Creative Exercises for Business Innovation

Can you help your team break down barriers to creativity and innovation?


Scott Docherty draws from his expertise helping organizations develop and define strategic vision, combined with his improvisation performance and coaching experience, to provide powerful tips about the best way to drive a truly productive brainstorming session. In this video, Scott shares the secret to great collaboration that works in both business and in improv. Watch Scott's video now to get in on the secret!

So what I do is I actually teach creativity to companies and, doing so, use a lot of principles of improv to illustrate those points. If you think of improvisation, you would say, "Well, that's just making stuff up." But to be honest, improvisation has a lot of principles and rules that you need to follow in order to make improvisation really work, to be funny.

So I'll use several different exercises to illustrate that. Some, for most companies, have to really start off very simple, because we're all still stuck in our heads and we've got to clear the clutter and we've got to make them feel comfortable to know that it’s okay to tap into this four-year old inside of them and to let them come out and play. And so we talk about different exercises such as categories. I'll get groups into a circle and I'll give them a ball. And we're going to pass this ball back and forth. And I give them a very broad range category. I'll say color. And they have to say a color as they toss a ball to someone else in the group. And that person catches the ball, they now have to say a color as they throw the ball to someone else in the group.

What's really interesting is I'll move from a exercise like that to an exercise that I call disassociation ball, which is basically the same thing. Only now, instead of giving them a broad category, I give them like the broadest category I possibly can. So I say, you can use any word at all in the English language. And as you toss the ball to someone else in the group, they can say any other word in the English language. They just can't say a word that's associated with the word that was said prior. And what they find in this group of people is that when they go from categories like color to now disassociation ball, where they can use any word in the English language, I always ask the group, so I say, "So, which exercise was easier?" Without a doubt, they would say categories was far easier. And so I ask them the natural questions like, "Why do you think categories was easier? In disassociation ball, I let you choose any word in the English language at all, but here I limited you."

And what the interesting thing about creativity is, and this is so anti-intuitive to most people, is that creativity thrives better in a restricted environment. So if I limit your choices, you are far more creative than if I open it all up for you to do whatever you want to do. And so that what that teaches is that our brains are naturally wired to make associations. Sometimes, those associations that are already hard set in our brains make it very difficult for us to be creative, because they limit the choices that we feel we have. So part of really teaching creativity is learning to break those natural connections in our brain and to think about the thing that's not naturally thought of.

Scott Docherty

Scott Docherty is a creativity trainer at Procter & Gamble, using the principles of improvisation to coach employees and help them unleash their creativity to drive business innovation. In his current role at Proctor and Gamble, S...

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