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think differently act differently succeed differently

creative thinking in a shrinking economy an article by nils vesk


Introduction Creativity for me is a lot like hang gliding. There is both an absolute madness and absolute science to it. When you can embrace the madness while trusting the science that’s when you can utilise it to fly above your competitors as you create outstanding processes, products and services. When times are tough, clients demand more. More from the product and more from the service. Creative thinking is the most effective way of delivering outstanding results through superior processes, product and service.

Just as the analogy suggests, creative thinking requires actions that will go against your instinct and every-day behaviour. It’s just after you start to change your behaviour that your feet leave the ground and you begin to soar.

The following tips, when executed will bring valuable and noticeable results to your business. So let’s get started.

The good news is you’ve already been a creative pilot in the past. Remember when you were a kid? As a child you were fearless, investigative, experimental, imaginative and totally creative. All you need to do is relearn some of the uninhibited creative behaviours in order to allow yourself to create outstanding solutions no matter what challenges you face.


Deciding where to be creative Just as all good travellers will agree, a map is everything. It tells us where we’re at, where we want to go and how to get the there. Not having a map of our business is a recipe for wasting time and money. Having a map of our customer touch points gives us orientation and the ability to apply productive creative thinking to create outstanding results. Touch points are when a client or fellow worker comes into contact with a part of our process, product or service. It could be a visit to the website, a phone call, a letter, a reception area, a greeting and so on. To create a workable touch point map start by mapping the obvious activities you do each day, phone calls & email etc. Once you have created a basic map of the major touch points then you can break it down to even more detail. The more detail you have on all your touch points the easier it is to improve them. The crazy thing here is that you may feel that you are listing the obvious.

It’s in the every day actions where you can make some of the biggest innovative leaps. When you’ve mapped the obvious touch points it’s time to map the obscure unnoticed touch points. For example mapping the touch points of a meeting when you bump into someone on the street that you know. What questions could you ask, how could you position yourself and your business in a way that hasn’t happened before?

Rather than go through a ‘middle man’ Icebreaker get their fleece direct from the source - the growers. If they could identify this early touch point (fleece direct from the sheep farmers) they would have a powerful point of difference in the market. They went on to create a ‘baa code’ on the garments, which is an identification code that once entered on their website identifies the sheep and farm that the fleece comes from.

Once you think you’ve mapped everything within your business it’s worth thinking of what touch points come before your business and what touch points come after your business. Here’s a quick example of a smart company doing just that. Icebreaker is a clothing manufacturer of winter fleece clothing products. They looked at their touch points and realised that if they could identify the eco-touch points of their supply chain then they could increase their sustainability message.


Improving your touch points Now that you have identified your touch points all you need to do now is ‘Fix it’. By applying constructive ‘Fix it’ words to touch points you can prompt your mind to generate practical productive ideas that are relatively easy to implement. Constructive words include: Stop, Start, Combine, Strengthen, Reduce, Multiply, Substitute, Reverse, Speed up, Slow down, and Modify. Try applying one of these words to one of your touch points to see what ideas you generate. Let’s say you were trying to improve the humble office meeting. Here’s just a quick example of some of the ideas you could create. What if you combined a meeting with physical activity? Result- walking meeting What if you could reduce the time taken in a meeting? Result – 20 minute speed meeting.

Whether you want to improve a product, process or service they can all be broken down into a series of touch points and then improved.

all? How would you get things done? What if you had to execute the items or actions discussed at the meeting itself?

The Danish company ‘Yakkay’ wanted to improve the humble bicycle helmet. Frankly they thought it looked daggy. So they asked themselves ‘what if we could add something and modify it so it looked ‘cool’?’

By asking the ‘Challenge it’ questions, we are forced to step off into the air and fly. If you find that it’s simply impossible for you to remove a touch point why not alter them or substitute them.

The result was a modified helmet with interchangeable caps that could be placed over the top of them. Funky headwear rather than a traditional boring helmet.

