2.8. Creativity and collaboration skills

Creativity has filled a vital gap on my bookshelf where it was meant to be all along. There is no other approach to creative thought quite like this: fresh, lively, wide-ranging in its scholarship, often left field and always disconcertingly spot on.

Jo Shapcott, poet and Royal Literary Fund Fellow

Are you creative? How creative are you? Can you become more creative? These are questions that you can ask yourself. You can think or talk about it for long without getting into highly involved issues: about whether only certain singular people are creative or everyone is hypothetically creative in some way; and whether some activities, cultures or periods are more creative than others. What is creativity anyway? Only think: creativity is what happens when an individual produces something that is novel as well as appropriate, generative or influential .

Figure 2.5. The most common criteria and abilities of creative person. (Source: Own elaboration)

  1. Flexibility: This captures the ability to cross boundaries and make remote associations. This is measured by a number of different categories of ideas generated.
  2. Originality: This measures how statistically different or novel the ideas are compared to a comparison group. This is measured as a number of novel ideas generated.
  3. Fluency: This captures the ability to come up with many diverse ideas quickly. This is measured by the total number of ideas generated.
  4. Elaboration: This measures the amount of detail associated with the idea. Elaboration has more to do with focussing on each solution/idea and developing it further.

Learning contains challenging, refining and improving understanding by being made to think hard. Sometimes, to understand new concepts and broaden perspectives, our approaches to thinking need to be creative, imaginative and lateral (incorporating new ways of looking at things), as well as linear (using existing patterns of thought). In this sense, use your creativity part for the development of your digital CREW skills. You should understand how you can question or challenge established knowledge to help you to formulate your own understanding, and imagination can play an important role:

‘One cannot think creatively unless one has the knowledge with which to think creatively. Creativity represents a balance between knowledge and freeing oneself of that knowledge’ (Johnson-Laird, 1988, p.207, cited by Sternberg, 2012, p.4).

Figure 2.6. Collaboration skills. (Source: Own elaboration)

Collaboration skills enable you to successfully work toward a common goal with others. They include communicating clearly, actively listening to others, taking responsibility for mistakes, and respecting the diversity.

Communication Skills:

  1. Active listening: Active listening goes beyond hearing the words your colleagues are saying. It means listening without judgment and ensuring you understand the meaning behind what they say. If you don’t understand, ask for clarification, and take the time to summarize what was said before moving on.
  2. Written communication: A lot of collaboration happens in writing, especially if you’re working remotely. We tend to rely on nonverbal cues to convey meaning, so it’s especially important to be mindful of how messages might be received when communicating in writing.
  3. Verbal communication: What you say in a team environment is key, but how you say it is just as important. Sharing your perspective succinctly and respectfully disagreeing are essential aspects of verbal communication.
  4. Nonverbal communication: Nonverbal communication, like body language and tone, impacts your verbal communication. The same words delivered in two different ways can convey two different meanings to those who are listening. Consider both what you’re saying and how you’re saying it when working closely with colleagues.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, recognize emotions in others and react appropriately, apply your emotions to tasks and is one of the most sought-after soft skills. 

Some qualities to promote your emotional intelligence contain:

  1. Resilience
  2. Conflict resolution
  3. Empathy
  4. Being able to recognize and detach from strong emotions when needed
  5. Curiosity
  6. Not being offended easily
  7. Not taking criticism personally
  8. Compassion

In our universal economy, you may be working with colleagues from other cultures and countries. It’s essential to reflect on any implicit biases you may hold so you can work respectfully with your colleagues and to be successful.

Respect for diversity in a collaborative environment means:

  1. Open communication
  2. Building consensus
  3. Facilitating group discussion
  4. Sensitivity to ethnic and religious backgrounds
  5. Building and managing expectations
  6. Eliciting viewpoints from all team members
  7. Agreeing on roles that capitalize on individual strengths

Creating an environment where collaboration thrives means anticipating how collaboration might break down, and taking action to prevent it before it happens.