Sparking Creativity: From McKinsey Executives to You

Sparking Creativity: From McKinsey Executives to You

Hello, mes chéries! I’m back in my old stomping grounds for my final college semester. It’s completely surreal to me. Even though I am dying to get out and kick-start my life, I am excited to make the most out of it starting with my classes tomorrow. As I was shopping for my usual back-to-school necessities today, I received an inspirational text from my aunt.

My aunt has always acted as a second mother to me, a Godmother, and a moral compass. Growing up, I was very close to her and visited her every week or every other week. After moving away for college, she found ways to stay connected through special gifts or sending me random words of wisdom. Her latest one was an article she came across published by McKinsey & Company. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the field, McKinsey is a very prestigious global management consulting firm.) The article is titled Sparking Creativity in Teams: An Executive’s Guide.

What sparked my immediate interest wasn’t in the firm name attached to the article but something the authors wrote in the introduction paragraph. I’ve bolded the key points to it below:

The key is to focus on perception, which leading neuroscientists, such as Emory University’s Gregory Berns, find is intrinsically linked to creativity in the human brain. To perceive things differently, Berns maintains, we must bombard our brains with things it has never encountered. This kind of novelty is vital because the brain has evolved for efficiency and routinely takes perceptual shortcuts to save energy; perceiving information in the usual way requires little of it. Only by forcing our brains to recategorize information and move beyond our habitual thinking patterns can we begin to imagine truly novel alternatives.

The impact of this article is not so much the invitation into the minds of incredible consultants’ but rather the applicability to the every day person. The authors broke down their points into four main sections:

  1. Immerse Yourself
  2. Overcome Orthodoxes
  3. Use Analogies
  4. Create Constraints

While all of the content in each section is quite beneficial for when I start working in August, I was more interested in how it applies to you and me right now. Below I’ve broken down the information into two columns per main point. The column on the left will summarize the points the authors of the article made while the column on the right will include how I interpreted the content for every day usage whether it’s your daily routines, organizations, friendships, or projects.

Immerse Yourself

 For A Team:
  • Switch the roles and become your company’s consumer.
  • Visit other organizations, stores, or company operations etc. and compare them to how you runs yours.
  • Conduct online research about your company as if you were not employed in your company.
  • Interact with consumers in the real world and watch their decision making processes in terms of your products/services and your competitors’ products/services.
 For You:
  • Play your own devil’s advocate when you make a suggestion to someone next time. Stepping into an opponent’s shoes and truly trying to see why they would be against your idea can help you create new resolutions or ideas for a project.
  • If you are wondering how to spice up your wardrobe, change up a workout routine, or stay better organized, converse with others who do this well. Compare their behavior to yours for ideas.
  • Ask questions and listen. Don’t prepare a response as they are talking. We often can learn everything we need to know and avoid conflicts by listening because it gives us insight into others’ thought processes and rationale behind decisions.
  • Instead of wondering what it would be like to change up your mindset and approaches, just do it. Immerse yourself in that experience and see if it suits you!

Overcome Orthodoxies

For A Team:
  • Identify a long-term systematic model, strategy, or assumption. Ask why. Then challenge it.
  • List out the industry norms. Then, explore target groups that the norms assume are not interested in what you or company does.
  • Hypothetically change aspects of your business model to see if your business model actually is stifling creativity. Is there a way to introduce new intriguing incentives for new customers? Can you change customers’ attitudes? What if you simplified things?
For You:
  • If your organization has always done things a certain way, ask why and how it’s more beneficial than changing it.
  • Challenge a characteristic you know about yourself. If you have always believed that you are a homebody, go for a little trip. Visit somewhere exotic. See if you really aren’t the stay-at-home type or just didn’t know what was out there.
  • Change your usual routines up. Wake up earlier, try a different coffee joint, wear a new brand, eat a new cuisine. Get inspired.

Use Analogies

For A Team:
  • Out of the top 5 discovery skills for innovators (associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, networking), associating is the biggest driver.
  • Use other companies’ models or approaches to inspire new ones for you.
  • When approached with a tasks, ask What Would (insert a company that is renowned for this) Do? For example: We need to manage our data better. What Would Google Do?
  • Pretend a company is taking over restructuring your company’s model. What would they do to it? Would it be beneficial to you?
For You:
  • Make associations and connections across unrelated subjects. See if it sparks anything new and creative.
  • When you are stuck with a problem, ask what would someone you look up to do? For example: You have a fashion emergency and your fashion icon is Blair Waldorf. WWBWD?
  • Find something in common with someone you seem to have nothing in common with. Talk about how your interests could possibly be linked to this person’s.

Create Constraints

For A Team:
  • Impose an artificial constraint to inject the idea of “stark necessity” into your brainstorming.
  • Set boundaries so you don’t brainstorm aimlessly or go to far off the main focus.
  • Solutions to these constraints can prepare you for possible constraints or issues in the future by creating strategies and solutions through problem-solving and critical-thinking.
For You:
  • Control a bad habit by setting an artificial constraint for yourself. Pretend you don’t have more than a certain allotted budget to spend on unnecessary shopping. Maybe put that amount in a debit card so you’re forced to stick to it.
  • Create an actual constraint for yourself. If you’re on a diet, physically remove tempting junk food from your living quarters.
  • Let’s say your group needs to present a project to a professor who will have a Q&A session afterwards. Think of all possible curveballs and prepare for them as if it’s a debate.
  • Limit yourself to a certain number of ideas when you need to think creatively. It’s impossible to do everything and do everything well.
  • Think outside the box, as long as that box has a bigger box around it.

The bottom line is this: creativity isn’t all that special. Anybody can think creatively as long as they are unafraid to challenge their routines. So what are you waiting for? Get your creative juices flowing and start finding new approaches and ideas for your daily routines, for your group projects, for your organizations, for your job, for your friendships and relationships, for anything you come across in life.

If you’re interested in reading the full article, click here! If you are interested in other ways to spark creativity in the workplace and to see where the cute featured image of this article is from, click here for this other incredible article by Mashable.

With that, happy Monday, mes chéries. Have a wonderful week!



Erica Huang
Erica Huang

Based in New York City, Erica Huang is the creator and voice behind Bouge & Rouge. This blog is a playground of her thoughts where she invites you to join her on her journey through her 20s. Erica shares her lifestyle, fashion and beauty tips, adventures, and personal thoughts with the goal of inspiring others to always persevere and be unapologetically yourself.

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