How to Help Your Team Think More Creatively: 5 Proven Tactics (With Video)
November 26, 2018
Say you are about to kick off a team brainstorm. How do you get your team to think outside the box? To stop falling back onto the same ideas you’ve all been relying on and break new ground?
It’s hard. Us humans tend to resist championing new ideas, instead preferring to stick with what’s comfortable. But, to see new growth, your team needs to try new things.
In his LinkedIn Learning course Managing Team Creativity, Instructor Drew Boyd outlines how to help your team think more creatively. Specifically, he listed out five tactics you can use to break your team out of its box.
5 Proven Tactics for Helping Your Team Think More Creatively
According to Boyd, five ways to help your team think more creatively are:
1. Start with constraints.
The best way to kick off a brainstorming session, ironically, is by calling out constraints, according to Boyd.
For example, state the budget the idea needs to fall into. Or the timeline. Or the amount of support and resourcing you can get from outside your team.
Why? Because, ultimately, the goal of a brainstorm should be to get to a solution you can actually execute on. And, the real challenge is being creative within that sandbox.
“Some of these constraints are real and they cannot be violated, so it doesn't make sense to generate an idea that's just not viable,” Boyd said. “You're doing yourself a big favor by weeding out ideas that don't make any sense before they start taking shape.”
You might have people push back against the constraints in their ideation – that’s actually a good thing too. Because, if the constraints don’t feel valid, you can agree as a team to collectively push back against them.
2. Work in pairs, not in large groups.
When you are brainstorming, it’s more efficient and productive to spend some time working in pairs, instead of as a big group.
Here’s why. If you have 10 people in a room all trying to brainstorm, it means only one of those people can share an idea at a time. Also, it tends to get more political, with some voices crowding out others.
Conversely, if you start with pairs, you have many more people sharing ideas at the same time and you’ll get a greater diversity of ideas. After you brainstorm in pairs, you can have groups share their thoughts and then come together as a team to determine the best ones – and, ideally, build off of them.
3. Solve a similar problem for someone else.
Say your team is stuck on a problem. Or, you feel like your thinking has gotten stale. A good “hack” to get around this to solve a similar problem for someone else.
For example, say you work for Ford and want to market your cars so they seem “cool,” in comparison to Chevy. Rather than hamper down on that problem, think of a similar one – how Honda could market their motorcycles to seem “cool,” in comparison to Harley-Davidson.
Studies show people tend to think more creativity when they are solving a problem for someone else. And, since it's a similar problem, you’ll likely be able to use that solution to fix the actual one you are facing.
“You got to get people out of their daily routine to help them see opportunities in a new light,” Boyd said. “Just having them step away will boost their creative output.”
4. Break problems into smaller parts.
Rather than thinking of the problem as a monolith, break it down to smaller parts. Seeing it that way will help you think of ideas that otherwise wouldn’t come to you.
To do this, literally list out the components of the problem on a white board and then solve for each one.
“When you change perspective this way, it helps you know which components to focus on,” Boyd said. “Just seeing the components this way will give you ideas, such as combining two components."
“Another way to manipulate the components is take a component and put it somewhere else back into the problem or process,” Boyd added. “That alone could change your perspective enough to see a completely new possibility. It's only when you break the problem down into its components can your mind go in a new direction.”
5. Remove idea identity.
When you are brainstorming, you want the best idea to come to the top. The problem is people often are defensive about their idea because they don't want the group to think its a bad one – and therefore they are somehow less-than. Secondarily, when someone like the boss throws out an idea, it’s politically difficult for the workers on the team to challenge it.
To avoid that, Boyd recommends doing something called “removing idea identity.” That means removing the person from the idea; so ideas are considering objectively, instead of by who said them.
To do this, have everyone write their ideas down on paper and then have one person read them aloud. And enforce a rule where nobody can claim an idea as their own – instead, every idea is seen as a team idea.
“This helps eliminate that natural tendency to have a bias to that idea,” Boyd said. “Now these techniques might take a little bit more time and may feel a bit awkward, but trust me, it's well worth it. You'll boost you're creative output at work by making sure good ideas don't get thrown out too quickly.”
Want to learn more? Watch Boyd’s full course, Managing Team Creativity.
Other courses you might be interested in are:
- Creative Thinking
- Building Creative Organizations
- Creativity: Generate Ideas in Greater Quantity and Quality
- Creativity Bootcamp
- Inclusive Leadership