If you want children to be creative, you create space conducive to creation. A finger-painting station has paints, lots of paper and areas you don't mind getting messy. The same holds true for managing creative types; they need space, tools and a big allowance for messiness. A certain amount of chaos is included when brining ideas to fruition- whether its for finger paints or designing a new marketing campaign. This includes spilled paint, lots of wasted paper and a certain amount of 'non-goal oriented time.'** The second part of this equation is permission. In the above painting example, little more is necessary than saying "Here are the paints, go ahead." To lead a creative team, however, you must allow and communicate that ideas/ play/ randomness is not only allowed, but rather encouraged.
What does your company do to encourage creativity?
Today's Big Idea: One way to generate lots of great ideas is to generate lots of (bad, regular, moderately successful) ideas.*
* I write jokes. But I can only sell great jokes. To get to 10 great jokes, I usually have to write forty OK ones, a few stinkers and a few I don't even understand. That's the success ratio that works for me. If you want to be a successful creative person, expect to create alot -- including creating/ writing/ discovering quite a bit of bland material. Get it out of the way so you can get to the great stuff.
Generating ideas means getting out of your linear, logical, one answer per question mode of thinking. The enemy of idea generation is judgement -- especially early in the process.You need to learn to accept un-finished lists, unrelated content and non-problem solving answers. If you are an alpha or a leader or intellectual -- this will be hard.
In my classes, I often list numbered bullet points on the white board...then leave them un-filled in. Or number things out of order -- to represent the idea that (at least for a while) you have to be OK with not knowing.
We are taught over many years to be linear, logical, and answer focused... Creativity demands otherwise. Try leaving some blank spaces for later. Try being silly - the ultimate form of out of the box creativity.
But do you know what a Wiki is or how it works? Here's a great intro I found by the clever folks at Common Craft entitled "Wiki's in Plain English" -- go watch it now. Seriously. I'll wait....
Wasn't that amusing? If you have the free time (and really, if you're reading this, you probably do) you should watch their explanation of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and then click one of the handy Syndication links we've provided to the right (or their Twitter in Plain English so you can stay connected to us here at The Big Idea Blog. But we'll explore both of those in future articles.
So this wiki thing -- pretty spiffy. Wouldn't it be cool if you could have your own wiki? On your own computer? (wouldn't it also be really cool if I didn't have to ask leading yet engaging questions?)
NOW YOU CAN! (okay, you've been able to for awhile, but its been one of those best kept secrets....okay....not really.....uhm....maybe just....overlooked? stay with me here...it's worth it....its like finding the toy surprise at the bottom of the box of cereal or cracker jacks)
The authors claim its SOOO simple to setup, that you can do it in TWO easy steps.
1. Download the software
3. There is no step three!
It runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. And its not just for single users -- small teams, workgroups, or even companies can use it to start saving and sharing what I like to call "Tribal Knowledge." It is a completely safe sandbox, in that it is always making backups of your content (called version control) -- so you can always go back in time to see a previous version. Kind of like the The Wayback Machine.
Instiki is no feather-weight either -- it has an impressive set of features including the ability to support the aforementioned RSS feed, but also super cool is the ability to output to .pdf directly!
Instiki is absolutely so easy to use, that you'll kind of forget that you're using software at all -- its just like browsing the web -- but all the data/information is safely stored on your local machine (though you can have your ISP load the software for you -- and if not, find a better ISP).
I used Instiki at BackPack Software for the team to keep track of everything from individual call logs, to server setup/configuration, to important notes about our best (and worst) customers.
I now use Instiki on my local desktop to keep track of contacts, random thoughts, ideas, cool lyrics, and sometimes like a journal. All of it is password protected, instantly searchable, and portable. I've even put a copy onto an encrypted USB Flash Drive so its always available.
When (and if) you find you need something with more power/features -- there is of course a fairly complete list of wiki server software in Wikipedia. Drop me a note if you need a recommend.
Give today's Big Idea a test drive for a month and let us know how your experience is going? You might even want to blog about it