Creative problem solving, solved

Eimear Power|30th August 2019

How creative are you? Your teams? Your company? And how important do you think creativity is to your company’s success?

Most of us associate creativity with dancers, poets and painters. But creativity is vital to all industries, and to overlook that puts us all on the back foot. An engineer needs to be creative just like an artist does, as does a marketeer.

Today, it seems every boardroom is talking about innovation and specifically, how we can ensure our companies are at the forefront of it. However, many organisations are missing a crucial step when developing cutting-edge products and services by overlooking creative thinking. Innovation means producing something new and this is impossible without creativity.

When an IBM study asked 1500 CEOs if they felt prepared for the future, less than half said yes. Asked what they could do to prepare better, creativity came out on top.

Additionally, a recent study by Adobe and Forrester Consulting found 82 percent of companies believe there is a strong connection between creativity and business results. In fact, companies that actively foster creative thinking outperform their rivals in revenue growth, market share and competitive leadership, according to the report.

However, 75% of us think that we are not living up to our creative potential. So, what might be holding us back?

Feeling the fear

It is widely accepted that our creativity decreases as we get older. When we observe children, they sing, dance, play and draw – by the age of five we are using about 80% of our creative potential . But like most things in life if we don’t use it, we lose it.

One reason for this loss of creativity is a fear of judgement that often creeps in as we get older. This can leave us unwilling to explore our creativity. Another obstacle is our self-sabotaging propensity to internalise the bad idea and to think that because the idea is useless that in some way it means we are useless.

This thinking is something creative people manage to circumvent. They either ignore this and move straight to the next stage of the creative process, where the bad idea is shaped into something good, or change direction entirely. If you approach creative problem-solving with more of a sense of play and an acceptance that bad ideas are part of the process, you can begin to become more open and great ideas can follow.

How we've learnt to think

The way we were taught to think in schools can be referred to as vertical thinking. Vertical thinking focuses on finding one answer to a given problem. This style of thinking was employed by philosophers like Plato and Aristotle as they strove to prove heretics wrong. It’s a very successful way of thinking-most of the time, but sometimes it’s just not enough.

What we were not taught so well in school is lateral thinking. This uses an indirect and creative approach to come to a conclusion or better still, many possible conclusions.

The term lateral thinking was famously coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono . According to De Bono our brain operates in patterns. When new information comes in it needs to fit within what we know already. Lateral thinking enables us to restructure our patterns and open our mind to new ideas. This method helps us to think outside the box and facilitates creativity. We need to break our current thinking patterns and disrupt the status quo in order to get to something new and achieve true innovation.

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