The Importance of Innovative Thinking in Business Analysis

While it is easy to assume that our role as Business Analysts is entirely driven by process – and, let me be clear, processes are a large component of our jobs – there is a large degree of creativity and innovation involved in what we do. We bring organizations new and fresh ideas for processes and products, solutions to problems that they’re experiencing, and creative ways that they can optimize their business.

I was reminded of this after reading an article based on an interview between Koryn Anderson (of the International Insitute of Business Analysis (IIBA) Global Chapter Council) and Professor Carlos José Locoselli, Director of Education for the IIBA Brazil Chapter. In the article, Anderson reminds us of the popular Ralph Waldo Emerson quote:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

I love this quote because it is so indicative of what we, as Business Analysts, do. So let’s take a moment to examine why creativity and innovation are so essential to our role. 

Thinking Outside The Box

In order to create new and innovative solutions for the organizations we work with, we need to be creative and think outside of the way-we-always-do-things box. To help organizations improve, optimize, and grow, we need to think of (and propose) solutions that break the mold. 

While we have amazing approaches to follow – like Scrum and Kanban – it’s critical to also be creative in the way that we propose getting to end solutions as well. To enact transformation, creative thought processes and problem-solving must be employed and encouraged.

Idea Generation and Inspiration

To operate most effectively in our pursuit of the ideal solution, we need to be open-minded to new ideas from unconventional sources. Sure, we can draw on inspiration from past projects – whether they’re similar to the current one or unlike it – but gaining information and ideas from unconventional sources will help provide new perspectives that you previously may have not considered otherwise. 

To come up with new ideas and be inspired, there are creative exercises that you and your team can try. We’re all familiar with brainstorming as a means of idea generation, but BA’s need to engage in intentionally creative exercises and need to devote the time to these activities to purposefully generate new ideas and innovative solutions. Here’s one that I find useful:

Six Thinking Hats

One useful idea-generating exercise is Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. In this workshop, each team member focuses on thinking with a certain mindset to approach and generate ideas in a different light: 

    • Green: Be the driver of creative energy, ideas, and stimulation

    • White: Focused on data and facts, bringing to light information known or needed

    • Blue: The individual in the Blue hat manages the thinking process, is the control mechanism, and ensures that the guidelines of the workshop are upheld

    • Red: Focused on emotions, intuition, feelings, and hunches

    • Yellow: Approach ideas with optimism and positivity, probing for opportunities

    • Black: Approach ideas with caution, point out difficulties while focusing on risk management

Based on the “hat” that team members are wearing, they will contribute different perspectives and force each other to think in ways that they wouldn’t naturally, pushing boundaries, and encouraging people to be creative in their approach and thoughts. 

Creativity Breeds Innovation

Without creativity, nothing new is produced. Innovation ceases. No new trails are formed. We apply the same solution to different problems with mixed results. While the Business Analyst role title implies that analysis is the be all and end all of our responsibilities, that is far from the truth. Creativity is a critical component of what we do. From problem identification and realizing that there has to be a better way of doing things, to the ultimate proposed solution and how to get there

I encourage you to embrace creativity in all of the problem-solving that you do, and in all of the solutions that you create. 

– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide



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