Jeff DeGraff on Inspiring Creativity in the Workplace

Inspiring creativity in the workplace is the first step towards innovation, and yet many leaders find themselves at a loss when it comes to helping employees think outside the box.

Innovation expert, Jeff DeGraff, offers three tips for companies trying to win the innovation race:

  • Get Rid of Dominant Logic

Everyone has a unique way they view the world, usually comprised of political and religious beliefs, and life experiences, all of which shape value systems. This dominant logic, as DeGraff calls it, is the biggest obstacle to creativity. “You need to understand and incorporate other viewpoints into your own if you want to achieve your full creative potential,” he says in his article How to Free Up Your Ability to Think Creatively. He notes that dominant logic can distort reality and impede creative thinking, becoming a road block in the path to innovation. DeGraff suggests that attempting to understand an opponent’s point of view in a meaningful way, and throwing black-and-white thinking out the window, are two ways to overcome dominant logic. “Creativity lies just beyond the boundaries of our world views. It’s comfortable and easy to stick with the things we believe, but by doing so we’re also stifling our ability to be innovative,” DeGraff adds.

  • Use Visual Aids

A large part of the human brain sees in pictures, so the ability to visualize success is key to inspiring creativity in the workplace. “It’s no coincidence that the word “visionary” denotes having the ability to see well and possessing a gift of creativity, DeGraff writes. When trying to inspire the next cutting edge product or process, try writing a manifesto such as a catchphrase, slogan or song. Keep this manifesto at a desk or workspace where it will remind you that nothing stands in the way of greater potential. This declaration of intent is more than motivating, it will become key to making goals a reality. DeGraff is not the only thought leader who believes in the power of visual aids. From star athletes to Oprah, visualization is one of the most helpful habits in behavior change. For more on this topic, Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, offers a step-by-step visualization guide here.

  • Tell a Story

“There are six irresistible words at the start of all major innovations: let me tell you a story,” says DeGraff. Stories appeal to human emotion, helping individuals discover a need for change, and inspiration to make change happen. Smart leaders tell compelling and instructive stories that generate new ways of thinking, leading to a buy-in from employees and consumers. Take Kickstarter, for example. Experts credit storytelling as the number one reason for its success, saying that stories build trust, and when people trust a person or company they are more apt to spend money. (Those looking for more creative inspiration can visit the crowdfunding site’s new feature called Spotlight where funded creators tell how their product came about.) “Narration is a fundamental act of sense-making: it makes the objectives and stakes of our visions clear to other people,” he says.

Inspiring creativity in the workplace is key to jumpstarting organizational change. Jeff DeGraff, world-renowned professor, speaker and innovation guru, speaks globally at top innovation incubators and think tanks such as the Aspen Institute and with companies that include Eaton, GM, SPX, 3M, Apple, Coca-Cola, GE, Johnson & Johnson, LG, Pfizer, and Toyota. To hire Jeff for your next event, contact BigSpeak Motivational Speakers Bureau at 805-965-1400 or info(at)