How to encourage creativity in the planning process

July 26, 2013

Wikimedia commons

Wikimedia commons

I really liked this article from LinkedIn by Daniel Goleman: Three Must-Haves for Team Creativity.  Having just finished the planning portion of a project at work, I can attest to the author’s premise that these three Must-Haves are crucial:

  • Autonomy
  • Resources
  • Time

The author states that there should be clear goals, but that people have a sense of control over how those goals are accomplished, which speaks to allowing for autonomy.  For our project, we had five people on the planning committee who were given permission by administration to determine our goals and the steps to accomplish them.  We felt ownership of the project, but looked at the big picture with our colleagues, students, and faculty in mind. Administration weighed in and suggested, but showed confidence in our process and our decisions.

Being given the resources to accomplish our goals is also key.  You can have a great project, but if you don’t have the resources to make it successful, you should rethink and retool.  From the beginning, our administration let us know what resources we would have (administration support, staffing, priority) and would not have (money, marketing budget.) We were able to work within these parameters and come up with some creative ways to overcome obstacles.

The greatest gift we have been given is time.  We scheduled regular meetings during our work day and were encouraged to work on the project in between other duties.  The planning committee was also able to make clear that we wanted to give the project a fair chance at success by assessing over at least a couple of semesters.  Since this is something new for our college and library, having the understanding that success may be determined over a longer period of time (time for it to “catch-on” with faculty and students) takes some of the pressure off and allows for true evaluation.

Un addition to Goleman’s must-haves, I would like to add these:

  • Mutual Respect
  • Effective Communication

These two must-haves are intimately entwined.  When you have several people on a planning committee, you need to keep in mind that there will be different ways to think about a topic, and different paths to accomplishing a goal or objective (this is really the strength of a group.) Communicating clearly means not just “hearing” what the other person is saying, but “listening” in a way that allows you to truly understand them and make them feel understood.  No one should walk away from a meeting feeling disrespected.  If there are tensions, the group should be open and honest enough to express what those tensions and feelings are, and to discuss and acknowledge them.  I believe that our group worked so well together because, although everyone at times had different points of view, each brought a talent to the table and spoke respectfully.

During our project, I believe that everyone’s creativity blossomed.  Because all the right tools were there, we could brainstorm, collaborate, discuss, argue, dismiss, and explain each issue as we progressed.  Our meetings provided a place of safety to express a viewpoint and be heard.  We now have all the pieces in place to begin implementing a successful year with this project and have built-in enough flexibility to change as necessary.

Without autonomy, resources, time, mutual respect, and effective communication, planning would have been tedious and uncomfortable, rather than the invigorating process that really brought us to a better understanding about the project, our colleagues, and ourselves.

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