Three Ways to Unleash Creativity in Your Work

A leadership book I consistently recommend is Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice. I first read it several years ago when I was new to my role at LifeWay.

In the last year, I’ve had to learn the hard way some life lessons about the creative process. In revisiting The Accidental Creative for a book discussion with some editor friends, I’ve been impressed with how many of the suggestions here, had I been more careful to take note and implement, would have helped me avoid some errors. More on that below . . .

The Creative Process 

Henry wrote his book for those whose line of work might be considered “creative,” which he describes this way:

If you are one of the millions among us who make a living with your mind, you could be tagged a “creative.” Every day, you solve problems, innovate, develop systems, design things, write, think, and strategize. (1)

The gist of Henry’s book is that anyone can improve in their ability to generate good ideas on a consistent basis if they are more purposeful in their approach to the creative process.

A Caution

Now, a word of caution is in order—courtesy of singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson, whose superb new book, Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community Calling and the Mystery of Making , is out this month. Peterson recognizes a sinful tendency among people with an artistic temperament:

A few years ago I noticed that people had made a noun out of the word “creative,” as in, “If you’re a creative, aren’t you sick of people not understanding that normal rules don’t apply to you?” The first few times I read about “being a creative” I leaned into it and thought, “Yes. That’s what I am. I’m a creative.” It was subtle and seductive. And then I noticed, possibly because of the Holy Spirit, that I felt proud of it, which led to a sense of disdain for people who weren’t like me . . . (165)

Peterson believes “creativity” is a defining mark for all humanity, including his wife who, though not an artist, gave birth to three children and creates a certain atmosphere of hospitality in the home:

We’re all creative. There is no “creative class.” Sure, there are people who make their living as artists, entrepreneurs, and visionaries. But those people, I insist, are no more creative than anyone else. (166)

So, if you’re reading this article, you are “creative” in the broad sense, and if your primary vocation demands you spend time in design, writing, performing, strategizing, and so on, then you may be a “creative” in the narrow sense.

3 SUGGESTIONS FOR STRENGTHENING THE CREATIVE PROCESS 

How can we create space for our creative process to thrive? Here are three suggestions.

1. Pay close attention to input and output.

Todd Henry puts it this way:

If you want to regularly generate brilliant ideas, you must be purposeful about what you are putting into your head. (22)

Is there water in the well? What are you filling your mind with? What activities are taking up your time? Is your creative energy suffering because you’ve run dry?

For me as a writer, there are two streams that must fill up the well I draw upon when I write or speak: reading and interaction. Reading, writing, and interaction depend upon each other.

  • Reading is indispensable because, unless I am stimulating my mind with books and magazines, I am unable to write or speak when needed.
  • Interaction matters because good conversations sharpen my thoughts and shape my decisions about what deserves further attention.

Interaction informs my reading, which fuels my writing. If any of those three elements slips, I dry up.

In Problems of Christian LeadershipJohn Stott recommended an hour of reading a day, as well as “a morning, afternoon or evening every week, that is to say, a longer period of about four hours.” Stott also recommended a “quiet day” once a month, which would involve reading, reflecting, and more distant planning. (If roughly 10 hours a week of reading seems impossible to you, look at your Screen Time to see how much time you spend on apps, and count up your hours of streaming TV a week.)

2. Turn everything off.

This suggestion is the one I struggle with the most. I’m an achiever who feels like I’m in performance mode all the time. I throw myself into project after project and feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I complete a task (although it’s usually short-lived because I’m already on to the next challenge!).

The trouble I face is in turning off the input valve and giving myself time to process what I’ve been reading, or the conversations I’ve been having. I’m tempted to always have the input valve open, so that a podcast or audiobook (at 1.5x speed!) fills my time in the car or when I’m out walking or doing household chores.

Todd Henry recommends we pay attention to our need for “negative space.”

The time between your active moments is when ideas are formed, insights are gained, mental connections are forged. If your life is a constant blur of activity, focus, and obligation, you are likely to miss critical breakthroughs because you won’t have the benefit of pacing and negative space. What’s not there will impact your life as much or more than what is. (130)

I hope to get better at building times of silence into my regular rhythms. Scrolling through Twitter or downloading more and more podcasts will likely weaken, not strengthen, the creative process. Without “negative space,” I may sacrifice my best work for busywork.

