Business Survival Tip: Be Creative (Again)

August 2020

Methods for divergent thinking to generate many different ideas.

Methods for divergent thinking to generate many different ideas. Illustration: Getty Images

Your creativity peaked as a young child (98% of 5-year-olds possess a genius category of imagination), but by age 31, you likely plummeted to 2%, according to the Imaginative Thinking NASA Test. Children innately think and solve problems in creative ways because they have the freedom to make mistakes without judgement. Creativity is a skill that can be developed and a process that can be managed. You need to regain that lost creativity to generate innovation in the workplace.

Creativity enables multiple solutions to problems … often the kind of ideas bravely thrown out by someone in a business meeting that may elicit eye rolls, smirks, nervous laughter and, ultimately, dismissal by others. The greatest obstacles to imaginative thinking are judgement, criticism and censoring—the results of safer convergent thinking (making a judgement, decision, testing, criticizing and evaluating). It’s the age, instead, to wholeheartedly encourage divergent thinking (imagination and generating new possibilities).

Design thinking

The World Economic Forum named creativity as the third most important skill for employees in 2020, behind complex problem-solving (a skill that also requires creativity), and critical thinking. (Creativity was ranked as the tenth skill in 2015.) Successful companies have formally mainstreamed “design thinking” into their entire enterprise to foster innovation. If imaginative people are not part of your business process, you are doomed to stale solutions.

In the article 30 Ways to Inspire Divergent Thinking, author Saga Briggs states, “Although some of us may associate creativity with things like art and emotion, the research shows that divergent thinking actually stems from logical, unbiased thinking.” Briggs also says “that openness to experience, coupled with an attitude toward divergent thinking, are positively associated with employees’ creative performances.”

Nurture a creative culture

Approach the ideation stage of problem-solving as a divergent thinker because risk-taking and mistakes are a door to discovery. Encourage your team to noodle all possible solutions and build upon each other’s ideas. Start by thinking that no idea is a bad idea. 

Challenge the status quo (we’ve always made our widget this way) and discover alternatives. Nurture a creative culture in your business by using an innovation process that provides a psychologically safe environment. Peppering your team with the established creatives and a crossover group from other disciplines encourages viewing a problem from different perspectives. At Twirling Tiger Media, one of the highlights of our work is helping others flex their creative muscle by conceptualizing imagery for magazine covers and mapping out an approach for editorial content for the upcoming year. These remote meetings are interesting, fun, productive and have resulted in lots of award-winning work.

New challenge to creativity: remote teams

Our business model at Twirling Tiger Media enlists team members working remotely from across the country to serve clients coast to coast. It’s been the norm in our industry for decades, but today’s pandemic has now thrust many traditional businesses into staying connected and collaborating remotely. Sharing ideas through conversation is part of the creative process, so it is important to support ways for creative collaborations to continue because leveraging creativity is essential to driving your career and business forward.

Stay well,

Maureen Joyce