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Creative Thinking


I am trying to find some suggestions for exercises that could be used in a finance team meeting to help promote more creative thinking. There are two areas we need to look at: 1. Imaginative / divergent thinking. The team needs a mindset and methodology for producing a wider range of creative alternatives, breaking from previously held assumptions and perceived constraints 2. Positive thinking. How to convert a ‘problem’ seen through the lens of previously held beliefs could be turned into an opportunity (the idea of blessings in disguise!) any ideas (creative or otherwise!) would be most welcome thanks in advance

10 Responses

  1. Two techniques
    Hi there,

    I wrote a programme about 3 years ago for finance people along similar lines (deja vu), and got feedback that the following techniques were useful:

    1. Reframing – people often get constrained by real or percieved blocks that are particular to their own industry/company. pose a question/set a challenge and ask them what they would do IF…they were an internet business, they were just starting out, were Tescos, they weren’t regulated etc. You then examine some of the suggestions in more detail to refine them and making the workable in their current situation.

    2. Reverse brainstorming – look at how NOT to do something, or what BAD looks like, and then reverse the suggestions.

    Another technique that might be useful in breaking down assumptions etc is the 5 Why’s technique. Just picture a 3-year old asking ‘Why?’ to every excuse they come up with and you get the picture! If they keep answering the ‘why’ questions, you eventually reach a solution, or are able to dismiss the excuse.

    Hope this helps,

    Sheridan Webb

  2. Creative Thinking
    Hi Richard

    I’ve run some courses on Creative Thinking and came across one particular exercise that went down really well. It’s based on Walt Disney (Yes, the cartoon creator), and the method he used. If you Google “Walt Disney Creative Strategy”, quite a lot of info comes up including some free NLP exercises. Basically it encourages people to think outside of the box.

    Another exercise I’ve used was a very practical one and fun one. Each group is given a wine glass, a knife and fork (need to be from same set) and one match. The task is to balance the the knife and fork on the wine glass without actually touching it (plus some other rules). This again encourages creative “out of the box” thinking.

    If you would like the details of the last example, just let me know.

    All the best

    Nicky Cooksley
    Training Oracle

  3. Creative Thinking – Two for One
    Hello Richard

    There is a simple, light-hearted yet profound improvisation exercise called “Yes and……” which will deliver in both areas
    Invite two volunteers to have a dialogue in front of the room

    Initiator makes a proposal; eg “Let’s go to the beach”

    Response must begin with the words “Yes and……”

    Every subsequent response must begin “Yes and…….”

    Set this up by stressing repeatedly that there are no “wrong ” or “bad” answers. Encourage mindless enthusiasm rather than clever replies. The thinking quickly gets divergent, imaginative and creative.
    It usually ends in laughter which is a bonus.
    If one person panics and starts saying “No” or Yes but…” then that is OK and adds to the fun
    Once you have done one in front of the room you can split everyone in pairs to have a go and/or have more pairs up front and eventually start throwing in intiations relevant to the themes of the event

    I am happy to talk you through this if you wish
    All the best
    John Cremer mob 07746 830919

  4. Creativity Methods
    Just as ideas are important, so are the tools and techniques used for creativity. Perhaps a method that stands out from the rest significantly is Mind Mapping. If you are teaching delegates about creativity, start the course by going through mind mapping and then align the rest of the course with mind mapping in mind. For example, if you have an exercise that says, now you need to make a list of bad’s and don’t, etc. change it to say that, now you need to make a mind map of bad’s and don’t and so on. A mind map lets them to be far more creative as opposed to list making and will energise them to come up with more associations.

    Training Materials

    Ehsan Honary

  5. Creative Thinking Query
    Hi Richard,
    I’ve blogged under Fresh Ideas, Creative Thinking on Effective Facilitation for Creative Problem Solving which you may found helpful; I also provide a link to a Creative Problem Solving session overview including some suggestions on how to move the group from convergent to divergent thinking.

    I’d suggest setting the ground rules v clearly e.g. explaining the differences between convergent and divergent thinking and why you want to move between both, no judgement of ideas til evaluation stage etc.
    An exercise I find useful to help groups consider “problems” as challenges and opportunities is reversing the “sacred cows” (i.e. what are the widely held beliefs or sacred cows in your organisation and try reversing them).

    Hope this is helpful, I’d love to hear how it goes.


  6. Creative Thinking For Finance Team
    Hi Richard

    I spent 25 years leading and managing finance teams and now work with them to help them become more effective managers and leaders.

    Some thoughts for creative thinking exercises.

    1. Solving a problem outside of their area of professional expertise

    2. Create a sales pitch where they have to sell semething like why business needs finance people

    3. Get them coming up with ideas to a challenge against the clock by introducing the What else? question. So every time someone comes up with an idea you say What else? to generate next idea

    4. Maybe do some work on perspectives

    Hope that helps.

    Duncan Brodie
    Goals and Achievements

  7. Uncovering perceptions
    Hi Richard

    When faced with a challenge we often assess the issue quickly and start looking for solutions immediately.

    We can be quite impatient to get on and not “waste” time considering how accurate our challenge statement might be. We rely on our powers of perception.

    But our perceptive system uses ‘hard-wired’ mental rules which often make things up and miss things out, leading us in the wrong direction.

    To improve your creativity, you should work slowly and check out how you are perceiving the challenge by rephrasing your challenge statement. Do it 20 times. It will give you new insights on the challenge.


  8. Random objects/Random words
    Hi Richard

    You may be familiar with this already, but I find it works really well.

    Ask them to identify the issue/question/problem (For example How can I increase sales of my product – alarm clocks)

    Divide into groups of about 4 and pass round a bag of random objects (my bag contains things such as a stone, a stapler, a pine cone, toy car, salt shaker, candle, watch etc) and ask themeach group to take one item out of the bag. (For example they pick out a small basket)

    Ask them to generate as many ideas as possible to relate this object to the probem in some way – as many wild and creative thoughts as possible, without rejecting or judging them – just write them all down as they flow. (For example: Baskets carry things – Give people a really nice bag when they buy our clocks, Baskets are made of wicker – sustainable material. Can we make our clocks sustainable to reach new markets? Baskets are used for shopping – can we somehow make a clock that people take shopping to remind them of when their parking time is up etc? Baskets are made by craftsmen – a declining skill, like clock making.

    Get the group to explore these further and identify any which can be developed into solutions. (For example:
    Develop a unique carry case for clocks to make them portable/ideal for travel. Include a solar panel in the bag casing which automatically recharges the battery. Promote our clocks as unique items made by skilled craftsmen)

    This can also be done with random words, rathe than objects, but I find having a physical thing which people can hold and look at helps them to engage in the exercise more.



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