Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Creativity Consultant Threatens to Tell the Boss

This was a letter that I wrote to Lynne Everatt, columnist for the Globe & Mail. Her column described the antics of a Creativity Consultant who seemed to force people into following his orders.

I read your column, “How Far will we follow the consultant?” (Mar 24) with both amusement and concern.

I was amused at the antics that your groups were “encouraged” to perform in the pursuit of creativity.

I was amused and impressed by Norm – the one who defied the instructions of the consultant – because I have done the same. If consultants expect to challenge the group they must expect to be challenged. This creativity consultant should have found a more creative tool to encourage participation other than threatening to tell the boss.

But what concerns me the most is the perception of Creativity than might have been left with your letter-writer and the other participants in this program. As both a student and leader of creativity it is clear to me that several prime directives of creativity were ignored by Bart the creatively consultant.

Even though creativity is the science of breaking rules – there are rules – or at least guidelines for creativity. It is a science – more than an art. It is only art to the uninformed.

One of the first rules of creativity is to provide a risk-free environment. If you want people to be more creative you must make them feel safe. Employees in a corporate environment will not be creative if they are punished for their creative excess or not participating.

If you are told that your idea was too crazy (or stupid) – you will be inclined not to play again. All it takes is a glance or rolling of the eyes to kill a creative thinker.

One of the greatest threats to creative thinking in a group is the non-acceptance of the group. The group leader determines and guides how the group might react. If you want people to be more creative – don’t punish them. If you want people to be more creative – value every idea and opinion.

To encourage creativity in a group you must allow individuals to choose not to play at any point. They need the option of calling a time out. This is a simple technique that reduces stress by giving a sense of control to the participants.

Robert Alan Black, creativity guru, called this, “Gone fishing.” At any time in his creative session a participant could announce, “Gone fishing”. The rest of the group would understand and that individual felt safe and still part of the group. That individual would also be more inclined to jump in later with creative ideas as they hatched.

Let’s be real. If you are told to jump around the room and you don’t want to – you don’t have to. If you are told to hug everyone and you don’t want to – you don’t have to. Although there might be creative aspects or interpretations to these actions they are not the goal of creativity. And creativity is not the goal either. Creativity is a tool that can be sharpened to reach a goal. And when it comes to business creativity should be focused on the bottom line.

Bottom Lines of creativity

Creativity is not about jumping around the room.
Creativity is not about being goofy.
Creativity is a skill set that can be learned.
Creatively is about thinking differently.
Creativity must be nourished.
Creativity is most productive when focused on a desired outcome.
There is a time to be creative and a time to follow procedure.
Management must clarify which is which.
Most creative ideas fail. That is normal. That is okay.
All great change comes from creative ideas.

George Torok is a student, instructor and explorer of creative problem solving.

“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”
Albert Einstein

George Torok

Creativity Catalyst

Creative Problem Solving


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