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Use Cunningham’s Law to stimulate creativity

stimulate creativity

So have you ever found yourself struggling to get your team to contribute ideas or offer creative input to a situation or problem? Every so often, I offer up ideas on this blog about how to creativity problem-solve by changing your frame of reference (for a pretty unique example of this approach see how city planners in Budapest creatively solved a difficult challenge). And today’s blog post is yet another way to do that – use Cunningham’s Law as a tool to stimulate creativity. So what is Cunningham’s Law? So glad you asked!

Applying Cunningham’s Law can get the creative juices flowing

Ward Cunningham, the person who invented the first user-editable website (or wiki), is credited with making this statement in 1980’s:

CunninghamLawEssentially, human nature has a tendency to correct. Which is something that a savvy leader can use to stimulate conversation and motivate action.  When asking a question of one or more team members, craft your statement so that it contains some misinformation. So the shipments last week were late because the data was entered incorrectly? is sure to elicit plenty of dialogue about what really went wrong (which wasn’t erroneous data input). Or Why don’t we limit online access to just one person? will quickly bring forward all the reasons why single access is a bad idea. I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Create a first draft to trigger the conversation

Find yourself stuck in a creative rut? This approach is just as effective if you’re trying to get the creative juices flowing. Pull a first draft of whatever you’re working on together, even if it’s really poor, and put it out there for your team (or co-workers, or clients) to look at and offer feedback. More often than not, the flaws in your work will spur others to offer their (better) ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Bottom line: misinformation seems to be more effective at getting a response from others than starting with a blank slate. Which is something worth considering if you’re trying to stimulate creativity and get your team members to be more participative in group discussions.

What do you think? Is using Cunningham’s Law a creative 🙂 approach to stimulating creativity? What are some of the things you do to get the discussion started and the dialogue continuing? Please share your ideas with all of us.

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