By: Sarah Humphrey

What is creativity?
Creativity is the capacity to imagine, or build upon, new-to-the-world ideas. We need to understand that as humans we are all inherently creative. From the CEO to our coworkers to the people we serve, everyone is creative.

Creativity is a muscle we all have. And it must be exercised.

Where is the most efficient place to exercise creativity?
In a safe space, free of judgment, free of naysaying.

Let’s talk about innovative work versus routine work.
At work we see routine and innovation clash. Essentially, we have the following conflict: low risk and mild success versus high risk and BIG success. We follow prescribed processes because these time-tested routines drive out variation and failure. Yet we value innovation because it leads to breakthroughs and groundbreaking impacts. Let’s stress the word “break” here because innovation breaks the routine mold. To be influential in our fields, we must try to reconcile the two kinds of work.

How do we create a safe space at our workplace?
Trust the people, not the process. Build time for both routine work and innovative work in the weekly calendar. Expect that innovative work may meet with failure. Expect that there may be several failures. Do not judge these failures. Accept that failures are lessons learned in an ongoing creative process. And always celebrate the small wins. A creative work space takes joy and pride in each and every small win along the way.

Finally, how do we establish a creative mindset? How do we learn to trust the people, not the process?
1) TRUST – We need to trust in our ability to come up with creative solutions to big problems.
2) EMPATHIZE – Empathy is the capacity to step into other people’s shoes so we can understand their lives and start to solve problems from their perspectives.
3) EMBRACE AMBIGUITY – To think creatively, we need to start from a place of not knowing the answers to the problems we’re looking to solve.
4) DIY – Do it yourself. We do not live in abstractions. Make your ideas real. Implement them. Taking our ideas to implementation is creativity in action!
5) LEARN FROM FAILURE – If we can expect to fail sometimes, then let’s fail fast. Let’s sort out what doesn’t work early, so we can find what is going to work.
6) ITERATE – Creativity and innovative work are an ongoing process. We must continually refine and improve. As we develop new ideas, we must try a variety of approaches. This variety further unlocks our creativity, so we arrive at successful solutions faster.
7) BE OPTIMISTIC – We expect to fail because we know that micro-failures lead to macro-successes. When we embrace the idea that a solution is out there, then we know we can find it.

This piece was inspired by Ben Terry, a speaker at YPAL’s Excelerate- Innovation and Creativity Workshop in early December. At the workshop, Ben discussed breaking down our creative barriers and what we can do to implement creativity in the workplace.