Creative Thinking For Busy People

Too busyYou don’t have time to attend a creativity workshop or read a book on the matter but you might just have time to read a short article. Read on, this is the article that you have been waiting for! Whether you want to try a few creative things for the first time or just want something to try on the fly then this is for you. Take note of, or try the following:

1) Ignore what other people think of your ideas or talent (at least for today). You know yourself better than they do.

2) Spend as much time as possible with creative people. You will find that the most consistently creative people are children because they have not had their creativity removed by our education systems. “Mind merging” with them can remind you of  the time when there was no box to think outside of!

3) If you have trouble getting started with creative thinking then the answer lies inside you. Everyone is creative, but if you don’t think you’re ‘good’ enough to be creative, or think very little of your own ideas the the chances are you will become a self fulfilling prophecy and dull as ditch water. The solution?  Raise your self esteem and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to be your creative self.

4) Whenever you’re challenged to create something or come up with new ideas, ask yourself: What’s the most outrageous, preposterous, and nonsensical thing I can come up with? Use these ideas as  springboards for other less outrageous ideas that you could use on a daily basis.

5) Change the ways you do things, take another route to work, watch TV with one eye or read while you are on the toilet. Just try doing everyday things differently.

6) Change the colours of objects that you surround yourself with. Some studies have shown that a blue environment enhances creativity but red causes us to pay more attention to detail. You could try these two colours or simply experiment.


Why We Hate Creativity

Why we hate creativityImagine for a minute that I have been asked by the top management in your company to radically change the way you work because they have bought into my philosophy about using Creativity as a serious business tool.You and your colleagues receive the following text in an email on Friday afternoon.

Dear Colleague,

Our company is going to adopt a radical business model that will help us to be more efficient, get products to market faster but above all remain ahead of the competition. As a result there will be some changes to the structure of the organisation as well as the introduction of new management and business tools and for many there will be changes to the IT services provided by our IT department.

All affected staff will receive comprehensive training commencing on Monday morning. Please read the attached notes for your personalised training programme. 

We are all excited by the forthcoming changes and we hope that you will be too


Your Senior Management Team


Solving Multi Layered Problems

Multi level issuesI can hear some readers saying to themselves ‘but I have not got any multi layered problems’. Well have I got news for you (sorry for the plagiarism there). Most problems bar the very simplest are multi level. Asking ‘Why’ over and over again is considered to be an alternative or creative technique for investigating issues. Let us consider the following scenario from a medium sized business.

Initially there are reports that sales are not as good as forecast and so the spotlight falls on the sales force. There are cries to sack and replace salesmen but one thoughtful soul begins to ask why? The following scenario unfolds:

  • Our salesmen are rubbish. Why?
  • Sales are falling. Why?
  • Our product range is out of date. Why?
  • There is no commitment from the boss. Why?
  • The boss has no time. Why?
  • The boss has time management issues.

So a while ago we were ready to sack our sales force but what is really needed is to send the boss on a time management course or perhaps get him a secretary to help with his workload.

Not only have we discovered that the initial problem and possible solution are quite a way apart, we have also revealed a multi layer problem. Just like the zipper in the picture above or a deep wound, the multi layer problem must be solved a layer at a time and from the bottom up. Solving the boss’s time management issues will not suddenly make sales leap up but it will allow he/she to devote more time to new products which will in turn lead to increased sales (if these issues are properly addressed).

And the moral of the story? Solving complex problems requires a little more effort and the problem you initially sees is not necessarily the one that needs solving!


Learning To Manage Creativity

managing creativityEmbracing Creativity or running a creative thinking session is not unlike running a theatrical performance – it needs both stage management and direction.
Such activities can of course vary widely in scale. You may be working on your own; you may be chatting informally with one or two others; you may be running a classic small-group brainstorming session or even working with large groups. In all cases you must pay attention to the following components.

People – the ‘cast’ of the drama If you have the luxury of choosing people to work with then this may present a dilemma. On the one hand, you want as much diversity as possible, because that is where new insights and connections will come from.

On the other hand, they must work well together, because creative work requires a high level of personal openness and risk taking, and a lot of interaction.

If possible you should:

  • Choose people who have the skills to manage high levels of difference comfortably.
  • Design sessions/meetings so that they are less sensitive to the adverse effects of large interpersonal differences.
  • Facilitate the session in such a way that you ‘manage’ adverse effects as (or before) they emerge.
  • Choose people who can tolerate wide levels of difference
  • Choose people who are compatible temperamentally, but differ widely in their area of expertise

People are less likely to be ‘thrown’ by minor interpersonal clashes if they have a reasonably solid personality, a degree of self-awareness, and a good sense of humour. Avoid big status differences, unless it is very clear that there are excellent, pre-existing, levels of trust between the people involved.

Have fun! Laughter and a light touch can defuse many tensions and manage the expectations of participants so that they know this will be a somewhat ‘special’ event, with unusual people. Remember, it is usually easier for people to feel uninhibited and take risks with a group they will not see again.


Asking The Right Question

the right questionTo get the right answer we need to ask the right question. Consider the scenario where your sales are falling. You ask the question ‘why are our sales falling?’ and get an answer like ‘because our sales people are rubbish’.

Before we fire our sales force let us try a different and more in depth style of questioning.

Why are sales falling?  – Because customers don’t like our products

Why don’t they like our products? – Because they are outdated, not as cool as this year’s model

Why are our products outdated? – Because we have not developed any new ones for 5 years

Why have we not done this before? – Because the boss has not allowed us

Why has the boss behaved in this way? – Because they have no spare time to spend

So our sales are falling because the boss (potentially us) needs a lesson in time management. Not only do we need to ask the right question, we might need to ask more than one in order to inform our decision about which course of action to take.

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