When we facilitate, we often think of ourselves as opening up new spaces of ideas. We empower people to think divergently, then only converge when the time is right. Our creativity techniques only raise horizons, blow away constraints, remove barriers.
Or do they?
I am increasingly convinced that the creativity techniques and artefacts that we give to people to use bias the creative outcomes that they produce in significant ways – sometimes very significantly.
Now I am not saying that this is a bad thing. But we need to be honest and recognize biases.
This semester I am teaching creativity in service design thinking. The students are combining different creativity techniques and design artefacts. Watching them, it is clear that their ideas and designs are heavily influenced by what they’re given to work with. For example:
- Giving them creativity triggers from James Robertson [http://www.systemsguild.com/jsr.htm] led to them to design new touchpoints with the qualities that each trigger seeks
- Giving them an analogy leads them to focus on solution ideas that can be transferred from the analogical domain, at the expense of those that cannot
- And giving them physical artefacts during desktop walkthroughs led to more physical rather than logical touchpoints.
None of this might be a surprise to you, but the extent to which these biases occur might be.
Some students reflected that a desktop walkthrough for a dementia care service constructed from Lego was influenced by the availability and shape of the bricks – indeed larger bricks led to more abstraction whilst moulding more literal representations from Plasticine led them to be more concrete.
Creative biases provide us with opportunities and risks. If we can deal with the risks, we can enhance our creative capabilities.