Creativity on a Shoestring

Ever wondered how to do more for less? Most of us have. Indeed, in the current economic climate, you cannot just throw resources at problems. Smarter is the new smart. And many commentators have argued that creativity is key to being smarter.

However, these same commentators often ignore that creativity is not free. Indeed, many reported creative processes and techniques themselves consume resources – resources that organizations just don’t have. This poses a challenge – how to be creative with less. We need creativity on a shoestring.

I’ve been working with City graduate Bianca Hollis of BBC worldwide to design and evaluate creativity on a shoestring. Bianca is a user experience designer developing digital products such as web sites and software apps. Like many working in digital media, she uses agile methods to design these products. Agile methods encourage the iterative development of working software, often in two-week cycles. This leaves little time for creative thinking – who really wants to think divergently when the next software release is expected in 10 working days?

So our challenge was to fit creativity techniques into agile in creativity workshops that rarely last more than 45 minutes in agile projects at BBC Worldwide. We gave stakeholders techniques such as hall of fame, constraint removal and back to the future to generate ideas for new BBC products. Moreover, I think that we succeeded. The workshops generated lots of ideas that were rated significantly more novel than existing ideas in the project backlog.

We were sufficiently excited by these successes to take the shoestring creativity techniques on the road. This week we ran a tutorial at OOP2012 in Munich, teaching quick creativity techniques to agile software developers. The techniques were a success. People’s reactions revealed that we’ve hit a nerve. Creativity on a shoestring is needed more than ever.

So let’s be smart. Create more from less.