Start-up, scale-up or established business – all are rapidly trying to come up with innovative and creative ways through these challenging times, and traditional meetings and sessions are off the table for now.

Possible solutions to our current problems may not be easily found. But even in this isolated situation we can try some things to stimulate our entrepreneurial creativity. Entrepreneurial and innovative thinking are creative processes. In fact, creativity is an essential element of entrepreneurship and creativity and imagination are essential attributes for successful enterprise and entrepreneurs. As far back as the 70’s English economist George Shackle developed theoretical frameworks on the nature of the entrepreneurial process based on the idea that business planning and innovation cannot be focussed on actual, concrete knowledge of the future but instead on one’s imagination of it.

And, just because we’re all stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t be innovative and creative…

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How can we help get these imaginative juices flowing in remote teams? Walt Disney very successfully employed a 3 step process of Dreaming, Realism and Criticism to come up great ideas and products, illustrated by this flow diagram:

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The dreamer’s wild imagination opens the door to creativity. But, how to stimulate our inner dreamer and get our imagination firing? Imagination more often than not is not restricted by ourselves but the environments we put ourselves in.

Try this technique yourself or colleagues as it works well remotely. The concept behind the technique is known as “The Wildest Idea”. It sparks your lateral thinking by taking you to a position where you can look at the problem from a brand-new perspective. The benefits can be summed up as “it’s easier to tame down a wild idea than it is to invigorate a weak one.”

This is a very good technique for unstructured problems – single questions or challenges – which require high doses of creativity. I’m guessing we all of some of these at the moment.

Step 1: Set a question that you or your team need to consider.

This is the sensible step i.e. discuss and agree or propose a valid, current and relevant question or challenge your company, venture or team are facing.

Step 2: 15 Minutes to be wild

Individually come up with your wildest, most unrealistic solutions to the challenge. And the solutions should be particularly unrealistic, even impossible, illegal, unethical. Otherwise these solutions are not acceptable inputs for the next stage. 

Step 3: Share your wild ideas

Get on Zoom and share your ideas with each other. Propose your wild ideas and discuss them in detail as you would any ‘sensible’ idea, the pros, cons, the resources needed.

Step 4: Go for a walk (and get your daily exercise to boot)

After (hopefully) a few laughs together, get off the video call and get out for a 45min-1hr walk. Undemanding tasks like walking generate mind wandering which in turn facilitates creative incubation i.e. you get inspired by distraction. You don’t need to explicitly think about the wild ideas, work or anything particular. Just enjoy your daily dose of vitamin D and some fresh air.

Step 5: Bring it back down

Get back on a call together and discuss the ideas again but with a heavy dose of realism. By looking at the problem from the point of view of the wildest idea, it can be easier to define realistic ones which finally solve the challenge. These realistic ideas are the ones to be seriously considered for the final solutions to the challenges. You may reach consensus on an idea to take forward or you may just shorten the list.

Step 6: Send in the critics

Now do the hard work and turn the potential solution(s) into workable plans, products or services.

Hopefully something new or innovative may come of all this, or at least your team will have enjoyed an interesting session together – something hard to achieve in the current circumstances.

Enjoy!

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