If you ever want to see creativity in it’s most unfiltered form, go and visit a local kindergarten or preschool.
As you observe, you will see children creating new words to describe their experiences, interacting with imaginary friends, creating new worlds to play in, and painting indecipherable images with smiles on their faces. As the neurons in their brains are firing and creating new and exciting links, these children continue to experiment and create new ways of interpreting the world - hopefully encouraged by their teacher.
An engaging article in the Harvard Business Review (December, 2012) by Tom and David Kelley, explains that creativity is an innate attribute of all humans. In helping their clients with creativity, the authors do not try to teach them creativity but instead help them to rediscover their creative confidence, “the natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.”
For many of us, we have no problem coming up with new and exciting ideas - but our progress gets halted here.
There are fears that come up and seem to prohibit us from turning the thoughts into reality. One of these first fears is the fear of the foggy world - the unknown word that exists “out there.”
We have all learnt models and theories that seek to interpret the world, and we can simplify complex organisations into organisational flow-charts. At the heart of it, we know that these are merely representations of the world, and the real world is much more complex and unknown than this. This fear of the unknown can stop us from creating products and services that need to exist in the foggy world.
In a previous role of mine, I worked as a youth worker in our local high school. Part of my role was attempting to engage more volunteers from the community in mentoring and coaching within this school. Many of the people I talked to would have ideas about how this could work, but I found invariably that these ideas did not meet the reality of our local high school’s culture, and these people were fearful to take their ideas beyond the thinking-stage.
Once this was identified, my team and I began to take members of the public on cross-cultural journeys to our local high school. By allowing them to experience the culture, relationships and reality of our school, we found that our volunteers would begin to create ideas that were founded on real needs and opportunities within the school - rather than being based on what they thought the school was like. Also, they became much more engaged in the school environment, as the fog was removed by the reality of the world.
Professional training is available to help contextualise this into your organisation, but here are a few tips you can begin today.
Many organisations end up creating a product or service for an environment they are not familiar with. It is perfectly reasonable that a HR manager for a pet food company may not own a pet, or even like pets. This lack of knowledge and experience creates a foggy view of the world in which your organisation is engaging with, and must be challenged.
Identify who your key customers are, and what environment they live in. Then go exploring! This may take you to another part of town, another cultural group or even to another country. Once you understand their world, your ability to create and support this world will be greatly increased.
As you are exploring these foggy worlds, talk to people that you meet. Ask them questions about the needs that they have and the problems that they encounter in their daily lives. Many organisations engage in market research, which reveals helpful data but does not remove the fog around the world they are seeking to engage with. Numbers cannot reveal a new world - only experiences can!
Seek to have a humble posture as you enter the new world, and seek to understand it in the eyes of the people who inhabit it (even if this is a local cafe - there will be a sub-culture that will shed new light on your organisation’s relationship to the cafe). Removing this fog will allow ideas to be generated and expressed that are more relevant, more relatable andmore helpful to your clients.