Category Archives: Creativity

Improvise or become institutionalised

I read in a blog on the Harvard Business Review website that creativity is the most important skill to have to navigate an increasingly complex world.

So, is this a problem? Aren’t organisations around the world creative? Yes, a few rare organisations are, but when an organisation stops being creative they risk becoming a stuffy place where development takes forever.

Your organisation has become old and has a mind-set of “Yes, but..” and is not willing to learn anything new. New, fresh ideas are not seen as valuable assets and the organisation is not listening to its employees or its customers. It has become institutionalised.

When I am teaching creativity, one key element is how you handle new idea, and how you and your team, organisation and the whole ecosystem work together. I have heard things like “We have tried that before and it didn’t work” many times and what that really means is that the people who tried it then could not do it.

Do you think according to the same pattern? Are you just slightly improving on what you have? Well, to be great and to stand out today you need to do things differently. Doing things differently means that you have to open up the creative resources you have within yourself and your organisation.

You are responsible for your own creativity

You have your personal creativity, your teams’ creativity, organisational creativity and the creativity of the ecosystem in which you work. Creativity takes many shapes and forms and is present at all stages of your life.

You are personally responsible for feeding your creativity, and it can help to review what helps you to get into a better flow. Team creativity can be tricky. Ask yourself, how am I handling new ideas? In a kind way or are you rude to the ideas?

Can your organisation welcome creative thinking in a better way? Or, are you stuck in old patterns?

How is the ecosystem around you working? Is it a structural problem that needs a creative solution that you must tackle? Is the ecosystem you are working in holding you back and do you feel that it’s impossible to innovate and bring new creative solutions to the table?

How creativity works circle. You, team, organisation and ecosystem.

Dare to say yes and handle ideas kindly

When you dare to say yes to new ideas and you are starting to use the creativity principles, you are unleashing an enormous amount of power. Dare to improvise with what’s on offer. How can you make the most out of the opportunities you have around you? I have said it before, but “Yes, and….” are some of the most powerful words in the universe.

There are many good processes that you can use to get this flow working better. Here are some examples:

  • Treat new ideas with respect, then they will transform into the most beautiful creatures you can imagine.
  • Give each other a lot of positive feedback, every day.
  • Have regular team meetings so people can share what they are doing and update each other on projects.
  • Stay in an alert state of mind as often you can. When the auto-pilot is on you are not breaking any patterns.

The organisational life-cycle

You can compare the life-cycle of an organisation to that of a human. When a start-up is born they are curious and hungry.

Baby stage
The baby is finding its way around, exploring and having fun. You don’t know what to expect at this stage and every week huge amounts of progress and learning takes place. The first years are fundamental and you are developing the organisational culture and the culture you are creating will follow the organisation as it grows.

Then, in the next stage, the organisation becomes a teenager and is slightly more resistant to change. It is still finding its own style and learning how things work. Teenagers are cheeky and will not listen to “experienced” adults’ warnings. They do things the way they feel is right and then they like to relax and hang out with their peers online.

Adult life
Later, the organisation becomes an adult. Adults know what they like, and are less likely to change. If anyone wants to change something in the organisation it will take time and the change will be met with resistance. They are likely to adapt to the digital solutions that are available, but they are not sure how to make the most of them.

Becoming an oldie
Some organisations reach the stage of being an oldie and they know what they like for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are not likely to listen to new ideas and the whole organisation is at risk of being left behind, something that some people are often painfully aware of these voices are not heard internally. These organisations have not embraced any innovation or change lately and are struggling to explore new markets.

Companies and their creativity stage as baby, teenager, adult and oldie.

