Creative Thinking Techniques – Part 3 – It’s Just Like

3rd in a series of short blogs outlining some different creative thinking techniques that can quickly be applied in the workplace for good effect. This time we look at a technique where you relate your problem to different everyday situations or scenarios to generate some potentially new ideas or perspectives.

To demonstrate;

You the manager of a small manufacturing organisation and have been tasked with looking at ways to improve the organisations productivity and / or profitability.

To help you think creatively, you first need to generate a list of everyday or unusual activities – the more varied and random the better;

Buying a product online from Amazon
Dining at an exclusive restaurant
Buying an engagement ring
Hiring a car
Visiting a fair ground
Going on holiday…

Then, you look at each of the areas in turn and relate these back to your original problem and see if it generates any ideas…

Buying a product online from Amazon – how is Amazon organised? Could you learn from a introducing a fully centralised work process / hub that was exceptionally efficient? Could you do more business online? Is your business ultra organised and efficient? How do you interact with customers? Can you sell other peoples products or services, not just your own? Do you cross sell / up sell other relevant products or services…in real time? (Our proposals now include a small section at the end saying if you are buying that product or services…then you may benefit form these ones…).

Dining at an expensive restaurant – how do you greet a brand new customer as soon as they “walk in the door”? Do you make them feel really special, or are they just another “diner”? (You are number 47 in the new customer queue. Please complete these generic forms so we have details for your company…whatever it is. Your business is valued… ) Do you wait on them hand and foot with exceptionally attentive customer service. Every single time?

Buying an engagement ring – Do you treat every customer as a unique buyer, each with different needs and budget? Do you actually know their budget upfront? Can you maximise their spend and give best value for their personal needs? Can you tempt them into spending more for a “bigger, sparklier” service? Can they try (on) before they buy?  Do you know who the decision maker is? (Bride to be)? Is it different from the budget holder? (Groom to be). Who has the final decision? (Hopefully shouldn’t need three guesses…)

And so on…

Sometimes just changing perspective or looking at another way of doing something can take the blinkers off and open up new ideas or possibilities.

Why not give it a go. It only takes a few minutes…over a sandwich at lunchtime. And as you munch, you can maybe relate how Pret-a-Manger makes a sandwich back to your problem….

Hand crafted. Fresh, and new every single day – no sell by dates.  Giving customers a free lunch when it is their birthday. True story. Oh the joy as a customer of such unexpected, but small delight…with a touch of creativity.

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director

Dread? Suspicion? Scepticism?

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893
The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

Confusion? Interest? Fear?

What do you feel when you hear the words “Psychometric Assessment”?

I’ve used Psychometric Assessment for over 30 years- first as an educational psychologist then as a business consultant. I’ve found  aptitude, ability and personality/ behavioural assessments add real value to recruitment and development initiatives. In my experience, once clients use them and find the right tool for their needs, they continue to use them.

However,  I can completely understand people’s confusion or scepticism and, in the wrong hands they may be unhelpful or even do some damage. To me, the profiles or reports are only a small part of the story; the quality of feedback, suggested interview questions based on the profiles or team sessions built around them are more important.

I was carrying out coaching seasons recently for a client-she works as a manager in a small team. She had been attending a team-building session where a psychometric tool had been used. However rather than enhancing respect, understanding and communication, the session degenerated into a tearful, angry session which the facilitator did not manage to rescue.

This created a feeling of mistrust and my client’s confidence was severely dented. Clearly, without skills and experience, these tools may be at best ineffective and, at worst, destructive.

Psychometric assessments used with skill and knowledge can illuminate behavioural and personality traits to:

  • add rigour to selection processes
  • provide depth and objectivity to coaching conversations
  • add a self-awareness element to training workshops.

Psychometric assessment can illuminate, educate and enhance decision making. However, they should be treated with care and we should strive to ensure we see people as a whole rather than a collection of a few traits. In short, we need to validate the results.

” … People like to narrow you down to a few personality traits. I think I’ve become this ambitious, say whatever’s on her mind, intimidating person. And that’s part of my personality, but it’s certainly not anywhere near the whole thing”

Words from Pop star, Madonna.

