Creativity for me is a lot like hang gliding. There is both an absolute madness and absolute science to it. When you can embrace the madness while trusting the science, that's when you can utilize it to fly above your competitors as you create outstanding processes, products and services.
When times are tough, clients demand more. More from the product and more from the service. Creative thinking is the most effective way of delivering outstanding results.
Just as the analogy suggests, creative thinking requires actions that will go against your instinct and everyday behavior.
It's just after you start to change your behavior that your feet leave the ground and you begin to soar. The good news is you've already been a creative pilot in the past. As a child, you were fearless, investigative, experimental, imaginative and totally creative.
All you need to do is relearn some of the uninhibited creative behaviors in order to allow yourself to create outstanding solutions no matter what challenges you face.
DECIDE: WHERE TO BE CREATIVE
-Tip: Map it first.
Why? Because being creative without a map is a recipe for wasting time and money.
Having a map of our customer touch points gives us orientation and the ability to apply productive creative thinking to create outstanding results.
Start by mapping the obvious activities you do each day, phone calls, email, etc. Once you have created a basic map of the major touch points, then you can break it down to even more detail.
MAP: EVERY DETAIL MATTERS
-Tip: Map every detail.
Here's why: The more details you have on all your touch points, the easier it is to improve them.
When you've mapped the obvious touch points, it's time to map the obscure touch points. For example, mapping the touch points of a meeting when you bump into someone on the street that you know.
What questions could you ask? How could you position yourself and your business in a way that hasn't happened before?
TOUCH POINTS: CREATE NEW ONES
-Tip: Look for creating touch points that start before and after your existing touch points.
Why? Great innovations can happen by looking beyond what you think is your line of work.
Icebreaker is a clothing manufacturer for winter fleece products. They looked at their touch points and realized that if they could identify a touch point of where their fleece was coming from, they could increase their sustainability message. They create a “baa code” on the garments that once entered on their website, identifies the sheep and farm that the fleece comes from.
IMPROVEMENT: FIX IT
-Tip: Fix it.
Here's why: Applying constructive words to touch points can prompt great ideas.
Constructive words include:
Stop, Start, Combine, Strengthen, Reduce, Multiply, Substitute, Reverse, Speed up, Slow down, and Modify.
Try applying these words to your touch points to see what ideas you generate. What if you combined a meeting with physical activity? A walking meeting? If you could reduce the time taken in a meeting, how would you do it?
-Tip: Treat it like a touch point.
Why? Whether you want to improve a product, process or service, they can all be broken down into a series of touch points and then improved.
Yakkay wanted to improve the humble bicycle helmet. Frankly they thought it looked daggy. So they asked themselves, “What if we could add something & modify it so it looked ‘cool’?”
The result was a modified helmet with interchangeable caps that could be placed over the top of them. Funky headwear rather than a boring helmet.
CHALLENGE: CAN WE REMOVE IT?
-Tip: Challenge it.
Here's why: A touch point or part of a product is never beyond challenge, but because we use them so often, we see them permanently set in stone.
What would happen if you had to remove a touch point? What if you had no meeting at all? How would you get things done? What if you had to execute the items or actions discussed at the meeting itself?
By asking the “Challenge it” questions, we are forced to step off into the air and fly.
CHANGE: CHANGING THE TOUCH POINTS
-Tip: If you can't remove a touch point - “change it”.
Why? If you're absolutely certain that the touch point cannot be removed, what could you change it with?
For example, could you change a face-to-face meeting with a teleconference? Change a boardroom meeting with a corridor meeting? Change an agenda meeting into a brainstorming meeting?
The more you look at your touch point, the more you realize there are opportunities to challenge and change them to make them better.
FIGHTING: BREAK TRADITIONAL THINKING
- Tip: Fight it.
Why? We are creatures of habit, and left to our own devices, we will think and behave the same way every day. Fighting this pattern can help us to create new ideas that we would not normally have considered before.
The next time you sit down to think of a solution or generate ideas, start with a distraction to generate some unrelated thoughts.
Once you have the fresh thoughts, you can force yourself to link them to your problem.
UNCONVENTIONAL: LINKING THE UN-LINKABLE
- Tip: Look around you.
Write down the first thing that catches your eye. Now, write down all of the thoughts that come to you when you think of this object. For example, the first thing I see is a lamp. My first thoughts are: metal, light, bright, dark, on, off, power, electricity, work and Thomas Edison.
