Change Your Thinking For Creative Business SolutionsJanuary 14, 2013 | By Wayne O'Neill
The pressure is on. You have to turn it around to not only survive, but thrive. You cannot change the game by continuing to do what no longer works. So what do you do? How can you reinvent yourself? Where do you begin? How do you create business solutions that are sustainable? Change the game by changing your thinking.
British educator Sir Ken Robinson once stated “Creativity is as important in education as literacy.” If creativity is so important, why is it in such short supply and why does it meet so much resistance? Though creativity sometimes hits us like a thunderbolt in the middle of the night jolting us into action, most of the time creative ideas are a process. The ironic part is the harder we press ourselves to be creative, the more our creative brain shuts down. Therefore, we have to go back to our childhood playful mode to recapture that creative confidence and reteach ourselves to use both sides of our brain to overcome innovation anemia. In the article on “Design Thinking” in Fast Company magazine, David Kelley, founder of the design firm Ideo and the Stanford d.school, gives examples of how creativity stems from a creative process of divergent thinking, utilizing both sides of the brain which results in analytical solutions that solve every problem and guide every decision.
In our experience in working with clients, we have learned the power of stepping back before forging ahead. We have discovered the importance of taking time to identify the problem, understand the business and political issues behind the problem, gathering client and emotional intelligence through observation and insights from diverse people in various departments who work closely with clients and know their needs helps you break apart the problem before putting it back together in a whole new way. In that synthesis step is where the creative leap often occurs.
According to Kelley, the creative process involves:
However, most clients want to skip steps 1 & 2 and jump directly to 3. brainstorming. But in our experience, if you skip the first two steps, you miss the true value of the process because the most innovative ideas usually come from learning to listen with emotional intelligence in order to fully understand the issues and observe what is of true value to your clients so you can then begin to think and act strategically.
For example, Marriott recently desired to overhaul its TownePlace Suites, a chain of mid-range extended-stay hotels. The company had originally hoped to set the chain apart with snazzier, more guest-friendly lobbies. But after hanging out in the hotels, Ideo staffers discovered that guests were reluctant to be seen in the lobbies at all. Through observation, the project managers came to understand that guests felt that if you were hanging out in the lobby, it meant you had nothing to do. So that made lobbies really sad spaces. The happiest guests were those who’d managed to bond with the larger community — by joining a nearby tennis club, finding a church, or frequenting a restaurant. That led to a brainstorming session on how to make TownePlace feel more like a temporary home. One result: a giant wall map of the local area that highlighted guests’ favorite discoveries, and not only introduced newcomers to the area but also spurred conversation among them — itself a community builder. Skeptical franchisees were trotted through a prototype built in a San Francisco warehouse, and won over. A year after the rollout, guest satisfaction with the new lobbies increased 16.8%.
In order to redesign a customer experience, you may also have to redesign organizational structures, culture, and more or you will miss the mark in producing the experiences desired.
“Leveraging collaborative and diverse thinking is like a lot of things, it is not as easy as it sounds,” said Wayne O’Neill in a recent interview. “It involves structuring diverse opinions in a group and then following a creative process that doesn’t leave out the two most important steps that people miss which are understanding and observation before jumping to brainstorming. The way this impacts the client connection process, that is the heart of our practice, is that many times people who are technical, people who are younger, people who touch clients in a different way are not assessed for their opinion on how to connect with the clients. It is not a sin, but more a lack of recognition that those individual have insights that allow the company to connect in a much more authentic manner.”