Throw Away the Box: Inspire Genius and Innovation with Creative Thinking Techniques

October 6, 2011

That is the title of a talk that I am giving next week at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce.  This is a sneak peak of what will be covered.  Here is my top 10 list on how to be more creative.

1.  Let your freak flag fly.  Get a little crazy.  Do something weird.  Shake all over.  Yell at the top of your lungs.  Talk in a strange voice.

2.  Know that everyone is creative.  Creativity is like a muscle.  It can be developed.  School did its best to beat the creativity out of us.  But we are all children at heart and want to play and be creative.

3.  More heads are better than one.  Bounce things off others.  Brainstorm in diverse groups without any censorship.  All of those different perspectives make for amazing creativity.

4.  The more ideas the better.  Start writing things down.  Make lists of things.  When you get an idea, capture it.  Keep writing, even after you have exhausted all possibilities.

5.  Reframe the problem.  Create a ridiculous solution and then ask yourself, “Why is this a great solution?”

6.  Use a ridiculous correlation.  Randomly put your finger in a book, look for the nearest noun and ask yourself, “How is this problem like a ………….?”  Brainstorm all of those ways.  It will help to give you some perspective on the problem.

7.  Say YES AND.  Don’t say, “No”, or “Yes, but . . . “.  Don’t say, “We tried that before and it didn’t work.”  Say, Yes, and . . .” and build on the ideas generated.  It will help generate more and more ideas.

8.  Don’t limit yourself.    We often are our biggest limitation.  We are not smart enough or creative enough.  We don’t have enough experience.  Blow away all of those false ideas.  You are truly unique.  Your brain is the only brain that thinks like you do.  Celebrate that and promote that and know that you can break through anything.

9.  Get physical.  While you are thinking, do a physical activity. Walk, stomp, shake, dance, or run.  It will help your brain work better.

10.   Ask the right questions.  Paper or plastic?  How about, “How would you like to carry your groceries home?”  I would like to use this canvas bag, thanks.  In a famous creativity experiment, you are asked to connect nine dots using four straight lines without lifting your pencil from the paper.  Try it and see what you come up with.  You can see the answer at the end of the blog.

That’s where the saying, thinking outside the box comes from.  If I were looking at this problem, I would ask the following question:  How many different ways can you connect these nine dots in as few lines as possible?  When you ask that question, you get all kinds of creative solutions such as:

One line (A big fat line).

Three lines.  The dots are fat and the lines form a “Z”.

One line that circles the earth three times and connects each row of dots.

One line (the paper is folded and the dots are all stacked on top of each other.

You can see that by expanding those limits, the ideas expand as well.

If you want to know more and participate in this very fun session, here is the information on the Swedish American Chamber event for those of you in the Atlanta/Decatur area.  It’s from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm.  It’s a great networking opportunity as well.


Forget About Your People And They Will Certainly Forget About You

August 29, 2011

I attended the SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services) National Conference this past week in Chicago and there was a common theme running throughout the conference:

It’s all about your people.

This goes for both internal and external customers.  This concept may seem trite and redundant and many of you will say, “Duh!”  But I think it bears repeating because during these stressful times, we tend to forget that.  Even if it is unintentional,  many companies neglect to truly take care of their people and their external clients.  They are in survival mode, and they buckle down.  The focus is internal, and we forget the people sitting across from us.  Keep in mind that, as a business owner, your people are scared, unsure, and likely approaching burning out with the amount of stress involved in trying to get new work.  This goes for clients as well.  Get up right now and go talk to someone near you.  Ask them how they are doing, and perhaps more importantly, how they are feeling.

During these stressful times, we crave connection with others, so do everything within your power to create those connections.  The golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We talk about the platinum rule which says,  “Treat others the way that they want to be treated.”  Remember, others may want to be treated differently than you would want to be treated. The platinum rule honors that difference.

Both individuals and companies can focus on ways to create more connections with others both internally and externally. Increase the social activities during work hours and after work hours. Involve the families. Let people know you care. Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the personal milestones of births, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  Mourn the losses personally and professionally with your people.  Let them know that you not only know about their life, but you care about what happens to them.  If you don’t take these steps, be prepared for a mass exodus when the economy turns.  People will go where they feel cared about and nurtured.  Period.  And if you have leaders in the company who don’t subscribe to this notion of taking care of your people, remember that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t like their boss.

This isn’t hard to do, but it takes effort and focus.  And the payback can be tremendous!  If you have any success stories with this people approach, please share them.  I would love to post it on the BDI Blog!