In a previous post we looked at the importance of seed ideas, thinking in the future state, and ten tips for stimulating creativity. In this follow-up post let's take a look at four core competencies of creativity, and how they relate to online collaboration.
Four competences of creativity facilitated by idea campaigns
Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, puts forward four core competencies for creative expression: Capturing, Surrounding, Challenging, and Broadening. Each one of these can be nicely facilitated by online idea campaigns:
“The first and most important competency is capturing - preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them”
At the individual level, an online platform allows users to capture ideas via their mobile, take pictures, save them as drafts, and come back to them later. I’ve heard many objectives - particularly from engineers - who say that they worry about losing their patent rights by adding ideas into the system, but quite the opposite is true: hiding your idea in a notebook is the biggest risk, but documenting it with a timestamp and author, in a backed-up repository, establishes prior ownership, and an excellent ‘paper trail’.
At the organizational level, capturing knowledge via ideas is incredibly important. Even if you run the ideation sessions outside of the tool, in a brainstorming workshop for example, you should still document them online. Encourage people to keep ideating in the same ways, but just ask that they fire up a campaign and load in the ideas and comments when done. It’s easy, and adds to the searchable repository of knowledge within the company - you never know when somebody might be searching in one system, and a highly relevant idea pops up from another, via a search integration. Existing ideas can also always be moved into new campaigns and put to good use.
“...which has to do with how you manage your social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.”
As mentioned previously, inspiration spaces act as stimulants for campaigns - places where stories and examples can be placed to help generate fresh thinking. By also opening up campaigns to wider audiences, you allow people to move between different fields - not just their own area of expertise. This can help to diversify thought, and as Epstein says, make it more interesting.
“...giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas.”
By their very nature campaigns pose a challenge to the audience. You want to make these challenges meaningful - and have a sponsor that truly cares about getting an outcome which can be implemented. People also need to care about the sponsor, try to ensure it’s somebody who has a reputation for getting things done, or is well liked throughout the company.
Leaderboards, competitions, and prizes can all help to boost the challenge nature. But ultimately you’ll want to appeal to the intrinsic motivations of people rather than extrinsic, through empathy for the problem and the need for a solution. Once you put extrinsic rewards in, it can be hard to take them out again.
“The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections - so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things.”
Supporting material can take time to gather and compile, but it’s worth doing for campaigns. Don’t just throw up a question, invite everybody, and watch the stats. Try to create a learning experience - provide background material, links to videos, examples of how others have solved similar problems. People love to learn for free and in their own time, and campaigns can offer both formal materials, plus the exposure to knowledge from others via ideas and comments.
Company-wide campaigns are a broadening exercise for many employees - it’s outside of their day to day job, requires relatively low commitment, and can be immensely rewarding. When a campaign really takes off, it can be an exciting online space, where thousands of people from across the globe participate. The more it takes off, the more interconnections can take place, and thus more creativity for your business.