How To Crush Barriers to Creativity

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by
December 29, 2011

Here’s a scenario we’ve all been in far too many times to count: it’s late, you’ve been asked by a superior to come up with some ideas to help kick start product sales. How do you pull it off?

We’ve all suffered from creativity barriers. Today, I’d like offer up three of the largest creativity barriers and how to smash them courtesy of Luke Williams’ post from Fast Co Design.

3 Problems to Creativity

1. Feeling lost and lacking focus

This feeling of being adrift, overwhelmed and lacking direction can come as a result of an unguided brainstorming session. The problem is that brainstorming ignors the huge difference between creating lots of ideas and capturing quality ideas. As a result, brainstorming sessions usually leave teams feeling unorganized, overwhelmed and directionless – as Beth Comstock of GE refers to as “paralyzed by possibility”. If you want your ideas to have a disruptive impact, you need to put down the shotgun and start perusing a laser-sharp focus.

2. Thinking holistically

It’s no secret that to be successful today you have to view the world in terms of a holistic hybrid of product, service, and information. The real advantage comes when your idea is successfully blended in such a way that the product, service, and information components can’t be split apart. The relationship between a product, a service and the information they provide is more important than the details of any one particular feature alone.

3. Move Past Talk

You can talk about ideas in general terms, at least for a while. Abstraction, however, makes it difficult to understand and remember it. To increase an idea’s potential, you have to stop talking about it and explain it in sensory terms. Ambiguity disappears when you describe your ideas in visual or written form.

How to Crush these Roadblocks

1. Focus Your Efforts

After you’ve identified an opportunity, start to break it down into a number of parts and examine each one. It doesn’t matter if you do not get to all of them; the point is to focus your creativity.

According to Williams, an opportunity consists of three parts: an opportunity to provide [who?] with [what advantage?] that [fills what gap?]. Start by focusing on one area of an opportunity: the advantage. After determining the who you can then break down the advantage part of the opportunity. Start by asking yourself all sorts of questions about how to deliver on the gap. After you break down the opportunity into questions, try to answer them with as many new ideas and you can think of – from the obvious to the ridiculous.

2. What Can You Blend Together?

Not all the ideas you come up with will be worth pursuing so pick the three you think are the most promising. In other words, the three offering the greatest differentiation and the largest number of benefits to either your customers or your company. Don’t worry about focusing on the most practical, instead focus on the most disruptive three.

After you select your ideas, start refining them into a more holistic and powerful form. The problem here is that most organizations still think of their offerings as isolated products, services and information. Real value is when an offering is blended in such a way that the product, service and information can’t succeed independently – think Apple’s iPhone and iOS. Always remember that, with a few exceptions, whatever you’re offering has to benefit three customers: partners, buyers and users. If only one or two of these groups actually reaps the benefits, try to even things out. Otherwise, your offer may end up too lopsided to be successful.

3. Write Down Your Ideas

Talking about your ideas, as opposed to writing them down and documenting them, keeps them general and abstract. Showing off your ideas, makes them specific and concrete, which makes them easier to share, understand and remember. So, after you refine your three ideas you need to create a one-page or slide overview of each idea, accurately describing it in words and pictures. This way if you decide you want to further develop your ideas into a solution for the market, having documented your ideas this way makes it easier to get critical feedback for consumers.

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