- Compiled and written by Entrepreneurial Business School -

New ideas and initiatives are part and parcel of entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship.  As a matter of fact, a person can only be called an entrepreneur if he or she is actively involved in one or more of the following kind of activities:

v      The introduction of a new or improved product or service to the market.

v      The introduction of a new or improved production or service delivery process.

v      The identification and/or opening of a new market.

v      The introduction of new raw materials or components, or sources of supply.

v      Finding and implementing new solutions to problems.

v      Finding and implementing better solutions to problems.

New ways of doing things do not always have to be revolutionary.  The wheel and the printing press were great inventions, but so were the paperclip and the hamburger.  In fact, even a slight adjustment to an existing product or service can qualify as an innovation.  Selling insurance by mail rather than through a broker is also an example.

Doing things in new and better ways is known as innovation. According to Dr. Edward de Bono, who enjoys worldwide recognition for his work on thinking processes, the intrapreneur needs a good mix of two thinking processes, namely

v      Intuitive, creative thinking (lateral thinking). This kind of thinking is exploratory and generative and tries to find many ways of solving a problem as possible, even improbable solutions in an attempt to break the existing pattern of forced thinking.

v      Systematic, logical thinking (vertical thinking).  This kind of thinking is logical and sequential and tries to figure out the best way of solving a problem with existing knowledge.  This kind of thinking is relatively rigid as there is a strong emphasis on the practicality and correctness of each step in solving the problem.  Subjects like mathematics, engineering and bookkeeping play an important role in this kind of problem solving.

Creative thinking without logical analysis is unlikely to result in useful innovations.  For example, organising a sightseeing tour to the bottom of the ocean is a creative idea, but you will need a number of logical solutions to make it happen.

Likewise, analytical thinking without the accompanying creativity is also unlikely to result in a great new business opportunity.

In order to be successful, the manager of any business has to rely on logical thinking processes to assimilate, understand and manipulate a lot of information for example, information about consumer needs, markets, competitors, technology, legislation and the economy.  But an intrapreneur has to create something new and different from this information and therefore also has to rely on creativity and intuition.

Innovation therefore is about bringing in new ways and methods of doing things.  It is a managed process to create new products or services or new uses for existing products or services and then to make it work in practice.

Finally, the ideas generated by these skills, must be put into action through initiative and a strong driving force.  Just generating and playing with ideas is not enough.  The proof of the pudding lies in the eating.  Innovative people thus have a good mix of creative and logical thinking skills, together with the initiative and driving force to push it through in practice.

In this process creativity and logical thinking have to complement each other.

The Role of Lateral Thinking

Of all these phases, creativity is the one that seems to lack most. The reason for this is that focusing on the others (something that all responsible and hardworking people should do) tends to suppress creative thinking.  That’s why creative ideas and solutions often pop up outside the working environment.

To illustrate this statement, here is something to amuse you, but at the same time make you think:

Two men were walking in the African bush when they met a very hungry cheetah that eyed them ferociously. One of the men immediately fished out some running shoes from his knapsack and bent down to put them on. ‘Why are you doing that?’ cried his companion in despair. ‘Don’t you know that cheetahs can run at over sixty miles per hour?’ ‘Yes, yes,’ the first replied as he finished tying the laces. ‘But I only have to outrun you’.

The Role of Logical Thinking

Lateral thinking is a very important first step in innovative behaviour.  However, without logically organising and implementing your creative ideas, most of them will probably end up in the trash bin.

Barriers to Creativity & INNOVATION

A good angle to start looking for creativity is to ask: “What prevents people from being creative? What are the barriers to creativity”?

The following are examples of typical barriers or mental roadblocks to creative thinking:

1. Negative attitude

It’s a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of problems and expend energy on worry, as opposed to seeking the inherent opportunities in a situation.

2. Fear of failure

It is the fear of looking foolish or being laughed at. Yet Tom Watson, founder of IBM, said: “The way to accelerate your success is to double your failure rate.” Failure is a necessary condition for success.

3. Excessive stress

Not having time to think creatively. The over-stressed person finds it difficult to think objectively at all. Unwanted stress reduces the quality of all mental processes.

4. Overwhelmed by rules

Although rules are necessary, it tends to encourage mental laziness. A tendency to conform to accepted patterns of belief or thought – the rules and limitations of the status quo – hampers creative breakthroughs.

