Project managers seldom worry about nurturing the creative sides of team members. But if you plan and schedule for creativity the way you do for the more tangible aspects of your software project, you might be pleasantly surprised at the practical results you gain.
Have you ever noticed that project management books seldom discuss creativity? Yet, in my experience, in addition to basic planning, successful managers must have an intuitive sense of the timing of creativity. Recognizing this, I set out to study scholarly works on creativity and reexamined my past projects and teams where creativity flourished as a key success factor. This journey concluded with the firm belief that project managers can take some specific actions to nurture creativity in a project.
What Is Creativity?
The first thing managers need to do is acknowledge the truth about creativity. If your firstWhen compared to teams of similar size working within the organization, my team, it was noted, had a significantly higher rate of issues addressed. I went from leading the team to coaching people to look inside themselves and to each other for creative solutions. I enjoyed my job a lot more.
Identify And Train Facilitators
Training team members in facilitation a critical factor to the success of peer led discussions. Well-trained facilitators understand how to keep the focus on an issue, which complements Amabile’s notion of creativity as a goal-based activity. Facilitators are valuable in ensuring all voices are heard, an important factor in group innovation. Some developers are not assertive, and I have encountered many who simply go with the flow or cave in when their viewpoint isn’t initially well understood or received. The social psychologist Solomon Asche once conducted a study in which he demonstrated the potential of average people to agree on a wrong conclusion because of a reluctance to trust their own opinions. In the experiment, Asche displayed a vertical line in front of the room with three others of varying sizes to its right, similar to the example in figure 1.
A group of people was told that an individual would be invited in and asked to identify which marked line was closest in length to the one on the left. Even if the is person correctly chose C, the room of people was to insist that line A was in fact correct. Nearly one-third of the individuals invited into the room gave in and agreed with the group's claim. In my experience I have found this is possible because many capable people have a tendency to doubt themselves. A well trained facilitator understands that selfdoubt can reduce the flow of free thought in a discussion (a real creativity killer) and can control this.
Talk To Your Team About Evaluation
When Amabile refers to evaluation as a creativity killer, she is referring to excessive evaluation or prematurely passing judgment. While many of us nod and agree, I've observed that the line between healthy feedback and excessive evaluation gets blurred due to multiple factors. Individually, the factors are innocent or perhaps annoying, but we don't recognize their collective negative synergy. The most telling scenario I've seen is in organizations that lack documented standards in multiple areas (processes, design, coding, etc.)—more importantly, standards have not even been seriously considered. That lack of a common framework paired with the opinions of assertive people (even well meaning) has a tendency to overwhelm and intimidate talented people who, quiet by nature, most likely will become even more reluctant to provide feedback. In other words, the loudest voice becomes the standard, dominating the environment and suppressing other viewpoints.
Using this specific example, leaders should look at the clarity of standards and counsel individuals on personality issues as well. Granted, personality counseling can be a sensitive and even awkward issue, but it can be done. A chief information officer I met asked employees to