According to Creative Change Agent James Bannerman, there’s no such thing as a lost cause when it comes to unharnessing creativity.
Bannerman spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.
The stifling of creativity is a slow but inexorable process. Evidence suggests that humans are incredibly creative as children. By the time we reach adulthood, however, we have often lost the ability to connect with our innate creativity due to a combination of upbringing, education, fear of criticism, the need for conformity and the boundaries of the corporate environment.
The good news is that innovation is now firmly on the agenda for businesses worldwide. Managers are pushing their teams to be more creative which, for some individuals, can be quite daunting, especially when you believe you’re simply “not a creative type”.
According to Bannerman, though, everyone has innate creativity. It’s simply a matter of re-educating ourselves and learning some tips and tricks to unlock your creative potential. “Our minds become so full of ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that’, and ‘that won’t work’, and ‘that’s been done before’, that a lot of our innate creativity gets squashed and stifled.”
Here are three tips on unleashing creativity from Bannermann’s interview with Philip Ideson.
Stop labelling yourself
There’s no such thing as a lost cause. Bannerman has worked across multiple sectors, unleashing creativity in teams including Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and some space agencies. But you don’t have to work in a “creative” profession to be creative. “It doesn’t matter if people are nuclear physicists, or accountants, or if they work in the world of marketing. The point is that creativity can manifest itself in many different ways.”
“I haven’t yet seen a completely lost cause. In fact, some of the best ideas I’ve ever come across have been from the people working in professions where you’d least expect to see creativity. The TV companies and the advertising agencies aren’t always the most innovative and creative because often they’re just regurgitating what they’ve done before. It’s in other groups, like accountants, where people generate ideas that make you think: ‘Wow’.”
Stop trying too hard
“Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”
Bannerman explains that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. If you say to yourself ‘I must come up with the best procurement idea ever right now’, chances are that you’ll become stressed and nothing will come to mind. It’s about finding that optimum state.”
Make room to be creative
Bannerman has observed that creativity is often hamstrung by legislation, regulations and an atmosphere unconducive to lateral thinking. “There has to be wriggle room in a team’s dynamic. If people are too afraid of getting things wrong, or if they continually feel that everything has to be 100 per cent perfect straight away, then they’ll fall into a practical mindset. They’ll only do what they know will work, what has been done before, and will endlessly repeat old patterns rather than contemplating new patterns.”
“Any part of an organisation can be creative by looking at how it can improve itself, solve problems and imagine where it wants to be in two to five years’ time. Creativity can manifest itself in many different ways, depending on the context – it could just be about improving processes, systems or structures. It doesn’t have to be about inventing the next iPhone.”
Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.