When the first skyscrapers where being built in New York, people using elevators complained that they were really slow, they were anxious about being locked up in them at those heights, and management decided to get in touch with several professionals to put an end to the situation. Two solutions where given: ingineers suggested building faster elevators, and a psychologist came up with the idea of installing mirrors. The latter was the option that ended up working for them.
This is an example of how a creative technique (lateral thinking) enabled the enterprise to understand the problem, which was not the speed in which the elevators went up or the height itself, but the boredom people had when inside. Mirrors allowed them to be entertained whilst they were on the elevators
Introducing creativity sistematically in an enterprise can bring improvements in products, services, processes and therefore transform our reality via innovations.
Is creativity born or made?
There are rumours going around about the introduction of creativity in the technological and corporate environments. One is the notion that creativity is a gift not everyone has the luxury of having. Another one being the idea that behind innovation we will always find a genious that developed it in solitude. Software development is also thought to have constraints that prevent from making things differently. Or that innovation has to be linked with high technology.
As Arthur VanGundy stated, “there is nothign mysterious in creativity; it’s just a matter of applying the correct attitude and methodology in a context that enables creative thinking and good ideas”.
And how does this attitude apply to the corporate environment? Translating it to all employees, so that it can be carried out both individual o collaboratively.
The only requirement needed in the creative process is understanding that creativity does not come from being different.
A wooden axe is different, but is it useful?
In some way, the solution given needs to be useful, appropriate, able to add value or to change into something better.
To ease the creative process, I recommend a technical kit for creativity development in technology. Hopefully it’ll be as useful to you as it’s to me. Take a paper and a pen 😉
Top 15 techniques to foster creativity in tech
- Divergence: the more ideas, the merrier. In the first phase of the creative process, quantity weighs more than quality. In the following steps we will rule out the ideas that are not useful. In this one we will use:
- Brainstorming: creating ideas in group. The rules are simple: all ideas are valid and are not criticised. The idea is heard and added to the rest.
- NGT (Nominal Group Technique): similar to brainstorming but the ideas are written in paper and anonimously. It helps the introverts to share their ideas without the fear of being judged.
- Mind-Mapping: Mind Mapping: technique of creating and organising ideas, it favours semantic work, using visual and asociative thinking. It allows to look at things with a different perspective.
- Idea Manipulation: we have already seen different techniques to generate multiple ideas, and quantity was always above quality. The idea manipulation technique makes sense since it allows us to recycle, be that by combining or modifying, an idea that had not previously come up.
- The most complete tool to manipulate and develop ideas is SCAMPER:
- S: Substitute; Ideas, places, user, proceedings…
- C: Combine. Can two processes gather together to foster a new solution?
- A: Adapt. Changing the context, time, people…
- M: Modify. Does changing some things in your idea improve it?
- P: Put to other uses?
- E: Eliminate or reduce to the minimum?
- R: Rearrange? Or reverse?
- The most complete tool to manipulate and develop ideas is SCAMPER:
- Search analogies: seek similar solutions in other contexts, using metaphors, changing the environment. Nasa spent a lot of money and time looking for a movement mechanism in irregular lands until they realised that the best one was already owned by the spider.
- Perspectives: thinking about ideas generated in different points of view and approaches, they may work differently according to the users it targets.
- Debate; Discussing in group about the ideas generated, voting, checking them. Avoid premature judgements in the generation process allowing therefore crazy ideas: they encourage introverts to take part in the process of proposing such.
- Take a walk: it may help you free your mind in a specific moment. In the process of generating ideas we tend to look for the solutions immediately, but it’s nice to diverge and leave the comfort zone instead.
- Always say yes. Each time that someone comes up with an innovative idea or proposes changes, it should be accepted so that it can be worked out and tested. We can check later on whether the idea has been a success or a total failure.
- Forbidden words: contrary to the previous statement, there is no benefit in creating new ideas if the answer is going to be “good idea, but…” “it’s quite expensive” “that’s not part of your job”, “that idea is on you completely”, “that has never been done like that before”. No easy and negative judgments should be made, because we never know if we are facing the accurate idea. It depends on the perspective.
- Research: when looking for solutions, it is always good idea to have a background and see whether our idea has been carried out before and whether it could help us with our current issue. “Think outside the box”, think differently and seek for diverse solutions, getting rid of mental restrictions.
- Ask: questions are a vital part of the process. The solution may only come up if the question asked is the correct one. Questions must be carried out properly and not in a confusing way.
- Don’t be afraid of failure: innovative ideas are not created at first glance, two wrongs make one right. Making mistakes will allow you to understand the problem and to adapt the solution better.
- Lateral thinking: one of the gurus of creativity, Edward de Bono, created this technique to solve problems in a creative way, which we already saw with the mirrors example at the beginning of the article. It’s about curating concepts, in provocation and disruption we find the greatest ideas, in changing orders we embrace opennness.
- Another technique for subsequent phases of the study of ideas is the PNI technique, that looks to classify ideas according to:
- Positive aspects (P), its potential and the reasons why we consider that the idea may be successful.
- Negative aspects (N), their weaknesses and the reasons why we consider that the idea may not work out, or the reasons why we should be careful or cautious.
- Interesting aspects (I), those that we need to have into account, but that are not positive nor negative, or thay may have both effects
- Mindshift: is more of an habit than a technique to create ideas. It consists on making new things, establishing new habits and disciplines outside your comfort zone, learning from past mistakes, taking advantage of your bad memory…
Our personal baggage can be favourable in the creative process, we just need to set it in motion. Remember how Steve Jobs took advantage of a faux pas in his career by studying typography, but then served him as a distinctive element for Mac’s operative systems?
To conclude: innovation to boost change
As you can see, there are a lot of creative possibilities in technological development, and they’re related with the way in which we face the resolution of problems. It’s not about finding the fastest solution possible, nor the most disruptive one, but to take advantage of this group of techniques to innovate in a systemic, organized and collaborative way.
To transform reality via innovation we must know our technology and processes first, as well as being able to work with them and gain experience from their use. Innovation doesn’t come up spontaneously. Innovation is an activity that looks into the future, and in Santander Global Tech we want to follow that path to boost change.
Author: Jesús López
Santander Global Tech