Tag Archives: Fostering Creativity

10 Business Meeting Creativity Ideas

by Craig M. Cortello (Article available for reprint with author and website acknowledgment)

Developing an innovative spirit in the workplace doesn’t require extraordinary measures. Managers can experiment with simple ideas that merely break routines, allowing your employees permission to drop the façade that we all don to some degree when we punch the clock. Here are a few ideas that will help you lighten things up for your staff and get their creative juices flowing, if you have the courage to take the leap:

1. Dart Board
Start every staff meeting by allowing everyone a shot at the dart board. Best shot gets to kick off the meeting, appoint the moderator, or tell what they did over the weekend. Starts things off on a playful note and gets your people out of their chairs. For safety purposes, stick with the magnetic or Velcro variety.

2. Colored Markers for the Flip Chart
Sounds simple, but we are programmed from an early age to correlate the amalgamation of colors with the awakening of our imaginations. If you need further evidence of this phenomenon, observe a classroom full of first graders the next time a teacher instructs them to put away their math books and take out their crayons. And experts agree that the key to creativity lies in the ability to awaken the child inside each of us.

3. Music Creativity
Ask each team member to write a 4-line verse to a song that relates to their job duties, hobbies, business ideas, etc. Go around the room and ask them to sing, rap, or simply recite (military cadence perhaps) their verse. Print the compilation in the next company newsletter to get a little PR for your department or office (others in the organization might want to transfer in when they realize that you’ve given your staff permission to have fun).

4. Music Creativity II
Ask your staff to bring in a CD with a song that describes their personality, work attitude, or how their weekend went. Play excerpts before the meeting for a laugh.

5. To Serve Mankind
Ask your staff to convey what they did over the weekend that was a service to another person, charitable organization, or noble cause. Vote to determine whose action was most heroic and award a gift certificate to the winner, let them leave work early on Friday, or take a longer than usual lunch break. This will encourage your staff to think of new ways to develop a sense of community. It will also help your people feel good about their co-workers, get to know them better, and give them a sense of pride in the organization.

6. Vocabulary Expansion
Ask your team to bring a rarely used or obscure word to the next meeting. Have them use it in a context that is applicable to your business.

7. Memory Exercise
Read a list of 10 or 15 things, preferably something related to your business, your industry, or to a customer and give an award to the person who can commit the most items to memory. This exercise can help your staff become more familiar with your organization and with your customers. Memory development is also a key to developing new customer relationships that will help your business prosper.

8. “If I Ran This Place…”
Ask your staff what they would consider the ideal job, the ideal workplace, and the ideal location. You can’t transform your place into utopia, but you might gain some insight into feasible, marginal changes that will improve things. Now that you have them thinking without barriers, ask them what they would do first or different if they ran the company, office, or department. This one takes some courage and is not without risk, but you’ll be surprised by the answers.

9. Show and Tell
Have your staff bring something that they’ve created, that they are proud of, or from their childhood that the group would find interesting or funny. Demonstrate an interesting or unusual talent, perhaps. We loved this game when we were in kindergarten, and for some reason they made us stop playing as we got older.

10. Top 10 Lists
Until David Letterman decides to pursue intellectual property infringement, go ahead and try this one. Give a topic at your staff meeting, and ask for the answers the following week. Remember to keep it clean and non-offensive. Have your staff rank the answers and use a point system to determine the winner.

We would never ask our employees for quality without offering the resources, direction, systems, and commitment to develop procedures that ensure improvement in that area. Yet we ask employees for creativity or to “think outside the box” all of the time without giving another thought as to how to initiate the creative process. Take the first step and give your staff permission to shake things up a bit at your office. You’re likely to see some changes – for the better!

Music & the Creativity Lens

Family Practice Attorney Sands McKinley

Music and the arts are powerful means of cultivating your creative abilities. But it’s important to understand that those abilities can transcend the arts, even in endeavors considered “left-brain” dominant or activities using the “logic” part of the brain. It is said that Albert Einstein played violin when contemplating complex physics concepts, and often had (physics) breakthroughs during those (music) sessions.

In this excerpt from my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, family practice attorney Sands McKinley discussed how his musical background and songwriting helped him approach the practice of law and everything else in his life through a “creative” lens.

