If you are a manager or team leader seeking innovative strategies to help your organization succeed, veteran engineering educator Harry T. Roman’s free audiobook could be just the ticket.
In Boosting Team Creativity, Roman discusses that when people come together to use their imaginations and diverse perspectives, creativity becomes “nothing less than rocket fuel.” In fact, he believes that creativity is not only vital to the health and vigor of a project team, but can also “change a business, give it new perspective, re-envision it, and perhaps, even disrupt it completely.”
The author presents a persuasive case for encouraging employees’ creativity, which he says can help a company to zoom past the competition and gain strategic advantages. Roman presents a multitude of approaches to encourage employees’ abilities to generate ideas for problem solving. He also provides helpful advice on how individuals can regain creativity lost to email, and other technological distractions.
Pointing to his own 36-year career in Research and Development for PSE&G, New Jersey’s largest utility, Roman openly discussed his professional experiences. He notes that regularly interacting with diverse colleagues from all over the world – and exchanging ideas about major, longer-term issues, as well as current local work – contributed greatly to their joint successes.
“Sharing information about each other’s interests, passions, hobbies, favorite topics and leisure pursuits can spur unexpected creative thinking,” Roman says. “Potential friendships can also blossom.” He recommends lunches, staff meetings, off-site gatherings and social events to encourage individual team members to learn from – and about – each other.
The author believes the one absolute necessity that managers and team leaders must provide is what he calls “a big feeding trough.” It contains all the information that people need to keep them informed and stimulate their own fresh thinking. The list includes magazines, journals, transactions, and – above all – open access to the internet.
“Some companies,” Roman says, “still have a stranglehold on allowing employees to access the internet freely. Such limitations serve to derail creativity. Let your employees explore things. Encourage making a creative space and a chance to make connections between things.”
Oral and written communications skills also encourage creativity. “Good ideas are worthless, if they cannot be expressed well and correctly,” he observes.
An example that Roman cites from his own professional experience provides additional insight and perspective on the value of encouraging a team’s creativity. In a team project that he led to develop mobile robots for use in hazardous environments, he relates how the team helped to create a national working group – that eventually led other companies to join them.
“The interactions and expertise on the 23 machines we eventually launched benefited from the team members representing many companies,” he says. “We also ended up with six patents and more than $650,000 in royalty revenue – making us a small business within the larger corporation.”
Here are some other creativity-building ideas that Roman recommends:
- Encourage team members to become involved with other professional organizations, so they can bring back worthwhile information, as well as meet others working in allied fields
- Assign each team member to teach others about a new creative technique they’ve researched, and then visit other companies to learn how they take raw ideas and convert them to actual products
- Develop relationships with high school or college educators who can participate on your team, as their time permits. The educators’ experience and perspectives can become an important source. Moreover, their enthusiastic students can bring relevant new information and ideas to the project.
The author shares his thoughts on how easily employees, teams and organizations can lose their creative edge – and how they can get it back again. Citing a Fast Company study, he says’ workers’ attention spans due to distractions diminished from three minutes in 2004 to a troubling 59.5 seconds in 2014. He says that email and the growth of other technologically based workplace interruptions reduce efficiency, while also requiring time to refocus on the work at hand.
Finally, Roman recommends practicing self-discipline to achieve a happy and productive flow state. He suggests charting and recording one’s day to understand what you’re really spending time to actually do, as well as visualizing what needs to be done on a given day – and then – doing it. He is an advocate for breaking up tasks into smaller chunks; as each is completed, it gives the brain a neurological boost.
“Electrical activity in the brain is at a heightened flow during a productive, creative flow state,” he writes. “With the satisfaction of completion, the brain has an outpouring of serotonin, the feel-good chemical that also can spur creativity.”
An IEEE Life Senior Member, Harry Roman holds 12 U.S. patents. He has published more than 550 scientific papers, articles, monographs and books. His many honors and recognitions from IEEE, and other organizations, for his contributions to technology education include the 2015 Region 1 Excellence in Teaching Award. He also has published more than 70 resource books, science kits and other educational resources.
The new audiobook, Boosting Team Creativity, is available free to members beginning 1 March. Click here to go to the page to download your free audiobook in MP3 format.
The companion e-book is also available free to all IEEE members via the IEEE-USA Shop. Non-members pay $4.99. Sign in with your IEEE Web Account, add the e-book to your cart, and check out.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.