Creativity Training Requires Discipline

By Campbell, Patricia G. | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, June 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

Creativity Training Requires Discipline


Campbell, Patricia G., Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Getting employees to think in new ways takes a lot of time and effort--and determination--from management.

The single greatest hindrance to the creative process is management itself. Challenging assumptions and looking at information in new ways takes time and patience--not things management typically has lots of. And although fostering creativity and teamwork is basically easy, making it a priority is extremely hard. Without a major commitment by senior-level management, new ideas are unlikely to surface.

Every business's growth hinges on innovation. Unfortunately, creativity--the activity that leads to innovation--is one of the first things to take a back seat in a downsized environment. People aren't inherently less creative when they're working hard; they simply have less time to indulge their creative energies.

With this in mind, I offer four ingredients for fostering the creative process:

Make the time. Creativity can't be a hobby: It requires serious attention. Management's role must be to force the time to let it happen. Designate one day a month for the entire company to engage in some sort of creative activity, such as brainstorming sessions. For example, tell your employees to scour the press for creative ideas in other industries. The monthly "creative day" can then be used to identify the principles behind those creative successes and to see how they might be applied to your own business. I have found that the very best ideas for our industry often come from observing what works in other fields. We need not reinvent the wheel. Pairing things that have seemingly little in common often leads to new revelations.

There are a dozen ways to use the day effectively--the key for managers is to provide the structure to let employees take the time. People are not inherently motivated to structure themselves in teams--it takes effort, organization and a willingness to be flexible.

Make it fun. Creativity can't be simply another office task. Take off the ties, the jackets, the high heels. Develop entertaining procedures for engaging people in the process. The entire Times Mirror circulation department recently spent a week thinking of ways to increase profitability by looking beyond the traditional ways of cutting costs and increasing revenues. To get the creative juices flowing, the department was divided into groups of eight people, and each group was assigned a certain task. One group was sent to the grocery store to buy boxes of cereal that caught their attention, with the idea that the cereal shelf is similar to a newsstand. When the group met and discussed their decision-making processes, the results were related to how consumers buy at the newsstand, which led to several new, very creative thoughts about magazine cover design.

Another group was told to purchase the most valuable item they could find (other than a magazine subscription) for $10. The group discussed what they bought and what they found valuable in the items they purchased. As a result of this exercise, a number of very creative copy platforms were developed for direct mail. There were several other similar activities that were fun to do; as a result, people became willingly engaged in the process.

Make it everyone's job. …

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