I should learn from the examples of some of my favorite writers, such as G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, who were known for taking long walks or spending hours in the garden in solitude. The brilliant analogies in Mere Christianity likely came to Lewis, not from listening to the radio all day, but as he strolled about the paths around the Kilns. 

3. Plan in advance.

One of the upsides to the creative process, according to Henry, is that “you’re not really paid for your time” but “for the value you create.” The flipside is that this flexibility in how and where you do your work “introduces a new kind of performance pressure: completion anxiety.” Henry explains:

Because we’re capable of working at all times—our mind goes with us everywhere, after all—we continue working on our projects for as long as we possibly can. We’re never really certain when we’ve done enough. (28)

What’s the solution? Better planning. Henry writes:

Creative work requires that we stay ahead of our work. Tomorrow’s ideas are the result of today’s intentions. (116-117)

When I was serving as the primary teaching pastor at our church (preaching 40 times a year), I regularly delivered a rough draft of my sermon manuscript a month before the scheduled Sunday. There was simply no way for me to give my best creative efforts to something if I was haphazard or last minute in my thinking.

I still work this way. I’m constantly trying to get ahead in writing columns, or in preparing talks for conferences. Staying ahead of the work protects me from that awful feeling when I’m up against a deadline and there’s too little water to draw from in the well.

At the same time, all the planning in the world won’t give you endless energy when it comes to the creative process. One of the tough lessons I had to learn over the last year is that there was simply no way for me to continue my role as teaching pastor and write my next book. Something had to give, and in discerning my primary call, I chose to write. “Each commitment we make affects every other,” Henry says (121).

It’s not always a matter of maximizing your time, as if you’re a copy machine or a computer. It’s about creative energies and where you deploy them. And once you realize that creativity has a rhythm, with its own ebb and flow, you can begin to work with the rhythm rather than against it, recognizing the impossibility of being “limitless” in your output and instead embracing the right constraints and structure to help you succeed where God has placed you.

> Read more from Trevin.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Creativity Needs Candid Conversations

Do you know how to unleash the creativity of your team?

In our fast-paced digital life, church leadership teams need to be creative in order to deal with the changes coming their way today – or they risk irrelevancy tomorrow.

Creativity then, becomes a constant process for every ministry area of any church rather than an occasional requirement for the worship pastor at Christmas or only limited to those “creative” churches.

Like farmers and their crops, leaders cannot dictate creativity, but they are called to cultivate creativity. Thinking and acting creatively doesn’t just happen because a leader desires it or orders it to happen. With the right environment, resources, mindset, and vision, your team will be able to develop the required motivation to be creative on their own.

Solution – Create a Braintrust

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc. is a book for leaders who want to lead their teams to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made.

It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation through joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, and the emotional authenticity. In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Among the many necessities for creativity is the freedom for a team to share ideas , comments, and critiques with one another. The flip side of that freedom is the danger of being too critical, or that critical comments are taken the wrong way.

How can leaders walk the fine line between encouraging open, honest dialogue among their team while at the same time avoiding negative, destructive criticism?

Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process – reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its throughline or a hollow character finds a soul.

One of Pixar’s key mechanisms is the Braintrust, which we rely upon to push us toward excellence and to root out mediocrity. The Braintrust is our primary delivery system for straight talk. Its premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid with one another.

It’s not foolproof – sometimes the interactions only serve to highlight the difficulties of achieving candor – but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal. The Braintrust sets the tone for everything else we do.

Participants in the Braintrust do not prescribe how to fix the problems they diagnose. They test weak points, they make suggestions, but it is up to the director to settle on a path forward.

People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process. In order to create, you must internalize and almost become the project for a while. Soon, the details converge to obscure the whole, and that makes it difficult to move forward substantially in any one direction.

No matter what, the process of coming to clarity takes patience and candor.

The Braintrust differs from other feedback mechanisms in two ways:

  • It is made up of people with a deep understanding of the process at hand and who have been through it themselves;
  • It has no authority – the director (leader) has to figure out how to address the feedback.

We believe that ideas only become great when they are challenged and tested.

– Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

A NEXT STEP

Does your leadership team debate, disagree, discuss, dump—or do you dialogue?  The group dynamics of a team can make or break your effectiveness as a leader.   Imagine what could happen in your ministry if you could lubricate your team’s communication skills.

Engaging the methods of dialogue results in two-way, open communication that generates an uninhibited flow of ideas in a “braintrust” environment.