For example could you substitute a face-toface meeting with a teleconference? Substitute a boardroom meeting with a corridor meeting? Substitute an agenda meeting into a brainstorming meeting?

Challenge the touch points you have A touch point or part of a product is never beyond challenge, but because we use them so often we see them permanently set in stone.

The more you look at your touch point the more you realise there are opportunities to challenge and change them to make them better.

What would happen if you had to remove a touch point? What if you had no meeting at


Breaking traditional thinking We are creatures of habit, and left to our own devices we will think and behave the same way every day. Fighting this pattern can help us to create new ideas that we would not normally have considered before. The next time you sit down to think of a solution or generate ideas, start with a distraction to generate some unrelated thoughts. Once you have the fresh thoughts you can force yourself to link them to your problem. Try this exercise now. Look around you. Write down the first thing that catches your eye. Now write down all of the thoughts that come to you when you think of this object. For example – the first thing I see is a lamp. My first thoughts are: metal, light, bright, dark, on, off, power, electricity, work and Thomas Eddison.

For example – If something is succeeding how can we make it ‘lighter and brighter’? Imagine there was a famous genius in the room, what would they bring to the meeting? Could we turn everyone on before each agenda item by getting people to stand and shake.

Keep your ideas coming and capture them as they come to you.

Now link those thoughts to the area that you want ideas.


Look for good ideas in the real world One of the ways that you can become more innovative is simply to become an idea perve. Great inventions, products and services exist all around you and all you need to do is look out for them. Rather than look for ideas from your competitors look for ideas from totally unrelated fields and businesses. When you see a great product, process or service in motion ask yourself what are the attributes that make it great. The more attributes you can extract, the easier it is to think of how to apply them to your area of creativity.

Once you have established the key attributes that make an idea great all you need to do is change it to suit your application. Dream Bank is an outstanding online savings scheme that has done just that. Dream Bank is the brainchild of a charity group which were looking for innovative ways to generate winwin situations for their donors. They liked the concept of ‘facebook’ and the concept that goal setting works best with accountability. After changing the attributes the outcome was an online savings scheme where people declare their savings goal and have a ‘facebook’ style application with friends keeping them accountable to their goal.


Look at what your clients hate about you We might think we’re perfect, but the reality is there will always be something that our clients dislike about us. By finding them and claiming them we can then turn them to our advantage. If a client thinks you’re too expensive how can you reduce the expense for them? Could you add more value to your offering, could you give them a discount for paying upfront? Could you provide them with ways of saving money elsewhere? List your client’s dislikes about your work & creatively turn them to your advantage.

Conclusion? Sounds weird but we can sometimes be the most creative when we are slightly depressed, sad and lonely. By targeting on the things our clients dislike about us we can often be more creative than when we’re upbeat and happy. Does your client think that………. Your service isn’t good enough? Your follow up is terrible?

There is never a conclusion when it comes to utilising creative thinking, once you’ve created the outstanding process, product and service sure you get to reap the rewards, but the process goes on, what can you challenge next to make it even better? By maintaining a ‘discontented’ creative mindset your business will forever be leading the market place no matter what the economy is doing.

Your product looks ugly? You’re too expensive?


about us Nils Vesk is an author, speaker and MC who has the unique ability to connect the unconnected and simplify the complex. Thousands have seen Nils speak at conferences, workshops and on television. Nils connects the disparate so people ‘know what’ is going on, and then applies the ‘know how’ to make it happen. Nils brings to his events an energy, enthusiasm and skill set to help your audience join the dots to make every event memorable.

Nils helps your business, industry or association through the tough times with the following offerings:

• keynotes • workshops • facilitation • strategic consulting

visit us at for more information or contact us via email PO Box 340 Freshwater NSW 2096 Australia

• 3D strategic thinking


creative thinking in a shrinking economy  

quick creative tips to get you through the tough times

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