The Importance of Creative Thinking in Business

Developing a creative state-of-mind will help when you need to solve a business problem or are trying to develop an innovative idea.

In a previous post, we talked about problem-solving in business and how reframing can help solve routine business challenges. However, being creative to reframe a problem is not always an easy task.

We often find ourselves stuck trying to find a solution or to innovate our business. So, what keeps us from being more creative?

As pointed by Roger von Oech in his classic book “A Whack on the Side of the Head” there are several main reasons. For example, we don’t practice creativity, and it’s not required in most of our day-to-day activities, like driving a car or washing the dishes. Also, we weren’t taught to be creative, our educational system can often be a game of, “Guess what the teacher is thinking?“. Therefore, in the moments when we need to be creative, our beliefs and experiences can hold us back.

That’s what von Oech calls “Mental locks”. These 10 Mental Locks are really hazardous to our thinking. Here are some tips to help overcome them. 



1) The Right Answer


Our attention is selective, we can tune in some things and tune out others. See for yourself. Take a look around and find four things with “red” in them. You’ll find that “red” just jump right out at you. Similarly, when you learn a new word you will hear it a lot in the next days. That’s because people find what they are looking for. Our educational system tells us where to look for information, which ideas to pay attention to and how to think about these ideas.

TIP: The answers you get depend on the questions you ask. Play with your wording to get different answers. One technique is to solicit plural answers. Another is to ask questions that challenge people’s thinking.

2) It’s not logical

The first and traditional principle of logic is the law of noncontradiction. Logic can comprehend only things that are not contradictory. However, inconsistency and contradiction are the hallmarks of human existence. As a result, there are a small number of things we can think in a logical way. An overemphasis on the logical method can inhibit your thinking.

TIP: If you have a problem, make a metaphor – it is an excellent way to help you think in a different way. Think of yourself as a poet and look for similarities.

TIP: Remember, it’s an illogical word. The glow worm is not a worm. The firefly is not a fly. We name things not to be precise, but to have a sense of them.

3) Follow the rules

Creative thinking is not just constructive but also destructive. We need to free ourselves from one pattern in order to achieve other. Be flexible with rules, but breaking them doesn’t necessarily mean you will achieve a creative idea, rather just a method to get there.

TIP: Be revolutionary, break the rules, even in your day-to-day activities. Examine your rules, get rid of the old-fashioned ones.

4) Be practical

The world was built by practical people who had an imaginative spirit, were able to embrace their imagination and capitalize on these ideas.

TIP: Everyone has an “artist” aspect and a “judge” aspect. Don’t let the judge make decisions before the artist has the opportunity to do their job. Grow your imagination, ask yourself “what if?” and look for provocative answers.

5) Be frivolous

If necessity is the mother of invention, then play is the father. Utilize “play” to fertilize your ideas.

TIP: Even if you don’t have a problem, play anyway. You may find some new ideas.

TIP: Make your workplace a fun place to be.

6) That’s not my area

Specialization is a fact of life. In order to function, we have to narrow our focus. But when looking for new ideas such information-handling can limit you.

TIP: Develop a hunter’s attitude; the outlook that whenever you go, there are ideas waiting to be discovered.

TIP: Look for analogous situations. Maybe a similar problem has been solved in another area.

7) Don’t be a Foolish

Some people are so closely married to their ideas that they put them up on a pedestal. It’s hard to be creative if you have a lot of ego on established ideas.

TIP: Sometimes turn off your “stupidity monitor”, play the fool, see which crazy idea you come up with.

8) Avoid Ambiguity

Most of you have already heard “Avoid Ambiguity” because it can cause misunderstandings. It is really useful in practical situations where the consequences of these misunderstandings can be serious – but it can also help you to let go of a fixed idea.

TIP: Take advantage of ambiguity. Look at something and try to think of what else it could be. Try to use humour to put you and your team in a creative state of mind.

9) To Err is Wrong

There are situations where errors are inappropriate. But the creative process is not one of them. It shows you that you are diverging from well-travelled paths.

TIP: If you make an error, use it as a stepping-stone to a new idea.

TIP: Strengthen your “risk-muscle”, everyone has one, but you must exercise it, or else it will atrophy. Remember the benefits of failure: if you fail, you learn something that doesn’t work; if you fail it gives you a chance to try a new approach.

10) I’m not Creative

Thoughts and actions overlap. What you think has a way of becoming your reality.

TIP: Motivate yourself on trying new things and building on what you find – especially the small ideas. The creative person has the belief that the idea will lead to something.

Developing a creative state-of-mind will help when you need to solve a business problem or are trying to develop an innovative idea. Free your mental locks and remember that a good idea takes time to flourish. If you have any questions or would like further advice on problem-solving, please reach out to us:

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