Recently, I presented an interactive breakout session at the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) conference in Dallas, Texas. My topic was “Enhancing Your Consulting Skills with Creativity,” and focused on using Design Thinking tools. You can download a couple of those tools here.
At the beginning of the session, I asked the participants to write down their definition of creativity. I love this exercise because each time I do it, I learn more ways to think about what creativity really means. I’d like to share a few definitions of creativity from the IMC participants in October and I hope you an expand your own definition of creativity, too.
Always Having New Ideas
One person wrote that creativity means “always having new ideas.” I like this definition of creativity because it focuses on a couple of key principles of innovation.
First, “always” implies a continuous supply of ideas and across time barriers. One mistake a lot of corporations make is to assume they can call for a brainstorming session and innovation will magically occur. Instead, innovation requires a mindset of always being open to new experiences and varied perspectives. Creativity doesn’t happen in 50-minute blocks of pre-scheduled meetings. We need the freedom to consider alternatives and options to generate new ideas, concepts, and products.
The second part that I like about this definition of creativity is the phrase “new ideas”. Innovation requires that we apply new technologies or sell into new markets. But we can find creative approaches to new product development (NPD) through new perspectives and viewpoints.
Also, a “new idea” does not mean a recycled, “me-too” concept. Clayton Christensen, one of my innovation heroes, talks about seeking disruptive innovations. A disruptive innovation might address an existing market with anew technology or it might offer lower performance with higher convenience. Both opportunities are “new ideas” and there are many, many more ways to create product and services that help consumers achieve their goals.
Another person at the IMC session on “Enhancing Your Consulting Skills with Creativity” wrote down his definition of creativity as “No ‘Nos’”. I love the optimism built into this definition! And, I’m sure you have seen – as I have – that as soon as an idea is criticized by another person in the brainstorming session, the flow of new ideas slows to a trickle.
All ideas have to pass scientific tests and all ideas have to pass financial hurdles to become marketable innovations. Yet, we must split our activities for generating creative ideas from the tasks of evaluating and testing new product concepts. In innovation lingo, we call these two events divergent thinking and convergent thinking.
During divergent thinking, the rule of “No ‘Nos’” holds above all others. Even in the midst of crazy ideas are the nuggets of solutions to customer problems. We want to hear and record wild ideas and then we can convert them later into more practical solutions. Suppers someone had told JFK “no” to sending humans to the moon? Our losses in science and technology would have been astronomical (pun intended!).
But innovation does apply realism and practicality to creativity. During convergent thinking., the team condenses al the ideas into a set of actionable tests and feature prototypes. I prefer to apply a Design Thinking methodology to rapidly screen and evaluate concepts and themes, but many Agile project management process work well, too.
Creativity and empathy are at the heart of Design Thinking. We need to consider different definitions of creativity so we can view problems from new perspectives. In fact, collaboration is a fundamental principle of Design Thinking because we usually come up with better ideas together than alone. Design Thinking is both a toolkit and a methodology for applying new perspectives to innovation.
Personally, I have found that applying Design Thinking to decisions helps me consider more and varied viewpoints. I appreciate the perspective of others to clarify and refine my “creative” ideas. Do you want to learn more about Design Thinking? Check out special offers from the IMC conference here.
Please comment regarding your own thoughts and feelings on ethical product development. Also, please join me on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 at noon CST (1 pm ETs, 10 am PST) for a free Q&A webinar on Building Effective Cross-Functional Teams. We will discuss self-awareness and team management in this webinar. In Part 2 on Wednesday, 4 December 2019, we’ll cover team life cycles, project charters, and special considerations for virtual teams. You are automatically registered for Part 2. Space is limited!