Challenge Logbook – log every opportunity to be creative

Busy, busy, busy. It seems we all love to brag about how full our schedules are. It goes without saying that this culture of being busy is harmful to our society. More and more people fall victim to burnout. Apart from that, a flooded agenda is also a serious threat to creativity and innovation. 

Do you have enough time to be creative?

Most of us have so much to do that we can’t find the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. There is no space in our busy schedules for precious incubation time. We are robbing ourselves of the freedom to wonder about what can be (instead of what is).

Most businesses acknowledge the importance of innovation and most people love to read and hear about novel ideas. And let’s be honest, we all hope to one day come up with that out-of-the-box idea that will make everybody jealous. Yet, when it comes to creativity in the workplace. We ignore this desire. We say to ourselves that we don’t have time for it. We are too busy…

It’s a shame. Coming up with creative ideas brings joy and energy. It helps you to tackle tough challenges and provides you with fresh insights. That’s why creativity shouldn’t be restricted to that once-a-year offsite strategic session about the future of your department. Creative thinking should be part of your everyday job. It should be about improving your work, having fun with your colleagues, adding value for your customers and helping you to grow as an individual.

But how do you fit this into your crazy schedule?

Let me give you the solution. A simple trick you can apply to create space to be creative. You should be able to embed it in your everyday schedule. It consists of two parts; a challenge logbook and tiny creative sessions.

Collect challenges – keep them in your challenge logbook

Whenever you stumble upon something that bothers (or intrigues) you, save it. Save it in a special notebook, on your phone or in a folder on your computer. In this logbook, you can collect private and work-related challenges that you want to explore creatively (when you have the time for it).

Make sure that all the challenges on your list meet 3 criteria;
– They matter to you (new ideas would offer ‘real value’)
– They are within your control (you have the power to change the situation)
– They require creative thinking (and not just research or analysis)

 

1. Problems
Gather all the ‘issues’ that you come across. What are the things that you’re concerned about? What situation is ‘unwanted’? What ‘obstacles’ are standing in your way and are preventing your ‘ideal situation’ from happening?

Difficult problems
There are always situations that are a burden. Things you have been struggling with for a while. Projects that are stuck or topics that are in need of fresh ideas.

Simple issues
Put some small challenges on your list as well. Simple lightweight topics will help you to get the creative juices flowing.


2. Improvements
In every business and every profession, there is always room for improvement.

General improvements (broad)
Look for ways to improve your product or service.

– How might we increase the quality of our product/service? 
– How might we reduce waste?
– How might we speed up our process?
– How might we make our product/service more valuable?
– How can we make our process more efficient?
– How can we make our process simpler?
– How can we work more lean/agile?
– How can we cut our (production) costs?
– How can we work more sustainable?
– etc.

Specific improvements (narrow)
Perhaps there are some topics that deserve your attention. Maybe there are some products or processes that have been neglected for a while. Write down the topics that you want to think about.


3. Opportunities
You should always keep an eye out for new (business) opportunities.


Trends, research & technology
New developments are a great source of innovation inspiration. Think about things like trends (global, market, society, design, product, business etc.), research (new insights on topics that are relevant to your business) and newly developed technology & inventions.

– How can we apply this technology in our field?
– What can we learn from this new company?
– How can we apply this design trend within our company?
– What can we learn from our competitors?

– etc.

Ideas
New ideas can take shape at any time. Whether you’re walking the dog, taking a shower or going for a run. Creative ideas will often appear at unexpected moments, when you don’t have time to think about what to do with these ideas. Don’t worry. Simply save these original thoughts in your logbook (or remember them until you have the opportunity to write down your ideas). When the time is right (and when you have given yourself some incubation time) you can start planning the next actions.

Customer needs
Listen to your customers and collect their needs. They might help you to develop a new value proposition. If you notice that your customer is complaining about a specific subject, see if you can discover the ‘need’ behind this complaint. You can also ask other customers if they have the same issues. If they do (and if a solution is feasible) you might have stumbled upon something worth investigating…

 

4. Projects
What are you working on right now? Why not focus your creative energy on these projects?

Work-related
At HatRabbits we aim to have a short creative session at the start of every new project and every time a project enters a new ‘phase’. We schedule a short moment to think about ways to make the project for our clients more valuable, fun and surprising. This way we create added value for our customers and challenge ourselves to improve our quality. During these sessions, we often think up entirely new value propositions that afterwards can be reused and offered to other clients.

Personal
Of course you can also throw in some personal challenges. A name for the novel you have been working on in your spare time, a theme for your daughter’s birthday party, an original gift for your wife, how to redesign your living room etc. All you need is a little bit of time to think about these private challenges. For example, after work or during a lunch break.

Schedule time to be creative – plan tiny creative sessions

To create enough space in your busy schedule to be creative, block some ‘thinking time’ in your agenda. You can have tiny 5-10-minute creative sessions after lunch or at the beginning of the day. Or you can hold a creative session with some like-minded colleagues on the last Friday of every month. (Before you go to the office drink!) Keep the sessions short and fun. This will make it much easier to turn it into a monthly routine.

Pick one or a few challenges that you want to explore. Turn these challenges upfront into ‘How might we…?’ questions. Pick a challenge you like and use short creative thinking techniques to come up with novel ideas. Evaluate the ideas, pick your favourite and define the next action steps.

 

 

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Comments
  • Eric
    Reply

    Hi Jeroen,
    It has been a while that I took the time to read your newsletter, exactly due to my busy schedule.
    Thanks for your inspiration and clear examples like how to redesign my living room!
    Really a valuable article!
    Best regards also to René,
    Eric

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