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What comes to mind when you think of creativity at work? Is it candy walls, arcade games and open spaces for collaboration and play, or is it something more than that? In the business world, creativity is crucial to driving continuous innovation and big ideas. But, all too often, companies confine creativity to team-building activities and off-sites rather then embedding it deeper into the company culture.

Van Lai-DuMone, CEO and founder of WorksmART, is on a mission to change that. WorksmART combines skills training with hands-on creative experiences to help companies such as Google, NBC Universal, TEDxLA and our very own Cornerstone OnDemand change the way they embrace creativity. We caught up with Lai-DuMone after she hosted a workshop at our most recent professional Development Day to find out more about how companies can infuse creativity and play into their workplace culture.

How can companies bring creativity into their day-to-day activities?

LEGO Serious Play or any type of creative, hands-on work where you're allowing people to think with their hands is a good first step. We're not asking [companies] to transform; we're asking them to make a 20 percent shift from what they are already doing. At your next meeting, bring in LEGO bricks, bring in markers, bring in watercolors and just try to think with your hands.

Go around the room, ask a question or pose a problem and have everyone try to build or draw their idea. They don't have to be artists—this is not about creating art; this is about people getting their ideas out in a different tactile way and honoring diversity of thought.

How does LEGO Serious Play work?

To participate in LEGO Serious Play, you pose a question or problem that you are trying to solve and everyone builds a model, or several models, of their ideas using LEGO bricks. Then everybody shares. This way, you're not just getting ideas from two or three people—you're getting ideas from every single person at the table, before you come to any type of consensus or add criteria.

[Once you've seen all the options,] you can take a look at them and figure out which ones best the solve the problem, answer your challenge or help you innovate on a new product.

Why is thinking with your hands so important to unlocking creativity?

The whole idea of thinking with your hands (in other words, making something with your hands) is that you're activating parts of your brain that you just cannot access by thinking and speaking. So, you are really generating new ideas, processes and neural connections that allow you to come up with new ideas and perspectives.

You're also giving yourself a way to externalize your thoughts. You're actually building a model that you can now show, rather than trying to explain ideas out of your head.

As far as honoring diversity of thinking, everyone is uniquely creative. We all have unique ideas, and all of our ideas are valid, so through LEGO Serious play or other hands-on work, everyone gets to build and share their ideas.

What is one of the biggest challenges companies face when trying to encourage more creativity? How can they overcome it?

One of the challenges is something called creative chaos. That's when you're looking around the room, and there's paint everywhere and someone has suggested something wild and crazy, and you're just thinking "Wow, this is really not what I expected. This is giving me a little bit of anxiety, and this is not what I'm used to."

Creative chaos is the point where you have no idea if what you are doing is going to work. Innovation is hard for some companies because when they hit that creative chaos, they stop because it looks ugly. It looks like it might not work, but instead of going back, push through it and get to the other side, because that's where innovation is going to happen.

Header photo: Creative Commons