Workshop output sharing

I always do this exercise when I run my creativity workshops, I ask the participants to categorise different companies. This is how it can look:

Nokia, Cisco, BP, Microsoft, Philips, Blockbuster (video store in the UK that went bust Jan 2013)

Marks & Spencer, British Airways, General Electric, IKEA

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Expedia, Top Shop, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair, easyJet,, eBay, Skype, PayPal

Startups and entrepreneurs

Teenagers love technology and great leadership

The most successful organisations in the world are in the teenage category. Often someone in the workshop points out that they are all using technically advanced systems, which is true. The businesses in the teenage group are always using advanced internet technology, but that’s not the whole story.

All companies in the world have access to advanced technologies and everyone can explore creativity and the creative leadership style. Creativity and great leadership are free. It doesn’t cost much to explore that. But, to manage a company that explores digital opportunities requires investment. I used to have a Nokia a few years ago and their digital platform for apps, called Ovi, drove me crazy. It didn’t work at all. My next phone was an iPhone and the user experience between these two phones was remarkable. Nokia didn’t invest in a good platform and the iOS and Google Android platforms are both miles ahead of Nokia.

The companies who are teenagers have one thing in common and that is that they are changing how business is done within their ecosystem. They are leading the way that, later, others will follow. They are trying out a new style, a new outfit, using the latest technology and they have cool and inspiring leaders.

One of the teenage brands that I am a loyal customer of is Amazon. I have been buying books from them for years and now I can instantly download Kindle eBooks from their store. I also buy various other items and gifts from their vast web-shop.

They have turned thousands of people into publishers by giving users the ability to self-publish a Kindle eBook. And, they are opening up their platform to millions of businesses to sell their products on.

Amazon is embracing the ability to build a business relationship with anyone and it’s open to and for the world. There is no discrimination or selective process. They embrace openness.

Facebook has also opened up their platform to be used by any business in the world. Anyone can set up a fan page or a group and start interacting with their customers. Through API, developers can integrate their products into Facebook and get more interaction between the websites.

Some companies that are doing this through APIs are: The Guardian (a UK newspaper), Pinterest, Eventbrite, TripAdvisor and Goodreads.

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” Steve Jobs, as quoted in ‘Fortune’ 1998-11-09.

How was that? Does it make sense? Please provide feedback by emailing or comment below!


Sofie Sandell is the author of the book ‘Digital Leadership – Dare to be creative, it’s easier than you think’, to be published soon. 

You can download Sofie Sandell’s tips on how to become a leader online and we will let you know when the book is out. Just sign up to Sofie’s newsletter here:


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Learn to say “yes” to ideas in the digital world

I would like to share some thoughts about why creativity is important, and how to foster it in your digital team.

There are many critical aspects in managing digital marketing teams. Unfortunately, I have observed that many teams are stuck in non-productive patterns. The result is that objectives are not met, due to poor communication and lack of knowledge about sharing and supporting new ideas. Staff members are hesitant to be creative, and it is not the individual’s fault; it is a flaw in the culture and a lack of awareness of how creativity, ideas, and innovations work.

What is the purpose of your website?

Most organisations have, or should have, a mission regarding their website. To fulfill the mission it is vital to have strong leadership and management to drive the mission forward, by articulating it so that everyone understands it.

Stakeholders tend to have different interests and agendas

Looking at digital efforts from the human resources perspective, you have the content creators, web editors, e-commerce managers, sales people, business analysts, technical experts, developers, designers, image editors…you name it!

So there are numerous key functions to keep a great website live. Each team is also likely to have their own agenda about what needs to be done, and how it should be accomplished. Many digital teams I know about find it challenging to achieve effective collaboration.

People have different ways of looking at problems and diverse views about what the priorities and solutions are. This often creates conflicts, and these disagreements can drain the energy in the organisation.

Learn how to say “yes” to ideas

To avoid the problem of inter-departmental tension, I would like to introduce you to the concept of saying “yes” to ideas — to keep the creativity level high and the flow of ideas continuing. This approach is used in many successful organisations. Are you familiar with Pixar Studios? They’re using this method, and all of their staff are trained in how to promote creative flow.

In essence, this concept means that when someone has an idea, you should say “Yes, and…” to the idea and let the person continue to tell you more about their idea.

