There’s an interesting thing about creativity that I’ve found at work – when you introduce creativity into the work that you do, people automatically think that you are also very innovative and forward thinking. That’s not to say that you may not be, but it’s certainly another reason for adding your own creative spin on the work that you do.
Creativity certainly does not apply to all work mind you – you may not want to be creative in how you do surgery or how you fly a plane but there are always ways to introduce and inject your personality or your take on things in the products or services that you put out. Here are some ideas for you to introduce creativity into the work that you are bringing to life:
Can you change the medium?
Management consultants have a reputation for churning out powerpoint slides all the time. So when I got onto a project where my manager told me that I did not have to use PPT or Word, I was blown away. We ended up creating a video instead and working with a designer to illustrate an infographic. Our client still needed a word report but the whole process ended up being a lot more fun because of the choice of medium (and I might add, more creative).
First, there are words on a report. Next, there are pictures, such as graphs or images that help you illustrate a concept or to prove a point. What’s after that? Links to videos or even embedded videos. If you are constantly thinking about what’s the next thing and trying to introduce that into the work that you do, you may be taking a risk but who says you can be creative and innovative without taking risks?
Inject your personality
Do you enjoy puns? Really bad jokes? Cheesy romantic gestures? At my workplace, we have our meeting rooms named as different major people or locations in the city – for example, we have a Churchill room and we have a room called “Centre Ice”. When I booked one meeting, I booked it in the Centre Ice room and told everyone that it would be ‘ice to see you there’. People don’t normally read the descriptions in the meeting invites mind you but for those that did, they probably got a bit of a smile or chuckle out of reading that description. Where might there be opportunities for you to inject your personality or spin on things?
Look to your culture
Planning a social event? Or a dinner? See if you can take your co-workers on a journey through your home city or culture through a meal. Some good times to do this are during cultural festivals – you can help explain why people are dressed in a certain way, why they might eat certain foods during that period of time and even some of the interesting superstitions or traditions that that culture goes through.
Check out and introduce new venues to others around you
Creativity isn’t just a work thing, it can also be injected into things outside of work such as where you hang out for drinks or food. Recently, I was introduced to a bar that served really tasty finger and snack food but also had a small arcade where you could roam around playing pacman or teenage mutant ninja turtles. And everyone likes to check out new restaurants, especially if it has good food and an even better vibe.
Go to the extremes
There’s a concept I learned from Seth Godin who was talking about edgestorming as opposed to brainstorming. Edgestorming is the idea that you can take any concept or idea and take it to the extremes to be new. For example, if you take mouthguards and the idea of transparency, you can make it invisible (such as invisalign) or you can make it extremely obvious and colourful (such as colorful mouthguards for kids). You can do the same thing with your work – if there are lots of words, you can experiment with only using words or you can experiment and see if you can do the same thing without any words at all.
Take a look at the past
Taking a look at some of your work before helps you in a few ways. First, you understand what you’ve done previously so that you’re not repeating that work. Second, you can often steal ideas from your past self and introduce it into the work that you’re doing now. I often take a look at the work that I’ve done and try to improve on it in some small way every single time. I try not to do the exact same thing as I’ve done in the past. Sometimes, or maybe more often than not, I come up with small innovations that really don’t work (for example, I had this idea of creating a PPT that worked like the Google Chrome browser with tabs at the top to get to different slides). Other times, I come up with breakthrough ideas that are really fun (I’m most proud of a magazine format for one of the deliverables I worked on).
Question rules and assumptions
Are there certain rules or assumptions that you have about the work that you’re doing? For instance, one thing that I was taught was that things on a slide should be properly formatted and lined up with other items on the page. Maybe it was because our clients liked that things lined up and were square, but don’t be afraid to question why this has to be done in that way. You might find that it’s not worth doing.
Start with the opposite
Can’t come up with any great ideas? Come up with bad ideas. Really bad ideas. And then from those really bad ideas, slowly make it better and better. I learned this from Paul Sloane who is a guru in lateral thinking and I found that coming up with bad ideas makes it a lot less stressful (because there’s less pressure) and there are often insights and interesting tidbits that come with coming up with bad ideas. Take for instance a flower delivery service. It would be a terrible idea to have Brad Pitt hand deliver each and every flower to every single customer that orders it. It’s a better idea to have people hand deliver each and every flower to every single customer. Maybe it’s an even better idea to have flowers available on demand to those that want it. And then it’s an even better idea to create a website or app where you can order flowers right away and get guaranteed delivery such as with FedEx. From a bad idea can come a good idea.
How do you actually come up with great ideas? Steal them
One of the best ways to come up with great ideas is to steal from others. Take a look at industries that may be more creative or forward thinking than yours. Or look at competitors and see what they may be doing. Figure out what’s next or what’s the trend and try to introduce it into your own work / company / industry. For example, working in PPT and Word all the time, I constantly keep an eye out in the print industry to understand what’s interesting – I had even thought about adding scratch and sniff to some of my deliverables at one point but couldn’t figure out why it would be a good idea so never went through with it. Producthunt is a great place to find interesting new things.