How to Generate Innovative Ideas: Guest post by Helen Cahen

When I work with a team on the question of how to generate innovative ideas, I often ask team members, “Are you creative?”

Depending upon the group, I usually get between one and four hands raised.

I once tried the same exercise with a group of kindergartners when I visited my son’s classroom. When I asked the question, “Are you creative?”—well, most of the hands went up!

Why the difference?

Somewhere, starting in Kindergarten, we start defining ourselves on a creativity scale. Unless you have artistic talent, you do not see yourself as being creative.

In reality this is a trick question. We are all creative; it’s just that our creativity is used and applied to different domains and in different ways. As adults we rarely think about our creative style and strengths. As a result, teams often struggle to work together on innovation projects or to create change because of their different creative style preferences.

Imagine a group of eight people planning to travel from Texas to Katmandu. Imagine that the group has the average language skills of a two-year-old and the knowledge of a ten-year-old; how hard do you think it would be to plan and take the trip together?

The above scenario is a metaphor for what I often see happening to groups working together on complex projects. While the projects require innovation skills, the team members do not have the full understanding of the creative process and thinking, nor do they have the self-awareness of how they might be able to contribute.

BridgePoint Effect team members Helene Cahen, Janice Francisco and Sylvain Matte at the FourSight Forum.

In February 2018, four members of the BridgePoint Effect team, Janice Francisco, Sylvain Matte, Roger Firestien and myself, were in Florida at the FourSight Forum. The FourSight Forum is a by-invitation-only global exchange conference with colleagues who all work in organizations or as consultants, facilitating or training groups in the FourSight Creative Thinking System™  and who have in-depth training around best innovation practices, creativity and innovation skills. It’s an opportunity to review new research on FourSight and share best practices with FourSight practitioners and master trainers.

FourSight is a Thinking System that helps people innovate better together. An assessment helps you understand what kind of creative thinker you are, and collaborative tools help you navigate the innovation process with your team. Independent research shows that teams who have FourSight thinking preference awareness and process awareness outperform teams who don’t.

What was evident in the two days at the FourSight Forum was how effortless it was to engage together compared to regular meetings or exchanges. And the reason is that each of us in attendance has creative thinking preference awareness gained previously by taking the FourSight assessment. This is what it’s like to be at the FourSight Forum:

  • We had a lot of questions from those whose preference is clarifying, and nobody got frustrated.
  • When we had enough questions within the time frame, we ideated possible new ideas for research, and the transition was smooth and easy.
  • We stopped diverging (i.e., looking at a bunch of options) and spent time converging (i.e., selecting the most important ones). We then worked in small groups to review research and summarize it.
  • We had to develop our own presentation, decide who would take notes and set up the format, and it was easy.
  • Finally, we were ready to leave and you could hear every implementer mentioning the next call, discussion or project they were planning to work on together.

An interesting challenge arose during the Forum.

It was 7:00 pm. We had a group of twenty people and no plan for dinner. I was struck by how easily the issue was resolved versus the endless discussions I have seen with other groups trying to get just six people to agree on a dinner plan.

Janice Francisco enjoying the artwork at the Dali Museum.

Somebody asked our lovely tour guide for some suggestions (she was also trained in FourSight; we are at the Dali Museum, a perfectly fitting place for our group to meet).

As I have a preference for ideas, I suggested that we use the Open Table app to check. My colleague and friend Janice Francisco, whose preference is to integrate (and who therefore can be comfortable embracing all these actions—clarify, ideate, develop and implement—and who is usually the key person to move projects forward) took it from there, called and made the reservation.

Fifteen minutes later, we were seated at dinner: first the twelve people who originally said they would come and then another six people who magically seemed to fit at our table. The dinner was a perfect symbol of what I often observed,  that even in chaotic and challenging situations, there is a flow and relative easiness in reaching the outcome (or fail and start again) because of our awareness of our creative thinking preferences.

I took the FourSight assessment ten years ago (www.foursightonline.com) and learned how to use its process and toolkit.They are still for me critical instruments for my work with innovation teams. Since FourSight was created, more research has shown how valid and useful it can be. For example, new research presented at the Forum shows interesting data on:

  • The tendency for teachers to evaluate children based on their own thinking preferences (and would that also apply to performance evaluation? Hiring?)
  • How certain professions attract more of a certain thinking preference profile (not surprisingly there are more employees with an Ideation preference in Advertising and more with a Clarifying preference in Finance).

FourSight has a deep commitment to continued research; in fact, it’s based on over 60 years of research into how creative process is used to drive innovation. If you’d like to explore it as a great way to help your team work better on your next innovation project, check out the Innovation Mindset training offered by BridgePoint Effect, and then learn how to use the FourSight process and tools with the Innovation Toolset training.

Imagine…what if we all lived in a world where creative thinking preference awareness would make it so much easier to work together to solve complex problems, find a job that fits you well, help cope with stress or be with people who easily “get you?” It is possible.

Please contact us at hello@bridgepointeffect.com to learn how FourSight might be relevant for your unique team building or innovation challenge.

BridgePoint Effect team member Helene Cahen is an experienced innovation consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach, with more than twenty years of insight in new product/service development, user research and communication. She has a proven record of guiding her clients toward user-centered innovation, helping them to discover solutions that are specifically tailored to address their organizations’ evolving needs. Helene receives accolades for her valuable assistance to Fortune 500 companies, as well as small businesses and non-profits. In addition, she has been a lecturer, coach and facilitator for the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley Center for Executive Education, teaching innovation principles to graduate students as well as coaching executives on developing successful innovation in their organization.

Contact us to learn how you can develop creativity and innovation in your teams.

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