How to be More Creative at Work

This year’s Global Leadership Summit included a session with author Fredrik Haren (author of The Idea Book).  Haren is a business creativity expert from Sweden who, according to Forbes, lets people stay on his private island for free. His session during the summit got me thinking a little more about business creativity.

He made an interesting point during this talk. He said when you ask people if they are creative most people say that they are not. Creativity is connected to crafts, artists, and musical talent. But creativity has so much to do with the what we think  and do everyday.

I decided to try something new. I scheduled an hour of Creative Space into my week.  The idea is to intentionally nurture creativity. During this hour, I do one of the following: think of a new project, read about a topic I wouldn’t normally read about, learn something new, create something, write something, compose something. Needless to say I am enjoying this new habit because it’s just fun. Its an hour of intentional creative growth each week.

Creative thinking and creative problem solving are valued very highly in terms of getting ahead at work. Creativity plays an important role in time management, prioritizing multiple demands, negotiation skills, and basically staying sane during stressful work weeks.

Creativity and Innovation are close associates. Innovation means doing something new by making a new combination of things that already exist. In his speech, Haren reminds us that God alone can make something out of nothing so that’s not something humans need to worry about. We can make new things from other existing things. That made this whole creativity and innovation business more manageable.

The other concept that I re-read recently and that resonates with my personality is this: One needs to be structured in order to be creative. Creativity doesn’t flow from complete chaos. Let’s rephrase that a little – for meaningful creativity to flourish, there needs to be some structure even in chaos.

The SCAMPER principle is a structured guideline to develop creative:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to other use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

To have a great idea, have a lot of them (Thomas Edison). Creative experts recommend divergent thinking while problem solving. Instead of finding one solution to solve multiple problems, think of multiple solutions for problems. This prevents tunnel vision, which is often the enemy of creative thinking. It is also important to take a break when tackling problems and let your ideas incubate to help you in picking the best solutions.

Think about how creative entrepreneurs got their ideas. Here are some examples from the November 2017 edition of Inc. Magazine, Koel Thomae launched Noosa Yoghurt after tasting a new kind of creamy, full-fat yogurt while visiting her mother in Australia. Paul English started Kayak, inspired by his trip to Haiti, to make online travel search easier. Blake Mycoskie started TOMS because of the impact that his trip to Argentina had on him. He was moved by the difficult life of rural children, many of whom had no shoes. That was the genesis of his shoe company and its buy-one, give-one model. Kombi Vans in South Africa inspired Logan Green to start his company Lyft.

There are endless stories about entrepreneurs who were able to use inspired creativity to innovate. The key to their success is that they were not afraid to fail.

As a manager, provide opportunities to your team to grow in business creativity. Instead of giving them answers to problems, challenge them to come up with solutions. As a manager don’t crush your team when they fail or you will stifle creativity and innovation.

We wish ideas would just flow naturally while we are sleeping or enjoying some macaroons with coffee. But business creativity flows when we show up to work. Show up and start brainstorming solutions and ideas. Creativity is a combination of imagination, curiosity and knowledge.

Creativity is what sets you apart as a leader in your workplace. “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” (Peter Drucker)


What helps you nurture creativity? Email your stories to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com 

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Learning and Innovation

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to lead pilot projects related to Learning and Innovation. The exposure that these projects have provided in terms of Knowledge Management has been significant.

Innovation is often connected with big inventions, technological breakthroughs, and super smart people even though we know that in reality that it is also so much more about everyday functions. It is in capturing knowledge that we can discover what our teams already know and use that knowledge to be more innovative.

When I started working on the projects, I had to set aside a full day just to understand the concepts of Knowledge Management. Not only was the subject fascinating, the significance of Knowledge Management being such a vital step to Learning and Innovation became very obvious.

You might already know what Knowledge Management is but I am going to try to describe it here. It is defined as the efficient handling of knowledge – not data or information – but knowledge. That includes the tacit insights that are a consequence of working in a field or role for some time. But how do you work to capture that within your company was the question we were trying to address for our organization.

We designed pilot projects to try and capture knowledge points within the organization. The pilot projects were collaborative and one was competitive. The projects were designed to encourage knowledge sharing in different ways. The projects were designed following the principle of Human Centered Design, keeping the end-user involved and gathering feedback throughout the pilot.

The collaborative projects included Communities of Practice which allowed teams to engage in intentional yet informal in a shared domain. We used some virtual meeting platforms since global teams participated. The competitive learning platform was an Innovation Forum competition, which offered global teams the opportunity to present innovative solutions they had tested in the last two years. The responses to all the projects was very positive. These projects were bridging learning gaps that would allow teams to be more efficient and agile.

The projects we led were successful but we realized that the real challenge would lie in developing and sustaining an innovative culture within the organization. That would need a shift in the way we function. Certain bureaucratic systems would need to be eliminated. More trust would have to be established. Failure will need to be considered as more of a learning step instead of a taboo or it will hinder success. We will need to be smarter about recognizing  successful innovation and rewarding it. This would encourage people to continue innovating.

Most of the pilot projects continued on to become ongoing initiatives at larger scales. This is just the beginning of a cultural shift towards innovation and the possibilities are exciting!


Share your experiences with TOM. Email editor@theoverseasmagazine.com