Creativity. What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Creativity can thrive in the right atmosphere and choke in the wrong one.

What is the ‘right’ atmosphere?

It’s civil. It’s rich with respect, kindness, helpfulness, and active listening. In fact, civility makes the work environment more pleasant and that enables employees to produce more … better … results.

Don’t take my word for it. I was reminded recently of a 2015 NY Times pieceNo Time To Be Nice At Work” by Christine Porath, Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. She focuses on the impact of incivility in the workplace.

In short, Porath’s research reveals the impact of un-civility on:

  • focus (it went down)
  • mistakes (they went up),
  • employee problem-solving and idea-generation (it worsened).

In one study, an experimenter belittled a group of peers. Afterward, they performed 33% worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39% fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task.

In a second study, participants encountered a rude, admonishing stranger — a “busy professor” – en route to the experiment. Afterward, their performance was 61% worse on word puzzles and they produced 58% fewer ideas in the brainstorming task than those who had not been treated rudely.

There were side effects on witnesses and customers:

The study found that witnesses of the incivility performed 22% worse on word puzzles and produced 28% fewer ideas in the brainstorming task.

… Employees began to contribute less and lose their conviction,

… and customers quit patronizing the business.

About your workplace – are you feeling the love?

Is your workplace suffering from the stressors of these crazy times? Is sense of community falling and lack of civility raising? Here are ways to check. Do your employees:

  • Do employees seem more on edge?
  • Do you see more staff conflict with coworkers, vendors or clients?
  • Do more employees work from home and engage in person less?
  • Do employees seem less focused, less productive?
  • Is your team producing fewer creative, high-quality ideas?
  • Do they seem exhausted at the prospect of another problem to solve?

If so, ask yourself – are your employees feeling the love? Or, has workplace civility taken a back-seat to crisis thinking, confusion, and exhaustion during these challenging times?

If so, the impact can be significant. According to Porath, you can expect less creativity: less relevant, innovative problem-solving, and fewer of the ‘good ideas’ that make your brand or business stand out.

You can expect more senseless mistakes, less focus, and less of the productivity that moves your business forward. I will add that if this goes on too long, you can expect more turnover.

Don’t Let Loss of Love Cost You Business

According to Porath’s research, even in the best of times, attending to, supporting, and caring for each other has a lot to do with our levels of creativity and performance.

Can I get some agreement that ‘the best of times’ doesn’t describe the 2020’s so far?! Turns out, sharing the love, civility and taking a moment for some people-time may be just the thing we humans need to turn this 2020’s thing around.

Don’t know how? CEJ Studio offers coaching and classes on skills and techniques that help you create a happier, more motivated workplace. Reach out!

Breaking the Ice: Icebreakers

So, you’ve got another meeting to plan. It’s that weekly meeting. Same people. Pretty much the same topic. Need something to up the engagement?

Sometimes it’s as easy as starting with an icebreaker. Sure, you all know each other. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something more to learn about your co-workers. And, play can loosen up the room … spark  creative thinking.

In fact, some icebreakers work best when everyone already knows each other.

Try this …

Put a blank piece of paper in front of each attendee. When all are seated, have them write a question on the paper and crumple it up, then toss the paper ball to another person at the table to be answered. Meeting virtually? Have each person message the question to the person to their left on the meeting screen.

Or this,

Write these three questions on a line or virtual white board or on large sticky notes on the wall:

  1. What is the last movie or TV show you saw that gave you an idea about your work?
  2. Name a problem you would like to solve.
  3. What great idea of your own or someone else’s did you experience last week?

Each attendee answers each question in five words or less. Discuss.

The internet is full of icebreaker ideas.

Search on ‘meeting icebreakers’, ‘class icebreakers’, ‘improv games meetings’, etc. I found these 5 Awesome Meeting Icebreaker’s to Get Your Meeting Started.

In any case,

Be careful about underestimating the value of an icebreaker, especially when in a group that already knows each other. They inspire, build community and momentum.

Icebreakers help gel the ‘marriage of skills‘ that is your team.

‘iStatements’ – Helpful or Selfish?

An interesting question came up during today’s communications class. We were discussing how tense conversations can sometimes become accusatory. What exactly causes defensiveness to enter the picture?