“It’s part of the filter of the lens that you see the whole world through,” he hypothesized. “So when you’re seeing everything with an eye toward creativity, an eye toward innovation, and an eye toward creating something out of nothing, that’s a far more relevant and practical reason to want to have music and art instruction in schools than trying to make people better in math.”

Sands also pointed to the aspect of the discipline required for music education and the correlation with business. As we’ve discussed previously, those who have the discipline to work at their craft are generally more creative than their counterparts who idly wait for inspiration to strike like lightning.

“The discipline and focus that you need to master an instrument – I definitely brought that to the practice of law as well as to the creation of the firm,” he said.

Solitude, Music, Steven Pressfield, & Creativity

One reason that I believe music education is such a powerful formative activity is the diversity of that experience. From the solitude of practicing scales and the fundamentals of your instrument to the excitement of performing in front of a live audience with a combo, band, or orchestra, the music student experiences extremes that provide a well-rounded foundation that can facilitate success in so many endeavors.

In this article by Leo Babauta entitled “The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People,” he identifies solitude, or the ability to clear your mind, reflect, and meditate alone as a key to creativity. He provides thoughts and testimonials from highly creative minds (Article link).

The concept that creativity strikes like lightning is the exception. Creative people generally hone their skills by dedicating time to their craft, and those with the discipline to do so are generally more creative.

In the book The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, author Steven Pressfield echoes those sentiments. In this passage, Pressfield quotes English dramatist and novelist W. Somerset Maugham. When asked if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration, Maugham responded, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Similarly, Pressfield himself states, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing that’s the hard part. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

You can read Pressfield’s extended thoughts on this topic at his website and his May 26, 2010 blog post entitled “Do It Anyway.”

Want to write the next great pop song, symphony, novel, or screenplay? Put away the iPhone, turn off the TV, find a setting that stimulates your muse, lock out the noise, and get started!

1500 More CEOs Demand Creativity in the Workplace

Here’s another tool in the arsenal of music and arts education advocacy efforts. The recognition of the importance of creativity in the 21st century workplace continues to escalate. This BusinessWeek article discusses survey results of 1,500 chief executives identifies creativity as the number one leadership competency of the future.

What are we doing to demand that educational institutions align with this trend by prioritizing music and arts education?

Link to Bloomberg BusinessWeek article entitled “What Chief Executives Really Want.”

Education Dilemma: Think Outside the Box or Dismantle It? (Turning a Cliche into a Culture)

In the corporate world, I attended conferences and encountered speakers who used the term “Think Outside the Box” more times than I care to remember. I think the term has been around so long that it was formerly “Think Outside the Cave.” The problem is that those words were usually spoken by someone who had a blue pen, a red pen, and a mechanical pencil in their shirt pocket – always in that order. Managers can set the tone for innovation, but that’s a whole other discussion. See “Business Meeting Creativity Ideas” or “Fostering Creativity” for more info.

I posted an interesting article from James Carlini recently where the author advocates a movement away from the 3 R’s of education toward a F-A-C-T approach that teaches Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology. I wonder how we can apply that approach to the educational culture where those concepts and systems are so engrained in all of us.

Let’s start with the breakdown of subjects. How did we arrive that these divisions of learning (math, science, English/grammar, social studies, etc.) and are they still appropriate? Taking Carlini’s lead – why not Problem Solving, Team Projects, Creative studies, and Technology as common subjects?

Some would argue that we learn problem solving and creativity in our mathematics and science classes. I ask, “Would it be better to introduce mathematics and science as a component of a Problem Solving, Group Project, or Creativity class (that’s where the arts come in)?” After all, accessing scientific data and performing mathematical tasks are increasingly tasks that computers can accomplish. Just a thought.

Does it strike anyone as odd that in the 21st century, the most heralded academic competition (The Spelling Bee) is one that can be performed in a millisecond by pressing a function key on your computer? How about a “Common Sense Bee” or a “Problem Solving Bee” instead.

I don’t claim to have the answers, and I can only imagine the frustration of the dedicated and exhausted members of teaching profession every time someone tells them how to do their jobs better.

My point is simply that when you really want innovation, you need to discard all preconceived notions of the way things have been done in the past, at least during the brainstorming stage. In other words, don’t “Think Outside the Box.” Dismantle the box and determine what shape will best serve you moving forward.