Innovation is a process that relies heavily on creativity and individual thinking, and these are things that don’t come easily. In order to get your creative juices flowing it can be important to engage in creative thinking exercises and practice ways you can improve your innovation process.
In this article, we will highlight some of the main advantages of creative thinking and we’ll walk through some of our favorite creative thinking exercises that your team can do to both build team alignment and improve your creative process.
Advantages of Creative Thinking Exercises
If you haven’t implemented design thinking or creative thinking exercises into your workspace, it’s time to start.
Especially when working remotely it can be very difficult to stimulate creative thinking and get people involved with the workshop you’re conducting.
Creative thinking exercises help alleviate the difficulty of engagement and stagnation when innovating and allow people to think outside the box. Here are some of the advantages of using creative thinking exercises.
Increased Range of Thought
Creative thinking exercises help improve the scope of your ideas and increase the flexibility at which you think. Engaging in exercises that visually and mentally push your limits is important to flex your creative muscles, but also help highlight details or changes in a project that you wouldn’t have noticed before.
Discovering New Ideas
Creative thinking allows you to see things that weren’t visible before, and this means you can discover new ideas more efficiently.
Not only can you discover new ideas, but you might have noticed your team falling into a pitfall of using the same solution multiple times due to its simplicity and familiarity.
Creative thinking exercises enable you to move away from these solutions and find new ones that meet the specific needs of your project.
Improves Team Alignment
Creative thinking exercises are sometimes done with a group and sometimes individually. Regardless of how they’re done, they provide a shared method of ideation for your whole team.
By creating exercises that help engage your team to the same touchpoint, creative thinking exercises provide a platform for team members to connect. This connection is very important and provides increased potential for their visual collaboration exercises down the road.
Enhanced Problem Solving
When innovating you will always encounter unique problems that didn’t exist before. These unique problems will require unique solutions and creative thinking exercises are the perfect way to locate and implement these exercises.
Outside of innovation, creative thinking can apply to many scenarios in life and will be greatly helpful to the problem-solving capabilities of both your team and the individuals that are involved.
Just because creative thinking can be really effective when it comes to the workspace doesn’t mean that your team can’t gain valuable advantages from conducting these exercises outside of the workspace as well. To begin, we’ll highlight some team-building exercises to conduct with your team just for fun.
These exercises don’t have to be work-related, and sometimes thinking outside of the box with abstract concepts can help people to key into their creative process when it comes to work.
Many of these exercises, since they’re simply meant to be fun and relaxing, involve drawing, fidgeting, or creating fictional stories. This is part of the reason they are so relaxing and add a very chill element to the workspace.
While there are a ton of different exercises that you can conduct here, these are our two favorites.
Incomplete Figure Test
The Incomplete figure test is a game where each member of your team draws a squiggle or line on a piece of paper. They then pass their drawing to someone else who does their best to interpret the squiggle and finish the drawing in their own vision.
This is a fun way to get people communicating and expressing their creative freedom in a loose, low-pressure environment. It also helps build a sense of connection between people, and this simple exercise can build an extended understanding of how others think.
Drawing Evolution is a creativity exercise that is meant to be done over time and asks your team to each draw an item of their choosing.
Every day, week, or month (depending on how frequently you conduct this exercise) they will draw the same item but this time they will include something that wasn’t there before, or add another layer of detail to their new picture.
By repeatedly drawing an object they will begin to notice features that were not present in their initial drawing and will see steady improvements over time.
The increased focus provided to both the drawing and the object will help improve everyone’s attention to detail and help them see things that they might have missed in the past.
These exercises are great examples of how non-work creative thinking can help improve performance and alignment within your teams. Now we’ll discuss the workplace exercises that we find most effective.
Brainwriting, or agile solution building, is a collaboration exercise that engages the entire team with each other’s ideas and allows everyone to insert their unique perspective into the mix.
This template starts off by having each participant write a problem or an idea in the first box. After that, moving diagonally to the right, everyone will make a comment or suggestion to that idea. They can either make suggestions or evolve it through their own perspective.
This is a great template because it helps build unity within your team while also solving a ton of different problems that people might be experiencing. It does this by adding a level of creative freedom that is hard to accomplish through individual ideation.
Group Problem Solving
Group problem solving is possible both in-person and remotely, and is an exercise that benefits greatly from the use of an online whiteboard like Fresco. The main tools will simply be your team using sticky notes to express their thoughts and a board to place hem
On the notes, your team will write down the various challenges they have encountered recently and will post them on the board. After everyone has posted a challenge, the entire team will begin to shuffle around the (virtual) room and look at the different notes that have been posted.
For each note they encounter, they will place a note of their own that provides a solution to the initial challenge or suggests a remedy for the problem. These sticky notes can either address the solution directly or can attempt to build on the ideas that others shared on their notes.
Whether they’re a unique solution or a new look at one that’s already been said, do your best to make the notes positive and forward-thinking.
This exercise is great for multiple reasons, but at the core, it helps everyone gain a new perspective on their specific issue and provides many different solutions to their problem. They might choose to take one of these solutions and run with it, or the added perspective can field a unique solution of their own.
Either way, this is a great way to increase interaction between team members and get them thinking creatively about many different challenges.
Mind mapping is a popular exercise when building customer journey maps or for increasing engagement in the classroom. It is also a great innovation tool that helps build creativity within people.
This exercise starts by writing a general idea in the middle of your board and having your team begin brainstorming how this idea connects to others and branches into more specific realms.
When done properly, this exercise helps teams build many new ideas that are both connected and unique. It might be hard to create new ideas automatically, however, and a good way to start is by posing some possible use cases for this idea.
If you start at the end, where the customer will use it, then you might be able to work backward to find out how it connects with the main theory you’re analyzing.
Mind mapping is a great tool to keep your team engaged with the idea you’re diagramming and gives them a lot of creative freedom to take this idea wherever they see it being applicable.
Storyboarding is a classic customer journey mapping exercise but it can be reframed to be an effective creative thinking exercise as well.
Storyboarding is traditionally a customer journey map where you describe each step of their journey to completion. It can describe a product journey, a customer service roadmap, or the steps to the completion of a project.
This template can be pivoted to accommodate more creative thinking, however, and can utilize design thinking to create an entirely new exercise.
The storyboarding template can be conducted with drawings, shapes, or designs to help establish a new workflow or improve an existing product/service. Having your team draw their process and design requirements might expose some details that hadn’t been brought up previously and is a great way to advance the thinking process about these elements.
Creative thinking exercises are things that we practice from a young age, so it only makes sense that they would be applicable to the workplace too. If you want to learn more about the hybrid workspace and how it can be best optimized, make sure you check out Fresco.