How To Enhance Creativity in Ordinary Meetings

A TRUE STORY: An R&D manager of a large Fortune-500 company told me that he asks his team members to spend 10 to 15 minutes of every meeting quietly writing ideas to solve an important problem on 3×5 inch index cards, one idea per card, so he can sort the ideas he gets. He says it provides him with valuable ideas and it keeps creativity triggers in everyone’s mind. Try it and see for yourself.

Creative thinking during ordinary meetings counts. Use advanced creativity triggers (see my recent book) during regular meetings of your team. Form small, 3 to 4 person creativity groups at least once in every meeting so everyone looks forward to solving important problems in meetings.

In addition, ask people to reverse the problem statement “How to stimulate creative thinking during our meetings” and non-evaluatively list ideas on “How to spoil creative thinking during our meetings.” This list often reflects what you all usually do in meetings that hampers creativity. Then dereverse each spoiler and write “How to” in front of each idea and creatively smooth out each sentence into a sensible “How-to” problem statement.

For example, you could dereverse the creativity spoiler, “Have domineering people present to block creativity” into “How to stay creative with domineering people present” or into “How to keep domineering people out of the meeting.”

Reverse another creativity spoiler, “Hold meetings at 4:45 on Friday” into “How to stay creative in a meeting held at 4:45 on Friday” or “How to avoid calling a meeting at this time.”

You will soon have many problem statements focusing on specific needs of your work group. Form creativity groups of three or four people each and ask them to non-evaluatively list solutions to the problem statements that impact you all the most during your meetings. Or ask individuals to write ideas on index cards, one idea per card, so you can sort the ideas you get. You all know best what spoils creative thinking during your meetings.

Creativity Spoilers In Meetings

The following summarizes what some experts say spoils creative thinking during regular meetings.

  •  Members judge ideas prematurely and use quick negative criticism. Minimal sharing of ideas occurs.
  •  Highly vocal people dominate.
  •  Experts or high-ranking superiors overwhelm participants.
  •  People lack training using advanced creativity triggers.
  • Leaders don’t tell people that they want creative outcomes.
  • People do not stay interested and involved.
  • People focus on achieving the mission, not on new ideas.
  • People conceal emotions, and inhibit spontaneity and humor.
  • People use win-lose methods, such as majority rules, instead of consensus.
  • People select adequate ideas prematurely, the quick fix.
  • People do not solve problems in structured ways.
  • People don’t know the goals and purposes of the meeting.
  • People use analytical and logical thinking too much.
  • The Leader encourages ideas most similar to his or her own preconceived notions through verbal and nonverbal feedback.

Help creative thinking flourish during meetings

•Use advanced problem-solving creativity triggers to:

◦Define problems creatively.

◦Generate ideas abundantly.

◦Select and combine ideas innovatively.

◦Generate trigger-proposals imaginatively.

◦Develop workable solutions logically.

◦Select proposals to implement systematically.

•Postpone evaluation and defer judgment of new ideas.

•Establish a quota for many really different ideas before selecting ideas.

•When hearing new ideas, state what you like about an idea first, and pretend the idea comes from your boss.

•Use effective team interaction techniques, such as:

◦Make decisions by consensus.

◦Record on flip charts so all can see.

◦Allow leadership roles to distribute naturally.

◦Circulate the agenda before and action plans afterwards.

◦Rotate the chair among members of the team.

◦Discuss and review work group interactions frequently.

◦Discuss what spoils creative thinking and productivity.

◦Implement self directed team building (see my recent book). •

And for additional ways to enhance creatively in ordinary meetings at work, check out my book: “CREATIVITY TRIGGERS ARE FOR EVERYONEHow To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” 


Ed Glassman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university.

He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

He was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and has led numerous Creativity & Innovation Meetings and workshops for many companies, including IBM, DuPont, Amoco Chemical, Ciba-Geigy, Hoechst-Celanese, Texaco, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Milliken, Federal-Mogul, Thetford, Standard Products, and others.

His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

His other book: R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is also available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.