“We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies… But the moment the action is over, try to return to the “open” mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is needed to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent.” John Cleese
Of course, you will know once you have crossed the chasm whether or not you made it successfully. And if you have, you can review how it went, whether or not it could have been better, easier, more efficient, and this is why feedback is so valuable. There will be a next time and what we can learn from having an open mind set (see Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset) may well lead to a more innovative and creative approach, whether solving problems or introducing something new.
Photographers know that one way to get a good picture is to take a lot of pictures. It is the same with ideas. One way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. This is why brainstorming can be a productive activity, especially if you value the thoughts, ideas and experiences of others in your department or group. Rearranging the chairs, or the schedule, is unlikely to have a major impact.
Here are several questions that you might contemplate that could help clarify your understanding and potential application of innovation and creativity. I am not even sure they belong together but that’s another discussion.
1. What are the roles of innovation and creativity in your work with your colleagues? Are they the same? Does one lead to the other? Are they merely complimentary?
2. How open (or closed) is your organization’s culture to innovation? Who are the innovators? What are their characteristics? How has it worked previously? What are the obstacles to new ideas?
3. If you had a blank sheet and were given the opportunity, how might you create or re-create your department or dividion? What would you look for in the people whom you want to hire? What methods would you use to deliver the optimum experience for both colleagues and customers? How would you measure or assess your effectiveness overall?