As automation sweeps across the business world, professionals need to ask themselves: what value can a human offer, that can’t be replicated by a machine? The answer, according to experts across industries, is creativity, strategy, and imagination.
Creativity, especially team creativity, allows us to approach any situation from a variety of different angles, thinking outside the box to find better solutions to any contentious issue. This is why it’s so important to be able to foster team creativity: whether you’re a sales or procurement team brainstorming ways to deal with a difficult customer or supplier, or even an internal team discussing how to address process bottlenecks.
As we’ve discussed before, effective teamwork is all about encouraging constructive criticism by maintaining mutual esteem and optimizing the flow of information. These conditions create the perfect context for imagination, strategic thinking, and team creativity to thrive.
In this blog post, we’ll dive a bit deeper into how you can foster team creativity around contentious issues.
Team creativity requires information flow between team members
In a team environment, every member is coming to the table with their own ideas, knowledge, and beliefs. If information flow is stifled and team members don’t feel confident to share their ideas and opinions, then the creative potential is significantly limited. When the flow of information about a problem is maximized, however, the chances for a creative solution increase.
Achieving this is usually a matter of asking the right questions. Pay attention to who is talking the most and who is talking the least. Then, instead of spending all your spoken time proposing and critiquing solutions, ask questions to prompt creative problem-solving and to give the quieter members an opportunity to voice their perspectives. The best team members actively seek out these different perspectives and welcome diversity in personal style and ideas.
Avoid settling on merely adequate solutions
When brainstorming solutions to a problem, it’s tempting to go with the first workable idea put forward – as long as it’s adequate and won’t jeopardize the business further down the line. This is especially the case when the team is facing tension between members or ideas. Our natural tendency to diffuse the situation will lead us to the quickest and easiest course of action.
But if you think of any creative genius from throughout history – musician, artist, businessman, developer, you name it – do you really think they settled on adequate solutions to their problems? Or rather, did they put their ideas through rigorous scrutiny, testing its weaknesses over and over again to ensure that the final outcome is the best possible representation of their creative efforts?
This is why, in a professional team context, it’s important to avoid the natural tendency to end a difficult discussion by settling on quickly developed “adequate” solutions. Rather, you need to consciously “stay with the tension” of the situation, going beyond the first solution to explore second and third alternatives. Even if you end up going with the initial solution, this exploration exercise will deepen your collective understanding of all possible outcomes and, in doing so, strengthen your chosen course of action.
RED BEAR Negotiation Company is a global performance improvement firm dedicated to maximizing the profitability of the agreements negotiated with suppliers, customers, partners, and colleagues. If you’re interested in enhancing the performance of negotiators and purchasing professionals in your organization, contact us or click here for more information.