A MOW-guide to finding your creative genius.

by Anni Karjala –

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Why does creativity matter? How do great ideas come about? How to unlock creative blocks and make your creative process productive? The MOW guide to creativity will provide you with insight, and tools to boost your and your team’s creative performance. Seasoned with the latest research and concrete tips, the booklet will not only make your creative process systematic, it lets you understand what creativity is all about. Dig in!


1. The big C - why is creativity so essential?

2. Magic and coincidence? The secret of creativity unraveled.


3. How great ideas happen: the creative process

4. Better together: how to make creativity bloom in your organization

5. Awaken the beast: tips and practices to enhance your creativity.

1. The big C - why creativity is so essential?

After years of focusing on productivity, the new era of work is here - and it is all about creativity.

Being creative is a basic need of humans. It’s essential to our psychological well-being – ask Maslow if you don’t believe. In the modern world, creative self-expression often happens through our jobs. Being able to contribute creatively at work makes you contempt, increases satisfaction and contempt at work. (1)

Creativity = the future

In the turmoil of change and uncertainty in all work, creativity is emerging as one of the most central skills of an employee or a company. The World Economic forum has ranked creativity and innovation as the top strategic imperative for two main reasons:

1. Innovation and creativity are skills that will not be replaced by automation in the near future.

2. In the fast-moving landscape of any field, creative individuals show the most capacity to adapt and develop new ways of doing. (2)

Creativity pays off

In addition to being beneficial as a skill, there are direct economic aspects to why creativity is important. To become noticed in the attention economy of the age, the way to go is to become a creative bastard child.

Creative organizations succeed more likely than the ones who are not. Innovation and creativity enable constant iteration of ways of working that improve profitability. Teams that are creative score higher in performance and work more effectively within budgets.(3)

And it’s not only organizations. Ads that kick creative ass result in more sales activity. One euro invested in a campaign that’s perceived as creative has nearly a double the effect on sales than one euro invested in a campaign that is not seen as creative. This logic can be applied to other areas of communication - social media channels, blogs and posts. The more original they seem, the more attention they will gain. And, attention will bring you revenue.  (4)

2. Magic and coincidence? The secret of creativity unraveled.

Maybe you’re born with it - maybe it’s in the genes?

For thousands of years people saw creativity as something magical that came from the higher powers, like muses and gods. And no wonder - you do feel like something divine hit you when you reach the creative flow.

The historical connotation of an unreachable god-like state seems to stick. It’s a common misbelief that creativity is skill that you’re born with and can’t really control. Luckily, it’s only a perception - only 10-20 % of creative capacity can be counted for our genome. We all stand pretty much on the same line:  most of the creative ability is up to environment and practice.  (5)

What we often stumble upon is that we easily see ourselves as what the external world sees us. If you’re  mathematically talented, you’ve most likely been encouraged to become an engineer or something of the like, rather than a creative planner. It’s important to understand that creativity can be learned, and the worst obstacle may be how you see yourself.

How to go about it?

1. Change your perception of yourself: It might be really hard to start perceiving yourself as creative if you have always been “the voice of reason”. That’s why it might be good to start with rebranding yourself as creative - to yourself. And that happens by doing, trying and learning. Try to tune yourself into a non-judgmental state of mind, and keep on reading ‘till the end of this paper to find practical tips for boosting creativity

2. Train, train, train. Creativity can be trained, and the first step is to understand the process (so high five for reading this!)

It’a a brain game. A brief  neuroscience of creativity

A large part of the creative process takes place in the unconscious. The eurekas often hit us when we least expect them to, and it may seem hard to consciously come up with anything groundbreaking.  It is then completely understandable that the creative process might feel difficult to grasp. Getting to know the basics of how our brains execute creative tasks helps you start taming the creative process - and making it your servant.

Modern brain science has unraveled many brain processes behind creative thinking, but it’s not only cognitive processes that is involved. Creativity occurs at the intersection of conscious and unconscious processes, and is seasoned with our emotions and environment.

It seems that there are three circuits in the brain that contribute to creative thinking. (If you’re curious, they’re called the imagination network, the executive attention network and the salience network.)

Especially important seems to be the interplay between these circuits. Individuals who possess creative capacity have strong connection in between these three networks, and are thus able to consider a wide approach to challenges at once. (8)

Key insights to the creative brain:

- Convergent and divergent thinking are mutually exclusive in the brain, and need to be separated in the creative process: you can’t be rational and creative at the same time. (6)

- Creativity requires focus and distraction in the right proportion. The conscious part of the creative process requires the analysis of the problem and gathering information. The unconscious part requires letting loose, even getting a bit disturbed. To tap into unconscious processing make your mind wander, zone out.(7)

- Stress can help your brain be more creative, but not all kinds of stress. Evaluative stress - meaning

the pressure of performing well in the fear of failing or punishment - disturbs creative processing. Time pressure and scarcity of resources on the other hand can help you work at your creative best. (8)

3. What you need? Arming yourself for creativity

Good imagination is not enough. What other skills being successfully creative requires? (9) To handle the big C, you need a set of three core skills:

1) Synthetic thinking, meaning generating ideas that are unexpected and out of the ordinary.

2) Analytical thinking. Involved in creative process as the ability to judge the value of one’s own ideas, to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and go about ways to improve them.

3) Practical thinking: Ability to apply intellectual skills in everyday contexts. (9)

Might feel like a mouthful. But understanding the different skills involved in the creative process lets you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. This is especially crucial at creative teamwork - self-awareness enables the team members to from a successful dynamics.

4) Motivation eats talent for breakfast

We tend to see the creative process as fun, free, limitless process of joy and self-expression. Spoiler alert: it’s not. Breakthroughs are usually the tale end of frustration, sweat and repeated failure. Any creative endeavour needs you to work hard. So, to thrive, creativity requires motivation. (9,10)

Motivation is actually one of the most central factor affecting the creative capacity and performance of an individual. It seems that people who are intrinsically motivated at their work, meaning the people who really love what they do, perform much better at creative tasks. People who are motivated by extrinsic thing, like money or status, are not as creative. (9)

This closely related to the neuroscience of creativity: The extrinsically motivated person will take the shortest, most obvious path to get to the reward at the finish line. The intrinsically motivated person explore various pathways and alternatives, taking the time and enjoying the process along the way. The exploration will let you use various information from different corners of the mind, and lead to more original solutions.

It might be difficult to switch your motivations, but in this light doing some soul searching might be relevant. Are you enjoying your work?

by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself—and not by external pressures. It’s really worth striving to find a job you love, or letting your employees choose for their tasks. As Carl Jung put it, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”


 3. How great ideas happen: the creative process


4. Better together: how to make creativity bloom in your organization

“One doesn’t manage creativity. One manages for creativity.”  -Teresa Amabile

Prioritizing creativity benefits not only the companies economically but also increases the happiness and motivation of employees.

The company and its culture have perhaps the biggest factor impacting the creative performance of teams and individual employees. Any company is responsible for how well its employees are doing on the creative realm.

A bunch of research on the topic has been executed. From the pile of data, a few findings strike as the most important

A psychologically safe environment. This one can’t be stressed enough. Building an environment that allows for failure creates an atmosphere where employees are encouraged to present their ideas. The more ideas, the higher the likelihood of innovation.

Low hierarchy. Companies with a low degree of hierarchy seem to thrive when it comes to innovation. Hierarchy reduces the chance of employees to contribute and lowers the motivation to present new ideas.

Working environment. Working environment plays an important part in enhancing creativity of individuals. Giving employees and teams the freedom to choose for a place to work is definitely worth trying.


Building a creative team:

Successful teamwork is the holy grail of creativity. Creativity is boosted by combining different views, backgrounds and methods. But any functioning team needs a glue that sticks them together - common values and goals, a.k.a the company culture.

Balance differences and similarities: high-performing teams have similar values - they are mainly  motivated and driven by the same things. However, they differ in their styles and ways of working.

Assign people to tasks they love. As we learned, one of the most effective methods for enhancing creative performance is to increase individuals’ motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation (their task-related enjoyment, interest, and involvement). From the employees’ side this requires self-awareness, a skill definitely worth encouraging.

Make sure the team has common goals. Teams with a successful task orientation set high performance standards, monitor their performance closely and analyze their output regularly. This leads to not only improved creative performance, also to high productivity. Reserve time to setting goals for individuals and the whole team.

Cohesion. Cohesion basically means commitment to the team and a desire to be part of the team. Cohesion creates a psychologically safe environment that enables members to challenge each other and the status quo.

Functional communication. Strong internal communication allows for sharing knowledge and ideas, and creates a safe environment for providing feedback.


Creative teams need management, but not close observation and measurement of their work during the process.

The way to success is to observe the teams while at work, and to really know your employees. This way you are able to get a good grip of what each individual brings to the table - and build the teams accordingly.

5. How to release your creative beast

  1. Unlock your creative block

Do you hate deadlines? So does creativity. That's why successful, conscious procrastination can actually save your ass when a deadline looms in the horizon.

Action point: Unlock your creative block in 3hours

Creativity’s worst enemy is fear. A fear of not doing well, of failing, of embarrassing yourself. This all gets amplified when you’re stressed or in a hurry. When this is the case, you'll have to trick yourself to reach a creative flow. Here’s how:

Phase 1:Make space for 3 hours in your calendar.Take one hour for surfing the internet (not facebook!) but sites that inspire you, art you love, presentations that always make you stand up and clap.

Phase 2: Forget about the deadline. Forget about who you’re presenting to or who is waiting to see your slides. Start sketching on the project. Goof around, imagine, don’t take it seriously. Produce as many ideas you can - when you're done with one, start with another.

Phase 3: Now you’re in the zone. Take a break and start going trough what you’ve produced. Keep working and refine your productions.  

2.  Burst every bubble!

Being rutted is the arch enemy of creativity.

Our worlds are filled with bubbles. Social bubbles, demographic bubbles, filter bubbles. Although internet has brought us better access to all kinds of knowledge and content than ever before, we have become less interested in understanding things that don’t support our views of the world. To see and hear only things that support your worldview are arsenic for your creativity.

Action point: Burst your bubbles. All of them. Go to places in your hometown you’ve never gone before, or take a weekend trip to a nearby city. Take a remote day and go work somewhere that turns your worldview upside down, like close to a pre-school or an elderly home. Talk to people you never talk to. Homeless people, strangers in the bus. All of this will expand your understanding of the world and boost your creativity!

Map your mind

Although a cliché, mind maps are a killer way to tackle any creative challenge. It lets your brain relax, as you have no structure you need to follow, you just spit out ideas as they hit you.

Action point: Use mind maps in the first steps of any creative session. They will help you get started with the idea.


Tomi J Kallio (professor of organization and management from the Linnaeus university) and Liisa Häkkinen, Visual anthropologist (musician, and a writer) were interviewed for this white paper.

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