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For Business
January 11, 2014

4 ways to make your team more creative

You can’t just summon inspiration on demand. But it is possible to create an environment that fosters creativity in your team.

There’s no such thing as an uncreative person, we all have the capacity to innovate – the hard part is bringing that creative spark out in your work whether you’re a graphic designer, a writer, a project manager or a systems administrator.

When we talk about business creativity, we really mean ‘new thinking’ – those left-field innovations that push teams above and expectations. The clichéd term for this is ‘thinking outside of the box’, but it really can make the difference if you want to be a market leader.

The good news is that a lot of the time, when everybody in a team works together, everybody works better. Studies have being showing us this for almost a century, since social psychologist Floyd Allport’s experiments revealed that people working at a table with others performed better than when they sat alone, even though they weren’t collaborating or competing.

So what can you do today to harness the creativity of your team?

1. Don’t force it

Attempting to force insight can actually prevent insight, as demanding aggressive concentration shifts attention away from the right hemisphere of your brain (the part responsible for insight and unlikely connections), resulting in an increased likelihood of your ideas falling into the ‘obvious’ or ‘uninspired’ category.

2. Think like a child

According to Jonah Lehrer, author of How Creativity Works, the trick to avoiding the trap of forced insight is to think like a child. By trying to emulate the uninhibited curiosity of our youth, we can reclaim the joy of discovery and increase the number of abstract connections our minds make – and avoid the obvious all together. If someone says that something can’t be done, ask ‘why not?’ If they take a process for granted, ask how it works, and discuss how it might be improved.

3. Get your environment right

Even subtle environmental factors can make a huge difference to team creativity. According to Lehrer, a room with blue walls is twice as conducive to insight as a room of any other colour. Conversely, a red room is thought to stimulate concentration, analysis, and logical problem solving. If you feel like experimenting with colour and unlocking your expressive side, Fresh Paint is an app for the Nokia Lumia that provides the most versatile painting and image making interface – ideal for tapping into your playful creativity during down time! Similarly, Nokia Creative Studio is a quick and easy photo editor, with built-in sharing for when you feel inspired on the go and want to show your colleagues what’s caught your eye.

4. Try an oblique strategy

One more analogue example is the creativity-kickstarting card deck produced by musician Brian Eno in collaboration with artist Peter Schmidt. The cards, titled Oblique Strategies: Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, featured simply worded, purposefully vague aphorisms decided help overcome creative blocks. Statements such as ‘magnify the most difficult details’, and ‘retrace your steps’ are designed to be purposefully vague, serving as starting points to move past problems. The cards themselves have become a much sought after collectors item since their publication in the 1970s, but fortunately, the phrases on the cards have now been made available as a free Windows Phone app, for those that feel like experimenting with their usual problem solving methods.

Have you ever been in a team that stifled your creativity? What about positive experiences when creative power was boosted by a group dynamic or technique? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to check back for more soon.

If you’d like to read more about team creativity and flow in the meantime, why not download our free Teams That Flow ebook or watch our animation?

Image credit: Jessica Merz