Developing your personal ability to think innovatively can help improve your personal management style, as well as allow you to facilitate the creativity of your team and organisation. Here we outline the kind of activities and settings that can help you improve your creative and innovative thinking.
- Ask yourself the ‘Three if’s’: Dr Rafis Abazov of Al Farabi Kazakh National University identifies three leading questions that can encourage creative and innovative thinking:
“(1) What would happen if I change it (the object/ system/ social relationship, etc)?
(2) What would I change or improve about this object if I wanted to use it in 10 years?
(3) What would I do if I had a one-million-dollar investment to improve it?”
Ask yourself these questions in relation to some – any – aspects of your organisation and you role.
- Discussion: Seek out opportunities to bounce your creative or innovative thinking off other people. They may ask a question you hadn’t considered, have a perspective you hadn’t accessed or have a missing bit of knowledge. It is also an opportunity for you to practise articulating your ideas – that process in and of itself can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your thought processes.
- Seek out unusual content: Make sure you are reading, watching, and listening to material outside your immediate comfort zone. Talk to people from different professional, cultural, political backgrounds. Allow ideas and thought processes into your immediate circle that would not otherwise be there.
- Scamper technique: this model, like the “Three If’s” is a useful way of generating new ideas from an existing product/service/system:
Substitute: Can any part of the product/service/system be replaced with something else?
Combine: Can any components be merged?
Adapt: Has its potential been reached? Could it be tweaked to better reach that potential?
Modify: What if we had double the consumer base? If the market was different, what would the process look like? (While adapt refers to making specific adjustments to the product/service/system itself, modify refers to more holistic changes).
Put to another use: What other parts in the company can use the product? What are the benefits for the product if used elsewhere? What if we target another market segmentation for the current product?
Eliminate: What would happened if we removed this part? How can we achieve the same output without that specific part of the project?
Reverse: What would happened if we reverse the process?
- Make time to daydream: This might seem perverse when you’re very busy, but there are increasingly few times in our days when we don’t have some form of stimulation: smart phones, headphones, 24-hour news reporting, streaming services and so on mean that we very rarely ever have to be bored. We are spending less and less time simply alone in our own heads. And this has repercussions for creativity. One solution is to set aside time in the day for just thinking.
- Identify what times of day you tend to be the most creative: This might require some trial and error. Try to do some problem solving in the morning on one day, in the afternoon on another and finally try in the evening. Compare the results. Ensure that you set up timetables and routines for yourself that enable you to make the most of that time of day for developing your creative thinking. It is worth noting that several studies indicate that we are more creative when we are tired. Tiredness can make it difficult for your brain to filter out distractions, and remember established connections, forcing your brain to make new ones.
- Make time for exercise: Creative and innovative thinking, like most things, is improved with regular exercise. Exercise, in particular aerobic exercise, stimulates Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which encourages the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Make sure that you aren’t falling into the trap of thinking deadlines and work should be prioritised over exercise and personal care – you may be ultimately affecting the quality of your work.