Does your project need a creative boost?

Here’s four things you can do straight away to give your project a creative boost.

  1. Write down the brief. What are you trying to do? Who are you serving?
  2. Write as many things as you can about the project in a big piece of paper. I recommend using the following three headings as prompts: Information, Questions, Ideas. Stick it on the wall near where you work.
  3. Talk through your ideas with someone. Ask them just to listen and not say anything until you are done.
  4. Try to ignore the project for a day (I bet you can’t), and then the next day, write down five new ideas that will inevitably have emerged.
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Asking what if – change the frame for new ideas

Oliver Broadbent climbs through a picture frame to illustrate the concept of asking what if

Asking what if. It’s my go-to technique for stimulating rapid idea generation in groups. In this post, the latest in my series on creative thinking tools for projects, I am sharing another tool for Turning the Kalideascope. In other words, mixing up what we know about a project to help find new ideas. In this post I explain the thinking and then I share a method for facilitating this approach in groups.

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Use your Professional Palette

Picture shows Oliver Broadbent pretending to paint the camera from which he is being photographed. Used to illustrate the concept of using the professional palette

We move now in my series of posts on tools for creative thinking from gathering inputs to stimulating new connections. This is what I call ‘Turning the Kalideacope‘. The first technique is called ‘Use your Professional Palette’, and it builds on a technique for Filling the Kalideascope we discussed yesterday. It also provides a bridge from gathering inputs to processing them. First, let’s talk about the pre-requisites.

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Preparing the colours for your Professional Palette

High contrast image showing Oliver Broadbent mixing up paints on his palette to illustrate the concept of preparing the colours for your professional palette

There are some inputs to our creative process that we build up over time so that we are ready to draw on them whenever we work on a new project. In this next post in my series on creative thinking tools for projects, I will share with you another source of inputs for the Kalideacope. I call it the ‘preparing the colours for your Professional Palette. These are the set of colours from which you paint your ideas. The image this phrase conjures up for me is of the Impressionist painter spending time in their workshop in Paris getting their paints ready before they get on a train from the Gare St. Lazare, head out into the Normandy countryside and paint a landscape. You have to do the prep in the workshop before you can go out and paint. But how does this apply to us?

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Creative thinking tools for projects: the Eiffel Over guide

montage of 9 photos in which Oliver Broadbent is miming different tools in the Eiffel Over creative tool box.

We need creative thinking tools in our project toolkit to get the most out the opportunities that a new project offers. Projects provide a setting in which people can come together. They provide a focus point for joint attention. They can lead to outcomes that are probably far greater than what we could achieve on our own. In organisations we rightly focus effort on achieving project goals within project constraints – this is project management. But what I think gets neglected is investing in the creative thinking will help define those goals and help reach them in new ways.

The need for creative thinking in setting goals and figuring out how to achieve them is greater than ever before. The climate and ecological emergencies show us that the usual ways of thinking have failed us. We need new thinking. We need creative thinking.

I have spent much of the last five years researching, developing and teaching practical creative thinking tools. People use these tools to help develop their personal and team-level creativity in projects. Based on feedback from workshops with hundreds of engineers and other professionals, I have developed a shortlist of tools and techniques that have the most impact: either in terms of how they help people understand creativity; or how they empower people to be creative with more confidence.

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Filling the Kalideascope – inputs from colleagues

Together, the people around you know so much more than you do. In my last post for now on Filling the Kalideacope – gathering inputs for the creative process – I am suggesting that you tap into the vast resource of information and insight that is the people around you. Ask them about the context, the setting of the brief. Ask them if they have done anything similar themselves. Ask them what ideas the brief inspires in them. How does the project make them feel?

And then they speak, listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t pitch in with your idea. See where the train of thought takes them and go along with them on the ride.

Brief explosion – starting a creative project

My starting point for gathering inputs to a creative project is the working brief. The technique that I use with participants in my workshops is what I call the ‘brief explosion’, the first stage in the process of ‘Filling the Kalideacope’. It’s an explosion because from just a few brief words you can generate so many inputs.

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