Tucked inside a big Newsweek piece on the "The Creativity Crisis" is a sidebar filled with ideas on boosting your creativity, but also that of those you're working with. In short, don't ask people to "be creative", and toss the suggestion box.
Along with some rather broad ideas for sparking creativity — get some exercise, take a break, visit foreign lands — Newsweek's mini-feature has a suggestion on how to suggest that somebody take a different tack on a project:
Don't tell someone to ‘be creative.' Such an instruction may just cause people to freeze up. However, according to the University of Georgia's Mark Runco, there is a suggestion that works: "Do something only you would come up with-that none of your friends or family would think of." When Runco gives this advice in experiments, he sees the number of creative responses double.
For those who've made their way up the office ladder a bit, there's also a suggestion from a European business school professor that formalised employee suggestion methods — official email channels, suggestion boxes and forms — can be worse than having no suggestion protocols at all. If employees don't want to feel like their thoughts and efforts disappear into a bureaucracy vacuum, allow them to put their own ideas into place more easily, such as at Toyota's acclaimed manufacturing plants.
Forget Brainstorming [Newsweek]