Ways to implement creative thinking

I was pleased to attend the Creative Innovation 2011 (Ci2011) conference inMelbourne (16-18 November). I gained so much from Ci2011 and, over a series of posts, I would like share the key lessons I learnt.

The theme of Ci2011 was “the challenges and opportunities of a super-connected world”.

Ci2011 is a effective mechanism for meeting and hearing view points from a wide variety of other innovation system players, including those from small and large businesses, the university research sector, and not-for-profits.

One key message for me from Ci2011 was strategies for, and the importance of, creative thinking. I loved Dr Edward de Bono’s master class, where he highlighted that of the three biggest problems facing the world today, one of them is poor thinking. Provocation – that is, to challenge by blocking the accepted way – can be used to overcome poor thinking. This is about thinking outside the box – thinking about new approaches to solving problems.

De Bono provided an example where, as a consultant to help overcome river pollution by factories, he recommended that a factory’s water intake be downstream of its location so that the factory is the first to sample its own pollution; this led to legislation changes in 13 countries.  

One key way to improve performance in any organisation is to engage in parallel thinking, which can be achieved through the use of all of Dr de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats”. The six thinking hats facilitate assessing an issue from key necessary view points: factual, emotional, creative, positive, negative, and organising.

The hats, in my favourite order are: Red (focuses on feelings and emotional responses); Green (creativity, raises new ideas and alternatives); Yellow (positive outlook); White (considers how to gain any outstanding information); Black (critical and draws out negative); and Blue (organiser).

Dr de Bono provided examples of organisations that have implemented the six hats, and that have found they reduce meeting times by up to 90 per cent, and that have found collaborative activities with stakeholders with different backgrounds, even with languages barriers, to be more effective and efficient.

I also realised that there are many situations at work in which I have used the six hats without being aware of it. For example, to commence the evaluation of an industry collaboration program, the Industry Cooperation Innovation Program (ICIP), I had used all six hats to decide what was required. Initially I used the black hat to question why we need to do an evaluation, as the program was soon to conclude.  Later I used the red hat to consider the value that stakeholders may have gained from program; and, the yellow hat to consider how outcomes of the evaluation could be valuable to inform future programs. I then used the white hat to seek out what information such as customer reports were currently available, and what other types of information would be required. I used the green hat to pose questions to stakeholders in such a way that would effectively ascertain their views on the program, and any other relevant opinions they could impart to me. The blue hat was used last to plan the terms for reference, and the methodology. Looking back at this, the use of all six hats was invaluable to planning the evaluation.

At Ci2011 I found Dr de Bono’s advice that any person or organisation, including the public service, has the potential to and should engage in creative thinking, very inspiring.

Also presenting on leading creativity in organisations at Ci2011, was Professor Paddy Miller. From both De Bono and Miller, I drew together some methods for implementing creative thinking in any organisation:

  • Any person or agency can use the Six Thinking Hats in any problem solving, decision making or planning tasks.

  • To overcome change inertia, ensure you spell out benefits. Remember that people, including bureaucracies, are motivated to do things in a cheaper and simpler way.

  • Have a change champion, someone who has the time and resources available to implement new ideas.

  • Create a knowledge culture by publishing a list of foci each month, and invite people to submit their ideas.

  • People shouldn’t be told that they are right or wrong in terms of their new ideas; anyone who does not agree with the ideas should leave it open for consideration or further development e.g. ‘that’s interesting’.

Overall, I found these messages to help me to remember the importance of creative thinking, and ways to implement it. 

Any thought or experiences you have with using creative thinking are welcome!