#330 from Innovative
Leader Volume 7, Number 3
Toys to Foster Creativity and Innovation at Work
of Thunderbolt Thinking
and designer of the Thunderbolt Tool Kit, Grace McGartand uses
fresh idea-sparking techniques to coach organizations by
rejuvenating thinking and improving performance.
She is principal of GM Consultants (Toronto, Canada; phone
416-920-3841 and Murrysville, PA; phone 412-661-8325), email
Each of us has
the capacity to scale our business challenges creatively.
Creativity is a skill that can be taught
creativity as a habit. On
a daily basis, you look for ways to realign things or ideas into relationships
that didn’t previously exist.
Which means that creativity can be leveraged
everywhere—from using duct tape and paper clips for purposes
other than their intended uses, to finding new ways to approach
the product design and customer service processes in your
is the process of realigning existing resources into new
relationships, innovation is the process of zeroing in on
effective ideas and finding ways to put those new relationships
into action. In other
words, your organization might come up with 15 unexpected and
fresh ideas for designing a new product, but true innovation will
occur only when you develop a creative environment that embraces
change, allowing you to transform those fresh ideas into usable
As a child, you
used toys to express your creativity and expand your imagination. Now you can use the same toys to introduce the spirit of
change and innovation to your work environment.
When you bring toys into your meetings, you give people
powerful resources to rediscover the child within themselves and
integrate creativity into their work, stimulating innovative ways
of thinking. You’ll
be using toys as transformers.
Toys not only
bring fun into the work environment; but, by strengthening the
link between play and energy, the flow of blood to the brain
increases to stimulate fresh thinking.
Designed to help participants through difficult periods,
toys are often just the thing to break the ice, ease through a
tough issue, kick-start the engine, diffuse the anger, ease the
confrontation and curb the egos.
Toys can help
you: 1) clean out
clogged brains, so ideas can flow and connect freely; 2) charge up
positive brain power, so your people can accept new ideas,
different ways of thinking, and more innovative ways of working
together; 3) expand perspectives, so that people learn to accept
and value others’ ideas and viewpoints, integrating them into
list of toys may contain just the one to spark a change in
thinking at your next meeting and start the creative juices
• Try passing around a hat, ball, teddy bear or other toy to
each person in the room as a sort of round-robin, ensuring that no
one is left out of the discussion.
• Bring a pair of outrageous glasses (kid’s style work
great), and encourage people to expand their perspective and see
things in a new light.
• Encourage people to doodle, sketch, or draw their ideas.
Display these drawings. Discuss and come to conclusions
about what new insights you see.
• Hold the breaks outdoors.
Invite your co-workers to bring jump ropes. This allows them to get fresh air, stretch and increase blood
• And don’t forget to bring along your F.I.S.H.™—a
plastic fish to pass to those who make Fatally Inappropriate,
Slimy Hits that slow, or sometimes stop, conversation.
This tool “eats up” negative responses, and keeps the
meeting in focus. Common
examples of these negative responses include, “You can’t do
that,” “It will never sell,” “It’s not in the budget,”
“The boss won’t like it,” “I don’t know if we can get to
it,” “That’s unrealistic,” and “We’ve done this
people seem to lose their creative capacities as they age.
A UCLA study found that at age five, we engage in creative
tasks 98 times a day, laugh 113 times, and ask questions 65 times.
By the ripe old age of 44, the numbers shrink to two
creative tasks a day, 11 laughs and six questions.
As we play with toys, we’ll be stimulating that
and analytical thinking are not mutually exclusive. To be truly innovative, you need to do both.
When you introduce toys to your team, you give them
powerful resources to integrate creativity and innovative thinking
into all aspects of their work and communication.
So, why not play