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The role of creative thinking in business

creative thinkingWhen creative thinking or creativity is mentioned, most people will immediately think of something related to art or design. But, creative thinking is not just limited to the artistic world, but is something that is built into all of us – and vital for successful businesses.

Creative thinking in business

The terms ‘creative thinking’ and ‘business’ are rarely used in the same sentence, which is a shame as thinking creatively is a powerful business tool that should never be overlooked. Creative thinking can help a business to identify and exploit new opportunities and assist in problem solving, improving overall productivity.

Once a business is established, it is very easy to be seduced by the relative simplicity of ‘business as usual’ or attracted by the mantra of ‘sell what we’ve got’. Many business owners focus on existing products, services or methodologies and would rather make small tweaks to the existing, rather than developing fresh new ideas to improve their business strategies. But, for those that think outside the box, the rewards can be huge by finding new perspectives and removing the limits we put on ourselves.

How to change our way of thinking

Changing our way of thinking in business is vital for growth and success. Without it, we run the risk of not looking at the bigger picture and as a result, often overlook important factors that could hinder our success.

One way that we can change the way we think is to simply rephrase common business questions or problems. For example, a business owner might say “we are not able to cover our business costs this year”, which could lead to a simple cost cutting exercise. But, there could be more solutions to this problem that have been overlooked. By rephrasing this statement to something like “we are not generating enough sales to cover our costs this year”, we inevitably look at the problem differently – which in turn enables us to consider completely different potential solutions.

The role of ideation

Every business owner needs to visualise a business opportunity by creatively thinking about the market demands and analysing their competitors. We call this process ideation; generating ideas that can be used to generate, developer and evaluate ideas for new products, services or processes.

Many businesses value this role of ideation and as a result, regularly hold ideation sessions that help generate multiple ideas between team members that must then be assessed, filtered down and finally acted upon. The main goal of ideation is to help create the “big idea” and the more ideas a business has, the greater their chances are that one of them will be the big idea. Interestingly, companies that get better and better at challenging the status quo and generating small ideas, also become better at generating big ideas.

Developing a good ideation process within an organisation works because it should be built around the needs of the customer. Once a business fully understands the exact problem that needs to be solved, only then can they be in a position to solve it.

Ideation techniques

Here, we have listed just some of the brainstorming techniques that a business owner can use to address their next innovation challenge:

Questioning different assumptions

Every business has a mission and everyone who is involved in achieving that mission knows the beliefs of the business, what it stands for and how it is going to achieve its goals. But, as business owners, it is vital that we don’t ignore other factors that we may run into along our path to success. If we question different assumptions at every stage of the development process, we can generate new ideas and opportunities.

Defining a wishlist

This is a great way to involve other team members. By sitting down together and defining a wishlist for the business, you can get a vast amount of different ideas flowing in a short space of time, without imposing restrictions to make the ideas as creative as possible. Next, pick the best ideas to focus on and then develop new ideas, wishes and goals from that. The end result enables us to see new possibilities that we may not have thought up on our own.

Redefining the opportunity

With this ideation technique, you start by defining a clear statement that describes the overall objective. You then choose three of the most interesting words from the statement and produce alternatives for each of them. Once you have your alternative words, list them in a table with the original word at the top of each column. Finally, select one word at random from each column and input this into the original statement. This new variation helps to redefine the opportunity in a new way that we may not have seen before.

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