creativity and fun“My boss always wants the impossible,” sighed Trudi to her colleague over a coffee. “I’ll never pull this one off.”

“What’s that?” asked Tom.

“She says I have to be more creative in my work if I’m ever going to be promoted.  I guess I better start looking for a job because there isn’t a creative bone in my body!”

How we think about creativity

How we think about creativity

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! ~Dr. Seuss

Trudi isn’t alone thinking that being creative is out of her grasp.  Many adults equate creativity with the arts – composing music, painting pictures, writing poetry, etc.  However, creativity has much broader application than just the arts. Creativity was cited as the single most important leadership quality for success in a study of 1500 CEO’s completed by IBM in 2010.

In Human Motivation, Robert E. Franken defines creativity as

…the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.

In short, seeing and connecting things in a new way.

In workshops, I hand out a piece of paper filled with 30 separate one-inch diameter circles.  I ask participants to turn as many circles as possible into objects, things like a smiley face or the sun, in five minutes. It’s rare for someone to transform all 30 circles into objects.  A more typical completion rate ranges from 5 to 15 circles.

A creativity study conducted by George Land, a general systems scientist, helps to explain the low circle transformation rate. Dr. Land’s results show that we’re naturally creative as children yet learn to be uncreative as we age.

1,600 children were first tested at age 5 and scored a 98% for creativity. Those same children were tested at age 10 and scored 30%; and when tested again at age 15, they scored just 12%.  When adults were given the same test, they scored only 2%.

Creative thinking is not a talent; it is a skill that can be learned. ~Edward de Bono

To boost “creativity quotient” and see and connect things in a new way, try:


A study done by Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, revealed that shifting the brain into an open, playful state lowers the brain’s threshold for spotting isolated connections which allows people to decipher puzzles more effectively.

I used to keep a basket of small toys on the conference table in my office for people to play with during meetings (and they did some laying claim to a particular toy!).

Shake things up

Trying a new routine alters stuck brain patterns, creating the possibility of new associations.  Jimi Hendrix played guitars made for right-handed people by playing them upside down. Just holding a guitar upside down forced his brain to create new patterns.

One day my team was brainstorming how to solve a tough business problem and was getting nowhere. I moved the meeting outside under a big tree and soon the solution was apparent!

Change your perspective

Thomas Edison invited prospective new hires to lunch. He watched to see if people salted their food before or after tasting it. Those who salted their food prior to tasting it weren’t hired.

It’s the classic  if you think like a hammer, everything looks like a nail scenario.  Many rules, practices and procedures outlive their usefulness and choke off creative thinking.  People who challenge their assumptions and relook at a situation often discover new solutions.

BIG’s angle: it’s possible to tap into that creative spark we enjoyed as children and boost our “creativity quotient” – we just have to make the effort to do so!
What do you think?
Image source before quote:  Gratisography