Creativity is embodied in the the ‘6H dimensions’: Head, Hands, Heart, Humor, Holism and Hostfulness. Future articles will explore specific techniques for creative idea generation, however in this one we apply the ‘Hostfulness’ dimension to creative thinking, and examine how best we can host others in the act of collaborative idea generation.
The creative process
A creative process (see past articles on the CREATE process) provides a set of steps for producing a tangible or conceptual creation such as a new product, a brand, or a marketing campaign. The generation of ideas is but one such stage, and is distinct from the later selection of ideas for implementation. In this sense the creative process mimics the process of evolution in having two distinct phases:
- An initial generative phase which creates diversity (mutation)
- A selective phase which preserves the fittest for survival (natural selection)
During the generative phase considered in this article, the focus should be on generating a rich diversity of ideas to which analytical techniques can later be applied for selection. Such richness and diversity can be facilitated through hostful creative collaboration.
The right environment
In this context ‘hostful’ simply means the creation of an environment where people from a diversity of backgrounds and education, with a richness of experiences, and a plurality of world-views and perspectives can contribute their collective genius towards creating the best solutions. Some ways of enabling this hostful state are outlined below:
1. Resist the urge to criticise ideas early in the process. During the early stages of idea generation, when fledgling ideas are starting to germinate in their tentative, poorly expressed forms, it is impossible to know which ideas, when combined with others, will ultimately be the most successful. Rather than killing emerging ideas with criticism, it is better to nurture them for their potential.
2. Substitute creatively productive question for criticism. Instead of the criticism: “That would be too expensive,” try instead: “How can we reduce the costs associated with …?” or “In what ways may we offset some of the bigger expenses encountered …?” This signals to the originator that you are prepared to embrace the idea, and engages all the participants in generating solutions.
3. Engage analogically rather than analytically. Analysis breaks an idea down into parts, scrutinises the parts for strengths or weaknesses, and rejects or accepts the whole based on this scrutiny. While analysis plays an important part during the later selection and quality-assurance phases, it cannot itself produce the rich diversity of new ideas required in the early stages of idea generation.
Analogy, on the other hand taps into the metaphorical resources of the mind, to forge new creative links between the elements of our experience. It favours synthesis over analysis, and being playful in nature, helps us to build together in a creatively collaborative way.
4. Adopt a creative AND mindset. One application of this principle is to actively build on the ideas of others by always responding with “Yes AND …” rather than tearing down their ideas with a knee-jerk “Yes BUT …” response. A second possibility is in holding a paradox until it a creative resolution emerges.
When you encounter two ideas which both appear to have merit, but which are seemingly contradictory, try to hold both in mind, and see where that leads. There are many great historical examples of this, one of the best known being the view of electrons as both particles AND waves.
The above are powerful collaborative creative thinking skills which can be developed with practice, and enhance creative idea generation through hostful collaboration.