Streetwise: Thinking Outside the Box

September 4, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

This is the fifth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.

This week: Creativity and Innovation.

We define Creativity and Innovation as creating new approaches, designs, processes, technologies, and/or systems to achieve the desired result. At its core, it’s all about thinking outside of the box. Those skilled in Creativity and Innovation are able to come up with new ways of doing things. And they can see patterns not seen by others. They aren’t afraid to test the status quo to find new methods or approaches.

Businesses are facing changes like never before. There are numerous driving forces to this change include a rapidly expanding marketplace and globalization. Increasing competition and changing consumer habits. The prevalence of new forms of technology and, last but not least, a global pandemic. Consequently, Creativity and Innovation are the keys to success in an ever-changing business world.

This skill becomes particularly useful when strategizing, planning, and designing new products and services. Creativity is typically used to refer to the act of producing new ideas, approaches, or actions. While Innovation is the process of both generating and applying such creative ideas.

A person who has good Creativity and Innovation skills can generate creative new ideas. And then convert those ideas into novel, useful, and viable products, services, and business practices. Imagining new concepts seems to come naturally to them. Many leaders who are good at noticing unique patterns are curious, flexible, focused on the future, have a positive outlook, and are open to new ideas in a variety of areas.

People who have not developed their Creativity and Innovation skills don’t see those interrelationships and patterns. Not seeing these important relationships means that you won’t be able to devise new approaches, concepts, methods, or systems. But if you can help your company adapt traditional approaches or develop new approaches, you are proving your own value again and again.

Creativity and Innovation are more important in some roles than in others.

Certain roles require stricter adherence to the way they should do things. For instance, you don’t want your finance team getting “creative” with the books. These types of roles don’t need someone who is overly creative or innovative. In fact, that type of role may even bore someone who is more creative. They will not enjoy having to work inside the box.

Except for extreme cases though most every role can benefit from a fresh perspective every now and then. Creativity and Innovation bring new light to old tasks. It keeps things exciting and current. Many of the so-called unicorn companies that are so successful today started with a founder who was just trying to disrupt the status quo.

Being able to take a step back and reexamine how you do things can lead to a wide variety of benefits. You might find that an old system is holding back your company. Or that the usual way of working with customers is no longer the most efficient method. Without being willing to question current systems and processes you can get stuck in rut. A rut you may never get out of.

Consistently creative and innovative thinkers are revolutionary.

Because they are not afraid to buck the system and try something new. Some may see that as too radical. But they are just looking for new and better ways of completing routine tasks. They aren’t afraid to use non-traditional perspectives and/or novel approaches. And they challenge established theories, methods, and/or protocols.

For them brainstorming new ideas and new approaches is the fun part of work. They love to get their creative juices flowing. And to figure out how to improve something or how to give it that extra something special.

They are great people to have on your team if you are working on a new project or initiative. They’ll get excited at the prospect of getting to do something that hasn’t been done before. And they won’t be held back by the unknown. They’ll dive right into figuring out what it should look like without feeling overwhelmed by the uncharted territory.

To start improving your Creativity & Innovation, force yourself to come up with multiple options.

The next time you face a problem or decision, brainstorm all the different possibilities that you can. Get them all down on paper. Take the time to dream a little and don’t quash any ideas too soon. All ideas are good ideas. You can reevaluate them later. Right now you’re just focused on generating new ideas. Make sure you come up with at least three.

And if you’re having trouble thinking of three different ideas, go for a walk. A change of atmosphere is good for you, and gentle exercise helps shake up your brain cells. Sometimes our brains get so focused on a single idea we hit a mental block. Stopping what you’re doing and giving your brain a break can help. Your subconscious will still be working on the problem behind the scenes.

Thinking of at least three different options, even if you still end up going with the first one you thought of, will force you to think outside the box. Even just a little. This will give you more options and therefore help you make better choices. And eventually, it will become a habit. You will naturally be thinking of multiple solutions to every problem.

Creativity and Innovation keep companies moving forward.

Being able to bring new and creative ideas to the workplace is an invaluable skill. One that will ensure that your company doesn’t stagnate. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of consistency and complacency. But if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Creativity and Innovation is the skill needed to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Using the skill of Creativity and Innovation will help ensure that you are thinking of fresh approaches and innovative products. It will make sure that you are constantly improving and developing as a company. You may not need to use it every day in every department, but it is a skill that you should be able to rely on when needed. Like during a year of unprecedented change. Companies that were well equipped to tap into their employee’s creativity and innovation were able to make it through the pandemic. Those that weren’t, didn’t.

Don’t follow in their footsteps. Start building your ability to think outside the box now.