Business Analysis Guidebook/Creativity

Creativity and Its Role in Business Analysis edit

Importance of Creativity edit

The Business Analyst not only needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the business and stakeholder needs, but ideally will be able to help come up with solutions to the business problems and needs. This is where creativity comes into play. Creativity helps to produce non-obvious solutions and decisions that are not expected through exploration of the unknown. Creativity through idea generation, knowledge sharing and team collaboration can lead to ingenuity, resourcefulness and original ideas, resulting in more efficient, smarter solutions.

Balancing Left Brain and Right Brain Thinking edit

Business analysis is a finely balanced blend of left brain and right brain thinking, bringing together the logic and analytical strengths of the left brain and the more abstract and artistic capabilities of the right brain to both analyze (left brain) and then overcome the problem. Business analysis requires “whole brain” thinking.

Creativity Techniques edit

Brainstorming and Brainwriting edit

Brainstorming is a technique by which a group generates ideas to solve a team problem through contributing as many ideas as possible and deferring judgment on those ideas. There is a focus on quantity and coming up with the unusual, followed by evaluation and attempt to combine and build on the ideas generated. It is a good exercise to get a group discussing a common problem and building on participant suggestions, but it requires a good facilitator. The facilitator will need to:

  • Understand and define the problem
  • Provide guidance and direction for the session
  • Keep things moving and on track (without inhibiting ideas)
  • Ensure all participants have the opportunity to contribute

Brainwriting is a technique used to generate a large volume of ideas when running a brainstorming session. Compared to brainstorming, Brainwriting can easily generate twice the number of ideas in the same time. It can be a preferred choice for solving team problems, for efficiency and participants, due to the approach it uses.

The Brainwriting technique starts with defining the problem and convening a group to come up with solutions. The group first assembles as many solutions as possible, and then evaluates the solutions qualitatively. The key point of differentiation from brainstorming is that with Brainwriting each participant thinks and records their ideas individually and anonymously and without any verbal interaction. These relatively small differences change the quantity of ideas and the dynamics of the group.

Running a Brainwriting Session

  1. Assemble the team and distribute paper. Ask each participant to write down the defined problem at the top of a sheet of paper and then draw 3 columns down the page. Select a rounds timer. Note: Papers are to remain anonymous—no name at the top of each sheet.
  2. Each participant writes 3 solutions to the problem in each of the 3 columns. They should write freely without editing the ideas. The ideas remain anonymous and there is no discussion at this stage.
  3. After 3 minutes, move on to round two. Collect the papers, shuffle them and redistribute the sheets at random. Each participant is then asked to jot down 3 more ideas under the existing row. They can build on the first 3 ideas or think of something totally new. (Note: No one should get his or her own same sheet back during round two).
  4. Continue for as many rounds as people want. (After round one, it doesn't matter if participants get a paper that they've already written on).
  5. When all rounds are finished, collect the papers, and transfer all the ideas onto a whiteboard or flipchart for everyone to see. You can now begin the process of evaluation and selection of a solution.

Brainwriting is also useful in that it can be conducted with a group that is not co-located.

Checklists edit

Alex Osborn (the father of brainstorming) used checklists to stimulate creativity and Bob Eberle expanded on this to produce SCAMPER, a list of words to trigger the thought process.

Imagine you worked for a company and your latest product wasn’t selling. What could be done?

S -Substitute Use cheaper materials? C -Combine Bundle the product? A -Adapt Change the way it’s used? M -Modify Change the packaging/design? P -Put any other uses/benefits? E -Eliminate too many features? R -Rearrange Change the sales process?

SCAMPER, and other checklists, helps you to manipulate problems by changing the way you look at them. If you can break away from the conventional view of a problem, how many new ideas and solutions can you come up with? Try it for any product, service or process you’re having a problem with.

What-If Scenarios edit

What-if analysis is a brainstorming technique used to determine how projected performance/behavior/result is affected by changes in the assumptions that those projections are based upon. There are many scenario management tools available like those built in Microsoft Excel. Modeling and simulation techniques can also be used to do What-if analysis.

Reformulating the Problem edit

Simply put, this means re-stating the problem in a different way. If we have a business process that we want to improve but Step B in the process is causing a problem:

  • Can we re-sequence B or make it parallel?
  • Can we change who (or what) does it?

Role Playing edit

Role playing is used where participants rehearse situations or play out solutions as a method of testing potential performance and improving solution capability/suitability. One type of role playing may be a simulation, where a business process or function is tested through participants acting out the roles in the new solution.

Provocation Techniques edit

Provocation technique is a type of lateral thinking using an indirect approach. Through the generation of ideas that are outside what can realistically be implemented (via distortion, wishful thinking, etc.) a list of dramatic ideas can then be used to provoke new solutions and forward thinking.

Mapping edit

Mind maps are diagrams used to visually outline information and may include categories, text, ideas, and images, with a focus on one word or idea. Concept maps focus on the connections between multiple ideas and may include text labels.

Reverse Engineering edit

Reverse engineering refers to looking at the solution to figure out how it works. By looking at working of the software application or systems, business analyst can figure out how they’re processing business rules, how they are sourcing data and how they make decision. Thus analyst can understand how an application is supporting business. This technique is primarily useful in situation when:

  • Documentation is out of date
  • When current business user is not aware of the enforced business rules
  • When an old system/application needs to be upgraded and current staff does not have knowledge of system beyond maintaining it.