See Inside August/September 2006

Fostering Group Creativity

The right atmosphere, and a few gimmicks, can bring out bright ideas among any collection of people

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, much has been written about ways to foster creativity in individuals. But groups of people—at the office, in church committees, among volunteer organizations—may need just as much help finding a collective spark. Here are some tricks, beginning with a word of caution.

Forbid criticism. No group will generate brilliant insights if participants are hostile to crazy ideas. Collective imagination can flourish only if everyone feels free of anxiety and full of trust. Before brainstorming begins, a group must insist that no one can criticize anyone who throws out an idea, makes a mistake, or lets his or her imagination run wild. Comments such as “That makes no sense!” poison a creative environment.

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