Generate a Cascade of Ideas With Blue Sky Thinking
Blue sky thinking, the source of the greatest business success stories, is rooted in creative decisions that surpass conventional thinking and bring splendid results nobody would have expected otherwise.
While this concept seems dreamy and awe-inspiring, the key to making sure your "sky is the limit" ideation sessions don't turn into aimless brainstorming is to find the perfect balance between unrestrained thinking freedom and a structured idea management process that facilitates productive sessions.
Although this may seem counterintuitive as it contradicts the essence of blue sky thinking itself, let us explore what this should look like in practice.
Blue Sky Thinking: Definition
The meaning of the expression “blue sky thinking” is just as much dreamy as it is inspiring.
This term essentially refers to thinking outside of the box or brainstorming in a way that isn’t constrained by the limits of practicality. With blue-sky thinking, we don’t focus on whether our idea is realistic. Instead, we focus on the idea itself, regardless of how absurd and impractical it may seem.
Blue sky thinking, sometimes called big sky thinking, operates on the assumption that a single idea has the potential to generate additional ideas, which in turn can generate a cascade of even more ideas.
This continuous flow of ideas will eventually lead to an idea that is not only possible to achieve, but also surpasses the limits that you thought were unsurpassable.
The goal of blue sky thinking isn’t coming up with one idea, but rather generating as many ideas as possible. The key to doing that effectively is to stay open-minded and refrain from discarding ideas that may seem too impractical.
The Use of Blue Sky Thinking in Business (+ Examples)
As Albert Einstein said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Blue sky thinking helps us overcome creative barriers by stepping into a territory where limits don’t exist.
Let’s explore why blue sky thinking is crucial to problem-solving in business.
Blue Sky Thinking helps you break free from limitations
The corporate world is ruled by limitations we never dare to cross. Everything must be logical and supported by numbers, contracts, and legal permits.
But imagine if you could forget about all of this for a moment and step into territories completely free of those limitations. What creative ideas would you come up with if no limits were hanging over your head?
That’s what innovation is about: finding new ways of doing things that go beyond the expected and exploring uncharted territories with the “sky is the limit” approach.
➡️ Apple is an excellent example of this. Imagine if Steve Jobs let himself be constrained by the limitations of the market he wanted to dominate. His ideas for Apple would have been crushed by thoughts like “this won’t work,” “no one will buy this,” or “look what Nokia is doing; we should do the same.”
Blue Sky Thinking makes you reconsider your premises
If you’ve been stuck with a problem for a while, it may be because of false barriers you’re unaware of. Blue sky thinking can help you overcome those barriers, as it allows you to begin the brainstorming process from scratch.
This gives you the necessary space to uncover any initial mistakes or false assumptions that might have been made.
➡️ Take the space industry, for instance. We used to believe that reusing rockets, just like we do with aircraft, was impossible because they couldn't be landed and would have to be left abandoned in space.
But then SpaceX turned the tables by inventing rockets that can land and be used again. This groundbreaking innovation has now paved the way for reusable rockets, revolutionizing the future of space exploration.
Blue Sky Thinking opens you to desperate measures
Blue sky thinking allows you to break free from your comfort zone and explore an entirely different and unconventional approach to your problem.
It might appear completely outrageous or even absurd at the beginning, but it could be the key to a breakthrough that brings with it a big win.
➡️ Such out-of-the-box thinking helped Ford increase their revenue. Henry Ford revolutionized the way of manufacturing a large number of vehicles with his invention of the moving assembly line.
He went against the tide by paying his workers more while reducing their shift hours - something unthinkable. But this was exactly what led the company to skyrocket their revenue.
Blue Sky Thinking helps with employee idea generation and engagement
As an idea management software, we noticed that employees tend to submit more ideas oriented toward the future than ideas addressing past issues or specific business problems.
This shows that the open aspect of blue sky thinking makes employees feel more inspired to come up with original ideas that can contribute to the company’s growth.
Plus, introducing blue sky thinking into the company culture can make employees feel more connected to the company’s purpose. It can inspire them to become more invested in the company's growth, as they feel like they're sailing in the same boat as their leaders.
While blue sky thinking is all about breaking free from constraints, you can’t just throw the concept in the air and expect your employees to start implementing it. Enabling blue sky thinking in your company is a conscious effort that requires preparation and organization.
1. Make time for blue sky thinking sessions
The best way to introduce a concept into your company culture is to schedule time for it. Block enough time in your workweek to make room for blue sky thinking sessions.
And to get the most out of these brainstorming meetings, invite a diverse group of people. Choose the best creative minds within your company and include those surprising and eccentric individuals with a knack for out-of-the-box thinking.
2. Communicate the principle of blue sky thinking
In the beginning, your employees might feel reluctant to share their unconventional ideas with you. If you want them to open up and start contributing their ideas, you need to create a safe space for them to do so and educate them about blue sky thinking.
Set the rules of blue sky thinking. The first rule? There are no rules. Make your employees feel it's safe to break free from constraints and unleash their creativity without the previously set limitations.
➡️ If you are in a leading position in the company, open ball with wild “moonshot” ideas – you’ll take away the awkwardness and set the tone for a true blue sky thinking session.
As with everything, even blue sky thinking sessions need a starting point. Coming up with random ideas is a lot harder than coming up with ideas in a specific context. So, before you begin, set a context or give a particular problem that needs solving.
However, remember that blue sky thinking is all about venturing into the world of creativity without limitations. That’s why you need to make room for going beyond the context of the problem. It’s a good starting point, but the solution to your problem may lie far away from where you expect to find it.
4. Collect the ideas your blue sky thinking session has generated
Although blue sky thinking is about breaking free from rules, you need a reliable way to collect those ideas and put them into action. Think about this beforehand, so you don't have to worry about it during your creative brainstorming sessions.
You still need a way to collect, track, and evaluate the ideas that come up during the sessions. The best way to do that is to use an idea collection software. This tool can help you efficiently manage and implement ideas.
Blue sky thinking is the concept of generating out-of-the-box ideas that aren’t constrained by the limitations of logic, practicality, or industry standards. We explain this concept thoroughly in this article.
What are the benefits of blue sky thinking?
Blue sky thinking can help you come up with innovative ideas. When integrated into your company culture, blue sky thinking can help employees feel more connected to the company’s mission and purpose.
What are common blue sky thinking techniques?
To capture and organize ideas during blue sky thinking sessions, you can either write them on a flip chart or a whiteboard or use idea management software.