I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I heard that “I work in an environment that requires creativity and lean doesn’t apply to my work”.  Over and over again I have offered how important lean principles are to creating an environment for creativity.  I am convinced more than ever that this is true but I have recently become convinced that lean principles also create a “mindset” for creativity.  This most recent revelation, or possibly validation, occurred while reading two very different publications.  The first is “IMAGINE-How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer.  The second is an article in New Scientist, Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus” by Sally Adee. 

Jonah recounts the story of Proctor and Gamble’s struggle to find a new floor care product.  All of their chemists and researchers could not come up with the next floor care innovation so they outsourced innovation to a company in California.  This company took hundreds of hours of videos of people cleaning floors.  What they found through this direct observation is that people spent more time cleaning their mops than they did actually cleaning the floor and the next innovation had to be a complete replacement of the mob and bucket.  You have probably already figured out where this story is going.  The innovation was Swiffer and, by the end of its first year of introduction, it had generated over $500 million in sales.   This simply reinforces how important the lean principle of directly observing work as activities, connections and flows is to creativity.

Sally Adee’s experience was completely different.  She subjected herself to tDSC which is essentially hooking the brain up to a 9 volt battery and letting the current flow through the brain.  Sally’s experiment was to learn how to shoot a modified M4 close assault rifle in a training simulator.  Without tDSC she failed miserably.   However with tDSC, she was an excellent shot.  The difference was that with tDSC she felt clear-headed, sharper and without doubt.  She essentially eliminated the “noise” in her head.  The lean equivalent to tDCS is High Agreement or the principle of Standardization.  On the surface this may seem like a stretch but think about it for a moment.  Standardization both literally and figuratively takes the noise out of our work and frees us to think, be creative and contribute.  We can see the problem and we can see the opportunity.  It’s pretty simple, creativity is practically impossible in chaos.

You can probably think of other examples of how lean principles contribute to creativity, of course that’s assuming you understand current reality and have a clear head.