CLAIMING CREATIVITY IN THE WORKPLACE by noula diamantopoulos
This one little question sits on top of lots of other questions that ask these three things:
1. Are you creative?
2. How do you define creativity?
3. Do you believe in creativity?
Take a moment and write down your responses to these questions and you will soon discover the lurking thoughts that are creeping around your cranium.
Sir Ken Robinson, a thought leader in creativity, has said that to realise the true creative potential in our organisations, schools, and communities, we need to think differently about ourselves, act differently towards each other and learn to be creative.
Are you creative?
“No”, “sometimes”, “it depends on the situation”, “I can’t draw a straight line”, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, “I’m not good at art”, “I wish I was,” are some of the responses that make up the majority “No” vote each time I have asked this question over the last 15 years to the more than 5000 people who have participated in my public and corporate programs.
What unites many of these responses is an underlying belief that to be creative means that you are able to express yourself through the medium of the arts. In other words, to be creative you must either be able to draw (this is the dominant response), or paint or sculpt or write etc. This belief generally goes deeper and that is not only to believe you must you be able to draw, paint or express yourself in an artistic manner, you must be able to do so eloquently like Michaelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. Anything less and, well, quite frankly, you don’t think you are creative.
Every day we make (create) decisions, we make (create) friends, we make (create) love, we make (create) houses, we make (create) mistakes, and we make (create) thoughts. It is this process of making that we are indeed creating and therefore are creative. The question is not “are you creative?” but “what are you creating.”
How do you define creativity?
Fundamentally, if you believe you are creative, you are; and if you believe you are not creative, you are not.
To truly investigate your creative side it’s a good idea to Mindmap your thoughts. Don’t censor them. Just allow them to flow and you may literally ‘see’ what you are thinking. This is your starting point. Capture your thoughts on paper. Seeing these thoughts written down is very different to thinking these thoughts which really is witnessing a few thoughts going around your mind causing you to think in circles. These repetitive thoughts are what inform and hence create your beliefs.
You can change your mind
Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.
Do you believe in creativity?
Unless you believe in the power to be creative, you will not be motivated to access your creative potential, let alone be able to activate it. That is the power of a belief. No one can convince you to change your beliefs. That is a journey only you can take and that journey requires a willingness on your part — a willingness to be open-minded, to explore the views of others, and to listen with curiosity whilst suspending judgement.
Is that possible you might ask? I think so. This process is called learning. You can learn to be creative. Ask yourself this question, do you believe that you are capable of learning? If you answered yes, then you can learn to be creative. You can learn to paint, to draw, to think differently, you can learn anything. The question comes back to “do you want to?” This takes us back to becoming aware of underlying beliefs that may be holding us back from accessing our creative potential.
“The key question isn’t “What fosters creativity?” But why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might not be why do people create, but why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle that anybody created anything.” Abraham Maslow
Creativity in the Workplace
Creative thinking is sought out in the workplace even if it’s not acknowledged.
Though it may be enough to go to work and do a good job, even a great job, somehow your competency is measured by the added value you bring which goes beyond your agreed upon Key Performance Indicators.
Yet it’s more than this. We work more hours than not, that’s not new, and we work fast trying to keep up with changes in technology. How can we therefore engage our creativity when we don’t have enough time to keep up with the ever-changing work environment?
It starts with you
Don’t wait for the culture of your organisation to provide you with the opportunity to be creative. There is no time like the present to start connecting and engaging with your creativity.
You’re wondering where to start? To begin with you can write down some of the many challenges that you face in the workplace at the present moment. Create a second column and write down how you are currently managing those challenges. Let’s say that one of your challenges was how to manage the negative traits of your teammates.
Next create a Mindmap with the words ‘negative traits of teammates’ and write out all the things you see as being negative and detrimental to the team spirit that have been played out. Be as articulate as you can. Keep this going for at least fifteen minutes. The first things you write are the obvious issues.
You want to get deeper than this. Once you have finished, circle issues that are the most important to you. Each one of those circles will represent another Mindmap. So lets say you circled the word ‘gossip’. Now look back into your own life and Mindmap all the times you have done this very same thing. Notice anything?
“I recently asked my team to complete the ‘three good things’ exercise as part of a team building session with Nola. This proved to be a very powerful exercise. By the end of the session we were all feeling grateful for the skills and talents of our colleagues. Without intending to, we began to start acknowledging each other more and verbalising thanks and praise. This new gratitude helped us all to approach our work with a new positive energy. It helped each person to look at their individual complaints and issues in a larger context.”
This is an example of a creative approach to workplace relationships. Creativity is required to solve problems as well as to identify them. Can you think of other applications for this methodology?
How about spinning it around now. Name all your teammates in the first column. Next to each teammates’ name write three good things about them. Finally, next to each of the good things you wrote, also write down ‘why?’. It’s not until you write ‘why’ that you have fully engaged with the contributions that your teammates make to your team spirit. Notice something else? Those three good things that each teammate contributes to the spirit is what you may want to grow and flourish.
“The scientific literature suggests that happy individuals are also more creative, helpful, charitable, and self-confident, have better self-control, and show greater self- regulatory and coping abilities. Happy people, the facts clearly show, are flourishing and successful people.” Robert Emmons
It all starts with YOU, the only thing you can really change!
This article was featured in The Art of Healing, February 2012.