A story on The Wall Street Journal drove home the importance of innovation. The story profiled Milliken a textiles company based in South Carolina, USA.
Like several other textiles companies in the US its prospects became very bad when cheap textile imports started ravaging the industry. Many factories had to close down. Yet Milliken not only survived while its traditional textile competitors long since ceased but also thrived.
It moved up the value chain.
Today Milliken makes the fabric that reinforces duct tape, additives that make refrigerator food containers clear and children’s art markers washable,countertops anti microbial and so on and on.
It pays to think creatively and innovate.
But how do you think creatively and innovate?
Do you lean back in chair, stare out into the space and force your mind to come up with ideas.
How does that work out for you?
Todd Henry in his book ‘Accidental Creative’ suggests a few practices that can bring about major insights in your daily work.
Your daily work need not be in advertising to benefit from these practices.
Check your assumptions
This has been a personal bane for me.
So insidious and stealthy they can be at times that you would be completely oblivious to them.
For e.g. I once woke up on a winter morning saw snow on the driveway and stayed put for the snow plower that never came. When I called him he said it was just a light dusting that did not needed him to come.
Drifter, driver and developer.
Are you a drifter, driver or a developer?
It was only after I came across Todd Henry’s book that I discovered a weakness of mine, a weakness that I was all but unaware until I read about the three types of mindsets we bring to our problems.
Ok not wanting to be a drifter is a no brainer. But most of us still do it. I for one. We drift when instead of focusing on our work we check our emails, surf the web etc. It speaks to our attention deficit culture. We are fixated on mental snacking.
Also, a drifter is one who moves from problem to problem without consciously choosing which problem to focus on.
A driver on the other hand is one who is very clear about his objectives and is very focused on it. There is a single minded focus on attaining the objective in every step and in his every act.
I used to think this was the ideal mindset to have.
I was wrong.
Turns out there is an even better mindset that of the developer mindset.
A person with a developer mindset understands his objective and is focused on it. But…and this is important he or she is also open to realizing other opportunities and possibilities along the way.
This is a great way to develop ideas and think more creatively.
For instance with the old driver mindset I used to go shopping and pick up only what I needed immediately. With the developer mindset when I visited a store to pick up medicines for my son I paused long enough to pick up other items. Items that would not have been on my top of the mind recall normally.
Chunk your tasks
Brian Tracy suggests this consistently as a great productivity booster.
Until now I did not grasp that this could also be used to ramp up your thinking.
You chunk tasks that require similar thought patterns together.
I am a project manager. So for e.g. this would mean that when I perform planning tasks I do it for all the projects I am responsible for.
Likewise when I do strategic thinking I do so for all the projects I am responsible for.
Since you do this across several different projects you tend to see patterns and synergies that you would otherwise not.
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