The room is booked, post-it notes and coloured pens are ready and you have gathered your brightest minds – let the creative ideation begin! Or maybe not if like us you have experienced that tumbleweed moment when people struggle to contribute ideas, shut down each other’s ideas or just go quiet…
But this is bound to happen, as the ability to think creatively doesn’t start in the ideation room, it begins long before that. Creative thinking requires you to create a culture of creativity and recruit and nurture staff with an open mindset, which is what we have achieved for the community, events & fundraising development department at Mind.
From the top down
It starts from the top with managers role-modelling behaviours we wanted to see from our team; we re-framed our management group as a Leadership group and changed our monthly meeting format – out went the ‘round robin, round update’ and in came practical activities developing our communication, leadership and open thinking styles. Imagine how different your regular management meeting would feel if it opened with an activity where people shared their response to the question ‘What talent do you have that the world does not yet know about?’.
This shift in each manager’s attitude to their own leadership style has helped establish us a group working towards a common aim; each manager will then introduce similar open thinking style activities within their own teams and what that’s left us with is a culture of creativity.
A Research Day
A great example of this came from our fundraising development team, the now much anticipated Research Day. Once a month, every member of the development team gets out of the office and spends the day researching anything they want – the brief was that broad and still is, based on innovation principles that the best ideas come when people get out of the day-to-day, challenge their comfort zone and look outside their own sector.
Staff embraced this with a variety of research days in parks and art galleries, reading various books and listening to TED talks. Everyone brings their insight and learnings back to team meetings to share with colleagues and see what could be applied to their area of work – the research, discussion and implementation cycle. These research days are now standard across the whole department and have the added benefits that extend beyond fostering their open mindsets, into demonstrating that we have trust and respect that they can direct their own learning.
The recruitment process
Any culture is only as strong as the people working within it and we realised the importance of the recruitment process for fostering creativity. A review of our standard interview questions and tasks showed we were only assessing how well a candidate could remember information from our website or tell us how they organised their work; however candidates weren’t demonstrating they could think on their feet or had a ‘yes and’ instead of a ‘no but’ attitude.
Our interview formats are now weighted towards assessing behaviours, using scenario-style questions and setting tasks where the content is less important than the process – one of the best presentations a candidate has done was based on convincing us why we should start gardening as a hobby; she got the job and has added huge value and results to the team.
Ongoing learning and development
Once you have your staff, invest in their ongoing learning and development. Our staff complete Insight (colour) Profiles, providing detail about their learning style and communication preference and share this with colleagues to find effective ways to work together, capitalising on different strengths. We use the insight profiles for team activities and seeing how a group of ’yellows’ approach planning a holiday compared to a group of ‘reds’, as this can give you more insight than any number of operational planning meetings.
Feedback is fundamental and can be your friend if it’s embedded and made safe. Again manager role-modelling is crucial and we regularly provide feedback to each other and the team using a ‘More, Less, Continue’ framework. The development team adopt a play-safe approach where after any activity they get together and talk through what went well, what didn’t work and can be improved. Key staff have received feedback training, so they are a source of coaching style support for other staff feeling less confident about the feedback skills.
So, let’s try this again…
Ok, let’s get back in that ideation room we started in, now filled with people confident in a culture of creativity, empowered to self-direct their learning, starting with an open mindset, aware of their own learning styles and able to give and receive feedback. Instead of tumbleweed, we now get great new fundraising ideas like our student active challenge TwentySeven27, ongoing product development (watch this space for a new Mind event in spring 2020) and a motivated and productive team.
And now it is over to you – what one thing can you adopt to open your mind and start to spread a culture of creativity within your teams?
Written by Karen Bolton, Head of Community & Events Fundraising Marketing & Innovation and Alexa Hawkins-Bell, Fundraising Development Manager, Mind