By Deanne Gagnon
The secret to evoking creativity within a group is to never actually use the word “creativity”. This word tends to elicit an interesting response from people. There are the ‘creative types’ who are immediately thrilled at the prospect and then there is ‘everybody else’, to whom the thought of having to participate in anything involving creativity induces feelings of sheer panic.
Why does the concept of creativity make people feel so uncomfortable? It is likely because we automatically equate creativity with the arts – artists, musicians, photographers, actors, crafters, etc. This implies that to be creative requires a specific skill set and when people do not have it, insecure feelings abound. Yes, the above are examples of creativity, but those are in a different capacity. Creativity lives within all of us, and we may not realize it, but exercise our creative muscles daily.
Traffic jam on the way to work? Creativity helps you come up with an alternative route. Can’t get your toddler to put on their boots? Creativity to the rescue as you turn it into a game to get them to comply. Not sure what to make for dinner? Creativity saves the day as you pull together a meal out of random ingredients. Another great example of how people think creatively without realizing it is the pandemic. Everyone had to come up with creative solutions to adjust the way they did business.
As facilitators, how do we evoke this everyday creativity within a group? The first, and most imperative thing we must do is build trust. If the expectation is for the group to share in an honest and vulnerable way, they have to trust you. There is a reason why we do icebreakers at the start of a session. They set the tone, infuse a bit of humour, help the group feel more comfortable with each other and most importantly, they begin trusting you as their fearless guide.
Another way to bring creativity to the surface is by asking open-ended questions. As soon as the group does not have the opportunity to reply with a simple one-word answer, their thinking shifts to a deeper level and taps into resources they may not have known were even there. Open-ended questions require reflection which takes time, ask the question and just wait patiently. Participants need the time and space to think of more contemplative responses, which means becoming comfortable with silence while they ponder.
Finally, celebrate! At the end of the session is when you can safely introduce the word creativity to the group as you reflect on all the creative solutions they came up with together and watch them beam with pride.