7th Issue: Innovation // Challenge 2

Creative Thinking Techniques

“Creativity is seeing what everyone has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.“
— Albert Einstein

When it comes to creating or developing products, services, business models and the like or problem solving, we need to generate ideas and think about possible solutions. However, we are often getting stuck when trying to come up with something new and innovative as humans naturally try to think in a logical way. More creative ways of thinking may help to generate ideas we would not have conceived when sticking to our usual thinking patterns. There are several techniques that encourage creative thinking and two very popular ones will be described below.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is probably one of the best-known creativity techniques that can either be applied by a single individual or by teams. It is, however, mostly recommended to limit the team size to four to eight people to ensure optimal implementation and outcomes of the method.

During a brainstorming session, the central problem or topic is first stated and made visual to all participants. Then everyone is encouraged to come up with ideas related to this topic and all of them are collected and recorded. Yet, any criticism on and discussion about ideas is prohibited during the collection process. At the end of each brainstorming session the ideas are classified and finally evaluated. However, it is crucial to consider carefully whether to eliminate an idea or not. Only those ideas that are definitely not implementable or irrelevant should be crossed off while all others should be discussed further.

To implement brainstorming in a team, a chairperson should be assigned who leads the meeting, writes down the rules and enforces the rules to be obeyed during the session. What is more, the chairperson needs to ensure that the flow of ideas does not stagnate or if it does to reflate the creative process.

Furthermore, it is essential that everyone understands the problem or topic in order to be able to participate in the process of generating ideas. In order to evaluate all ideas objectively at the end of the brainstorming session it will be helpful to follow a checklist with predefined questions and criteria determining whether to scratch out an idea or to consider it during the decision making process.

If the methodology is executed in the right way it enables to generate a large number of ideas related to a specific topic which may then be developed further leading to the best possible solution.

But there are also some critics regarding brainstorming. Opponents often state that the technique may only encourage extroverted people to share their ideas as rather shy participants may not have the heart to speak up. The uneven participation resulting from that decreases the quality of the outcomes as good ideas may possibly not be revealed.

Mind Mapping

Similar to other creative thinking techniques, mind mapping is intended for generating as many ideas as possible in relation to a specific topic. The difference between mind mapping and other methodologies can be found in the way ideas are recorded. Mind maps stimulate more associative thinking since thoughts are not simply listed but noted down in a more organic pattern.

Firstly, the key subject of thinking will be written down in the centre of a piece of paper. From there, each idea that comes up will connected to the main topic through lines that radiate from the centre. By adding more and more ideas and associations, the mind map will branch out further. Since each idea is linked to a previously recorded thought, the mind map will, however, remain clearly arranged. The lines drawn between the ideas automatically cluster them which can, moreover, be facilitated by also using different colors, images and symbols to visualize one’s thoughts.

A huge advantage of mind maps is that they make ideas easier to memorize than merely writing them down below each other. Research showed that using the mind mapping technique involves both halves of the human brain. Thus, many refer to mind mapping as a more holistic way of thinking than other creative thinking techniques.

THE CHALLENGE

Although you probably already know the two techniques presented above and applied them before, you will be asked to do so again during this challenge. Two weeks ago, when dealing with design thinking, you asked your employees to express their needs. One of these needs expressed may now be chosen as the underlying problem for your brainstorming and mind mapping sessions.

Get a team of four to eight members together (ideally from different departments to involve different perspectives) and schedule a meeting for a combined brainstorming and mind mapping session about the selected problem. Prepare yourself to be the leader of this session, meaning you need to be able to explain the issue to everyone and assure that all rules are obeyed. Start your meeting with the brainstorming and later on represent your results in a mind map adding more ideas and linking ideas to each other.

The aim of this challenge is to come up with the best possible solution for the selected problem. This idea should now be tested and, if successful, implemented throughout the whole organisation.


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