Now link those thoughts to the topic area that you want ideas for. How can we make it “lighter and brighter”? Imagine there was a famous genius in the room, what would he/she bring to the meeting? Turn everyone on before each agenda item by getting people to stand and shake.
VISION: NOTICE THINGS AROUND YOU
-Tip: Become a perve.
Here's why: Great inventions, products and services exist all around you. All you need to do is look for them.
Rather than look for ideas from your competitors, look for ideas from totally unrelated fields and businesses.
When you see a great product, process or service in motion, ask yourself, “What are the attributes that make it great?” The more attributes you can extract, the easier it is to think of how to apply them to your area of creativity.
HATE: WHAT DO YOUR CLIENTS HATE?
-Tip: Clear it.
Here's why: We might think we're perfect, but the reality is there will always be something that our clients dislike about us. By finding them and claiming them, we can then turn them to our advantage.
If a client thinks you're too expensive, how can you reduce the expense for them? Could you add more value to your offering? Could you give them a discount for paying upfront? Could you provide them with ways of saving money elsewhere?
List your client's dislikes about your work & creatively turn them to your advantage.
DISLIKES: WHAT ARE THEY?
-Tip: Depressed states can lead to creative states.
Why? Sounds weird, but we can sometimes be the most creative when we are slightly depressed, sad and lonely. By targeting on the things our clients dislike about us, we can often be more creative than when we're upbeat and happy.
Does your client think that….
Your service isn't good enough?
Your follow-up is terrible?
Your product looks ugly?
-Tip: Think right not wrong.
Thoughts drive feelings and behaviors. If we think it's the end of the world, we start to feel that way, and then we start to behave that way, which in turn makes us continue to think that way.
Write down your answers to the following:
Adversity - what's the situation?
Beliefs - what beliefs have you made up about the event?
Consequences - what will happen as a result of these beliefs?
Dispute - what's false about your beliefs?
Energized - do you feel better now?
IDEATION: LET GO
-Tip: Leave it.
Why? One of our most creative states is when we are in an Alpha brain wave state. The Alpha brain wave state is seldom achieved when working at our desk. It happens when we are chilled out, calm, relaxing and having fun somewhere away from the office.
When we're at work, we're in a beta brain wave state, which is very logical, rational, linear and, frankly, not very creative. So, if you've been working nonstop trying to come up with the big idea, take a break, get outside, do something else and trust the idea will come.
-Tip: Use a mobile phone.
Why? The mind is a weak slave to good ideas and good ideas often come to us seemingly out of nowhere at unexpected times.
When an idea comes to you, even if you're away from work, by using your phone to call your voice mail or text the idea you've now saved the idea.
When you're back at work and ready to make the idea a reality, simply listen or read the message.
CONFUSION: USE IT
-Tip: Create a mental map.
Why? Our mind has so many thoughts that unless we map them, they take up valuable processing space that can stop us from moving on with making our ideas happen.
Map your thoughts by doing the following: In the center of an A3 sheet of paper (in landscape format), write your main thoughts in the center. Then, starting at the one o'clock position, draw a branching line from the center. Write the first sub-topic on the line and then make subsequent branches radiating for this branch with the keywords for the thoughts. Google “free mind” for a free mental map software program.
-Tip: Visualize in order to realize.
Why? Actively visualizing our finished process, service or product can only help to create a superior one.
The more time when can spend imagining what our product or service may look like, sound like, feel and taste like, the easier it is to realize it.
Spend some time imagining what it would be like if you were a customer handling or receiving your product or service. Capture any ideas that come to you when finished.
-Tip: Create a contract
Why? Accountability gets results and by having an accountability partner who asks you how your idea is coming along will force you into action.
Create a contract declaring the top 3 ideas you want to realize and then sign your commitment to it and get your accountability partner to witness and sign it.
MAXIMIZE: RETURN OF INVESTMENT
-Tip: Track it
Why? By knowing how our idea is progressing and the effort that has been involved, we can objectively establish how much money and resources have been used and the R.O.I from the activity.
Create a spreadsheet that gives your idea a number, tracks the time, energy and resources spent.
Analyse the R.O.I during and after completion by looking at areas such as increased sales, decreased breakages, increased testimonials, repeat clients and so on.
Founder of Ideas with Legs | Innovation speaker | consultant | author