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The Strategy Room

4 Ways to Put Creativity to Work

By: Amy Bowman

4 Ways to Put Creativity to Work

It’s no secret that creativity is critical to business success. In fact, Adobe recently commissioned a study that found companies that infuse creativity into their business environments outperform their peers in market share, revenue growth, and competitive leadership. And those “best place to work” accolades? They’re likely going to the more creative firms.

So how do companies capture that great intangible idea that fosters innovation, and cultivates extraordinary talent and leadership? How do they instill creativity in their own practices and culture? It all begins with a basic understanding that imagination breeds creativity and creativity is a discipline that requires practice. In other words, we must continually nurture our imaginations in order for creativity to flourish. Easy enough, right?

Consider that some companies, even the largest and notably most innovative, have sought help. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a training exercise by Linda Naiman, a creativity and innovation expert, and Founder of Creativity at Work, and through experimentation, exploration and questioning of assumptions, she covered a lot of ground.

Some of the most practical takeaways came in the form of techniques, and here are my four favorites that will help put creativity to work for you:

1. Challenge Assumptions

When you alter assumptions, you inspire new ideas related to a problem and create novel opportunities. Think of a topic and outline every assumption about it. Then list the opposite of those assumptions. Now use those reversed assumptions to explore new ideas. Take this idea: A restaurant with no menu. The chef tells each customer what he bought at the market that day. The customer is asked to select the most appealing items so that the chef can create a dish specifically for that customer. (source: CreativityPost.com)

2. SCAMPER

It stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Reverse or Rearrange. Think about your idea under each line of questioning. What/who can you put to other uses? For example, a furniture company trained its delivery drivers in decoration. Returns on furniture dropped from 10% to 1%. (Alan Robinson)

3. Cross-Pollination

Use unexpected juxtaposition to produce something new or better. Consider how your problem resembles a problem in another space. Ask how it’s handled in that space, and then determine how you might adapt the solution to your environment. For instance, in the training, we discussed how hospital surgery rooms learned how to improve practices from the Ferrari pit stop crew.

4. Framing and Re-Framing

Before jumping to conclusions or trying to solve a problem upfront, ask what it is you really need to focus on, and what concern should actually be addressed. Use verbs and active language to frame a challenge; think in broader and narrower contexts; and pick one objective at a time to focus “ideation.”

Despite the proof that creative companies outperform their peers, 61 percent do not see their organizations as creative. Does your company embrace creativity? How?




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