4 Steps to Harnessing Freaky Thinking in Your Business

There is a solution to almost every business challenge, but finding solutions isn’t always easy. Given the economic, social, and environmental challenges currently facingbusinesses in every sector, fresh thinking is becoming increasingly important. There are new and difficult questions to answer for some, while others require superior answers to old questions. Either way, doing what’s always been done—usually a brainstorming session—is a diminishing returnsstrategy. Brainstorming sessions can bring odd assortments of people together, but magnolia office walls can drain every last drop of meaningful creativity. Decades of research points to gathering bodies and hoping for inspiration being less effective than alternate thinking techniques.

The Freaky Thinking process is designed to go beyond the realms of conventional wisdom and search for, and identify, pragmatic new ideas that form the valuable solutions needed.It’s the first radically different approach to workplace thinking in the last 70 years. But how do you ‘do’ it?

1. Ask where you do your best thinking

The best place to begin is by looking at when you do your best thinking. What are you doing when you get your best ideas? Taking a shower? Walking the dog? Driving? Exercising at the gym? I’ve asked this question of thousands of people, and these are the answers I get most frequently. Generally, we’re looking for activities where we’re alone with our thoughts.

What’s also extraordinary is that people rarely say they get their best ideas at work. While organisations may encourage employees to ‘bring their full selves’ to work, they may not be applying their minds as well as they could be.

Research at the University of California saw participants were given two creative thinking tests with different actions to perform between the tests. The group that showed the greatest improvement (of over 40%) were participants given an ‘undemanding task’ to do. They fared much better than those who performed a demanding task or who were told to sit and relax in the short break between the tests.

2. Acknowledge that questions are key

We’d all like the ideas we come up with to be bold and powerful, such that they impress those around us. But if ideas are the answers to questions, then to get bold and powerful answers, we need to be posing bold and powerful questions that stimulate this type of answer. In Freaky Thinking this type of question is called a Killer Question.

A Killer Question is one that, when answered well, will deliver significant value for you. It’s a question that you—or the organisation—haven’t yet been able to answer satisfactorily, and it’s one you intuitively feel is possible to answer. It’s a question that has many potential answers and where you’ll have to choose the best one to execute. Just because you couldn’t answer a specific work question previously, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to answer. It just means that your thinking wasn’t imaginative enough to answer it then. But with a Freaky Thinking approach that positions it as a Killer Question, you can potentially answer it now.

A Killer Question ignites a fire, or a passion, for you personally. It’s when you recognise that if you are able to answer it well, there will be significant benefit for your organisation, your team, or yourself. Killer Questions sparkgenuine personal interest in finding great answers to them – and they ignite an individual’s curiosity.

3. Encouragcuriosity

What are you or members of your team curious about? What problems do you/they encounter regularly in your workplace? What problem do you keep coming back to with that intuitive sense that there must be a solution, if you could just grasp it? Each team member probably has a different ‘curious problem’, so tap into their individual curiosity. This a great place to start. 

4. Find the right motivation 

Intrinsic motivation is where you’re motivated by what makes you feel good, and what you enjoy doing (not what you mustdo). Deciding to learn a new skill (such as a language) only because you want to is intrinsic motivation. The litmus test may be whether you have been told to do something, or whether you’re self-starting a task because you want to do something.

Killer Questions are an integration of an individual’s curiosity, passion and purpose. Allowing them the freedom to do their thinking in their own best personal place and time is the autonomy. And the excitement of incremental improvements as they sense new solutions being identified is their sense of mastery.

So, follow your curiosity, and encourage your team to do the same. Make time to ‘pull on that thread’ without the stress of looming deadlines. Make space for people to follow what appeals to them and find solutions to the problems that interest them.  


Chris Thomason is founder of Ingenious Growth which helps organisations change their thinking to boost innovation, productivity, profits and most importantly, staff satisfaction. After buying a failing manufacturing company and turning it into one of the largest in its sector, Chris now teaches the innovative ways of thinking that lead to his business success. Chris is author of eight business books including The Idea Generator, Freaky Thinking, and Excellence in Freaky Thinking. Chris’s clients include UPS, Canon, O2, Vodafone, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Touchnote, Lloyds Bank, Toyota, HSBC, Scottish Widows, South African Airways, American Express, and many more.

Web: www.ingeniousgrowth.com