The American economy has relied on production from factories, mills and small businesses. Current economic indices are based on these production numbers, and the government, realizing we are losing these jobs overseas, has decided to add millions of dollars to give our children a firm foundation in math and science. But what if our country’s global competitive edge will never return to manufacturing? What if it will take on a completely different direction, not based in logic and linear thinking but in the nonlinear processes of creativity and imagination?
Are you preparing for such a shift?
Authors like Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind), Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class), and Virginia Postrel (The Substance of Style) see the value shift happening already and say the trend is just getting started. Think of the recently created organizations based in creativity. Google is pure innovation and creativity in action without a single factory-produced widget sitting on store shelves. Apple computers took existing MP3 technology that was having no significant impact in the marketplace and created a boom by coupling the technology with the iPod, acquiring 75 percent of the MP3 market share. To support this new idea, they became purveyors of music in an imaginative new way with iTunes. Now Apple is a computer manufacturer that sells music files they never manufactured or created.
How to grasp this shift in your organization
I have attended and facilitated a number of strategic planning retreats and invariably there is a “brainstorming" session. The problem here is during the other 364 days of the year, those in attendance are not encouraged, or in some cases not even allowed, to think this openly in the workplace. So how fruitful will this three-hour “open conversation" be if no one has been practicing or been trained for it? Get your staff thinking with creativity and imagination at the forefront of their ideas, and you will open up a potential revolution of thinking that could drive your organization to the front of the pack.
1. Stimulate their minds.
Almost all employees have email addresses these days and eagerly check their mail like college kids used to go to the campus post office in my day. Frequently forward articles from news outlets that spur creative thinking and foster the growth of imagination. Then pose a question for them to answer at the end of the article. Get them thinking about creative solutions, working their imagination beyond problem-solving and industry focus.
2. Puzzle them.
In a previous version of my newsletter I had a section called Desperately Seeking Solutions, where I posed a riddle, puzzle or brain bender quiz. Today those are so readily available on the Internet, I no longer felt it was needed in my publication. Post your own Desperately Seeking Solutions in your office or work area and see what kind of responses you receive. Every now and then post a specific problem you are working on and see what solutions are offered. By challenging your staff to think uniquely, creatively, and with their imagination you gain employee capabilities, not to mention, more involvement, more buy-in and more awareness of their contributions to the organization.
Instead of brainstorming once a year, make it a daily activity. As the military found decades ago, a muscle worked daily is better prepared when it needs to be called upon to react in tense situations, so they instituted a daily PT session. The brain is no different. Start your daily mental training (MT) so your employees have that imagination and creativity sharp and at the ready.
Russell J. White an international speaker, author and consultant is president of Russell J. White International and founder of The Edgewalk Institute. His cutting edge ideas assist businesses in strategic planning, branding, leadership development and growth strategies. He can be reached at http://www.thinkbigguy.com or at 877-275-9468