by John Brooker
Recently a coach asked me, “As someone who facilitates teams to innovate, how would you coach someone who thinks they are not creative, to be more creative?” Here are my thoughts.
Everyone can be creative
Everyone can be creative; we just have different ways of approaching it. Dr. M.J. Kirton, creator of the Kirton Adapter Innovator (KAI)1 style profile says2:
“Those who are adaptive in style are characterised by precision, reliability, efficiency; seen as methodical, prudent, disciplined. Those more innovative in style are seen as thinking tangentially, approaching tasks from unsuspected angles; undisciplined, unpredictable.”
So, it is likely that clients who consider themselves “uncreative” have a more adaptive style. However, as Kirton explains, “One must remember that adaptors and innovators can have equal capacity, insight and creativity.”
Four issues that inhibit creativity
Having reassured them they can be creative, address four issues that may be inhibiting their creative ability. They:
They view creativity as idea generation not a whole process
Research (e.g. by Parnes Osborne3, Basadur4) shows that creativity is a complete process. While models vary slightly, they all agree that there is a beginning, middle and end, e.g. stages such as Find opportunity, Explore opportunity, Generate ideas, Create a solution, Plan and Implement the solution.
People who think they are uncreative often think this because:
I reassure the “uncreatives” they can use their strengths at other points in the process and explain that there are tools they can use to help them generate ideas.
They judge too quickly
At each stage in the creative process there are steps to diverge and converge thinking. Divergent thinking encourages people to explore. It is important that people do not judge either their own ideas or the ideas of others during this step as it inhibits divergent thinking. Those with an adaptive style often have quick and good judgement; a strength, but not when diverging. Therefore, advise them to defer judgement until the time to converge thinking.
They create mental boundaries
People often create boundaries or “walls” to their thinking, “boxing themselves in”. They:
How can they move these walls, make the box bigger (rather than think outside it!) and encourage divergent thinking? Coach them to:
They use inappropriate tools (or have inappropriate tools used with them)
Creative thinking is a skill you can learn by using the appropriate tools. Some of these tools are intuitive (e.g. finger painting and guided imagery) and some logical. Kirton describes some of the characteristics of adaptive people as “methodical, prudent, and disciplined.” Therefore, when working with adaptive people use more logical tools. This tool is very useful for logical thinkers to create ideas:
This multi step approach to generate ideas uses what we know about the opportunity as a springboard to create new ideas. It has six parts:
You can find full details here: http://www.yesand.eu/how-might/. You can find other examples here: http://www.yesand.eu/learn-from-us/creative-tools/.
To sum up
To coach people who consider themselves uncreative, encourage them to:
John Brooker is a former Senior Vice President of Visa.