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March 18, 2019
This paid piece is sponsored by the USD Beacom School of Business.
Ask business leaders what skills they would like to improve in their teams, and you’ll typically hear things like critical and creative thinking, problem solving and decision making.
It’s possible to hone these skills in as a little as a day with the right expertise.
That’s where Greg Bertsch can help. A former manufacturing executive, he’s teaching a brand-new course April 26 for the USD Beacom School of Business executive education program.
Held in Sioux Falls from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the class will offer a structured approach to innovative thinking and problem solving that can apply across all industries.
“I spent 20 years managing in industry, and problem solving was one of the real struggles,” Bertsch said. “I saw our education system teaching kids how to do technical work and design processes, but nobody really had the skills to sit down and determine the root cause of the problem and how we can fix it efficiently.”
But it’s critical to develop those skills, he said.
“Organizations go through peaks and valleys of duress,” he said. “When you’re under fire, people start to get pressured into being creative and solving problems, and it becomes harder to do. If there are kinks in the system, that’s when you’ll see them. So learning those skills now better equips you for the inevitable challenges that will be ahead.”
While he’s open to input from participants on topics they’d like to be included in the course, it will help businesses:
Why is this an especially important time for businesses and individuals to be intentional about developing creative and critical thinking skills?
The market that we’re in is becoming increasingly knowledge based. It’s really important we become more efficient and skilled in using our talent. In South Dakota, we have great people just not many of them, so we have to develop the ones we have. That’s a real value we can offer here.
Can you really learn to think more creatively?
There are ways, yes. In the course, I talk about the groupthink process. If you sit down and try to design something on your own, you’ll come up with something. If you sit down with a team, you’ll come up with something that’s better. And if you work with a team of different backgrounds and functions in the company, that improves the process further. So there are ways you can increase your odds of coming up with innovation.
What advice do you have to organizations that need to overcome culture barriers that stifle innovation?
Google is an interesting case study in that. One thing Google does is allow employees 20 percent of their time to innovate and create new ideas. That’s one model. I’m not sure it works for everyone. But another thing I’ve heard discussed is that instead of saying, “No, that won’t work” when someone comes up with an idea, the response should be, “Yes and then …” And then you try to build on it. So there are approaches you can employ.
There are organized ways to lead innovation sessions, too, and we’ll cover that.
Sometimes companies have creative workers but struggle to focus them in ways that will benefit the organization. Are there tactics that can help harness and direct this creativity?
Focus on your mission as a company, and make sure your projects fundamentally are derived from your mission through goal mapping or project mapping. If you’re living that and it becomes part of your culture, you naturally have more people innovating around the space they’re working in instead of offshoots.
Can businesses learn a more systematic way to problem solve in a one-day course?
Yes. I’m planning to do some soft-skills exercises first. I don’t want to give away everything we’ll do, but other exercises will be more on the tactical side. We’ll cover approaching a problem, using tools we’ve talked about to understand the root cause, confirming you’ve found the problem, verifying it and implementing a solution.
Who in business would be a good fit for taking this course?
I think people who are in a position to mentor a project team or who are in their first leadership role and having to deal with people and maybe they haven’t really experienced how you put structure to solving things. Those would be the prime participants, but there are a number of things that people, especially small businesses, have never thought about, more of these structured approaches to things, and I think they would benefit.
This course also counts toward the new business acumen certificate being offered by the USD Beacom School of Business.
Ask business leaders what skills they would like to improve in their teams and you’ll typically hear things like critical and creative thinking, problem solving and decision making. It’s possible to hone these skills in as a little as a day with the right expertise.