Meeting Uncertainty with Creativity

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Dr. Jo Yudess, Creativity Professional, International Center for Studies in Creativity

Economic growth is directly related to increasing the productivity of the individual and the ability to come up with new ideas that are marketable.  This is true not just for national economies, but for companies as well.  This becomes particularly important when world economic growth is uncertain.  So how does a leader build resilience into his workforce, his company, his city, his country?  How do you see threats before they are obvious?  How do you respond to economic challenges in such a way that it puts your company ahead of the competition?  How do you remain relevant when the pace of technological and societal change advance at break-neck speeds?  (See this article in Portuguese)

Creative people are the answer.  Dr. Jo Yudess of the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) asserts, “We’ve found that having problem solving skills leads to having more ideas and better ideas.”  Sustainable resilience requires maintaining high levels of innovation and the capital investment in the most precious of natural resources, innovative teams.

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People spend a lot of their working life in meetings.  The ICSC recently conducted a study to determine the efficacy of problem solving skills in meetings.  Meetings can be barometers for a company’s ability to innovate.  “We discovered as a kind of afterthought that the process, even the simple process of separating idea generation from idea evaluation is extremely impactful,” says Dr. Yudess.  Evaluation, can often turn into criticism and separating the idea generation phase from criticism, and judgement allows the psychological space to discuss ideas and have a positive effect on group dynamics.

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Dr. Yudess adds, “When the purpose of the exercise was to come up with the best two ideas, some groups with no training or process only came up with two ideas.  Trained groups choose from the many alternatives they generate to select the most promising ones.”

Independent idea evaluators rated ideas generated from the study not knowing what groups generated them.  “We had the results we’d hoped for,” Dr. Yudess revealed, “People with higher levels of training had the newest ideas and most relevant ideas.”

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The Creative Problem Solving process itself sets up an attitude of acceptance of unusual ideas, “Unfortunately in our world today people are taught to evaluate in a negative sense.”  Dr. Yudess emphasizes, “People trained in Creative Problem Solving are taught to look at the possibilities first, take the exciting ideas and expand them or change them.  They aren’t concerned about whether ideas are unusual.”

To implement great ideas, organizations must demonstrate commitment to innovation by training people to have a mind-set that is open to unusual ideas.  Thousands of great ideas will do nothing to help save an organization if the culture of the organization is to criticize ideas before they are developed.  “In the world today, there’s no longer a comfort level where we can just do what we’ve done and get what we’ve always gotten,” Dr. Yudess insists, “you either innovate or you perish.”

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There is a bigger risk in doing the same thing over and over and never making progress.  Proctor and Gamble, a company where training employees in Creative Problem Solving has long been the norm is an example of sustainable corporate innovation.  Dr. Yudess, a globally experienced Creative Problem Solving facilitator relates, “It’s important to do Creative Problem Solving in a proven, systematic manner, that’s why people from the ICSC go out and train people around the world, we know it’s a process that works.”  Where there is no innovation, someone will step in and fill the vacuum.  The question is will it be you, or will it be your competitor?

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