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Going from analytical to creative is no small challenge

Coach's corner--November 23, 2009

The Client
Name: George
Age: 40
Title: Project manager
Industry: Technology
Issue: Tapping into creative side at work
Q. My development goal for the year is to develop more creative thinking skills. My boss said he’d like me to balance my analytical skills somewhat. I’m just not sure how to do this. Your thoughts?

A. Pursue your goal by trying some new things, and by doing other things in new ways.

The inner game
This is what your boss wants … and how do you feel about it? Engaged? Skeptical? Cynical? He may have provided a great idea that you’re excited about, or you may just be going through the motions. You won’t succeed unless you get yourself on board.

To do this, first consider any resistance you have to this change. Doing something new is risky because you don’t have the skill level you’re used to displaying. Moving into a more “right brain” mode may also make an analytical type nervous because it may seem soft or silly. Remember that you have your boss’ support, and ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Also consider the best thing that could happen. How might these new skills help you be more successful? It’ll be easier to envision if you’re specific about what you mean by creative thinking skills. Resources such as Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind,” may give you ideas. Include a chat with your boss about his specific ideas and expectations, too.

Engage with the fun part of this. Business people or not, we all have a fun-loving kid inside. This could be just the challenge you need to open up new ways of thinking.

The outer game
Gaining creative thinking skills isn’t so much about what you do. The point is to fire up your brain so it brings more of its power to bear day in and day out.

Here’s a simple way to get started: wear your watch on the other hand. It forces your brain to work in a new way. Don’t wear a watch? Find another habit that uses your dominant hand and switch it up. If you decide to try eating with your other hand, practice at home first!

Delve into areas outside your expertise: look through magazines covering topics you aren’t even interested in; mentally redesign the little things that annoy you in cars, phones, or buildings; look for great ideas in other fields and find ways they could apply to your work.

Do something creative. Check out “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain,” sit down at the piano, or write a 50-word story. Yes, 50 words complete with characters and plot. Pink’s book has examples. Try a community education class. Improvisation classes will get you going in all parts of your brain.

It’ll help to have support.  Find a friend, family member, or co-worker with a similar interest in growing their creativity, and swap ideas. Keep the fun factor high; if it’s turning into a chore, try something different.Readers, what ideas do you have for George? Post them online and I’ll feature some in a future column.

The last word
Keep it simple and get your brain moving — the creative thinking skills will follow.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted November 22, 2009
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