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« "Kids' Rules, Pa-It-Forward, and Buckets: Simplicity and Goal Setting" | Main | Relationships Matter »

Unlikely Connections


What do carrots, clarinets and creativity have in common? 

Beyond all starting with the letter “c”, some of us may struggle to come up with an answer.  But if you’re Linsey Pollak, this putting together of two unrelated things – like a carrot and a clarinet - to create something new is what creativity is.  Finding connections between seemingly disparate entities, and making something new out of those connections ... that’s creativity in action, and a way of perceiving the world as an endless possibility limited only by our mind set, and our willingness to look for the unlikeliest of connections as creative thinkers.

 What Linsey represents so well with his carrot clarinet is a creative thinking approach known asmetaphorical thinking, the direct comparison of two unrelated or indirectly linked things in order to spark creativity and innovation.  Metaphors become shortcuts to understanding, allowing us to adjust our mind sets to a new perspective and, thus, facilitating more creative problem solving.  Our friends at Mind Tools provide a wonderful example of applying this metaphorical thinking approach to a common organizational challenge of cutting production costs.  Thinking about the problem of reducing costs metaphorically as losing weight, then looking for ways to translate the ideas generated by the metaphor to the real-world problem is a powerful, effective, and fun way to engage and expand the collective creative thinking capabilities that exist within and around us.  If we took Linsey’s example and expressed every problem we had as a vegetable, imagine the significance eating a salad would take on.  Problem solved = vegetable chopped ... success never tasted so good!

So how can we foster creativity?  We like the approach Leonard and Swap (ISBN 0-7879-6067-5) describe for managers dealing with organizational change, and the five conditions that leaders need to cultivate within their organizational cultures in order to drive creative collaboration and innovation.  These five conditions include:

  1. Preparation (collecting both expertise and new insights and perspectives);
  2. Innovative opportunity (“in-the-moment” problem solving and “what if” scenario planning);
  3. Divergence (generating a range of options through professional and personal diversity);
  4. Incubation (time out for reflection); and
  5. Convergence (selection of options).

These conditions apply just as well beyond organizational walls, and can be helpful to anyone needing a spark of creative thinking to progress.   And if vegetables and weight loss aren’t speaking to you, try chocolates and travel (with a dash of pepper, if you please ... talk about unlikely combos!)

As our final gift on the power of unconventional connections, we hope you enjoy this short clip on a very special bond between two unlikely companions.   Heart warming!

Stay curious, enjoy these final days of summer 2014, and may your vegetables sing often and loud!

Still curious and amazed!

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