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Frank Capra once said, “a hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”

The ability to problem solve is critical for most organisations and businesses, and I offer my 4 thoughts on how to achieve it for your organisation. It might surprise you – see down the page.

I may be biased but I think that communications and creative thinking are the human species most important attributes – perhaps along with opposable thumbs and an upright walking style.

I’ve worked with communications and creative thinking all my life. As kids we do it naturally in play, but I just happened to study it and work with it as a discipline into my professional life.

While I would say that many people can be capable of a good level of creative thinking, its nonsense to think that anybody with an opinion is ‘creative’ in the way they operate. I estimate that most aren’t particularly creative in their approach to problem solving. Some may simply be comfortably conservative and averse to the idea of thinking outside the square, but there are many more with pretentions of creativity, but rarely play host to an original or useful idea.

Some businesses and organisations survive by putting one foot in front of the other. The sun goes down and comes up in the morning and little changes over the years. We all know organisations like this. But for most businesses and organisations, the challenges of the world, competition and rapid change demand a high degree of responsiveness and innovation – they need to be, in essence, innovative organisations with people capable of creative thinking.

4 tips on fostering and organising creative thinking:

  1. Actively promote a culture of creative thinking. This requires more than merely saying “we are a creative organisation.” It means that from the top-down and bottom-up, everyone feels empowered to offer fresh ideas and that there is never a hint of discouragement.
  2. Find processes and mechanisms that reinforce creative thinking. Some organisations operate suggestion boxes or brainstorming sessions, but the key is to experiment and adopt processes to suit your organisation and build active engagement.
  3. Identify the people who are genuinely creative and able to solve problems, and get them to apply themselves to the organisations challenges. This will produce far more than general brainstorming sessions.
  4. Useful creative thinking might not exist within your organisation. It might be that you’ve hired people who can do certain things, but innovation isn’t one of them. It may be time to recruit differently or you need the services of outsiders.

Creative people innovate and solve problems; groups of people rarely do

Group brainstorming allows people in the organisation to participate in group discussion and contributes to a culture of innovation, so has its uses. It is commonly employed as a problem solving method but I find it has limited value in generating stand-out creative thinking.

Experience tells me that most people have opinions about things and would see themselves as having creative abilities, but there is a massive difference between someone with an opinion and someone with a genuine ability to think creatively.

The problem with most brainstorming sessions is that a ‘group-think’ can emerge in place of a genuine solution, that is, a view that is merely acceptable to the whole group. This frequently means that a genuine creative thinker is drowned out by the weight of other views and a really good idea can be submerged by the collective thinking of the group.

By all means have brainstorming sessions for the sake of group discussion and you never knows what might emerge, but pay particular attention to the genuine ideas people, seek out their talents and don’t allow their good ideas to be over-ruled by the committee.

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About the author

Fraser Carson is a respected communications and social media consultant, and commentator. He has particular experience and interest in community building, the not-for-profit sector and business development.

Why genuine creative thinking beats group thinking

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