I’m always in search of ways to develop my creativity. I tell my kids all the time (and now they repeat it back to me) that nothing has been created that wasn’t first imagined. I don’t know if I coined that from someone else, but it makes sense. Letting imagination roam free is a cornerstone of creativity. But it needs the right environment to flourish.
There’ve been volumes of books written about how to be more creative, particularly in group and work settings. In isolation a person can focus on a challenge or an idea, and often come up with unique solutions. However, to flush out the bugs or refine the idea, and be ready to take action on it, there needs to be a sounding board – not just an audience, but active participants – one other person at the very least, or more than one other person ideally, to help refine the idea and bring it to success.
The challenge in a group setting is to get everyone to participate, and we sometimes find people hold back. Whether it’s fear, pressure, or giving in to the authority of a group leader, creativity can be stymied because of the controlled setting.
What I’ve found is that to inspire creativity, the group must come together as equals to pool thoughts and ideas and to share them fully, so they can be truly creative and use their imagination to generate valuable ideas that work. This is collaboration…the art of sharing and working together on a mutually beneficial solution.
Collective intelligence is the fuel behind successful collaboration. Assembling talented people together in a forum that promotes discussion and debate, is what propels the group forward. These participants may have very different opinions and that’s okay. Different opinions actually inspire the process – it’s that give and take that moves us to the next level in our thinking, and challenges us to reach higher and push harder.
It is the leader’s role is to facilitate the dialogue, not control it. Essentially, they mentor the process. Collaboration can be messy, and we have to own that messiness. Participants should be promoting their ideas, but also listening to others. They have to be advocates for their idea, or the point of view they represent and this discovery process should energize debate.
Linda Hill, a professor of Business Leadership and co-author of Collective Genius, describes this process in her TED Talk www.ted.com/talks/linda_hill_how_to_manage_for_collective_creativity, and she explains how this effort to work together in a group can empower creativity and foster innovation. Her findings from research working with highly creative businesses, such as PIXAR and Google, is that innovation requires collaboration to be productive, what she would call “collective genius.”
The collaborative process is not about winning and losing, it’s about finding a new way forward. That’s what we aspire to at TTLC.