Is stress the enemy of creativity?

Creativity and resilience

There are many things that make a person stand out. And a fundamental skill of it is creativity. People have the creative power to design new things, to be flexible and to shape their situation. So what is behind this ability, useful in all areas of life?

What is creativity

Above all, we associate the visual and performing arts with creativity at work. In addition, many claim that they are not creative. But that's not true, everyone has the ability to think creatively. This includes improvisation and innovation, for example. Each of us has the ability to be creative, think and act.

Creativity arises in our cerebrum. A clever division of labor has developed in our brain through evolution. The stem and cerebellum are responsible for our physical functions. For this we have the limbic system, the task of which is the psyche. And the cerebrum has the task of higher thought processes during this. On the one hand, abstract thought processes as well as figurative thinking arise here.

So that's where creativity comes from. You will notice how easy it is to access it when you find yourself in a boring situation and your thoughts go on a journey. What grandiose ideas one can have when one should actually think of something else! But you notice how difficult it is for us to control our creativity when you urgently need a solution to a problem. We find it difficult to be creative at the push of a button. But there are ways to increase your own creativity and that of your employees using creativity techniques.

What is creativity good for?

It's nice to know that everyone has creativity. But why do we have this ability and what does it bring, specifically in everyday professional life? The development of the economy shows that work tasks, which for the most part consist of routine work, are increasingly being cut back. However, this creates new tasks. We have to keep solving problems and inventing new services and products. So our creativity is in demand.

Creativity and Proactive Resilience

Resilience is the inner strength of resistance in crisis situations. Proactive resilience is about learning from future crises in order to strengthen one's own resilience. Above all else, creativity is needed to learn from the future. Because how are we supposed to learn from something that hasn't happened yet? - By imagining it!

We often act and think in terms of routines. Humans are creatures of habit, and so they are good at what they practice very often. Even the jobs that we generally consider creative work mostly in routines. However, when we are given a new task or unknown difficulties arise, this can become a problem. Proactive resilience does not only come into play when the problem or crisis is there, but helps to deal creatively with problems and crises in advance.

Creativity is the core skill for learning for the future. This learning means acquiring coping strategies from one's own problems and those of similar systems. This means that there are still options for action and access to your own resources even in the event of a crisis. This means that creative solution options remain open.

Creative solutions

A great task of creativity in everyday working life is to help solve problems. Creative thinking should show us what solutions or solutions could look like. A solution can be reached in two ways:

1. The existing methods and routines work to solve the problem.
2. The existing methods do not work and a new solution has to be found.

It does not always work independently of established routines. The firmly anchored routines can and should be creatively questioned and changed.

Albert Einstein said: "You can never solve problems with the same mindset that created them."

So what does this mean for problem solving?

Second order solutions

The greatest enemy of creativity is stress. Under pressure, we hardly manage to be creative and find new solutions. In times of stress, we are only able to further develop existing solutions or products. Second-order solutions are required for creative solutions in the sense of proactive resilience.

Let us see the crisis as a first-order solution. We have a problem, but with the mindset at hand, we cannot solve it. We rule with a crisis.
Hence, second order solutions are applied to the first order solutions. What distinguishes these solutions is that they are creative. This means that while the first-order solutions mostly relate to common sense ‘, the second-order solutions seem absurd and unexpected at first.

Because the problem that could not be solved before is put into a new framework through creativity. But what is the best way to leave your old way of thinking? The creativity techniques help to do this.

Solution orientation

An important pillar of resilience is solution orientation. This ability is about using creativity to maintain the broadest possible scope for action. When we are under stress, we like to focus only on the problem. We then ignore alternative possibilities or perspectives on the problem. Training in solution orientation strengthens resilience and helps to recognize second-order solutions.

A big part of being solution-oriented is how goals are formulated. Problems arise when goals are not achieved. Now, when you set well-formed goals, you will find it easier to find a solution.