Too often people are in the habit of saying “Yes, but…”. This “Yes, but…” often continues with “Yes, but we did this last year”, “Yes, but I am not really sure if that will work”, or “Yes, but we are so busy so at the moment we are not able to do that.”  All of these “but” comments drain people’s energy and make them less motivated to share and explore their ideas — and make it less likely that their ideas will become reality.

When an idea is in someone’s head, it is just an idea. It’s when you are exploring and implementing the concept, and doing something about it, that you are truly innovating! To effectively execute an idea you need your colleagues to support it. The best way to gain this support in the early stages of developing an idea is to be positive and utilize “Yes, and…” energy.

When you and your team know what your mission statement is, and you all have agreed that this is the way you are moving forward, great ideas will start to come forward more often.

Learn to say yes to ideas. Creativity

Image: Daquella manera / Flickr

Letting in opportunities

Digital teams have endless opportunities to try new tools and techniques, but they’re also likely to have limited resources.

When individuals get into the mind-set of saying “Yes, but…”, they are inclined to turn down ideas that should be acted upon. In the digital world, there is often that additional 10% of ideas that will provide the extra push to convert your visitor into ravings fans, thereby driving sales growth.

You’ll achieve higher conversion rates and drive more traffic to your site. Your site will become a portal of live and constantly evolving information, which customers are likely to visit on a regular basis.

I have worked with many different digital teams and it’s made a huge difference when the internal language has changed. When you say “Yes, and…” you get amazing results!

I’ve also worked in more negative environments. In those situations everything seemed to take forever, and the results were not impressive. Team members and leaders said “Yes, but…” to each other all the time.

Why it is worth it

Every time you can do something that makes your website visitor’s experience easier, clearer, and more engaging, you will earn more money. When an improvement is implemented, it is finished and people don’t have to think about it any longer.

Taking action creates space for new ideas and improvements, and you and your colleagues are more likely to be in a productive flow.

The end result

These changes ultimately mean that your current and potential customers will have a better experience. An easy and painless user experience is crucial to the success of all websites and digital platforms. When a site is cumbersome and frustrating, your prospective customer will leave your site and go to a competitor. They will spend time and money there instead – which is a marketer’s worst nightmare.

When you and your colleagues start saying “Yes, and…” to new ideas and stop saying “Yes, but…” you are creating positive energy. You are creating a culture that encourages and nurtures new ideas; people will feel empowered when someone is listening to them.

I encourage you to give it a try. Say “Yes, and…” and let the conversation flow. Your colleagues will love you!

How was that? Does it make sense? Please comment!

This post was also published at Web Manager Group blog


Sofie Sandell is the author of the book ‘Digital Leadership – How Creativity in Business Can Propel Your Brand and Boost Your Results’, to be published soon. 

You can download Sofie Sandell’s tips on how to become a leader online and we will let you know when the book is out. Just sign up to Sofie’s newsletter here:

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An interview with PA Ståhlberg – a thinknician and creativity expert

Can you tell me briefly about your background and how you became a creativity expert?  
As a kid I could never sit still. My best friend and I were always constructing, inventing, or making a better version of something. It could be as part of a board game, starting a football league, inventing games, and so on. And our parents just let us do things ourselves!

I met Sven Malmberg, a former Olympic 400 and 800 metre runner. He became my gym-teacher at school through grade seven to nine and through high school. He was a pioneer in mental training in Sweden. He trained track and field athletes and, lucky for me, also worked as a gym-teacher at my school.

He taught me what you can do with your mind and your thinking. He turned my world upside down and since then I have always been interested in how to think differently and how to creatively outsmart my competitors!

I have been asked to undertake a PhD at Lund University and Oklahoma State University twice but turned the propositions down each time. ”You can’t be creative at University!”

In 1995, I started my company, Kreativitet & Visioner, and started to work as a ‘Thinknician’, developing workshops, talks and lessons in creative thinking.

