When I work with a team around improving their innovation approaches, I often ask: are you creative? Depending on the group I get between one and four hands raised. Interestingly enough I tried the same exercise with a group of Kindergarteners when I went to my son’s classroom once and most of the hands went up. Why the difference? Somewhere around Kindergarten time we start defining ourselves on a creativity scale and unless you have artistic talent, most don’t see themselves as being creative.
This is really a trick question. We are all creative — it is just that our creativity is used and applied differently. Unfortunately, as adults we rarely think about our creative style and strengths, and teams often struggle to work together on innovation projects or to create a change because of these different creative style preferences.
Imagine a group of eight people planning to go from Paris, Texas to Katmandu, but with the language skills of a 2 years old and the knowledge of a 10 year old. How hard do you think it would it be for them to plan and take the trip together?
Well, that is an analogy for what I see happening often in groups working on complex projects that require innovative skills, but who do not have the full understanding of the creative process and thinking, nor the self-awareness of how they may be able to contribute.
When I was in Florida at the Foursight® Forum, a small exchange conference with colleagues who all work in organizations or as consultants, facilitating or training groups in creativity and innovation skills and have in depth training around best innovation practices. What was striking about these two days was how effortless it was to be together and engage compared to regular meetings or exchanges. Why? Because each of us have come to understand our creative preferences using the Foursight instrument and have lived in a world where we and the people we trained have become aware of their preferences.
Meeting to share the latest research around the Foursight instrument and best practices, something interesting happened. Even though we had a lot of questions from those whose preference is clarifying, nobody got frustrated; and when we had enough questions within the time frame, we ideated possible new ideas for research and the transition was smooth and easy. We stopped diverging (i.e. looking at a bunch of options) and spend time converging (i.e. selecting the most important ones). Then we worked in small groups reviewing research and summarizing it followed by developing our own presentation, deciding who would take notes and set up the format — and it was easy. Finally we all were ready to leave and you could hear everybody implementing, mentioning the next call, discussion or project they were planning to work on together.
When the challenge for finding a place for dinner for twenty people at 7PM with no reservations arose, I was stricken by how easily it was solved versus the endless discussions I have seen with smaller groups trying to agree on a dinner plan. Somebody asked our lovely tour guide — also trained in Foursight (we are at the Dali museum, a perfectly fitting place for our group to meet for an address) — for some suggestions. I, having a preference for ideas, suggested using Open Table for options, and my friend and colleague Janice, whose preference is to integrate (and therefore is comfortable embracing all these actions —clarify, ideate, develop and implement —and usually the key person to move a project forward in a group) took it from there, called and made the reservation. Fifteen minutes later, we were seating at dinner; first the 12 people that originally said they would come and then another 6 who magically seemed to fit at our table. The dinner was a perfect symbol of what I often observed. That even in chaotic and challenging situations, there is a flow and relative easiness in reaching an outcome (or failing and starting again) because of our awareness.
I took the Foursight instrument (www.foursightonline.com) more than 10 years ago and it is still a critical instrument for my work with innovation teams. Since Foursight was created, more research has shown how valid and useful this tool can be. For example, new research presented at this Forum showed interesting data such as the tendency for teachers to evaluate children based on their own preferences (what about employee performance evaluations or hiring?) or how certain professions attract more of a certain preference profile. Not surprisingly there are more employees with an ideation preference in Advertising and more with a Clarifying preference in Finance.
There is more research to be done on Foursight instrument in terms of its application, but for now you can explore it as a great way to make your team work better on your next innovation project.
What if we lived in a world where awareness (of our own and other’s preferences) would make it so much easier to work together to solve complex problems, to find a job that fits you well, to help cope with stress or to be with people who “get you”? This is not a utopia. By increasing your awareness around your creative power, you can resurface the creativity you knew you had as a kindergartener but that you may have ignored and use it to contribute to a more fulfilling and innovative personal and professional life.