Why do so many people say they’re not creative? How about you? How creative are you at work? Studies on creativity show that almost everyone starts out highly creative as a kid. The Speakers’ Sourcebook explains that people at different ages were tested for creativity. The results were fascinating:
How can this be? What is happening to account for this dramatic drop in creativity? This extreme drop between the ages of 5 and 17 was true for both boys and girls. There seems to be a drop in confidence–we develop a mindset of “I’m not creative”.
In my Creativity Workshop, participants say that they believe they were highly creative before they started school. Most of us heard praise, applause and encouragement from our parents as we learned to walk, run or try any new activity. Once we landed in a traditional classroom with peers and a “rule-abiding” authority figure, the put-downs came fast and furiously.
A well-known song, “Flowers are Red“ (Harry Chapin) explains this beautifully! He sings about a little boy on his first day of school. The boy eagerly paints flowers with every color of the rainbow. Very quickly, his teacher replies, “Flowers are red young man and green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.” But the little boy said, “There are so many colors in the rainbow, so many colors in the morning sun . . . so many colors in the flower and I see every one!” The song tells the story of how quickly the little boy learns to conform to the ordinary way of doing things. How sad!
Does This Happen in the Workplace?
Workshop participants say, “Yes . . . usually within the first week or two on a new job!”
All it takes is to offer up a new idea at the new company. The highly motivated new hire speaks up in a meeting. It could be something like:
“I have an idea. How about if we tried . . . ?” It typically takes less than a minute for the new idea to get shot down, I’m told.
Creativity Killers: Just a Few Examples
- “That’s not the way we do things here.”
- “We tried that once 3 years ago . . . didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”
- “You’ve got to be kidding!”
- “There’s no budget for something like that.”
- “Senior leadership will never go for that!”
Creativity Makes Problem-Solving Soar
Most of us are in the business of solving problems at work. Companies that encourage creative problem solving see far greater results and sometimes breakthrough ideas. The smartest organizations reward people for creative thinking while the laggers punish people for innovative ideas that rock the boat.
Creativity Exercise: Test Your Creativity
Here’s a quick warm-up activity that’s great for starting a problem-solving meeting with your team. Ask everyone to pull out a sheet of paper and ask them to:
“Plant 10 trees in 5 rows with 4 trees per row”. (Use a dot to represent one tree.) After they’re worked for several minutes on this task, reveal the “creative” solution:
This is a fun and eye-opening activity that proves the point: We get stuck in a rut of solving problems the same old way day after day. Solving this tree-planting problem requires thinking “outside the box” and freeing ourselves of traditional boundaries and restrictions.
Enhance Your Own Creativity and Encourage Others
Start today by encouraging your team to think more creatively. Consider using a warm-up exercise at the start of every staff meeting. One of my favorite references is Thinkertoys–full of stimulating creativity exercise.
Also agree on ground rules when solving problems or brainstorming. Strike criticism from everyone’s vocabulary during the idea generation phase. Throughout history some of the greatest breakthroughs have started with ideas that seemed completely whacky!
Check out these simple ideas for boosting creativity: 6 Ideas From Creative Thinkers to Shake Up Your Work Routine.
Why Not Develop This Skill With Your Team?
Consider holding a Creativity Workshop for your team! The payoffs are tremendous. Not only will you find greater solutions to problems and potentially breakthrough thinking, people will love coming to work when they have the freedom to “play”!
Copyright 2014, Kathy Cooperman, All rights reserved.