My framework for thinking about creativity at work

As part of my Masters in 2014/15, I did a module called Creative and Critical Thinking. One of our assignments was to create a manifesto for workplace creativity. I had such fun with the exercise, presnting it as a Rubik’s cube, and suggesting ways in which teams could use it as a fun learning and envisioning experience. I published the overall framework in a post on Medium, but in the spirit of having important content on our owned platform, I wanted to reproduce it here.


As a self-identified creative person, I have had my share of frustration in seeing creativity in the workplace squashed or misunderstood. But the changing world of work means that it is exactly those creative and innovative skills that are being pushed to the fore. These human skills can’t be automated and so they are what will distinguish the employees (or freelancers!) of the future.

But getting into the swing of creativity isn’t that straightforward. It comes easily to some, less so to others. Luckily, this is an area that has been subject to quite a lot of academic research and that does give us some ideas of what we can do to increase our own creativity and encourage it in others. I’ve put some of this research into a framework, which hopefully helps you think about creativity in your organisation. I’d love to hear how you use it or if it works for you.

Theme 1 — Creativity is not just for artists. We all have creative potential

Creativity isn’t one thing. Each of us is creative in a different way. We need all ways. Sit down and write a list of the ways in which you are creative. Remind yourself of them regularly. Don’t let yourself be defined by your work. Pursue other interests and be inspired by them. Work together. Collaborate, combine your strengths. Upcycling ideas from elsewhere is creative. Truly original thoughts are very rare.

Theme 2 — Creativity requires trust and support to flourish.

Make creativity as much of a core value of your workplace as hard work, quality, attention to detail, teamwork and respect for others. Embrace your failures — anyone who never makes a mistake isn’t trying hard enough. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. Daydreaming, visioning, visualising and imagining are all valid workplace activities.

Theme 3 — Being creative means taking nothing for granted.

The phrase ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is never to be uttered. Share your problems and issues. Someone else may know something that will help you. Question your questions. Are you really addressing the right issue? If you are stuck, argue the issue from the opposite point-of-view to the one you hold. Rules are there to be followed, but also questioned. If a rule is blocking you, ask why it is there. Think about ‘what could be’ not ‘what is’.

Theme 4 — The creative individual is open to new experiences.

Try to experience something new at least once a week. Try working in different ways. Drawing when you usually write can help you see things differently. Walk through this world in listening and watching mode, keen to learn about the new and different. Once a month, take a day to do activities that enhance your environment, community or skills.

Theme 5 — Routine kills creativity.

You are not tied to your desk. Do what it takes to get a different perspective. Take breaks, physical and mental, to get out of your normal routine Start and end at a different time every day. Take a new route in to the office.

Theme 6 — Creativity is an endless process of forward momentum.

Share your ideas. It’s better to say 99 unworkable ideas out loud than to keep one good one silent. Have a picture in your mind of success. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t move towards it. Your concept of success will change as you move towards it. Accept that each achievement is just a step towards the next one.

Published by Antonia

I'm a British citizen and European Union offical, who lives in Brussels again after 6 years in London and 8 in Melbourne. I went to the London School of Economics and University of Melbourne. In 2008 I took part in the Eisenhower Fellowship Multination Programme, the subject of 3 of my blogs. You can find me on Twitter as @antoniamochan or @antoniam

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