5. Over-reliance on logic

Investing all your intellectual capital into logical or analytical thinking – the step-by-step approach – excludes imagination, intuition, feeling or humour.

6. Not challenging assumptions

Failure to identify and examine the assumptions you are making about any situation or problem can prevent you from even trying to find a new way of doing something.  Many of these assumptions are often at an unconscious level and if not challenged deliberately, will block your willingness to be creative.

7. Lack of starting point

No problem can be solved if you don’t start somewhere.  The starting point may not be obvious, but this in itself should not become a problem.  Many people tend to proportionate a problem because they are not sure where to start.

8. Lack of perspective

What is the objective?  Being too close or having struggled too long with a problem may blur the actual problem.  One needs to move away for a while or attack it from another angle to break the “vicious” cycle and regain perspective.

9. Lack of motivation

The goal must never be out of sight.  The problem should not become the main objective.  Why is there a problem in the first place?  Why does it need solving?  What was the motivation in the first place for attacking the problem?

10. Lack of consultation

Never rely only on yourself or your own inner-brain.  Others have brains (conscious and subconscious) too – learn to use them as well!  The more people you talk to about your problem, the more creative ideas you’ll get.

11. Criticism

It destroys ideas if it is given too soon.  If an idea has not been thought over and criticism is given, the thinker may abolish it too soon. Constructive criticism will challenge the thinker and will lead it on the right path, while destructive criticism will kill it or hurt the feeling of the thinker – which may inhibit him in further innovations.  The ideal is to surround yourself with the right people whose criticism will be uplifting and inspire you to work on your ideas.

12. Believing you are not creative

The biggest barrier, however, is BELIEVING YOU ARE NOT CREATIVE! A legacy, often from poor teaching at school, this barrier really stops people in their tracks from even trying to think creatively. This is in fact a restriction or assumption we impose on ourselves. Whatever may or may not have been your self-image in the past, this is an unproven hypothesis about you as far as the future is concerned.

Just look around the room now and you will see evidence of human creativity all around you. Why not assume that creativity is present in you too? Try to concentrate on removing the barriers, dams or blocks that prevent your mental energy from producing new ideas, new ways of working at things.

THE HABITS OF CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE PEOPLE (from the book Effective innovation by John Adiar)

Basically your habits are ways of acting that become fixed through repetition. So much so, that we use the word habit to imply the doing of something unconsciously or without thinking of it in advance.

We all develop habits of thinking as well as of behaviour – some good and some not. They are our settled dispositions or tendencies to approach problems in certain ways. By frequent use they become second nature to us. Together these habits constitute what might be called your prevailing disposition or mental makeup. The following habits are some of the characteristics of the more creative or innovative thinkers. Of course not all such thinkers exemplify all habits. But you do need a critical mass of them.

1. Going Beyond The Nine Dots

People with a narrow span of relevance are thinking within the tramlines and boundaries of their own experience or field of work.  What is needed, is to go beyond imaginary boundaries.  In living out this habit, you should:

v      Redefining a problem:  To get to the right solution often demands more than one definition of the problem.  The more definitions of the real problem, the better the chance to get to the right answer.  It is very important to define the problem and not the symptoms.  If problems are diagnosed incorrectly, no solution will be the right one. (Think of the story of the hungry cheetah again!).

v      Challenging assumptions:  Do not except every assumption on face value.  Always be willing to challenge your assumptions and new working methods can flow from this or prove the old ones still to be true.

v      Widen your span of relevance:  Get interested in things outside your frame of reference by collecting information – theoretical or practical.  This will indicate the possible link between your area of operations and obvious diverse areas and often generate usable new ideas.

v      Have freedom from fixed ideas: It is best for the creative person not to follow rigid curriculum’s and set ideas.  Creative ideas are easier to come by if this is the case.  It is less so if the person is exposed to a fixed school of thought that limits the borders of his frame of reference.  Move outside your paradigms (thinking patterns)!

2. Welcome Change Intrusions

Change can be a wonderful and needed happening, forcing the receiver to find new answers to questions or problems. This can only be fully enjoyed and appreciated if the recipient is open-minded, always on the lookout, utilising unexpected events and being able to spot potential in such happenings.  The transfer of knowledge and technology from one field to another is one way to find creative solutions to old problems.  An intrusion should always be welcomed, because the subconscious mind will continue to seek the answers to problems or will always play around with ideas.

