My son-in-law works for the government. He took a course on creativity and loved what he learned. On the white board in his office he wrote four key principles:
- Defer judgment. When someone comes up with an idea, try not to
decide immediately whether or not it is a “good” idea or a “bad” idea.
- Go for quantity. Encourage your team to come up with as many ideas
as they can.
- Build on each other’s ideas. One idea leads to another and
sometimes the best ones come as together we use one to bounce to new thoughts.
- Seek out wild and strange ideas.
As people entered his office they all read and commented on the four statements. He writes: “One person just gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up. A person from another office surprised me by quoting back to me most of the concepts, and then he said, “See, I stopped and read what you wrote.” One of my bosses stopped by and asked if I would present on the topic on Thursday at our staff meeting. I was excited, but I immediately thought of one individual in the office who I fear will scuttle the discussion (who I’ll refer to as Lance although that’s not his real name.)”
My son-in-law goes on to explain that shortly after the exchange, he read an inspirational statement about becoming a proactive, positive influence. It altered his thinking. Instead of fearing the reaction of Lance, he began to think about how to reach and inspire Lance. Then he makes a surprising statement, he says he actually felt love for his skeptical coworker.
Yesterday morning, per my boss’ request, I finalized my preparations for my ten-minute presentation on “Guidelines for Divergent Thinking” for my office team. I realized the presentation would be much improved if the group actually engaged in a brainstorm session instead of just hearing me talk about it. I realized I could ask them to give me suggestions for how I can prepare for press and public diplomacy issues in the post-election season. As soon as I thought of the question, I felt my mind pull back with a little fear. There was something about that question that made me feel a bit vulnerable.
“I also thought I should probably show my planned agenda to my boss and explain exactly how much time it would take. I felt my mind recoil from that thought too; I guess I was worried that she would try to change or control my presentation. But I sent it to her anyway, and she wrote back and said she was looking forward to it.”
“After the regular business of our meeting, my boss turned the time over to me. I passed out a small handout and explained the four principles, and then I asked everyone to turn the paper over and write down one idea. There was silence and someone said, ‘Can you give us an example?’ I was about to come up with something when I noticed that Lance appeared ready to share. I said, ‘Maybe someone from the group can give us an idea. Lance, do you have something?’ He gave a great example of how we could proactively use numbers and statistics in a way that was more customized to the audiences we’re trying to reach. This person–whose reaction to my presentation I had feared–turned out to be my ally and got the discussion going in a great direction.
“What followed was a meaningful brainstorming session. I listened and took notes. I was about to ask for another idea when I realized the ten minutes was up. I was tempted to continue, but I closed and thanked everyone. I am grateful my boss asked me to give the presentation. I am grateful for Lance’s and everyone’s participation. I am thankful things went so well, and it motivates me to write something new on my office window next week.”
- Why did a list of positive statements attract so much attention?
- Have you ever softened a position because there would be a known skeptic in the audience?
- Is it possible to turn proactive and then feel love for a skeptic at work?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?