Creative Ideas: Anybody Can!

By Shlomo Maital

  Over the years, in teaching Workshops on creativity and innovation, mostly to MBA students and managers, I always began the workshop by asking participants: On a scale of 1 to 10, who thinks they score 9 or 10 on creativity?

   Very very few people raised their hands. And the rest of the workshop was devoted to persuading my students that “when it comes to creative ideas: anyone can!” The creative brain is much like our biceps (a muscle) — exercise it and it gets far stronger and more productive.

   Confirmation comes from Avery Blank, writing in the June 9 issue of Forbes magazine. Here is her finding:

     “People underestimate the originality of their ideas, according to recent research from INSEAD, The Open University of Israel and Technion. People assume that others have the same ideas as them. Like many assumptions, this assumption is often incorrect. The danger of believing in this assumption can stop you from acting, whether that is presenting your idea in a meeting, writing an article on a topic or starting a business venture. Stop thinking that you do not have unique ideas, because you do.

OK, so – what can we ordinary folks do, to be more creative. Blank proposes three steps:

  1. Hold on to the idea.   If you have an idea, capture it. Your idea might be the key to helping your team pivot in a more successful direction or helping your organization to be more innovative. Don’t dismiss your thoughts.
  2. Resist the urge to always think more. Some people equate more effort with better. That is, some people believe that thinking more on an idea will make that idea better. While this could be true sometimes, it is not necessarily always the case. There is a lot of creativity at the start of the ideation process. When you are brainstorming, you don’t feel boxed in. You feel more comfortable letting your mind go, thinking about the possibilities and less on the probabilities.
  3. Now speak up.   You could have a unique idea, but no one will know it if you stay silent because you think your idea is not good enough. Research shows that people underestimate their originality. Now that you are aware of this bias, try to overcome it and share your idea.

Blank concludes forcefully: “You have more originality than you think, so don’t discount all your thoughts as uninteresting or commonplace. When you have an idea, capture it. Don’t think that you have to always think on the idea more to make it more original. Finally, just say it. The difference between a person who is seen as having a unique idea and a person who is seen as not having a unique idea can be found in the act of speaking up.”

I believe there is a gender-bias problem with creativity. Women have lots of ideas. But in mixed groups or teams, men often simply do not listen to women, who speak more softly and often lack sharp elbows. These days, we cannot afford to let great ideas go to waste. Let’s listen to the women — look how female heads of state in Taiwan, Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Germany have outdone their male counterparts elsewhere!

     p.s. this is my 1,700th blog.