Economy stinks? What a great time for fresh ideas

Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

A tough economy means hunkering down and working twice as hard to maintain the status quo, right?

Not necessarily. This may be the perfect opportunity to throw out old notions and ways of doing things and introduce fresh ideas.  Roger von Oech, creativity guru and author of the irreverent classic, A Whack on the Side of the Head, is still a wellspring of "whacky" thinking for business, and recently explained to Robert Scoble why creative thinking is really important in today's uncertain economic climate. (Bob Scoble's video interviews here and here.)

The most important piece of advice he could give to businesses, he says, is to be willing to let go of any and all ideas or preconceived notions. This is especially pertinent these days. "There's something about letting go that frees up possibilities," he says. The current economic climate "is forcing a lot of us to let go a lot of assumptions that made sense in 2007, or '08. Now we have to come up with new approaches."

For example, a lot of new opportunities have arisen around the iPhone -- something inconceivable just a couple of years ago. von Oech even has an app for his "Creative Whack Pack," first offered as a deck of cards with advice for looking at problems in new ways.

von Oech says he has seen countless companies rise and fall over the years. The issue? "Companies become arrogant," he says. "I saw that happen with a lot of Silicon Valley companies. They think, 'my crap doesn’t stink.' They stop looking for answers, and start believing their press clippings."

Stay humble, and stay curious, he urges. And block aside time to spend seeking out new ideas. "Give yourself a non-task day every six weeks or so, just to look for ideas in other industries or disciplines to see what you can borrow.  You'll discover a lot of amazing stuff going on."  He adds that "I feel sorry for the companies where they’re so production driven and quarterly driven that they're not open to new ideas."

It could be argued that the economic turmoil we've seen is exactly the "whack on the side of the head" many organizations need to generate fresh thinking. Regardless of economic conditions, fresh, unconventional thinking is a smart approach to taking your organization in new directions. Remember, the status quo is no longer status quo.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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