What does creativity mean to you? 
Thinking differently. It may just be a thought, but it can, of course, manifest itself in whatever physical form you like. But, it doesn’t have to be useful at this stage. The most creative ideas need to develop into things, forms, products or services. That is the next step.

The major problem is that creative ideas are evaluated as soon as you have them. That’s completely wrong. A creative idea that you like, or your business likes, must first be developed on its own terms. Then, and only then, can you evaluate it and see what it can do in the real world.

Can most people be creative? 
NO, not most, EVERYONE CAN!

You start out as creative, but, as you grow up, your brain forms patterns that guide you through life. This makes you conform and the last spark of most peoples’ creativity is erased by the school system. I really know because I’m a certified teacher myself.

Why are people scared of being creative? 
The school system and society want us to conform, to not be different in our approach to our daily lives. So, we are trained to look for the ‘right’ answer and not to invent new or different answers. Public schools came along with the Industrial Age and, of course, produce people that are good, or even great, at working inside that structure. It’s not built to develop people who can lead us out of industrialism and into the next age or ‘ism’.

Do you have any tips for a team that wants to improve its creative abilities?
Fuck up! The only way to learn is to make mistakes. I tell the participants at my Thinknician Training Programmes that they have to have a ‘Goof-account’, at least three to four mistakes every month. If you want real creativity, you have to goof!

Think of what patterns in your mind are guiding you for the moment and try to adopt other patterns to look at the problem. How would it appear to a seagull, for example, or a tractor?

Creativity is about breaking patterns, it’s common to say “if you do as you have always done, you will get the same results”. How can you break a pattern that is deeply programmed into you? Is it possible?
Of course it’s possible. It works like cycling. First, it’s impossible, then, almost graspable, and then, you just pedal around. I invented five methods for creative or different thinking because I couldn’t find any great ones that worked. The closest I could get was methods for lateral thinking by Edward de Bono but they didn’t go as far as different thinking, they stopped at new thinking, and there’s a significant difference between them.

What is the difference between creativity, lateral thinking and innovation? 
Creativity is coming up with different thoughts, thinking the ‘unthought’, creating a different pattern in your brain.

Lateral thinking, or new thinking, is about improving thinking inside the framework established in us by society, schools or companies. It’s developing something rather than radically changing the rules.

Innovation is taking a creative or lateral idea and making it useful. It has to induce usefulness in some way so you can sell it in business, develop new approaches to things, or change processes. If it doesn’t do that, it’s just a creative or lateral idea.

Where do you find your greatest inspiration?
In everyday life.PA Ståhlberg
When I try to understand more about how to make the brain reject old patterns and build new ones.
Talking to brain and neurology scientists.
Playing music and composing new music.
Just letting myself be amazed by what life is.

You can read more about PA Ståhlberg on his website 







Sofie Sandell is the author of the book ‘Digital Leadership – How Creativity in Business can Propel Your Brand and Boost Your Results’.

You can download Sofie Sandell’s tips on how to become a leader online and we will let you know when the book is out. Just sign up to Sofie’s newsletter here:


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3 myths about the brain

I’ve heard loads of myths about how the brain is working. In this post I’ll kill three of them. Please note that there are still loads of questions to be answered about how the brain works and scientists don’t have the answer to all of them, it’s a super complex machine that we have on the top.

1. The 10 percent myth
I have heard this a million times, that we only use 10 percent of the brain…. This it not true. We use the whole brain. But there might be some people who don’t use its whole potential. No recent brain study would agree with that we only use 10 percent. The brain is one of the most important organs in your body and  if it was true we would have got rid of the unnecessary parts. There is probably no one in the whole world who would like to cut out 90% of the brain because they don’t use it. *

2. The left/right myths
Yes, the brain has two halves, one left, one right. In seminars and lectures I’ve been taught that left is logical and right is creative.  And you as a person is either left or right-brained… Well, it’s not that simple. The brain is super complex and there are loads of connections in the brain that is working all the time and that has nothing to do with any of the sides.

