Unshackle Your Team's Creativity to Prepare for an Uncertain Future

When we gather a team and ask for ideas for new product features, cost reduction ideas, or ways to navigate through crisis—we often see the same, recycled ideas.

Here are a few techniques for helping your team break free to develop new ways of thinking about your business:

  1. Ask bold, unconventional questions
  2. Ask for a prototype of a new product/system to test on a small scale 
  3. Suggest your team "play competitor"
  4. Give your team a metaphorical "magic wand" to break through creative thinking barriers
  5. Provide time for independent thinking to steer clear of "group think"

1. Ask bold, unconventional questions

To succeed in today’s world, leaders have to welcome and embrace high-stakes uncertainty.

For the prepared organization, uncertainty can provide opportunity to distance themselves from the competition.

Leaders who embrace and view risk more broadly than just compliance will anticipate better, seize opportunity and emerge stronger.

Following are questions executive teams should consider to find out if they are prepared for the next industry disruption, natural disaster, competitive attack, etc.

  1. What instinctive responses are deeply ingrained, difficult to overcome and may exacerbate the propensity for irrational decision-making that may hinder successful navigation through rapid change?
  2. Does our organization act decisively when emerging trends are identified?
  3. Who digs in and challenges assumptions that we've made the right strategic choices? (devils' advocate)
  4. Are our leaders always looking to maintain the status quo and how inaction may impact revenue, positioning and competitive advantage?
  5. Is leadership prepared for a crisis? Have scenarios and simulations been created?
  6. Is the executive team willing to be honest about who is ready to lead during a crisis?

You and your team can prepare for strategic and rapid changes by asking these questions and engaging in scenario planning.

2. Ask for a prototype to test on a small scale

Asking employees to create a prototype of a new product or a new way of doing business works wonders for getting the creative juices flowing.

Even a simple mock-up helps others to visualize our thinking, and allows them to build on our ideas. Simpler, half-baked prototypes can be more helpful to the creative process because less effort is gone into creating them, other team members are more comfortable giving challenging feedback.

3. Suggest they “play competitor”

Pretending to be a competitor gets your team thinking just as a competitor would how to "beat" your business and gain a competitive advantage. This may change the nature of the dialog with customers.

4. Give your team a metaphorical “magic wand”

When you encourage your team to bring up new ideas and thinking regardless of current organizational constraints, you may discover just how many creative ideas your employees have.

Ask questions that remove barriers. “What would we do if we were unconstrained by our current assets and employee base? What if we had unlimited capital, or marketing budget? What would we do if we knew that our current business would dwindle to zero within the next two years?”

5. Steer clear of "group think"

Some people think better while speaking out loud and sharing their ideas. Others are more creative when they have quiet time to contemplate an issue independently.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos requires each member of his senior leadership team who wants to share an idea with the group to write a six-page memo clarifying their recommendations and rationale. The first twenty to twenty-five minutes of his weekly, two-hour senior leadership meetings are dedicated to quiet time for each attendee to read the memos.  This structured, independent thinking increases decision-making rigor, and prevents group think.

What's one way you will promote creative thinking in your organization?

Let me help guide you and your team through building scenarios to plan for an uncertain future and gain an advantage over competitors when "change happens".

Contact us today to request a gratis consultation.

Bonita Richter, MBA
Profit Strategies