Wise words, Madonna, wise words.

Julie McDonald
Director of People Solutions

Click here for more information on Psychometric Consultancy

Divergent thinking; child’s play

 “All children are artists.
The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”

children creativity.pngPablo Picasso

I stumbled upon an article recently which highlighted some of the differences between children and adults. It’s not a recent article but the message resonated with me. It talked of different ways of thinking about problems.

Divergent thinking is the ability to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

Convergent thinking is the opposite. It’s the ability to give the “correct” answers and does not require significant creativity.

The article, in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland (2005), talked of research into divergent thinking. A study of 1,600 3 to 5 year old children who were tested for divergent thinking, showed that 98% were able to think divergently. When they were aged 8 to 10, 32% could generally think divergently. When the same test was applied to 13 to 15 year olds, only 10% thought of problems in this way.  When the test was used with 200,000 25-year-olds, a mere 2% solved problems in this way.

It would appear that various factors at play during the education process almost force our convergent thinking ability to take precedence over divergent thinking. Is education still too driven by the idea of one answer? Does divergent thinking become stifled? I think things have moved on hugely in Education since 2005 but I’m pretty sure there is still scope to encourage divergent thinking further and to give it greater importance within the curriculum.

It’s not just our ability to think creatively which changes as we grow. Our willingness to share our creative ideas with others also changes. Children are open and eager to share their thoughts, ideas or “amazing” works of art with anyone and everyone. However, as adults, we can find it intimidating, threatening even, to share our ideas, our thoughts or our written work with our colleagues. How scary is it to ask a colleague to read something you’ve written or to put forward a suggestion during a meeting?

In order to meet the challenges life throws at us we need to ensure that:

  • our children maintain their natural, fearless creativity so that when, as adults, they are faced with problems in the workplace they can create bold, innovative solutions.
  • as adults, we rekindle our own creativity and encourage creativity in others.
  • we rediscover that child-like fearlessness which allows us to share our ideas with colleagues so we can work together to create great solutions which will propel our businesses forward.

For this to happen we need to focus on building trust within our organisations and strengthening our teams so our businesses become brave and creative rather than fearful or stagnant.

Julie McDonald, Director of People Solutions
01224 531523


Creative Thinking Techniques – Part 2 – Distortion

“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.”

Dorothy Parker


Second in the series of creative thinking techniques blogs.

“We have no budget…”

If I only had a pound for every time I heard that…

Being creative doesn’t need a big budget, or sometimes any budget.

What it does take is a little effort and the right tools to help.

This second creative thinking technique involves distorting the problem – blowing it up out of all proportion or minimising it and looking at solutions, then working these back into your original problem.

Let’s look at a quick worked example;

You are in charge of promoting a new product the company is launching and have been tasked with developing a marketing / communication plan. You have been given a £10,000 budget and are not sure how best to use it so want to generate some initial ideas.

So, lets distort the problem:

Imaging you had a million people to communicate to with your £10,000 budget – what would you do?

Or what if you only had one person to communicate to, and could spend all the budget just on them.

With a million people to target, you would almost certainly need to think about low cost, mass media solutions;

TV / Radio Adverts – what could you do to stand out and get the product noticed – Could one well placed / targeted advert reach the masses and create a lasting, memorable impact?

Viral marketing campaign – how could you get people talking about and more importantly sharing information about the product on Facebook / Twitter / Linkedin etc. Think Compare the Meerkat…

Could you print a promotional flyer with an exclusive money off deal for a newspaper – and get your flyer in as a free insert?

What if you could spend £10,000 marketing to just one person?

Could you produce a very expensive corporate gift / hand out that grabs their attention?

What about inviting your influential buyer as a guest at a high profile event like a sports match or film premiere – quite literally rolling out some red carpet treatment.

Then, relating these ideas back to your problem:

Could your final plan combine some effective low cost mass marketing with a top end solution? Such as a mass market social media campaign, kicked off by announcing you are attending a top class event with a sporting celebrity as the brand ambassador. Encouraging sharing of this on social media by running a competition for people who share a link to the product on social media. In return, 6 lucky winners get to join you at the event…

Contact us if you would like some help making your business more creative and innovative.

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director