Three Points for Encouraging Creativity within a Team

In a scene in Mad Men, Peggy Olsen builds on Paul Kinsey’s despair over his poor memory, to note that an advantage of a telegraph is its permanent record, prompting Don Draper to coin, “you can’t frame a telephone call.” In a brief conversation the three developed an idea that did not exist with any of them separately (Episode 8 of Season 3).

Sometimes the key to creativity lies in the team.

Relationships are important. Along with the obvious emotional power of social encounters go ways of thinking. Left to themselves, people are vulnerable to ruts. One thought just seems to follow another. Finding a new idea often requires a bit of a jolt.

That jolt may simply be a distraction that undermines a sense of flow. When that happens, the best response is to minimize the interruption to get back to work. A sense of flow is a valuable thing.

When people are working together on a shared mission, they are likely to provide one another with diverse points of view. They are thinking about the same challenge, but each brings a distinct perspective. Working as a team can generate ideas that go beyond the potential of any one person working alone.

Here are some points that help to make the most of team creativity:

  • Psychological Safety. Create and sustain an environment where members feel confident of taking risks and discussing tough issues. The goal is to generate ideas, not to control them.
  • Team Resilience. Only a few ideas make it to realization. Encourage and support a team through the tough process of bringing a few ideas through the critical scrutiny that they will inevitably meet.
  • Listen. Appreciating a colleague’s idea means opening your mind as well as your ears. It’s the essence of civility. The implications are not always sitting on the surface. Innovation requires deep reflection.

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