This myth began in the 1800s, where doctors discovered that injury to one side of the brain frequently caused loss of specific abilities. Brain scan experiments, however, show that the two halves of the brain are much more intricately linked than was originally thought, so problem-solving or creative tasks fire up activity in regions of both hemispheres of the brain, not just half. **

It is though true that your left half controls the right part of your body and vice versa.

3. Drinking alcohol kills your brain cells
This is not true either. If that was true millions of people around the world would have a pretty small brain considering how much human beings are drinking.


Please note that alcohol makes us react slower. You might have heard that the time it takes to react to something takes longer when drinking alcohol. This is not a myth. So don’t drink and drive!




Three myths about the brain















Sofie Sandell is the author of the book ‘Digital Leadership – How Creativity in Business can Propel Your Brand and Boost Your Results’.

You can download Sofie Sandell’s tips on how to become a leader online and we will let you know when the book is out. Just sign up to Sofie’s newsletter here:


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Setting your conditions for creativity

Creativity and yourself. Lotus flower.

If you want to stay creative a good start is to recognize what makes you tense, stressed and feel dis-empowered. Being tense and stressed is a way to efficiently block your natural thoughts.

Some of my personal conditions for staying creative are: good sleep, exercise a few times per week and time to relax. And if I haven’t done anything that’s fun for a long time my creativity is gone with the wind…

In many organisations today there are a lot of stuff going on that prevents employees to express themselves and use their talent. History, legacy and cultural in a mix with people’s behaviour will decide how successful and creative the organisation will become. Often people are stressing around and there are no room for real improvements, which are making them even more inefficient.

I read this text on Creative 4 Business’s website inspiring
‘Good’ organisational culture is characterised by individuals feeling empowered, constructive personal relationships and a sense of time and space to ‘play’ and learn. There should also be a feeling that the organisation acts as a whole with high intrinsic motivation amongst employees. There is nothing that you can do directly to create the ideal culture for creativity to flourish, all you can do is create the right environment and let it grow. This is a little like gardening. We can plant seeds or plants, water and feed them but standing and shouting GROW at them does not work.

Think about your conditions for creativity; what is it that blocks you and what makes you blossom? Write them down and remind yourself about what you have to do to stay creative.

And remember to do things that YOU think are fun and inspiring!

Sofie x

Learn more about Sofie Sandell’s creativity workshop for efficiency and boost your profit


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Wake up the innovative spirit

We were all born with the gift to be creative. It was there inside all of us from the start. Unfortunately when growing up and graduating from school a lot of the natural creativety is gone. In school you get brownie points from criticising other students ideas, then you are seen as smart. When we start working we are expected to be creative again. And it can take some time to get the creative flow back. 

I like this definition of innovation: “the successful exploitation of new ideas”. 

All organisations need to work on improvements all the time, it’s from here many innovations will appear. Naturally people are working on continual improvements, and sometimes we are doing it consciously, which can be very effective. We need to think “What is the next big thing?” – open up our imagination and start picturing a better future in our mind. 

A big part of innovation is to combine two exciting things into a new concept. Dancing with Stars, one of the most popular programs in the world, is a good example. You can see it in at least 38 countries. It’s a modern twist of of an old program from BBC ‘Come Dancing’ which aired on the BBC from 1949-1998. Then it was a ballroom dance competition. By adding celebrities to the program, plus a lot of glamour you had a concept that’s appealing all over the world. 

