Kennebec Valley Chamber

Serving the Kennebec Valley, Maine Region

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Friday Report ~ May 1, 2015

Outside what box? - When my daughter was about 5 years old, she had a helium filled balloon in her hand and she was walking through the kitchen. Our kitchen happens to have a ceiling fan, and it was on at the time. As the balloon slipped out of her hand and began to float towards the fan, her mother and I began a scramble to get to it before the fan wrapped the cord and balloon in what could only be described as absolute panic.

As the balloon got closer and slightly out of reach, my wife and I noticed the fan beginning to slow down. As I turned, I realized that my 5 year old daughter had not joined us in our panic, but simply walked over and turned off the fan. She approached the problem differently than we did.

We are often faced with problems in our businesses that can induce panic or stress. Many times, the heads of companies lose their jobs because they were unable to foresee problems or handle them well when they occur. Often, these are the folks who have isolated themselves as the sole decision maker and unlikely to accept input from others. This is a trait that will lead to a company’s downfall. By all means, the company should have a final decision making authority, be it a sole person or a board of directors, but this authority needs to strive to find as much input as possible before making those decisions about the company’s future or how to handle a crisis.

Creative problem solving is not something that comes naturally to all, in fact there are those that really have a hard time seeing alternative ways to address a problem. There are many solutions to this dilemma. The first is to get training. One can learn how to be more creative in their thinking and develop techniques that help see all sides of an issue. This training, while helpful is not always the best answer.

In my experience, the best method when problems arise is to get advice. Whether this means asking a mentor, your business associates or compiling a group of your employees to brainstorm ideas, you will be tapping into creativity from folks who may think differently and bring unique life experiences to the discussion. The beauty of our race of humans is that we all think differently. A wise person once said, “You don’t need to come up with 100% of the solution, you need to come up with 100 people who have 1%.” One key benefit of this approach is that people love to be asked. It validates the work they do for you and reinforces their sense of self-worth.

So there is your challenge for the week, assess the issues facing your organization and go ask for some help. Be open to new ideas and find the ultra-creative people in your company. Create a culture of brainstorming and outside the box thinking. The results will surprise you.