Creativity tools for the workplace that can facilitate creative thinking in everyday work related situations are necessary for any organization to keep moving, staying relevant and becoming more productive. Creativity does not come easily or automatically – it needs to be stimulated. Here are some ways creative thinking can be stimulated within teams:
Role-playing allows one to change the frame of reference. It gives you a new perspective that leads to lateral thinking and new ideas. Pretending to be a customer and calling in to an organization with a routine inquiry, for example, is a great way to get ideas relating to customer care. Playing the role of a client asking tough questions allows you to anticipate what sort of objections might be raised.
Thinking about ideas with just one brain – your own knowledge and point of view – is not as powerful as thinking collectively. Brainstorming allows a team to contribute ideas on a topic without prejudging the practicality of the various inputs. In fact, brainstorming is more effective when logic is “suspended” for some time. The outcome can sometimes be an innovative solution that would not have come to the fore with routine thinking. In brainstorming, it is true that when all the ideas are analyzed, some might seem outrageous but it is also not uncommon that one or two of the ideas might lead to an innovative solution.
A side benefit of brainstorming is greater ownership as team members get an opportunity to voice their ideas and suggestions.
Creating Scenarios or What-Ifs
The process of asking “what if” questions can lead to new discoveries that result in improvements or growth. For example, you can consider what would happen if you started to perform a process in the opposite manner of how you currently do it. A what-if question “what would happen if the customer sets the price instead of the buyer” is what led to the idea of reverse auctions where someone bids a price for a plane ticket, for example, and multiple airlines will then respond.
Another example of a what-if question is someone asking “what if we changed the process of approval by three managers to only one manager’s approval – will that cut the process time to half’?
Provocation is a process where you reject a commonly accepted fact (conventional wisdom) to help the process of idea generation. For instance, you may suggest that getting rid of all the staff meetings will actually increase inter-departmental cooperation. While it may not be wise to cancel all meetings, such thinking may lead to some re-examination of current beliefs about existing processes.
This is basically a technique for examining something (a process, an object, a project) from multiple viewpoints. For example, let’s say we are looking at a project and want to generate some ideas. One way to do this is to create dimensions for discussion. For example:
-Ideas related to project outcomes
-Ideas related to project beneficiaries
-Ideas related to project risks
-Ideas related to project activities
-Ideas related to project evaluation etc.
The great advantage of this approach is that different people look at each dimension to create a rich set of diverse ideas and also you get more ideas by providing multiple dimensions. It is up to you to have as many dimensions as you want.
A great tool for coming up with new ideas is creating intersections between disconnected things or objects. For example, imagine you are looking for ideas about a new kind of chair. If you just think of the word “chair”, the ideas that come to mind are routine and boring and not very creative. You glance around the room and you see an air-conditioner. Now imagine you connect “chair” and “air-conditioner” and suddenly you have lot’s of interesting new ideas like “air-conditioned chair” or “cool breeze chair” etc.