The solution orientation also includes the acceptance of a second-best solution. Sometimes, in certain circumstances, it is not possible to achieve the goal of longing. The second best solution, however, does. With the help of creativity you will find ways to find other, acceptable solutions and to achieve them.

Book tip: The Da Vinci formula

Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, inventor and visionary. Its ability to innovate continues to thrill after 500 years and inspires people around the world. But what's behind the genius? Because da Vinci was not made up of pure talent; following certain principles strengthened innovation. And you too can learn these principles of success for innovative thinking with the help of the Da Vinci formula.

In his book, Jens Möller describes the seven living and working principles with which we, like da Vinci, can act and think innovatively. In addition to interesting stories and food for thought, there is also a “coaching compass” for each chapter, which facilitates practical implementation in everyday life. You too can work like da Vinci and shape your life creatively and innovatively.

Jens Möller works as a consultant and innovation expert for large corporations such as SAP and the German bank as well as smaller companies. In addition, the author has been dealing with the universal genius from the Renaissance for many years and holds various lectures as a member of the Leonardo da Vinci Society London.

Dealing with problems creatively

So far there has been talk of problems and their solutions all the time. But what exactly is a problem? When does something become a problem and when does it become a crisis? And how can we use creativity to deal with problems in a resilient manner?

Problem and task?

The problem tends to have a negative connotation in colloquial language. Problems mean anger, circumstance, and effort. But this one-sided view is unjustified. Because problems stimulate thought and ensure further development. Problems are a great driver of creativity.

Because “problem” has negative associations, managers like to use the term “task” instead. The task and problem are clearly different from each other. A task can be solved with the known patterns. However, if we do not have a suitable pattern for the task, it is a problem. So if three different coping strategies have been applied to a task and none succeeds, it is a problem.

And this problem arises from the difference between an “actual” and a “target” state.

In addition, awareness of the problem plays an important role. A problem situation can be clearly defined, but awareness of this is extremely individual. In order to be able to really deal with a problem, there must be clarity among all those involved about the problem.

From problem to crisis

Dealing creatively with problems means not only focusing on a solution, but also getting into a solution mode. This makes you aware of your own patterns and thought processes and can be questioned. Creativity as a core factor for proactive resilience means being able to deal with real problems in the future through encountering imaginary problems.

Now what if we can't find a solution to the problem? There are different types of crises, such as a development crisis or the banking crisis. However, problems can also lead to crises. We feel overwhelmed in a crisis because our own resources and experience are insufficient to achieve important goals.

A problem becomes a crisis when there is an imbalance between the perceived burden of a problem and the coping strategies currently available. The crisis is the system's answer to a problem. It is a first-order solution.

Dealing with crises creatively is therefore also important. In the course of proactive resilience, fictitious crises are lived through so that these “as if” strategies can take effect in the real case. The development of the imagined crisis situation requires creativity and imagination, as well as solution orientation.

Creativity in the company

In companies that want to survive in today's society, the term innovation is increasingly coming to the fore. The key factor here is creativity. Both from the creative forces and from the organization itself. A creative company manages to create innovations, to solve the new problems of the market and at the same time to maintain stability in the organizational structure.

Important aspect of organizational resilience

Resilience and proactive resilience are skills that can strengthen individual individuals, but which also apply to entire companies. How do I manage to keep my organization strong against stress and healthy?

Organizational resilience is about creating a working atmosphere in which employees and teams are supported in their work. Self-efficacy is strengthened by the management level, which promotes creativity. Central to this is the definition of a common goal, a vision. Problems can only be solved creatively if they are clearly identified and named as such.

There are several ways to strengthen organizational resilience. Resilience training is ideal for teams, as the focus here is particularly on communication and resilience in dealing with oneself and others. A Resilience Guide (SMA) ® also helps the company to ensure that the company's inner strength is always present and practiced.

