Creative Conversations: Boosting Creativity in Meetings

How do you boost creativity in meetings?  The key here is to tap the “corporate mind.”

The root work of “corporation” is the Latin word “corpus.”  It means “body.”  The definition of “corporation” is “a body of people acting as a single entity and authorized as such under the law.”  To maximize creativity requires getting a group of people together who in a sense represent the corporate body then helping them feel safe so that they will share their ideas and opinions.

Because individuals have diverse thinking styles, experiences and temperaments, they will naturally have different perspectives and come up with different ideas that contribute to constructing a creative new solution, product, process or new business opportunity.  As such, it is ideal to have a group that is large enough to generate diverse ideas but not so large that it becomes unwieldy.  Eight to ten individuals should be sufficient for most issues.  With issues that are more complex, and/or require broader support and implementation, you may want to have broad participation (an issue I will write about in a later post).

Here are few ways to structure a meeting and create a safe environment so that creativity will be maximized:

1. Invite a mix people to participate in creative conversations — some who are close the issue at hand, others who are not as close.  By including some participants who are not as close to the issue you are more likely to generate  out-of-the-box ideas;

2. Begin the meeting with a quick warm-up exercise by saying “I would like to begin our meeting with a quick exercise that has been proven to stimulate creativity. Stand up, find a colleague you don’t know well and ask them what their interests are outside of work, then reciprocate.”  (You could also have participants ask questions such as “who is your favorite musician?,” “what is your favorite movie?” or “what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given over your life?”)  This exercise helps warm up the introverts who are more likely to contribute to creative conversations if they feel connected to others in the group (and the exercise helps boost their sense of connection);

3. The leader of the creative conversation should share his or her thoughts about the issue at hand (what I call “putting your cards on the table”).  After he or she does this, he or she should say to group participants  “no one has a monopoly on good ideas and we need everyone to share what they believe is right, what’s wrong and what’s missing from my thinking?” This gives participants permission to say what’s on their mind;

4. If some participants are not contributing to the creative conversation, the leader needs to ask each individual what’s on his or her mind.   When this becomes a standard practice in an organization, individuals are more likely to actively participate in meetings.

Creative conversations can be used to stimulate new ideas for growing your business, reducing expenses, coming up with new product, process and lines of business.  I’ll write more about this important issue next week.

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