Ideas to boost the creativity of teams

Chris Danek
3 min readFeb 19, 2022


I’d love to hear your answer to this recent question from a student of mine: “how do you optimize for the creativity of your team?”

Here’s my take:

You can’t optimize creativity. That’s good news because creativity is not a finite, limited resource. I see optimization as finding a solution that maximizes or minimizes an objective function in the face of constraints. I don’t see creativity in that way at all.

Instead, I think that the collective creativity of a team is a state that can always be improved. So I would reframe the question as “How can we encourage or develop more creativity from our teams?”

Here is a list of ideas to spark a conversation.

  1. Make sure the team has a shared sense of purpose and vision. The team will be driven to source the creativity needed to deliver on their vision.
  2. Creative solutions start with creative constraints.
  3. Change the rules of the game. Realize some ‘constraints’ are really assumptions that you can change. Think of the way that Dell microcomputers or Southwest Airlines redefined business models.
  4. Practice Empathy. Connect deeply with your customer so that you can frame your design problem and deliver solutions that will have a meaningful impact.
  5. Find a (great) champion. Sometimes designing to the needs and specifications of one demanding customer can push your team to excel. But if you are listening to one key voice, make sure it is the right one.
  6. Crowd-source. First, practice agile and inclusive teamwork and make sure that everyone has a voice. Second, find a way to bring in fresh ideas and perspectives from across and outside your organization. Think design jam or hack-a-thon.
  7. Aim for breakthroughs. Look for orders of magnitude improvement, 10X or more. Striving for a breakthrough solution demands creativity.
  8. High volume creativity. I like this mis-quote of Thomas Edison: if you want a great idea, start with 100 ideas.
  9. Turn to structured approaches. There are many to choose from., TRIZ problem solving, you name it. What are your favorite frameworks and methods?
  10. Lean on established ways for teams to create together. Think Lightning Decision Jam (free tools from AJ & Smart), or workshop designs from SessionLabs (disclosure — I have no personal experience using SessionLabs services; and no affiliation with either them or AJ&Smart)
  11. Recursive creativity: if you have an approach that works for your team, apply recursively to (1) generate topics worth addressing, for each topic (2) identify problems that need solving, and for those problems (3) identify solution concepts, and then (4) screen, filter and combine ideas.
  12. Invert assumptions or constraints.
  13. Update your brainstorming. An old-fashioned version of brainstorming has teammates waiting for each other to lay out their ideas (“One Conversation at a Time”), and the group has to decide whether to follow one idea deeper (“Build on the ideas of others”) or plow new ground. And no way can everyone contribute fully. More up to date models include periods of what I call “parallel play” where everyone can get ideas out, using post-it notes or a Jamboard, and then synchronization points — shareouts — for the team to make sense of the collective output.
  14. Tap into storytelling. Make your customer or stakeholder the hero of your story and articulate how your product or service will help them face a critical moment, achieve success, and snatch victory from a certain defeat.
  15. ​​Create. Creativity is about imagination and ideas. It is often associated with making things. Get inspired by building your skills in making and creating. Get better at something you know, or try wildly different creative endeavors (think sketching or painting, sculpting or casting, cooking or baking) to get inspired.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I’d like to expand this list. How do you spark creativity on your teams?



Chris Danek

Dedicated to making an impact through mentoring teams, agile teamwork, and human centered design.