Creativity is one of the chief skills everyone needs to be productive. Mainly, the whole idea of innovation is about testing the limits of traditional business practices, with creative people brainstorming left and right.
Because some people are born creative and others aren’t, organizations have a difficult time turning the table on the situation. In addition, creativity is a state of mind, meaning that it encompasses multiple phases.
Stages of Creativity
According to British psychologist Graham Wallas, there are four stages of creativity, as follows:
Not surprisingly, preparation seems to be the first stage of everything. In terms of creativity, it is about perceiving a problem from all perspectives and angles, with the aim being to discover the root of the issue.
Incubation is the second state of creativity, and it portends taking a break from brainstorming the problem. During this phase, we don’t think about the problem, but it is still present in the realm of the subconscious.
This is the a-ha moment that usually happens while we are performing routine activities, such as taking a shower.
This is the stage where we test our ideas to see if they can be used to solve the problem.
Creativity Meets Flow State
In the context of high performance at work, creativity is closely linked to a flow state because the latter boosts the former considerably.
What is a flow state?
Simply put, it’s the optimal state of consciousness. In this state of mind, the person is focused solely on the task at hand, and everything else ceases to exist. Flow state was first defined by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975 and has since been expanded upon in current times.
Similarly to creativity, a flow state also has its stages, namely selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and awareness.
In conclusion, to achieve higher creativity in the workspace, you need to combine the two.
There are a number of distractions that commonly interrupt a flow state (and creativity thereby), resulting in poor focus and anxiety. Some of the usual ones include email notifications, too many breaks, wasting time on checking social media, etc., rather than utilizing a business communication app.
It goes without saying that high performance is closely linked to discipline, but that doesn’t mean that you should work for hours on end without any breaks. Rather, it means that you should plan your activities in a way that will help you avoid distractions.
Turn off email notifications. Log out of your social media profiles. Take scheduled breaks. Work on one task at a time.
How to Trigger Flow State
Csíkszentmihályi argues that there are 10 triggers to flow state, as follows:
1. Merging of Action and Awareness
Simply put, this happens when the doer and the action become one. Actions are automated and don’t call for any additional resources.
An altered perception of time is experienced. There is only the now, and the past and future disappear.
The sense of self disappears. The usual anxieties are forgotten.
The sense of struggle disappears. The experience becomes autotelic (has an end or purpose in itself).
5. Intrinsic Motivation
The action is intrinsically motivating, meaning we do it for love and not for material gains.
6. Intense Concentration
The focus is on the now and on the task at hand, and all other pieces of information are forgotten.
7. Paradox of Control
There is a sense of control over the situation.
8. Clear Goals
There are clear goals related to the task. All other big goals are nowhere to be sensed.
9. Challenge/Skill Balance
The task-related challenge exceeds our current skill set, so we have to push our limits to master it. Therefore, it is important that it’s needed to stretch the limits, not to snap them.
10. Immediate Feedback
The cause and effect are just one step away. We can always correct the actions midway when needed.
The Mindset of Creativity
As mentioned above, creativity combined with a flow state guarantees high performance and best results, but how to enter a creative state of mind?
Actually, there are three traits that inspire a creative mindset, as follows:
- Pattern recognition (linking ideas together)
- The size of the pattern recognition “database”
In short, the more knowledgeable you are, the better you should be able to link ideas together. That’s why continuing education is always a good idea.
However, in order to inspire creativity, a workspace needs to encourage engagement. It’s only natural that high performance is best achieved when the majority of employees are engaged. That’s why the most successful companies make engagement their primary goal.
Companies can do much to encourage engagement. Some strategies are easier to implement, while others are not, but if the primary goal is to boost engagement in the long run (and it should be), all of the strategies are achievable.
Some of the ideas include:
- Allowing employees autonomy over their time
- Clarifying expectations
- Setting appropriate challenges (note the “appropriate;” burnouts are not acceptable)
- Providing necessary technology needed for the work
- Offering clear rewards, such as company shares and similar
Finally, employees themselves can do much to boost creativity. As ever, communication is crucial, and so is brainstorming. People should learn to listen to their colleagues closely and bring their own ideas to the table. Not just any ideas, though. They should improve on the existing ideas so that the entire team can brainstorm them and come up with the best solution jointly.
Creativity can be learned, executives say. Numerous psychologists have been coaching about the flow state and encouraging people to broaden their views and learn to concentrate, listen and cooperate. Brainstorming is a natural result of an engaged environment regardless of the different personal traits of the people involved, so from that perspective, creativity just may be more approachable to people with rigid mindsets. Hopefully.
What each of us can do, however, is practice the flow state and cut out disruptions. Over time, a pattern is certain to show up, and creativity can be boosted from there.