10 offbeat concepts to spark creativity and promote collaboration

Workplace independence is a beautiful thing, but isolation can be stifling.

That’s why I seldom work alone. I crave creative collaboration. Teamwork. Banter. Conversation.

Creative collaboration is my No. 1 source of professional joy, but it’s also strategic. Aside from making work more fun, creative collaboration is a tremendous way to unlock new ideas, solve problems, engage employees and fire up productivity.

If you’d like to move your team toward more fruitful collaboration, start by taking some playful chances at work. Here are 10 fun challenges to spark your crowd’s creativity whether you’re a team of two, 12, 20 or 200:

1. Accumulate an unbroken chain. Many factories track and celebrate days without a safety incident. What action or achievement can everyone on your team sustain, day after day? Days when you learn something new? Days when everyone arrives and leaves on time? Days without swearing at each other?

2. Harness the power of 39Hold a weekly brainstorming session where the conversation doesn’t stop until you have 39 options or ideas. Rotate responsibility for the topic. This week Logan wants 39 questions new hires might ask. Next week Sophie will gather 39 ways to say, “May I help you?”

3. Produce a pile of “out-of-office” messages. Write a collection of creative (possibly hilarious) out-of-office messages for the various things that keep your team from answering emails. The messages could be about vacation, sick days, long meetings, business travel, continuing education, workouts, interruptions or long walks on the beach. Make them pithy, punchy and fun.

4. Shorten your meetings. Shave five minutes off every meeting. Use those spare moments in service of creativity. Encourage your team to take a walk, stretch or meditate. At the end of the week, discuss how everyone used those tiny wedges of time to nurture creativity or sanity.

5. Draw your jargon. Set up a physical or virtual bulletin board to share everyone’s hand-drawn representations of the words and phrases that have taken hold in your team, organization or industry. What might “granular data” look like? How about “customer focus” or a “key performance indicator?”

6. Ban PowerPoint. Ditch the slides, and find other ways to communicate. Try using props or some other interactive idea to spice up your next meeting presentation.

7. Hold a contest. Who can blow the biggest bubble or bake the best brownie? Who can get to “inbox zero” first? Who can craft the best, most scintillating headline ideas?

8. Compose a character. Invent a nemesis or hero to represent your team’s quest. Create a cost-sucking villain to be your enemy. If you’re revving up for retention, invent a goddess of loyalty. What do these characters look like? What do they wear? What weapons or tools do they carry? What’s their catchphrase or signature move?

9. Cast your feature film. Imagine a big-time studio wants to tell your team’s story in a major motion picture. Choose an actor to play everyone in your movie: team members, customers, execs and notable extras.

10. Create a team anthem. Revise the lyrics of a popular song to make it yours. “Highway to Hell” could easily become “Right Way to Sell,” don’t you think?

Of course, the goal here is to have a little fun and to become a stronger, more creative team. Get your colleagues talking in a freewheeling, fun environment, and you’ll generate a steady flow of great ideas.

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