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Programmers can be creative every day and innovate by offering suitable and ingenious solutions

July 23, 2018

Encouraging Your Developers Team to Innovate in One Simple Step

Since the explosion in popularity of Design Thinking back in the 2000s, everyone has been talking about creativity and innovation. It’s only to be expected considering this advantageous methodology —in spite of its name— can be applied in many different fields. Even multinationals make use of Design Thinking (among the most renowned we have Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM and Nike).


This sudden and general interest on innovation allowed people to realize the importance that creativity has in diverse businesses as well as to emphasize the undeniable fact that creativity is for everyone and not an exclusive gift of artists and the like. On the contrary, it’s a skill that can be developed and improved, meaning that anyone can unleash their creativity, no matter what career they are pursuing. Of course, software developers are not the exception. First, let’s have a look at logical thinking and how this skill is useful to improve our creativity.


How Software Developers Make Use of Logical Thinking?


Logical thinking is more crucial than learning of programming languages in computer science


Programming is more than learning several programming paradigms and the syntax of different languages. Although these are major topics in the career curriculum —and is most likely that software developers will polish these skills along the way— is not all. Since programming is closely related to logical thinking, it may be said that, at its core, it’s equal to problem-solving.


Logical thinking is the process where one analyzes a problem, taking into account all the facts related to it, in order to come up with a suitable solution. As Karl Albrecht, author of Brain Building: Develop your Logic Muscles, states logical thinking is a process of consistent reasoning in order to come to a conclusion. In this manner, the basis of all logical thinking is sequential thought, says the author. He also clarifies that logical thinking is not a matter of genetic endowment, on the contrary, it’s a learned process.


When we take into consideration this concept of logical thinking, we can say that is definitely highly related to computer science. Even a prime notion covered during the career is logic in which students learn precise methods of thinking. And if we take a look at initiatives like Code.org, for example, which is aimed mainly to children from kindergarten to 12th grade, then is even clearer that computer science have more to do with logical thinking than the actual learning of programming languages.


To further understand how logical thinking is related to computer science, let’s have some role-play, shall we? Let’s say you are an mobile app developer (maybe —plot twist— you are one in real life!) and you want to create a calculator app. You have the final goal and the restrictions —because, let’s face it, there are always some limitations—. Once you have arranged these two, you begin to think in steps, try to divide the problem in smaller parts and consider all facts and resources available to you. In the aforementioned case, it would mean to list all the functions that a calculator has, and think how to code them one by one. In this manner, you would solve the addition first, next the subtraction and so on, until all the mathematical operations are solved.


For a programmer, chances are that they don’t even realize they repeat this process in their day-to-day. It’s to be expected, after all, they have been doing it for a long time now, it can be said is almost an instinctive response for them at this point of their professional life. But the fact still remains there: programming has a lot to do with logical thinking and therefore, problem-solving. Then again, how can one combine creativity and logical thinking? It seems that the two concepts are a world apart. But it may not be so, let’s break this down.


Is There a Connection Between Logical Thinking and Creativity?


Several studies have proven each brain hemisphere has different functions and characteristics


It is a widespread belief that a scientific mind is very different from an artistic one. Perhaps, the origin of this myth can be found on the Left Brain vs. Right Brain Personality Theory which suggests that the left side of the brain performs analytical tasks, whereas the right side performs functions associated with creativity and intuition. This theory also postulates that every person has a dominant brain side, which would be the reason why certain people lean towards art while others prefer science.


However, a 2013 study where the hemispheres’ brain activity of 1000 people was measured using an MRI scanner showed conclusive evidence that a person uses both hemispheres of their brain, no signs of a dominant side were found in this research. Although it is true that each hemisphere has certain characteristics and there are differences between them, the use of one side of the brain does not exclude the use of the other. Seen this way, of course, it makes sense: if we have both hemispheres, is just sensible to think that each of them serves a useful purpose.


With this new info, we can say that the union between science and art is not as bizarre as we would think. Sure, they are very different fields, but they can coexist without complications. Some influential individuals that are proof of this statement include Albert Einstein, who enjoyed listening and playing the violin and even Leonardo da Vinci, although best-known for his paintings, he showed interest in scientific areas like physics, mathematics, zoology, geology and others.  


A Few Tips to Become More Creative


Creativity, as any other skill, can be developed and improved on a day-to-day basis


Ok, so now you have the confidence that you can be creative too. After all, it’s not an innate ability, but a skill that can be developed. So, how do you train yourself to be more creative? Whether you work as a software engineer or have other similar occupation, it can be convenient to train your “creativity muscles”.


