How likely is an idea to be taken on board in a business if the benefits take six years to show and full benefits are not realised for 20 years?
Actually, the situation is worse than this: prior to the benefits of new business ideas showing, there is a period of confusion and negativity when there is criticism and questioning of costs. The negative aspects are apparent or assumed whereas the benefits lie dormant and you have to have a particular outlook to see them.
Very impressive results have been gained from a number of schools with a curriculum including the teaching of thinking directly. The good results do not only correspond to the thinking lessons – there is also an improvement in other subjects. Every pupil's performance can be improved in all areas by thinking.
Still, it is unlikely that a government would make the teaching of thinking compulsory as there would be much criticism from traditionalists and the benefits would take a while to show up in exam results. The benefit to the economy and the country as a whole would also take a significant amount of time.
Some types of change carry more immediate benefits, such as problem-solving. The problem is disrupting a system or individuals, so solving that problem is of instant benefit. Even in cases where the benefits are not immediate, they can be predicted easily.
Because of this, management thinking is too preoccupied with problem-solving.
For many, it is just another tool for problem-solving. When things are running satisfactorily they receive no attention. There is no motivation for looking at these areas because the benefits of change will not be immediate.
Improving things is harder than solving problems.
One of the key outcomes of creative thinking is simplicity. Time, mental stress and money can be saved by simplification. Therefore, I believe a drive towards simplicity should be a key part of any organisation's policy.
All businesses should appoint a 'Simplicity Officer'. This person should encourage and refine business ideas for the simplifying of processes. Simplicity requires a deliberate effort as continuity is the natural instinct of organisations.
Suggesting something where the benefits are easily seen is the ideal design of change. The change can be trialled in a pilot scheme for a small area and then the benefits can make themselves apparent and act as motivation for expanding the change. Sometimes this is not possible.
The more common pattern of change is to let others try new ideas and then copy them if they work, or reject them if they do not work.
There is a risk to being first in the field. But it should always be remembered that benefits can take time to show up.