How to Make Your Team More Creative

How to make your team more creative and productive? According to Hal Gregersen, an INSEAD professor, it is easy - there are five „discovery“ skills you need to have in your team. Now, grab a paper and a pen and analyze your team - does your team have those skills?

Let’s look at the skills in detail

Research involving identical twins suggests that only about one  of our creative ability is genetically driven. Rest of the innovation skill set comes through learning - first understanding a given skill, then practicing it, experimenting, and ultimately gaining confidence in one’s capacity to create. 

Discovery Skill 1: Associating

Creative entrepreneurs make unexpected connections - they combine pieces of what may seem disparate pieces of information until they connect it. Steve Jobs was interested in calligraphy and this eventually led to his company producing user-friendly, graphics-based Macs.

Discovery Skill 2: Observing

Some of the most innovative entrepreneurs are “intense observers”. Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, got initial idea for Quicken software while watching how his wife was very frustrated doing their finances. From this observation sprang Quicken.   

Discovery Skill 3: Experimenting

When Jeff Bezos, the founder of internet retailer Amazon, was growing up, he used to spend time on his grandfather's farm in the summer. When machinery broke down on the farm, his grandfather would try to fix it himself, with some help from Jeff. They would “experiment, trying this and that until it would finally work again. So Jeff grew up with that kind of attitude and mindset, that if I am confronted with a challenge, I can figure out a solution. 

Discovery Skill 4: Questioning

We can be observing the world or experimenting, but if we have no questions in our mind, we are pretty unlikely to get any insights or "ahas" that we never thought about. Michael Dell, the founder of Dell, has said: "When I'm wandering the world, I try to construct a question for every conversation that might generate information that I never had before." 

Discovery Skill 5: Networking

Networking. Innovators are intentional about finding diverse people who are just the opposites of who they are, that they talk to, to get ideas that seriously challenge their own. There could be differences in gender, industry, age, country of origin, or even politics.

Now what?

Innovation is the central job of every leader. But what if you don’t see yourself particularly innovative or creative? Forget about "being creative" – start creating. Start practicing.  The single most important skill to practice is questioning. Asking “Why”, “Why not”, "What if?" and "How might?" can help turbocharge the other discovery skills. Try spending 20 to 30 minutes each day writing down 5-10 questions that challenge the status quo in your organization or industry. Observe the world systematically, take notes and pictures, write down in a journal thing that you see, constantly ask questions.  

Want to dig deeper?

Feel free to read the book "The Innovator's DNA - Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators.pdf" (free downloadable pdf).

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