-Pay attention to your surroundings

It seems that nowadays everyone is in a hurry. People tend to be more impatient these days, not even waiting more than three seconds to get the information they desperately want. We watch series and movies on Netflix to avoid (at all costs) commercial breaks.

In this hurried life, we have forgotten to observe and admire our surroundings. It’s no surprise, considering the array of distractions that technology provides. We just have to put on our earphones, open Facebook on our smartphone and look at our feed while we take the subway. We know, smartphones are full of wonderful apps waiting to be opened and you don’t want to waste another second. However, we must insist that you stay away from your smartphone, especially if you are going home from work. We are sure there’s a lot to see on the way and we don’t want you to miss it.

Carefully observe what surrounds you once, twice and more if it is necessary. Every time you do, you are bound to notice something new that draws your attention.


-Wonder about the why and the how of things

This is not a difficult thing to do, especially if you have studied software engineering it’s most likely that the first time you disassembled a computer or wrote your first program was way before your college years. Curiosity is something you haven’t lost since your childhood days, and you have to make sure it stays that way. As long as you keep wondering why and how things work, your inquisitive spirit and creativity will keep in motion.

But you still can go a step forward and be curious about other topics too. Maybe you actually are, but due to life happening, you decide to put that question on a list —you know, to investigate later—. The thing is that you may not look for an answer, whether because you forgot about it or life has been keeping you busy. So, if you write down your questions on a list, make sure to come back to them as soon as possible.


-Carry around a journal

Well, now you have all these questions and mysteries that need to be solved. But, how do you keep track of them? As time passes, there will be more and more questions in your head and is better if you keep them organized. So, take note of your questions and fresh ideas on a journal, whether it be a real notebook or a digital app. I highly recommend the paper option, though. There’s just something fascinating and special about writing on paper. I don’t know, it might just be me. Or maybe not, since a research shows that handwriting helps on the activation of a neural pathway related to learning and memory.

But I get it, a paper journal might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Ultimately, an app has other functions that a simple notebook cannot imitate. Regardless of your personal preference, be sure to write down your ideas, as well as your questions. If not, you may forget about them and they will be lost forever. Now, that would be a tragedy!


-Do a thing in different way every day

In many creativity-centered articles is mentioned to try new things, they even suggest to try activities like doing yoga, join a book club, go hiking, paint with watercolors, etc. All of these activities require time and, in some cases, you even need preparation and a budget too. Although we agree that trying new things can be perfect to unleash your creativity, we understand that some people won’t have the time nor the money to do it.

But don’t worry! It’s not necessary to make a big change in your routine. You can start by small things like taking a different route to work, making other kinds of sandwiches to have on your break, buying a snack from another vending machine, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. There are some many little changes you could do in your everyday life. Evaluate which ones can you make effortlessly, you may finish with a big list. If that’s the case, remember to do them one by one. Otherwise, it could be a bit overwhelming.

You may not believe it but these little changes and experimentation add up at the end. Your “creativity engine” will start working, just as if you have taken on a major activity. It can also give you the motivation to start a new “big activity” as some suggest.


How to Encourage Your Team of Developers to Be More Creative?


Letting your team investigate and explore the possibilities is key to make innovation happen


As a client, project manager or leader of a team, what can you do to encourage creativity and innovation from your co-workers? The answer is simple: let them be. This does not mean you won’t organize and check the tasks of each team member; you have to fulfill your responsibilities. It has more to do with giving them some space to investigate and ponder within the limits of their own problem-solving process. In other words, give them the final goal or problem, but not the solution. Let them explore the options they have first. If they feel part of the team, they are most likely to ask for help in case they are struggling to find an answer.


If you have a team integrated by collaborative and brilliant individuals, then they will support their teammate. Also, if you constantly offer solutions to programmers (and if they are the kind of people you expect them to be), they will get easily bored of the job. To avoid losing them or to seriously undermine their enthusiasm level, encourage their logical thinking and creativity skills by briefing them the general problem they need to solve. Then, you can see the magic happen.


In Conclusion

As we have mentioned before, to program is to solve a big problem (and several little ones along the way). To this purpose, the person not only needs logical thinking skills but also creativity to come up with other kinds of solutions.


Although creativity is a skill that can be trained individually, you can also encourage innovation as a team leader if you simply explain to the developers what is the final goal, and let them work at their pace in their own problem-solving process.

Esther Palomino - Director of Value & Marketing

Esther loves to have a good cup of tea while she’s writing her thoughts and plans. Addicted to sugar and stationary items. Her hobbies include playing with her daughter and dog.