Senior Director Innovation Capacity Gap Inc. Global, Kyle Hermans, Michael Perman

Kyle Hermans

By Kyle Hermans

Kyle Hermans is the Senior Director of Innovation Capacity at Gap Inc. Global, and was the head of Synecticsworld’s West Coast Division at the time of this article.

Take a moment and ask yourself, what could you be, do, have or create, without constraints?  Write a few of the possibilities down for yourself.

Approaching this question with an open mind you will naturally consider and create possibilities, dreams, ideas and wishes, before an inner voice of reason, assessment and judgment steps in to place rational blocks and doubts in your way.  Knowing this can be a valuable insight into the unlimited creative potential that lies within you.

If you had approached this question with a rational mind only, it may have seemed unrealistic to you; especially given the current state of all things earthly, human, manmade and the complex challenges associated that we now face from day to day. However, your natural creative instinct as a human being was to approach this kind of question first with an open metaphorical mind, because we are all natural evolvers and problem solvers.

Now imagine having a collaborative team environment that nurtures continuously open minds, truly explores without constraint any possibility before assessing and judging it.  How much of the impossible could and would they make possible?

My colleagues and I spent a day in NYC this week with one of our very courageous and collaborative Fortune 500 Fashion brand client teams who engaged us to facilitate their pursuit of unbounded future-state thinking and actions to drive their brand forward and to create meaningful connections to their international customer base.  Included in our client’s team for the day was Daniel Pink (author of “A Whole New Mind” & “Drive”) with whom we had the privilege of a full morning of personal dialogue and who set the tone for an action filled day of possibilities.

how to collaborate, Collaboration, Innovation, Synectics, synetics, innovation consulting, innovative solutionsDaniel shared a discovery from his research that captured the connection between motivation and mental freedom – un-commissioned creative work produces a higher measurable quality of creativity than commissioned creative work.   Further, he explained, the more constraints placed on tasks given to teams who are responsible for producing high quality breakthrough creative work, the greater the tendency for them to produce good but not great outcomes.  Basically, the more rudimentary (constrained) the cognitive skill set the team is asked to use, regardless of the potential reward, the poorer the performance by the team.

At Synecticsworld, what we have observed behind this phenomenon is that the more constraints placed upfront on a team, the more they will automatically begin to feel less like what they produce is their creation.  And consequently, their mental energy and creativity to the task drops off, and not surprisingly so does the resulting creative performance.

Our three big tips to avoid this and to motivate a team to unlock their creativity and set them free are:

  1. Limit the upfront constraints around a task you give to your team – including not inundating them with information.  The team will find a deeper state of collaborative creative output, and be saved from falling into the same pit of constraints that you as the problem owner may be in.
  2. Remove the constraint of rational thinking by inviting the team to suspend reality and offer up ideas that come from a realm of immoral, illegal and absurd.  Enable metaphorical thinking, which is free of the judgment and evaluation we normally place on rational ideas, and has a greater chance of being explored.
  3. Create a bond in the team by allowing them to create fresh content free from constraints, biases and early judgment.  This bond in the team will drive up the creative performance motivated by the group itself.  This will also build co-ownership to the output once the ideas flow back into the operational world of real day-to-day business.  It will create the sense of “invented here” over the killing concept of “not-invented here.”

From the start, with our NYC client team, the recommendation was to be motivated by thinking about their tasks in the context of what could their brand be, do, have or create, without constraints.

In the short space of 3 hours the NYC client team, who were made up of 15 cross functional senior executives, found alignment on 3 key task areas to explore out of 40 potential themes, produced around 120 beginning ideas to explore and arrived at 3 aligned solid actionable solutions that they would take back into their business and build sustainable business models around: A motivated team, with free minds, turning the impossible into the possible.

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