Let me begin by explaining how the question came about. I saw a young child on his way to school accompanied by his mother last week. He was curious about a group of Chinese students they had passed and was turning his head to observe them as his mother sought to move him along. A couple of the students were wearing face masks and the little chap was trying to fathom out why. There was a lot of pollution in the air in parts of the UK last week due to some strange weather conditions but the little fella hadn’t paid much attention to the news.

With furrowed brow he thought hard and asked his mother whether the students were wearing masks because their breath smelled? Ok, on the face of it, it was a bizarre question – but it does illustrate something.

There is always another way of looking at, or making sense of a situation.

One only has to read the letters page of a newspaper to see that people often have very extreme, opposite views or interpretations of situations. We all see things differently.

What I consider to be a risk, may not be anything to worry about in your opinion. What you consider to be a viable solution may not stack up for me.

When working in teams or groups we are usually encouraged to consider the views of others, view problems from all angles, consider all the options and collaborate so that we come up with the optimum solution. Brilliant. Works every time.

Children have a huge advantage over adults – they just ask it as they see it. Up to a certain age they don’t care if they are wrong, it’s how they learn. As we get older and more self-conscious we don’t always like to be too radical, to break the mould or to ask the dumb questions for fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed by our peers. We may even develop a tendency to conform and play safe.

Now obviously the example I have given is a bit extreme and because we are aware of the facts we know the theory from the little boy to be unsound.

So is there a place for radical, off-the-wall thinking? We all need ideas from time to time. With the right culture and environment people can be encouraged to put forward whacky ideas or approach problems from a completely new viewpoint. The first idea may not always be the best but they can often be developed or used to stimulate further ideas.

Now I’m not suggesting we all run back to work and encourage our teams to compete for the craziest ideas merely that we should encourage and be receptive to creative thinking to arrive at solutions or develop strategies.

All the best ideas get copied and they have to start somewhere. Are you going to help generate the next good idea or wait for your competitors to do it?

April 10, 2014 at 7:58 pm
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