Ahha Thinking!

Have you ever asked yourself –
Why do good ideas come to me when they do?
Why do “Aha!” moments sometimes come easily and sometimes not at all?
What can I do to enhance my out-of-the-box solution-finding abilities and take steps to cultivate innovative thinking?

What kind of people have Ahha Thinking?
In my opinion, where your ahha thinking comes from varies on your different personas and the roles you play.  In using your various personas, you problem-solve and you can come up with new ideas.

Ahha thinking is basically all about balance!
intensity and relaxation; seriousness and playfulness; solitude and teamwork.

We live in a culture of high intensity and short on relaxation, playfulness and teamwork.  Well, that has been my observation.  I know companies are trying to restore relaxation, playfulness and teamwork with flextime, luncheons and holiday parties to generate more productive energy.  For ahha thinking we need more than those activities.

What can you do?

intensity and relaxation
Find something that restores you, mediation, yoga, walks in the park or a power nap.
The power napping sounds pretty good and is something Edison, Einstein, Da Vinci, Churchill, Washington, JFK and other extraordinary achievers all relied on.

seriousness and playfulness
Remember the proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
It’s meaning is that without time off from work, a person becomes bored and boring.  Are you finding time to play and be playful?  To play is to use your imagination.  Playing with fantasy gives birth to creative work.

I believe we have seriousness under control…it’s the laughter we all need to work on.  Laugh more…Humor is essential to ahha thinking and creativity.  Having fun makes you more efficient, productive and innovative.  It helps boost the immune system and promotes the feeling of well-being.   It allows you to maintain a broad perspective in the face of intense pressures and transform stress into energy for high performance.
Take time to play and be play-filled.

solitude and teamwork
Are you optimizing your balance between working with others and investing in solitude?  Carefully select people who support, complement and expand your thinking.  Find your inner circle of collaborators but also engage on a regular basis to find time for yourself.

When people are asked where the question “where are you located when you get your best ideas?” Do you know what the common responses are?
In the shower.  While resting in bed.  Driving in my car.  During a long walk.
It is rare that anyone says they get their best idea at work.

Ahha!  Solitude and relaxation!

Ideas always seem to come to me when I least expect them. For that reason, I carry around a notebook that I use to jot down ideas about all sorts of things.  It helps me avoid the frustration of coming up with an idea only to forget it shortly after.

Basically getting ahha thinking is about finding balance.

It’s also about letting our various personas help us uncover the ahha moments.  In the book,  Ten Faces of Innovation.   To generate aha thinking, people who adopt the learning roles are humble enough to question their own worldview, and in doing so they remain open to new insights every day.

What learning persona is extremely good at reframing a problem in a new way?
That would be the Anthropologist.  Get an Anthropologist’s attitude is to venture into the field to observe how people interact with products, services, and experiences in order to come up with new innovations.

Anthropologists share such distinguishing characteristics as the wisdom to observe with a truly open mind; empathy; intuition; the ability to “see” things that have gone unnoticed; …and they have a way of seeking inspiration in unusual places.

What kind of aha thinking does an anthropologist have?
They embrace human behavior.  They manage to get people to talk about themselves, they enjoy being with and amongst people, asks probing questions and projects in a non-threatening image.

From an anthropologist perspective, in order to “forecast” or look at tomorrow you’ll: Have to look at the teenagers of today because they help drive all the trends.

Another learning persona to capture ahha thinking is to be an Experimenter.
The experimenter celebrates the process, the testing and retesting of potential scenarios to make ideas tangible.  To share the fun of aha thinking, the Experimenter invites others to collaborate, while making sure that the entire process is saving time and money.  Experimenters think like risks takers.  They’re passion is for hard work and a they have a very curious mind. They demonstrate an openness to serendipity.
They make ideas tangible by executing the What if…

To become more of an experimenter you’ll:
Make ongoing experimentation part of your approach.  Need a symbolic way of flushing away mistakes.  Can you see life as one big experiment?  Enjoy the discovery!

Can you be someone who like to Cross-Pollinate? The Cross-Pollinator draws associations and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts to break new ground.  Cross-Pollinator brings in big ideas from the outside world to enliven their organization. Their attitude can often be identified by their open mindedness, diligent note-taking, tendency to think in metaphors, and ability to reap inspiration from constraints.  Cross-pollinators examine other industries, cultures and they translate their finding to fit their own needs. They are the ones who mixes and matches ideas… people and technology to create new ideas that can drive growth.  Their aha thinking is done by creating something new or better through unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts.  Enjoy a breadth of knowledge in different fields with a depth of expertise in one area.

The ingredients for being a cross-pollinator: Seek out diverse projects.  Seeking diverse work to be exposed to other interests and industries.

Organizer personas are played by individuals who are savvy about the often counter-intuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward.  The organizers are personas each understand that even the best ideas must continuously compete for time, attention, and resources!  How true is this in your own experience?

Those who adopt these organizing roles don’t dismiss the process of budget and resource allocation as “politics” or “red tape.” They recognize it as a complex game of chess, and they play to win!

