What is Creativity At Work?

Once again, what is creativity at work?

Creativity is the combining of old bits & pieces in your mind (and also in your surroundings) to produce ‘new and useful’ ideas. It is the conversion of old ideas into new ideas. It is NOT the creation of new ideas out of nothing; that doesn’t happen.

For example: To invent a clock radio, you must know about clocks and radios, and to think about them in an environment that catalyzes their combination in your mind. Thus, to be creative, you need many bits & pieces in your mind, and you have to establish an environment containing creativity triggers so combining takes place. That is what most of CREATIVITY is about: CREATIVITY TRIGGERS. Use this concept to enhance your creativity.

What are creativity triggers?

Observed creativity triggers vary widely. A chance remark. Deep focus on a problem. Deliberate thought and incubation. Meditation. A discussion with other people. Dreaming. A shower. A walk in Nature. Riding quietly in a vehicle. Lying down to rest. Laughing. Having fun. A relaxed and quiet state. The creativity techniques described in my book. People report all these creativity triggers succeed at one time or another.

Of these, only the creativity triggers described in my new book target, focus, and speed up the process, so you do not have to wait & hope for new ideas to appear; they will appear inexorably.

How do these creativity triggers work? That is Unknown. Each trigger has a sudden effect to produce a new & useful idea. Creativity triggers help provide new ideas that may work by themselves or, failing that, add to the bits & pieces in your mind. This process makes them very useful.

Basic elements

Advanced creativity triggers contain basic elements and underlying principles. Once you appreciate their fine points, you can use them more effectively. You can even design your own creativity triggers by combining elements from different triggers to fit special needs.

Here are some basic elements imbedded in creativity triggers that help the creative process. I explain them in detail in my books.

1. Generate many alternatives & avoid the ‘quick fix’
Whether you are seeking to clarify a problem, create an idea, find a blockbuster solution, or whatever, in the creative process, generate many alternatives to avoid the “quick fix.”

Consider this situation. You perceive a problem you want to solve. An idea flashes through your mind. You like it. It appears to work. You shout eureka, and the creative process ends. Actually it hardly started. This is the quick fix.

The quick fix only scratches the surface of the alternatives available had you continued the creative process. The quick fix keeps you from a better alternative. To avoid the quick fix, generate at least five new alternatives. One hundred is better, but who’s counting.

2. Ignore premature criteria
Knowing the criteria for a quality solution too soon spoils creative thinking. Criteria box you in, and you waste time worrying whether each idea and new perspective meets the criteria. Instead, dump criteria. Distort, ignore, and forget stated and unstated phantom criteria. Phantom criteria include criteria you made up or carry unawarely in your mind. You think they apply, but they don’t. No one told you to use them. Or reverse the criteria in your mind.

3. Avoid premature evaluation
Evaluation is based on old ideas and old information. Creativity seeks new ideas and new information. Old vs new conflict with each other. Evaluation vs the new idea compete.

So escape old thinking patterns and do NOT evaluate new ideas too soon. New ideas are often fragile petals that cannot survive the gauntlet of critical thinking. So stop your internal gauntlet and instant evaluation.

4. Forced-withdrawal
Change the setting of your perspective. Create and combine alternatives within a different context than the real problem. For example, pretend you work for a new, different company or that you are a different person. In this way, you avoid getting bogged down in stifling old thoughts and habits. Forced-withdrawal helps you escape the constraints of the real problem and provides you a clearing within which to stay creative.

5. Trigger-ideas
Trigger-ideas, ideas that do not contribute to a quality solution, when properly used trigger other ideas that do work. Trigger-ideas can play a key role in creative thinking. They help you avoid timeworn paradigms and lead you down new mental paths.

6. Triggered free association
All ideas trigger new alternatives in unstructured ways. Stay open to this possibility when pursuing a quality solution. Indeed, even exotic words can spark new ideas.

7. Forced combinations
The creation of unexpected and useful ideas depends on you combining ideas, objects, thoughts, and impressions with your problem statement, one cornerstone of creative thinking.

8. Idea improvement
Improve your idea. This process itself will spark many more new ideas.
A.List what you like about the idea so you
won’t change that.
B.List what needs improvement.
This will give you a sense of the usefulness of your idea. This process can act like a creativity trigger, and spark additional new alternatives throughout.

9. Combine ideas into trigger-proposals
Sort and combine ideas into a trigger-proposal before converting it into a quality solution. A trigger-proposal is based on forced-withdrawal, and needs transformation into a quality workable proposal. This new and important approach prevents the premature use of criteria that can ruin a potentially high-quality solution when choosing ideas. See my book for details. Don’t lose out to premature evaluation.


Adapt creativity triggers to your special use. Stay creative when switching basic elements. What works counts most. Avoid philosophical distractions. Allow no boundary to limit how much you change a creativity trigger to fit what you want. Avoid the internal gauntlet and other habits that distort the creative atmosphere in your mind. Use forced-withdrawal with metaphors and analogies to help your subconscious mind creep in. Stay patient and relentless. Turn the creative process into an ongoing habit.

•Waking up in the middle of the night with an idea so hot you turn on the light and write it down.
•When driving to work, an idea so cool pops into your mind that you pull off the road to write it down.
•Making endless lists of alternatives.
•Getting excited about your work.
So combine old ideas into new creative combinations and become a creative marvel.

© 2017 by Edward Glassman, Ph.D.
Edward Glassman, Ph.D., was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity.

And for additional ways to solve problems creatively at work, check out my book: “CREATIVITY TRIGGERS ARE FOR EVERYONE:
How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.”
©2017 by Edward Glassman, Ph.D.

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.
Related Topics
Related Posts