A Few Simple Techniques To Make You A More Creative Business Analyst

Creative Business Analyst

I am a huge fan of hacking habits (quick and dirty ways to train yourself into habit), and maybe I'll write an article about that later, but for now we're going to focus on the creative habit, specifically, creative thinking to help solve problems.

For a business analyst creative thinking isn't the same as the sudden burst of creative genius we imagine artists or song writers to have. In fact according, business insider there are 4 Types of Creativity. For us, creativity thinking falls into the "Cognitive" & "Deliberate" block in the creativity matrix. This basically means that we fill our brains with enough information, so we can mush it all together and to come up with new and exciting solutions.

First, we need to dig deep down into the habit that applies to what we do. IIBA defines creative thinking as "the successful generation and productive consideration of new ideas" and "the application of new ideas to resolve existing problem". 

Hacking Your Creative Brain Muscles

There are three methods that I use, to help the creative thinking process along in generating new ideas and using those new ideas to kick current problems in the butt!

Constraint Based Thinking Exercises

After you define a problem, think up one solution. Next think of constraints (real or made up)  that would eliminate that solution. Then come up with a more solutions taking that constraint into account.  You keep adding and removing constraints. The end result will be that you will have so many different ways to solve the problem and the final solution will likely be a hybrid of several of the solutions that you came up with, which will hopefully be better than any one solution.

Constraint based thinking helps foster outside the box thinking and it's actually very similar to the next exercise type.

Resource Based Thinking Exercises

Another approach is the "work with what you got " approach aka "the MacGuyver" approach (I just made that up). This can be fun and challenging. For example, if you are working on documentation and you want to create a process flow to add to your document and you don't have Visio.  What are your options. You can...

  • find an open source solution
  • use MS paint
  • use Powerpoint
  • draw it and take a picture,
  • use excel to visually display sequence.

Basically you take a tool that wasn't designed for process modeling and using its features to accomplish the goal (Sort of like Using SharePoint for Requirements Management) . The more comfortable you are with any one of the solutions, the better equipped you will be in applying it to meet your new need.  Obviously this is a basic example. A larger scale example would be "You business analysis team needs a better process for obtaining and storing approvals. Budget is limited, so the leadership team would like you to utilize existing systems"

Analogous Thinking Exercises

Thinking in analogies is my favorite way to find solutions. Finding similarities from different issues, will help you find similar solutions. I personally use analogies all the time. In most cases, I use them just to help me conceptualize things and make them easier to grasp. An easy example:

Your requirements documents are difficult to consume, so stakeholders tend to be unable to fully grasp everything your explaining, so you get half-baked approvals that usually results it lots a defects and changes later on in the life cycle. The issue, you have lots of information that you need your consumers to be able to easily digest. Who else has this problem? Web designers, marketers, etc. How do they solve it? Taxonomy, navigation, incentives, and so forth. 

Having a clear definition of the issue is very important to using this method effectively.

Practice makes perfect

Practice using these approaches in every day life. Whether its creatively finding ways to get more excerise into your every day routine or finding better solutions for the companies you are working for, the more you do it, the more of a habit it will become. After all, we are the sum of our habits, you might as well have awesome ones!

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