Creativity and the Get-Along Shirt
A good friend of mine posted a funny story on Facebook recently. Not only did I find the story quite humorous, I though it contained a great application for some of our own business challenges. Here’s the story:
I have a problem in my house. My kids fight a lot. Not all the time, mind you. Just twice per day – When the sun is out, and when it’s dark.
It all came to a head this past weekend. What started as a simple request to share some yogurt escalated into name-calling and tears. In a flash of brilliance and agitation, my thoughts drifted to a concept I had seen on the web somewhere – the “Get-Along Shirt”. It was probably a hoax, but my desperation made me set aside my critical thinking skills and latch on to any potential solution. I grabbed a large t-shirt and called my kids, ages 5 and 7, into the kitchen to explain the concept.
“OK. This shirt I have in my hand is called the ‘Get-Along Shirt’. Whenever you fight, you both have to get into the shirt together and wear it until you can both say three things you love about each other.”
My explanation was met with confused, blank stares. I then pulled the shirt over both of their ample noggins, and forced an arm into each sleeve. They looked remarkably like Zak & Wheezie from Dragon Tales and then something amazing happened.
Too close together to throw punches, they simply started squirming and laughing. Amid the laughter, they brainstormed things they love about each other. Tree climbing ability. Knock-knock jokes. A talent for making wondrous sounds with an armpit…
This story reminded me that there’s a lot to be learned from the “Get-Along Shirt” that we can apply to our own problem solving situations; especially problems where creative thinking is desperately needed.
- Force Relationships: When you are at a loss for new ideas, ask questions that force people to frame the problem in new, unique ways. For instance, “What could we borrow from (other area of our business/other industry) that would help us solve the problem?” Or, “How might we change our product if (other demographic) was using it?”
- Combine Attributes: If new product development is your aim, create a matrix of the attributes of each of your offerings. Then see how you could combine attributes of different products to create a brand new thing that capitalizes on your existing strengths.
- Spontaneously Appreciate: Problem solving can be fun. When deadlines are looming, we want to vet solutions quickly, so we quickly find the negative in ideas. Unfortunately, this judgment cuts off the flow of new ideas, promotes tension, and causes people to self-filter. Instead, try commenting on the positive attributes of ideas to encourage further solutions.
Creativity is really a matter of combining previously unrelated elements – unlocking the creative potential in each of us requires that we break old connections (paradigms) and establish new ones. If you are looking for an adult sized “Get-Along Shirt” for your next meeting, just give us a call at (800) 386-5611. We would love to hear from you.
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