It’s pretty clear that when we say more ‘you-you-you’, the verbal equivalent of pointing a finger at someone, conversation can take a defensive or conflicted tone. So what do we do about it?

Using “I-statements” is a generally accepted way to keep things less confrontational or to redirect when defensiveness rears it’s head. I-statements are less confrontational. Rather than pointing at another’s actions, choices, behaviors, we focus instead of the impact that they have on us.In other words, instead of “you-you-you”, we say “i-i-i”.

For example, instead of saying “you keep saying that…“, try “when I hear this repeatedly, I …“. Or, instead of “you think you’re so smart…“, try “I feel unimportant when…“. Or, instead of “you can’t do that!“, say “I am uncomfortable with …

Today’s class, however, began to wonder if all that I-talk could begin to sound selfish. Aren’t we taught not to ‘i-i-i’ in order to not sound egotistical? It’s a good point.

Here’s a different way to look at it …

Yes, “i-i-i talk” can be off-putting in daily, social conversation. However, when the tension of conflict sets in, we begin to hear those “you’s” as accusatory, judgmental, even hostile. Most of us will shift gears to a more defensive mode. That shuts down listening and from there, the communication just spirals down. In conflicted conversation, a speaker’s “you-statements” make it less and less likely that a listener will listen. That damages our ability to reach mutual understanding, a hallmark of successful communication.

So, while it’s not great to over-use the “i-word” in happy talk, in conflict, using it instead of the “you-word” can help keep things from getting personal.

It may seem counterintuitive, but ….

When we are in conflict, one of the best things we can do is to stop talking about what the other person is doing and start talking about how we’re doing.

I-statements can help keep a conflicted conversation grounded in care and respect. I-statements:

  • Honor the other by not judging, assuming, mind-reading, or hiding from them.
  • Give the other person insight into the impact of their behavior and words. 
  • With that insight, give others an opportunity to shift their behavior and choose another way. 

Do I-Statments Always Work?

No. The energy of the conflict may have gotten the best of they other person. They may be too enmeshed in their argument, their point-of-view, or too afraid to let their guard down to take the opportunity to de-escalate and open up. Or, they may feel they have more to gain by staying in the argument, the conflict, than by resolving it (important to learn, if that’s the case).

But, You Don’t Have Anything To Lose

They point the way out of the fighting ring. Sticking with I-statements may help de-escalate the conversation over time or bring it to an end.

I-statements and the de-escalation they bring can also protect your heart, literally. Conflict can bring physical stress based in our survival response. It raises blood pressure, heart rate and other adrenaline/cortosol related responses. It also causes us to hyper-focus on what we perceive to be a threat and lose our capacity to think more expansively, creatively, empathetically, and fluidly.

I-statements coupled with calm breathing enable you to stay focused on your own well-being in a way that keeps you in control. It can minimize the stress and maximize your creative capacity for insight and idea generation.

So, The Next Time You Feel Yourself Sliding Into The Conflict Zone …

Step back, take a breath, and refocus your attention from “you” to “I”; identify how you are feeling and why.

Use that insight to shape I-statements that give conflict a cushion to fail on.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When presenting, you may know your message well, but your audience doesn’t.  You have to teach them. That means repeat your core idea at least three times

Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them what you’re telling them.
Tell them what you’ve told them.

Dale Carnegie

I wrote this little poem about it to help you remember:

When you’ve a message
you want all to recall
but, the listener’s
tired and distracted.
Don’t worry, my dear,
repetition’s your friend!
Repeating is where you get traction.

Plant the seed.
Lay the message out once.
Yes, you could even try spelling.
But, the message is risked
if it’s not fixed
in the anchoring soil of re-telling.

So, repeat it,
then say it again.
Your audience isn’t a know-it-all.
Repeating mitigates
all the dissipates.
Repeat puts the ‘all’ in recalling.

I know what you’re thinking.
can’t possibly fix all the blanking.
But, trust me, my friend,
when the goal is retrieving …
nothing beats the art of repeating!

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NaPoWriMo is National Poetry Writing Month. Participants commit to write a poem a day and publish it in the WordPress community. Christie wrote this poem for the 2014 NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem with the word ‘repeating’.