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Ground Rules


Principles of creativity > Ground Rules

Agreeing ground rules | Common ground rules | Making ground rules work | See also


Ground rules are the basic and essential rules that are agreed within creative groups to create an environment in which the people involved can feel the psychological safety needed to offer tentative and 'silly' ideas.

Agreeing ground rules

Developing ground rules requires more than simple imposition if you want people to agree to them and abide by them. An effective approach is to introduce the question of how people in the group can offer ideas in the safe knowledge that they will not be criticized or thought less of in any way.

Ask for ideas for rules and model the behavior you are seeking whilst guiding the group towards a short and complete set of ground rules that will be effective at enabling people in the group to work creatively together.

Common ground rules

Although there are variations, there are a few basic rules that often appear:

Avoid negative psychology

Negative comments inhibit others from offering ideas. Such methods as discounting people or their ideas, even in subtle and unintended ways. For example the word 'but' discounts all that was said beforehand.

Seek positive synergies

Positive energies that enthuse and energise people and build on each others' ideas. Everyone should expect to contribute to their full potential. This is not a session for passengers or observers.

Assume positive intent

Most negative behaviour is triggered by fear. If you feel threatened you will act that way, which can trigger corrosive reactions.

If, on the other hand, you assume that other people think well of you, even if you offer half-thought-out ideas, then you are far more likely to join openly in creative discussions.

Making ground rules work

If people in the team are familiar with creative ground rules then a simple reminder such as on a wall poster may be all that is sufficient, although it is occasionally necessary to stop the session to remind people (pointing at the poster can be enough). For people new to the approach, an explanatory discussion can be useful.

See also

Speeding Diffusion



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