5 Ways to Think More Creatively

The ability to think creatively is a valuable thinking skill that leaders can apply when faced with problems that require a fresh approach. What is creative thinking? It’s the ability to generate fresh alternatives, visualize new possibilities, formulate new approaches to getting things done, and open yourself to new information that does not support your existing assumptions about the way people should do things at your company.

When you think creatively, you create new value for your unit and company—in the form of more efficient processes, more innovative product ideas, and better ways to serve customers.
How to get your creative juices flowing? Here are five techniques:

1. Challenge the process and assumptions
Challenging your beliefs about how things should be done in your organization can generate valuable new ideas. To challenge assumptions, ask questions such as “Why do we believe this process should be handled only in this way? What if we did it this other way instead?”

2. Anything goes
Be willing to entertain ideas that strike you as provocative and even downright preposterous at first. Some of these ideas may ultimately lead to new ideas that can be turned into practical value. Premature evaluation can kill creativity.

3. Write tomorrow’s headlines
Sometimes imagining what might be possible in an ideal world can help you generate useful new ideas or solve a nagging problem. Imagine what the future newspaper headlines would say when you’ve achieved your goal.

4. Gather others’ perspectives
Deliberately inviting people who work in other parts of the organization to share their views of a problem or challenge can help you see that there is more than one way to perceive a situation.

5. Create the right environment
By far the most important ingredients for creative thinking are having an open mind and not being defensive or territorial about your ideas. Create a supportive environment where people feel they can generate ideas freely, without being judged or criticized.

6. Use the phrase “up until now…”
This is a powerful response to “we’ve never been able to do that”, “we tried that and it never worked”, or “but that’s impossible!”.