Creativity is often considered in the context of big ideas, and big changes in strategy. But managers should also give time to small creativity which involves small ideas and changes.
I once ran a contest for 'small ideas' but the response was poor. Managers often seem to find small ideas even more difficult to come up with than big ideas.
As a test, could you come up with a small change in the way you brush your teeth or put on your shoes?
Imagining such changes is good practice in creativity, – even if you do not carry them out.
Managers with a creative habit of mind should be able to look at anything at all and think of an alternative way of doing it. But the key is whether this alternative offers value.
Try setting yourself a guiding value. For instance, the new idea could reduce manufacturing costs, or make something simpler to use. Perhaps the new idea could lead to more effective use.
Managers should have the ability to look at something and find a way of doing it differently. Then they can look for the value – it may or may not be there.
You might try looking for a new design for, say, a paper clip. Instead of considering the faults of the existing clip, when you get the new design, you have to show the value. You might need to show why the new design is superior to the existing design at this point; this is quite different from looking for the faults in the current design and then solving these problems.
Value sensitivity is a key skill for managers, but unfortunately it is absent from education, which concentrates on critical thinking.
Once you have identified a value, you can look towards strengthening that value, and perhaps delivering the value in a different way. If you fail to find a value then that's where your thinking stops.
So creativity, therefore, is a combination of 'change thinking' and 'value thinking'.