Creative thinking is especially important in tough financial conditions. The current economic crisis is around 30% real, arising from toxic securities (unmanageable). Added to this, though, is 50% panic and fear caused by media hype. The final 20% is 'game playing' – in other words, parties taking advantage of the situation.
For example, a company might have wanted to sack 10,000 staff for a while, but this wouldn't have been so easily done at other times because the share price would have been severely depressed as a result. However, when there is the excuse of a recession, the layoffs become much easier, especially if other companies are doing the same thing.
It doesn't matter what the economic conditions are – better thinking is never a luxury. In fact, better thinking is an absolute necessity when times are hard.
This better thinking must include creativity. Creative thinking is vital for looking at things in a different way and opening up new perceptions. During hard times it is often important to look at problems as opportunities.
Of course, this isn't easy because our minds are trained to look at things in the immediate and obvious way – quite often, this is enough.
There is also a need for creativity in design. Sometimes you have to design a way forward. While the past can be analysed, the future has to be designed.
Creative thinking should not be used to replace information and other forms of thinking. Instead, it should be used in addition to these other forms. In certain circumstances, such as a challenging economic climate, creative thinking becomes more important, because solutions are harder to come by.
When there is a well-defined focus, creative thinking works well. Sometimes the focus can be can be general and broad, and at other times very tight and narrow. An objective really represents a package of values.
You can then apply creativity to the focus itself: do we really want to achieve this? Creativity can be applied to methods of delivering the required values.
The traditional view of creative thinking is as a group process. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but an individual can sit down with a focus and a lateral thinking tool kit and develop new ideas completely on their own. They can then discuss these ideas and look at ways to improve them.