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Creativity in your Back Yard

Where do good ideas come from? Do you spend time in meetings trying to unsuccessfully drum up ideas without really getting anywhere? If so then you are actually fairly normal. People have developed a fascination with using groups to try and solve problems and brainstorm for concepts.

But that is the wrong way to go about things.

The Herd Mentality

Social scientists have known for quite a while that the group method is not as dynamic as people tend to believe it is. Generally speaking, individuals perform better than groups for both quality and quantity and that separation becomes greater as the group size increases. The simple reason for that is because people in groups instinctively sit back and let a dominant personality take over. They mimic other people’s thoughts and opinions and lose sight of their own or at least become less confident in them.

The herd tends to be less creative initial and brainstorming with a group is not nearly as effective as letting people have a chance to create ideas on their own with some quiet and privacy so the conscious and subconscious can solve problems. But feedback and collaboration does have its place within the creative process, just not at the beginning.

Diamonds in the Rough

So if you have a company and need ideas, where should you go? Why not look in your backyard! Creativity and ideas can be found within anyone, especially people in your own company. Anyone can have an idea and in some cases, they can have a lot of them.

Consider this, a receptionist answers the phones and she also fields front line questions and often complaints. The same can be said for people in customer service or sales. Hearing problems and understanding concerns means these people have an idea what a customer base wants changed plus their brains have probably been thinking of solutions for problems the hear about.

Also consider the people who are in the trenches. One thing the TV show Undercover Bosses has demonstrated is the lack of connection between upper level management and lower level employees. Often times the people who are doing work day to day see problems and then create ideas to solve them, because that tends to be how people work. Yet those ideas never make it up the ladder to people who could and should implement them.

Criticizing and Feedback

Of course there is no real point to brainstorming, exchanging ideas and collaborating if people aren’t open to honest feedback and criticism. Debating ideas actually fosters more growth and offshoot ideas compared to people who just agree rather than offering their true thoughts. That means the environment at work needs to encourage people to question and discuss rather than simply agree and follow.

A Blueprint for Creativity

One very successful businessman has turned creativity into part of his entire operation. He fully admitted that creating great ideas isn’t his forte, but if you give him a great idea he will turn it into money. So he takes the creative process and turns it into a company-wide project.

  • Open Call for Ideas – Have a staff meeting or send out an email asking employees for input on a subject or to share ideas. Let them know that they will get credit for their idea (make a contest out of it or offer an incentive) and that no suggestions will be reviewed negatively.
  • Focus Group – Have a small group review the ideas and look for the best options. This group is the one that will discuss and criticize ideas to help flesh them out and look for offshoots.
  • Bring in the Top Idea People – Have another group meeting with the people with the best ideas and do some more give-and-take on those ideas specifically to see if any other fruit can be shaken off the tree.
  • Run with It – Pick the best concepts and run with it!

Ideas can come from anywhere and more than likely some of the best concepts are already in the building. The key is creating an environment and process to harvest those ideas from the people that you work with.

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