Last Saturday, my dog, Karma, went out for breakfast. Yes, you read that correctly – my dog went out for breakfast! How did a dog go out for breakfast? And what could that possibly have to do with creativity?
Let me tell you…
First thing you need to know is that Karma loves two things more than anything. One is his breakfast: mashed organic pumpkin mixed with glucosamine and probiotics! (He’s basically allergic to almost every food a dog can eat). The second is our next door neighbor, Michael. Since Michael’s family’s dog passed away a few years ago, Michael often comes over to play with Karma and take him on extra walks; over the years Michael and Karma have developed a special bond.
This past Saturday morning, Karma patrolled the backyard as usual, while I prepared his breakfast. When I opened the sliding door to call him in, though, something unusual happened. Instead of barreling in like a shot, Karma just stood there and looked at me and his dish of food, with what I can best describe as a ‘conflicted’ look on his face. Then he looked to the side…and that’s when I saw Michael heading towards our yard.
As Michael came around the fence he saw me – and Karma’s dish full of breakfast – too. “I was hoping to take Karma over to my house for a while this morning, but I see he hasn’t had breakfast yet.” Looking crestfallen, Michael added, “Maybe I can come back and get him later.” As he turned to leave, I saw how sad Karma looked too.
And then it occurred to me! Michael could take Karma AND his breakfast over to his house. “What a great idea,” said Michael! I handed him the dish and Karma’s leash and off the two went! A happy Hollywood dog story ending, right?
But it’s actually more than that. It’s a great example of what, as I define it, creativity is really all about:
Combining and synthesizing knowledge and understanding we have from previous experiences and putting them together in new and unusual ways.
Or, in other words, thinking about how to accomplish something using what I call “AND” thinking, instead of our normal “either/or” thinking.
Usually, when we work on solving a problem or figuring out how to achieve a goal, we tend to employ “either/or” thinking. For example, how many times have you heard the people you work with say “we can either have high quality services or low cost for our customers?” Or, “You can either have speed or accuracy…you can’t have both?” That’s “either/or” thinking.
Problem with “either/or” thinking is that it’s limiting. And today’s customers aren’t willing to accept those kinds of limits. Today’s customers want “luxury service at coach prices”; they aren’t willing to accept either quality or cost, they expect both. And we, as creators of those services, need to give them both:
That’s where “AND” thinking comes in. How can we give customers the quality they want AND price our services more cheaply than our competitors?
We do it by combining/synthesizing knowledge and understanding we have from previous experiences in new ways!
And that’s where Karma going out for breakfast meets creativity!
If I’d used “either/or” thinking either Karma could have gone to Michael’s house or he could have had breakfast. And at least one of my ‘customers’ would have been unhappy.
Instead, I used “AND” thinking to generate a novel solution that combined learning from previous experiences: have Michael feed the dog breakfast at his house. End result? Two very happy customers,
And that’s exactly what we want. Happy and satisfied customers. Who get everything that they want, not just part.
So, next time one of your customers asks for something, instead of using “either/or” thinking to satisfy part of their request, ask yourself “How can our dog go out for breakfast on this one?” Generate a list of all the things you know about the situation and see how you can combine them in new ways.
That’s what creativity and service excellence is all about!
If you’d like to learn more, I’ll be presenting a webinar on How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence, hosted by KaiNexus, on March 28th from 1 pm – 2 pm ET. You can sign up here: http://hubs.ly/H06kxl70