An organizer role would be a Hurdler.   A hurdler is a tireless problem-solver who gets energy out of tackling something that’s never been done before. When confronted with a challenge, the Hurdler gracefully sidesteps the obstacle while maintaining a quiet, positive determination.  Their thinking and attitude is not that it’s a long race; it is many short races one after another.  This optimism and perseverance can help with aha thinking… big ideas upend the status quo as well as turn setbacks into an organization’s greatest successes—despite doomsday forecasting by shortsighted experts.

The hurdler overcomes obstacles…instantly looks for ways to overcome the limits and challenges to any situation.  The hurdler does more with less and try something that’s never been done before.  They are savvy risk-takers and Street-smart.  Setbacks are viewed as opportunities.  They tend to ignore the so-called experts.

They balance seriousness and playfulness.

What type of persona truly values the team over the individual? That would be a Collaborator!  The collaborator gets things done.  The Collaborator coaxes people out of their work silos to form multidisciplinary teams.  In doing so, the person in this role dissolves traditional boundaries within organizations and creates opportunities for team members to assume new roles for aha thinking.  More of a coach than a boss, the Collaborator’s attitude is to instill their team with the confidence and skills needed to complete the shared journey.

The Collaborator likes to bring people together.  They stir up the pot as they bring people together to get things done and make multilateral task forces work.

They value the team over the individual and the project accomplishment beyond individual achievement.  Unity and they are a great defense against internal skeptics. Their attitude is the race is won in the baton pass.

Some tips on collaboration: Coach more, direct less.  Encourage the sharing of ideas and initiatives.  A collaborator has to balance their solitude with teamwork.

The last Organizer type persona is called the Director.  The Director has an acute understanding of the bigger picture, with a firm grasp on the pulse of their organization. The Director’s sets the stage, targeting opportunities, bringing out the best in their players, and getting things done.  The director motivates those around them to take center stage and embrace the unexpected for aha thinking.

The director brings people together to help develop ideas from all of them.

The director will: Map out the production and crafts the scenes.  Bring out the best among people and build chemistry.  Gets it done.  Gives center stage to others.
Loves finding new projects. Conducts regular brainstorming,
The secrets to brainstorming:
Sharp your focus: a clear statement of the problem in an open-ended question. Mind the rules: go for quantity, encourage crazy ideas, be visual, defer judgment and, allow only one conversation at a time.
Number your ideas.

Stretch first: start with a warmup.  Get physical.  Start with some ‘zip’

Enjoy life.  This is not a dress rehearsal.  It’s the real thing.

The last group of innovation personas we’ll discuss is the Building Personas

The four building personas are roles that apply insights from the learning roles (Anthropologist, Experimenter, Cross-Pollinator) and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles (Hurdler, the Collaborator, and the Director) to make innovation happen. When people adopt the building personas, they stamp their mark on the organization. People in these roles are highly visible, so you’ll often find them right at the heart of the action.

In innovation you’ll find an Experience Architect. The Experience Architect focuses on creating remarkable individual experiences.  This person facilitates positive encounters within the organization through products, services, digital interactions, spaces, or events.  The Experience Architect maps out how to turn something ordinary into something distinctive—even delightful—every chance they get.

The experience architect gets aha thinking by totally understanding the customer’s needs.

A good experience architect will : Sets the stage for positive encounters.  Design for customers and for employees.  Engages senses incorporating tactile sensations, uses sound and looks for opportunities to add smell or taste.

Their motto: the first step in becoming extraordinary is simply to stop being ordinary.

The Set Designer looks at every day as a chance to liven up their workspace.  They promote energetic, inspired cultures by creating work environments that celebrate the individual and stimulate creativity.  To keep up with shifting needs and foster continuous aha thinking, the Set Designer makes adjustments to a physical space to balance solitude and collaborative teamwork opportunities. In doing so, this person makes space itself one of an organization’s most versatile and powerful tools.

The Set Designer creates the right environment for everyone to have ahha thinking.  Dedicated to explore a different frontier called ‘inner space’. Sees that the office design contributes to the overall performance and supports the culture itself.

The Storyteller’s role is to capture imaginations with compelling narratives of the initiative.  They communicate in whatever medium best fits their skills and message: video, narrative, animation, even comic strips. By rooting their stories in authenticity, the Storyteller can spark emotion and action, transmit values and objectives, foster collaboration, create heroes, and lead people and organizations into the future.

They build a story about their company and how they fostered a culture for aha thinking.

How do stories help? Stories can persuade in a way that facts, report and even trends seldom do.  Stories make an emotional connection possible and make heroes out of real people.  Using stories can communicate the values and objectives.

As a storyteller, they don’t ask for instant insights, don’t jump to conclusions, don’t ask yes- no questions.

What do you do for ahha thinking?
To truly restore ahha thinking and gain a life balance, let your soul catch up with your body.

Create balance with:
intensity and relaxation;
and playfulness;
and teamwork.

About Kate Mulcahy

Kate Mulcahy is principal of Brand New Discovery Inc., a consultant and coach who provides a strategic and creative experience for business leaders, entrepreneurs and forward-thinking individuals who want to fully optimize or refocus their professional lives. Applying her extensive leadership, marketing and communications experience, Mulcahy leads you closer to a higher level of thinking by encouraging you to prioritize your goals and objectives for what you plan to achieve both personally and professionally. Her imaginative, optimistic, and engaging approach leads to reinventing, rediscovering and defining what’s possible for yourself and your personal brand.
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