Below is a list of mini activities designed to boost creativity within a group. These activities can be used at the start of a regular meeting, as a standalone activity in a workshop, or during the brainstorming session of another activity that’s part of this curriculum.
They are categorized into discussion, toys & objects and writing based activities.
Ask two employees from unrelated fields (e.g., sales and warehouse) to speak for about 15 minutes each about their work. Then ask the audience for a linking question. The audience then creates and asks correlated questions that require the speakers to connect their seemingly disparate worlds. For example, how is prospecting for sales like planning where to store material in a warehouse? What signifies success in sales and what signifies it in the warehouse?
LEFT AND RIGHT BRAINS
When brainstorming in a group, ask the group to divide themselves into left-brain (rational) thinkers and right-brain (intuitive) thinkers. Ask the left-brainers to come up with practical, conventional and logical ideas; ask the right-brainers to come up with far-out, unconventional and nonlogical ideas. Then combine the groups and share the ideas.
Alternatively if your group has done a personality or leadership style exercise, they can divide themselves into groups of the same type or style.
Thomas Edison guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His own personal quota was one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. When groups are working together to solve a problem or are brainstorming, give them a quota of the number of ideas you want them to come back to the larger group with. This will push them to think of as many ideas as they can rather than dwelling too long on one idea.
Toys and Objects
Provide a special area for people to engage in creative thinking. Stock the area with books, videos on creativity, as well as learning games and such toys as beanbags and modeling clay. You might even decorate the area with pictures of employees as infants to suggest the idea that we’re all born spontaneous and creative.
TOYS R US
Children do most of their important learning while playing with toys. It’s no wonder that toys have a liberating effect in meetings. They are not only fun, and a disarming way to break the ice, but they are also a deceptively powerful way to break down the barriers of conditioned thinking and responses. Bring a box of toys to the meeting. Just having toys in the room will change the feeling in the room and invite people to be more open and playful. Have the participants choose a toy and give them time to explore it. Then ask them to compare the problem or issue under discussion with the toy.
For instance, a group of employees were brainstorming for ways to improve customer service. Each participant chose a toy from a pile of toys – a pail full of Legos, a yo-yo, a toy dog, and so forth – to find the toy that represented their customer service best. The typically serious, driven employees erupted in laughter as they took turns standing in front of the group comparing the problem to a lump of play dough. The playfulness of the exercise, however, allowed them to be more bold, truthful, and perceptive about themselves and the problem than they probably would have been with a more traditional approach.
Collect an assortment of objectives, finding the most random and unrelated things that you can. Examples include: stapler, potted plant, fork, dog toy, scrunchie, and pipe cleaners. Place the objects in a large bag or hide them from view. Divide your participants into groups and get each group to select one object from the bag. Once they have their object give them a task that includes using the item.
Examples of tasks:
- How can we solve x problem using the item you have?
- Create a 30 second commercial to advertise why we should buy your object.
- Imagine an alien has just landed on earth and is meeting humans for the first time (but can understand our language). Explain how to use this object to them.
Give groups time to get creative and have some fun working on their task together. Bring groups back together to do short presentations with their object.
ICONS OF CREATIVITY
Ask people to display items on their desks that represent their own personal visions of creativity in business. For example, a crystal ball might represent a view toward future markets, a bottle of Heinz catsup might represent a personal goal of 57 new ideas on how to cut expenses, and a set of jumper cables might symbolize the act of jump-starting your creative juices to get more sales.
Put up a bulletin board in a central area and encourage people to use it to brainstorm ideas. Write a theme or problem on a colored card and place it in the center of the board. Provide pieces of white paper on which people can write their ideas to post on the board. E.g. suppose you have difficulty closing a particular sale. You could describe the sale situation on a colored card, post it on the brainstorming board and ask people to post their ideas and suggestions.
In advance of a meeting, frame a problem or issue to address. Ask each person to bring, at least, one new idea or suggestion about the problem as their ticket of admission to the meeting. Have the people write their ideas on index cards and collect them at the door. No one gets in without a ticket. Start the meeting by reading everyone’s contribution.
EVERYONE’S A CONSULTANT
Ask each person to write a current job-related problem or concern on a blank sheet of paper. Examples: “How can I get better cooperation from our warehouse employees in fulfilling orders on time?” “How can we overcome the low price and discount program of our competition?” After allowing a few minutes to write out the problems, ask each person to pass his or her problem to the right. That person reads the problem just received and jots down their responses. They are given 60 seconds to respond to the individual sheet. Keep the process going until each person gets his or her sheet back. Then share and discuss the ideas.
BRIGHT IDEAS NOTEBOOK
Present each person with a notebook. Call the notebook the “Bright Idea Notebook,” and ask everyone to write three ideas in the notebook every day for one month on how to improve your business. At the end of the month, collect all the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion.
STUPID IDEA WEEK
Make idea generating fun. Have a “Stupid Idea” week and stage a contest for the dumbest ideas. Post entries on a bulletin board and conduct an awards ceremony with a prize. You’ll enjoy the camaraderie and may find that the stupid ideas stimulate good ones.
Post sheets of flip-chart paper around the room, one per participant. Participants stand silently and write their ideas on the sheets (one sheet per person) for 10 to 15 minutes. Then the participants are allowed 15 minutes to walk around the “gallery” and look at the other ideas and take notes. Now, using the other ideas to stimulate further thought, participants return to their sheets and add to or refine their ideas. After about 10 minutes of additional writing, the participants examine all the ideas and select the best ones.
Another option for the gallery technique is to ask participants to draw or diagram their ideas instead of listing them. For example, how many windows are there in your house? Diagramming your house allows you to go inspect and count the windows. Creative insights sometimes occur as a result of drawing or diagramming a problem, because they help us notice certain features that may be overlooked.
Lastly, don’t forget to thank people for their ideas. Design your own “Thank You For Your Great Idea” cards and distribute them freely to contributors. Sign each card with a personal message. Stock up on instant lottery cards and include one or two in each card to show your appreciation.