Are you tired of endless discussions and ineffective meetings? Or are you completely stuck in the development process due to lack of new ideas? In the high tech world, creativity is also an important skill for technical designers, developers, testers, automation specialists and engineers. The beauty is that everyone is creative. Trainer Rex Bierlaagh, helps technical experts step out of their usual thought patterns and solve really difficult tasks and issues both effectively and efficiently. ‘Creative innovation can be learned.’

We are living at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution. A period in which technologies from different disciplines are converging and in which the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds are becoming blurred. This 4.0 Industry cannot exist without 4.0 professionals, professionals who will still be important players in the market in three to five years’ time or who will at least be able to deal with the latest changes in the industry. In order for this to happen, it is necessary for employees to possess three important skills: to be able to solve complex problems; to be able to think critically; and to be creative (research results from the World Economic Forum). Creative Thinking thus plays an important role.

Rex Bierlaagh is the owner of the innovation provider TWNQL and gives the training course Creative thinking (1 or 2 days) at High Tech Institute, in collaboration with Technical Training for Professionals (T2Prof). Bierlaagh is a certified trainer for the De Bono methods: Lateral thinking & Six thinking hats. 

According to the trainer Rex Bierlaagh, creativity is the 21st century skill. ‘Problems and projects are becoming more and more complicated, but the way in which we tackle them continues to be rigid and not that effective. As adults, we are stuck in calibrated thinking patterns. Large companies are therefore struggling with the question of how to get their employees involved in change, how they can get them to work well together, also across borders, and how these employees can come up with new ideas. In small organizations that are growing fast, there are regularly high, repetitive discussions that distract from the actual goal. Other companies feel stuck in the innovation process or turn around and around in circles.’

The good news is that creative thinking and innovation can be learnt. ‘All children think creatively, but at home and in education people are taught that there is only one solution to a problem. In reality, there is of course more than one way to reach a solution. You come to these alternatives by making connections between things that at first sight have nothing to do with each other, by making free associations. Creativity is a skill that everyone possesses, whether they believe it or not. It makes a person more agile and resilient.’

'This course convinced me that everyone can come up with new ideas.'

Ralph Goes, NXP

Courses for creative thinking

Bierlaagh, in the Creative thinking training course, takes people back to their original way of thinking. Creative thinking can also be called lateral thinking, a method of thinking developed by Edward de Bono. Bierlaagh is a certified trainer for De Bono’s method. ‘If, during the course, people recognize what creativity is, what is done with it and what they themselves can do with it, then they literally get a twinkle in their eyes. You see them thinking: how cool is this, this gives me energy. After the two-day course, they are in possession of the tools with which they can come up with creative ideas at any time. For example, during brainstorming sessions, if they want to develop a new product or improve a work/production process.

'I now have practical tools with which I can be creative in a structured way, so that new and even unexpected ideas arise.'

Herman van der Meijs, Hardware Designer R&D Department Océ

There are two variants of the Creative thinking course: a short one-day course and a longer course of two days. The first day deals with creativity, with its effects and with two thinking techniques that stimulate creativity. On the second day two additional thinking techniques come into focus and students learn how to complete the thinking process: clustering ideas, choosing and reaching a solution. ‘After the second day you will be able to guide brainstorming sessions in an effective and efficient way and participate productively.’ Bierlaagh likes to keep matters practical. ‘We will practice and experience things. People often think that we are going to sing or dance, because that is what they see as creativity. But it is all about learning new ways of thinking. Many people, especially technicians, indicate at the start that they are not very creative. But gradually they find out that this is not true at all and that it is really nice to learn to think in these new ways, also as part of a group. And that it does not create tension at all, quite the opposite, it is motivating. ‘

' The training course really gave me new insights which let me come up with new ideas.'

Herman Moons, Customer Support Engineer Dialog Semiconductor

Courses for creative cooperation

Creativity is also the solution to a daily recurring problem that many technicians struggle with: inefficient and ineffective meetings and team meetings. ‘At ordinary meetings people react to each other without knowing exactly what the other person means,’ says Bierlaagh. ‘As a result, each consultation takes longer than one would like, and you rarely reach the result that you had foreseen.’

In the Effective Communication for efficient and creative cooperation course, students learn how to collaborate creatively by using De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. Each hat is a different colour and represents a specific way of thinking. By using the ‘hats’ in a fixed order, complex problems can be unravelled quickly.  What follows, is a workable solution. Individuals who use the six thinking hats during a meeting, don’t all take a different position; they think in the same way at the same time.

‘Analytical people, such as technicians, enjoy using information; thus, they are naturally inclined to put on the white hat. The white hat stands for facts and it forms the starting point for this way of creative collaboration. The blue hat, used to manage the thinking process (the chairperson/leader), and the red hat, which signifies feelings, hunches and intuitions, are less obvious to technicians. But these ways of thinking are often just as important as those aforementioned. By, together, passing through a number of ways of thinking in a short time, one comes rapidly to the correct conclusion. We also call this parallel thinking. In the beginning, for many people, this feels artificial and a-logical, but if you have applied this method a few times and have also been on the receiving end, you don’t want anything else. Because you come to the core so quickly in cooperation with others. Technicians who have followed this course are also very enthusiastic when they notice that, when using this method, they have more spare time, since they can act more quickly. In turn, this creates room for more creativity.’

' We now have a tool which we can use to come up with new ideas and also take decisions. By using the same thinking hat, everyone is taken into consideration, everyone's input is of added value.'

Olga Gelauff Msc. N., Team manager municipality Woerden

A one-day training course is sufficient to cover the contents of Effective Communication for efficient & creative cooperation. The morning covers the theory and in the afternoon the students apply what has been learnt to practical situations. ‘This method ensures that the quality of your decisions increases much more rapidly.’

This article is written by Mathilde van Hulzen, tech editor of High-Tech Systems.

Recommendation by former participants

By the end of the training participants are asked to fill out an evaluation form. To the question: 'Would you recommend this training to others?' they responded with a 8.9 out of 10 for Creative thinking - short course and a 8.9 for Creative thinking - full course.

High Tech Institute organizes the 1-day and 2-day courses 'Creative thinking'.