Think Differently.
The vital role of critical & creative thinking

IBM’s landmark Global CEO Study (2010) surveyed over 1500 organizational leaders from around the world. These leaders concluded that in this global environment that is changing at break-neck speed and becoming exponentially complex, creative thinking is the most necessary ability for successful leaders to possess.  Over 51% said their organizations are not prepared to succeed for lack of divergent thinking and flexibility.  The Boston Consulting Group's 2010 report sounds the warning bell for the U.S. and other mature economy businesses that do not become more innovative within the next five years. According to T. Friedman's The World is Flat, the U.S. has already slipped to fourth in patent applications in which it had consistently led. Other economic trend watchers share these concerns that "business as usual" is leading to our undoing.

So, how do leaders foster creative thinking in themselves and within their organizations and imagine “outside of the box” * in order to produce continuous improvement, greater efficiencies, and new products, services, and markets?

You’ve come to the right place!  We’ve often been heard to say, “What box?!?”

The good news is that many of the means towards creating organizational cultures that support creative problem solving, continuous improvement, and innovation result from well-known best practices in management that encourage diversity in perspective and make employee engagement possible. (2010 IBM CEO report)  The sample programs below outline some of our approaches. We’re happy to work with clients to tailor solutions for their groups.

*Otherwise known as “coffins” (i.e. dead-end approaches).

Critical/Creative Thinking Skills
& Innovative Culture Topics:

  • Creative Thinking

  • Using Socratic Method to Increase Critical thinking & Align Values

  • Marrying Merriment, Mirth, Mission & Money-making! Engaging a Workplace that Innovates

  • Since Strategy Eats Culture for Breakfast – Let Them Eat Cake! 

  • Scenario Planning: The Serious Business of Building Creativity & Flexibility into Strategic Planning

    Sample Training Programs

Since Strategy Eats Culture for Breakfast – Let Them Eat Cake!
A Model for Innovation Management & Culture Change We Can Get Our Teeth Into!

Many efforts to increase innovation in organizations fail, because leaders overlook that culture plays.  Creative thinking is not just something that employees can turn on when it's "safe," and "off" when it's not.  In this program, we will explore a) the idea of innovative practices in the form of a delicious layer cake, and then b) how we might be more effective in tempting others to partake!

  • In order to be in business, all organizations require a foundation of fiscally sound structures and legal accountability mechanisms.It is the “bottom layer.”

  • On top of this stable base, innovative organizations layer processes that support creative solutions and business agility. It’s the “top layer,” so to say.These include Agile and Lean practices, as well as systems for gathering and sorting through employee input for process improvements, products, and services; rapid-prototyping; short, medium, and longer range pipelines; metrics that reward learning, and so on.

  • Lastly, there is “fun stuff,” or “the icing/frosting” that covers the cake and creates the cultural tone and determines much of the “how” of things throughout the organization.Whether or not the basic routines of hiring, on-boarding, meetings, rewards, etc. are allowed creative license informs whether continuous improvement and disruptive innovation will be allowed to thrive, or will be destined to struggle and never achieve full potential.

Building from this “layer-cake” mental model, we will focus on the “how” of creating cultures that either allow innovation and business agility to rise and transform organizations, or relegate these to remain half-baked.


Veronica Adams pointing to a Dr. Seuss hat and a sign that reads Marrying Merriment, Mirth, Mission & Money-making! Engaging a Workplace that Innovates

Creativity and innovation can’t come from formulas in bottles.  They won’t take organizations very far if boiled down to exercises pulled out for staff retreats, or siloed in “creative-types” departments.

Continual innovation can only flourish in environments that openly encourage experimentation and allow employees to feel safe to fully apply their critical thinking abilities and engage their imaginations to propose new ideas for processes, services, and products.  –It’s a culture thing.

And don’t take our word for it:  As many employees of Southwest Airlines, Google, and other cutting edge companies will be the first to tell you, having fun at work bears multiple dividends.  Studies have shown that when a task is considered “play” versus “work,” workers perform with more enthusiasm, energy, and achieve better results on the tasks considered play.

Workshop participants will explore and take away ideas for the many ways that managers and teams can foster a spirit of fun that transforms their work environments into innovative idea factories that guide their organizations towards success!

The Art of Asking the Right Questions:
Fostering Critical Thinking, Values Alignment, & Creative Curiousity The Socratic Way 

As many organizational leaders and HR professionals are painfully aware, there is a serious shortage of critical thinking skills in the U.S. workforce today.  This has huge impacts on our competitive edges and economy.  And given the quality of the typical American education and the superficial analyses of “sound-bite” media, it may get a lot worse before it gets better – unless organizations implement effective approaches to increasing these skills among their workforces.

The good news is that there is an overlooked workplace education tool that can help employees to strengthen their critical thinking skills and contribute toward fostering innovative cultures – and it is free!  “The Five Whys” used in Kaizen, Lean, and Six Sigma approaches to organizational improvement, as well as the explorations utilizing questioning in coaching programs often come with high price-tags.  But actually, the root causes for the breakthrough results these methodologies produce are nothing new under the sun.  Socrates fostered the spirit of inquiry and the exploration of ideas in the Western world through open-ended questions and his form of the “dialectical method” over ~2500 years ago.

In 2002, with his book Socrates Café, American philosopher Christopher Phillips started a movement in U.S.  Thousands of Socrates Cafés formed in workplaces, retirement homes, schools, churches and prisons where ordinary people have practiced the Socratic Method approach to asking questions and exploring new ways of looking at many aspects of our lives and world.  People are hungry to move beyond superficial thinking and an open exploration of ideas in more meaningful conversation.

This longing for deeper thinking can be channeled to have very positive impacts in our organizations.  Through training people to facilitate Socratic discussions, and then sponsoring Socrates Café brown-bag lunches, and/or integrating it into workplace coaching and other employee and leadership development programs, HR departments can start a “critical thinking revolution” that can, in turn, support various organizational improvement initiatives.   –-While also being a hero for not spending down limited performance improvement budgets!

Scenario Planning: 
The Serious Business of Building Flexibility and Creative Advantage into Strategic Planning

Q: How is it that Southwest Airlines managed to fly through the crisis of sky-rocketing jet fuel prices of 2008 that took down much of their competition?

A: They played a high-stakes game called “What If?:

Those involved with strategic planning processes will often “brainstorm” as they look at possible threats (T) or challenges (C) and opportunities (O) looking perhaps as many as five years out.  They base their “reasonable” brainstorming pretty much on things as they are or can be presumed as “likely” over the next five years. — How's that been working for organizations that currently find themselves suffering through severe budget and staffing cuts?

A process of scenario planning can help to avert crises such as these through more flexible strategic plans.  Scenario planning is an highly underutilized tool that the IBM’s 2010 CEO study underscored as indispensable for organizations that are going to succeed in today’s ever-changing world.

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use the “What If?” technique and experiment with scenario planning.

Blog Link

Kowabunga! Posts: