Top 5 Ways to boost Creativity in the Public Service

This week my team took training at the Castoria School for Government Workers on how to implement the new public service value of "creativity." None of us knew what this term meant, and we had no idea how to apply it to our work.  The training left us still a little confused. But as we left the session, our instructor, a retired visual artist and Assistant Deputy Minister in the program evaluation management agency, gave us a handy reference tool in the form of a Top five list to post on our cubicle walls. 

Top Five Ways to Boost your Creativity 

1)   Ignore Top 5 Lists

If someone really has significant insights to share on the subject of creativity, he will not, I repeat, will not be communicating them to you via tiresome formulaic techniques like the "Top 5" list method.  The truly creative will also avoid worn-out emphasizers like “I repeat” and confusing satirical devices to make their points.  Do not read anything these toxic transmitters of the trite have to offer even if they seduce you with the use of compelling metaphors and alliterations.

2)   Rein in Your Imagination

The root of the word and the concept – creativity – is “create,” meaning to bring something into existence.  You cannot do that unless you have some toehold in the real – existing – world.  Too much time daydreaming, thinking and living in the realm of the imaginary will keep your ideas in the domain of things uncreated forever.

3)   Do NOT Write a Book about your career 

When you write a book of any kind, you have, fundamentally, three uncreative options.  First, you can recycle the successful or semi-successful ideas and approaches of others to massage our lowest-common-denominator natures and make millions of dollars.   At the other edge of the scale, you can engage in thoughtful and thorough research, strive for the greatest levels of artistic mastery, and submit yourself to the soul-crushing and creativity-killing process of editing, rewriting, and revising the equivalent of a thousand and one writing-class exercises.  Or finally, you can float along on the vast sea of pablum that churns between the two extremities.

4)  Be Cowardly

Creating something – anything – new requires some level of commitment and persistence.  You cannot expect to muster any kind of resolute determination and to follow through on your quest if you pick fights with people and make enemies who will chip away at your ideas and emotional vigor with criticism and often legitimate disparagement. Best to limit your creative works to things that do not offend and have been approved beforehand by senior management.

5)   Do What Others Tell You to do

You clearly have a problem taking direction from authoritative, said-to-be-expert strangers – otherwise you would have stopped reading this list the first point, as instructed.  It was a test.  You should work on this.  I am telling you this for your own good. Believe me. If you want to be truly creative, you must never, ever stop and reflect upon your own experiences, understandings, and knowledge to synthesize new ways of looking at the world and to see coherence in different disciplines and spheres of human endeavour because you never know where that will lead.  Whereas, if someone tells you to do something and you do it, there you go – you have created something that someone else wanted or, at least, you have created a sense of authority in that other person - and the world is, at least for that someone, likely your direct supervisor or a higher level official,a better place.