Dialogue relates to more than communication—it involves creating an environment of trust, discipline and commitment to a common purpose where teams “think together.”

With an understanding of the basics of dialogue, the team must relentlessly:

  • Practice listening to hear, not to react
  • Practice asking to explore ideas, not to judge
  • Practice advocating an idea that focuses on the question at hand, not to defend a position

The core of dialogue is that there is understanding and discipline on the team that the question –the problem at hand—always remains the focus of the dialogue, with the church’s vision as primary filter. It works because individuals put aside egos, assumptions, emotions and agendas to focus on the question for the good of the whole–the collective vision of the church or ministry. In a true “Braintrust” dialogue, ideas get affirmed or challenged, not people.

Auxano has developed a hands-on tool to use in collaborative meetings that not only reinforces understanding of dialogue and team dynamics, but personally engages each individual to enter into productive, healthy collaboration and apply what they have learned.

We call it the Collaboration Cube.

Our Collaboration Cube takes these ideas to an experiential level that not only encourages team involvement in dialogue, but gives them the ability to apply it. The cube is used by the facilitator to guide the group, and by team members to communicate within the Braintrust.

Imagine creating a “Braintrust” at your church: a unified team that can work together and support decisions because they are results that people really care about and they evolved from a shared experience. What could you do with that kind of cohesive culture?  Give this method a try and watch the collective intelligence of your team and your decisions increase with results for your ministry that are unprecedented.

Read more about the Collaboration Cube, or visit our online store to purchase them.


Creativity and innovation are the life blood of a thriving ministry. But even the most creative team can become stale or fall into a rut of the same old same old. Your actions as a leader will determine if your team stays the same, or is constantly reinventing itself.


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Unleash the Creativity of Your Team by Cultivating a Creative Spark

Below is a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 


How can I unleash the creativity of my team?

In our fast-paced digital life, church leadership teams need to be creative in order to deal with the changes coming their way today – or they risk irrelevancy tomorrow.

Creativity then, becomes a constant process for every ministry area of any church rather than an occasional requirement for the worship pastor at Christmas or only limited to those “creative” churches.

Like farmers and their crops, leaders cannot dictate creativity, but they are called to cultivate creativity. Thinking and acting creatively doesn’t just happen because a leader desires it or orders it to happen. With the right environment, resources, mindset, and vision, your team will be able to develop the required motivation to be creative on their own.

If you desire to unleash the creativity of your team, try this:

Solution – Cultivate a creative spark.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Creative Confidence, Tom and David Kelley

Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.”  But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every  one of us is creative.

In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford d.school, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems.  Creative Confidence can your team be more productive and successful in fulfilling their responsibilities.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

French chemist Louis Pasteur is quoted as saying “Chance favors the trained mind.” You can lead your team to think the same way, by being prepared to be creative.

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Your efforts to encourage your team’s creativity could be as simple as a change in perspective, or as complex as a new working environment. It’s probably going to be somewhere in-between.

The point is, your team’s creativity can be influenced by specific actions you take. Their claim to fame probably won’t be on the same level as discovering the principles of vaccination or pasteurization, but it could be just as meaningful to your organization.

Sometimes, your team just needs a spark to fire up their creativity.

The creative spark needed to come up with new solutions is something you have to cultivate, over and over again. One way to begin is to consciously increase the inspiration you encounter in your daily life.

Effective strategies to help you get from blank page to insight.

  • Choose Creativity – To be more creative, the first step is to decide what you want to make it happen.
  • Think like a Traveler – Like a visitor to a foreign land, try turning fresh eyes on your surroundings, no matter how mundane or familiar. Don’t wait around for a spark to magically appear. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences.
  • Engage Relaxed Attention – Flashes of insight often come when your mind is relaxed and not focused on completing a specific task, allowing the mind to make new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
  • Empathize with Your End User – You com up with more innovative ideas when yo better understand the needs and context of the people you are creating solutions for.
  • Do Observations in the Field – If you observe others with the skills of an anthropologist, you might discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.
  • Ask Questions, Starting with “Why?” – A series of “why?” questions can brush past surface dtails and get to the heart of the matter.
  • Reframe Challenges – Sometimes, the first step toward a great solution is to refram the question. Starting from a different point of view can help you get to the essence of a problem.
  • Build a Creative Support Network – Creativity can flow more easily and be more fun when you have others to collaborate with and bounce ideas off.

– Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence

A NEXT STEP

At your next team meeting, review the list of strategies above. Select one activity that you will lead your team in each week. Have each team member note how they are applying the principle individually in a personal creativity journal.

Each week, devote 30 minutes of your team meeting to discussing that week’s strategy.

  • How has the strategy worked in improving team creativity?
  • What new directions has the strategy unveiled?
  • What current activities has the strategy revealed that need to be “stopped”?
  • How could the strategy be modified to improve creativity even more?
  • How will your team adopt this strategy into their creative cycle, without it getting “stale?”

At the end of the 8-seek experiment, schedule a one-hour meeting with your team to decide and commit on strategies that will become a regular part of their creative process.

At periodic occasions throughout the year, check-in with the team to see how the strategies are working, or if they need to be modified or abandoned.

To learn more about helping your team develop a creative spark, start a conversation with the Auxano team today.

Taken from SUMS Remix 15-1, published May 2015


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Skills for Discovering Creative Ideas

Consider the talents of the following two groups who were asked these three questions:

  • How many of you are good singers?
  • How many of you are good dancers?
  • How many of you are good artists?

About 2 percent of the first group responded positively to each of these three questions. That’s a typical response of most leadership teams.

But it’s possible to find a second group in almost any community who would give nearly 100 percent positive responses. Surprised?

Ask any group of first graders these three questions, and the children will respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” to each one.

All children are creative – they’re born that way!

What happened to the creative gene that was so alive in our childhoods?

It would seem that as we leave childhood, we stop believing in the power of dreams. We stop taking risks and pursuing ideas.

It’s time to recover the creativity of a child – but in an adult way.

Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai, writing for HBR.org, suggest five power skills to help you rediscover creativity:

  1. Develop Creative Discontent. The best intrapreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo; they ask big questions and challenge themselves and others to find big ideas.
  2. Use Convergence Thinking. Convergence is not simply about combining ideas and technology; it is a primary leadership competency that allows organizations to design the right future.
  3. Find Pivots. Change creates opportunities for innovation, and if the amount of change is disproportionate in size, there is opportunity for movement in a completely new direction — a pivot.
  4. Overturn Orthodoxies. Challenging orthodoxies can provide clarity on existing paradigms worth changing to improve your business model, products, services, processes, customer experience, or brand.
  5. Think Frugally. The primary driver of frugal thinking is scarcity of time and resources. Frugal thinking forces individuals to be highly creative just to accomplish routine jobs.

Teach these five power skills to the leaders and top talent in your organization. They can help keep your innovation pipeline full. By practicing these skills, your team will improve critical and creative thinking skills, leading to many game‐changing opportunities for your organization.

>> For additional help in creating innovative ideas, download our free Sums book summary on “The Ten Faces of Innovation” here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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pastorjameswheeler — 07/16/14 9:43 am

Pushing to pursue big questions and big ideas consistently - self imposing scarcity is a hugely underestimated asset in leadership today. Thanks for getting the word out on these!

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Rewriting the 10 Myths of Creativity

If we want to be more creative, if we want our organizations to be more innovative, then we have to learn from organizations and individuals who are rewriting the myths of creativity.

David Burkus, professor of management at Oral Roberts University and a researcher on leadership, innovation, and strategy, has conducted studies into how individuals and organizations approach the creative process,

The research by Burkus found ten myths widespread in the modern world relating to creativity and innovation. These are myths in the traditional sense: they’re based on observing something seemingly unexplainable, and then crafting a logically sound (but faulty) explanation. These myths were prevalent almost everywhere Burkus looked—everywhere except in the most innovative companies and people.

The Ten Myths of Creativity

  • The Eureka Myth
  • The Breed Myth
  • The Originality Myth
  • The Expert Myth
  • The Incentive Myth
  • The Lone Creator Myth
  • The Brainstorming Myth
  • The Cohesive Myth
  • The Constraints Myth
  • The Mousetrap Myth

The truth is that all new ideas are built from combing older ideas. The novelty comes from the combination or application, not the idea itself.

But many of these myths of creativity are plainly false. They aren’t supported by research or history, and in some cases what Burkus found about creative efforts directly contradicts the myths we choose to believe. Any model or method for creativity based on the mythology will offer little help in making us more creative.

If you want to develop more creative individuals and build more innovative organization, then it’s time to question existing models.

