Thinking Creatively


Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! — Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. – Mark Twain

Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun. – George Scialabba

While you may not be writing the next best American novel or painting a museum-worthy masterpiece, creativity is still invaluable to your professional career.  Without innovative thoughts, you’ll continue to do what everyone else has done, and your business will never stand out.  Not to mention, creative thinking is what enables you to develop new, more effective processes, successfully resolve problems and promote your services with fresh and original marketing strategies.  But how do you encourage creative thinking?  Here are 7 techniques that can help:

1.    Role-play. I’ve found that my best ideas often come in pretending to talk with someone else about my professional problems or concerns.  Role-playing is a great way to tap into the creative-thinking process and access ideas and solutions that are difficult to see otherwise.

2.    Journal. Writing is another way to tap into the creative-thinking process.  But instead of trying to generate thoughtful prose, time yourself and write without stopping or self-editing.  You’ll find that your best ideas come when you’re allowing them to flow without judgment.

3.    Encourage opposing ideas. The best ideas are often those you don’t agree with.  Playing devil’s advocate can be a rewarding creative exercise.  This is why it’s good to hire free thinkers who are willing to voice dissent.  If possible, hold meetings where those ideas are explored.  If you don’t have a staff, meet with family or friends to see what out-of-the-box ideas they may have to share.

4.    Consider “what if.” This is an exercise we’re all very familiar with from a young age.  What if I became an astronaut?  What if I married Billy Joe McPeet?  What if I added tax preparation to my service offerings?  As you explore the possibilities, you’re bound to discover that many of your what-ifs are not only possible but, perhaps, profitable as well.

5.    Engage in mindless tasks. In a article, Steve Tobak suggests that mindless, repetitive tasks often free the mind to engage in higher-level functions like creative thinking.

6.    Lose the routine. In an article posted to, Jennifer Alsevar suggests that small-business owners step out of their daily routine in order to alter their mind frame or perspective.  Consider doing some “field work” by spending a day with a client or researching the competition.  Alsevar quotes Robin Chase, a 50-year old CEO, as saying, “Time wasting is an excellent source of innovation.  Make time to read widely, and cultivate a variety of friends and online groups who send you wacky articles.”

7.    Mingle with other creative thinkers. Networking provides a great opportunity to mingle with free thinkers who could help you develop more innovative approaches to your business.  Join forums or listservs, create a Twitter and FaceBook profile and follow creative thinkers both in an out of the accounting industry.  You can also find local professionals through your chamber of commerce.  There are countless ways to connect with those willing to share insight that will advance your business.

Creative thinking is a necessary for your business success.  Without it, you’re a follower, doing what’s already been done and often, with mediocrity.  Consider how Universal might help.  Join our free accounting and tax forums, follow us on Twitter and like us on FaceBook.  You’ll be surprised at how community encourages creativity.Resources–.  “Creativity.”–. “Let Creativity & Imagination Grow Your Business.” TheOpenSite.comAlsevar, Jennifer.  “How to Innovate: A Step-by-Step Guide.” 1 October 2009

Tobak, Steve. “10 Ways to Boost Creativity.” 22 December 2010

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