There is considerable debate about whether managers and staff in organisations can be creative given the constraints of the workplace. Personally, I think that there are enough different ways to be creative that the question is not whether they can be creative, but more one of how they can be creative, and is their creativity appreciated by senior management. It is often said that when staff are thinking (often staring into space or out of the window), the appearance is that they are not working. Again, this old-fashioned view should be expunged immediately. Appearances can be deceptive!
Here are 10 creativity tools which can be used – note the heading is not Top 10 Creativity Tools, merely 10 Creativity Tools – to stimulate thinking and ideas:
Five Ws, One H Technique
This technique can help enhance the understanding of the problem or opportunity – the Ws and the H can help identify ways to put into practice the ideas produced by the Ws. The Ws are obviously: ‘who’; ‘what’; ‘where’; ‘when’; and ‘why’?, and the H is ‘how’? This is a simple sounding technique which can be applied to a number of business situations such as strategy, decision-making and marketing for example.
This technique considers the current assumptions, beliefs, limitations, urban myths, legends, etc relative to the current situation, product or process. It questions three areas:
- Can some part of the current method be eliminated?
- What is the rationale behind the current method?
- Do any alternatives exist to the current method?
The answers to these questions should lead to some ideas for further thought and investigation!
This matrix takes characteristics from two unrelated products or services to produce new ideas – think of the telephone and computer. Combine the characteristics and you get the internet! To produce a matrix, list different characteristics from one product/service on the horizontal axis and characteristics of the other on the vertical axis. Pair one characteristic from each item to complete the matrix cells. Finally, consider each pairing and pursue those which might lead somewhere.
It would be interesting to receive readers combinations – which could be published in a future post!
Left-Right Brain Alternations
This tool utilises the whole brain to solve a problem. Typical left brain functions include writing, logic, speaking, calculation and deliberation and in contrast our right brain controls our ‘softer’ abilities, such as art, visualisation, intuition and spatial perception. The creativity task can be formulated to require thinking from both sides of the brain with two columns on a white board being used to summarise the contrasting ideas.
This tool utilises a set of questions which could help improve your existing product or service. The name is made up of the first letter of the different elements:
- Substitute – can any part of the product/service be substituted for something else?
- Combine – What can be combined to create a different product or service?
- Adapt – What can be adapted to improve the product, or eliminate a weakness?
- Modify – Can we change any of the current solution to come up with any alternatives?
- Put to other purposes – Can we use the current solution to help on another problem?
- Eliminate – Can we eliminate or reduce any current parts of the product, method or problem?
- Reverse – Can we change the order of any part of the process?