When I was about 20 years old, I hand-crafted a business card and wrote the words “Creative Solutions” as a dream business I would own one day. I had no idea what that vision would look like. At the time, I was working for a theatre company that would go on to produce the first Fringe Theatre Festival in Victoria. I was deeply committed to creativity and the arts. As my career as a mediator and conflict educator grew, I would soon forget the idea of Creative Solutions.

Yet, I’ve realized there’s a direct correlation between my love of the arts and conflict resolution. My work helping people find the good in conflict has taught me that applying creativity to conflict is imperative for innovative problem-solving.

What do I mean?

Let’s start with context: Have you ever noticed you might be thinking one thing, then someone says something, and your thinking changes? It could be as simple as wanting to go out for dinner to one restaurant, and someone gives you a good tip and you end up somewhere else. Or you had one direction for how you see a work project going, then someone offers a new idea and that catapults the project into a whole new exciting direction.

This required you to be open enough to accept, allow and appreciate the new information. These are little examples of how our thinking can become more creative by embracing a difference. Conversely, when we deny that there is a difference, we close down and don’t want to share our difference or hear someone else’s difference.

That’s treading the waters of mediocrity.

Creative thinking is about opening up to the unknown of difference and then developing innovative solutions to engage and transform problems into innovative and creative solutions!

Linda Hill, a researcher from Harvard, has studied creative genius, including Google and the collective that produced inspiring movies such as Coco, Ratatouille, Toy Story and Soul.

In studying Pixar, Google and 14 other innovative organizations, Hill noted 3 capabilities needed to unleash collective creativity:

1. Creative Abrasion – The first capability is to accept, allow and appreciate different points of view. A key principle of a collaborative mindset is the commitment to share, and hear, our authentic voices, no matter what. Yet we all are wired to avoid difficult conversations and are deeply conflict-averse. So, we need regular invitations to speak up, listen and welcome the tensions that will emerge and are inherent in creative abrasion.

2. Creative Agility – Individuals in the innovative organizations Linda Hill studied, would be curious about each other, actively listen and also advocate for their own point of view. They have a skill set that allows for a safe enough conversational space, emotionally and psychologically, to learn and grow through navigating differences constructively. Creative agility enables thinking to shift and things to change, not stagnate. It’s like when you navigate the difference of where to have dinner out and get a whole new experience.

3. Creative Resolution –What Linda Hill saw here was that by accepting and allowing diversity to show up and navigating collaboratively, innovative teams and organizations used integrative both/and thinking to come to new solutions. They would not settle for accommodating to “go along to get along” or compromising for a quick fix or allowing one individual to dominate in their conversations. Instead, they practiced an inclusive decision-making process that would allow for solutions to arise and emerge creatively.

All of these creative capabilities require a collaborative mindset and knowing how to move through the complexity of difference to enable innovation and creativity to emerge.

So, the vision of Creative Solutions has been guiding me along all these years after all.