People very often confuse creativity and innovation. Basically, creativity is the thinking that generates ideas; innovation is the practical application of those creative ideas to meet your business’s objectives more effectively.
But creativity is never enough on its own, since ideas are only the raw materials for innovation. You need a screening and development mechanism to turn ideas into reality. How, though, so you first develop creative thought processes? Well firstly, you need to identify some barriers to creative thinking:
– You allow your mind to be conditioned into following a dominant pattern of thought, so you become trapped into a fixed way of looking at things
– You fail to identify and examine the assumptions you make, to ensure they aren’t restricting the development of new ideas
– You think sequentially instead of laterally, and are always looking for the best idea, rather than different ideas
– You don’t challenge obvious solutions
– You judge prematurely, not giving yourself enough time to drift over other ways of looking at things
– You tend to conform and give the expected answer
– You fear you’ll look foolish or be put down by others
These rationalisations may inhibit your thought-processes and create barriers to creativity. So what can you do to overcome those barriers?
Firstly, do some self-analysis.
Identify the dominant ideas that influence your thinking.
Then define the boundaries you are operating in and question them. Do policies need re-thinking, or processes re-thought?
Then identify how you will break free from the boundaries, opening up your mind to new ideas
Think, how would a competitor view these ideas? What would a scientist think, or a football manager? By looking from a different perspective, you create different thought patterns and possibly come up with an idea you wouldn’t have considered if you thought the same way as always before.
You may find plausible reasons why something might not work (it didn’t work last time, it’s too risky, it’s too expensive, good in theory but…, the customers won’t buy it, etc.). But it’s the end result that is key here – you shouldn’t worry too much about how you get there.
Incubation is always a good idea. How often have you had really good ideas when in the bath or shower or walking the dog? This is because the mind is working unconsciously on the problem and is able to identify those things that you wouldn’t have thought of on a conscious level.
Lateral thinking is also a good technique. Instead of looking for what is right, concentrating on relevance, moving in a certain direction and leading from one thing to another, Lateral Thinking looks at what is different, makes jumps instead of thinking sequentially, welcomes intrusions and explores many unlikely directions. You need to provocatively challenge the way you’re thinking, and reject thinking that reduces decision-making to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
When you consider what benefits you gain from thinking creatively, you give yourself the chance to build great ideas and identify various perspectives that you hadn’t seen before. And that’s where innovation and future development really works.
Originally published: 20 January, 2012