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It’s easy to get stuck in a work routine.
To go to the office every Monday to Friday, use a particular set of skills, sit at the same desk, talk to the same team members, eat at the same lunch spot…
While routine can be a stabilizing force, it can also lead to stagnation and a lack of inspiration (a worrisome situation for any marketer).
Companies take great care to put structures in place to improve productivity and efficiency, but too often de-prioritize creativity. And yet, creativity is essential to driving innovation and competition—two vital components of business growth.
At WiderFunnel, we believe in the Zen Marketing mindset. This mindset recognizes that there is an intuitive, inspired, exploratory side to marketing that imagines potential insights, as well as a qualitative, logical, data-driven side that proves whether the insights really work.
In order to come up with the very best ideas to test, you must have room to get creative.
So, how can you make creativity a priority at your company?
Last month, the WiderFunnel team set out to answer that question for ourselves. We went on a retreat to one of British Columbia’s most beautiful islands, with the goal of learning how to better tap into and harness our creativity, as individuals and as a team.
We spent three days trying to unleash our creative sides, and the tactics we brought back to the office have had exciting effects! In this post, I’m going to share four strategies that we have put into practice at WiderFunnel to help our team get creative, that you can replicate in your company today.
As Jack London said,
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
An introduction to creativity
There are many ways to think about creativity, but for our purposes, let’s consider the two types of creativity: technical creativity and artistic creativity. The former refers to the creation of new theories, new technologies, and new ideas. The latter revolves around skills, technique, and self-expression.
As a company, we were focused on tapping into technical creativity on our retreat. One of the main elements of technical creativity is lateral thinking.
Your brain recognizes patterns: faces, language, handwriting. This is beneficial in that you can recognize an object or a situation very quickly (you see a can of Coke and you know exactly what it is without having to analyze it).
But, we can get stuck in our patterns. We think within patterns. We problem-solve within patterns. Often, the solutions we come up with are based on solutions we’ve already come up with to similar problems. And we do this without really knowing that our solutions belong to other patterns.
Lateral thinking techniques can help you bust out of this…well…pattern.
While structured, disciplined thinking is vital to making your products and services better, lateral thinking can help you come up with completely new concepts and unexpected solutions.
The following 4 tactics will help you think laterally at work, to find truly original solutions to problems.
1. Put on a different (thinking) hat
One of our first activities on the island was to break into groups and tackle an internal company challenge with the six thinking hats. Developed by Edward de Bono, the “six thinking hats” is a tool for group discussion and individual thinking.
The idea behind the six hats is that our brains think in distinct ways that we can deliberately challenge. Each hat represents a direction in which the brain can be challenged. When you ‘put on a different hat’, your brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of the problem you’re trying to solve, according to your hat.
None of these hats represent completely natural ways of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking.
In our exercise, we began a discussion each wearing one of the six hats. As the conversation progressed, we were forced to switch hats and continue our discussion from entirely different perspectives. It was uncomfortable and challenging, but the different hats forced each of us to explore the problem in a way that was totally alien.
The outcome was exciting: people who are normally quiet were forced to manage a discussion, people who are normally incredulous were forced to be optimistic, people who are normally dreamers were forced to ask for facts…it opened up totally new doors within the discussion.
In WiderFunnel’s main meeting room, there are six cards that represent each of the six hats. Whenever I find myself stuck, dealing with a challenge I can’t seem to solve, I wander into that meeting room and try to tackle the problem ‘wearing each hat’. Disrupting my normal thinking patterns often leads to ‘A-ha!’ moments.
To encourage lateral thinking, you could: create something physical and tangible (cards, hats, etc.) that your team can utilize when they are stuck to challenge the ‘normal’ ways in which they think.
2. Solve puzzles (literally)
A man jumps out of a window of a 30-story building. He falls all the way to the ground and lands on solid concrete with nothing to cushion his fall, yet he is completely uninjured. How is this possible?
There are 20 birds on a fence. A woman shoots one of the birds. How many birds are left?
There is an egg carton holding a dozen eggs on a table. Twelve people take one egg each, but there is still one egg left in the carton. How?
During our retreat, we spent some time solving word problems just like these, in order to disrupt our day-to-day thinking patterns.
Riddles like these challenge our brains because they are difficult to think through using straightforward logic. Instead, you have to think outside of the content within the puzzle and use your knowledge of language and experience to solve it.
Puzzles require you to use reasoning that is not immediately obvious, and involve ideas that you may not arrive at using traditional step-by-step logic.
When you are faced with a puzzle like one of the riddles above, your mind is forced to think critically about something you might otherwise dismiss or fail to understand completely.
The thinking involved in solving puzzles can be characterized as a blend of imaginative association and memory. It is this blend…that leads us to literally see the pattern or twist that a puzzle conceals. It is a kind of “clairvoyance” that typically provokes an Aha! effect.
– Marcel Danesai, Ph.D. in “Puzzles and the Brain“
To encourage creative, critical thinking, you could: incorporate puzzles into your day-to-day. Email your team a word problem every morning, or set up a physical puzzle somewhere in your office, so that people can take puzzle breaks!
3. Unpack your assumptions
Often, when we are faced with a question or problem, we have already classified that question or problem by its perceived limitations or rules. For example, you have assumptions about your users (most likely backed by data!) about what they want and need, what their pain points are, etc.
But, these assumptions, even if they are correct, can sometimes blind you to other possibilities. Unpacking your assumptions involves examining all of your assumptions, and then flipping them upside down. This can be tough because our assumptions are often deeply ingrained.
On the island, WiderFunnel-ers listed out all of our assumptions about what our clients want. At the top of that list was an assumption about what every marketer wants: to increase ROI. When we flipped that assumption, however, we were left with a hypothetical situation in which our clients don’t care at all about ROI.
All of a sudden, we were asking questions about what we might be able to offer our clients that has nothing to do with increasing ROI. While this hypothetical is an extreme, it forced us to examine all of the other areas where we might be able to help our clients.
To encourage creative problem-solving, you could: advise your team to list out all of their assumptions about a problem, flip ‘em, and then look for the middle ground.
4. Think of the dumbest idea you possibly can
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
– Sylvia Plath
To wrap up day 1 of our retreat, we did an activity called Dumbest Idea First. We walked around in a circle in the sunshine, shouting out the dumbest ideas we could think of about how to encourage more creativity at WiderFunnel.
The circle was quiet at first. Because being dumb, sounding dumb, looking dumb is scary. But, after a few people yelled out some really, really dumb ideas, everyone got into it. We were all moving, and making ridiculous suggestions, and in the midst of it all, one person would shout out a gem of an idea.
For instance, someone suggested a ‘brainstorm bubble’: a safe space within the office where you can go when you’re stuck, and your co-workers can see you and join you in the bubble to help you brainstorm.
(We have since started doing this at the office and it has been awesome!)
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes limit myself during a brainstorm—I find myself trying to be creative while still being pragmatic.
But, when you give yourself permission to be dumb, all of a sudden the possibilities are endless. And I guarantee you will surprise yourself with the great ideas you stumble upon.
Encourage creativity by allowing yourself and your team time and space to be unapologetically dumb.
What are some of the strategies you use to keep things creative at your company? Have you tried or improved upon any of the aforementioned strategies? Let us know in the comments!
The post Disrupting the norm: 4 ways to tap into your team’s creativity appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.