The creative process is a way for individuals to come up with innovative ideas and solutions for problems. There are some people who feel as though the public sector is not savvy enough to find pioneering ways to solve problems or even think outside the box. Digging into the five steps of the creative process and applying its elements to the public sector will hopefully bring a fresh look into the way administrators manage and potentially alter their behavior to embrace change.
The first step in the creative process is preparation. Ironically, this is the one step that is done effectively in the public sector. Planning sessions, meetings, open forums are different forms of venues to bring together the stakeholders and investigate the problem. What is often underutilized is the expertise of outside advisors who are extremely knowledgeable in their field and are able to identify problems quicker and more efficiently. In extremely complex areas such as a recent mandate by the Environmental Protection Agency requiring municipalities to clean storm water runoff, it was determined that experts be retained for identifying the problem, creating solutions to the problem, and ensuring the implementation was completed to meet these standards.
The second step in the creative process is concentration. This step is most likely the bottleneck of the process and a potential derailment to no fault of the person or group. The public sector is not revered as an institution of unlimited wealth or creative thinkers. Most organizations are faced with massive financial obligations, forcing individuals to work on several projects in order to maintain minimal amounts of staff. The individual is tasked with a problem and provided with timelines but due to external forces, is not able to focus and now a new problem has been introduced. It is not out of the realm of possibility that some issues may never be addressed due to other more critical issues that have become priority.
The third step in the creative process is incubation. It is important to afford individuals space to formulate ideas and enhance their creativity. In principle, this is a critical step in the creative process and is highly successful, however, in the public sector any thought of allowing someone to relax in order to enhance their creativity is not an overwhelmingly supported concept.
The fourth step in the creative process is illumination. This step is considered the moment in which a problem was solved using extensive thought and the requisite time to focus on the problem. The individual had to use creativity to solve the problem and, in most cases, did not have any time to concentrate or allow the mind to work. This moment could have occurred at any time during the day or even when discussing the problem with a colleague and the solution could have come to mind that instant.
The fifth and final step in the creative process is verification. Verification is interpreted as acceptance and confirmation that the problem contains a viable solution. In the public sector, this confirmation could come from a variety of sources. One source that is authentic and endearing is the support and accolade from the governing body. Most individuals in the public sector are rarely, if ever, given any recognition for their efforts. In a unique situation where the recognition is given from those who represent the constituents, it is only fitting that the individual be recognized for their effort.
Creativity plays a significant role in organizational functioning and leadership. Imagine for a second that an organization that is lifeless and operates on a status quo. The organization functions without regard for change and the inclusion of ideas to potentially do something different that is beneficial to the constituents. No organization can operate in this capacity for an extended amount of time without making significant changes to its structure or operations. Leadership changes are often welcomed with resistance and with that comes a plethora of varying ideas on how to improve a process or remove a defective policy that is contrary to the benefit of the organization. It is to the benefit of the organization that creativity and its inherent changes are taken seriously and those individuals who are forwarding the changes are given the freedom and latitude to effectively institute their ideas.
Managers, leaders, and administrators are in unique positions insofar as they are the drivers behind creativity and are able to implement ideas under careful guidance. Allowing people to think freely, explore non-traditional methods, and offering incentives are only a small number of varying options to allow creativity. The one potential drawback is a leadership structure that is not conducive to hearing radical ideas or listening to the results of a group of experts who are professionals in their field of trade. The public sector is an unfortunate byproduct of historical precedence and its resistance to change, however, with the right leaders who are open to creative ideas, it could help spur individuals in their ability to creatively think and suggest solutions.