I recently gained certification to facilitate Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). One of the most fascinating parts of the accreditation workshop was analysing how different ‘types’ were creative or approached creativity.
In particular, we debated how individuals exercised their creativity in the dichotomies of Sensing v. Intuitive (S-N) and Perceiving v. Judging (P-J). If you know nothing about MBTI, here’s enough information to be dangerous. People with “S” tendencies prefer specifics, details, measures, practicality and repetition, and people with “J” characteristics prefer order, structure, control, limits and categories. Once we reviewed all of the categories, we debated how people with either S or J preferences were able to balance their negativity. In other words, could they turn off their negativity?
To suggest that you can switch off the tendency to be negativity is a bit like telling someone to stop smoking cigarettes. It’s an easy comment for a non-smoker to make, but a very difficult step for the smoker – even if the smoker knows it’s not good for their health.
That said, having a better understanding of yourself, and realising how your attitude and actions might generate or sustain negativity in your business environment is also the first step to working with it or moving past it. Simply having an open and constructive discussion about it is also important, and in my experience, the points below are sometimes helpful to consider during that conversation with your colleagues.
Remember the purpose of creativity: to produce the greatest volume of ideas. Ideas create future products, enhanced features, improved services, new processes – which in turn, generates new forms of revenue. To be creative requires time, risks, mistakes and mind- and soul-searching. If you let negativity prevent creativity from happening, you’re fundamentally working against yourself and the good of the organization. That’s not to say constructive negativity doesn’t have its place, but that place is never in the phase of brainstorming.
- Like any other business skills, creativity must be learnt, nurtured and rewarded. Creativity is more than painting conference room walls vivid colours or placing toys on desks. It means recognising people who think differently in ways which are beneficial and pro-active toward the organisation’s business situations. A colleague in a creativity workshop a few weeks ago said she wasn’t paid to think differently. (After some argument, she conceded she wasn’t paid to perform her job over and over without increasing either her efficiency or productivity.) Improvement of any type requires creative thinking, and if you can’t let go of your negativity, then don’t get in the way of others. You must reward people for finding new ways to solve old problems, particularly in ways which run against the typical methods of your corporate culture. Think of it this way: no successful company has ever remained the same. They must change, and change and creativity go hand-in-hand.
You don’t need to “speed up” the lifecycle of a brainstorm. There will always be bad ideas in brainstorm. If the facilitator does their job well, bad ideas die a natural death in the lifecycle of a brainstorm. Don’t waste your energy deflating ideas faster. There is absolutely no reason to be prematurely judgmental.
- Focus your energy on what you like – not dislike. Every brainstorm has both good and bad ideas. Focus your attention on the ideas which have potential. Encourage people to improve interesting ideas into good ideas. Improve ideas by adapting them, adding different elements to fix them instead of simply pointing out the problems. This is particularly important if you have seniority above the attendees.
If you must be negative, be negative about your negativity. Challenge why you’re dismissing an idea. Instead of asking Why?, ask Why not? Is there another issue or problem to address? For some people, it’s their own natural fears or insecurities. Perhaps you aren’t sure how to sell an idea to a supervisor. If so, brainstorm ways to merchandise and package it. Are you wary about how you’ll build acceptance internally for a particular idea? These questions make good brainstorm topics.
Remove yourselves from the creative situation if you can’t curtail your negativity. Here’s the toughest one of all. Knowing when to step away from the situation because you are the problem. For this type of person, perhaps the best solution is to give your brainstormers free rein after you’ve given them the proper direction and guidance, perhaps even giving them the criteria that you’ll use to judge the best idea. Or, if you feel you need to be present, join the brainstorm at its end to see what’s been accomplished and to positively comment only about the best ideas.
How else have you managed to stop yourself from being negative?