Today's guest blogger, Meghan Biro, Founder of TalentCulture, calls me the most patient person on Twitter. One day earlier in 2009 when back home with my parents, I saw Meghan tweeting with someone in my network, checked out her intriguing profile, and had a short Twitter conversation with her. Not sure if it was then or later, but I asked (maybe begged) her to do a guest post for Brainzooming.
She said she would, and I began my patient waiting. I'd reach out about once a month to see if she was still considering it, and each time she said she was. That was good enough for me!
In the meantime, we've talked by phone, paving the way for another great business relationship initiated on Twitter. So without further delay, here's Meghan's take on creativity + innovation in business (it's well worth the wait!):

We are a generation raised to believe we are creative. Some of us actually are lucky enough to be employed as creatives; the rest of us, who received colored markers and sketchbooks in kindergarten, must look for ways to draw out the sparks of creativity we secretly nurture while working as accountants, engineers, administrators or in other career paths not known for rewarding creativity.

The dirty little secret many people live with is that creativity is not usually rewarded in the workaday world. So how can we nurture creativity in our work? What are the warning signs that someone we work with is trying to sabotage our creativity, and what can we do to counter resistance?

First, let’s look at some quick creativity-boosters.

  • Take time for someone else. The conventional wisdom is to take time for yourself, but turn that around, reach out of yourself and set aside 15 minutes a day to think about someone else, and how they are creative. Contemplate the different point of view this person presents; talk to them and ask questions about what they like, not what they do.
  • Try something really new. Listen to music you think you don’t like. Commit to buying a CD or checking out live music– don’t just download a song - and listen to the whole thing. Sample new sounds and accept the challenge of something you wouldn’t normally choose.
  • Ask a question. Then commit to listening to the answer and allowing what the other person says to influence your thoughts. Too often we have the answer we want to hear formulated before we ask a question.
  • Learn something new every day. Commit to learning – and using – a new word every day. Or read history instead of a novel. Teach yourself to dance. Try something new and expand your perceptions, physical coordination and mental agility.

All of these things can be done easily, and all can make you a more creative person.

But what if you work with someone who seems to suck the creativity out of every situation? You know the signs: this person interrupts others or pushes away from a conference table with crossed arms when they hear something they don't agree with. This person can kill creativity by walking into a room – if you let it happen.

Here are a few ways to work with that person creatively and collaboratively:

  • Look outside your context. Your experience of a person may be that he or she is not creative. Try to look at that person from his or her context – manager, colleague or employee – and open yourself to his or her experience of your comments.
  • Use active listening. Listen to the person speak, restate what they said as a query, and add a comment of your own that brings in a new idea. Open up a closed mind by reassuring the person that you heard them - before you add your comments or ideas.
  • Engage the person by taking the time to learn what he likes, and acknowledging that bit of humanity. Maybe this person reads a lot, or has a beloved dog, or loves to ski. These are cues to that person’s creativity, and acknowledging them gives you an emotional bargaining chip in your next attempt to infuse the workplace with creativity.
  • Work incrementally. Someone who is uncomfortable with creative ideas may respond better to small changes than big, bold ideas. Keep your creative goal in mind but break it down into components and advance your position slowly. It’s worth the effort to see creativity bloom.

Dare to take every action with a spark of creativity and you’ll feed your soul and lift the mood of your workplace. What are your creativity-builders? - Meghan M. Biro