We all want to be creative. To see and do things in a new way. And we want our teams and companies to be more creative. Often, we need them to be. After all, doing what you have always done will just produce what you have always produced. The business world changes too fast for that to be a viable strategy. As Seth Godin says, the biggest risk is taking no risk. But how do we get beyond isolated brainstorming days and siloed innovation teams to create a culture of creativity in the workplace? How do we make creativity a part of our everyday work?
The challenge with creativity in the workplace (and everywhere else) is that it doesn’t look like we think it does. Often we think that big ideas come to smart people at great personal cost. Think about Van Gogh’s ear, Galileo’s imprisonment and John Nash’s madness. (Yes, these are all male examples, this myth normally is). This form of creativity is often about the outlier, the genius, the person who understands things differently. It’s no wonder it is popular with CEO’s.
While it makes for great stories (and can, occasionally, be true), this way of looking at creativity ignores the fact that humans are social animals and most creativity happens collaboratively. People with different skills and experiences come together, suspend their egos and approach a collective task with curiosity and open-heartedness. Whether it is in companies, sports teams or families, humans working together are at their best, and often at their most fulfilled. When their creativity and talents are shared.
So how can improv make your team act more creatively? How can it help you ensure that all the brains are being used and the quietest voice in the room is heard?
When we improvise, whatever differences in skills or experience we may have are set aside. We concentrate on the collective story that we are making. Improv is an inherently flat structure. We concentrate on the task at hand, not our own individual contributions. We work on letting go and supporting each other’s ideas. Improv classes encourage participants to ‘Bring a brick, not a cathedral’, making contributions in smaller units, not get attached to ideas and be constantly reflecting on what is working.
Collective creativity doesn’t involve pushing agendas but a constant process of letting go. This shift in attitude can be difficult, especially if a company has strong leaders, but if it is done from the top down, it can create teams which are agile and responsive. Smarter. And which use fewer post-its.
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