Stressed? Overwhelmed? Discover two actions you can easily take to cultivate creativity for groups and yourself.
My work facilitating planning discussions throughout UC provides a robust ‘lab’ for enhancing group creativity. Recently, I’ve been including the question, “What is one thing you love about your work?” in group introductions because it enlivens both individual speakers and the entire group. For groups seeking to work together in a specific way—collaboratively, for example—using appreciative inquiry to explore high-point experiences has been transforming conversations from anxious to expansive. (See “how to” at end of post.)
The resulting uptick in collaborative creativity during planning retreats has made me curious. I repeatedly observe the positive effects of working in community during these challenging times, yet this doesn’t fully explain the calm that replaces the anxious, post-election group energy.
Marveling as one group identified a record number of ways to collaborate on on-going projects, I realized how speaking about what we love to do and our high-point experiences reminds us that we have agency, or “the capacity…to act in any given environment” (Wikipedia). Applying what I learned while developing a stress management brochure for the University Health Services many years ago: if we focus on what we can control and influence—agency—we have already taken a powerful step to support ourselves, each other, and our creativity in challenging times.
For myself, I’ve noticed during the past few weeks that being creative in community both calms and inspires me, and I’ve also been experimenting with creative activities that I can control and/or influence.
- Some recent experiences being creative in community:
- singing with friends at the Cal Performances’ Community Sing led by Melanie DeMore,
- playing easy folksongs with friends and “Get Up, Stand Up” with other violin students, and
- painting with my Wild Heart painting group.
- Recent examples of being creative in areas that I can control and/or influence:
- learning a Woody Guthrie violin piece (as a new player, both the process of playing and the sounds that result are creative!),
- showing up most Monday nights and painting for 2.5 hours with my Wild Heart group,
- completing one “Recolor” piece at a time on my iPad,
- sewing a prototype airplane travel organizer, and
- supporting my clients’ creativity through active listening and the creative design of group interactions.
I invite you to experiment: How does being creative in community affect you right now? How does focusing on what you can control and/or influence—engaging in the present—spark your creativity?
I hope that you are inspired to take action today to support your own creativity and/or that of a group. What might you choose to do right now?
How to Facilitate Appreciative Inquiry in Groups:
- Invite each person to take a couple of minutes to remember a positive experience of X (e.g., working collaboratively).
- Ask people to pair up and spend 5-10 minutes sharing stories.
- Invite everyone to share a two-sentence recap of their high-point experiences with the entire group (or table, if it’s a large group).
- After the recaps have been shared around-the- table, encourage participants to identify what elements and behaviors supported successful collaboration in these examples.
- Ask the group, “Which of these elements/behaviors are within your control/influence? Which of these might you use to create a similar high-point environment for your group?”