The secret of creativity…

Posted on January 30, 2009



Maybe it’s not a total secret but this is something that is often overlooked.

How do you get a team to be more creative? That is the million dollar question. Do take the team to Disneyland? How about see movies together? Is it a creative office space? Maybe read books on creativity? Perhaps go to an art museum and experience ‘real’ art??? While all these activities can help fuel yourself and your team it’s not enough to take the needed creativity to the next level. It doesn’t matter what the purpose of your team is, how much experience is present, or personality type; there is a common element essential to building creative teams. It’s missing in many environments. It’s often the last thing embraced. It’s also the least understood of all disciplines. The secret is FUN. IDEO (Innovation Company) president, Tim Brown, helped put it in a simple formula:


Fun builds trust; trust builds creativity.


That’s it. Yes, it’s that simple. Intentional play creates environment of trust and acceptance that builds creativity for a team.  Fun allows your team members to be ‘themselves’ and more importantly, overcome self consciousness. Ironically work is not the opposite of play its ‘self consciousness’. Self consciousness, insecurity, shyness, introversion, etc. keeps all of us from expressing open and honestly. These traits make us more concerned with what people think of us verse what they think of your idea.


Creativity takes flight…
A practical example of this, for the past few weeks our staff has participated in a paper airplane flying contest. We have seen all sorts of shapes and designs. This contest has spanned a few weeks with prizes for distance and creativity. We do these competitions before each staff meeting. What does it have to do with team building or leadership training? Well, almost nothing. But it creates an environment of fun to help build trust to help build creativity. It says, ‘I can be silly, I can be a kid, and I can play- and you still accept me’.   


Survival of the funnest…

Another way to have fun is to compete. Our team recently had a board game tournament with the game of Settlers of Catan that spanned several weeks.  Many new team members learned how to play and there were many outside gatherings to compete in the tournament. One time I came to watch three random team members playing at a coffee shop- these three would have never ‘hung out’ together if it wasn’t for this tournament.  It was a great experience for our team and a LOT of fun. Everyone is demanding another one ASAP.


I’ve noticed that a team that engages regular fun activities usually are more open minded about creative ideas. There is a sense of adventure that only comes through trust and understanding. Does fun replace the ‘real stuff’ of community and deep relationships? No, but it fertilizes the soil for such depth to occur.

So if you are reading this and you are a leader/manager/director/pastor you need to ask yourself, ‘am I creating intentional fun for my team?” If not, you are trying to birth creativity the hard way. The hard way is time together, hanging out, conferences, training, books, websites, discussion, etc…While all that is good, nothing can replace the confidence and security created when a team engages in regular rhythms of fun and play. Go be a kid.