In addition to all of numerous responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of managers and executives in the modern, digital age, we must add one more: creative thinking. Leaders are expected to bring new ideas, approaches, etc., to their business. And though we hear a great deal of talk about creative thinking, making it actually happen can be a daunting task.
There are, we believe, two obstacles to overcome. First, workloads and work hours are so demanding and distracting that finding the time to think creatively is difficult. Second, creative thinking, ironically, requires some structure or system behind it. For this second reason, we teach leaders a simple approach to generating fresh ideas for their businesses, one that can, and should, become a habit. Summed up, it’s simple: Observe/Absorb/Reframe those innovations that are ever present in the world around us.
Here’s how it works: When you observe a Walmart Super Center that allows people to park their RVs in the parking lot all night, give the idea a lot of thought. Does my company have any unused space that can be put to productive use? Is there some way we can provide space to our clients or customers so as to help them save time or money? Other examples: When you see a self-service arrangement in a fast-food restaurant, coffee shop or even at the airport check-in, consider how self-service may come into play in your business, either for customers or employees. And consider the brilliant simplicity of those rumble strips that loudly alert us to the fact that we are driving too close to the edge of a highway. Maybe we need to create a similar safety technique in our business, be it a warehouse, a building site or a hospital.
Clearly then, we can stimulate our creativity by observing and absorbing the innovations around us and asking ourselves the pertinent question: Can I make something of this process or technology? For starters, consider these: automatic loaders on trash trucks to reduce back injuries; golf course rounds of 6, 8 and 12 holes instead of the traditional 18; curved shower curtain rods that create more sense of space; a coat check service at museums to allow us to stay longer; community office space in far suburbs so staff do not have to drive into center city; robots that clean carpets or mow lawns; or the circular tags placed on water bottles so that meeting attendees can be sure which bottle is theirs and avoiding opening—and wasting—a new one.
In short, it is possible for all of us to establish the habit of seeing or observing the creative technology and processes that surround us and absorbing their value. In this way, we gain the kind of stimulation that enables us to bring new ideas to our workplace.