A common mistake that is made when thinking about creativity is to believe that there are creative and non-creative people. Such distinction does not exist; believe it or not, creative thinking patterns can easily be installed in our brain; the brain behind this assumption is Dr. Edward de Bono.
Dr. de Bono’s background is in medicine and psychology, he was a Rhodes Scholar and held faculty appointments at the University of Oxford Cambridge, London and Harvard. In 1985 Dr. de Bono wrote the book “six thinking hats” which was immediately embraced by corporations and educators worldwide. In this book he describes a thinking technique called “lateral thinking” which can be really useful when looking for ideas to solve problems, writing an essay, or creating a new product or services. The cool thing is that: in order to apply this model efficiently there is no need of being creative at all!
Let’s now structure the thinking pattern to follow in order to generate new ideas.
1. Select & Define Focus: Defining the problem, the opportunity or the challenge we are facing is very important to be very clear as to where to focus our creative efforts. Start by defining why is the need for new ideas, in other words let’s define the “Purpose Focus”. Suppose to be a retail manager and your task is to generate new ideas about how to reduce shop lifting. In this case the Purpose Focus is: how to reduce shop lifting. Afterwards, consider where you want new ideas and not why you need them, this is called “Area Focus”; examples of cus are: w ideas about store security, new ideas about the employees, new ideas on the doors. Now write your “why” and “where” on paper to creative a list that will help you to better concentrate your creative energies on what is really needed.
2. Generate Ideas: One or more lateral thinking tools are selected to generate new ideas and concepts. There are many lateral thinking tools; this article explains the most used and easy to operate one: the “Alternative/Concept Extraction” tool.
This is how it works: with the Purpose Focus in mind (Reducing shop lifting), let’s concentrate on an Area Focus; for instance “ideas on security”. Let’s now think of an idea about security, anything will do it does not matter if is it feasible or not, free your mind from limitations. Here is the starting idea: to have zombies in the store looking for thieves. Note that this is not a possible solution but is an idea, this stage is meant to generate ideas. Any idea has the potential of being a good idea because every idea has a hidden concept in it. People are afraid of zombies because they are ugly and thirsty for blood. Now, by association, we can think of solutions involving fear and other zombie related concepts such as blood or bones. So, how to use fear or blood to enhance security and stop criminals? Examples could be: place fake zombie guards in the store to scare people during the Halloween season or place slippery fake blood on the floor when they try to escape the store. These ideas may sounds extravagant but the concept can be extrapolated out of them to build more and more ideas. Remember that at this stage is the quantity not the quality that matters.
3. Capture & work with output: After brainstorming, some ideas have been generated and it is time to select those more suitable to satisfy our focus. To do so, just simply evaluate each idea to the sake of the purpose: would this idea help to achieve the objective? Why? Built a Likert scale from one to five where to grade your ideas and write down all the elements that makes them effective. Now is the time to be critical: cut out ideas that achieved a bad score.
4. New Ideas: If after the evaluation only 10% of the total amount of idea generated survives the skimming you really did a good job. If needed, extrapolate the concept of those ideas again and what makes them efficient to make them realistic and feasible. Congratulation, you know have some really good ideas to implement.
Undertaking this process in group can be really fun and it is used from companies and consultants worldwide. Thanks to this thinking system an Orlando Hotel suffering of slow elevators and related customer complaints, solved the situation by installing mirrors in the elevators instead of speeding them up. People started getting distracted by the mirrors and complaints quitted.