Creative thinking

25 October 2018

This article was featured in the November 2018 issue of the magazine.

Natalie Turner, author (, explains how to create ideas and novel solutions to everyday work

We often think being creative is just for people who work in high-tech industries, scientific research or the arts, but it’s something we all need to do to stay relevant in a world that continues to change at fast pace. And, as is witnessed by the changing regulatory environment and social trends that are affecting the world of payroll and pensions, this profession is no exception. Here are seven top tips on how to have a more creative approach and mindset towards the work that you do everyday.  

  • Broaden the concept of what it means to be creative – If we have a narrow definition of what it means to be creative and think it is always for other people who come up with fanciful ideas, then we limit our thinking before we even start.  Creating a novel solution is not just about getting an idea; it is about making an idea work. This is a highly practical endeavour that combines both creativity and discipline. 

  • Think beyond the product – When we think of creative solutions we often think of tangible products that have been invented, like the iphone or new drug discoveries, but creative solutions exist in all areas of work, increasingly in process improvement and productivity enhancement.  What I call, ‘everyday innovation’.  What processes are you working on that could be done differently or more efficiently that would create value for yourselves, organisations and customers? 

  • Challenge your assumptions – It is a known fact that our brains are highly efficient mechanisms that can sort information into categories helping us speed-up processing and make quick decisions. The downside is that we literally start to think the same way because it worked for us in the past. We get stuck in a rut. One way to create new neural pathways is to challenge our assumptions about what we believe to be right or true. Try holding an opposing opinion and see from a different perspective. How does it feel?  

  • Broaden your interests – If we are to be creative we need to have different stimuli. If we always read the same news and magazines, hang out with the same people, and go to the same places, we end up in a monochrome world that lacks diversity. Do something you have never done before. Meet new people, read or expose yourself to ideas outside your industry, broaden the inputs coming into your mind and notice if it affects the quality of your thinking. 

  • Revive a childhood hobby – Research has shown that children are more creative than adults, and creativity declines with age. This is for all manner of reasons including socialisation, upbringing, and the need to conform to cultural norms and expectations that are placed on us, as we become adults.  Think back to when you were a child: what were your hobbies, or what activities did you like to do that made you feel alive? Blow the dust off your old guitar, get out your dancing shoes, go on a photography course and notice fresh thinking that starts to emerge within your work, not to mention new sources of energy. 

  • Talk to customers – Often we become so internally focused on our work place that we forget the broader purpose of what we are doing and why. Make the effort to meet one or two customers a week and ask questions about what is challenging them right now. Try to understand their needs, from their position, without jumping straight into solution mode. Stand in their shoes. What can you see from their perspective? 

  • Insert the pause button – In our busy meeting and task driven work cultures it is tempting to race through activities that need to be done without stopping for breath.  The problem is, the to-do list will never end as new things are always being added to the pile.  Take a break. Get outside of the building. Go for a walk and just look at what is around you. Slow down your thinking, and walking, and see what you notice. This is often where new solutions will emerge. 

The increase in the pace of change and our ability to work with complexity is on the rise. Regulations change, customer requirements change, social environments change; our ability to adapt, to think laterally and to create new solutions – to innovate – is the survival skill that we need to cultivate in the work that we do everyday. Our mindset is the place to start.