When I recently interviewed Bob Baxley (SVP of design and experience at ThoughtSpot) about design for my research about creativity, he emphasized two great points:

  • “Designers tend to get eaten alive by mechanical production questions like, ‘We need a dialog box. Can you design one?'”
  • “Magic happens when you get to third-order thinking like, ‘Why do we even need a dialog box?’ and ‘Do we even need this step?'”

To Baxley, first-order thinking is inescapable, but the most creative people and the best organizations are going beyond this to third-order ideas. Instead of stopping at dialog boxes, they’re thinking about the purpose of a confirmation altogether — or about removing as much of the complexity as they can from the experiences their customers and employees have through other means.

What I love most about Bob’s point is that it highlights a technique that enables everyone to be more creative. Those mechanical production questions are important, too, but they’re a plague for your organization if everyone stops there, at a time when businesses desperately need more creative solutions. Bob’s trick of thinking about the larger implications are a great way to break through that barrier and get more creative.

I have more to say on this and other aspects of creativity (like the need to create as an individual and in groups, and to work at detailed and conceptual altitudes) in my upcoming report: “Creating Creativity: Recipes For Overcoming Common Obstacles To More Creative Thinking.” I’ll update this post with a link to it when it goes live.