Think again! The strategic role of creativity

Dr David Hall, Founder and Director of The Ideas Centre, spoke to the Managing Directors at a recent MD2MD meeting to explain the strategic (and cultural) benefit of adopting creative thinking within the culture of their business, to provide examples of how the blockages to creativity that operate within the mind of all individuals and to provide a practical and systematic approach to introducing creativity into the culture of their organisation.

David has been a practicing Chief Executive for 20 years and has a passion for creativity and innovation, and the pursuit of the perfect culture provides a common thread throughout his career.

The world is changing at an ever increasing pace, and David believes the decisions we make and the behaviours that we display are based on models of “reality” which are based on our programming to adopt patterns of thinking from the past.  We must find ways of challenging these patterns, to free up our thinking, to generate fresh and novel (i.e. creative) ideas that then feed innovation.

The way to unleash creative and innovative ideas is to deal with the blockages in thinking.  David used the metaphor that the brain has two halves; the left side which deals with creativity and the right side which deals with organisation and structures based on existing knowledge and processes. And the problem with finding innovative solutions is our ‘right brain’ moves in too quickly with logic, killing any wild ideas before they develop.

David recommends achieving creative and practical solutions by using a structured creativity process to work through thinking in two stages without allowing that to happen.

He suggests it is essential to start with finding creative and impractical solutions.  And strangely the more impractical the better at this stage – so the brain doesn’t get tempted to filter them.  So allow your team to voice novel and, to a certain degree, impractical ideas based on lateral thinking.

David used some very amusing exercises to demonstrate how this could be achieved.  He asked each person to adopt the persona of a super hero and asked them how, as that hero, they would solve a problem.  This exercise unlocked the creative right side of the brain.

The underlying message was to show how you can provoke your team  to present their perfect solution without thinking about restrictions to budget, resources, processes – all linked with the organisational and analytical left side of our brains.

Only later, once we have developed the creative ideas should we look at their practicality.  We then need to take these wild and wacky ideas and think vertically; manipulating them to see if we can move them from novel to useful considering what is possible.  By working our ideas through in this order we are more likely to find more creative (and valuable) results.

David also introduced us to a few examples of other systematic creative thinking techniques… See below:

  • Synectics
  • Provocation
  • Storyboards
  • Bionics
  • Brainwriting


  • Rolestorming
  • Brainstorming
  • Snowballing
  • Boundary examination
  • Positive thinking

  • Superheroes
  • Proverbs
  • LEGO
  • Finger painting


When considering introducing creativity into the culture of an organisation, he also suggested it may be wise to implement some sort of charter to help individuals feel comfortable and willing to participate in a safe environment. This could include statements relating to not being prematurely judged for their ideas, all ideas to be looked at positively, and creating an atmosphere of fun!