Being creative and innovative are top critical success factors — not only for companies, but for leaders and their teams. In order to grow, relying on the same ideas that have scored past successes just won’t cut it. Leaders need to foster diverse ideas by creating environments that encourage innovative thinking, embrace collaboration, and unlock creative potential.
This Harvard Business Review article outlines four ways leaders can get their team’s creative juices flowing. And they support the improv-based methods pioneered on our stages that inspire ground-breaking comedy. These same methods can be used to drive innovation and collaboration in the business world. (We even wrote a book about it.)
In order to unlock creative potential, discover the next big idea, and drive growth, try these initial steps in the improv co-creation process.
Create From Abundance
This is rapid fire ideation at its best. No idea is wrong. No idea is judged. No idea is shot down for being potentially over budget or out of scope. It is crucial for leaders to empower everyone to contribute and create a safe space for idea generation. Just open the flood gates. Capture all of them on a white board, post-it notes, giant sheets of paper, a Google doc, etc... so they are logged. Just get the ideas out.
And when the ideas start to slow down, push the team to come up with more. It’s okay if the room gets silent for a bit. Sit in the silence. Don’t let the team off the hook so easily. It’s after this point, when the ideas slow down, that the most innovative, creative, out-of-the-box thinking happens. Yes, some ideas might be absurd and wildly unrealistic. That’s ok! That means the process is working and new ideas are bubbling up! Be the idea champion and let it go there.
The foundation of all improv tenets, this means accepting what someone else is offering (without judgement), and adding to it. This is crucial to building momentum during creative concepting, getting everyone engaged, and unlocking new ideas. As a leader, set ground rules for your team at the beginning of the session banning words like “no” and “but” because they will slow down the velocity of ideas during this initial phase. Leave judgement at the door to build up, not tear down, all the great ideas being generated.
By this point, the group should have a mountain of ideas and now it’s time to evaluate. Naturally some ideas start to rise to the top and others atrophy and die. That’s okay and very necessary. Hopefully during the ‘Yes, And’ phase everyone was engaged and building on ideas, so one person’s initial contribution becomes a team contribution over a series of validations and additions.
During this phase, it’s important as a leader to guide the team through the edit process. It may seem daunting to go through all of the ideas again, but it’s important and the initial pass should be quick. To narrow the focus, group similar ideas together and remove any outliers that didn’t generate a lot of momentum. If there are still too many ideas, take them through the process again to heighten, explore, and hone.
Not technically part of the improv process, but snacks are great.
And there you have it! Some short and sweet suggestions to open your team to new possibilities and build on each other’s ideas. By creating from abundance, Yes, And’ing all ideas and editing ruthlessly, your team will be set up to unlock creativity and drive success.