Managers who are willing to think outside the box and deviate from popular opinion can sometimes get a bad rap. However, these innovative thinkers are able to react flexibly and creatively to difficult situations and problems in their team, effectively turning failures into success stories. In this article we look at why managers benefit from thinking outside the box.
Do you have fresh and innovative ideas? Find the right leadership position for you and use your unique approach to make a mark.
400 years ago, Galileo Galilei proved that the sun did not orbit the Earth – changing everything people had thought about their realities up until that point in time. Until 1610 everyone had believed the Earth was the centre of the universe. However when Galilei took his telescope and observed the night sky with fresh eyes, he observed something completely different. This led to a ground breaking discovery.
If he had not been able to look at the situation with new eyes, and had instead simply believed what others told him, this discovery would have remained unknown for quite a while longer. Despite the amazement people at the time expressed about this incredible new finding, the catholic church was quick to condemn it. The Inquisition forbade his writings and forced him to recant his theories. Today we know that Galilei was spot on with his observations.
Why do we need creative managers?
For a long time scientists believed that people who thought outside the box would eventually fold under group pressure. In 1951 psychologist Solomon Asch conducted an experiment and found that the larger the group is, the more people tend to conform to mob mentality. Leaders who broke out of the box were ridiculed and labeled as troublemakers. Many thought the same thing about Mark Zuckerberg as he spent time in his garage building the first version of Facebook.
According to scientific journalist Jürgen Schaefer everyone likes creative thinkers – until they have one on their team. However, he also wrote: “We can thank individuals who swam against the stream for many developments that we have made. Once upon a time no one thought that we would fly through space or set sail in one direction and come back in another.”
What separates creative thinkers from other managers?
Creative thinkers are able to easily find answers to unsolved questions. They weigh up the facts and are not afraid to try new approaches. This type of team leader can find the solution to a technical, scientific or social problem by going against the grain and questioning the typical way that things have been done in the past. The following traits are typical of a creative thinker:
A great deal of courage is needed to go against popular opinion. It also requires a large amount of reflection and looking at the issue from different angles. Managers should take into account the views of the majority and carefully weigh up their arguments.
It takes a lot of time and work to convince a large group to try new things. True creative thinkers do not give up in the face of opposition, although they might be accused of being out of touch with reality. They stick to their opinions even in the face of criticism.
Strong personal positioning
Foresighted leaders position themselves through their specialist knowledge as experts. Social competence also strengthens your positions and increases your credibility.
People who think outside the box surround themselves with people and subjects that are outside their area of expertise. This exposes them to new perspectives and ways of doings things that they would not have come to alone. It will also ensure that you avoid shortsightedness.
With their ability to solve problems through innovative thinking, creative leaders contribute to the success of an organisation. It is nevertheless important that new ideas are well thought through and are backed up by good arguments. A good dose of courage, persistence and openness can transform a good manager into an excellent creative thinker.
About the Author
Nele Grantz studied literature, theatre, ethnology and African studies at LMU in Munich. After graduating she pursued journalism and enjoys writing about job and career topics.