4 Steps to More Creative Teams

What if you had access to the collective power to help your company generate new ways of tackling problems? What if you had the capability for developing potential game-changing growth opportunities for your business?

Practical insights from neuroscience make teams more creative, thus becoming better equipped to generate breakthroughs that stimulate growth and performance.

The Science

Leading neuroscientists, such as Gregory Berns, have identified the key is to focus on perception, which is intrinsically linked to creativity in the human brain. To perceive things differently, we must bombard our brains with things it has never encountered. This kind of novelty is vital because the brain has evolved for efficiency and routinely takes perceptual shortcuts to save energy; perceiving information in the usual way requires little of it. Only by forcing our brains to recategorize information and move beyond our habitual thinking patterns can we begin to imagine truly novel alternatives

Let’s explore 4 practical ways to shake-up ingrained perceptions & enhance creativity.

Step 1; 3rd Party Perspective

Academic research suggests that even when presented with overwhelming facts, many people (including well-educated ones) simply won’t abandon their deeply held opinions. Therefore, it’s extremely valuable to start creativity-building exercises or idea generation efforts outside the office in real world environments where your teams’ experiences directly confront their ingrained assumptions.

  • Go through the process of purchasing your own product or service (as a real consumer would) and record the experience.
  • Visit  competitors as a customer & compare them with the same experiences at your own company.
  • Conduct online research and gather information about one of your products or services (or those of a competitor) as any ordinary customer would. Try reaching out to your company with a specific product and or service-related question.
  • Observe and talk to real consumers in the places where they purchase and use your products to see what offerings accompany yours, what alternatives consumers consider, and how long they take to decide.
Step 2; Back to Basics Questions

Break the assumption pattern by asking yourselves, as an organization;

  • What business are we in?
  • What level of customer service do people expect?
  • What would customers never be willing to pay for?
  • What channel strategy is essential to us?
Step 3; The Art of Association

A Harvard Business Review article by Clayton Christensen, Jeffrey Dyer, and Hal Gregersen entitled “The innovator’s DNA” noted five important “discovery” skills for innovators: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking. The most powerful overall driver of innovation was associating—making connections across “seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas.”

  • How would Google manage our data?
  • How might Disney engage with our consumers?
  • How could Southwest Airlines cut our costs?
  • How would Zara redesign our supply chain?
  • How would Starwood Hotels design our customer loyalty program?
Step 4; Constraints Theory

Try imposing artificial constraints on your business model to encourage creativity.

  • You can interact with your customers only online.
  • You can serve only one consumer segment.
  • You have to move from B2C to B2B or vice versa.
  • The price of your product is cut in half.
  • Your largest channel disappears overnight.
  • You must charge a fivefold price premium for your product.
  • You have to offer your value proposition with a partner company.

By placing your people in 3rd party environments, confronting ingrained assumptions, using associations, and challenging your organization to overcome difficult constraints, you can dramatically boost their creative output.. as well as your own.

This post was inspired by Sparking creativity in teams: An executive’s guide @ McKinsey Quarterly

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