I believe innovation and creativity starts within you. And here are some of my thoughts to help you boost your own abilities: 

  • To be able to open up your creative flow you have to find out what’s inspiring you – you are special, discover what makes you tick. Inspiration will normally not fell down from the sky, you have to go out and chase it! If I have a period where I don’t do what I enjoy, then my creative spirit dies a bit.
  • Ideas comes and go. Get a scrap book and write them down, or maybe use a spreadsheet if that is better for you. 
  • Keep your body fit. That will help you when you are working on new ideas, your mind will be clearer if you have been for a walk, been to the gym or whatever you do  to keep fit. The body, mind and spirit are connected, give them all a bit of energy and they will work better as a team. 
  • You can pick up a lot from books. When reading new books and learning new things you’ll open your mind.
  • Be ambitious. Set up impossible goals, then you’ll start looking for a solution both unconsciously and with your conscious mind. Think about the guys who started Google, they wanted to organise all information on the web and make it accessible for everyone. That’s a very ambitious goal.
  • Improve communication channels around you. It helps if you can talk and communicate with others when you are developing your ideas. 
  • Get some support buddies of very positive people. We all need encouragement when being creative and innovative. Get rid of the people who just want to take you down to their own low level. 

Innovation is not invention. If an inventor discovers the “next big thing,” but is unable to find anyone to deliver it, then the next big thing remains undiscovered to the world. That is not innovation. Innovations has to be spread and used by others. If not, that is a secret and secrets will not change the world. 

Now I am on my way out for a walk so I can have a creative day.

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Where do ideas come from?

Ideas normally don’t falls down on me from the clear blue sky…

They don’t jump out of my computer…

And they don’t come to me when I am in a boring conference room…

I often get ideas when I see something that doesn’t work very well. My ego then tells me: You can do that better. My brain starts working, and next there’s an idea in my head.

Ideas comes to me when I just woken up in the morning, nothing else clogging the brain. They come to me when I am travelling. Sometimes they pop up when I am half asleep on the tube.

Ideas turn up when I am studying what’s going on around me. I think what’s next. I try to read the future, then an idea pops up.

Ideas come from lack of resources. When there are not enough time, money and man-hours you have to become creative. New ideas are often part of the answer.

When an idea is new you need to look after it. Don’t let negative people look at the idea when it is new, they will just kill your self-confidence and imagination. You need to let it grow stronger, then you can show it to anyone.

Ideas are necessary. Look after all your ideas and some of them will blossom in the future.

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Innovation and Creativity

Yesterday I went to a creativity workshop in London. I was totally high of creativity when I left, it was fun and very insightful.

All organizations need to be innovative today and creativity is relatively cheap to invest in compare to IT, buildings and other assets.

Doing the same thing year after year will not satisfy your customers. When growing, you need to be creative in developing solutions for your client. Creativity is a real business advantage and your clients notice this when working with you.

So how to do it…
Well, no-one said it was easy to be creative. We all go to school for many years and are taught not to be creative, then we enter the real world and it can be hard to get your brain to work in a creative way.

We are brought up in a society where we often rewarded for being critical and finding problems, or predicting the outcomes if you do this or that. This behavior is one of the biggest issues in organisations today.

The most innovative companies in the world have created an environment where they can nurture an idea and make it grow into something bigger.

It takes some consciousness work to get this going and people who are predicting the disaster or telling everybody that their ideas are bad needs to be re-programmed.

The good thing about creativity is that this is a behavior/habit that can be learned.

Joe Howard and Tony Friede at Enos Consulting shared some tips with us yesterday:

Use: “And, yes…” instead of “Yes, but…”
Be nice to new ideas and be positive, “handle with care warning”
Keep on telling your colleagues positive reinforcements about their ideas, the more you say yes, the more likely you are to push people in the right direction
When being a “nice guy” you’ll be like a light bulb, attracting all flies. People will feel they are drawn to you and they want to share their ideas. It is a big honor to be in this position! And you are creating a lot of power around you.
Never say: “Thank you for your hard work”, it’s sending out the wrong signals.
You can get the most amazing idea from the worst ideas, dare to think about how you can develop the worst ideas and the incredible ideas will follow.
Positive thinking takes courage. Negative thinking takes nothing.

Cheers Sofie

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Social Media Q&A

Do you have any questions about life in relation to social media?

Send an email with your question to Sofie Sandell for a chance to get it published here.

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