Can you imagine coming in to work to find the whole team playing hopscotch or tag? While that is an awesome way to start the day, I think the saying runs a little deeper than that. Having time to play would mean that whomever is delegating the time out has placed a priority on the freedom of the team to think freely.
Too often a team leader or manager/boss has grand ideas and goals about creating a cohesive team that can get together and solve huge problems in new ways, but ends up just expecting the team to work exactly how he/she does on the task at hand. I can speak from experience that I am at my absolute best when no-one is keeping score and I’m given the freedom to chase ridiculous and audacious ideas. The micromanager leader cringes in his office chair at the thought of “wasting” hours playing while there are tasks to be completed. That’s not to say that creatives have it all figured out when it comes to an idea session.
I’ve been a part of many teams that were full of ideas but had little or no follow through to execute. Having a team comprised of only free thinkers can create idea overload where no-one can decide on an idea because everyone is chasing different rabbit trail. Structure is required for creativity to have purpose. There are squares on a hopscotch floor so you know where to jump. There are some hard rules to follow when planning a creative meeting. Here are what I think to be the 3 most important guidelines to having a productive creative session.
- Have a plan for the session
- Each segment of the session should have a time limit.
- Have a segment for popcorn ideas where members can throw out ideas with no strings attached
- Reward innovative thinking
- Make it known to the team that no idea is too big or scary
- Give an award for the craziest idea in the meeting
- Attach strings
- Once the team has narrowed down the list of ideas, no new ideas can be introduced without a plan of action and goals attached (this limits the sidetracks and distracting hail mary’s)
- Never walk out of an idea session without a clear plan for next steps.
Three steps that I think can help any team stay on task and still allow for creative freedom. Remember, having time to play still does mean actually playing. So invest in a ping pong table. Tape out a hopscotch mat on your floor. Play wiffle ball in the parking lot. Then, get to work.