Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pitfalls in implementing creative process

Yesterday I blogged about how good ideas are created through creative process and collaboration.  Often good ideas are found in pieces which would then have to be put through collaboration to make it complete.  Only then the idea will be ready for implementation.

It sounds all simple but in real life it's anything but.  There are many pitfalls that will derail this creative process.  I want to share a few that I have seen.
Not defining the problem

The problem statement may be clear to organizer and a few participants.  It may not be the case that every member has a good grasp of problem to be solved.  It's important to spend time to make sure that people understand the problem that the team is assembled to solve.  I've found that often times the team discovers different ways to express the problem in the process, which may help in later stage where ideas are exchanged and synthesized.

Forgetting that the common goal of the team is to solve the problem

As dialog and discussion begin, it's easy to lose the sight of the common goal.  Creative process, just like any other process, has a goal.  The goal is to the solve the problem, and team members must be reminded that they are assembled to solve the problem in collaborative way.  Often discussion deteriorates into members shooting down someone else's idea instead of building on them, or just getting disengaged from conversation because of a strong-minded member overruling their idea.  Process facilitator must step in to ensure that collaborative spirit is maintained, and whenever it dwindles, facilitator must correct the course of discussion.

Lack of trust in creative process

For creative process to work, there must be trust among all participants that it actually will yield better results.  Every member should be given a chance to participate, and give their input.  When employees are not accustomed to engage in collaborative discussion, it can be difficult to create trust in the process.  My suggestion is to start with small team (team of 3-4 to start, growing it to 6-8 members), and build your way up to grow the confidence that process in fact works for most of team members.

Too many members

It is tempting to invite each department representative to the creative process.  While it may work for an organization with long-history of creative process, it often makes creative process more difficult to manage.  Remember that creative process is a process that comes up with a creative solution through collaboration.  As facilitator, you must understand that you are not there to arrive at democratically chosen consensus.  Your job is to facilitate the discussion and make sure the team members have lively discussion about all the ideas and synthesize the best solution.  Your job is not to sell the solution that the team created.  Having too many members to manage lowers the facilitator's success rate.

Forcing creative process to participants

Creative process is not for everyone.  It is not a democratic process, nor should it be open for everyone to join.  Every participants must have genuine interest in solving the problem and have a key piece of puzzle to solve it.  At the same time it should not be forced upon people to join this process.  If people are not interested in the problem that you are trying to solve, first figure out why it's a problem that you must solve, and communicate why it's important to solve it to the team.  But last thing you want is to force people to clear their calendar to join your discussion.  In order to create, people first must feel like creating.  Figure out how to make them feel like joining you in creative process.

Not setting up clear followup

After everything is said and done in creative process, make sure you (if you have read this far, I figured that you must be a facilitator in your organization) write down the followup items.  Often creative process gets a bad rep because no changes are implemented after great discussions.  Make sure you take notes for the next steps, and follow through.  Don't be afraid of setting deadlines and goal to set expectation of how fast the team should execute to get there.

Hope you implement creative process in your organization today.  I plan to post more information around this topic in future.  If you have other links and useful tips, please share.

This would be as effective as expecting a novel
from a bunch of monkeys typing randomly really fast;
choose your members wisely

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