It all starts with one critical factor.
It isn’t about techniques or strategies or how Einstein was creative. It isn’t about hiring more creatively gifted people either. The seed of the answer is implied in the title of this article — helping people use their creative potential. The statement implies that people have creative potential!
The most important first step to helping yourself or others become more creative is to believe that you can be!
While belief is important in any endeavor — after all, if you don’t believe something is possible, you won’t be very successful, or even attempt it, will you? — this is especially important in the arena of creativity, because so many people have such a low personal esteem and belief about themselves in this area.
So, once you believe it is possible for people to be more creative, you can help them best by first helping them believe that, too. Here are seven ways to do that.
Truly believe. Let’s start at the beginning — with the most important point of all — you have got to believe in others! Let go of your biases about them. Have a positive expectancy. Believe that people have creative potential. If you can’t see it yet, put on some new glasses or look harder. The rest of these ideas will not work as manipulation. You must believe that others have the potential to be creative.
Show them past examples. When we have low self confidence in anything, we tend to forget or downplay past success. If you have personal examples of good ideas people have had, remind them! Help people remember their past success! If you haven’t worked with them long, or are leading a new team, help people find those past successes by asking them questions, expectantly helping them find proof that they have been creative in the past. Perhaps the best way to build confidence and belief is to have personal proof of past success.
Redefine creativity. Creativity encompasses a range of skills. Maybe your team members are good at generating new ideas (call that brainstorming). Maybe they are better at tweaking, adjusting or modifying existing ideas. Maybe they are best as implementing those ideas. In the organizational context, all of these skills are needed. While everyone can do all of them, when you help people see creativity differently, you help them believe they can contribute.
Encourage. Everyone needs encouragement! Don’t forget how important it is to let people know you believe in them. Give them feedback. Let them see your belief in action.
Help them. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Alexander Graham Bell had Watson. Heck, Laverne had Shirley! Let people know they aren’t on an island. Let people be creative together. Roll up your sleeves and help. Don’t do it for them, provide others a place to succeed and when they do, their belief will grow accordingly.
Be specific. When there is a need to be creative, help people know exactly what the challenge, issue or problem is. When you can help people be crystal clear on the task (and why it is important) they can focus on that task rather than on their insecurities about their ability. Once people are immersed in the task, their creativity may surprise them and success will begin to come.
Give people time. Too often, people feel that being creative is some sort of command performance. In the middle of the meeting, people are asked to be creative, NOW! Give people some time, and a chance to exercise their creativity, to find it in themselves. Giving people time for their subconscious to work is always a good idea, and it is especially important here because you are taking the pressure off, and allowing people to create rather than perform on demand.
If you see these things helping others, remember these tips can help you too. While these tips have been written to help you help others, they will also work to help you build your own confidence and belief. If you belief in your creativity is low or waning, use these ideas on yourself, and you will see improvement!
These are foundational steps. Once belief is at a healthy level there are many approaches and techniques that can be applied and skills that can be developed. But before trying to build skills, we must first have belief.
You, and those around you, have tremendous creative potential. It’s time to see and believe that fact.