Creating Space For Creativity
Our lives and news feeds seem to have shifted from sprinkling “innovation” in every sentence to being consumed by COVID-19 content. From conversations over the last couple of weeks and reading posts on social media, I think it's true to say that the majority of people have gone into survival mode in some way or the other: whether that be conserving profit, energy, resourcing, thought or time. All of which is understandable, particularly when the lie of the land is still uncertain.
Nevertheless, this is the time when going back to the basics of creativity, service and process design to enable real problem solving, that is fit for purpose and that has a real ROI, should occur and provides immense possibilities.
Additionally, when in survival mode, there is the tendency to slap on a band-aid, meaning that solutions, processes and choices are a quick fix and will ultimately need to be rethought and redelivered when we come out of this.
How do we bridge the gap between survival mode and finding space for creativity? We all know the age-old quote: ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. But how do we create space for this when the majority of us have competing responsibilities, roles and priorities?
I don’t propose to have all the answers, but here are some thoughts:
Noticing, Ritual, Space
· Creating space (and headspace) requires us to say ‘NO’ to certain activities/choices and that’s ok (even for those of us with FOMO).
· Get yourself in a state of flow. Before intentionally being creative, perform a task that brings you enjoyment that is at the intersection of being challenging enough to be stimulating but that you have sufficient skills to perform. This shifts your mindset and headspace. Undertake this at a time of the day when you work best.
· We often underestimate the importance of dedicating physical and temporal space to creativity. Create a physical space away from your workstation where you allow yourself to be creative. You might mark creative time outside of work hours.
· Give yourself permission to brainstorm. This might be as simple as noting down how many different ways you could use a chair or other utensils around the house. This allows us to stretch our connection-making skills but also takes the pressure off and shifts our mindset when we go back to the workstation.
· Noticing and going for a walk. When you go out, try to notice as many things around you as you can. This also enables us to practice mindfulness. Make a list of what you observed when you come back and use this as a springboard. Analogise what you see on your walk, its elements or sensations, to an idea you are generating. You may want to carry a pen and paper – even if you don’t use it, sometimes it can be a helpful reminder to refocus your attention on your surroundings.
· If you can’t go outside, consider using the equipment in your kitchen or knick-knacks around the house, to help you build or analogise your ideas.
· Involve family and colleagues. Create space at the start of the day when families or colleagues come together to map out workflow or schedules to ‘bounce off one another.’ This might include saying “why don’t we try to do X a little differently today?” or “what might X look like?” – creating mini-experiments.
Listening and Necessity
· Start by listening. Having open conversations about how things are or aren’t working at home from workflow and project management, team bonding or communication, means that issues and opportunities can be identified.
· Mark a dedicated time in everyone’s diaries. Set ground rules for the discussion to encourage truthful and frank conversations and to create a space of psychological safety.
· Focus on specific items to enable depth of discussion.
· Look for opportunities that have high value but require low resources.
· Provide another avenue for people to contribute ideas after the discussion. E.g. a virtual suggestion box.
· Circle back and co-create. When developing solutions, get feedback from the people with whom you had a discussion, make it a collaborative process and ask them: does this address what you were talking about?
Most importantly, I believe that creativity and kindness have to go hand in hand. We suspend judgement during the ideation phase, so let’s suspend judgement towards ourselves- and celebrate all creative acts that allow us to see possibility.
How do you enable your creativity?