Sharpen Up Your Creative and Systems Thinking Skills

Project managers and business analysts, are your creative and systems thinking skills up and running? If not, they need to be.  Your thinking skills are an important facet of your management style and your approach to achieving a successful project outcome. I think that you need to be a creative thinker when it comes to solving problems and a systems thinker when it comes to evaluating what’s going on and where your project is going.  When you are working on a complex project, you soon discover that it is one thing to generate innovative ideas and possible solutions to a problem, and quite another thing to decide what actually should be done in that particular situation.  

Creative thinkers are able to generate new ideas, concepts and alternative solutions in order to solve business problems. Many times, the new ideas and concepts being generated are innovative and new ways to get the job done. It isn’t just about your creative thinking skills. You also need to ask questions and challenge assumptions in order to foster creative thinking in your other team members and project stakeholders.

In contrast, systems thinkers are masters at putting all of the project pieces together and understanding the properties, behaviors, and characteristics of a system as a whole, across people, processes, and technology. This information is a moving target and can be quite unpredictable. You need to recognize that systems are not just information technology systems. You are looking at systems in the broader sense, consisting of not just the technology components but the people, the processes and almost any other factors that come into play.

I always think that my projects and their resulting solutions are like puzzles, possessing many pieces and parts. Changes to one part of the puzzle can impact other parts as well as the whole puzzle. You need to be aware of the complexity of the systems that make up your business operations and keep an eye out for impacts within your new solution as well as to the business itself as work is being performed and decisions are being made.

Susan Weese

Check out Learning Tree’s Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving course that targets these and other topics.

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