3. Communicate with your Sub-Conscious Mind.

The sub-conscious mind is the main storage place for all our thoughts, experiences and knowledge.  This part of the brain has the ability to help us deal with problems by sorting things out when our conscious mind goes into a loop.  The major step that needs to be taken is to learn to listen and to observe what the inner-brain gives us.  Only when you learn to listen to your inner-brain you will find the solutions it has to offer.  The inner brain has the ability to shuffle “puzzle pieces” and to make them fit.  It is for the observer to listen and to take notes of the reply the inner-brain gives and then to use the conscious mind to place the puzzle pieces where it belong.  The inner-brain never stops working, as it never sops absorbing facts/events/problems, etc.  On the grounds of what it has absorbed it will always try to fit the puzzle and solve the problem.  But if there is no ability to listen to the message, clue or answer, then the whole process may be for nothing.  It is vital to be alert and to always feed the inner brain with knowledge, experiences and awareness and then give your sub-conscious mind a chance to fit it all together in new creative ways.

4. Using Analogy as Stepping Stones to widen your Frame of Reference

The process of understanding any unfamiliar problem / situation is best began by relating it by way of analogy to what we know already.

v      By looking at existing ‘answers’, taking them and adapting them to become a solution or innovative idea.

v      By taking something that already exists and applying some of its attributes to solve a problem or to become an innovation in itself by looking deeper at existing things and finding other uses for it, or for some of its characteristics.

v      The reverse process of making the familiar strange is equally valuable for creative thinking.

v      Two techniques are very useful to accomplish such analogies:

  • Metaphor:  Figure of speech, making use of pictures to describe something
  • Analogy:  Relate to something that may have the same attributes, but differs in total.

5. Willingness to Tolerate Ambiguity

v      This is important because if more than an option / answer is available, one tends to become intolerant because too many options are often confusing.  By not being hasty when it comes to choosing the right option, but to sieve through it and make an intelligent choice means to tolerate ambiguity.  To be able to tolerate, one must be courageous and have perseverance because the wrong choice may lead to total destruction or set you back a few paces.

v      Because a problem may be seen to be unsolvable, one tends to think harder about the solution, which is likely to distract you off your path to the goal.  In such a case you may need to step back and give the problem over to the mind’s depth.  Because the answer often already exists in the mind’s depth where every experience and every bit of knowledge is stored, you only need to give your sub-conscious mind a chance to continue to try and make the connection.  This is why it’s so important to be able to listen and recognise when the answer surfaces.  It is also important to make time to relax the mind to enable it to register when the message comes through from the mind’s depth.  Always expect the ‘knock’.

6. Ideas Banking

v      Ideas banking means that you should always be alert to absorb new ideas, otherwise the inner mind will not have sufficient ‘funds’ to withdraw from.  Curiosity is the desire to learn and to become knowledgeable about something.  To be a creative thinker you have to be curious or wonder ‘what will happen next’.  Curiosity is an important key to making yourself knowledgeable and able to gather information.  Curiosity will add to the savings in your ‘idea bank account’ to withdraw from when needed.  You can enlarge your ideas bank substantially by applying the following techniques on an ongoing basis:

  • Be an Active observer

When observing, one must forget what you were programmed with before and experience it without preconception.  To be objective when observing is of utmost importance, because it will allow you to experience things in a totally different way and let you have more to store in your ‘bank account’.  To be able to observe to the fullest extent, one must preferably employ all senses.  Learn not only to see the obvious, but also what is hidden. To draw or sketch an object will teach one to observe more closely and then store this detailed information.  You can enlarge your idea bank substantially and continuously by reading, travelling and listening a lot.

  • Be an Active Listener

Always listen with the hope of finding something you’ve never heard before. Don’t be analytical or critical and have an open mind.  You can finish listening to someone without accepting the facts laid out but you will also learn from it if you didn’t know it already.  Listening gives you the idea of how minds work.

  • Read as much as you can

Good reading material will stimulate you to think or dwell on something taken from the reading material.  Reading may enable you to generate ideas or make discoveries or solve problems by putting you into contact with things that are not possible to experience in your current life or modern living.  Reading also allows you to think for yourself without the interference of other human beings or objects.

  • Travel a lot

Travelling allows you to receive a cultural shock – to experience other cultures and enable you to view your culture differently upon your return.  It also gives you a chance to gather new ideas/technologies that can be adopted to become a new innovation in your own environment – because things rarely are new innovations.

