Spring has finally sprung here in Kentucky and, like many of you, I’m so ready for some sunshine and to see flowers blooming again. This season of renewal and rebirth is one of my favorites. And the Kentucky Derby is just around the bend!
With so many hard times happening throughout the world, I have been trying to keep a positive outlook for my family and for my teams. Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and keep doing what we’ve always done. We get so busy that it’s difficult to come up with new ideas. But when you’re looking for a new way to approach an old problem, doing the same thing will only get the same results.
I recently read an article titled, “Old Thinking Won’t Lead to New Ideas” by Susan Robertson. She is an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard and a creative thinking expert with experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies.
“When you really need new ideas or fresh thinking or a creative solution to a challenge, a typical, day-to-day approach in your thinking is not the optimal process,” Robertson says. “Instead, you need to do something different — that will stimulate your brain in diverse ways and shift your perspective on the issues.”
Here are some of her ways to ensure you and your team shake up your thinking so that you can come up with the fresh, new ideas you need.
1. Change your environment. Get outside your own conference room or office. Debrief the latest research results or industry report in an art museum. Or take your team to the zoo with the objective of coming back with new ideas. If you can’t physically get out of the office, then find a way to get out metaphorically.
2. Bring outsiders in. Invite other perspectives into your discovery and idea-generation processes. Your project team will be amazed at the range and diversity of new ideas that come when they are exposed to new perspectives on their challenge.
3. Truly engage with your customers. Don’t rely solely on second-hand data to understand your customers’ needs. You need to actually talk to them.
4. Question everything. Do some specific exercises that force people to confront and challenge their subconscious assumptions about the topic.
An easy way to do this is to first ask for ideas that the team thinks would solve the problem, but they probably couldn’t implement for some reason. Then, ask them to reframe each idea by saying, “We might be able to implement this idea if…” What comes behind the “if’s” will help surface a lot of assumptions people have that may or may not actually be barriers. Of course, some of the barriers will turn out to be real, in which case, don’t spend more time on those ideas.
5. Let some crazy in the room. The academic definition of creative thinking is “the process of coming up with new and useful ideas.” The only way to get new ideas is to start with seemingly crazy ideas. Every truly innovative idea seems a little crazy at first. If you only start with ideas that are comfortable or clearly easy to implement, they’re probably not very new.
So, encourage people to throw in extremely wild ideas. Then, play a game called “If We Could.” Instruct the team to temporarily let go of the problems in the idea and ask, “If we could implement this idea, what would be the benefit(s)?” Once you have identified the benefits of each crazy idea, narrow down to the most promising few and ask the team to look for possible solutions to the barriers.
It is unfortunately all too easy to simply approach every new challenge using our typical day-to-day thinking. Once you recognize that this new situation needs new thinking, it’s fairly easy to do some things to shift to a more productive mode for this particular challenge. Then shift back to the more familiar day-to-day thinking for your daily tasks.
So, see if a new approach to your problems works for your teams! Let a little fun in the dealership and see what kind of ideas can come from it