Creativity as an attitude in VUCA worlds

Our world has changed. Where there was previously security, stability and simplicity, VUCA is now present. The acronym stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. So vulnerability, insecurity, complexity and ambiguity. In times like these, companies have to assert themselves and always live in a state of change in order to keep up with the market. If you stagnate, you lose. But change means uncertainty and that means stress.

It is difficult to strive for change and stability at the same time. It helps to see creativity as a basic attitude. Creative handling of changes and problems provides new solutions. In addition, old structures can be creatively changed and adapted to make times of upheaval less stressful.

Creativity also helps strengthen proactive, organizational resilience, as companies have to look as far into the future as possible. The organization can learn from this imagined future and circumvent or master crises at an early stage.

How do I increase creativity?

As already described, everyone has creativity. But using them specifically to solve a problem is not that easy. Therefore, there are various creativity techniques that help to increase and promote your own creativity and that of your employees.

What do you need for creativity?

Although we are all creative, there are certain conditions in the workplace that encourage creativity. An important factor here is the organizational culture. Two main aspects play a special role in this.

On the one hand, it is a pronounced fault tolerance. Are mistakes accepted and learned from them? For example, Toyota introduced a production system in which every employee is allowed to stop production if an error is detected on the assembly line. Problems are resolved directly and the employees' self-efficacy increases.

On the other hand, sufficient time is an important factor. Under stress, our perception tends to narrow and the focus is then mostly on the problem. It is difficult to find creative solutions. Sufficient time creates space for creative solutions. For example, the employees in the development department at 3M have one day a week that they can devote entirely to their problems.

Book tip: Creativity: How our thinking creates the world over and over again.

We humans always want to create something new. We evolve with every creative idea. But how does it work at all? What makes us so special and why has no other living being invented things like the vacuum cleaner?

The neuroscientist David Eagleman and the composer Anthony Brandt take you on a journey of discovery into how the creative software of our brain works. In doing so, they ask themselves not only how we are able to be creative, but where else it may lead us. The considerations range from business and space travel to art and sport. Because we can only master the challenges of the future if we understand how we have mastered them up to now.

The authors explain the creative process particularly characterized by three components: bending, breaking and connecting. They show that our thinking creates the world anew over and over again.

Team creativity

Whether you are more creative alone or in a team depends on the organizational climate. If the framework conditions are right, however, it becomes apparent that we often work more creatively as a team. This is because new input tends to stimulate new output. In the team, everyone brings their own experience, knowledge and ideas with them, which then develop further in exchange with others. In this way we can think new ways in the team and increase the common potential for creativity.

The educator and author Olaf-Axel Burow describes the creativity in the team as a “creative field” that only develops a creative force under special circumstances. The following applies to creative joint work:

  • Carrying out a complex job
  • A supportive leadership style
  • Suggestion from work colleagues
  • Motivating challenge through creative competition

Different personalities come together in a team, who are also characterized by their different perspectives. Despite all the differences, it is therefore all the more important to always have the common goal and the shared vision in front of you.

Creativity techniques

There are various creativity techniques to increase employee creativity and thus also proactive resilience. The techniques cannot be clearly assigned to specific categories, but they are roughly divided into five classes:

  • Trial Techniques
  • Questioning techniques
  • Association techniques
  • System techniques
  • Objection methodology

Which technology for what?

In the following, the individual categories are briefly presented and the most common techniques explained. These techniques can be implemented without great effort or preparation. However, the 20 to 30 best-known creativity techniques cannot be used on the side. This is due to the difference between unguided and directed creativity.

Trial Techniques:

It is worth using trial techniques when systemic action would not help. They are used to playfully explore unknown or undeveloped objects of investigation. Creativity arises here from the principle: Let's see what will become of it!

Probably the best known and most common testing technique in many people's lives is trial and error. The system behind it is very simple. To do this, you think of any attempt at a solution for your clearly defined problem and describe it using characteristics. Then check. Is that the solution to your problem? Yes very good.No: Change one or more characteristics and check again. The advantage here is that you can get closer to your optimal solution step by step.

