Firms are using special programmes to foster their employees’ creativity. Many send their employees on retreats and outings to jolt them out of routine ways of thinking. Quaker Oats Co. executives go horseback riding when they need fresh approaches to budget and marketing problems. American Greeting Co.’s licensing unit, the characters from Cleveland, which created Strawberry shortcake and the care Bears, go for half a dozen weekend retreats in the woods each year, where their creative personnel brainstorm, play games, and sketch to come up with creative ideas.
At Omron Corp., a maker of electronic controls, midlevel employees attend a monthly juku, or cram school, where they try to think, plan as if they were 19th century warlords, private detective, or formula one race car drivers. Fuji film asks its senior managers to study topics such as the history of Venice and the sociology of apes. While such exercise may sometimes appear bizarre or even humorous, they encourage the employees to break out of their corporate shells and think in different ways.