If you’re in the business of providing creative solutions to clients, you want to maximize the contributions of your creative staff. Do you provide the kind of environment and input that encourages them to produce top quality work? How can your business think differently and encourage creative thinking?

Of course, we are all creative in different ways – creativity is a defining characteristic of being human. Everything that makes us different from the rest of the animal world, language, religion, art, values, technology, science, in short, every human activity, is the result of creativity. If you are highly creative yourself, it is easier to know how to shape the best possible environment for creativity – but the basic commonality of creativity allows us to connect with those who excel in it.

Getting into the minds of creatives in greater depth lets you review internal business mechanisms, confirming you have optimal conditions in the work environment. Let’s take some time to tour the sometimes awesome and rewarding, sometimes delightful and fun, sometimes frustrating, sometimes messy world of your creatives.

Creative Thinking: Getting into the mind of creatives

In an excerpt from his book, From Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People (presented in Psychology Today), Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, notes that “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.”

In addition, Csíkszentmihályi says, “If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a ‘multitude.'”

Focusing on these two qualities of creative individuals produces some specific characteristics that suggest how to structure an environment and create internal processes that encourage creativity.

Sometimes less is more. Because creatives are “a multitude”, their reactions to stimuli are likely complex — and sometimes exhausting. Too much stimulation produces overload and shutdown instead of generating creativity. Many studies show that multi-tasking adds stress and reduces creativity and work quality.

Limitations generate creativity. Since creatives excel in making do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals, limits and narrowly defined structures generate a lot of creative activity. Another way to say this is that creatives are both rebellious and conservative — at the same time. The limitations of a conservative structure generate creativity as creatives seek ways to rebel within it. Focused reality provides the root system for imagination.

From small beginnings, big ideas.
While creatives often do well with limitations on input and working within defined boundaries, they excel at connecting the dots, discovering the big ideas that reside within and among smaller units of data.

Mind wandering and procrastination.
Studies show that procrastination generates creativity. Some creatives use it consciously as a tool. Associated with mind wandering, it takes the focus off completing the task and provides a space for seeing things in a new way.

Alone in the crowd.
In their paradoxical way, creatives are both introverts and extroverts. Curious about everything, they are people watchers, finding inspiration everywhere. On the other hand, their creativity requires solitude. Many studies show that alone time is more productive than brain storming, and creatives naturally seek it.

Go with the flow.
Csíkszentmihályi brings us another idea about creativity in his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, where he outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow. At this time, they are so intensely engaged with and focused on the activity at hand that they lose their sense of time and self. These times are most fulfilling for a creative person. Employers love these times…but remember, there’s another aspect to the creative process that doesn’t look as productive.

Alone in the crowd.
In their paradoxical way, creatives are both introverts and extroverts. Curious about everything, they are people watchers, finding inspiration everywhere. On the other hand, their creativity requires solitude. Many studies show that alone time is more productive than brain storming, and creatives naturally seek it.

Recovery time.
Complex reactions to stimuli, sensory overload, passionate commitment to and intense focus on their work, deep feelings and sensitivity…take lots of energy. Creatives require both solitude and play time for recovery and regeneration.

Respect the process.
Researchers designate two stages in the creative process, generation and selection. The first stage generates numerous ideas. The second stage involves narrowing the focus to one to develop. In practice, the process isn’t always so neat, clean and orderly. The qualities of creatives that are their strength can also undermine them if not managed properly. The work style of creatives looks messy and unproductive at certain points to observers. It may even feel messy and unproductive to the creative individual until they find their point of focus. While creatives are often more comfortable with mess and paradox and a complex view of the world than others, it also causes stress. What if they get stuck there? What if the ideas don’t come?

Environmental factors also influence the process. An insecure work environment militates against productive procrastination and mind wandering, forcing too much focus on task completion.

Successful creative individuals find their mechanisms for generating creativity and completing the tasks associated with that process. They know the schedule that works best for them, techniques like daily journaling to stimulate or record thoughts, how to arrange their space and what to have in it, when they need social contact and when they need solitude. The understanding, cooperation and involvement of an employer in creating the right environment helps both the creative individual and the employer.

An employer who understands the creative process can proactively help creatives to do their best. A secure work environment is the foundation. Insecurity impedes the creative process.

While it is important for creatives to find the schedule that works best for them and for employers to accommodate it as much as possible, it is also important for reality grounding that they have a schedule and commit to it. While an employer can and must recognize mind wandering and procrastination as important parts of a process, deadlines are also important as a limitation that encourages creativity.

Creatives need a private work space to which they can retreat and which they can set up in the way most likely to inspire them along with opportunities to connect productively with other staff.

For more ideas about maximizing creative potential in your work place, please contact us.

Fancy a coffee to discuss your creative brief?