A great method to drive innovation throughout the organization is to constantly search for alternative ways of doing business. A key part of the de Bono Thinking Systems is the use of alternatives. Creativity is about finding alternatives, different ways of doing things. Too often we are satisfied with the current state and avoid any effort for improvement. Before we realize it, our sales are declining and customers are moving to our competitors. We should always be looking for new ways to improve a product, process, or business operation. Not just when problems occur or during special situations, but always, every day!
It is critical to consider alternative ways to solve problems, define problems, and understand ways to create competitive advantages and differentiation. Being satisfied with the status quo allows competitors to pass us by and customers to grow tired of the same offerings. As the global business environment becomes increasingly competitive, disruptive, and ambiguous, we need to apply creativity to every aspect of the business; not just product development or marketing.
Even when there is no problem, we should be looking at new ways to improve (e.g., reduce costs, simplify). We must adopt a continuous improvement mindset to improve ourselves, the organization, and customer experiences. If something is working well, let’s think of new ways to make it more effective. If customers love our service, how can we ramp it up and blow them away. We must push beyond the initial new ideas. If we only stop at the first alternative, we will never know if there was something better. Keep pushing yourself and your team to develop more alternatives; it only takes a few extra minutes.
What if something is working fine, should we just leave it alone? Let’s see the following example. Every year product managers conduct new product training for field sales. The training consists of PowerPoint presentations and hands-on product demonstrations. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive. So, should the product managers keep doing the same training year after year if everyone is happy? Or should they develop new ways to educate and engage?
It is these types of situations that require a proactive desire to focus on a process that is operating satisfactory. Don’t just change something for change sake, but develop a new and improved way to conduct various business operations. A key part of creativity and finding alternatives is asking questions. Asking questions allows us to identify and develop alternatives. We can use questions like the following.
- How can we find a better way to do this?
- What other ways can we solve this problem?
- How else can we define the problem?
- How do other people do this?
Constantly focusing on alternatives allows us to look beyond current ideas and business practices. The combination of motivation and skills can produce amazing creativity. It only takes a few minutes to do some Green Hat thinking. In a few minutes you can develop multiple alternative ideas for improvement. It just takes motivation and the desire to find ideas that might be better than the current idea.
We should continuously look how to improve and simplify the world around us. Taking a few extra minutes allows us to analyze a situation in more depth and possibly develop better ways to conduct business. In addition, finding alternative ways to improve is a great way to keep employees engaged and create a learning organization. As we develop the habit of continuously seeking alternative ways to improve the business, we will create an agile organization that keeps competitors reacting and customers excited. Never be satisfied!
Serious Creativity by Dr. Edward de Bono