February  2017     Edition 130
Innovation Thinking


is coming up with something new or modified that obtains a positive result.   It can be a new product, a new or modified process, even as simple as a different way to hang a picture on a wall.

When thinking as usual continues to come up with solutions as usual

perhaps it’s time to roll out some Innovation Thinking.

The #1 Thing

in order to innovate is to recognize what business as usual is.  Understand your current experience and assumptions about a situation.    Spend a little time being really clear about where those boundaries are between familiarity and the unknown.   Be completely open to the possibility that something that didn’t work before might work now or in a different way.  No idea is too crazy to eliminate, at least not at the start.  We call this “emptying your bucket”  (see the HeadScratcher Post, from June 2005)

Once your bucket is empty ask these questions;

What If?

Look beyond the obvious and what makes sense and ask, What if this was so? What if we did this? What if this was the case? What if we made this assumption.   "What if?" opens people up to new possibilities to ponder what might be possible.   Don’t get into a conversation that starts with “we can’t do that”, but stay in the “but what if we could?”

Why Not?

 We often dismiss ideas because they initially appear untenable, impossible, unwise, risky, etc., and often our first instinct is correct … but not always.   Push on “we can’t”, “we shouldn’t”, “it won’t work”, with "Why Not?"   Look at all the reasons why something won’t work and then ask why can’t we make it work?  Ask what you would have to do to make it work.

What Other?

Assumptions, conscious or unconscious are always a part of our thinking when we come to conclusions.  Our knowledge and experience form the foundation of our assumptions.   But … what if we never had those experiences?  This could lead to different assumptions.  To innovate, challenge the very assumptions and experiences you have.  Ask, what other experiences might be out there and how would that change our thinking?  What other assumptions can be made, and while improbable, but if possible, how would that change our thinking?


Use "What else?" to stimulate thinking beyond what first pops into your mind.  What else could this be?  What else could cause this?   Where else could we look?  What else could we do?

Possibilities from the Impossible.

Once you generate ideas some might seem to be just impossible.  Ask one more question;  Is there any piece from these impossible ideas we can pull out and actually accomplish.  

The Takeaway 
Empty your bucket because critical thinking and creativity cannot be accomplished with a baggage full of stuff that says “no”.   Challenge the very basis of your current situation.

Explore with

“What if?"

Look for other experiences and situations with

“What other?”

Keep the conversation going with “What Else?”
Don’t take “can’t” for an answer with

“Why not?”

Don’t dismiss the impossible just because it’s impossible

pull out pieces that are actually possible.

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