Is it possible to think creatively in a left brain environment? I was asking myself this question when asked to take a look at the business analysis process in place for a banking client of mine. As you’ll see below the answer is yes. You can and you should apply creative thinking wherever you can. Especially in left brain environments.
I consult in my day job. At the moment, I am part of a pretty large program hoping to overhaul the internal operation of a number of banking products. The standard approach looked a bit like this:
As you might expect, this kind of approach can take an extremely long time. My brief was to look at alternative options for getting the job done quicker.
Using Creative Thinking to Re-Invent Process Analysis
My gut feel was to use an attribute based approach to creative thinking, partly to understand the problem space better and partly to arrive at options that might be less challenging for my client than a complete redesign.
Step 1: mind map the problem space
Our mind map was done here pretty quickly, with the goal of commenting on each major process step so we could understand what actually happens, and what gets produced. This went up on our big whiteboard and got updated and referred to throughout the rest of the process. We also generated a separate list of questions, which we used as direction during solution building. Here are some of our top questions:
- Does everyone work separately? What if they could all work together?
- What happens to issues in manual process? Are they rejected in favour of addressing hard system fixes?
- How to issues get tested / validated?
- What is an acceptable solution and who is accountable for it working?
Step 2: SCAMPER
I wrote about SCAMPER in a previous post. Essentially, you get to pick out and play with attributes form the problem space. The goal is to generate ideas or prompts for ideas, which can feed into step 3. This is the creative thinking step, so logistics, judgement and expectations are on hold. We captured our thoughts brainstorm style in a large unstructured mess of post its (on a different wall nearby to the mind map). Here is an extract:
- Substitute root cause document with a physical test
- Modify the use of sequential steps to form a single activity
- Extend the process to build and test solutions
- Replace the analysis process with a game
Step 3: Solution Building
During solution building we picked up our SCAMPER prompts and talked them through until we had a workable solution. Here are some examples:
- Using prompt 4 we could have several teams could compete to solve groups of issues around a given product. Teams would be selected for specialist product knowledge, with the winning team ‘perfecting’ their product first. This could merge with prompt 3 to enable teams to actually fix their issues as well.
- Using prompt 2 we could form collaborative hit teams briefed to resolve groups of issues in a test environment. This solution would move from hard documents to live walk throughs and screen grabs.
The bus ride home
We found this process really useful, and piloted a couple of approaches favoured by our client before settling on a preferred approach.
On my way home I got to thinking about how easy it is to separate creative thinking and logical thinking. We are so used to using logical left brain thinking in our day to day work that we often see creative thinking as something we do in a workshop, or on a strategy day. Stop it. Think creatively now.