A cohesive team of idea-makers has more genius potential than a lone wolf.
In other words, more heads can be better than one—if the team has chemistry. And there are a lot of reasons why a team wouldn’t have chemistry. The biggest one is ego: When people on a team are more concerned with seeming smart than with building ideas together, it completely destroys collaboration.
In a group, individual intellect is only as valuable as the ideas it creates.
Each member of a creative team is not an isolated thinker, but a neuron in the collective brain.
Some teams (can’t help thinking of the Beatles) get lucky with natural, repeatable cohesion. But for teams whose members have different backgrounds, limited shared history, and pressure to perform, it takes a little more effort to make chemistry happen. Creativity matters—here’s how to do it in a group setting.
3 key reasons why creativity is essential to long-term business success
Creativity is at the core of innovation. Every business is doing something that’s never been done before—or never been done at this level of convenience.
But creativity doesn’t end with the founding innovation. It can (and should) happen repeatedly throughout the life of the company.
- Expands long-term potential. In an article in Inc. Magazine, Yoram Solomon talks about how a single ideation workshop generated a $500 million idea. The workshop started with the question of whether the business had a long-term business strategy, and the realization that it didn’t. Had they—or any business—not asked the question and come up with creative solutions, they would have left all that revenue on the table.
- Encourages introspection. Companies who are experiencing success run the risk of getting complacent—underestimating their competition, taking their moats for granted. Creativity demands that companies perform an exhaustive audit of where they are relative to their peers, and thus develop a better idea of where they stand and where they need to improve.
- Improves culture. A workplace that encourages creativity is also one that respects failure. Brand new ideas—even very good ones—don’t always take off. In fact, the ratio of ideas that don’t work to ideas that do is very much in favor of the not-working side.
But the positive value of a powerful success more than pays for the negative value of ten times as many failures. A culture where low-cost experiments are viewed as high-value data-gathering projects will naturally facilitate more creative thinking.
How to overcome group thinking challenges and ideate successfully
- Choose a good leader. The culture of any group is defined largely by its leader. That’s true on the macro-scale of a business and on the micro-scale of an individual working group. A good leader knows how to get the group prepared for meetings and how to keep meetings on track. They can bring out the shyer members of the group and synthesize ideas quickly. They can be an affirmative voice, encouraging all ideas, no matter how strange.
- Quantity > quality. The ultimate goal of ideation is to develop a shortlist of great ideas. But a shortlist doesn’t happen instantly—it’s the distillation of a much larger list of ideas.
So, in the ideation process, quantity is the first goal. Develop a giant list of ideas and gradually reduce it to the most promising.
- Build a diverse team. The extreme example of a non-diverse team is a one-person team: a single background, a single mind, a single approach to problem-solving.
Complex problems can’t be solved by a single approach. While a one-person team is an extreme example, a team that lacks diversity induces the same effect. True diversity is diversity of perspective, which is often the result of different backgrounds. True creativity is the cohesive combination of many different points of view.
Successful group ideation has the feel of magic: You’re suddenly not an isolated creature anymore, you’re an inspired member of a broader pack. The foundation of good group ideation is culture, and the engine is an effective leader.