What inspires team creativity? Curiosity is the secret

We are always trying to get the creative juices of our team going at different points of our projects, especially during requirements definition and gathering. We often miss the mark and end up behind the mark in terms of innovation. What if creativity is not what we need to stimulate but simply having team members be curious enough to question what is happening?

Most unsuccessful projects are linked by certain traits which project managers have been trying to resolve since projects have been projects. There are some consistent ones that come out of those published project success surveys year after year, but to name a few: lack of effective communications, poor sponsor support, unclear requirements and far from engaged stakeholders.

Project manager after project manager has tried a number of solutions to prevent, lessen or counteract the effects of these negative elements on their projects. Our profession has, over time, developed various methodologies, have added or taken out layers of processes to frameworks, accelerated delivery or slowed down execution, but it seems that as soon as we have, it figured out something else happens to set us back. After all, this might be easier if all projects were the same but they are not. We need to keep on top of everything as if it was a brand new project.

A few years ago, on one of my projects at the time, our sponsor came up with what he thought would solve it all. He decided with great anticipation that what was wrong was that we needed to let people’s creativity out more. The process was killing their “creativity.” With that statement, my team started a series of brainstorming sessions, the scheduling of review meetings almost daily and the development of more processes to support all of this “innovative” flow.

The overall results, when we went through lessons learned a few months later, were less than stellar. I can truly say that this particular project ended up in a more disoriented state than some of its predecessors. What had we done wrong? Were we so reliant on our processes and our structure that we did not know how to make things out of creativity in our organization? Had we lost our sense of innovation?

Was the sponsor wrong in his thinking that creativity was going to solve it all? Not really, creativity is important but “forced” or “imposed” creativity is something else altogether. It does backfire and backfire it did.

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