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How Creative Thinking Drives Success

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on September 14, 2020 at 3:23 PM

Safety and creativity don’t typically go hand-in-hand. And that’s a shame, because the truth is, creativity is one of the best tools in your EHS toolkit.

Think of the last time you had a boring, run-of-the-mill safety meeting. You tried to teach safety topics, but your listeners were more interested in their coffee.

Now think of the last time you had an inventive safety meeting. You told a story about your child and a near-miss incident, tying the story into safety concerns and responsibilities. Then you invited others to share their thoughts and stories. And your listeners were more than engaged – they were active participants.

That’s the difference between a creative safety process and a cut-and-dry approach. If your team isn’t using creative thinking, now is the time to start.

What Is Creative Thinking?

Creative thinking is the definition of thinking outside the box. It’s all about looking at things with a fresh perspective.

The essence of creative thinking is lateral thinking, the ability to approach problems in a systemic, innovative way to perceive patterns. Where critical thinking is about assessing the truth of statements and hunting down errors, lateral thinking focuses on the “movement value” of ideas, i.e. the ability to move from one idea to the next.

This is best exemplified by a famous Sherlock Holmes story, in which Holmes realizes that a dog not barking is actually an important clue in a murder case.

Principles of Creative Problem-Solving

The process of creative problem-solving has four principles:

  1. Divergent and convergent thinking
  2. Asking problems as questions
  3. Deferring or suspending judgment
  4. Say “Yes, and…” instead of, “No, but…”

Divergent thinking is the process of generating lots of ideas, while convergent thinking is the process of evaluating ideas to choose the most promising one. Humans are better at convergent thinking than divergent thinking, so if you try to practice both at once, you’ll narrow down to the first acceptable option rather than generating every potential option.

The other three principles are based on keeping your thinking open. Asking problems as questions, for example, opens your thinking to continue the thought rather than slamming the brakes, and it works in conversations too (thus the fourth principle, which is based on the rules of improv).

What Creative Thinkers Do Differently

As you can see, creative thinkers are those who keep their minds open. They look at new ideas and seek out new approaches rather than clinging to a preferred solution.

This is a difficult skill to master, as humans are excellent at narrowing down our thinking. We take in so much information at once that our brains are adept at developing shortcuts. If a situation appears to resemble an old one, our brain will cue a thinking shortcut so we don’t have to take the long route and waste processing power.

These shortcuts help us think more efficiently, but they also close us off to new ideas. If you want to think creatively, the first step is to consciously re-open your thinking to counteract your brain’s subconscious shortcuts.

Taking a Fresh Perspective on Safety

Sometimes, all you need to solve a problem is a new approach. Tackling common injuries takes on a whole new light if you shift your perspective on why those injuries are happening.

But humans are skilled at patterns. We like following the same lines of logic. If you want to challenge your thinking, the first step is to get yourself the right tools.

That’s where we can help. Our safety software allows you to take a fresh perspective on your safety data by seeking all the data in one place, making it easier to spot patterns that might appear unrelated. Once you’ve identified the issue, it’s that much easier to take a creative approach.

Want to see how our software can shift your thinking? We’d love to show you. Get in touch today to learn more.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Professional Development

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