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» 2011 » April

5 Ways to Get Out of a Creative Slump

Tired Roo

Image by Roo Reynolds via Flickr

From time to time everyone gets into a creative slump. What’s a person to do? Here are a couple of tricks you can try:

  1. Collaborate with inspiring people – In his book, The Element, Ken Robinson talks about finding your tribe. A tribe is a group of people who inspire you and push you to become better at your craft. Tapping into your tribe when you’re in a creative slump can help to get your creative juices flowing. A good place to add to your tribe, or find tribe members, is Twitter. If you search on Twitter you can find lots of chats where you can connect with like minded folks. One way to find chats is to do a hashtag (#) search. By searching on topics like #creativity, I was able to find one of my favorite weekly chats #innochat. We gather each week at noon EST to chat about creativity and innovation. Join us if you wish. Everyone is super welcoming. Read more of this post

What does Idea Deprivation Feel Like?

Example of how the Benday dots work.

Image via Wikipedia

I am the type of person who thrives on ideas – coming up with ideas, finding connections between ideas, learning about new ideas. Unfortunately, I am not always able to live true to my idea-loving nature. Sometimes, I go through periods of time where I am pulled away from ideas. Recently, I’ve become better at finding outlets for getting my ideas out of my head and into a productive place. But, this was not always the case. Here’s a description of what idea deprivation feels like.

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Are You Prewired for Innovation?

Phone-wire tangle, exterior riser, London, UK ...

Image by gruntzooki via Flickr

Just the other day, I saw a bit of text that I haven’t seen in a while. Take a read:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

This text originally circulated on the Web in 2003. As it turns out, there wasn’t really a Cambridge University study. You can read more about that here. But, the notion of our minds reading the whole versus every letter by itself made me think. Are we prewired to notice some things and not others? What does this mean for innovation?

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How Mother Nature Helps with Invention

Procrastination 1

Image by fatedsnowfox via Flickr

When I woke up today, my 5 year old (yes, he just had a birthday!) greeted me with a, “meow meow meow.” I promptly replied, “meow meow meow, meow.” We were speaking to each other using our secret cat language. The first set of meows means, “I love you” and my reply was, “I love you, too.” Funny thing is we sometimes slip into speaking cat in public without even knowing it. When you think about it, speaking cat is pretty odd. Or is it?

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@Zappos Innovation means Delivering Happiness

Tony Hsieh

Image by Silicon Prairie News via Flickr

I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Zappo’s CEO, Tony Hsieh (pronounced SHAY) while he was in Boson on the Delivering Happiness Tour (@DHMovement) and was struck by Hsieh’s creativity and ingenuity in building the Zappos business.

After selling his first company LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million and Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion, Hsieh wrote a book titled, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.” In the presentation, Hsieh talked, among other topics, about the importance of an organization’s purpose and how it contributed to helping Zappos become the company it is today.

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Why do Good Ideas Die?

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve worked in advertising and marketing for the last (gulp!) 18 years. In that time I’ve seen lots of good ideas die. In thinking through why, I’ve narrowed the reasons into three main themes:

  1. Ideas were not connected to a strategy
  2. Ideas were not thought through
  3. There were just too many ideas

Ideas were not connected to a strategy – In the ideal world leaders would set clear visions. Then, objectives, strategies and programs would all fall in line. Wouldn’t that be nice? (Pause) Well, unfortunately we do not live in the ideal world. With the frantic pace of change, it can be hard enough staying afloat, let alone, setting a vision. Because of the lack of vision, those of us involved in creating ideas are left to guess at what would make leaders happy. In this scenario, ideas drive visions rather than what should happen…visions drive ideas. The danger in having ideas as the driver is that the fate of programs, and sometimes organizations, lies in the subjectivity of an idea.

For example, in advertising, ideas take the form of creative concepts. In essence, colors, font choices, headlines and photography substitute for a clearly articulated business strategy. When ideas substitute for strategy, good ideas sometimes die a senseless death. How can we avoid this? By setting tangible goals upfront. Goals are actionable, measurable, and have clear time frames. Notice I recommended setting goals rather than a vision. Why? First, goals are more understandable. Second, if folks are uncomfortable setting visions, you’re only asking for trouble if you ask for one.

