Five practical tips to become a more creative manager
Creative Thinking – Part 2 by Rikus Grobler of Namibia Innovation Solutions
The theme I am busy with is creative thinking, the starting point or “front-end” of innovation. In the previous installment I set the stage for creative thinking in an organisational environment, arguing that it has both to do with the creative ability of the individual and the environment in which the person operates. In this delivery, I want to take a more pragmatic approach and share some practical suggestions how managers can improve creative thinking capabilities.
Improving creative thinking capabilities
The “skill” of creativity in an organizational setting has been researched extensively. The research contributed significantly in the demystification of creativity. However, I found an intriguing criticism on the creativity-related research.
Nayak, who advocates a “practice approach” to organisational creativity highlighted a major limitation of the individual creativity research as its reliance on studies of the psychology of the “creative person”. Researchers have uncritically drawn on creativity studies that are based on artists, poets and children, to see whether organisations have an impact on creativity.
By posing the question in this manner, researchers have self-evidently constructed the organisational setting as inhibiting creativity. In other words, they assume that only outside the organisational environment creativity could flourish.
A major limitation of the psychology bias in studies on creativity in organisations is that it predefines creative people within organisational settings rather than as managers who have to be creative. For managers, the organisational context can vary from demands of transformation and change to stability and routine. Both these scenarios impact on individual creativity, but current studies do not provide a way of understanding these managerial realities. Instead, managerial realities are seen as the problem and inhibitor of creativity.
Hence, the suggestions from the existing literature that creativity in organisations requires managers to be more playful, childlike or mimic the settings of idealised creative people such as poets, artists and scientists, does not reflect managerial creativity.
So, how then can managers, who are facing the daily realities of running a business, improve their creative thinking skills? I have touched on quality thinking, finding time to think and asking good questions, so now I just want to share some practical tips which can be applied. There are a lot of advice available how to improve creativity, and I am only sharing the ones I found most useful, and a few of my own!
My contribution is, firstly, make the decision that you can and want to be more creative, and make it a goal to improve your creative ability. This advice applies to anything that is worthwhile pursuing – the decision to do it drives all future actions. In other words, you must intentionally want to be creative.
Other key tips are: 1. Record ideas as soon as they come to you, all the time. When you need to charge up your creativity, search your notebook for ideas.
2. Search your environment for inspiration. Looking at the same four walls every day limits your perspective, add some elements that help you see things in a new way – pictures, plants, books, even toys.
3. Question everything. Ask “why” and “how” to determine if there’s a better way to solve a problem. Another favourite question of mine: “What’s missing?”
4. Turn problems around. Look for the opposite of what you want. Exploring how you could make a bad situation worse can sometimes tell you what not to do.
5. Recruit a partner. Bounce ideas off another person – someone you’re comfortable with, but who will challenge you. With another person involved, you’re not limited to your own experience and perspective.
I have spent significant “airtime” on taking action to innovate and creative thinking. My research on innovation has taken me to a view that innovation has traits of both “chance” and “logic”, and next time I want to discuss this dialectic view of innovation.
I conclude with a point to ponder from Harvey Mackay: “Amateurs wait for inspiration to strike. The pros know how to cultivate creativity on an ongoing basis”.
Nayak, A. 2008. Experiencing creativity in organisations: A practice approach. Long range planning, 41(4), 420-439.