Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creativity Training

Stick with me here - I have to give some background first. Today at work was day one of our annual departmental meeting. I had to sit and listen to people all day long. All. Day. Long. Some of it was interesting, a lot I was familiar with, and all of it required much more caffeine than I usually take in. It is very difficult to sit still and behave for hours and hours and hours without also feeling sleepy.

The big boss (my boss' boss) gave quite an interesting presentation on packaging innovations. I work for a metal packaging company - you've probably eaten or drank from one of our containers, and if you're in Europe a lot of those pretty tins they sell there are probably made by my company. Part of the boss-man's job is to lead the team tasked with developing creative packaging solutions to meet customer needs, use fewer resources, increase shelf appeal, stuff like that. One little blurb on one of his slides said "Creativity training." I was so intrigued by how you train someone to be creative I made him backtrack to that point (I'm sure my direct boss would have preferred that I ask something a bit more relevant, teeheehee).


I'm not sure about you, but I don't consider myself to be creative. I really struggle to come up with ideas sometimes, and feel quite the genius when I unnecessarily reinvent the wheel. I am at my best when I have to be - if you handed me a few things and said "Make me a bag" I'd be able to come up with something unique. Walk me into Joann's Fabrics and say "Make me a bag" and it'll never get done. Too many choices can be just as bad as too few. When I asked for the nutshell version of creativity training (which sounds fun but I believe is only for the product design engineers) he gave me a couple ideas I thought I'd share with you.

First was something called "reverse brainstorming." It's where you come up with ideas to achieve the opposite result from what you want. Ford engineers (I picked this arbitrarily - I have no idea about Ford specifics - I drive a Subaru) may have sat around coming up with ways to make their cars less fuel efficient, slower, etc. with the true intent of circling back to improve upon those things. Or, for a crafty example, making bags takes time (sometimes a lot of it). If I wanted to apply reverse brainstorming, I might think "I should sew all the parts that require black thread at different times from those that require green so I can constantly change my thread/bobbin. I should not have all my materials at hand so I have to keep running back and forth." I know...not the best example... but I'm a little tired and don't feel like thinking of how I could make it worse in an effort to make it better :)

Second was "shrinking the box." So often we hear "Think outside the box." You know what's outside the box? Lots of stuff. Too many choices. The idea with shrinking it is narrowing your parameters and being creative within those. I usually get orders for a specific type of bag in specific fabrics and I can sleep my way through the stitching. Other times I get "Oh, just do whatever you think looks good." Oy. Sometimes I get "It needs to be yellow, with at least four pockets. And straps long enough to go across my body." Narrowing it down like that yet allowing some freedom makes it soooo much easier to create something more unique. A finite design area isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I don't know about you guys, but I thought these ideas really had something to them. I'm not sure if I'm presenting it great in a "crafty" way as opposed to an "engineering" way...but I'm sure you folks are creative enough to get what I'm shooting for here :)

I'm off to tuck in with my latest issue of Mollie Makes and then head to the land of nod to recharge for another round of meeting F. U. N.


  1. Oh my gosh, I would rather poke needles in my eye than have to sit and listen to that all day!!!! I always get sleepy when that sort of thing is going on. Like jury duty, and the like. Egads!!
    And you so creative silly!!!

  2. Oh, I hear ya... I am a journalist, but work in a 'commercial' workenvironment (because there are hardly any jouranlism jobs out there at the moment) and I am shocked by how stumped off people are, talking about 'churn' and 'lose switch', it makes me feel like people are speaking Chinese to me! While the only thing I care about is coming up with beautiful tetx or products. If you're interested I can give you some more ideas on how to trigger your creativity, everyone is creative but few know how to dig into their own creativity. Lesson one is: switch off the computer (aaaargh!!!) ;-)

  3. Oh yes, those interminable meetings, often in a warm room, where you spend half your time concentrating on staying awake never mind listening to things!

    Yes, I'm not particularly good on 'just make me something' although I can think up creative things for myself, probably because I can add my own criteria subconciously. Being a good tester though, I always try and demand requirements, however unpopular that question might be! (inspiration mosaics of a collection of favoured bags count as a requirement for example, just saying 'make a bag' does not)

  4. This is the age of presentations and meetings and brainstorming and thinking outside the box and many more such jargon.
    Give a hammer and chisel and I can do a better job :-)

  5. I like "shrinking the box". (less to sift thru') I'm not someone who can easily think "outside the box". If someone says to me to "think outside the box", all I want to do is poke him (it's usually a him) in the eye. "Reverse brainstorming" sounds like something a boss's boss would say. It feels like it's saying something but is it? Reminds me of years ago when every boss worth his suit would say "paradigm shift".



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