I am reading a new book by John C. Maxwell entitled ‘How Successful People Think’. An intriguing title. If you are not familiar with John C. Maxwell he is a very dynamic speaker, and an expert on Leadership.
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One of the chapters in the book is about Creative Thinking. Maxwell quotes Annette Moser-Wellman the author of ‘The Five Faces of Genius’ who states ‘The most valuable resource you bring to your work and your firm is your creativity’. Maxwell states ‘Creative thought isn’t necessarily original thinking. Most often creative thinking is a composite of other thoughts discovered along the way.’
When I read the chapter, I thought about how so many companies either do not take on projects like lean process design that require new thought or engage in those projects and don’t see any benefit. There is much written about why projects fail and what is required to be successful and in all of those numerous articles I have not seen ‘Creative Thought’ as one of the requirements for success or lack of creative thought as one of the reasons for failure. However, after reading and thinking about the chapter, I believe it just might be the key ingredient for success.
Maxwell listed the following as characteristics of creative thinkers.
- Value Ideas - this is a requirement for a lean project and you need many ideas for improvement
- Explore Options - also key so the team can explore multiple ways to perform the process
- Embrace Ambiguity - certainly when a team is initially evaluating how to ‘lean’ a process there is much ambiguity on exactly how things will be done, what technology might be available to lean the process and how it would all be implemented.
- Celebrate the Offbeat - in order to get to a truly different process that saves time and cost, the team must think out of the box and brainstorm. Some of the ideas will seem way crazy but may have merit.
- Connect the Unconnected - so often in evaluating how to make a process more efficient the team needs to consider process steps that are not normally connect to the process being evaluated. For ex. When a company looks at Accounts Payable, what really needs to be addressed is the entire Procure to Pay process which may address areas not normally connected in the company.
- Don’t Fear Failure - a team must try multiple options and ask many questions before finding a satisfactory revised process. Some of the options may not work, also the new process will probably be improved again at a later time. Don’t be afraid to try and revise.
Maxwell’s list on How to Discover Creative Thinking is a primer for companies who want the get the most from employees and provide an environment in which employees feel valued and motivated to improve the business.
Remove Creativity Killers - in most companies today creativity is dead and buried. The most important role for executive management is to remove creativity killers and create an environment that encourages creativity.
Think Creatively by Asking the Right Questions - This is a key skill to teach employees who are team members on a lean project. The right questions are those that stretch the mind beyond the obvious. Too many lean projects fall short because team members only ask the obvious questions.
Develop a Creative Environment - having an area where the lean teams meet and have tools just for the lean process that enable them to explore ideas, put them on paper and move components around is very conducive to creative thought.
Spend time with other creative people - not only do you need creative thinkers from your team, the project will greatly benefit from outside team members. These may be consultants, representatives from customers and vendors, representatives from key advisors like banker and accountant. These people bring a totally different perspective and insight on what other companies do to a lean project and business process re-design.
Get Out of Your Box - to me that means not only thinking outside the box but looking at how other more efficient companies perform the same processes, technology that might be available to enable a change that could not happen without the technology. For example, a company in which employees are not near a computer in the course of their job, may resist performing functions that require entering or manipulating data on a computer. However, with smartphone, iPads and the internet, applications can be created in which access to a workstation or laptop is not requried to use the technology. You can also apply generally accepted processes from one area of the company or industry to another process.
So bring Creative Thinking to your Lean Projects.
If you would like to spend time with other creative people - Call LJR Consulting Services for a free consultation 818-227-5025