  • Record your ideas

Keeping a notebook is a very useful habit.  If you don’t jot down creative ideas immediately, you will forget them most of the time as fast as they appeared. Imagine that your notebook is like a kaleidoscope.  It allows you to play around with new combinations and inter-connections of ideas.  Record entries by date and title in the order that they happen.  Let your instinct or intuitive nature decide what’s worth recording and why  (what stimulates or interests you about the entry or what makes it worth remembering.)  If you record events by date and title, you are actually filing important information in such a way that it will be much easier to recall it again.

7. Suspending Judgment

v      Suspending judgement means erecting a temporary artificial barrier between the imaginary, synthesising and analysing faculties of your mind on the one hand and the valuing, evaluating, criticising and judging skills on the other hand.  Premature criticism from others or yourself can kill the seeds of creative thinking.  Some social climates in families, working groups or organisations encourage and stimulate creative thinking, while others repress it.  The latter tend to value analysis and criticism above originality and innovative thinking.

“Discovery consists of seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” - Anonymous

THE SUB-CONSCIOUS MIND AND CREATIVITY (from the book Technology of Achievements by Andrew and Faulhner)

We have mentioned earlier that a lot of our creative activity takes place in the sub-conscious mind.  Intuition and dreams are activities of the sub-conscious mind you can use with great power to solve problems in a creative manner.  By this time, you should be aware of the fact that the sub-conscious mind works best for us when we are in a relaxed state.

All the creative exercises in this section are thus built on the foundation of relaxation.  It is only in a deep state of relaxation that you will be able to activate the brilliance of the sub-conscious mind.

Stimulating the Sub-Conscious Mind

You can reach the centre of a circle from any point on the compass.  Similarly, you can reach into your sub-conscious mind from a variety of different starting points.

One starting point is hypnogogic imagery.  This technique produces autonomous inner images that can be captured just before you fall asleep.  It’s a somewhat difficult technique to master, but when mastered it often provide string images.

The images produced by hypnogogic imagery either visual or auditory – it cannot be controlled or directed.  Some people are even able to envision fantastic surreal imagery in colours that appear deeper and plusher than seemingly possible.

The painter, Salvador Dali, used this technique to conjure up the extraordinary images in his paintings.  He would put a tin plate on the floor and then sit by a chair beside it, holding a spoon over the plate.  He would then totally relax his body; sometimes he would begin to fall asleep.  The moment that he began to doze, the spoon would slip from his fingers and clang on the plate, immediately waking him to capture the surreal images.

Hypnogogic images seem to appear from nowhere, but there is logic behind it.  The unconscious is a living, moving stream of energy from which thoughts gradually rise to the conscious level and take on a definite form.  Your unconscious is like a hydrant in the yard while your consciousness is like a faucet upstairs in the house.  Once you know how to turn on the hydrant, a constant supply of images can flow freely to the faucet.

These images give rise to new thoughts as you interpret the strange conjunctions and chance combinations.

The following steps will help you to tap into your creative sub-conscious mind:

Step 1Think about your challenge. Consider your progress, your obstacle, your alternatives, and so on.  Then push it away and relax.

Step 2Totally relax your body.  Try to achieve the deepest muscle relaxation you can.

Step 3Quiet your mind. Do not think of what went on during the day or your challenges and problems.  Clear your mind of chatter.

Step 4Quiet your eyes. You cannot look for these images.  Be passive.  You need to achieve a total absence of any kind of voluntary attention. Become helpless and involuntary and directionless.  If you fall asleep easily, hold a spoon loosely in one of your hands.  You can enter the hypnogogic state this way, and, should you begin to fall asleep, you will drop the spoon and awaken in time to capture the images.

Step 5Record your experiences immediately after they occur. The images will be mixed and unexpected and will recede rapidly.  They could be patterns, clouds of colours, or objects.

Step 6Look for the associative link. Write down the first things that occur to you after your experience.  Look for links and connections to your challenge.

Ask questions such as:

v      Is there any relationship to the challenge?

v      Any new insights?

v      What’s out of place?

v      What puzzles me?

v      What disturbs me?

v      What do the images remind me of?

v      What are the similarities?

v      What analogies can I make?

v      What associations can I make?

v      What do the images resemble?

A restaurant owner once used hypnogogic imaginary to inspire new promotional ideas.  During his exercises, he kept seeing giant neon images of different foods:  neon ice cream, neon pickles, neon chips, neon coffee, and so on.  The associative link he saw between the various foods and his challenge was to somehow use the food itself as a promotion.