Questioning Techniques:

The questioning techniques are about making a lot of knowledge accessible to many people in order to generate new solutions. Questioning helps to expand the wealth of ideas and also to include foreign knowledge.

Mind mapping is one of the most frequently used questioning techniques. Tony Buzan developed this creative working technique. It is a structured display method in which the left and right hemispheres work equally. Because here linguistic-logical thinking is linked with intuitive-visual thinking. This often results in creative and spontaneous solutions.

Association techniques:

Association techniques help to broaden the focus in the search for a solution. This increases the number of possible solutions and several options can be considered. In addition, these techniques help to alienate a problem and create new impulses.

Brainstorming is one of the best-known association techniques. This term probably means something to everyone, but what does it mean? The brainstorming as a creativity technique is a group work in which the thoughts for a solution are collected intuitively and undisturbed. The aim is to set off an "avalanche of ideas" in which rationality is initially irrelevant. It is more about creating a broad focus on problem solving and appreciating spontaneous ideas.

System techniques:

This means systematics that break down and combine. Therefore, these techniques are particularly suitable for complex problems where the individual components are already known. This allows system elements to be recombined and innovative strength to be strengthened. Partial solutions are also created in this way.

A system technology is the decision tree. Individual components of a question are hierarchized and deciphered depending on their importance. This is used to create alternatives in finding a solution and to think about a problem in a structured manner. In this technique you shimmy from trunk to branch to leaf and thus create a complete overview of the possibilities.

Opposition methodology:

The contradiction method needs sufficient resources, such as time and intellect. The point here is to resolve contradictions. In addition, this method serves to promote solutions of inventive quality.

The contradiction-oriented innovation strategy (WOIS) is a creativity technique that focuses particularly on the formulation of the task. The basic assumption here is that every problem is initially incorrectly worded. And through a more precise elaboration, creativity is promoted more than through the attempted solutions. Another advantage of this technology is that innovations are made possible by the inclusion of trends and future visions.

Book tip: Thinking tools of creativity and innovation. The little handbook of innovation methods.

There is innovation and creativity in everyone. So how can you manage to inject creativity into your company? This

Handbook offers practical tools and structures to develop ideas. The author Florian Rustler draws on scientific research on innovation, as well as on 10 years of consulting and moderation experience.

The thinking tools described have all been tried and tested in real projects and clearly described. In addition, the methods are brought into connection with major innovation processes such as design thinking and creative problem solving. The author explains exactly when which approach is worthwhile, so that the manual is an enrichment for those who are interested in 'beginners' and creative professionals.

Establish creativity in everyday business

Creativity in the company is always in demand when something new is to be designed and solutions have to be found. This ability is used to create things, reach new ways of thinking and also strengthen health, as in the case of proactive resilience. This makes the ability all the more important in everyday professional life.

Not only the departments with which we inevitably associate creativity, such as development and marketing departments, benefit from strong creativity. The everyday processes in the organizational structure, if they need to be optimized, can be improved by the creative power. And this task affects every single employee.

It is therefore important to strengthen employee creativity in order to avoid mistakes, improve processes and increase quality. Not to mention the motivation, because every creative mind is asked what requires and promotes cooperation and self-efficacy.

How do you manage to permanently increase creativity in the company? A good approach is the suggested creativity techniques. They train to think new things and to enter into dialogue with one another. In addition, a Resilience Guide (SMA) ® can help to remember creativity along with resilience.


Sebastian Mauritz, M.A. Systemic consulting, is one of the leading resilience experts in Germany. He is a five-time specialist author, keynote speaker, resilience trainer, systemic coach, board member in many coach and trainer associations and entrepreneur. His focus is on individual resilience and prosilence®, resilient leadership and team resilience. He is the initiator of the resilience online congress, during which he exchanges ideas with over 50 other resilience experts from various disciplines (www.Resilienz-Kongress.de).