Being Creative in a Team

Being Creative in a Team

In 2016, the World Economic Forum in Davos defined creativity as a top future competence (Link zu Text Kreativität als Führungskompetenz) for managers. But how can mangers and teams systematically be creative on demand over longer periods of time? In his book “Creability – mutually creative: Innovative Methods for Idea Development in Teams” (“Creability – Gemeinsam kreativ: Innovative Methoden für die Ideenentwicklung in Teams “), Roland A. Pfister revives tried and tested as well as unknown methods. We think that by classifying the methods regarding the process steps warm-up , development and refinement, the creability principle provides a good structure to be creative.

He names 6 principles:

  • Understanding the problem – principle of understanding
  • Questioning current situation – principle of liquefaction
  • Changing perspective – principle of change
  • Using existing means – principle of connection
  • Feedback and improvement – principle of refinement

Principle of understanding
Understanding problems is the future base of feasible solution ideas. Especially in the beginning it is crucial to invest enough time in understanding problems before solution ideas are collected. One only grasps something when one has understood it in more than one way, so one can get creative in the basis of this understanding. That is why the first step in many creativity methods is a deep multi-perspective problem analysis.
What is the real problem here? Where does it derive from? For whom is it a problem? How do we realise that the problem is solved?

Principle of liquefaction
Liquifying fixed ideas and assumptions in the team is achieved by questioning one’s own basic assumptions and seemingly given framework conditions. Flexibility is supposed to liquify fixed thinking patterns, e.g. by means of brainstorming, the reversing method (Flip Flop) in which the situation is made worse instead of being improved or by intentionally questioning one’s own deepest convictions (e.g.: “Our customer wants to be attended to as quickly as possible “).
How can this subject be seen differently? What could be another perspective? How would we consider the problem in a year’s time?

Principle of change
Albert Einstein already described this principle: “Problems can never be solved with the same way of thinking they arose from.“  So, it is about changing one’s own perspective, considering the problem and the solution from completely different perspectives, e.g. from an outsider’s point of view or from a customer’s perspective. Furthermore, e.g. the time horizon or the level of solution finding can be changed in order to free creative potential. Stories, analogies and metaphors help to consciously change the points of view concerning the problem or topic.
How could we approach it differently than we did so far? What would exacerbate the problem? What would make the problem disappear?

Principle of connection
Many innovations developed by cleverly re-combining already existing ideas, e.g. the iPhone. So, Information and ideas  have to be combined anew. Visualising and clustering is a well-established method for that. Often, coincidence  brings the best result.
How can our different ideas be cleverly combined? Can we integrate different approaches? Can extreme variants be linked?

Principle of refinement
Refining ideas means further improving and adjusting  them concerning different application areas. Good ideas can often be further improved by checking them for weak points and by testing different application scenarios.  By means of different presentations of the idea, further points of improvement can be identified. The idea can therefore be presented as a diagram, a sketch, a comic strip or as a metaphor. Tell different people you trust about your idea and observe their reactions and feedback. Prototyping is for example a concrete application of this principle.
How can we further improve our solution? Who can test our idea and give us feedback? Which details should further be worked on?

Creativity as long-lasting team competence

Everybody can be creative. Creativity as a means to solve real everyday problems works well when different people’s knowledge is activated. So, it is essential, to organize communication in groups so (Link zum Text Innovation leiten) that good ideas can develop. Roland A. Pfister divides the creativity process in three phases: activation, development and elaboration.

I. Activation
It is often difficult to be creative on command. A systematic switch to creative mode can be enabled by a playful warm-up with simple “Out of the Box“ – questions.
Especially new problems and questions usually cannot be solved or answered by well-established thinking patterns.

II. Development
Here, the actual value-adding production of ideas takes place. Attention – teams often end this phase too quickly after the first handful! It is about keeping it going and not being satisfied too soon. Good moderation (Link to moderation training or moderation site) helps to openly and uninterruptedly go on.

III. Elaboration
This phase hardly ever takes place in everyday business. Here, it is about cutting the chosen ideas like raw diamonds into gems. First good ideas are to be tested, challenged and confronted persistently and with discipline until possible flaws are discovered and maybe even worked out.
Eppler, Hoffmann, Pfister: Creability – Gemeinsam kreativ: Innovative Methoden für die Ideentwicklung in Teams, Schäfer Poeschel 2017

Being Creative in a Team