The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

On June 17, SIRC hosted Creative Thinking – Tools and techniques to better your brainstorms! – a webinar, led by corporate strategist and facilitator Jill Sadler, designed to help participants with creative thinking and innovative problem solving. As creativity increasingly becomes a more valuable workplace skill, what are today’s best tools and strategies to harness it?

The key take-aways from this session included:

  • Understanding the cognitive underpinnings of creative thinking
  • Discovering three new tools for creative thinking that participants can immediately apply: Question Burst™, Lens Changer and Six Thinking Hats™.
  • Building creative muscle by practicing those tools

Below is a video recap of the session and a Q&A blog with Jill addressing some of the questions posed by participants.

Note: This was the second session in SIRC’s new webinar series, Experts in the House. Register now for upcoming sessions.

Q1: When you think of the top barriers to creative thinking in workplaces today, what comes to mind?

There are many barriers to creative thinking in workplaces including the fear of failure, not carving out time to think, our brain’s default to the way we’ve always done something, and stress. But the one that is likely the most problematic is that we are very quick to make assumptions. We make assumptions about what will work, what won’t, what is feasible, what is desired by stakeholders, and many more. These assumptions close off our ability to see alternative solutions and generate breakthrough ideas.

Q2: With that in mind, what’s the best way to combat those barriers?

Simply being aware of the barriers to creative thinking is helpful as you’ll likely push yourself harder to move beyond those limitations. Carving out time in your calendar to think, changing your environment, and building a psychologically safe space for your team are all actions that can benefit creativity. A more pragmatic approach is to use a creativity or brainstorming technique designed specifically to identify your blind spots and ensure lateral thinking. One of the best tools for this is Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats™. In this exercise, you are prompted to think about the challenge or opportunity in a specific way, forcing you out of old habits.

Q3: It’s not always easy to “change your lens” when approaching a problem. Any tips to make it easier?

I’ll offer two tips for helping to “change your lens.”

First, have a few standard questions at your fingertips designed to get you out of the day-to-day, such as:

  • What assumptions am I making about the problem, the people, or the proposed idea?
  • What happens if we do nothing?
  • What if the opposite were true?
  • How might (insert a different stakeholder, such as a coach or parent) experience this problem?
  • What would need to happen in order for this to be true?
  • What if money were no object? (I included this, not because our budgets are endless, but that we place restrictions on our thinking because we put it through a filter of cost before we’ve explored the merit of the idea.)

Second, look to other industries facing a similar reality to see how they’re approaching it. For example, the entertainment industry has been hard at work to keep the music alive. From living room live streams to new video content and makeshift outdoor movie theatres, they are pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible. As an example, the National Arts Centre and Ottawa Bluesfest are partnering to bring a summer weekend series of live drive-in concerts in Gatineau, QC.  Going outside the sport industry will force a lens change and may just spark the idea you need!

Q4: Is it recommended to use multiple brainstorming tools at once, or better to focus on one?

It depends. Not an ideal answer but your approach will differ based on the objective, the time you have, and the specific need. There is no right or wrong way to use the tools so you can absolutely try multiple approaches in one session. In fact, sometimes getting unstuck requires shifting gears and trying a new tactic. Other times, you’ll experience breakthrough thinking with just one tool. Give it a try and see what works best for you and your team!

Q5: Where can I find more information (or courses) for creative thinking?

There are some great options for more information on creative thinking including online courses, in-person workshops, books and videos. Here are a few:

Q6: For the sport sector right now, thinking creatively is critical. Do you have any final advice for organizations?

I would leave you with one of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes: “If I only had 1 hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and only 5 minutes thinking about a solution”. We so often start brainstorming before we’ve ensured we’re solving the right problem. As the sport sector grapples with a number of challenges in this moment in time, I would encourage us to reframe our thinking by exploring the questions we need to be asking before we dive into answering them. Hal Gregerson’s Question Burst™ is a great place to start. You’ll almost always find a better question to solve for.

About the author:

Jill Sadler is currently the VP of Learning & Development for Blueprint North America – an organization committed to building confidence in individuals, teams and organizations on both sides of the border. This means she spends half of her time studying and developing adult learning strategies and the other half of her time in large rooms with thousands of sticky notes. Whether it’s a negotiation workshop, a creative thinking webinar, or a strategic planning session, Jill is always looking to help individuals stretch beyond their perceived capabilities.

Be sure to browse SIRC’s Experts in the House series for more webinar content and to register for future sessions.