Event Managers, Get Creative!


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This guest post is by speaker, author, and innovation expert Cyriel Kortleven.

In today’s world, the only constant is change. Organizations have to deliver better, faster, more efficient products and services to increasingly demanding clients—and event managers have to do the same for their attendees. With the seemingly daily influx of new technologies, social platforms, and business models, adapting to change is no longer a luxury, but how you will survive in today’s business climate. You have to be able to think on your feet, adapt to new situations, and keep learning new things daily.

Your choice is: out of the box or out of business? Welcome to the new normal.

You may also want to read: How to Make Meetings More Interactive

Kill the Ideakillers with “Yes And…”
First, we need to face the biggest enemy of creativity: the ideakiller. Ideakillers are reasons why an idea isn’t going to work. I’m sure these will sound familiar: “No budget.” “No time.” “Since when are you an expert?” “We have already tried that.” All these statements are disguised “Yes but…” sentences. And they’ve been around as long as humans have:

If you can go from a “Yes but…” to a “Yes and…” attitude, you’ve conquered the biggest challenge to developing a creative mindset.

Suspend judgment. Of course, judgment is important—it helps you to make thousands of decisions daily. But because judgment is based on previous experiences and knowledge, and new ideas by definition don’t fit into existing schemes of thought, the danger is that you judge a new idea too quickly and lob a “Yes but…” ideakiller at it. We need instead postpone judgment by developing a “Yes and…” mindset.

Free yourself from perceptual biases. We need to realize that our perceptions also are based on our history, and oft-repeated patterns of perception tend to become increasingly dominant. Studies have shown that fully 80 percent of what we perceive is produced within our brains, with only 20 percent of information gathered from outside of ourselves. If you don’t believe me, check out this video:


The key is to recognize patterns in your own perception and work to set yourself free from perceptual biases.

Work beyond words. Because our educational systems rely on the language of words, organizations tend to rely on words to create new ideas. But because imagination—a crucial skill for creative thinkers—is the capacity to represent in the mind something that cannot be seen at that moment, it needs to go beyond words. Ask how an idea would look, sound, smell, taste, and feel. When you ask a lot of questions, you stimulate your imaginative powers.

Create flexible connections. Our brain cells are interconnected and continuously transmit signals to one another. Association happens when one thought generates another—“this makes me think of …” When the connections are repeated, they are reinforced, and it can be easy to get in a rut. Forcing yourself to create new connections and associations helps you find less obvious tracks and generate new ideas. A good method for finding those less obvious connections is to speed up the association-making process.

Diverge. We tend to stop looking when we come to what seems to be a reasonable solution, which is very efficient. But to be more creative, don’t stop there. Diverge—push past your spontaneous tendency to stop when you get to the first common-sense solution and continue to come up with ideas. It’s a better idea to limit the amount of time you give yourself to diverge than limit the number of ideas you want to generate.

An idea is just a thought (or some words on a Post-It) until you make it happen. But making translating ideas to reality is very hard work—you have to have the guts to break some fixed thinking patterns. And you will come across a lot of “nearlings”—things you do with the best of intentions which have not (yet) led to the result you want.

But don’t give up! If you allow yourself to experiment with these principles, I guarantee that you will generate a lot more creative ideas.

You can download the summary of the creative skills and a poster with ideakillers via this link.

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