Inspiring Teams and Organizations to Use Critical Thinking
Reasoning involves not only going through formulas and methods to arrive at a conclusion. Often, reasoning involves more than thinking in straight terms, following an inferential process, and moving along a targeted stream of thoughts. Rather, it involves creativity.
Creativity is sometimes seen as a haphazard way of thinking: no goals, no flow, no lines or formulas followed. But this is not quite the case. Rather, creativity does indeed have goals in mind: solutions, understanding, and problem solving. Creativity typically involves being open-minded, being aware, and connecting objects and ideas in new ways. Creativity is about finding the relationships between objects and ideas, and redefining new patterns. Creativity, in essence, is the foundation of critical thinking. The two go hand in hand; one cannot truly be done properly without the other.
This is why, in order to foster critical thinking in teams and organizations, creativity needs to be cultivated. There are a number of ways creativity can be developed within teams and within the individuals on those teams. Creativity can be inspired by the leaders of these teams and organizations, and can be inspired by the individual themselves.
Creativity is, in essence, lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is a method whereby solutions are arrived at, and problems solved, by utilizing reasoning that is not obvious or not readily obtained via traditional step-by-step logical analyses. It is still reasoning, nonetheless.
Today, creativity is more important than ever. We live in a society where VUCA is the rule: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. As such, we must constantly filter out viable solutions to issues, and sustain them in creativity ways. Innovation is a necessity of our society.
There are a number of ways to inspire creativity within a team or organization setting. This chapter will explore some of those ways.
There are some major ways organizations can develop and maintain creativity:
1. Recruit creativity individuals. This is not always possible because interviews, applications and resume cannot always ascertain whether or not an individual is creative.
2. Train current employees in how to use their creativity, and to enhance it.
The second approach is clearly most viable. One thing to keep in mind is that each individual has their own creativity, and their own approach to being creative. Some people are idea generators, many of their ideas will not work though. However, they are able to filter out the bad ideas and produce a smaller number of very viable ones.
Others can implement ideas well: they are able to take the ideas others have generated, and find the most viable ways to implement those ideas in capacities that are profitable to the organization.
The key is to let people manage their own creative ways. However, many people do not think they are creative. This is where creativity management tools can come into play.
- Build accountability into each project: performance problems are usually process issues, rather than issues at the individual level. Root cause analyses should be done not to place blame on someone, but rather, to determine what has prevented the organization from reaching certain goals and what can be done to ensure that those goals are met in the future. This will also help to instill more confidence in employees: if they do not have the fear of being blamed for issues, they will be more likely to take creative risks that may end up benefiting the organization. Further, it becomes easier for employees to figure out what exactly is causing issues, whether it be the process in which work is being done, or the perspective being taken, or even the products being used. People will be less apt to blame themselves and/or each other, and will therefore be more apt to focus attention on solving problems. The blame game needs to be avoided.
- Cross-fertilization should be a goal: project leaders from different projects should be encouraged to be actively involved with one another. Interaction can foster creativity and help bridge company goals. Further, different skill sets could be harnessed to create better products and/or services. Ongoing dialogue and responses should be encouraged, as well as the sharing of metrics and problem solving sessions. Exchanges like these can prove valuable to all those involved.
- Play: people need to be relaxed and have fun to be creative. Therefore, the work environment needs to have elements for people to be more relaxed, more comfortable, and more engaged in playful and fun activities. Consider having a game room people can join up in, or have company outings, including things like happy hour, luncheons, or holiday parties. Encourage environments where employees can move out of their comfort zone, interact with others, including those from different departments, and relax.
- Prevent routine from becoming routine : what is done routinely becomes boring and prevents creativity. Therefore, goals should be mixed up, roles changed where it makes sense, and brainstorming sessions can be helpful. However, some research has shown that brainstorming sessions actually hinders creativity, so these should be utilized with caution. People can be more creative when on their own than when forced to be in a group setting to try to come up with ideas. Brainstorming may not work because when in a group setting, people tend to subconsciously go with the group dynamic. This is known in psychology as collaborative fixation, and leads to idea conformity.