It’s time to rewrite the myths of creativity.

>> Download Rewriting the Ten Myths of Creativity here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

A Checklist for Making Ideas Happen

To help take a look back at 2012, we rounded up our most popular features, essays, 99U Conference talks, and tweets. We hope it gives you a chance to discover (and rediscover) content from throughout the year while providing the spark needed to start 2013 off right.

1. The Power of Negative Thinking

Pop psychology tells us we can’t go wrong with positive thinking. But new studies show that taking account of our obstacles is essential to success.

The gurus claimed these positive images would galvanize your determination. They said you could use the power of positive thinking to will success to happen. But then some important research came along that muddied the rosy picture.

2. Test Your Creativity: 5 Classic Creative Challenges

How creative are you? Find out by taking a few quick tests that psychologists have been using to study creativity for decades.

While creativity “testing” is far from an exact science, trying your mettle at these challenges could yield insight into when, where, and how you’re most creative. Or maybe it’ll just be fun.

3. The 5 Types of Work That Fill Your Day

What type of work are you doing right now? Reactionary work? Problem-solving work? Insecurity work? A look at how to manage your work energy smartly.

All work is not created equal. Try working with an awareness of the type of work you’re doing, and how it’s helping (or limiting) your progress.

4. Why Boredom Is Good for Your Creativity

Why does boredom always emerge just as you’re about to get in gear on a creative project?

On the other side of boredom is the most exciting experience you can have as a creator – the state of being fired up and discovering new possibilities beyond anything you could have imagined before you sat down to work. 

5. How Rejection Breeds Creativity

With a few small changes in your mindset, you can turn rejection into a dramatic boost for your motivation and focus.

While it is never a comfortable experience, the feelings of rejection can actually help us access our more creative selves. Free from the expectations of group norms, we can push the limits of novelty.

Read the rest of the list here.

Read more from Scott here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Belsky

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Josh — 05/02/17 4:29 am

Loving the articles in the site :) I am find great encouragement in the practical focuses

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— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Unlocking Creativity Through Laughter

One of the consistent challenges of creating compelling environments is finding new, fresh ways to engage the hearts of people. In my years as a worship leader, I facilitated many brainstorming sessions with different teams to come up with service elements that would communicate clearly and engage people deeply.

Collaborative brainstorming can be tough work. There are all sorts of things to be considered, like who gets invited, who facilitates, and what is the goal. But the simple truth is that with the right people in the room, even if it’s only 2 or 3 people, brainstorming can yield some amazing results.

While there are many ways to get to ideas in a collaborative setting, one of my favorites is laughter. When a room gets laughing, great ideas seem to follow. Why is that? I have a few theories.

1. Laughter reduces stress. 

Do a quick search for “laughter is the best medicine” and you’ll find all sorts of articles detailing the multiple positive physical effects of laughing. Endorphins (the body’s natural feel-good chemicals) get released. A good laugh releases muscle tension and stress. Laughter (through the release of endorphins) can even temporarily relieve pain. All of these things promote a relaxed body and mind, allowing ideas to flow more freely.

2. Real laughter requires vulnerability.

I’m not talking about nervous laughter here. That’s not going to help any brainstorming session. I’m talking about from-your-gut-can’t-stop-falling-off-your-chair-crying-a-little-bit laughter. That kind of laughter only happens when you let your guard down. Guarded collaboration will lead to shallow ideas. You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there and there’s something about laughter that enhances teamwork and bonds people together.

3. Thinking free leads to laughter.

In The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, author Steven Sample describes the concept of “thinking free.” The brain develops normal pathways over time, which leads to what most of us refer to as “thinking inside the box.” The truth is that this is helpful in many ways—it allows us to quickly and easily execute tasks that we have to do on a repeated basis throughout the day. But these synaptic pathways, or brain ruts as I call them, are the enemy of creativity. We have to get free of those pathways in a creative session. Steven Sample suggests that we start by considering completely ridiculous ideas to break free and create new pathways.

