Would you devote 15 minutes of your next meeting to an exercise or game if it would make your team more innovative? The group creativity exercises in this article won't take much time...but the lessons learned will have a long-lasting impact.
The games and activities below are designed to reinforce best practices that lead to creativity. The habits are outlined in the companion article How to Add Creativity to Your Leadership Toolbox, which identifies ten ways to nurture this skill in a team.
If attention is needed in a particular area, or if you want to jump-start the creative process, you will easily find the perfect activity by noting the purpose of the exercise in the header. Regardless of the exercise you choose, you will help eliminate "blocks" and get the creative juices flowing!
Idea Starter Cards - To Stimulate New Ones
Encourage the generation of new ideas with this simple activity. Pass out thought-provoking cards and ask recipients to ponder and write down ideas. A set of 10 cards (with a different preprinted, open-ended question on each card) is available for free download from the Bright Hub Media Center. A process or product is the focus of this set. However, once you see the premise of the game, it is easy to update them for any situation.
Download and print the set of ten creative idea starter cards. Cut them out. (If you have more than 10 team members, print cards twice.)
- Pass out one to each team member and ask them to read it.
- Ask each person to keep the card close for 24 hours. (For example, if the person is leaving the office, it should be placed in a pocket or purse.)
- Instruct each person to jot down thoughts that occur on the card, even if the information seems ridiculous or is not a direct response to the question on the card.
- Hold a meeting the next day and ask team members to share their ideas.
The power of putting the question in writing makes the holder cognizant that the creative process goes on all the time including when you least expect it! The handy card provides a place to write ideas down. Did anyone have to write something down during the middle of the night?
The Paper Wad Fight - To Discourage Negative Responses
This group creativity exercise works well when some team members are fearful of contributing because of the negative reactions by peers. Use it when ideas should be free-flowing, such as during a brainstorming session. It involves identifying inappropriate reactions to ideas and then allowing team members to gently lob a paper wad at violators of the policy.
- Create a list of "banned" negative expressions, such as "We've tried that before," "It will never work," or "We don't do it that way." Post the list so everyone can see it.
- Review the list and note that other negative expressions can be added at any time.
- Ask each team member to create an arsenal of paper wads (using recycle paper, of course!)
- During the next brainstorming session or collaborative meeting allow team members to toss a paper wad at anyone who uses a banned expression.
The Memory Game - To Encourage the Capture of Ideas
Drive home the point that you can't remember everything by playing this memory game:
- Divide team members into small groups or ask them to work individually.
- Give half the team paper and pencils and leave the other team members with no ability to record ideas.
- Ask everyone to take 10 minutes and brainstorm uses for an empty space in your office building.
- When the time is up, have each group present their ideas.
- Discuss the results. Who came up with more ideas? Which ideas were more creative? What are ways you can record ideas throughout the day?
If you extend the length of the session, the difference in performance will be even more prominent!
The Expert Game - To Demonstrate the Benefits of Broad Knowledge
If you need proof that information unrelated to a current project can be useful, try this:
- Divide the project team into groups of 3 - 5 people.
- Identify 2 - 3 "experts" in each group. The special knowledge can be about anything...fishing, making a flowchart, parenting, etc.
- Ask each expert to provide a short discussion (about 3 minutes) on their topic. For example, the fisherman can discuss how to put bait on a pole, the best places to fish and why.
- Listeners should take notes and may ask questions at the conclusion of each presentation.
- After the presentations, ask each group to come up with three new products or services inspired by the information obtained.
Consider how seemingly unrelated expertise could help the team with the current project. What are some ways to share information?
It's Story Time - To Experience the Impact of Environment
If you doubt that surroundings matter, experiment with your location:
- Assign a task, such as coming up with a name for a new box of cereal (easy) or composing a short story about the latest Google image (a little harder.)
- Ask each team member to go to a different location from where he or she normally works, such as someone else's desk, a break room or an outside location.
- Give participants about 5 - 7 minutes to complete the task.
- Upon return, ask people to share their results and discuss the impact that the location had on the process. What items inspired them? What did they find distracting? How might this information be incorporated in their own work environment?
These group creativity exercises are designed with the busy project team in mind...they don't take much time, but they do have a lot of impact!
- Epstein, Robert. The big book of creativity games: quick, fun activities for jumpstarting innovation. New York [etc.: McGraw-Hill, 2000. Print.
- Thompson, Charles. What a great idea! 2.0: unlocking your creativity in business and in life. [Rev. and updated]. ed. New York: Sterling Pub., 2007. Print.
Creativity Resources and Strategies
Learn how to inspire creativity in yourself and others with this series of articles that includes a free downloadable action plan for personal development, creativity exercises, strategies and general tips.
- What Creativity Means to a Project Manager
- An Action Plan to Inspire Creativity Every Day
- How to Add Creativity to Your Leadership Toolbox
- Exercises and Games to Inspire Creativity in a Team
- How to Find Creative Solutions to Your Problems