Boundaries enhance creativity


February 10th, 2008

I’ve been re-reading Free Play (you can see it over there on the left under Books I’m Reading). In it there’s a chapter on how limits enhance creativity. This was proven to me this week when I worked with a group of people who had to work out how to communicate some significant changes across their organisation.

Drawing on inspiration from two of my other favourite books – Made to Stick and Presentation Zen I got them to hone their core messages, whittling away any extraneous (or noisy) information and then got them to create a presentation with the following guidelines:
– max of 10 minutes to include any questions, discussion and feedback
– they could use ppt or create a presentation using A3 posters, or any other form they liked as long as they stuck to the following rules
– design the presentation on stickies first (ie storyboarding)
– no more than 6 words per slide or poster (ever!)
– no bullet points (no exceptions)
– no graphs or tables
– no fades, spins or other tricky manouvres

The results were amazing. They created and presented engaging and informative and diverse presentations. I think they even surprised themselves. The resulting messages and presentation designs have been posted on an internal social networking site for all to have access to and use.

My reflections:

1. If you believe that people ARE creative, give them the tools to BE creative, then guess what? – they’ll BE CREATIVE.

2. Boundaries matter. So do expectations. It doesn’t hurt to establish and reinforce these.

3. Transitions matter too. It’s useful to have a way of transitioning from the experience back to the real world of work.

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