It’s ironic that the so-called soft skills often have the biggest payoff in business results.
I’m always straddling the fence between creativity and innovation. I do this because innovation is why people pay me. Yet creativity is where it all starts. Creative training only feels like a soft skill. In reality it has the potential to create more value than any other type of training.
But not any kind of creative training.
What I’m talking about is structured Creative Problem Solving. Basic training in these crucial thinking skills might be the highest leverage training activity an organization can undertake. The plural on skills is intentional because there are several types of creative thinking, from visioning and strategic, to tactical and immediate. Which one you use and when you use it is key — and that’s why the structure of a model can really help you. Yes, you can train it. Yes, you can make people dramatically more effective at solving challenges both big and small. Innovation is a specific kind of creative problem solving. This kind of training sets a foundation under innovation efforts that keeps that wheel always spinning.
You’ll see immediate AND long term bottom line results. Ask Leo Burnett why they do this training every year. They’ll tell you they do because it has concrete results. And they hire for creativity to start with…then they improve it! MBA programs are getting hip — CPS is taught now at Cambridge and at Berkeley.
Innovation process training is important — and — it makes a great deal of sense to train the more fundamental thing first. Creative Problem Solving (aka CPS or Osborn-Parnes) is a framework that’s been around in some form for 60 years. It’s been updated — new tools and techniques have been added in all its phases. This is not just brainstorming (although Osborn coined the term). It’s such a flexible framework that it can encompass Design Thinking, Synectics, Six Thinking Hats, TRIZ, Improv games, and traditional tools for brainstorming. It can accommodate virtual ideation, open innovation, and crowd-sourcing. It aids and abets Six Sigma, Lean, and TQM approaches. In a very important way, CPS training is innovation training.
How can CPS augment all those other frameworks? Because all of those frameworks assume people are already effective creative thinkers. Poor assumption.
It’s a poor assumption because creative thinking is routinely squashed in both our own minds and in organizational cultures. A structure for creative thinking amplifies even organically brilliant people and helps take out the boot stomping on your imagination. If you want people to think more effectively, in everything they do, Creative Problem Solving training is the place to start. Here are Six Reasons Why CPS Training Is Innovation Training:
- People routinely do “brainstorming” without exploring the challenge first. It makes the brainstorming a complete waste of time. Problem framing is a rarely taught skill and if you’re not good at it, brainstorming or idea generation is superfluous.
- The ability to imagine, to visionize, atrophies as we age and as we put those “silly thoughts” aside. Without a vision of our future driving us, and our organizations, we are lost. It’s the essence of strategy and almost nobody teaches visioning or applied imagination.
- People routinely do not allow enough divergence in their thinking. There is so much emphasis on critical thinking that the important task of having something to think critically about is given short shrift. One must balance being critical with being generative.
- People routinely rule out the best ideas they generate. They do this because our “gut reaction” to very new ideas, those ideas that represent big change, often turn our stomachs. How to evaluate an idea is a creative thinking skill (in addition to being a critical thinking skill).
- People often have very poor skills in articulating ideas, in simply writing them up. A great idea without a clear way to communicate it is useless. Training and practice helps a great deal.
- People, some people, have the sad habit of sitting on ideas. A great idea, well written up, sitting on the shelf, is useless.
Do you want your people to be better at visioning, recognizing opportunities, coming up with great ideas, and getting into action? Try CPS training, you’ll never regret it. Training in CPS is available at the CPSI Conference — which is just one month from (June 18 – 22, 2014) now in Buffalo. Or, of course, I can come to your shop and do the training.
For a compelling way to learn CPS by yourself, try Jack’s Notebook, a business novel about Creative Problem Solving.