For example, if you’re brainstorming an opening for a service about God’s love and care, imagine an opening number with talking sparrows singing a song titled, “He Even Cares for Us.” But in order to really break out of brain ruts, you have to play out an idea as far as you can…usually until you’re laughing. (What if the sparrows each had a different colored leaf and the choreography ended with them flying together and forming the giant image of a heart over the congregation’s heads? AND…the moment wouldn’t be complete unless one sparrow dramatically grasped its throat, swerved erratically around the auditorium and then fell to the ground as if dead. The music would stop, the sparrows would let out a collective gasp, and the lead sparrow would simply and quietly say, “God saw that.” Then, segue into a tender version of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” as the sparrows gently lift their fallen comrade and slowly carry him off stage in a sort of funeral procession. That’s thinking free.)

Maybe I got a little carried away (so did the sparrow, though). The point is that laughter is just plain fun. Collaborative creativity is best done by a group of people that are willing to share dumb ideas to get to good ones, to have fun together. Making laughter and even a bit of silliness acceptable in your brainstorming sessions is imperative from my point of view.

Here are a few practical tips about integrating laughter into your creative sessions.

    • Talk about laughter at the beginning of your session. Maybe you could read an article together about how laughter can unlock creativity (where would find an article like that?). Normalize it. Make it OK to laugh.
    • Share ridiculous ideas about singing sparrows with choreography (or something even better) to free your mind from brain ruts and get everyone laughing. Keep pushing the ideas until everyone is laughing and someone is crying (from all the laughing).
    • After you’ve had a good laugh, gently shift the conversation by saying something like, “That was great. We’ll certainly keep those ideas in the vault (because they’re never coming out!). How else could we convey this idea?”

Laughter certainly is great medicine. And if you’re afflicted with brain ruts and anemic ideas, it just might be the cure for your collaborative creative sessions and lead to compelling service elements.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Finkill

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Clarity Process

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Stay Grounded in the Basics to Avoid Boredom in Your Work

A challenge for communicators is to continually tackle the work we do, regardless of how fun and exciting it is. Sometimes, it’s downright boring. This is the final part of a five-part series tackling boring vs. fun in church communication. 

Kelvin Co to write this series because his editor was struggling with this very issue. He volunteered to help his church do communication, excited by the prospects. But the reality became drudgery and progressed slowed to a halt. He was faced with the boring vs. the fun.

Kelvin has shared four strategies for tackling this: Embrace them, build your credibility, prevent the boring and empower volunteers. A final strategy is to stay grounded as communicators and as Christians.

Read how Kelvin encourages communicators to stay grounded here.

Begin the series here.

Read more from Kelvin here.

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Kelvin Co

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
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Clarity Process

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You Have to Earn the Privilege to Keep From Being Boring

A challenge for communicators is to continually tackle the work we do, regardless of how fun and exciting it is. Sometimes, it’s downright boring. This is part four of a five-part series tackling boring vs. fun in church communication.

One of the most fun and fulfilling things we get to do in church communication is to come up with and roll out cool, creative new ways for promoting our ministries. There is never a shortage of great new ideas and opportunities that would bring us much joy and satisfaction to work on and implement. What a gift and privilege.

We should never take for granted that we must earn the privilege to keep doing what we do. Our credibility or track record is what affords us this privilege.

Read how Kelvin suggests we build our credibility over time here.

Read Part 3 of the series here.

Read more from Kelvin here.

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Kelvin Co

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Rod Thorpe — 10/11/16 12:56 pm

I feel "unqualified" as a lay minister, no seminary, but 50 years teaching Sunday School, and now at 84, I teach in 3 nursing homes each week. Thank you, thank you for your VERY helpful articles. You give me lots of help I need, but don't know where to find it. I "translate" church to mean our fellowship, or "circle of friends"...we have about 60 each week. They cannot go to church...so we take church to them. God bless you, friend.

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
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— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Even Fun Will Become Boring

A challenge for communicators is to continually tackle the work we do, regardless of how fun and exciting it is. Sometimes, it’s downright boring. This is part three of a five-part series tackling boring vs. fun in church communication. 

Cool new ideas or projects have a powerful pull on creative people. We are naturally drawn to work on them and give them our energy and attention. And there’s never a shortage of projects and opportunities that entice us.

How do we choose? How do we determine what is worth our time?

First, we must remember that the fun will become boring. The things we consider boring today were once new and exciting projects. Guess what will eventually happen to that new social media channel, smartphone app, document, form or communication project? It will have to be managed, maintained and sustained. It will become boring, a pain and then neglected.

Read how Kelvin uses a series of questions to prevent the fun from becoming boring here.

Read Part 2 in this series here.

Read more from Kelvin here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelvin Co

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comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.