applying creativity to project management

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

Darwin had it right when he was talking about evolution, but I prefer to apply this concept to project management. I define creativity in project management as being able to adapt project resources to the difficulties a manager might find in a project. In other words, it is the ability to use each resource in the most efficient and creative way, adaptable to potential shifts and variables in a project.

“Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art, a novel, a joke, etc.) that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. What counts as "valuable" is similarly defined in a variety of ways.” (Wikipedia)

Applying creativity on a project could also be referred to as being able think up the most creative ways, methods, and ideas to reach maximum efficiency in while balancing cost, time and scope in project management.

applying creativity to communication, negotiation & conflict management

One of the most powerful and creative methods that has been used for communication and conflict management is the De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats® Method.

Misunderstandings and conflicts have always existed in projects. As project managers, it is critical that our communication is clear and effective if we intend to deliver with the highest degree of quality. Creativity is needed when managing conflicts between the customer, the vendor and third parties, when present.

With De Bono’s Six Hats Method, the strategy is to be able to design the communication model (speeches, meetings, dialogs, etc.) according to the scenario that makes it possible to get a message through in an original yet clear and effective way:

White Hat: The White Hat represents facts, information, and statistical data, as well as identifying missing information and their sources. To ensure the highest quality of communication and avoid any misunderstanding with contributors, the PM should have the ability to analyze events through facts, information and statistics. A successful PM should be able to present the above in a creative way such as graphs and quantifiable data.

Red Hat: Wearing the Red Hat is all about emotions and feelings; while wearing it, a project manager should make sure to encourage all parties involved in the project to share their feelings about the project flow as well as their general perspective toward the progress of the project. This hat does not require logic. It is important to mention that each member’s regard towards the project ensures reaching maximum synergy between all parties.

Yellow Hat: The Yellow Hat is the logic applied to identifying benefits; it is where the project manager works on seeking harmony in the project. It reflects positive rationality, brightness and optimism; it is used to look at the potential benefits of the suggested course of action and ideas, and identifying members who are expected to benefit from them. Keeping spiritis high by communicating the successful milestones is one of the most important practices each project manager should take into consideration.

Black Hat: To ensure resolving conflicts in the wisest way, the Black Hat is used by the project manager to constructively criticize, analyze and explore potential negative repercussions of the plan and possible dangers . The Black Hat could also be thought of as the opposite of the Yellow Hat. When criticizing a certain point raised by one of the team members, the project manager should consider being totally fair and analytical to reach the highest degree of benefit and then being able to communicate results of analyses to all team members involved.

Green Hat: The Green Hat stands for creativity and unconventional thinking. It is what this article is all about: having a project manager that has the capability to encourage people to think creatively and apply that creativity to, the task at hand. The project manager will have to work on finding new ideas and methods through brainstorming, creative thinking tools and lateral thinking.

Blue Hat: Wearing the blue hat is being able, in an intelligent manner and with effective communication skills, to direct the discussions related to the project, including switching hats when necessary, for summarizing the major points of the discussion, as well as for making the right decisions. A successful project manager should be able to use the blue hat in the best possible way to coordinate and manage communication by wearing all right hat at the right time.

Which “hat” do you find easiest and/or most difficult to wear when managing your own project? Do you have other ways of communication? Share your experiences!

Ahmed Sabry
Ahmed Sabry

I have more than 6 years of professional experience in the Software Development (, Oracle, Toad, CMS projects..etc.) and Telecommunications industry, 3 of which are in the project management division of the global telecom provider, Orange Business and in the brokerage company NAEEM Holding. I hold an MBA in management.

Alongside my professional experience in the IT industry, I have a passion for creating new processes and developing better practices. I am the owner of Gilimag online magazine for youth in the Middle East with a fan base of more than 2000 fans.