Why Business Thinking Isn’t A Team Sport

Our best ideas often come out of nowhere, yet it's important to create the right conditions for inspiration to strike.

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Our best ideas often come out of nowhere, yet it's important to create the right conditions for inspiration to strike.


Why Business Thinking Isn’t A Team Sport

Our best ideas often come out of nowhere, yet it's important to create the right conditions for inspiration to strike.

Share this article

Where are you when you get your best ideas? In the shower? At the gym? Walking the dog? Hardly anybody says in a brainstorming session – and there’s good reason for this.

We’re all individuals with our own preferred time, place and way of thinking. And just because someone wants to run a brainstorming session on a topic doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in your optimal thinking mode at that moment and place.

Because thinking isn’t a team sport; it’s a highly-individual activity. So encourage it by using a process which assists the individual to think like a genius.

Killer Question development

Brainstorming encourages out-of-the-box thinking where the sky’s the limit. But this isn’t real life.

In business there are many constraints and issues that need to be considered for an idea to be a recognised as a great solution or opportunity.

A sensible approach to idea generation acknowledges this need to identify the constraints to the thinking which then help define the area (or box) where the ideas will be acceptable. This is the converse to brainstorming as it’s effectively about thinking inside the box.

To identify big and bold opportunities, a business needs to be asking powerful questions – Killer Questions – which define the box you want to think into.

A great Killer Questions is meaningful and pragmatic for the business in that it intuitively feels like it has the potential to be answered – but you just don’t know what the answer is yet. And that the value it will deliver when answered well will help the business achieve or surpass its desired goals.

Finding Querencia


Isn't it time you found your Querencia?

is a lovely Spanish word from the bull-fighting world. It doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but the approximate translation is the place of safety that the bull retreats to before launching its final charge. The place from which there is only one direction to go – and that’s forward.

To undertake powerful thinking it’s important to back yourself into a place mentally, so that you are absolutely sure that when you start your thinking activities, you are heading in the best direction. When you find your Querencia, there’s no need to look left or right as your focus is on going forward, because your success lies only in that direction.

Know your thinking ritual

Great thinking needs its own focused and committed time for clear, undisturbed effort. While some things can be multi-tasked like reading a document while listening on a conference call – thinking isn’t one of them. You need to create blocks of 15 to 30 minutes for your thinking time during your day.

Some useful times of the day are while on the train or bus when commuting to work – or you could head down to the coffee shop for a thinking-focused coffee break.

Many people feel they are at their most creative in the morning, before the daily toils of a business day have begun to wear them down. So try to block out your thinking time in the less-hectic parts of your day or week.

Once you’ve made time available, you’ll need to find a place to do your thinking, and the best places are where you aren’t normally found. If you stay at your desk, you’ll probably be approached by people who think you are working and that it’s okay to interrupt you. So break your pattern and go somewhere else – either inside your building or outside of it.

For some people the perfect thinking time is while exercising – running, at the gym on the treadmill or cycling. Just make sure you have some way of capturing your ideas such as a Dictaphone or a voice recording app on your smartphone. Experiment and learn – and then use your best time.

Breaking you thinking patterns

We humans are a highly-developed species as we’ve learned to use our minds efficiently. We create patterns of behaviour and in any given situation review the behaviour patterns we know and apply what we believe to be the best one for that situation. An example is tying your shoelaces. You don’t have to try to remember how to tie your laces every time – it’s now automatic.

This is good, except when we want to do something differently – like change the way we think about a topic. This is when our normal thinking patterns become a liability. We aspire to think differently, but our brains automatically recall the patterns we know and we end up going over the same ideas again as we did previously.

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Thinking like an individual is harder than it sounds

You need a way to break your normal thinking patterns and an approach you can try is to use a thinking template which forces you to think differently about your issue

The Idea Generator provides three thinking templates that can be used for different types of issues.

Islands of Opportunity: Helps you efficiently identify opportunities to an issue which is new or hasn’t been tackled before.

Divide and Conquer: Is intended to consider a difficult issue that has been addressed before but which is still unresolved and which needs fresh thinking.

Boundary Riding: Is specifically structured to identify short- to medium-term growth opportunities within, or near to, your current business areas.

These templates lead your thinking with a series of innovative tools to ensure you are considering your issue from fresh perspectives. The templates also act as a convenient repository for all your ideas too.

Synthesising your findings

Your ideas are captured in the templates so that you can connect them together to synthesise great answers to your Killer Question. Each template contains an assessment stage at the end to help you select and develop your best ideas.

Whether you are addressing an issue on your own or as part of a team – try doing the thinking on your own first of all – and see how templates can help unleash your inner genius.

Chris Thomason is the author of The Idea Generator – 15 Clever Thinking Tools to Create Winning Ideas Quickly, published by Pearson and is also the MD of Sprint for Growth which provides innovative growth services for SMEs.

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Why Business Thinking Isn’t A Team Sport

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