Assumptions are one of the biggest creativity killers in organisations of all sizes. Those nasty things that sit around in the back of your head and stop your thinking going anywhere interesting. Chances are, if you have a problem you are trying to crack, you hold a whole lot of assumptions or pre-conceived notions that are boxing in your thinking.
For example, if you run a services business and you want to grow it, one assumption that you may be making is that to make money, you actually have to be working – given that’s how services work. You provide something and your client pays you. But this old-fashioned business model means that to increase profit, you need to work harder or pay more people to work harder on your behalf. A very limiting assumption.
So something I always bang on about to people is to actively challenge and crush any assumptions that they can identify.
In relation to the above example, I would recommend crushing the above assumption that to grow the business, you need to work more. What if you flipped the assumption on its head and instead, asked yourself, ‘How can I make money while I sleep?’ This may sounds a bit crazy for any accountants and lawyers reading this post, but imagine the possibilities if you could create automated ways of doing the work for you. Deloitte Digital is a beautiful example of this crushed assumption in practice.
On the products side of things, I recently came across a nifty example of some assumption crushing in relation to vending machines. If you were to think about creating a vending machine, one assumption may be that it needs to be about one metre wide and around two metres tall – sort of like the ones we are constantly surrounded by at airports and office buildings. But not the examples I came across in Tokyo and Strasbourg – they crushed those ‘size’ assumptions and came up with something completely different.
The folk in Strasbourg decided to crush the standard dimensions and created a monster vending machine that has more in common with a small convenience store than a garden variety vending machine.
A UNIQLO store in Tokyo threw that assumption out the window and created a machine that was an entire store! No need for overheads such as retail staff when it is all a self-serve vending machine.
So what are some assumptions you hold onto in relation to problems you are tackling for your business? What are the things that you take for granted and would never think of challenging? Or have you recently crushed some assumptions to help you generate breakthrough solutions to problems?
Dr Amantha Imber is the head inventiologist at international innovation consultancy Inventium. She is also author of The Creativity Formula: 50 scientifically proven ways to boost creativity in work and in life (www.thecreativityformula.com).
Photo: hamedmasoumi (Flickr)