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Food for Thought

Creativity is an acquired taste, so start your company off with small bites.

You decided to build a creatively agile company based on a firm belief that creativity will help you and your company thrive...or you're a skeptic who, nonetheless, is willing to give it a try. In either case, experience is the best teacher. Begin by experimenting.

Learning how to be more creative is like learning any skill: You gain expertise over time. Starting small can help deal with skepticism among the staff and your own uncertainty. Begin by trying some techniques by yourself or with a few colleagues. By practicing creative techniques and attitudes, you'll gain the confidence and skill to build a company that includes everyone in its creative practice. Remember the goal is always to find a way to tap the creativity of everyone in your company.

I've used the following exercise many times because it's simple yet evocative. Making a collage from magazine images is a great prompt for new ideas. It's nonthreatening because everyone can tear pictures out of magazines and arrange them-and it's fun because you get to make a mess.

Decide on the issue or problem that needs some fresh thinking or new solutions. It should be clearly defined before beginning to let the collage spark ideas and associations. If you identify the most fundamental issue before you begin, the ideas that emerge will be more useful. You can pose the question or problem before or after you have collected the images. Experiment with what works best for you.

Give yourself or your group five minutes to look through the magazines and tear out images that speak to you. They don't have to be related to the problem you're trying to solve. Arrange your images by pasting them on a background or just on the surface in front of you. If you're doing this with others, share your thoughts and associations. Have a discussion about the meaning of the collage as a whole and also the relationship of the individual images within the collage. Why, for example, is one image in the center and another on the edge? Are the images active or reflective? Are they of nature or of cityscapes? The choice of images will help you identify what has meaning for you as well as spark new thinking about the issue under consideration. This simple exercise will surprise you with the depth and amount of ideas it can generate.


Juanita Weaver is a creativity consultant and coach.

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This article was originally published in the March 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Food for Thought.

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