New ideas for stale, dry old problems are just the ones that Joanna Maxwell likes to tackle with her ‘juicy thinking’ approach. Joanna is one of DeakinPrime's Creative Capital facilitators for its Building Leadership Capital program, and delivered a colourful and stimulating presentation on creative thinking to our DeakinPrime staff in late 2011.
Want to try to sell the benefits of a square lemon to your colleague? Think quickly! Joanna showed us the benefit of using her ‘left-right left-right’ approach to problem solving. It calls on both sides of the brain and is a holistic, integrated approach based on neuroscientific research.
There is ‘nothing intrinsically wrong with logic and rational thinking’, according to this ‘recovered’ corporate lawyer-it simply works better to problem solve using both sides of the brain rather than relying too much on one. By using participative and ‘mind-broadening’ ideas, Joanna had us using both sides of our brain, providing many strategies in a short amount of time that left us wanting more-including the highly successful ‘reverse goals’ technique.
Joanna squeezed a lot of juicy ideas out of us on the real-life issue we brought to the table. Working in small groups, we were asked to consider what we would do to create the absolute opposite of our intended goal. Sounds counter-intuitive? The idea might seem outrageous, but the technique provides distance and objectivity from an issue.
We chose the issue of developing closer relationships with our consultants and began by thinking of all the ways we could do just the opposite! So instead of ‘How to help our consultants feel part of DeakinPrime’, we brainstormed ‘How to alienate our consultants!’ This drew out ideas such as ‘never communicate with them about what we are doing’, ‘ignore their phone calls’ and ‘never invite them to meet our staff’.
Once we had completed our list, we got some fresh thinking out through a clever ‘flip’ at the end of the process that asked us to reverse each of our ideas. So ‘never invite them to meet our staff’ led to the idea of having a ‘Consultant’s Meet and Greet Day’ here at the DeakinPrime office; ‘never communicate about what we are doing’ became ‘keep them informed about what DeakinPrime are doing’ and led to the idea of the newsletter you are now reading also going out to a lot of our consultants.
As Joanna says, ‘Juicy thinking is a useful tool in any workplace. Sometimes you will want to add a dash of creative thinking (like adding salt and pepper to a meal) and other times it will become the main dish. Sometimes, you need to step back and consciously apply some critical thinking to work through a dilemma. Whatever tool you need, the more you practise and integrate these tools, skills and habits into your daily routines, the more instinctive they will become.’
Three ways to increase your business creativity from Joanna Maxwell
- Work backwards — Visualise your desired result, and then work backwards to your present situation-a simple tool, but it can be very powerful. (It is also a great way to crack those kids’ maze puzzles!)
- Find a sounding board — Talk your problem or ideas over with a trusted friend-you'll benefit from another point of view. Just as important, by having to organise your thoughts and explain them to someone else, new connections, solutions and gaps may well become apparent to you.
- Give it time — We are very used to deadlines and quick fixes, but some ideas need time to come to fruition. In one of his books, author Roger von Oech tells the story of an architect who built a cluster of offices around a central green space. He resisted the efforts of others to make walkways across the green, deliberately planting it all over with grass. After a few months, the lawn was laced with paths that turned in easy curves and were differently sized according to traffic flow. Then the architect simply paved the paths and had a space with a beauty of design that also met user needs.
Find out more about DeakinPrime’s Building Leadership Capital offering. Phone (03) 9918 000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org