Not just Creativity, Innovation too! Here are my top ten strategies for boosting creativity. This will help your business get along in challenging times.
- Knowledge is a key Innovation component. Use what you already have and try to learn from as many different sources as you can. Read things you might not normally read or do things that you might not normally do.
- Many of the rules of creativity touch on judging. Build up rather than say ‘yes but’ and try to see things through the eyes of others.
- Many business people only ‘see’ things that are written in documents. To get different views why not model in some way (play doh, Lego, rich pictures) or perform some sort of visualisation for which many scripts are available.
- Allow time for things to grow. When experimenting, keep going around the loop if no final decisions need to be made. Try also to take some time out to reflect on what you are doing or to let your creative ‘right brain’ continue to work.
- Use all of the methods at your disposal to see what is going on around you. This means your physical senses as well as any ‘information gatherers’ that you employ.
- Doing is better than thinking so do lots! If you are managing an innovation project get your hands dirty. Don’t be afraid to go off a a tangent if you feel like it. Innovation only fails if you do nothing.
- Save yourself time. Don’t wander all over your marketplace looking for niches, simply look at your competitors and look in the places that they are not.
- If you work in a company that deals with one or more strands of continuous innovation then ignore this suggestion! If you are involved in an innovation programme then beware of creating too many ideas! Once you have got as many as you need, stop generating ideas and get on with evaluating them and put them into action.
- Be careful of ‘givens’, the rules that everyone accepts as true for no good reason. Patterns are good though as they help us deal with lots of thoughts at once, stopping our heads from exploding.
- If you are stuck, try redefining or reframing your issue in some way. You might like to just look from a different perspective or maybe use metaphor
Where are the boundaries?
In business we often seem to be constrained by all sorts of things from statutory rules (red tape), availability of resources and even our own thinking. Sometimes we just make things far too complex. We all need a bit of boundary relaxation.
I remember a time when I was at school (quite a while ago now). I often ended up in detention after school. Often we sat staring at the wall waiting for detention to end. I used to take sweets from the jar in the head mistress’ office (but thats another story). Sometime we would, however, be left in the care of a teacher who tried to be too clever. One day we were asked to write an essay. ‘Can I write about a red London Bus?’ I asked. My friend has already been primed to ask about writing an essay all about a green London Bus. You can almost see what is coming can’t you? The teacher foolishly agreed.
My essay started a little like the following:
Once upon a time there was a red London Bus. The red London Bus had four wheels and an engine. Now this red London Bus with four wheels an engine and a poster on the side was travelling down the road ….
You can see how this would build into a story that would infuriate a teacher. Don’t forget there was a green version also!
How can we use this approach?
A pair of infuriating schoolboys had simplified the rules surrounding essay writing for that particular occasion. We had written essays that conformed to the requirements. We had relaxed the boundaries and made life simple. The teacher had made some assumptions, He had not tested the ‘givens’, the rules that normally apply in these cases. He could (should) have given us a topic, made us create an essay plan and stipulated the length of the essay.
This was a little like a business transaction in which one side tries to test and possibly manipulate the apparent constraints upon them whilst the other party makes assumptions that are based on previous experiences.
So next time you have a tricky business issue to solve, try seeing if there is any ‘wriggle room’, any way that some of the boundaries can be stretched or even removed. It is often worthwhile trying a little boundary relaxation.
What is a multi layered problem?
I 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 you were ready to sack your sales force. But all you really needed to do is to send the boss on a time management course or perhaps get him a secretary to help with his workload.
Solving multi layered problems
Firstly, we have discovered that the initial problem and possible solution are quite a way apart. We have revealed a multi layer problem. Just like the zipper in the picture above or a deep wound, the multi layered problems we encounter 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. This 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 see is not necessarily the one that needs solving!