Talk More, Think More Creatively


by Sarah Warlick, content director

Creative thinking through talking and interaction

Double Dutch to spark your creativity, anyone?

In your busy office you see people all around you hard at work, heads bent and all energies focused on completing billable tasks. But over there, right in front of God and everyone, are two people yakking it up and even laughing. What gives? Can you assume that they’re wasting time and must be discouraged from this apparently idle conversation? Should you march right over and sternly point out that the workplace is for, well, work? Not necessarily.

Free-flowing conversation between colleagues can be a valuable source of ideas that help your firm perform at its highest level. This kind of unstructured give and take frequently results in fresh strategies that help generate enthusiasm among staff and provide you with a competitive edge.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of brainstorming sessions, where participants toss out whatever pops into their heads, no matter how incomplete or outlandish, to handle a particular situation. In amongst the truly ridiculous will be the seeds of a plan that can actually work. It’s the open-ended approach that promotes creative thinking and yields the innovation you’re looking for.

Unfettered crosstalk fosters an even richer ground for new ideas that can benefit your firm, whatever its nature. The lack of rigidity allows creative juices to flow and as ideas tangentially lead from one to the next, something really useful can emerge. At our office, this kind of “idle” conversation births everything from fascinating blog posts to design triumphs and even groundbreaking marketing concepts. At yours, it might be a totally new tax strategy, legal defense or approach to a difficult engineering challenge.

Some people find this easier than others, of course. If you’re into Myers-Briggs typology, you won’t be surprised to hear that ENFPs and other NF types are particularly adept at conversation that gives rise to great new ideas. More rigid thinkers with Ts and Js in their profiles can also make fabulous conversation partners though – just put them in the right mix and their solid logic can spit out facts that the more loosey-goosey NFs will pick up and run with.

It is the interplay between different minds that delivers such a powerful stimulus to creativity. While one educated and experienced professional can come up with a good plan based on linear analysis, two experts who are just goofing around are surprisingly likely to stumble onto something really amazing that neither would have been able to produce alone. The back and forth stirs up what’s already present in each mind, adding new angles and sparking flashes that wouldn’t have followed from a solitary thought process. Think of it as the difference between a line and a tesseract. Now which would you rather have as a resource?

But is it acceptable to have folks just sitting around gabbing nonstop? Of course not, and I’m not suggesting that hours a day should be devoted to analysis of the latest Walking Dead episode or blow-by-blow reporting of everything the kids, spouses and dogs in your life are doing. But making space for some casual conversation that doesn’t necessarily originate as shoptalk offers real benefit to your firm and its clients.

If it makes you uncomfortable you can always rechristen it to sound more legitimate, like certain elementary schools that offer “unstructured student-directed physical education.” The district disapproves of recess, but the teachers know the value of letting kids run around and return to the classroom with a fresh approach to the day’s tasks. Come to think of it, a friendly firm-wide round of Double Dutch or Red Rover holds a lot of appeal too. I’ll let you know how that goes.


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