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Perspectives

Optimizing Creativity for Business Impact: Part One

Sarah IsbitzFebruary 23, 2021 / 4 min read

Business success requires creativity. This was true in the past, and it’s even more true in times of accelerated change and disruption.

But to be creative, leaders must deal with discomfort and ambiguity, while competing at the speed of digital. Creative thinking helps organizations solve emerging business problems by enabling them to generate fresh ideas. The most successful organizations are able to jumpstart this conversation, by playing with unlikely connections that expose fresh solutions, allow them to think differently, and provide unexpected perspectives.

The danger in doing this is that not all new ideas are right, and it can be difficult to tell them apart from the others. When unclear ideas proliferate, chaos ensues. So clarity is critical, but getting there requires editing, simplifying, and distilling what you’ve generated into a refined and useful subset. It can be a slower, more painstaking process, but ultimately it’s more fluid—if the organization has optimized for it.

Having struggled with the process of solution refinement for decades, we’ve gradually built up a short list of approaches that work. There are eight methods in total, which we’ll describe in two parts. Part one covers three methods for optimizing individual creativity; part two covers five more methods, that can also be applied across teams.

Single-Tasking

When team members feel they are not adding value, adopting a singular mindset can reignite a sense of purpose, and reestablish each individual's scope of control.

Human beings don’t multitask well. While it can seem effective in theory, and even feel productive when you’re doing it, studies repeatedly show that multitasking makes us less productive, by distracting us and increasing our tendency to make errors and repeat tasks.

When we slow down and single-task, focusing on one thing at a time, it can often feel like we’re working more slowly. But in fact it lets us work with more clarity, depth, and ultimately, speed. We not only achieve results faster, we also enjoy the process more. Our sense of joy and inspiration also create more dynamic solutions. Fun fuels creativity.

The Power of the Pause

The speed of business can cause chaos, and the pressure to achieve prevents us from stopping. Leaders who establish boundaries for their teams enable them to thrive, and reestablish equilibrium.

Pausing unlocks ideas and solutions, yet it is difficult to master. Today’s pace of change causes us to believe that we must act now, otherwise business leads will be lost, and momentum will falter. In these circumstances, pausing can feel counterintuitive, yet it enables us to be both thoughtful and timely. We learn that the right move at the right time puts us leaps and bounds ahead of the pack.

From a creative processing standpoint, pausing aids in natural (or subconscious) synthesis—a critical component of creative thinking. Natural synthesis is the autonomic iterating mechanism of your brain.

For example, when we conclude a client call, we always take a short pause to allow for synthesis before debriefing. We also make a point of pausing before reconvening, giving the team space to breathe, focus on problem-solving, and ultimately be more productive. Next steps become clearer and thought processes more refined.

When business leaders pause, it creates a culture of clarity and calm throughout the organization, which can translate into energetic camaraderie.

Important, Not Urgent

When the definition of success is unclear, assessing what is important can refocus the organization on its wellbeing and long-term growth.

Take a hard look at what’s in front of you, and strategically handle the most important items or tasks. This often means you aren’t solving for the most urgent. When everything seems as though it must be done immediately, that’s a red flag.

Instead, pause and reassess. What is important? What is merely urgent? As this skill increases, the number of urgent items will decrease over time as you simplify strategically.

Check back tomorrow for five more methods to be applied across teams.

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