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15 Foundations for Facilitating Creativity : Page 2 of 2

15 Foundations for Facilitating Creativity

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9. Embrace dynamic balance.

Divergence AND convergence. Left AND right brain. Structure AND flow. Reflection AND action. That is one of the re-occurring themes in this article because it permeates all of creative process...and the complexity of being human. Creativity is filled with paradox. Setting up conditions for creativity is as well. Like with all natural systems, every situation, project, and group has a dynamic balance that will allow the most amount of creativity to emerge in that situation. Too rigid keeps the creativity bound; too loose, it gets unfocused. There is a balance between structure and flow. This is why whole brain practices are needed...the right brain to access NEW levels of ideas and information, and the left to discern and organize it.

10. Allow for self-organization when facilitating a group project.

Inherent in the creative process is a self-organization found in all of nature. You see this all the time in improvised jazz or improv theater...something larger than the sum of the parts emerges and it is a coherent whole and unexpected. It is similar to the experience you have in those moments when everything just seems to effortlessly come together in a brilliant, yet totally unexpected, way. This possibility always exists in any group. One key is to not over-control the experience and allow enough space for the next level of creativity to emerge in the room. This takes some trust in the creative process itself...and practices recognizing, like in an improv performance, when you need to step up and lead, or step back and follow. Without question, groups have the capacity to self-organize around a creative task — a collective creative intelligence can take over that is larger than any one person's idea. You have nature on your side. We are natural meaning-makers, and creativity is naturally self-organizing. By balancing both directing and following in real time, you can more naturally moving to higher levels of coherence, meaning, and sense. (All "Aha's" are deeply grounded in common sense at their new level). We have simply been socialized, educated, and trained to over-plan. Instead, we can learn how to work WITH the natural creative process.

11. Seek to make it safe, not comfortable.

Safety will allow people to open up and move into unknown territory without the fear of criticism, failure. Too much stability, and nothing new emerges. Asking people to share what they already know is different than guiding them into their unknown. On the other side, without doing the "container creating" to make it safe, taking people in too deep too soon can throw them into chaos and they will shut down — and they lose trust in you. In either case, nothing new emerges. Find the balance of the Creative Zone — the place of creative potential between stability and chaos. Create a safe space AND guide your participants into new territory, which can be uncomfortable. Discomfort is a normal part of the creative process. In fact, if everyone is the room is entirely comfortable the whole time, chances are you did more of an information gathering process than a creative one.

12. Fun is functional.

There is more research emerging all the time that shows how fun, play, and "lightening up" have a serious role to play in increasing creative thinking and establishing creative work culture — not just as an outlet to do on your free time, but as a driver to navigating change and working on serious challenges in work and life. It frees the brain to think more creativity, and frees the energy in the room for more effective and safe collaboration. In fact, I have not come across any research anywhere that points to not having fun and not being playful as a more effective way of living and creating. To facilitate creativity requires accessing and being comfortable with having fun yourself. And, knowing how to bring it in purposefully, and in a way it can be accepted (and not shut people down). It's different for every group and every culture. Once you access your own "deep fun" self, you have more choice on what methods to use and how. As with all facilitation, know your audience.

13. Your inner stories directly impact the container you create for others.

Check out all the stories you carry around creativity, fun and play. Do you hold them as separate from a business bottom line? Most of us grew up with the programming that creativity is something you do on your free time after the "real work" is done. Facilitating Applied Creativity carries a new story — that it is an essential part of the real work. It is more than something fun to open up a group, but actually something to help transform individuals, groups, teams and organizations; create a thrivable work culture, and feed the bottom line. Do you carry a story that creativity is for the domain of the arts...or do you know it to be present, in infinite abundance, for every person, group and system? What stories do you carry about yourself as a Creator? In knowing yourself as a Creator, and knowing that you are walking into a room filled with other Creators (whether they are aware of it or not) allows you to help facilitate a new story for those in the room.

14. Diverge...and Converge with discernment.

Facilitating transformational creativity requires your presence, adaptability, agile thinking…AND discernment. Discernment keeps whatever emerges in the room focused on the objectives, relevant, and purposeful…not just random creative expression (unless that is your goal). This means having processes for Convergence as well as Divergence. Divergence explores, discovers, yes-ands, and accepts to expand the playing field — the increase the field of potential from which to draw. Convergence discerns, focuses, fleshes out, uses what is relevant and leaves the rest. As with each of these points, the dynamic balance is the key: expand, contract; explore, refine; value logic and intuition; planning and spontaneity. Most people naturally gravitate to more comfort with diverging or converging…find out which is your preference and practice giving more time and attention to the other.

15. Prepare yourself with pre-workshop creativity rituals.

Creativity, by its nature, contains a lot of energy and newness. Facilitating novelty is not "business as usual." It's about leading a group into the non-habitual. It requires being resilient, agile, compassionate and an "expedition guide." Taking some time to do whatever you need to enter your own non-habitual state first can makes a significant difference. One of the best ways to do that is by taking some alone time before the facilitation, to do pattern-breaking exercises to increase your own energy and become present, alert, and responsive. The more of the whole-brain — and whole-body! — you bring in, the better. Like an athlete who warms up by stretching muscles, you're a creativity facilitator who warms up by stretching beyond your familiar patterns. Try different things, like moving in non-habitual ways around your living room before you leave your house. You'll be alone, so the more "out there" you can be in the privacy of your own space, the better. Surprise yourself at how "out there" you can get! It will also help you be more comfortable when something "out there" emerges from a participant. Do it until you transform any negative self-judgment or evaluation you have into the joy of exploration. It will increase your energy and aliveness, and help you be more attentive and at ease with what shows up in the room. Creativity is messy. Non-judgment of self and others during the process is essential!

I am so passionate about this topic that I could go on ad infinitum :-) I have covered some of the basics here. It's challenging to use words-only to describe a fullness of whole-brain experience. Not all of them might resonate with you. This is not about one right way — it's a loose guide and exploration. My hopes is that something in here gives you food for thought, inspiration or validation. •

© 2010 Michelle James. All rights reserved.

Michelle JamesMichelle James, CEO of the Center for Creative Emergence, is a creativity catalyst, consultant and coach to individuals and organizations. More »

10/19/10