Why clouds go hand-in-hand with blue sky (thinking)

29 March 2016

We’ve all heard, and often loathe, the term Blue Sky Thinking. In fact it was rated as the 2nd most irritating phrase of “management speak” in a survey of 2000 business travellers according to Jargon Buster. If we forget about the phrase & focus on the meaning – ideas not constrained by preconceptions, current thinking or beliefs, it’s a term that is more relevant now than it’s ever been.

Businesses are scrambling to develop their digital transformation or innovation strategies and in this realm, if some degree of blue sky thinking is not employed, the result is often digitisation rather than digital transformation (ie one underpinned by technology).

All too often transformation is constrained by looking at possibilities based upon our current knowledge (preconception) of what’s available today rather than the seemingly impossible. In other words we start with the how and unfortunately suffer the associated constraints – we get stuck on the detail and narrow our thinking accordingly.

So how do we avoid this trap? First we need to understand why it occurs in the first place and in my view, this falls into a few basic categories;

Trap # 1 – The transformation programme is led by people too close to the business

Whilst they may have been around for many business cycles and intimately understand “what does and doesn’t work within our business”, this is not necessarily congruent to transformation and innovation. Unless they regularly experience many different environments, scenarios & systems, it’s difficult to remain at the forefront of possibilities and how they can apply to your own organisation.

Trap # 2 – The business thinks they’re unique

We’ve all heard it before, whether raising an idea within our own business or to a customer; “that sounds great, but it would never work here as we’re different”. I once met a mid-market organisation who was looking to implement a new CRM system. They went to market & reviewed 30+ CRM systems (I didn’t know there was even that many on the market!), only to find that none of them fit the bill as they didn’t operate the way the company did – so they did nothing.


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