- Leadership should be empowered within employees : research has indicated that when employees are given the freedom to carry out their job functions in the ways that that employees deems to be best, they become more creative and productive employees. Getting an employee involved in the decision-making process yields good results. When employees are encouraged to come up with creative plans, or come up with viable and creative solutions, they tend to rise up to the challenge and will do just that. Even encouraging them to suggest new ways to perform tasks can yield good results. Further, they will be more confident and will feel more valued, making them an even more productive and worthwhile employee. Further, when managers or team leaders express confidence in their employees, and emphasize that their contributions are important, involve their employees in decision making and reduce bureaucracy in governance and decisions, employees are more creative and stimulated, and are therefore more productive. Also, having affect-based trust, where the trust is genuine, and emotional bonds are fostered between employees and managers, employees will have better perspectives on managers' motives and will feel more important to the organization, all important things when trying to foster creativity and productivity.
- Have creative sessions: Apply does this. Up to 1.5 of their working day is given up to creativity sessions. You must give your employees space to be original, and the freedom to explore ideas, either alone or in groups.
- Constantly question: ask yourself constantly if your work practices are the best you can do. Think of alternate approaches to issues and problems.
- Encourage groups: this can streamline beneficial thoughts and ideas. Having individualistic or competitive work cultures can stifle creativity.
- Do not ridicule: if people fear being ridiculed, they will not be creative. Have people understand that not every idea is going to work, not every solution generated will be viable. However, you must work through all of that, encourage each other, and be ready to accept when things do not work. That is alright, though, and should not be considered a failure. Rather, look at things that do not work out as learning sessions. Failure should not be a word used; learning and growth, however, are terms that should be the standard. Mistakes should be seen not as failures.
- Do not micromanage: this stifles creativity. When people are not free, or are constantly being watched, they are being told they are not trusted or valued. This demeans and belittles them, and causes them to be less creative and less productive. This is not recommended. There could be a 10:1 rule in place, however, which governs positive and constructive feedback. Employees need ten times more positive feedback than they do negative. Employees should be recognized early on for their successes, even if the recognition is small and simple. Praise and reward should be liberally distributed; however it should not be given out for every little thing, or it will lose its positive feedback edge and people will no longer care about the praise and reward because it will not have the value any longer. Therefore, reward and praise should be given out for legitimate purposes, but it should be given out nonetheless.
- Encourage meditation: even simple breath meditation has been shown by multiple research studies to boost creativity. Consider encouraging employees to meditate, and maybe have a "meditation corner", where some cushions and a quiet area are set up for those who wish to take a break during the day to go meditate. There could even be meditation retreats set up for those who are interested in learning more about the practice or engaging in it.
- Clarify goals: time should be taken to clarify motivations and goals. Further, individuality and collaboration should also be stressed regularly. Have purpose and communicate that purpose to others, encouraging them to also value that purpose and goals, and adding to it through their own work and goals.
- Question and listen: take the time to be curious about others. Ask about their goals, motivations, concerns, and stresses. Take time to address each other. Make each employee know they are valued not just as an employee and someone who delivers products for the organization, but also as a human. Further, encourage communication about their thought processes; have actual conversations in comfortable settings.
- Encourage curiosity: create an environment where people are encourage to ask questions, question the status quo, and express their own thoughts. Curiosity is the natural state for many people, and leads to creativity.
- Encourage movement: studies have shown that moving around, like taking a walk outside, can help stimulate creativity. Encourage employees to move around during the day; have an on-site gym if possible and encourage its use. Perhaps have incentives for employees to engage in exercise. Movement and physical health are related to creativity. Taking movement breaks helps break up the day and quell monotony. Having walking meetings also can help in the creativity department.
- Ask new employees for their ideas: do not bring them into the scene and have them think that "this is just the way things are done here." Rather, encourage them to bring up their own ideas and thoughts about the ways things are currently done. This will not only foster positive communication but can also help take advantage of a new set of eyes.
- Have challenges: encourage employees to come up with ideas every month by having "idea challenges." The goal is to take an issue and generate ways to solve it. This can be done on a whiteboard, on an excel, Google hangout, or any place where people can go in, post their ideas, and have other comment on it and build upon it. This is a great way to also foster collaboration and communication.
- What if… every meeting should have a "what if" component to them. What if we did things this way, what if we decided to this instead, what if we…
- Develop your own creativity: as a team leader, it is your responsibility to also develop your own creativity. It is not enough to rely on your employees for that. Also, when you come up with ideas, but also encourage those ideas to be challenged, everyone grows, including yourself. It is important to develop yourself, just as you would your employees. Also, having employees seeing you develop yourself may also encourage them to do the same in their lives. Teach by example. That is the way of an effective leader.
- Do not put down others as an example: never put down someone, not for their ideas, their opinions, or anything about them. Ridicule does not work. It stifles the mind and people will resent you, further stifling creativity and productivity.
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