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4 Techniques for Unlocking Your Creative Potential

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It happens to everyone; you are called upon to give a presentation, head up a new project, or write an article for your company’s blog and you find yourself at a total loss for an idea or inspiration.

Everyone has hidden reserves of creativity; the problem lies in unlocking it and this is especially true if you are not required to flex your creative muscles frequently.  Fortunately there are a number of simple ways to unlock your creative potential which many people are unaware of. So if you’re currently feeling bereft of original ideas for a project, here are few techniques which might enhance your next brainstorming session.

Think Laterally

Lateral thinking, while sounding complex, is actually incredibly simple and forces you to look at a problem from an entirely unique viewpoint.  The process was invented by Dr. Edward de Bono, a Collaborationleading figure in the field of creative thinking who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2005, and is designed to stimulate creative thought and ingenuity in a unique and engaging way. ‘The Random Word Technique’ is one of the most effective ways of encouraging lateral thinking and is widely used by leading product developers and marketers.

To use this technique you simply select any noun or random object and list the ways your product, service or project relates to it in any way you can. De Bono suggests that you make the word choice entirely randomly by blindly pointing to a noun in a book, dictionary or newspaper. Once you have picked a word, you then think of other words associated with it and use the associations to generate an idea related to your project.

Consultant Paul Sloan provides the following example in his column in the Economist:

Say the problem is how to attract the best applicants to join your company. The random word from the dictionary is – eucalyptus. You write eucalyptus on the sheet and then list some attributes or associations – say Australia, gum, Koala bear, branches, medicine. Some of the ideas that might be triggered are:

– Recruit Australians and New Zealanders

– Offer the opportunity to take time off and travel the world

– Offer free packs of dental gum to anyone who applies

– Stick notices about your job opportunities on boards at gyms and clubs

– Run a recruitment seminar at a Zoo

– Give applicants a branded teddy bear to show what a caring company you are

– Offer medical insurance and health checks

– Run a publicity event that helps a local hospital

– Show people how their career can branch out if they join your company

Although this technique can be very hit or miss, it can definitely help drive you away from stale and ordinary perceptions and encourage you to think outside the box.

The Reframing Matrix Tool

Put forward by Michael Morgan, CEO of Herrmann International Asia, in his book Creating Workforce Innovation, this technique encourages users to consider a variety of perspectives when

Matrixsolving a problem. Begin by dividing a grid into four sections and then write down your problem in the centre. Next, decide on four different perspectives to place in each box. You can do this by using two different approaches: the 4Ps approach or the Professions approach.

The 4Ps approach involves looking at the problem from 4 different perspectives. These include: The Product (The advantages or disadvantages of the product / How does it fit into the market? / How reliable is it?), The Planning (What are our business/marketing/sales strategies? How can they be improved?), The Potential (How can revenue improve? How can target markets be expanded? How would we encounter production problems?) and The People (Who are our customers? How will their opinion of the company change? How loyal are our customers?).

Each word should stimulate an objective and well-rounded assessment of your problem and should allow you effectively examine the risks and potential of your ideas. The Professions approach involves a similar process but encourages brainstormers to visualise a problem from the perspective of stakeholders, specialists or other employees in the company. In each box you place a profession such as ‘HR Manager’, ‘Lawyers’ or ‘Civil Engineer’ and try and analyse the problem from their perspective. The way each profession looks at a problem should be different and should allow you to explore solutions to your problem through alternate perspectives.

Thinking Hats   

Thinking hat

The aforementioned Dr. de Bono introduced the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ method in the 1980’s and, much like the reframing matrix tool, it encourages brainstorming from a variety of viewpoints. The method has been used by some of the largest corporations in the world and involves reviewing a problem or topic from six different perspectives. Each perspective corresponds to a particular coloured hat, which are to be ‘worn’ at different stages of the brainstorming process by every member of the group. The types of hat are listed below and should be introduced one after the other:

  • The white thinking hat – Looking at an issue from a purely data, mathematical and fact driven perspective.
  • The red thinking hat – Assessing a problem with honesty and putting forward opinions based on feelings, intuition and emotion without logic based objections.
  • The green thinking hat – This is the no idea is a bad idea approach, using creativity and alternatives to propose interesting and provocative ideas.
  • The black thinking hat – The most valuable hat. Used to employ a pessimistic and judgemental approach in order to highlight why an idea will not work based on fact, law or policy.
  • The yellow thinking hat –The opposite of the black hat, the yellow hat encourages logical positive reasons as to why an idea is a good one.
  • The blue thinking hat – This is the overview and control approach which involves summarising the brainstorming session as a whole and working out which issues haven’t been resolved.

Morphological Forced Connections

Creative Thinking 2

In an innovative thinking article put together by Speakers Corner, iPad inventor stated: “Look at things differently – embrace old technology and engineering processes and work out how they can be adapted, rather than always looking to invent new concepts”. This goes to show that some of the most successful inventions often result from combining existing ideas with new or completely contrasting ones. D. Koberg and J. Bagnall recognised this in their book The Universal Traveller, when they outlined their rules for a “foolproof invention-finding scheme” using what is known as “Morphological Forced Connections” or, the connection of old ideas with new and invigorating ones. This creative thinking process is outlined below in three simple steps and can really do wonders for your next brainstorming session:

  1. Highlight your problem, company, project or industry and list the attributes associated with them.
  2. Under each attribute, place as many alternates as you can come up with.
  3. Now select one word from each column of alternates and combine them to make new forms of your original attributes.

An example: Improve a ball point pen.

Cylindrical Material Cap Ink Source
Faceted Metal Attached Cap No Catridge
Square Glass No Cap Permanent
Beaded Wood Retracts Paper Cartridge
Sculptured Paper Cleaning Cap Cartridge Made of Ink

Invention: A cube shaped wooden pen.

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