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» 2013 » November
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Hiring for Innovation

English: Berlin, office building of Schering c...

In the world of education, there has been a lot of chatter about the creativity crisis. According to Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at The College of William and Mary, creativity has decreased in the United States since 1990. While data and numbers are important, a trip into an elementary school classroom can help shed light on the situation.

On a recent visit to a second grade class, a parent volunteer shared stories about how students were dumbfounded when asked to make a craft for Halloween. Without a model or instructions to rely on, the 7-year olds stared blankly at the volunteer and couldn’t figure out what to do. As they began working on their projects, students criticized each other saying, “that’s not the color you’re supposed to use” and “what’s that supposed to be?” While the volunteer let students know there was no right or wrong way to use the craft table materials, the students’ discomfort was evident.

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Improv and Innovation

In May, I attended the Front End of Innovation conference. Here is a great improv technique you can try at your next meeting…

During a packed breakout session, Michelle James led attendees in an applied innovation workshop. In case you were unable to join the workshop, or were too busy to take notes, here is a run down on how to apply Improv techniques to innovation:

  1. Warm-up to break your pattern. Do a handshake without letting go until you’re both shaking hands with someone else as well. This exercise helps to wake you up and helps you get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  2. Practice “Yes, and…”Find a partner and pretend you’re on an amazing trip to Mexico. The first person opens with a sentence to start the story. The second person must say, “Yes, and” then add to the story. By listening to your partner and building, the ideas become generative and focused. “Yes, and” expands the playing field for ideas (Note: Orin goes on great vacations!).
  3. Try “Random Word Generator” where one person chooses a topic and the other person starts telling a story based on that topic. The person who chose the topic, then throws in random words that the storyteller needs to incorporate. This exercise takes “high stakes listening,” justifying, building trust, and lots of practice in adapting.
  4. Co-create a “Living Being” by taking turns drawing one line at a time. Once you’re done creating your Living Being, name him/her by taking turns writing down one letter at a time until a name emerges. (BTW, we named our Living Being “Sidney Taken” – see photo). Because you’re taking turns leading and following, it helps with leadership skills and being open to collaboration.

Improv and generative thinking takes co-creation.

This article was originally posted as Live from FEI 2013: Applied Improv for Leaders: Principles and Practices for Innovative Leadership