What Is Freaky Thinking In Business And How Can You Harness It?
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What Is Freaky Thinking In Business And How Can You Harness It?

What Is Freaky Thinking In Business And How Can You Harness It? Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from innovation expert Chris Thomason, founder of Ingenious Growth and author of ‘Freaky Thinking; Thinking that delivers a dazzling difference’. Chris will be looking at how to use Freaky Thinking in business to boost innovation, productivity, staff morale, and profits.

When you and your team need to solve a workplace challenge or develop a new product or service, the go-to business process to identify new ideas for growth and improvement opportunities is based around people sitting in a room brainstorming. However, decades of research have consistently proven this ineffective compared to alternate thinking techniques.

What Is Freaky Thinking In Business And How Can You Harness It?

When you and your team need to solve a workplace challenge or develop a new product or service, the go-to business process to identify new ideas for growth and improvement opportunities is based around people sitting in a room brainstorming. However, decades of research have consistently proven this ineffective compared to alternate thinking techniques.

We all think all the time, even at night when we dream. But what if we’re being highly inefficient in our thinking, especially work-related issues? Freaky Thinking turns thinking on its head. It’s a series of techniques integrated into an innovative process that stimulates thinking on essential topics when an individual is in their own best thinking place, at their personal best time of day, and (most importantly) when they are alone.

Given current economic, social and environmental challenges, organisations are facing new and difficult questions they need to answer – or they may need definitive answers to old questions. Whatever the issue, the best solutions always seem obvious in hindsight, yet they remain tantalisingly elusive to identify when needed.

The Freaky Thinking process is designed to go beyond the realms of conventional wisdom and to explore, and identify, practical new ideas which form the valuable solutions needed. It’s the first radically different approach to workplace thinking in the last 70 years.  But what is it, and how do you ‘do’ it?

Where do you start if you want to do your very best and most productive, ‘Freaky Thinking?

Doing Your Best Thinking

The best place to begin is by looking at when you do your best thinking. What are you doing when you get your best ideas? Taking a shower? Walking the dog? Driving? Exercising at the gym? I’ve asked thousands of people this question, which are the answers I get most frequently. Generally, we’re looking for activities where we’re alone with our thoughts.

What’s also extraordinary is that people rarely say they get their best ideas at work. This finding is consistent across all levels of an organisation and often surprises leadership. While organisations may encourage employees to ‘bring their whole selves to work, they may not apply their minds as well as they could.

The Science

Research from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2012 helped shed light on why we tend to get our best ideas when doing a simple task. Participants were given two creative thinking tests with different actions to perform between the tests. The group that showed the most significant improvement (of over 40%) was participants given an ‘undemanding task’. They fared much better than those who performed a demanding task or were told to sit and relax during the short break between the tests.

The summary of the research? We’re more effective thinkers while performing an undemanding task, such as walking, driving or exercising.

What Is Freaky Thinking In Business And How Can You Harness It?

Pose Killer Questions To Find The Purpose For Our Thinking

It would be best to ask the right questions to develop great solutions and ideas. A question, by definition, needs to be resolved by an answer. Questions and answers go together like left and right. And the ideas you come up with are the answers to questions – either a question you’ve posed for yourself or someone else has asked you.

We’d all like the ideas we come up with to be bold and powerful, such that they impress those around us. But if ideas are the answers to questions, we need to pose bold and powerful questions that stimulate this type of answer to get bold and powerful answers. In Freaky Thinking, this type of question is called a Killer Question.

A Killer Question

A Killer Question is one that, when answered well, will deliver significant value for you. It’s a question that you (or the organisation) haven’t yet been able to answer satisfactorily, and its one you intuitively feel is possible to answer. It’s a question with many potential answers and where you’ll have to choose the best one to execute. Just because you couldn’t answer a specific work question previously doesn’t mean it’s impossible to answer. It just means that your thinking wasn’t imaginative enough to answer it then. But with a Freaky Thinking approach that positions it as a Killer Question, you can potentially answer it now.

A Killer Question ignites a fire, or a passion, for you. It’s when you recognise that if you can answer it well, there will be a significant benefit for your organisation, team, or yourself. Killer Questions spark genuine personal interest in finding great answers to them and ignite an individual’s curiosity.

