
- Mix up your team - a diverse and multidisciplinary team will produce solutions with more perspective
- Plus one: white board it, use visuals