Our Blueprint for Thinking Differently

Title banner - Our Blueprint for Thinking Fifferently

Written by Adam Waters

Director BFBS Academy and Creative

Over the last few years at BFBS Creative, we’ve learnt a few lessons… most of them the hard way. We’ve decided to share them in a series of blog posts, with our Blueprint for various big ideas. Here’s our first – our Blueprint for thinking differently.

Study for the Head of a Soldier in the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo da Vinci ca. 1504–1505
Study for the Head of a Soldier in the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo da Vinci ca. 1504–1505


Many organisations struggle to innovate, find that their long-standing culture stifles them, or throw around so many buzzwords that they drive their poor staff mad. So how do you think differently?

Take Tiny Steps

Many organisations, sometimes rightly, worry about being ‘Uber’d.’ A new upstart organisation comes into their industry and turns everything upside down. Logically, that surely means that you need to try and make huge transformational leaps?

This is hard! And often not the right response. What tiny, incremental steps can you and your team make to change how you work, or to edit your culture? Those incremental gains very quickly add up, and you’ll be a lot less stressed as a result.

This also helps put the ‘thinking differently’ culture firmly into place without ever even having to think about it.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran © CC NC SA


Shout Unspoken Truths

‘Thinking differently’ might just mean you saying what everyone is already thinking! You’ll never be able to squeeze round the elephant in the room, so why try?

Here’s an example - in the last few years people have tried to change how conferences work. A huge relief. Conferences are totally mad when you think about it – especially to an introvert like me.

Standing around those tiny tables with your ‘networking lunch.’ Listening to loud people from your industry, as you write down notes that you probably won’t ever read. Visiting those stands whilst the people working on them stare awkwardly back at you.

But it’s hard to admit this! For decades, people kept attending the same style of conferences. We’re not there yet, but by people thinking differently and just speaking up about how odd a lot of these events are, they are making changes happen.

So – what unspoken truths are there in your organisation? And more importantly, how can you get people to voice them?

Top down view of a storm
Credit - NASA


It Comes From The Top

I often think of culture as how people behave when the boss isn’t around. It’s easy to say that innovation matters, or that you’re a dynamic organization, but are you really acting when it comes down to it?

I asked my LinkedIn network if they had examples of places they’d worked where people did regularly think differently. The Wellcome Trust and Forum for the Future were two names that came up. What did they have in common? The desire for challenge and different thinking, and innovation came from the top.

Avoid Wackiness

AOL used to pay a kind of living caricature a six-figure salary to be their ‘Digital Prophet.’ It’s easy to equate innovation, digital, or change with craziness. Standing up and saying ‘digital, yeah’ or buying big cushions won’t meaningfully change anything.

Don’t be a Shingy, yeah?

Challenge Orthodoxies of Innovation

There is now a kind of established grammar of being ‘different.’ It’s post-it notes on a glass wall. It’s using the word ‘agile’. Don’t fall for the temptation to set up a shiny innovation office.

What problem are you trying to solve? Articulate it, empower your staff to take steps to change it, and save money on that sticky stationary order.

Post it notes stuck to a wall

What He Just Said

Culture might be set from the top, but success comes from ensuring that everyone is  given the opportunity to make a positive difference. Forget hierarchy or grade. Forget being wacky.

Thinking differently is simple – figure out what you want to fix, listen to your people about how to do it, and give them the trust and power to make it happen.

Brilliant Bonus Content

We asked the ever-fantastic Christine Cawthorne from Crocstar of common mistakes she sees.  Do any of these ring true to you?

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