The Art of Creative Conversations
John Kao, in his book The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, offers seven principles to follow to promote creativity and innovation through communication:
- Creativity is a two-step. A leader’s first priority is to allow ideas to develop by keeping possibilities open – you have to suspend disbelief and avoid making judgments too soon. It might take the second, third, or even fiftieth idea before something clicks.
- Use positive-speak to inspire confidence. Nothing shuts down creativity faster than a negative or judgmental tone. Fertilize creative ideas with supportive comments like, “I like it. Tell me more or can we explore one other option.”
- Discover the gold nuggets in the muddy stream of ideas. Downplay negative feedback. Try to find the positive aspects in even the worst ideas. A bad idea could have elements that serve as starting points for excellent ideas.
- Your schedules, timetables, and deadlines should harmonize disparate work styles. Recognize that creative people view time differently. A leader needs to acknowledge this reality and sometimes negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement about time.
- Well-set boundaries define extensive possibilities. Leaders need to set some boundaries. At times, you do need to be firm and keep creative people from going beyond time limits.
- Ask questions that get to the essence of problems. Use a technique like the five “whys” to break through superficial understanding of a problem to reveal the fundamental truth. Practice genuine dialogue that leads to an explosion of ideas.
- Remember that you are dealing with individuals, rather than interchangeable parts. A creative leader must be like a detective, using exploratory questions about “big” matters to gain a much-needed sense of employee’s personalities. Leaders need to treat each employee as an individual since each person has a unique set of skills, needs, and interests.