How to Blue Sky Thinking

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The world is changing fast.  To keep up with its challenges, burgeoning digitalisation, and increasing uncertainties, we need creative thinking and creative solutions; we need blue sky thinking.

 Three years ago, the Independent newspaper in Ireland reported that “blue sky thinking” was one of the top 10 business phrases most likely to make you scream.  In fact, the phrase came second on the most-hated management speak hit list.

But, while the name might annoy, the need for blue sky thinking is greater than ever.

Blue Sky Thinking is based on the premise that an effective creative system splits the “creation” of ideas and their “evaluation” into separate parts.  Blue sky thinking is the first – creative – part of the process.

Business Optimizer considers how to generate creative ideas and solutions to the challenges you face that are not constrained by preconceptions.

#1. Know Your Goal – but Think Freely

The main idea behind blue sky thinking is to imagine a world without the looming clouds on the horizon.  In other words, your creative brainstorming should be unfettered by reality.  Let go of day-to-day and real-world concerns and imagine how you would solve a challenge if there were no constraints.

#2. Change the scenery. 

Create a relaxing environment where people can think freely.  It’s no coincidence that Archimedes was sitting in the bath when he had his Eureka moment.  Or that Newton was relaxing under an apple tree when one of science’s breakthrough ideas fell into his lap.

#3. Gather expertise

For your creative brainstorming to work most effectively, you need the right people in the room.  Educational expert Sir Ken Robinson says, “If you look at some of the people we most respect for their creative achievements, it’s because of their extraordinary insights, breakthroughs and discipline they have bought to their work.”

#4. And passion

Sir Ken also points out, “People often achieve their own best work at a personal level when they connect with a particular medium or set of materials or processes that excites them.”

If it’s possible, your blue sky thinking collective should have a mix of expertise and passion from all levels and across your organisation.

#5. Celebrate contributions

The fail-fast culture that is so celebrated in Silicon Valley is essential in collaborative creative processes.  Clive Lewis, director of creativity training company Illumine makes the point, “It is easy to kill creativity with the way you respond to ideas.  If people put their head over the parapet with half-baked ideas and then get slapped down, then that’s not going to encourage people to contribute.”

In this way, you can encourage the creativity of your assembled team, facilitate blue sky thinking, and dream up innovative solutions and ideas – thereby stealing competitive advantage over those who dismiss blue sky thinking as annoying management jargon.

Digitalisation, the threat of disruptive new entrants into established markets, changing expectations about the way we work and live, and the global challenges we all face make the business environment especially uncertain and unpredictable.


If there was ever a time for blue sky thinking or “thinking outside the box” (number five on the most-hated business phrases list), that time is now.