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Business Growth
Jun 15, 2015

Creative Exercises For Business Innovation

Sponsored Content provided by Dallas Romanowski - Managing Partner, Cornerstone Business Advisors

Does your company culture embrace creativity?

When is the last time your company innovated a product, service or process (your way of delivering value to clients)?

Growing a company, or in many cases just maintaining profitability, requires creativity. What worked yesterday will not necessarily work tomorrow. A company culture that embraces creativity will likely have better odds at innovating something that drives revenue, increases profits or better yet, does both.

So how can you build creativity into your company culture? Just ask Scott Docherty, a creativity trainer at Procter & Gamble.

Docherty teaches creativity to companies, and in doing so uses a lot of principles of improv comedy to illustrate how people think creatively. If you think of improvisation, you would say, “Well, that’s just making stuff up.” But in reality, improvisation has a lot of principles and rules that you need to follow to make it really work, to be funny.

Docherty uses several different exercises to illustrate this point. “Some, for most companies, have to really start off very simple, because we’re all still stuck in our heads and we’ve got to clear the clutter and we’ve got to make them feel comfortable to know that it's okay to tap into this four-year old inside of them and to let them come out and play,” Docherty said. He also talks about different exercises, such as "categories." He will get people to stand in a circle and then give them a ball. The team passes this ball back and forth. The members have a very broad-range category, such as color. They have to say a color as they toss a ball to someone else in the group. When a person catches the ball, he or she now has to say a different color as they throw the ball to someone else.

But what I find really interesting is when Docherty moves from an exercise such as the one I’ve described here to an exercise called "disassociation ball." It’s essentially the same exercise, only now, instead of giving the group a broad category, he gives them the broadest category he possibly can: You can use any word in the English language. As participants toss the ball to someone else in the group, the person receiving the ball can say any other word in the English language that’s not associated with the word that was said prior.

What the group finds is that first exercise, the one with categories, was much easier. So the natural question is, Why? The disassociation game allows people to pick any word in the English language. Wouldn’t that be easier? The category game limited the responses available to the group.

The interesting thing about creativity (and this is anti-intuitive to most people) is that it thrives better in a restricted environment. When people are limited by choices (versus having everything available), they are far more creative. This game teaches us that our brains are naturally wired to make associations.

However, sometimes these associations are already hard set in our brains, making it very difficult to be creative. Facilitating a creative exercise requires helping people to think beyond the existing associations while focusing on a category that frees the mind to think.

Teaching creativity is learning to break those natural connections in our brain and to think about the thing that’s not naturally thought of.

So here’s your action plan.

Many people think that “being creative” is reserved for art, music, dance, writing and the like. But Docherty shows us otherwise. Make a list of your projects for the week. Which of these require you to be creative?
The next time you assign (or take on) a project or task, limit the choices. Assess whether or not the work you receive (or provide) is more innovative than usual.
The Cornerstone Business Advisors team includes former C-Level executives, successful entrepreneurs and advisors who offer unmatched experience in delivering advanced, custom-tailored, results-oriented solutions for business leaders. Cornerstone has worked with hundreds of companies that range from fast-growth start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. It developed the Performance Culture System™ to help clients implement best practices and drive high performance throughout their organization. For more information, visit or email [email protected].

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