Sunday, August 22, 2010

ENCOURAGING CREATIVITY

ENCOURAGING CREATIVITY

Creativity in business drives ideas and provides the platform for constant development and improvement to maximize overall performance

The idea of creativity should not be confined to the creative industries, such as advertising or part of a research and development team where the act of creativity is understood as a necessary function of the business, and is seen to have a direct effect on the company’s profitability.

Managers in other filed often believe that creativity is a working practice that is irrelevant to them with little direct effect on their bottom line, let alone their team performance. What those managers are thinking about is an individual creativity. Corporate creativity is not the same as individual creativity. The goal of creativity in the workplace is to make the act of creativity a normal part of everyday business life, that will reach across the company from product development to managerial development

The power of including creativity in the manager’s skill base should not be underestimated and, on the whole, many managers practice some form of creativity while resolving daily issues on a subconscious level. The key to creative management is to make this process more successful, to identify strengths and develop areas of weakness.

The creative manager needs to sustain an open and creative environment where all team members have a forum for discussion of ideas without reprisals. Moreover, the creative manager should possess the courage to reassess current working methods and question the unthinkable whilst remaining realistic about the idea’s development and implementation. One further point to bear in mind is that the creative managers must accept full responsibility for their decisions and be accountable for ongoing assessment during the development of a project.

The business world is changing at a speed unknown to previous generations and, with the advent of the World Wide Web, email, ecommerce and m-commerce, business is now global.

Whether the business you manager is a one man bank or an FT 100 company, global events can affect you directly or indirectly. For example a sudden plummet in exchange rates would exert an external influence over business that called for creative spontaneous strategies to counter adverse effects. However, creativity should also be proactively applied to the more controlled or routine tasks such as marketing plans and staff retention.

Every human being has an innate sense of creativity. Not to explore this conscious creativity within the workspace will cause problems in the longer run.

BUILDING CREATIVITY INTO MANAGEMENT:
There are two aspects to building creativity into the workplace. The first criterion is to encourage and maximize the personal creativity intrinsic to everyone. The second is to provide the environment to allow creativity to flourish.

The role of the creative manager is to harness these energies and implement them to maximize the individual’s and the collective’s performance. The ever-increasing demands to better the economic, social and environmental working standards or “triple bottom line” is yet another pressure on today’s managers. Reassessing business productivity and profitability scenarios calls for creative thinking and creative management. In an aggressive business world it is the creative manager who will catch the proverbial worm.

KEY SKILLS OF THE CREATIVE MANAGER:
- Strive for genuine improvement
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Courage to follow through and be accountable

STRATEGIES TO BUILD ON:
You have now identified the level of your personal and environmental creativity. For development to take place here are some strategies to review to build upon to bring creativity into your management style and the workplace

Example areas where a manager can exhibit creativity in the workplace are:
- On a one-to-one basis with members of the team
- Meetings

ONE TO ONE:

A new manager working in the media was frustrated with his newly formed team that never voiced any opinion at meetings. Any points of action that were agreed never seemed to be followed through. Even though the team consisted of highly talented, hardworking people, somehow the objectives and goals got bogged down by fruitless discussion, other day-to-day tasks taking up all available time, and so on. All the members had been with the company for some time, but due to a restructure they were required to work closely together for the first time.

In answer to the manager’s demands for help, he began one-to-one coaching to aid his professional management. To his surprise, these coaching sessions gave him an understanding of his performance, and skills to be able to work with each member of his team. He realized that everyone is different. In this case, both on a professional and personal level. The company restructure that had created his team had different impact on each member.

The opportunity to him as a new manager was also validation to another that he had reached the highest level he might ever be ion the company and therefore was disengaged from anything but the essentials of his job. The manager also began to clarify what talents and skills he had already and which new skills he needed. He began to realize that any negativity in the team was not personal to hi, but the situation.

The manager started to work with each member of the team, allowing them to voice their concerns and, like him, assess what development was needed for each individual. The process also set the benchmark for the team expectations.

A creative manager takes the time to focus on individual team members’ values, expertise and purpose to benefit the team as a whole
- Value their strengths and expertise
- Give them the accountability for their own job performance
- Support them in the development of their skills and talents
- Challenge them to work at their full potential
- Provide an environment where their own creativity can flourish

MEETINGS:
Business meetings that do not encourage creativity tend to be analytical and judgemental. Often a decision has to be made there and then with little room for reconsideration. The pace of the meeting is rapid and serious with closed questions being asked. There is narrowing of options in order to make a decision that is carried. Often the meeting style does not allow full participation of all members present.

Meetings that invite creativity tend to be non-judgmental. Open questions are asked around the table, there is a flow of ideas. It is relaxed, and there is a sense of fun. Any decisions that are made allow for a recalibration or expansion at a later date if needed. Everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion and is accountable for the follow-through of options and decisions agreed at the meeting.

When chairing a meeting it is important to remember that all dialogue should actively be encouraged. Everyone should feel comfortable expressing his or her opinions, no matter how abstract, illogical or unrealistic. The first point of a creative meeting is to stimulate discussion. Conversation should be open and organic. The creative manager should recognize when closed questions are being asked and lead the conversation back to an open forum.

EXAMPLES OF CLOSED AND OPEN QUESTIONS:
Closed questions tend to be able to answered with a yes or no. They do not open up, or lead on the thinking while answering the question,
eg: - Is this an effective strategy for you ?
To be asked this as an open question would inspire creative thinking thereby giving a full and more considered answer, eg
- What makes this an effective strategy for you ?

Turning this into an open question invites the answer to explore what is happening, leading on the thoughts to broaden the possibilities. By making questions open, externally voiced internal thoughts can be tested for their validity. Sometimes the explanation of the answer is interrupted by “You know, while I was saying that to you I realized it is not quite true. That open question has opened up; the exploration to find the reality and the best way forward. Not only does this give the questioner a more complete view but allows others attending the meeting to understand the complexities and arouses their own questions and thought processes

Some other examples of closed and open questions:
- CLOSED – Have you finished your research yet ?
- OPEN – If you had more time, where else would you research ?
- CLOSED – It sounds like you are struck between two choices – Is it true ?
- OPEN – I can see the two obvious choices, but what are the alternative less obvious options ?

In order to build a creative meeting structure the following guidelines should be recognized by all those participating. As the manager, you will need to ensure that:
- However off the wall they may seem, all ideas need to be heard
- There is no instant rejection of any ideas
- Nobody’s ideas are wrong. There is no point-scoring of “my idea is better than yours”
- Everyone around the table needs to be included
- Use different techniques to spark up creative thoughts
- Make it fun
- If the meeting is to be time-defined, map out a time schedule with points when the ideas need to be pushed forward into accountable actions




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