Process and creativity

The project manager’s duty is to make sure the project delivers what is asked, on time and in budget. This is not an easy task and many times tackling the needs requires creative solutions.

It is said creativity is not an ability that some people have, and others do not. In fact, creativity is a way of working and can be learned. John Cleese (1991) has listed 5 prerequisites that need to be in place to be more creative: space, time, time (yes twice), confidence, and humor.

  1. You need to set yourself free from ordinary stressful environment,
  2. You need to take the time in that space of yours
  3. Make sure you use all the time available (that's the second 'time')
  4. Tolerate the fear of making a mistake
  5. Be able to laugh at things as it will make you more open to new ideas (humor)

Here’s, however, the common reality: You've got a problem which would require some extra time for thinking to find the creative solution but there's no time for it. There are just too many issues to be taken care of. Therefore, to keep the train moving, you simply take the first idea or use the way you have done it before. Does this sound familiar? Yep. Quite often the time pressure pushes us, as John Cleese puts it, to a closed mode where we keep a tunnel vision just to get things done. Sometimes this is necessary but working in a closed mode can kill creativity.


Create a process for creativity

So how to find the creative, open mode, even though the pressure to accomplish would be hard? The answer lies in the fact that creativity is a way of working and because it is a way of working, it can be seen as a process. And process is really something that many of us can obey, right? Create a process which enables you to find that open mode. Below are some tips:

  1. Make sure you manage your calendar so that you have a certain time slot for the creative work (time).
  2. Find a place where you can be creative (space). Go to a café or take a walk.
  3. Make sure you take the whole time you have reserved and mute (and hide) your phone or other gadgets that connect yourself to the ordinary environment (time).
  4. Have a buddy, i.e. a colleague you trust, with whom you can bounce your ideas, so you get a second opinion before you rush to tell your magnificent ideas to the whole world (confidence).
  5. Remember that even though many problems are serious, it doesn't mean they are stiff and ceremonial (humor). Almost everything can be played around and twisted to get some humor in them.

In project management, most aspects, i.e. weekly meetings or reporting, are structured and there’s a process in place. When these processes are repeated, they become more automated enabling more efficient and effective work. Therefore, there should be a process in place for finding suitable ingredients for people to be more creative!


Anssi Panula has worked at Capacent since 2016 and holds a double master’s degree from Aalto University School of Business. Anssi has experience from services processes analysis and working capital management. At work, Anssi is an energetic, result-oriented team player, who pays attention to details.