The Flip Side Leadership: Integrating Creative Thinking to Improve Operational and Safety Performance

The Flip side Leadership: Integrating Creative Thinking to Improve Operational and Safety Performance

By KyoungHee Choi

“What is the Flip side?” This is a great question, designed to get us thinking about things in a different way. Flip side leadership is looking at problems and solutions through a new lens by considering a different or opposite aspect, possibility, situation, or result. For leaders, it is a powerful catalyst for integrating creative thinking and new insights into your organization culture.

Business leaders recognize the creativity gap in their organizations: While roughly 82% of companies connect creativity with strong business results, only 11% agree that their organizations implement creative thinking as a core element in their business practices.1

For Operational and Safety leaders, this topic of creative solutioning isn’t regularly discussed, yet essential. Through Flip side leadership, Operational leaders can push their team to identify breakthrough improvement solutions or find unexpected solutions to long standing quality of Customer Experience challenges. For Safety leaders, Flip side leadership can help surface different safety solutions or uncover new ways to limit or reduce risk.

I firmly believe that creativity is not a given, but achieved through practice. Addressing “Flip side questions” helps bring more creative thinking into your organization. What practices do leaders execute daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly to implement creative thinking into your organizational culture?

I recommend 3 simple practices to improve your Flip side leadership.

Flip Side Moments

Why don’t you regularly try to have Flip side moments with your team? Start to practice with simple Flip side questions. What is the Flip side of the current business challenge your organization is facing? What is the Flip side of your biggest opportunity or risk? Or if you are trying to change things, what is the Flip side to make things worse? Just like “Safety moments”, Flip side moments allow your team to connect dots and become more engaged.


Reframing helps you re-think creative possibilities by changing your interpretation of a situation or behaviors. For example, COVID-19 changed our workplace patterns from in person meeting to virtual meeting and office work to remote work. Sudden unexpected changes are always difficult and cause a lot of problems and side effects. However, not everything is just bad. Flip side is you don’t need to commute to work back and forth every day and you can spend more valuable time close to your family. As you can see, the nature of the situation or events didn’t change – all that changed was your view and perception. I completely understand that nothing is black and white frame, but reframing practice is essential that makes you think about the opposite side.

Catch your own fish to Teach how to fish

Now leaders recognize something needs to be done to improve your organizational culture. Once leaders identified to review of your culture stages (12 key stages of change) and individual change journeys, leaders need to practice “catch your own fish to teach how to fish” by stepping up, taking ownership, and taking action. What I am suggesting is that it is important to take the time to understanding connections, set clear goals and make choices about how you can improve and implement those practices into your organizational culture. Culture change isn’t a simple process and there aren’t any short cuts.

All creativity stems from a different or opposite way of thinking are integrating creative thinking into your organizational culture and leaders should try to draw those connections from reversed ideas.

In Safety, this is one of the reasons why Safety Participation is such a critical lever to improve Safety performance. Beyond increasing adherence to rules, when group based problem solving such as Rapid Results is properly introduced to improve safety, it forces Flip side thinking into solutioning processes.

At Propulo, we know that culture plays a critical role whether you want to improve your safety, operational or service experience. We work with leaders to maximize outcomes and improve your Operational and Safety Performance by tapping into our evidence-based research.

For more information on this topic, please read about Safety Performance and Culture Change at Propulo Consulting.




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