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How to Solve Your Talent Challenge (Creatively)

Leaders face an unprecedented talent challenge with no immediately obvious solution. Most companies have record-high voluntary employee turnover rates, and more than half of employees only do the minimum required at work. Recently economists have connected what is now labeled Quiet Quitting to a fall in US labor productivity output. Looking ahead to the new year, futurists point to an accelerated digital transformation trend that will force leaders to overcome increasing employee skill gaps. Without challenges, there aren't opportunities. And without opportunities, businesses cannot experience growth. It is easy to logically think of the talent challenge as attracting and retaining the right people. But inevitably, there is also a creative thinking aspect. Edward de Bono, an international authority on thinking, suggests the challenge is to avoid simply reacting to a problem. Let's take a closer look at what he calls lateral thinking and a German concept behind one of the world's most innovative supply chain.

Creative thinking makes a big difference

No organization is looking to stay the same. Driving creativity within an organization's culture is increasingly vital for leaders. A study by McKinsey revealed that companies with creative leaders outperformed peers by 67% in revenue growth, 70% in total returns to shareholders, and 74% in net enterprise value.

Likewise, a lack of imagination constrains organizations. Kodak, Blockbuster, and Sears are well-known for the devastating consequences of innovation failure.

"Creativity is decided by what you choose to do or refuse to do." Michalko

Identifying worthwhile ideas requires the ability and will to see new patterns in the same data everyone else is seeing. As simple as this appears, the challenge is that individual expectations shape perceptions. To break these perceptions, leaders need a new way of thinking.

When faced with a problem or obstacle, do not dig deeper. Dig elsewhere.

Edward de Bono presented that vertical and lateral thinking are the two fundamental approaches to thinking. He described lateral thinking as the capability to solve problems by imagining solutions not possible with logic. Metaphorically, digging a hole somewhere else.

Lateral thinking is dependent on rejecting assumptions by shifting perspectives and suspending judgment. It is helpful to test assumptions, adopt a different point of view, challenge habits, and search for ideas outside your industry or function.

One of the world's most innovative supply chains

BASF is a German multinational chemical company and the largest chemical producer in the world. Like me, you may have first learned about this company from their marketing campaign: "We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better."

Verbund (/fɐɐˈbʊnt/) – to combine or to cooperate.

At BASF, chemical production sites are highly interlinked product flows resulting in efficient uses of resources. At these verbund sites, production, energy, logistics, and site infrastructure are integrated. BASF reports that the results are higher product yields and resource conservation. Beyond raw material, energy, and logistics savings and reduced emissions, this integrated concept generates a competitive advantage through enormous amounts of data.

The BASF Global Know-How Verbund supports the interlinked product flows. It is an alliance of strategic process and systems research, universities, industry partners, innovative startups, and operating divisions. These closely bundled partnerships each have a specific focus and competency to support the supply chain.

How is the talent challenge like a supply chain challenge?

You get what you plan for when it comes to supply chain management. For too long, organizations have approached talent management with ad-hoc talent strategies.

As companies struggle to answer questions like, how do you build talent pools for the future? How do we help employees learn quickly to close increasing skill gaps? How do we engage employees feeling burned out? It is increasingly evident that companies need to change how they plan regarding talent.

What if you developed a verbund talent strategy? Creating highly interlinked talent flows and collecting enormous amounts of data to improve your talent management processes and systems.

Your company could create mutually beneficial partnerships between universities and industry research associations to help:

Don't waste time trying to solve challenges with only vertical thinking.

What is the real creative thinking challenge for you?

Our creative thinking development solutions equip leaders — and, in turn, your organization as a whole — to become “creative thinkers.” We do this by helping leaders work collectively to develop the capacity, skills, and culture needed for innovation in service of organizational goals.

Whether you’re looking for a facilitated brainstorming session, customized executive coaching, top-to-bottom solution tailored to uplift and transform your entire organization, or scalable programs designed to strengthen your individual leaders’ creative thinking effectiveness, we offer a variety of research-based leadership solutions both virtually and in-person.


Banker, S. (2018). One of the world's most innovative supply chains. Forbes.

BASF. (2022). BASF at a glance.

BLS. (2022). Productivity and costs: Third quarter 2022, revised. US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Broderson, M., Heller, J., Perrey, J. & Remley, D. (2017). Creativity's bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth. McKinsey & Co.

Michalko, M. (2006). Thinkertoys: A handbook of business creativity. Berkeley, Calif: Ten Speed Press.

Runco, M. (2014). Enhancement and the fulfillment of potential. Creativity.

Shavinina. (2003). The international handbook on innovation (1st ed.). Elsevier Science.

Sloane. (2006). The leader's guide to lateral thinking skills unlocking the creativity and innovation in you and your team (2nd ed.). Kogan Page.


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Hi, I'm Dr. Jeff Doolittle. I'm determined to make your personal and professional goals a reality. My only question is, are you?

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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