The Art of Facilitating Creativity

15784168266_80c7288b1a_bI’ve been involved in dozens, if not hundreds, of creative situations throughout the years. I’ve worked with many creative people and seen many different styles of creativity and I’ve noticed some common denominators of all creative processes, sessions, activities and situations. One of the things that I have seen from a lot of people who are engaged in creative endeavors is being very playful. I think one of the problems with corporate America today is that we’ve forgotten how to be playful in the workplace. Too many places are worried only about the bottom line, and making a profit and they’ve put pressure on their workforce and that has squeezed out ‘playfulness’ from the workplace. Now, I’m not insinuating that we should all play all day long at work, because that’s not what I’m trying to suggest. Rather, a playful work environment is a space that you create in the workplace where employees are allowed to be playful and have fun. Clean fun, safe fun, fun that’s not harmful. Sure, it’s okay to play practical jokes and laugh and be giddy – there’s nothing wrong with that in the workplace. The problem is, employers look at that as being unproductive, and it stifles your company’s creativity. Your employees are your best resource, and your best motivation for your employees is to allow them to be playful because if they’re playful in the workplace they will be more creative. That’s step one in the creative process, based on my observations over the years.

The second common denominator of the creative people that I’ve worked with over the years is that they create a ‘creative space’. In other words, the opposite of what I’m trying to say is, if you walk into a closet and close the door because you feel that it’s going to be a sensory deprivation situation, that is the opposite of a creative space because you’re closing yourself off and you’re closing your mind to the world. Rather, create a space that has items that you like in it, it’s decorated and it makes you feel good to be in that space. It could include candles and incense; it could include rocks and minerals; different types of pictures and artwork; toys and trinkets that have a pleasant memory attached; crossword puzzles – anything that allows you to feel happy and comfortable in that space. Because you can’t be creative in an environment that is ‘anti-creative’ – it’s impossible.

Another component of creativity is to have creativity partners. Somebody that you can be creative with. Perhaps your company has teams of two, three or four people to whom you assign tasks to be creative. Like at Primeau Productions we have creativity teams, where employees are paired together or work together in  order to come up with more creativity than they would individually and by themselves. Highly successful entertainers like David Letterman or Conan O’Brien have creative teams that write content for their monologues and their programs. Comedians like Ron White and Jeff Foxworthy and Kathleen Madigan have creative teams that help write their material. Sure, they’re part of those teams and, sure, their life circumstances are part of the material that these creative teams use to develop more creative material but by pairing yourself up with at least one other person to help you be more creative you’re expanding your possibilities.

And some rules to consider when being creative with other people. Number one: don’t ever criticize anyone’s suggestions during the creative process. Rather, develop and build on each other’s suggestions. So if a creative partner says something that you think is hideously wrong, don’t say that – instead, say ‘hey, you’re onto something there – what else can we do to make it better?’ If you look at successful ventures, like any motion picture or talent or musical group there is more than one individual that contributed to the creativity for that endeavor. And those creative minds coming together is far more powerful than each individual would be alone. There have been a lot of scientific studies done at many different universities dating as far back as a UC Berkeley study back in the ‘70s by Dr. Donald W. MacKinnon. And they’ve studied and explored the creative processes and come up with actual scientific data as to what it takes to be creative. What I’m hoping that you get reading this blog post is that it’s important to go back to creativity, especially in times like the ones we are in when unexplainable situations happen, like hurricane Sandy, that devastate people and creative ways need to be developed in order to solve seemingly overwhelming situations.

Whenever I’m faced with a problem, as CEO of Primeau Productions, I never make a decision until I feel that I have a variety of answers and possibilities. If I’m given a situation or a problem I often take two or three days before I make a decision about solving that problem. It’s the same with creativity. You can’t sit down at a table and say ‘okay, I’ve got to be done being creative by 2:00’ – that’s not how it works! You have to have your space, you have to have your team, you have to have your circumstances, your task, and you start to build on all of the resources that you have in order to design a creative structure to whatever it is that you’re trying to be creative with. At Primeau Productions it might happen to be a documentary that we’re working on, or a professional speaker demo video. It could also be a campaign that we’ve been asked to create for video marketing.

No one person can be as creative as a team of creative people. Bringing creativity into the organization helps to breathe life back into the organization and allow incredible growth and success as a result of that creative environment.

Creativity is not something you either have or don’t have – I believe everyone on the planet has the ability and resources to be creative. Even spirituality can lead to creativity. I also believe that creativity can be developed over time, like muscle – once you tap into your creative energy you will discover what you personally need to continue to build and flex your ‘creative muscle’.

photo credit: Eugenio Cruz Vargas en su taller via photopin (license)

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