Creativity Techniques ; How to Crack (Almost) Any Business Problem Under the Sun!

Creativity techniques are thinking tools or methods to generate ideas or solve problems. They are also useful to uncover insights, and to create new products, services and brands.creativity techniques

Creativity techniques are business weapons

In a world that is fast-moving, and changing, seeing the world through new lens, or finding new solutions to problems requires new ways of thinking, i.e. creativity. History abounds with businesses that failed to grow, because they failed to see a problem coming or failed to think differently, from Kodak in analogue film, to Blockbuster in video, to Woolworths and BHS in retail.

Creativity skills can be learned

In many organisations marketers are the creative lead as they as they hold responsibility for communication development, particularly advertising, literature and packaging. However, these skills are sometimes bought-in bought it and it is a myth that only marketers are creative. Creative ideas can be generated by anyone – simply using creativity techniques or tools and creating the right conditions for creativity to flourish.

Creative thinking processes

Creativity is simply a thinking process, an art and a science. Appreciating different ways of thinking, helps lift the lid on, and understand how creativity works and how to apply creativity to a business. Understanding the principles behind the techniques also helps inspire new creativity techniques or processes. There are three main thinking processes though any one can be combined with any another and at any stage.

Firstly, divergent thinking, whereby many new solutions are directly inspired by the problem (Figure 1). To generate ideas to address the problem, this creativity technique requires the problem and desired outcome to be expressed clearly. It is very simple to moderate a creative session of this nature, though a risk is that it relies on the creativity of the team, and the process may run out of steam quickly.

Creativity techniques : divergent thinking
Creativity techniques : divergent thinking

This could be mitigated by including different people in the process, and then combining them in different ways. For example, by combining different functional skills in small teams, and then passing the ideas from one team to the next for building. This adds energy and substance to idea generation.

Secondly, linear thinking, whereby a sequential analytical approach leads to a solution (Figure 2). In this instance a series of steps are taken to determine a solution. While the steps in a linear thinking approach are usually analytical or logical they are also potentially inspirational. For example, by reframing the problem, or changing the conditions surrounding the problem, it is easier to solve. For example, taking a challenge to hydrate skin. By reframing this as a challenge to hydrate another part of the body, whole body or another object. Or to re-express ‘hydration’, for example, as a exposure or immersion in, a waterfall, dew, rain, snow, sand, wind etc. Re-expression requires clear delineation and expression of each part of the problem. Then to analyse the individual elements and recombine them in new ways. Rather than conceiving a linear thinking approach as a series of analytical steps, but rather as inspirational steps, turns an analytical technique into a powerful creativity technique.

Creativity techniques : linear thinking
Creativity techniques : linear thinking

Third, convergent thinking, whereby analysis of all facts, leads to the same conclusion or solution (Figure 3). While really the opposite of a creativity technique, this type of approach is reversible in order to analyse a series of ideas or options and thus determine which is best. The start-point is to take the possible solutions, and generate data or insights on the solutions. Then to assess the arguments for and against the solutions. Alternatively, to assess the ideas using a simple two axis matrix, comprising for example, the ease, doability, cost or speed of implementation of an idea, vs. the impact or effect of the idea on the business or brand.

Creativity techniques : convergent thinking
Creativity techniques : convergent thinking

Marketing Inspiration

1. Bar ‘creatives’ in creative businesses such as media and entertainment, marketing departments have unusual creative expertise and experience, in comparison with other functions. So use marketers’ strengths and skills to solve pressing business problems.

2. Marketers primary role is also to ensure the relevance of their offers. This invloves being vigilant to, and adapting to change, in order to secure future success. Thus it is an opportunity, and natural stepping stone for marketers to take the creative lead to benefit their businesses. Marketers should seize this leadership opportunity.

3. No one has a monopoly on good ideas, and everyone has the ability to think creatively. Thus marketers also have an opportunity to engage their colleagues to this end. All that is required is to create the conditions for creativity, for example, by using simple lateral and logical thinking processes. First, to dissect the problem, and then generate ideas. Next to develop them into practical ideas, and finally to screen those ideas. Typically in a brainstorming session or marketing workshop.

Further Reading
Arnold, Tim, Tomlinson, Guy – Chapter 21, Creativity and Problem Solving, The Marketing Director’s Handbook
192 creativity techniques.

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