Creative thinking strategies can work wonders says Ronan Hegarty

Whether it’s ‘outside the box’ or ‘blue sky’, creative thinking is a vital tool for both personal career development and dealing with challenging business scenarios.
Hence the decision by Leading Edge, IGD’s networking forum for young managers, to make it the subject of the latest in its series of nationwide seminars.
Patricia Seabright of Archimedes Consulting took Leading Edge members through a number of techniques to improve their creative thinking processes.
She says the first rule of creative thinking is: be disciplined. Seabright explains that you have to have a clear set of goals at the outset before you can decide on which techniques to use.
She introduced the concept of Mind Mapping, a visual tool for developing ideas and encouraging problem solving. This works by setting out the nature of a problem and then mapping out all possible solutions, no matter how crazy they may seem.
Seabright also highlighted other strategies such as Thinking Hats, which gives each person in a group a particular position from which to look at a problem - such as positive, negative and emotional, and Upside Down Thinking, which is perfect for the typical British attitude of looking at things from a negative point of view. This strategy sets out a problem and asks people to list exactly what they shouldn’t do if they hope to solve it.
All of these strategies are designed to help people look at problems from different angles and come up with fresh solutions.
Katie Littler, assistant client developer with consumer research consultancy HIM UK, says: “I found the whole thing completely invaluable from a networking perspective. I also picked up some great practical tips for helping me with problem solving. Not only am I constantly using the Mind Mapping techniques, but I have also started a number of my colleagues using it.”
Littler says the Leading Edge seminar was better than some paid-for courses she has attended. She says: “I can’t actually see us all gathered round wearing silly hats as we did in the exercise. However, getting people to look at a problem from all possible angles is certainly something that would be worth looking into.”
Sarah Power, senior brand manager at Kerry Foods, GB Brands, was another young manager who came out of the seminar with a sense of purpose. “Creative thinking is an integral part of my job. Therefore we already work on a lot of different techniques,” she says. “The seminar certainly reinforced some of the ideas I had already been using as well as giving me some fresh ones.”
Power, who attended the creative thinking event with one of her colleagues, says that afterwards they set about tackling a problem that no one had managed to find a suitable solution to for almost five years.
“It’s too early to say whether what we have done will work or not or even that others were necessarily wrong. It’s just that we are a new team with new people looking at an issue with fresh eyes.”
Overall, Power feels the experience was a positive one. “It’s always good to bounce ideas off different people. For me it is about looking at the way something is currently being done and then trying to think of every other possible alternative,” she says.
One of the next opportunities for Leading Edge members to demonstrate their creative thinking skills will be through their entries for the forthcoming Member of the Year award.
To enter, members must submit a report on the role industry should play in the health and diet debate and what their company could do to contribute.
To be in with a chance, entries must be submitted by August 17. The winner will be announced at the annual convention in London on September 27.
Leading Edge is a development network, initiated and run by IGD. For more information contact Tamra Detheridge on 01923 851915.