Encourage Curiosity

On 8th June 1991, Kathy Betts, a part-time clerical worker processing medical claims for the Massachusetts State Government, made the front page of the New York Times newspaper. She’d posed—and answered—a Killer Question that had helped the state of Massachusetts re-classify certain types of claims such that they could claim additional funding from the Federal Government.

At the time, Kathy Betts was 38 years old and had been employed by the state government for 12 years. She’d recently reduced her hours to three days a week to spend more time with her two children. Because of what she knew about her work, Kathy Betts felt sure there was some way the state could claim greater match-funding for the expenses it incurred when it refunded individual hospitals. She took home manuals and guidelines to study, searching for ways to answer her question, and over time her curiosity helped her to find the answer. Her idea enabled the state to receive additional funding over six years, exceeding USD 1.4 billion (GBP 2.4 billion converted to today’s money).

She later stated that no one else knew the combination of things she did about her role, which helped her find new answers to her Killer Question. But doesn’t this apply to every employee in every business? Nobody else knows the same combination of things as anybody else—which offers anyone the opportunity to think like Kathy Betts. And to deliver equivalent levels of value for their employer?


Here are two more recently reported examples of individuals posing Killer Questions of themselves that initiated their curiosity to produce unexpected results:

BBC News 5/1/2023: Londoner solves 20,000-year Ice Age drawings mystery

An AI programmer cracks a pure maths problem

So, what are you or members of your team curious about? What problems do you/they regularly encounter in your workplace? What problem do you keep coming back to with that intuitive sense that there must be a solution if you could grasp it? Each team member probably has a different ‘curious problem’, so tap into their curiosity. This is a great place to start.

What Is Freaky Thinking In Business And How Can You Harness It?

Motivating Great Thinking

There are elements of our work that we must do to stay employed. These elements form the basis of our daily activities, which is why we get paid by our organisation. If you chose the job you’re in, you accepted that these tasks would occupy the bulk of your time. These tasks are motivated externally by your need for a salary and, by extension, the need to keep your job.

Intrinsic motivation is when you’re motivated by what makes you feel good and what you enjoy doing. Deciding to learn a new skill, like a language, because you want to and not because you need to is intrinsic motivation. The litmus test may be whether you have been told to do something or are self-starting a task because you want to do something.

In The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer, author Steven Kotler has combined neuroscience with decades of research to create a guide for extreme performance improvement. He writes that our big five intrinsic motivators are: curiosity; passion; purpose; autonomy; and mastery.

Killer Questions integrate an individual’s curiosity, passion and purpose. Allowing them the freedom to do their thinking in their own best personal place and time is autonomy. And the excitement of incremental improvements as they sense new solutions being identified is their sense of mastery.

So, follow your curiosity, and encourage your team to do the same. Make time to ‘pull on that thread’ without the stress of looming deadlines. Make space for people to follow what appeals to them and find solutions to the problems that interest them.


There is a solution to almost every business challenge. We need to change how we approach thinking about these challenges and allow our teams some ‘freaky thinking’ space. Encourage people to use Freaky Thinking to explore insightful answers and opportunities in their most-creative places, away from the work environment. Later, when they have identified some exciting ideas, they can share them with others to assess and develop them into ideal solutions.

I hope you enjoyed that.

Talk soon.


About The Author

Chris Thomason is the founder of Ingenious Growth, which helps organisations change their thinking to boost innovation, productivity, profits and, most importantly, staff satisfaction. After buying a failing manufacturing company and turning it into one of the largest in its sector, Chris now teaches the innovative ways of thinking that lead to his business success. Chris is the author of eight business books, including The Idea Generator, Freaky Thinking, and Excellence in Freaky Thinking. Chris’s clients include UPS, Canon, O2, Vodafone, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Touchnote, Lloyds Bank, Toyota, HSBC, Scottish Widows, South African Airways, American Express, and many more.

Web: www.ingeniousgrowth.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christhomason1/


Working with Strong women, I help empower women not to give up on their goals and find true happiness within themselves. #lifestyle #womenempowerment #selfcare


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