Do you remember the time when you were a little kid and your curiosity about how things work was unstoppable? Do you still remember how you were constantly trying different things? How you failed many times and how you found new creative ways to get what you wanted?
“The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles.” — Oren Harari 💡
Unfortunately, when we grow older we often loose this ability. I tend to believe one of the reasons why this is the case is because of the way we are raised, where we are taught to follow rules/practices and listen to others without question. And no, I am not saying we all need to be rebels and say “no” just for the sake of disagreeing. I am saying sometimes we need a bit more curiosity and creativity in the way we think and do.
What is more, often not following the rules or making mistakes is punished or low graded which in turn creates, in the majority of us, a lot of fears. Fears which we face as grownups and at the start of our careers. What fears you might wonder? Fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of consequences — you name it. And again, I am not saying rules are bad. I am saying sometimes we should be more curious about the reasoning behind them to understand them better and maybe challenge them or to find different ways of using them.
The good news is we can actually work on our curious and creative muscles and today I will share with you some tips on how to become a creative thinker. 💭
Start with awareness
Have you ever experienced a situation in your company where you have been talking with someone and you felt they were judgmental? Did you feel they think “I know better”, “I tried it before”, “This is stupid” or “This is impossible”? How did it feel? Probably not really encouraging, right? At the same time I bet all of us have been that person at some point. We all have our own believes, which shape us and what we see as ultimate truth, which might cause us to not really listen and open up to other views.
So, now when you know how it feels, what can you do about it? A good start would be to become aware of yourself and others. In another words, acknowledge when you are acting like the person mentioned above. Once you are aware, then you can make a conscious choice.
If you choose to listen and open up, the next step would be to start asking questions. By doing so, you can better understand another person, where they come from, and ultimately deep dive into the root causes of behaviours you observe. Once you get there you can decide what are your possibilities and next steps. Hint, try to ask open questions, trust me it’s worth it!
Always think about the bigger picture
Listening and being curious is a great start; however, to truly utilise your full potential you need to have better intentions. While thinking about approaches, processes or products it is important to have your current and future customers in mind. Who are they? What are their needs? How do these needs change? How can you best serve them? How can you be proactive and one step ahead, instead of being reactive and two steps behind? But, thinking about customers is not enough, you also need to think about the Greater good and being able to let go of your own interests. Only then you will open up for ideas beyond as-is.
An example of what I am trying to explain could be: your current customers demand a letter sent by post, but is this what future customers need as well? What’s more, is that the right thing to do from an environment perspective?
Use Visual Thinking
Don’t be afraid of drawing and sketching. Explore new areas and open up for different experiences. To read more about Visual Thinking see my other article “ Visuals in 3… 2… 1…👁🗨 “
Allow yourself to fail
It is important to acknowledge failure is a good thing! If you don’t fail at all, most probably you are not as innovative as you think you are. One thing though, fail fast, frequent, and on a small scale. Let yourself learn from it and try new approaches.
Keep in mind to never fail twice with the same thing, as this means you are not really adopting. Remember? Just as we were doing as kids! To ensure even faster failures use prototyping technique (if possible) and test frequently with stakeholders and customers. Regular feedbacks on a tangible result/mock-up can quickly give you an idea about whether you are heading in the right direction or not. It is an opportunity to adjust in an early stage or to kill the idea before it’s too late!
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” — Rita Mae Brown 🤯
Have fun with others
Yes, you are at work, however, this shouldn’t prevent you from having fun! Especially when you work on something together with your colleagues! Just think about it, if you truly listen to people, you think customer and greater good, you sketch and fail fast while learning, prototyping and co-creating with others — what’s not to love about it?
It is pure fun, let’s open up for it and new experiences which it might bring. And remember — having fun doesn’t mean being unprofessional.
Practice your creativity
If you practice frequently things will become easier along the way- just like at the gym, it hurts the first time you go, it’s difficult the second time, but it starts to be fun the better you are!
I was once introduced to an exercise to boost creativity which I found really helpful — it’s called “Impossible, UNLESS…”. You can do it every day and I promise it will take you only couple of minutes but it’s worth it! What you need is pen and paper, or if you prefer digital solution — your laptop or phone. Once you have that, think about what is currently impossible and formulate a statement. Then spend 2–3 minutes to generate and capture ideas about “what would need to happen to this impossible thing become possible”. All ideas are welcome, even those crazy ones like time machines. It is not about creating the most perfect solutions, it is about thinking differently. Trust me it’s great way of activating your creativity!
And to answer my initial question, “Why curiosity and creativity is what your company needs?” it’s simple. When you have these, you will create new solutions for known problems or opportunities. This can mean only two things, if you fail nothing will change, so you will go back to square one (but you will grow, so win anyway). On the other hand, if you succeed you can expect income growth, greater customer experience, improved efficiency and/or more! So please, join me in challenging the status quo and current ways of doing things, dare to experiment and fail fast, allow yourself to be that curious, creative and courageous kid again and let’s see where this will bring you! One thing I know for sure, you will have fun on the way!
So, what do you say?