The idea:  He offers various free food items according to the day of the week, the time of day, and the season.  For instance, he might offer free pickles on Monday, free ice cream between 2 and 4 p.m., free coffee on Wednesday nights, free sweet rolls in the spring, and so on.  He advertises the free food items with neon signs, but you never knew what food items were being offered free until you went there.  The sheer variety of free items and the intriguing way in which they are offered have made his restaurant a popular place to eat.

Another promotion he created as a result of seeing images of different foods is a frequent-eater program.  Anyone who hosts five meals in a calendar month gets R50 worth of free meals.  The minimum bill is R20 but he says the average is R30 a head.  These two promotions have made him a success.

NB. The images you summon up with this technique have an individual structure that may indicate an underlying idea or theme.  Your sub-conscious mind is probably trying to communicate something specific to you, though it may not be immediately comprehensible.  The images can be used as handles on which to hang new relationships and associations.

Treat the images as fact, but make no assumptions about them except that you experienced them, and that somehow they must make sense.

Creativity and Dreams (from the book; Dreams – Tonights answers for tomorrows questions by Mark Thurston)

Dreams are a rich source of ideas, as they often contain combinations and rearrangements of objects, challenges, and events that would be almost impossible to come up with while awake.

Many dreams are so bewildering, so crowded with bizarre details that they seem impossible to interpret at all, but often, ideas twinkle in dreams like bicycle lights in the mist.

On November 10, 1619, during a freezing winter in Germany, a young aristocrat dreamed throughout the night.  When he awoke, he recorded his dreams in a now-famous dream diary, which detailed a new system of thought.  His dreams that night changed the course of science and Western civilisation. Still today, much of the contemporary scientific method is based on the dream journals of that young aristocrat, Rene Descartes.

Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed his novels before he wrote them.  Physicist Niels Bohr conceived of a model of the atom in a dream.  James Watt revolutionised the ammunition industry with his dreams of falling lead.  Dmitri Mendeleyev dreamed the solution for the arrangement of the elements.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge dreamed the poem “Kubla Khan” before he wrote it.

Psychologists, working on the topic of sleep, claim that we have approximately six dreams each night, but we tend to forget most of them.  You can learn to initiate a productive dream state, choose the subjects of your dreams, and remember them clearly.

The following steps will help you to solve problems or create new ideas/concepts through your dreams:

Step 1Formulate a question about your challenge.  Write the question several times and then, before you drift off to sleep, repeat it to yourself several more times.  If necessary, do this several evenings in a row.  The mind must work consciously on a challenge before the sub-conscious becomes employed.

Step 2If you don’t remember your dreams, wake up thirty minutes earlier than normal.  This increases your chance of waking during a dreaming period rather than after one.  When you awake, lie still.  Prolong quiet as long as possible as you reflect on the dream.  Do not allow daytime interests to interrupt your ruminations.  Dreams vanish like boats sailing into a fog bank; so record the dream after you’ve thought it over.

Step 3Record the dream in a dream journal.  Keep the journal next to your bed, and record as many details as you remember.  Sketch the vivid portions of the dream.  If you can’t remember a dream, record whatever is on your mind – these thoughts often come from the dream and provide a first clue to retrieving it.

Step 4After the dream is recorded, ask yourself the following questions:

v      How were the people, places, and events in the dream related to my question?

v      Who were the key players in the dream?

v      How does this relate to my question?

v      Does the dream change the nature of the question?

v      What elements in this dream can help solve my problem?

v      What associations does the dream conjure up that might help with my problem?

v      What is the answer from the dream?

Step 5Take one or two dream images or ideas and free-associate from them.  Write down whatever comes to mind, and do it day after day.  Soon the next dream will come along and your interpretation will go further.

Step 6Keep the diary current.  Record your dreams daily.  After you begin recording dreams you will remember more dreams, in greater detail.  You will begin to see patterns and themes unfolding and repeating; your dreams will become richer and richer with metaphorical meanings.

You will find that your dreams are based on a body of experiences, both past and present that have some influence on you and your challenge.

Dreams reveal things you did not know you knew.  It is reported that Elias Howe, struggling with his design for a sewing machine, dreamed how savages, carrying spears with holes in their tips, captured him.  Upon awakening, Howe realised he should put the hole for the thread at the end of the needle, not the top or middle.  This minor modification made the sewing machine a reality.

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