Responses and Recommendations

Question A: Are the people in your organization quick to find fault with new ideas?

There's a time to find fault with ideas. The fragile early stages of the creative process is not the proper time. Almost all ideas have some flaws. When people are too quick to judge, they often overlook what's worthwhile about an idea and drag down the entire creative process. Even if an idea isn't perfect, it's much more constructive to look at what's good about it and keep making it better rather than to take the easy way out and drag it down.

If your answer to question A was always or very often, your people are much too judgmental when it comes to new ideas. Even if you answered frequently or sometimes, judgment is an area of some concern for your group. To help your people be more conscious of their potentially destructive judgment, you might consider using sportslike penalty flags in meetings or just politely call one another on such behavior. If your company doesn't improve in this area you risk demotivating your best thinkers or even losing them.

If you answered never, it appears your people are not prone to quick negative judgments of new ideas as are most people in industry. Congratulations!

Question B: How many of the people in your group are attached to how things are done?

When people are attached to how things are done, they miss major opportunities for improvement. This holds back progress and puts your company in a compromising competitive position. Change is inevitable in any organization and industry. Your company has likely undergone much change in the past, which needs to be recognized. One sure way to avoid resisting change is to actually effect it! That's certainly what leading companies do.

If your answer to question B was all or most, your people are quite resistant to change and are too attached to how things are done. Your people likely avoid the kinds of risk that change entails. But being as stuck as they are creates an even greater risk, being left behind by others who do change, because any advancement requires change. You need to improve in this area for your company's very survival.

If your answer to question B was many or some, your people are occasionally resistant to change and are likely attached to how things are done. Or perhaps your people are victims of their own success. When something works, people resist changing it, but in so doing they are likely only holding back improvement.

If your answer was none, it appears that your people are not as resistant to change as most people in industry. Count your blessings.

Question C: How often do your managers bring out fresh thinking in their people?

Managers need to know that their people are usually only as creative as their managers allow or encourage them to be. To put a lid on the staff's creative output in any way is starving the organization of a much needed energy supply.

If your answer to question C was never or sometimes, your managers could do a much better job of bringing out creativity in others. Based on your answer in this area, your managers might be more than weak in this area—they could even be an impediment. It appears that your managers might actually provide discouragement, a big no-no. Putting a lid on the staff's creative output starves the organization of your best thinking. You have some serious work to do in this area. Some easy first steps are (1) being more open to new thinking and (2) actually asking for it.

If your answer was frequently or very often, your managers could still do a better job of bringing out creativity in others. To reiterate, some easy steps to higher performance in this area are (1) being more open to new thinking and (2) actually asking for it.

If your answer was always, congratulations. It appears your managers are excellent at bringing out creative thinking in others.

Question D: How often do the people in your organization stop at their first good idea?

It's quite natural for people to stop at their first good idea. But when they do this early on in the creative process they are limiting the possibility of an even better idea materializing. One way to discourage stopping at the first good idea is to simply keep judgment out of the process during the early ideation phase. If you don't judge, you don't know what's good or bad, so you don't get attached to the "good," stop ideating, and prevent yourself from finding something even better.

If your answer to question D was always or very often, this is a problem area, because too many of your people stop at their first good idea too often. Your group needs to change its habits in this area; otherwise, you risk putting too much of your effort into executing mediocre ideas.

If your answer was frequently or sometimes, too many people in your group tend to stop at their first good idea a bit more often than they should.

If your answer was never, it appears that your people are not prone to stopping at their first good idea, as are most people. That's great!

Question E: How many ideas —good and bad (even those you discount immediately)—are generated by people in your group during a typical brainstorming session?

Yes, when you brainstorm you're usually looking for the idea. But a big part of creativity is simply a numbers game. Generate more ideas, and you'll simply have more ideas from which to choose the best. You'll have more good ideas and, sure, more bad ideas. But bad ideas can often be fertilizer for the creative process. The best creative thinkers produce more fertilizer than most people. (Maybe that's how they got to be great thinkers.)

If your answer to question E was 10 or less or 11—25, your people do not generate anywhere near enough quantity of ideas to ensure a high-quality outcome. Using quantity to get to quality is one of the easiest ways to get people to overachieve creatively. Plus, it minimizes that destructive judgment element. The same is true if your answer was

If your answer was more than 100, it appears your people are ready, willing, and able to generate many fresh ideas. They probably generate a lot of fertilizer, too. Your people are obviously high achievers.

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