One of the issues I’ve had in my life is creativity, I was looking at this and my hobbies pretty much all revolve around rather structured activities. Racing, football and so all have very comprehensive rulebooks. I’ve said before, F1 being an engineering/money exercise, there is some allowance for creativity, but that’s done with in the frame of a very comprehensive rule set.
Professionally it’s a similar story. Less so than in past positions perhaps, but none the less it’s all very structured.
One thing I do see is that the more successful project teams and project managers have some level of creativity when it comes to examining and solving problem. True creative thinking isn’t always a straightforward thing to achieve. There are some interesting tools available, I spent an hour this afternoon listening to a pitch on “Idea Mapping” that was given by Jamie Nast and it is a very interesting approach and gave me a lot to think about. Followed by a quick order for Jamie Nast’s book from Amazon. If you want to learn a little more about the Idea Mapping the author has a rather good site at “ideamappingsuccess.com” it’s worth a visit if have even the slightest interest.
However I find flowing ideas and thinking outside the box is not always easy and I’ve been thinking about this a little tonight.
Before we get stuck into the cool free-thinking stuff, we need to understand the boundaries of the project. As Formula-1 has a very comprehensive rule book, every project I’ve worked on or led has some constraints around it so while we are trying to add a little creativity,
Take time, but be quick. I get that does not make sense, but… Give yourself a chance to really think in-depth about the problem, but don’t be too deliberate. The creative juices have to flow. I have found carrying a notebook around with me and have started using it to jot down little things through the day. They may not make much sense and occasionally look suspiciously like a shopping list, but I do think little things like this are making a difference.
One thing I do know is not to be slow in asking peers or mentors for their though and ideas. I do have a great mentor who is decently far enough up the food chain that he has a very different view of any particular problem. There have been a number of times that a thought or insight that directed me in a new direction.
One thing that’s been working well in the office is questioning the assumptions. A lot of the process work on my program was done years ago in something of a vacuum. A lot of assumptions were made that are not necessarily correct today. We can change processes, and as time goes on processes may need to change, they should certainly be challenged occasionally. I really don’t think you can come up with a good solutions if you have are starting with incorrect assumptions, so examine your situation and the problem, then have someone else from a different office look at it. Peer review can only make it stronger.
Somewhat related to the peer review is looking at the problem with a slightly different set of ground rules. How would a smaller company handle it? What is we had fewer resources and had to innovate a little, How would we do it? It may throw up innovative solutions that a conventional mindset may not have yielded.
First contact with reality
Yes despite all these ideas (and thousands more) the solutions need to stay within some boundaries, in aero regulatory and certification requirements impose quite a ridged box around how we do things. At some point you have to stack these constraints up against the solutions. I hope you have as much luck with that as I do.