Seeing What Others Don't

The BBC’s show Sherlock is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen on TV. This adaptation from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories brings Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century, and is every bit as witty as the original stories. Fans and critics alike raved about the show.

              What’s interesting about Sherlock Holmes is how he can see answers where no one else can. All of the information he takes in is exposed to the viewers (or readers) and Scotland Yard. Yet he is the only one who can piece together these seemingly unrelated bits of information and catch the killer.

              Similar to how Sherlock can see answers where no one else can, a creative can see solutions and ideas in the office where no one else can. A daily creative, in the spirit of Sherlock, can take seemingly unrelated bits of information and bring them together to make an entirely new idea. Even among coworkers and managers who can’t seem to find the right solution to a problem, someone who has trained their brain to look for creative solutions can find one.

              That’s because creativity in the workplace is just like creativity in the artist’s studio. A writer has 26 letters to work with, and yet can turn those letters into massive novels or historical works. A musician only has a handful of notes to work with, yet can create symphonies. All these artists do is take the same blocks that we all see and put them in a unique order.

              It’s easy to fall into the same routine every day in the office and fall back on the same solutions. Most people can do this since they don’t have to make life-or-death decisions on a daily basis. But if you’re making the same easy decisions as everyone else, what value are you adding to your company? Probably not much, since people who follow the herd are in ample supply.

              To see things creatively in the office, you need to shake things up a bit. Don’t wait for your boss to give you a new playbook to get creative; take measures into your own hands and begin to see the puzzle pieces that no one else can! Here are a few simple things you can work on right away to hone your creativity in the office:

·       Think of multiple ideas: The simplest change you can make is to come up with more than one idea along the same topic. Sure, your first idea might be perfectly fine for solving an issue. But once you have the first few ideas out of your head, what are you thinking of now? I use this exercise when creating new magic tricks, and idea number 10 is always more interesting and original than idea number 1.

·       Think of ideas for different topics: This is the same as above, except think of different ideas across multiple topics. By bringing in employees from other departments, you can get ideas from an outsider’s perspective. This can also bring people closer together and help with team building.

·       Cut back your ideas: Once you’ve settled on an idea or two, this can be a game-changing exercise. Think of ways in which you could achieve similar results to that idea, but at a fraction of the cost. This puts into effect the 80/20 principle, which states that approximately 80% of the results comes from approximately 20% of the work. Once you have an idea, determine what that 20% might be.

·       Be original: Be careful not to fall back on the usual solutions to issues. Instead, think of truly original ideas that no one in your company has tried before.

              I learned these lessons through creating new magic tricks. I never liked being seen as just some magician, but it’s so hard to stand out since most people assume every magician is the same. The reason why they assume this is because most magicians do the same tricks! These classics of magic are amazing tricks, but when everyone is doing them, no one stands out.

              I want to be different. That require me to think differently than all of my friends. When I want to add something new to my show, I think of an effect (what a trick looks like to the audience) I wanted to achieve, then try to figure out the method (how the trick actually works). I brainstorm several different methods and pick out the best one. Method number one is simple usually the norm. The next two methods aren’t much more original. But when I get a few ideas out of my head, I begin to think of weird, different ways to achieve the desired effect.

              Once I have a method I can use, I think of ways I can cut back the props involved. I ask myself, “How can I make this trick as minimal as possible?” The reason why I do this is because I want the audience looking first and foremost at me! Any unnecessary props on stage will distract them from me. Does that sound self-centered? You bet. But the point is that I recognize what my overall goal is and don’t lose sight of it.

              This brainstorming magic isn’t just for the stage; it’s for the office! The tactics I have outlined above can just as easily be used in the daily 9-to-5 as in a magic show. Just as I was able to see tricks and methods that other couldn’t, so too can you see ideas and solutions that your coworkers can’t. When you do this, you provide a service to your company that will be very hard for them to replace.

              Thinking creatively and brainstorming multiple ideas are two of the best tools you can bring into work!

Ryan Lally