The term, ‘thinking outside the box’ is useful when trying to understand creative thinking. Making a decision or plans can often follow the same paths. Creative thinking encourages you to change this pattern and look at your decisions in a new way. This allows a fresh perspective on ways to solve problems and challenges. Essentially, it can increase innovation and productivity and this is, of course, very valuable to any company. Of course, some people are more naturally creative than others, but you can develop creative thinking and strengthen it with practice.
Examples of creative thinking include; blue sky thinking, asking ‘what if?’, role playing situations, provocative techniques, and collaboration. Creative thinking will help you and your business keep moving forward, in fresh and innovative ways, and avoid stagnation. Being aware of, and using different techniques will help you achieve this.
Creative thinking techniques:
Blue Sky Thinking
Blue sky thinking refers to thinking about issues or topics or products, with no limits. With this approach, the ideas generated don’t need to be grounded in reality. Rather, blue sky thinking sessions are open to all thoughts and suggestions, regardless of practical constraints.
The concept of blue sky thinking is that ideas – whatever they are – create more ideas. So, an individual may introduce an idea which is completely impossible due to location or budget, but this idea inspires another person who comes up with another option, and so on. Eventually, the goal is to end up with a unique idea, via the process.
The phrase ‘blue sky thinking’ can also apply to a scenario in which you look at an issue with fresh eyes. For example, you have become completed stumped with a problem. By putting it to a new group of employees you may find a solution. Sometimes, another opinion is all that is needed.
‘What if?’ questions
This approach is straight-forward and simple. Simply asking “what if” questions can lead to new discoveries that result in new successes. Consider asking what would happen if you started to do something differently. Within the security of a what if discussion, nothing is too outlandish and ambitious. This can instantly free your mind and allow the creativity to explore previously off-limit ideas and concepts.
Role- playing isn’t for everyone but once in the swing of it, it can open up a different perspective. For example, imagine you are an estate agent and you role play being the buyer of the property. This role reversal can help provide a deeper and better understanding of what your client requires. By playing around with roles we can loosen up strongly held beliefs and possibly incorrect assumptions and approach situations more holistically and with a better understanding.
This involves intentionally making a situation or environment awkward or difficult in order to stimulate creative thinking. For example, you could present the idea that from now on the office will be entirely paper free. Whilst this may not be entirely possible, the concept could provoke creative thinking about what could be paper-free and come up with new ideas which re-examine the status quo.
When you want to encourage lots of new ideas, it is best to avoid a competitive environment. It’s natural for everyone to want credit for the ‘big idea’ but this isn’t always beneficial. Encourage collaboration over competition. Create a good mix of people from a wide range of backgrounds and stress that no ideas are off limits.
Engage in Learning provide Decision Making Pathway courses which will help you develop creative thinking and problem solving skills. The Thinking Creatively course will teach you how to overcome blocks to creative thinking in the team and harness different thinking styles.