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A Forgotten Ingredient to Creative Success

by Kevin Eikenberry on June 24, 2013

Light bulbs teamwork conceptThis coming month, members of the Remarkable Leadership Learning System will be focused building their creativity skills. These are of course important skills for leaders to possess – both for them personally and to support the creative ideas of the rest of their team.

Think about it this way – as leaders, we are trying to help our teams achieve new goals and reach new targets. We are constantly attempting to produce more at higher quality and greater profits. All of this implies that we must do things new ways, because, as Einstein famously stated, doing the same things and expecting new results is insanity.

So as leaders, whether we have thought about it this way or not, we must be creative and we must encourage our team to think creatively if we want to reach our goals.

Hopefully this is leading you to ask this question . . . so how do I help people (including myself) be more creative?

The question is a big one, and I couldn’t possibly answer it completely here – but I can talk about one piece of the puzzle that is overlooked. It is a piece that anyone can apply and there are things anyone can do immediately to improve their creative output.

But first, a story.

In 1948 George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the woods. When they returned, the dog’s coat and George’s pants were covered with burrs. As an amateur inventor, George took the burr off his pant leg and examined it under a microscope. He quickly saw all of the small hooks that enabled the seed-bearing burr to cling tightly to the tiny loops in the fabric of his pants.

From that experience, and much trial and error, we now have Velcro.

What is missing from most people’s conception of creativity is raw experience.

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences.”

If creativity is connecting things, the more things we have to connect to, the more fodder for creativity that we have.

So how can we use this insight to create new ideas in our workplaces every day?

Here are five ways to get started.

Give people time to make connections. Connections take time – so create that time. One of the big mistakes that leaders make is to put people in a sterile conference room and expect them to come up with brilliant ideas, on demand. Why not give people time to let their brains work on the problem, by explaining/defining the situation and then asking the question below . . .

Search for connections. When solving a problem or looking for creative ideas, ask people what this situation reminds them of in their life experiences. This strategy opens people up to more than focusing on the specifics of the problem and let’s their brains search for those connections – and it is OK if they come from really strange places – the goal here is the resulting idea, not to analyze where the connection came from.

Create connections. While you are trying to solve a particular problem, keep that idea at the front of your mind. Consciously look for connections between everything you are doing, watching, and reading to your problem. When you put your problem front and center in your mind and consciously look, you might be surprised at the connections you find. But to super-charge this idea in the short and long term, make sure you are doing the final piece of this puzzle . . .

Create new connections. This is the meta idea of this article. If creativity is about making connections, then to be more creative we need to experience more diverse things. Sitting on the couch watching TV every night won’t cut it; nor will reading the same magazines, attending the same conferences, and talking to the same people at work. Make it your strategy to consistently put new inputs in your life experience. After all, if George and his dog don’t go for a walk in the woods, we still might not have Velcro.

There is more that could be said about these steps and that doesn’t need to stop you! I’ve given you the outline and basis for these steps, and now you have permission to realize the creative potential that exists inside of your existing life experiences.

The cool thing about this list is that none of it costs you (or anyone) any money, it is available to everyone, and it is even fun. Let’s see…free, easy and fun – that sounds like the start of a great strategy to me!

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