How many of your decisions can be explained by: “That’s the way things are done”? Clayton Christensen, the world’s leading authority on the topic of disruptive innovation wrote that, “[an] IBM poll of fifteen hundred CEOs identified creativity as the number-one ‘leadership competency’ of the future.”
Do you accept and follow the way things have always been done, or do you have the capacity to creatively think outside the box and find a better way?
What if you’re one of the many unlucky souls that was not blessed with the talent of creativity? As sales expert and author Jeffrey Gitomer puts it, “Creativity is a science that you can learn.”
The 2 Questions That Lead To Endless Innovation
There’s no need to wait for inspiration to strike. There are numerous techniques and exercises that can be proactively employed in order to develop creative ideas, strategies and solutions.
Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko is a treasure trove full of such tactics. If you want to become more creative and innovative in both your personal and professional life, then it’s absolutely worth a read.
One of my favorite creativity exercises involves asking the same two questions over and over again. It’s a simple, but effective way to become a truly innovative thinker.
Question #1: Why?
Asking “Why” is an important first step to finding a better way of doing things. Take for example Sally Sellmorestuff.
Sally is a sales manager who wants to bring in a motivational speaker to speak to her team. She could ask herself, “Why should I invite a motivational speaker?” The answer would probably be that she wants to generate a more optimistic attitude among her team.
But, Sally shouldn’t stop there. Remember, this method involves asking the same two questions over and over again. So, she should ask…
Q: Why do I want to generate a more optimistic attitude among my team?
A: So that they will work harder.
Q: Why do I want them to work harder?
A: So that they will sell more products.
Q: Why do I want them to sell more products?
A: So that the numbers for my department look better.
Q: Why do I want better numbers?
A: So I can get a promotion.
Q: Why do I want a promotion?
A: So I can make more money.
Q: Why do I want more money?
A: So I can buy a nicer house and car.
Q: Why do I want a nicer house and car?
A: So I can enjoy life more.
At this point, Sally has recognized some of the deeper motivations for her actions. This leads us to the next question.
“The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” – Peter Abelard
Question #2: How?
At each stage of her questioning, Sally can ask herself if she is making the ideal choice. For example, is bringing in a motivational speaker the most efficient and effective way to generate a more optimistic attitude among her team?
She can then ask herself “How” else she could accomplish this goal. Would it be more effective to engage in one-on-one mentoring with the individuals in her team? Could she accomplish her goal more efficiently by purchasing a motivational book for each team member? Would it be enough to simply send a motivational quote to her team via email once a week?
The real beauty of this system is that she can ask “How” at every stage of her original line of questioning. So, for example:
How can I get my team to work harder?
How can we sell more products?
How can I make more money?
How can I enjoy life more?
And so on…
If Sally could come up with just three new how’s for each of her why’s, she would suddenly have over 20 strategies from which she could choose, that might bring her closer to achieving what she wants in life.
With all these choices, she might recognize a much better way to reach her goals. For example, depending on her personal preferences, she might determine that if her real goal is to enjoy life more, then she should quit her job, move to the country and start her own farm. In that case, inviting a motivational speaker is not even close to the ideal way for her to achieve her real goals.
On the other hand, she might determine that bringing in the speaker is indeed most likely the best thing to do. In that case, at least now she has a much clearer picture of what she wants in life. That’s something she can keep in mind and make use of in the future.
“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Why spend time on social media? Why start the morning with a cup of coffee? Why stay in your current job? These are all questions that could get the ball rolling. These are all questions that could help you discover the real reason why you want the things you want.
If you’re willing to ask “Why” and then “How” you may discover that achieving your goals is much simpler than you thought. Chances are, you have many more strategies to choose from than you realized.
I recommend making it a habit to routinely ask “Why”. (And don’t be satisfied with, “That’s the way we do things.”) Then ask “How”. See if you can’t find a better way. Make this a routine and you may soon discover endless possibilities for improvement in your work, your relationships, your finances, your hobbies and your entire life.
How do you bring creativity and innovation into your life? Let us know by commenting below!
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