Are you creative? If your answer was “no,” I bet you are more creative than you think you are. I would challenge that the way you answer that question often reflects more on past experiences than your actual ability. We are born creative. As a child, your life was probably full of creating art, playing make-believe, and asking imaginative questions. Somewhere in the process of growing up, we tend to put ourselves in either the category of “creatives” or “non-creatives.” More often than not, most people would put themselves in the latter.
In reality, each and every one of us is creative. If God is Creator, and He formed us in His image (Genesis 1:27), doesn’t that mean we’re creative, too?
ITEC has a wide variety of talents and backgrounds on the team. On any given day, you might share lunch with a doctor, an aerospace engineer, a dentist, or a videographer. We strive to challenge the assumption that only the engineers are going to bring the innovation and design ideas to the team. When we take the diversity within our team, innovation happens collectively in a way that is better than what we could achieve individually.
A Culture of Creativity
A culture of creativity doesn’t just happen, but it is something we strive for. The ability to be creative often goes back to the way David Kelley of IDEO describes it, “Creativity is something you practice, not just a talent you’re born with.” A process we have found that provides a system for practicing creativity at ITEC is called Design Thinking.
Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to the innovation process. This requires imagining the point of view of someone that might be using a tool, product, or solution that you are trying to create. The qualification to participate is to be human and to gain empathy by imagining someone else’s point of view. Sometimes the best way to gain this perspective is to simply ask and listen. Anyone with these qualifications is able to help in the process.
The Five Phases
Design Thinking has five phases; Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Although often referenced as phases one through five, it is important to note that the phases are not always sequential, but can be approached somewhat out of order and repeated, as long as the focus stays on the end-users’ perspective. Here are the five phases of Design Thinking:
1. Empathize: Empathy is gaining insight and understanding of a problem from someone else’s point of view. Develop an empathetic insight of real-world challenges through interviews, observations, and research.
2. Define: Gather and organize the information gained through phase one. Determine and define the core problem. Write a problem statement describing the impact on the individual.
3. Ideate: This is the time to “think outside the box” and look for alternative ways to view the problem and create innovative solutions to the defined problem. Look at the problem from different vantage points and avoid going too deep on any one idea until you have explored as many ideas as possible.
4. Prototype: This is the experimental phase where you work on inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product/solution to investigate the ideas you’ve generated.
5. Test: This is where you test the prototypes to prove they solve the problem outlined in phase two. Does it solve the problem? Are we trying to solve the right problem or do we need to go back to phase one and gain more empathy?
Begin With Empathy
Design Thinking is a great tool to spark creativity and innovation on any team. It can be used in your work, ministry, church, or home. The key is to start with empathy. You might be surprised where God will lead if you take the time to simply ask and listen to those you are trying to serve.
It was empathy that lead to the creation of ITEC. Steve Saint shares how the idea of training the Waodani in Ecuador wasn’t his idea; he was just listening to their request.
The challenge we would like to leave you with is to consider your own creativity. Has someone convinced you that you are not creative? Do you inspire others to be creative? Ask God the Creator (Colossians 1:16) to give you a renewed perspective on how He made you creative (Romans 12:2). Then consider praying about how you might use your talents and abilities to be creative for His glory.
Watch our recent podcast discussing Design Thinking with a group that specializes in helping Christian Ministries to think this way!