Note: This is a guest post by Kate Forsyth of Minol USA, an EnergyCAP user.
Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Yet so much of our approach to education and work is steeped in learning the right answer or correct processes. It’s important to note that great innovators are the people who didn’t say “No” to seemingly impossible ideas. Instead, they opened their minds to the “What if” question and then worked on how to make it happen.
For example, the Wright Brothers made bicycles before they created the first airplane that figuratively and literally became the runway to the future. How did two brothers go from making simple, two wheel vehicles to flying?
Because both believed they could solve the flight conundrum and let infinite ideas flow until they succeeded.
Creative Thinking vs. Critical Thinking
Creative thinking is basically the antithesis of critical thinking. Creative thinking is right-brained vs. left-brained and is designed to create versus prove. Both creative and critical thinking play a significant role in successful business practices. By starting with creative thinking, you can then utilize critical thinking methods to make your idea a reality.
So how does one open up the creative thinking process? By purposefully setting aside time and trying different methods to unleash your inner innovator. You have to be committed to stepping outside your comfort zone and engrained behaviors for judging and evaluating your imagination.
When I was with a former employer, our President sent an initiative to all employees asking for submissions of new ways to increase revenue or improve efficiencies. I was intrigued by the task. I decided to set aside scheduled time to ponder, surf the Web, write, and in general turn off my inner naysayer. The result was identifying a formula that allowed me to develop a new income source – hot water energy billing. My constructive “day dreaming” increased profits and my confidence in not being afraid to explore new ideas, even if they initially don’t yield success.
So how can you unleash your inner Einstein and Wright Brother while also benefiting your company? Below are some recommendations for getting started:
Creative Thinking - Getting Started
1. Commit the time to the process and find a place where you will not be distracted.
Schedule time on your calendar to avoid interruptions. You need to be unplugged from your usual itinerary and habits to tap into new ideas. If your office isn’t the best environment for peace and quiet (they rarely are!), consider an extended lunch hour if possible or scheduling the use of a conference room or empty office to minimize the noise and distractions.
2. Allow your imagination to grow by remembering that anything is possible.
Play around with probable outcomes, different scenarios and big ideas without considering how it would get done. What if I could create a way to increase our NOI significantly without sacrificing quality and customer satisfaction? What if I applied a successful process from a completely different industry to my own?
3. Encourage yourself to be courageous.
Look at websites that are totally unrelated to your market niche. Read articles about new ideas, the latest technology, as well as different philosophies and let the broadening of perspective unleash your thoughts. Web surfing can be made into a valuable asset so long as you stay neutral while doing it.
4. Stick with real brainstorming.
Doing it right is hard. We have all found ourselves going into the weeds of detail, becoming negative on why something won’t work or dominating the process causing it to shut down. Work to open up the possibilities, not limit them. Try writing down as many ideas, even the audacious and ludicrous, as quickly as possible. Do not stop to judge the ideas or worry about feasibility. Once all ideas are listed, then see which relate to one another. Is there a central theme?
5. Be revolutionary.
Instead of thinking about how you can improve a current business practice, try to think how you could not do it or do it completely differently. What would be the impact? What is the antithesis of how you currently solve a problem? How could that possibly be made to work? What if instead of seeking how to solve a problem, you sought how to prevent it entirely in the first place?
Remember, the biggest obstacles to creative and innovative thinking is attitude. “It’s impossible.” “It can’t be done.” “I have no time.” “Management won’t buy in.” “There’s nothing I can do.” The biggest challenge is to remember that if two brothers from the Midwest can turn a bike into a plane, you can turn your idea into reality. You only have to give yourself the runway and let your ideas take flight.
Do you have ideas, best practices, or success stories for how you applied creative and/or critical thinking to a project? We would love to hear from you!
Guest Post by Kate Forsyth
Kate is the Director of Energy Management and North East Sales Representative for Minol USA, an EnergyCAP software user. She currently oversees the Energy Management Program with a special emphasis on utility provider bill payment, cost avoidance and green initiatives. You can contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410.292.7132