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Business Creativity & Innovation

Crazy Thinking, The Way Forward

Ear PhoneDo any of these sound familiar to you?

  • “Our business is more complicated than other businesses.”
  • “Our products are regulated…must be in compliance…are more sophisticated…and so what you don’t understand is…”
  • “That’s not how things are done around here. We can’t make money that way.”
  • “Our technology won’t let us do that.”
  • “That’s not what our customers want”

The so called experts in your organisation are likely to be the source of such comments. They are also likely to keep repeating these statements, not because they are true but because their minds are closed to other possibilities.

Your experts are unlikely to help you with innovating within your company or industry. Doctors are unlikely to revolutionise health care, teachers won’t change the way schools teach, and your financial advisor won’t be coming telling you about cheaper or simpler products in the near future.

Expert language is often a symptom of frightened leadership, usually within a mature industry or sector. The CEO who uses such language is firmly clutching onto ideas that ‘used to work’ not creating ideas that ‘will work’.

This is not all bad news because for every such CEO an opportunity is created. How many readers remember the well know Apple advertisement that boldly stated “because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”? Such crazy people are considered idiots by the experts but they often turn out to be winners in the end. Many people in the UK will remember Amazon’s entry into the marketplace and the huge losses it sustained initially. Now who’s laughing?

Crazy people are now challenging how we think about health care, legal services, accountancy, education, insurance, banking, energy, publishing and more,  yet the experts remain set in their ways. Our experts derive their power having shown that their way of solving a problem works well. I love a great solution but the issue is that nobody like to challenge these experts. Over time their solutions might still be good (or not). How will we know?

Things change, and fast. It is thus reasonable to assume that our solutions will not remain valid for all time. The greater the speed of change, the more we need to check that what we are doing is still ok. So what can we do? Here are 3 things that will help but you can always goa little crazy and think of more.

  1. Do not hire experts from within your industry. They are likely to see things as your people do. Instead, look for people with a specific problem-solving ability. For example, if you are having issues with queuing in a bank or supermarket why not look for experts who have similar experience at Disney World?
  2. Engage with your newest recruits who are not set in their ways.  Ask them how they see your biggest challenges.
  3. Use negative or reverse brainstorming. Gather a team of smart people and give them the challenge of generating ideas and strategies that would drive your business into the ground or simply beat it. This exercise should highlight previously unforeseen threats and also unforeseen opportunities.
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