Creativity Tools: Versatile Problem Solvers That Can Double as Fun and Games

Article excerpt

By now, supervisors may find staffers suffering from a case of post-summer blahs. In October, with Labor Day, vacations, and long evenings over, people start to hunker down, as if shoring up resources to get through the winter.

While these may be only seasonal doldrums--and, presumably, temporary--riding them out hardly seems an adequate solution.

What can a supervisor do when employees hit such slumps and their performance becomes unacceptably lackluster?

The fact is that often, in such situations, what employees really need is not more discipline but less. They need to step back, take a deep breath, and lighten up.

This is where creativity tools come in. They are powerful aids used by organizations to generate innovative and profitable ideas. But because creativity resembles play more than anything else, and because virtually everyone has fun at creativity sessions, the techniques also become the perfect vehicle for combatting winter burnout.

The Capacity to Be Creative

Before describing some creativity techniques, let me say something about creativity. There are a very few Michelangelos and Einsteins in the world; but everyone has the capacity to be creative. If you've ever had a daydream, you have been, and still can be, creative.

Creativity tools come into play once your group has analyzed the situation and stated the problem. The key to these exercises, and their chief shared characteristic, centers on perspective: The techniques all come at problems from a new angle, and by doing so they stimulate new ideas.

Ordinarily, custom or habit obscures what might be obvious to someoness less familiar with the territory. A close colleague of Albert Einstein remarked that one of Einstein's many rare traits was the ability "to take a fresh look at everything that came his way."

Most frequently, creativity programs encourage a team approach. The interaction among team members indicates what each individual member and the group as a whole can accomplish. And the sense of camaraderie that springs up is catching.

Some Creativity Techniques

Here are some "generic" exercises that have emerged from creativity programs:

Pet peeve technique. As a team, brainstorm as many complaints as possible about every facet of your department. This would include complaints from customers (both in-house and outside), from competitors, or from suppliers, if you deal with them. …