Ideas were not thought through – Have you ever been in a brainstorming or ideation session with people who love to ideate? What tends to happen in these types of brainstorms is that lots of ideas are thrown on the table, but none are fully thought through. One of the reasons for this is folks who are good at thinking through ideas are either not invited to participate in the session, or are drowned out by idea-types. When ideas are not thought through, they eventually die. I suppose some tenacious ideas do make it. But they live on the nail biting backs of folks who conquer huge obstacles – those who would have thought the idea through had they been active participants. You get the picture. Teamwork amongst idea-folks and implementer-folks helps good ideas see the light of day.

There were just too many ideas – And, sometimes good ideas die because there are just too many of them. There are only so many things a person or team can accomplish. Ideas do need to die from time to time. It is a natural cycle. What to do in this case? Reduce the number of ideas you decide to implement and recycle ideas for another time.

For more on ideas, see Is there a Right Way to Brainstorm?

Tap into Your Inner-Kid for Big Ideas

[MCCALL'S MAGAZINE, KIDS IN LINEN CLOSET]

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

Kids really do say the funniest things. This week when looking at a man who is losing his hair, my 4-year old remarked, “That guy must be really smart. His brains are growing through his head.” (Hmm) Now, wouldn’t that be something?

His comment reminded me of a similar observation from my 7-year old when he was in preschool. He used to give us a really hard time about combing his hair. Finally, my husband figured out why. One day after combing his hair,  my son asked, “Is my hair gray now?”

My husband replied, “Why? Do you think because I comb my hair, and it is gray, that your hair will turn gray too?”

My son nodded, “Yes.”

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What can a project manager learn from creativity training?

Pieces of a puzzle

Image via Wikipedia

At first blush when folks think about project management, creativity might not be top of mind. What does project management have to do with creativity? And, what can a project manager learn from creativity training? These are both good questions.

In my role as a creativity trainer and innovation consultant, I have conducted many training sessions, led many innovation workshops and helped many people work through the creative problem solving process to develop breakthrough solutions. From all these experiences, the one that is among the most meaningful was the creativity training I conducted for Isobar North America. At this training there was a project manager named Paul Pantzer who was so moved by the session that he took the time to share his learning in a two-part feature article that was posted to the Isobar site and ran on www.projectsatwork.com. In full disclosure, I have worked with Paul for many years at more than one company. Paul is often my go-to person on complex projects. With that said, Paul serves as a great litmus test because he is a straight shooter. If he thought the creativity training was not valuable, he would have been the first to tell me 😉

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From Chaos to Creativity

Cyclist in Edinburgh against blurry motor traffic

Image via Wikipedia

The early stage of creativity requires care and feeding. With the early stage comes ambiguity, uncertainty and lots of questions – are we moving in the right direction? what do we make of the situation? what are we going to do? why?

It’s no wonder new product developers refer to the early stage as the fuzzy front end. Similarly, with creative problem solving, the early stage is referred to as “mess finding.” Whether you call it the fuzzy front end or mess finding, during the early stage of creativity you must orient yourself to the situation, or “sensitize” yourself to the issue that you are tackling. This requires both rational (logical) and affective (emotional) thinking. Here are some tips to help smooth out the fuzzy front end and assist with mess finding:

  1. Read more of this post

Encouraging a Sense of Play Builds Creativity Skills for Life

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Soap bubbles

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How many times a day do you hear, “I’m bored,” or “What can I do?” Although it is easy to give in and suggest any number of things for your child to do, by resisting temptation you can encourage a sense of play and build creativity skills that last a lifetime. I come from a family of four children. When we were growing up we had very few structured activities. Rather than sports, play dates and outings, we had Legos, our imaginations, and one another. While some structured activities are helpful, having fewer activities allows time for your child to tap into his/her imagination and invent ways to pass the time.

Over the weekend we had a neighbor come over to play. Hint: it might be easier to encourage imagination by including a friend. Following a bit of Wii (ok, I’m not cruel), I suggested the kids go outside. After a bit of back and forth, the kids began inventing games. First they started with “scooter tag” where they played a version of schoolyard tag on scooters. Then, they  played follow the leader. This game involved each child taking turns doing tricks on his scooter while the others tried to imitate.

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