Do you ever feel like you and your team lack creativity? Ditch the conference table, get rid of the chairs, and hold your next meeting sitting on the floor.
That’s right, the floor. Why? Well, I’ve developed this theory and the evidence seems to be stacking up in favor of this floor idea. It seems the further our heads get from the ground, the less creative we are.
Crazy, right? Well, maybe not really that crazy.
My observations are based on the past several years mentoring and teaching workshops to students ranging from kindergarten to high school.
The same session run with high school students tends to result in blank stares and plenty of silence. Eventually, they do start generating ideas, but never at the volume of the younger students. Adults are even worse at this process.
What happens to our creativity as we age? It really does seem like the further our heads get from the ground, the less capacity we have for creativity. I believe there are a few reasons...
The first is our fear of being judged. How many of your recent drawings and doodles have you taken home and hung on your fridge? Yet, have you ever seen a child hesitate to show off their finger-painted masterpiece? As social norms get their hooks into us, we seem to grow fearful of being judged by our peers. What if this fear is so deep-rooted that it actually starts to limit our ability to think creatively?
Another factor seems to be experience. While you might think our experience would make us better at generating new ideas, it seems to work in quite the opposite way. Our experience drives us to look for categories, similarities, and patterns. It’s likely that when we set out to create a new original thought, our experience works against us by limiting our thinking pattern.
At least one additional barrier is likely focus. Adults often focus too much. Younger minds seem to wander, take in more information, and explore their world with more openness.
For example, my two-year-old niece recently picked up a shoehorn with a loop on it, designed to make it easier to grip while using. She turned it upside down, put the loop end to her face and began to examine one of her stuffed animals. One man’s shoehorn is a toddler’s medical examination device. Most adults would see a shoehorn and quickly focus on its known and accepted use.
Stated simply, look at changing your environment, pushing people outside of their social norms, and inviting your mind to wander a bit.
Toss a pile of objects and doodads in the center and give everyone 15 minutes to explore and come up with unexpected ways to use the objects. Let people keep playing and exploring. Then, start to introduce your problem or opportunity that needs a new and creative solution. Make it clear that all ideas are wanted and don’t let anyone disregard any ideas shared.
Capture everything and consider using a brainstorm map and let people build off of each other’s ideas. You might just be surprised by how well reconnecting with our youthful creativity can inspire breakthrough grown-up solutions.
Check out Tim Brown’s TED talk on creativity and play