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Scale New Heights of Innovation


news_manonmountain.jpgReach the peak of creative thinking, as Clive Lewis outlines four key techniques that can boost your ability to innovate.

1. The Six Hat approach
Six Hat Thinking is a problem solving technique which simply acknowledges that many perspectives are better than one.

The method is simple. The facilitator outlines six imaginary, different coloured, thinking hats. When the team ‘puts on’ a hat they then agree to operate exclusively in that mode. So for example, ‘white hat’ thinking encourages people to look at a problem from the perspective of ‘what information do we need?’ In contrast to this ‘red hat’ thinking provides the opportunity for the team to look at the problem from what they feel about it . And ‘black hat’ thinking gives the team permission to be overtly critical … to say what won’t work.
The beauty of Six Hats is that instead of adversarial thinking it promotes co-operative exploration.

2. ‘Merlin’ the problem
The ‘Merlin’ process allows you to magically alter the problem you are facing. So if you were looking at how to increase sales you might start as Merlin by enlarging your product, service or situation. So, for example, what would happen if you quadrupled the price, made a larger version or combined it with other products? And, then, in contrast, how might it open up possibilities if you reduced everything about the product, made it very small or even outsourced it altogether?

Merlin thinking also allow you to eliminate your problems entirely. What would happen if they didn’t exist? Or how might it change your thinking if you replaced your product with something that had none of the exiting problems? Or how about if you turned the current situation upside down so instead of you going to the customer what would it be like if the customer came to you?

3. Reverse your situation
Another great way to change your thinking is to reverse it. So, for example, we recently asked a manager who needed new ideas on how to run an effective meeting how she could ensure that her next meeting would be a complete failure. This she identified quite easily:

  • Invite the wrong people

  • Don’t tell people what it’s about

  • Don’t give people any advance notice

  • Interrupt whatever people are doing

  • Make the room too hot or too cold

  • Don’t give people the chance to contribute

  • Don’t arrive at any actions

  • Wander off the agenda

And once she knew what wouldn’t work it was easy for her to see what she needed to put in place.

4. Make associations
There is a short story which illustrates this technique. In this case a telecommunications company in Canada was wondering how to deal with the problem of its power lines icing up in winter and becoming so heavy that they couldn’t bear their own weight.

So the team started to think laterally - and someone said they should get the Canadian bears to come up and give the lines a good shake. But how would you get the bears to come to the poles? Well, you’d need to put a jar of honey on top of each pole of course. But how would you get the honey up the poles? Ah well, you could fly a helicopter above the poles and someone could lean out and position a pot on top of each pole. And then someone asked … but wouldn’t the air from the helicopter blades blow the snow off the lines?

And so it is that it is now common practise in Canada for helicopters to fly along the lines after heavy snowfalls in order to stop them icing up.

* Clive Lewis is MD of Illumine.


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