Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

The benefits of working with limitations

In most of our ‘everyday’ projects we are forced to work within constraints of time, materials, skills and budgets, as well as a range of highly specific client needs, giving very little room for experimentation – the focus is on delivery. When we’re experimenting creatively we don’t need to be anywhere near as rigid, but working within constraints is an excellent way to channel and focus our creative efforts.

 

Creativity Quotes

Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem. – Rollo May

 

Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote his sonatas within an equally rigid discipline – exposition, development, and recapitulation. Were they dull? – David Ogilvy

 

The benefits of working with limitations

Working within a set plan is as critical to developing our creative experience as the aimless doodling we’ve discussed in previous newsletters (Relaxing into Creativity). It offers us the opportunity to put into practice the abstract discoveries captured from our non-focused contemplations, and stretches our responses, ironically forcing us to be more innovative, rather than less.

 

If we don’t have specific imposed constraints, one nice approach is to copy the way children make up rules for their games. These ‘rules’ generally take a reasonably simple exercise which offers little sense of accomplishment in itself but by adding daring elements and time limits, turn it into a series of challenges to pit their wits against. 

 

In a creative project, these rules create a kind of lens, temporarily distorting the way we view the world, focusing our attention to ‘draw out’ our creativity as we rise to the challenge of examining and representing our world from a new perspective. 

 

We also feel invigorated by overcoming challenges, and as we go along, set ourselves new and more stimulating ‘rules’ that allow us to grow from strength to strength. 

 

By forcing us to go beyond our comfort zone, these imposed ‘strictures’ allow us to experiment, push ourselves a little bit further, develop confidence in our ability to meet challenges, and develop whole new lines of interest.  

 

Wishing you all a stimulating and invigorating May.

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Working Collaboratively on Creative Projects

Thank you to everyone for the wedding wishes – they are much appreciated. As many of you pointed out, weddings are in fact large creative projects, and form a good starting point for looking at collaborative projects.

Creativity Quotes
Clearly no group can as an entity create ideas. Only individuals can do this. A group of individuals may, however, stimulate one another in the creation of ideas – Estill I. Green, Vice President Bell Labs Innovation Research Company

Throughout history, we have pulled off amazing feats as a result of our ability to collaborate and build upon our collective efforts. As a species, when we coordinate and play to our higher purpose, we are pretty amazing – Stephen James Joyce, Collaboration Consultant & Author

Working Collaboratively on Creative Projects
Collaborative creative projects differ from most of our other projects in a few important ways. Above all, a creative project has a personal touch. Even if it’s a functional work, as most projects are, it’s not utilitarian – and that gives it a very special uniqueness.

Another key difference is ownership. Usually when we work on projects, there is one ‘project leader’ whose vision and plan we follow, and we add our own skills as and when needed. But when we’re working on a creative project, each person’s expression must be represented in the final outcome, without being diminished by other contributions or alternately dominating the final picture. It’s a challenge of balance and respect.

Whether you’re decorating your reception area or making an album for a family member, collaborative projects succeed best when a clear goal is agreed on at the outset. This is not the ‘final blue print’ but an idea of what you aim to achieve, what emotions or concepts you want to communicate, and, significantly, what characteristics bind you as a team.

For example, you may be scrapbooking “holiday memories” as a family, or defining your company motto of “great service”. When you identify your team characteristics, it becomes easier to see your own unique expression, what makes you part of the team, and the role you play inside the group – allowing you to express yourself in harmony with everyone else.

And lastly, an important difference between collaborative projects and individual creative work is that collaborative projects are more public, and tend to be created for an audience – even if it’s just one person in the form of a gift.

Unlike personal poems or a musical experiment we may be working on, these projects must be looked at with an end product in mind, but at the same time provide a public space for each person’s unique expression. In this way, they are an excellent means for promoting both idea sharing and teamwork, and innovating new solutions to creative challenges.

The discussions that arise as we work on these projects allow us to get to know each other in a much more meaningful way, spur us on to reach new levels of achievement, and ultimately help us define ourselves and our strengths and talents – without competing against each other.

Ideas for collaborative projects:
· Making an album for a family member
· Decorating your reception area, or play / recreation area
· Making a commemorative art work such as a quilt or mosaic
· Starting a musical project or band
· Planning an event – such as a Wedding J

May working with others stimulate you to discover more about yourself.

Thoughts on Innovation

One of the aspects of creativity that can be taken into the workplace is innovation – a huge topic that I’ll be delving into from time to time. Although it is bandied about in intimidating terms, innovation is simply creativity seen in an applied context, and in fact we all do it all the time, in the work-arounds we develop to deal with our daily challenges. 

Creativity Quotes
There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns – Edward de Bono  

When you get a result that you expect, you have another result; but when you get a result that you don’t expect, you have a discovery – Frank Westheimer 

Thoughts on Innovation
Change is often forced on us, when we run into problems with the set methods or tools we use to get something done. Often we find we need a different result from a process, or need to incorporate new methods, materials and even people with different skills. The more comfortable we are with our creativity, the simpler we find it to experiment with finding new solutions. 

Creative exercise forms the basis of innovation. Taking the process of experimenting with different materials and techniques for different effect, creativity makes the leap to “innovation” when we find something that really improves our activity or product in a way that we can apply consistently.  

Because our society seems to believe that only gurus can innovate, we often overlook opportunities to use our own creative abilities. Areas where we are stumped, or experience ongoing frustration are a great place to start – there’s nothing to lose, and if you succeed you not only ease your day, you also grow in confidence to tackle new challenges. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, these questions will set you firmly on the road to innovation: 

  • What can’t be changed? Once you know this, it frees you up to focus elsewhere J 
  • What can be changed? Innovation is typically an adaptation of processes, tools, or both. 
  • Tools & Materials: Are there better / other materials I could be using? 
  • Process: How do other people do similar things? What happens if I change the order around? What steps could I incorporate? What can I leave out? 
  • What impact will the changes I make have? The only way to answer this is to try it out in practice. 

As with all creative exercise, it’s important to leave room for unexpected results. It’s easy to call these ‘flaws’ but often this is where the magic is lying. Asking whether these new developments can be utilized in any way is often the key to unlocking truly new results. And making a note of what works and what doesn’t builds your knowledge for future reference, making the process simpler and more familiar with time. 

Developing an innovative approach is about being comfortable enough with our creativity to accommodate change as it comes, and even be able to initiate it through our creative discoveries, at each stage discovering a little bit more of our creative power.