January 29th is Free Thinkers Day observing the birthday of Thomas Paine, a leader of the American Revolution. His books, including The Age of Reason, The Rights of Man, and Common Sense gained a receptive audience for the liberating philosophy of freedom and change. Free Thinkers Day is an opportunity for companies to promote and appreciate free thought.
Wikipedia states "free thought as a philosophical viewpoint that beliefs should be formed on the basis of science and logic and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or any other dogma." Free Thought can be simply described as 'thinking without boundaries'.
In the late 1970's IBM started their THINK campaign encouraging employees and executives to consider their job as a creative process and to innovate for continuous improvement. The outcome was IBM's successful rise in technological and financial eminence generating new technology innovations in computer systems and software engineering.
Appreciative Inquiry was developed in the 1980s by David Cooperrider at Case Western Reserve University as a tool for organizational development. Unlike traditional methods, Appreciative Inquiry is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. By asking questions and envisioning the future, companies can encourage freedom of expression and team spirit to promote collaboration and company change.
IBM's THINK campaign and Appreciative Inquiry have produced exceptional results. In this new economic downturn, companies need to breed new ideas and innovations to maintain competitive and financial versatility. Free Thought, also referred to as "thinking outside the box", can produce opportunities for business improvement. In addition, it can foster the formation of company team spirit. Team spirit moves a company toward finding cost-savings, better customer service and creates business development momentum.
Companies should be always stretching the reality of what is possible. Having an internal 'free thought' policy encourages employees and executives to take common ownership of actions and decisions. It creates a proactive assessment to challenge conventional thinking and to continually identify solutions that will initiate optimization of business operations and cost-savings, not only internally but externally for their customers too.
Today's business environment is strongly affected by technological change and increasing competition. Free thought and team spirit are two important components that power and drive positive change initiatives, cost savings and new business development. Companies that encourage employee entrepreneurship, free thought and innovation will succeed better than those who see business in black and white thinking.