As company cultures continue to evolve and businesses increase their reliance on technology, alumnus Steve Ralph (’97, EdD ’17), practitioner lecturer of organizational theory and management at the Graziadio Business School, explains how we can rely on our personal ingenuity to creatively solve problems, overcome disruptions, and manage a successful workplace.
Two common myths I hear are that creativity is only connected to the arts and that only certain people are born creative. We are all creative, and creativity is like a muscle that must be exercised. Creative problem solving is a strategic and intentional process that requires clarification, ideation, development, and implementation. Understanding this process will help us generate innovative solutions for the increasingly unexpected challenges we encounter in this world.
Now You See It
Examine challenges or problems from a different perspective. Thinking of how someone else might approach a challenge or meeting with a small group of diverse individuals and asking them how they viewpoints.
Functional fixedness, or the ability to see the use of something in only a specific way instead of considering potential alternate uses, stifles creative thinking. When we feel stuck and notice a lack of growth, we can encourage creativity by changing our daily routines, like where we exercise, how we spend our free time, and the roads we take to drive to work. These simple disruptions allow for new experiences that can spark new insights.
Organizational leaders have a responsibility to encourage innovation so that companies can survive and thrive in a highly disruptive world. But fears of failure and judgment prevent us from taking the risk of sharing new ideas and attempting new approaches, so leaders who require innovation from their employees must provide a psychologically safe space for fostering creative growth. You can’t have innovation without creativity, which is an essential component of an organization’s competitive success.
It’s in the Details
While the exponential growth of technology offers amazing benefits, the overwhelming amount of details we process every day has created information overload that can result in stress that moves us from the neocortex (where the strategic and creative thinking happens) to the brain stem (where the flight, fight, and freeze reactions occur). We should consistently ask ourselves whether we are managing our devices or whether they are managing us.
When we set aside time to unplug from our devices, we provide meaningful space for our minds to wander. This is where we often come across excellent creative insights, which is why people often say they get their best ideas in the shower or on a hike. It is because we are not distracted and filling our minds with information, but rather using the quiet spaces to make connections.