Is your company innovative? Do your employees think creatively? Do they think outside or inside the box?
Innovation, no matter the company you work for or own, comes from creative thinking in business and how one views problems and develops solutions. A traditional form of creative thinking in business may include brainstorming. In my earlier years on the advertising agency side of the business, I can remember sitting in brainstorming sessions where senior management would tell us that truly successful people think outside of the box and would ask us to do the same. We were told that “innovators would not let the ‘rules’ and perceptual constraints get in the way of their creative thinking.”
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, called “Think Inside The Box,” Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg contend that “… people are at their most innovative when they work within the constraints of what they already know.” They go on to give excellent examples of products that were created when people were thinking inside the proverbial box. Interestingly, they use the fundamentals of mathematics (e.g., subtraction, multiplication, division) to explain creative thinking inside the box. For example, products such as contact lenses, exercise bikes, and dry soup were developed because the inventors stayed within the ‘box’ and subtracted or removed a key element. Subtract the frame from glasses and you have contact lenses; subtract one wheel from a bicycle and you have an exercise bike and you know what happens when you take the liquid out of soup. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324188604578541843266186054.html?KEYWORDS=Thinking+inside+the+box)
Creative thinking and being innovative is limited by our own opinions, preconceptions and assumptions. If we limit ourselves by what we think we know or what we ASSUME to be true, we decrease our ability to think bigger, creatively and with a different perspective. When I hear the word ASSUME, I have to chuckle because I’m reminded of the Odd Couple episode from Season 3 where Felix Unger spelled out ASSUME in court and showed us “when you assume something, you make an ASS out of U and Me.”
Now I’m thinking, inside or outside the box, does it really matter as long as we think differently?
As noted in the Wall Street Journal article, and something I totally agree with is that to think differently one has to totally retrain the way his or her brain thinks about problem solving and has to let go of limiting beliefs and assumptions.
One important way to retrain your brain and think differently is to THINK in REVERSE!
When you think in reverse, you consider the outcome or goal first instead of the problem you want to solve. This allows you to be more creative with your ideas.
I first learned about reverse thinking on the golf course and by reading Zen Golf, Mastering the Mental Game by Dr. Joseph Parent. The idea is to envision your goal or the outcome in your mind and your body will perform to make it happen. This is definitely a technique that all winning golfers and athletes practice.
A fabulous business example of Thinking in Reverse is how GE developed a battery-operated electrocardiogram machine as a solution for first responders. According to an article in Ad Age (“P&G, Levi’s, GE Innovate by Thinking in Reverse” as published on June 13, 2011) (http://adage.com/article/global-news/p-g-levi-s-ge-innovate-thinking-reverse/228146/), GE’s new product was developed because there was a need to create affordable and manageable equipment in India. The article goes on to describe the process as “reverse innovation.” The notion is to create a product in a developing market (such as India) and import that idea into a more mature market (such as the US). To address the problem that only 10% of Indians are rich enough to afford medical products, GE developed a portable, battery-operated electrocardiogram machine that sells for $500. Intended as a solution for rural Indian markets where bulky $20,000 machines made little sense, the product is now making inroads in the U.S. as a solution for first responders.
Is your company Innovative? Do you think Inside, Outside or In Reverse? Or do you have a different way of describing it? Can you imagine creating ideas by changing the way you think?
Consumer Perspective can help you create new products and services by seeing possibilities from an unconventional approach.
I’d love to know how you think and how we can serve you. Post your comments below.