The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Modern workplaces require numerous skills, but some are more important than others. Among those at the top of the list are collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.

Providing an environment that fosters these is an important aspect of leading a company through evolution and growth. On June 7 at WINC Aichi, Conrad Heraud of Heraud Associates Ltd. spoke to American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) members and guests about one of the most critical skills: innovative thinking.

Based in Tokyo, Heraud Associates offers management development and consulting, drawing on their skills as “specialists in innovative thinking” to provide innovation auditing, build competency in innovative thinking, and help companies establish an environ­ment that fosters innovation.

Innovative teams are the linchpin of any company seeking to bring new perspectives to how it conducts business. Creating an environment conducive to innovative thinking is key—but it isn’t always easy.

“Few [team] members like to volunteer ideas, and that leaves team leaders to think that they have to come up with the ideas,” said Heraud, who added that this reluctance arises from a lack of confidence in eventual success. When such fear is present, quashing ideas becomes the norm, and that can kill motivation or result in only incremental progress being made.

Generating ideas is a process, not an event, Heraud explained. “Innovative thinking is just a skill that needs to be developed, so that thinking of 10 to 20 ideas becomes easy instead of the typical three to four.”

Among the eight techniques of inno­va­tive thinking that Heraud explained to the audience is identifying informa­tion from the right data, a key step that allows value to be gleaned and new ideas generated, modified, and tried.

Heraud also suggested a way of presenting concepts: introduce the idea, show the benefits, understand the value created, and only then modify the idea to fix any problems that might be detected.

The talk concluded with Heraud, most of the members, and guests adjourning to a local pub to network and ponder whether the next event should be about innovative beverages.

George Van Horn is vice-chair of the ACCJ-Chubu Independent Business Committee.
Innovative thinking is just a skill that needs to be developed.