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Where do new ideas come to you? When you first wake up? In the shower? Visiting an art museum? People often achieve a breakthrough in thinking when their attention is diverted to a different context.

When a group of people focuses on troubleshooting a problem, designing a product, or delivering a service, its members create routines to simplify the complexity of their work. Eventually they develop a shared set of assumptions around what the problem is, what a solution will look like, what the customer needs, etc. This is a normal process, and its effects are mitigated to the extent that members of the group are exposed to new ideas.


Taking a team out of its normal work environment and exposing it to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of being together can lead to an infusion of creativity, innovation and higher performance. Certainly this can happen by serendipity as individuals get an inspired flash of brilliance when walking their dog or driving down the expressway. But the culture of the team may not serve well as an incubator for one individualís new ideas.

By sharing together new and fun experiences, team members naturally expand the options available to them in how they work together. Photography can be used as one metaphor for seeing things from a different perspective. Through the act of creating images that have new and different meanings for team members, people realize they have more choices in how to view their own work context.

Another mode of expanding a groupís creative capacity is through the improvisational art form. By engaging in game-like exercises in suspending judgment, focusing on what is here and now, and being outrageous, team members experience a form of right-brained learning that is nonlinear and defies reduction. Over time, they discover new ways of being together that embrace learning from mistakes, heighten receptivity to new ideas, and put joy back into work.


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This page last modified on 04/12/10