Be a Creative Guerrilla [Yes! And blog 148]

“Do not to bring living hens into mountainous people’s houses.”

Vietminh Recommendation

How can you use guerrilla tactics to inject creativity in your organisation?

A few years ago, I tutored one of my regular MBA residential courses on Creativity and Innovation. A student was convinced that she would not be able to use creative tools in her work place; she was a solicitor in a firm of solicitors and she thought that her rather conservative colleagues would not accept such tools and that rules and procedures would inhibit them.

Some of you might be in a similar situation and might need to adopt “creative guerrilla” tactics (a term I first saw used in the Open University course on Creativity and Innovation) to introduce creativity into your organisation. Rather than launch into a list of tactics, I thought it would be interesting to use analogical idea generation, considering some tactics of military guerrillas and relating them to the organisation.

Just as a “health warning”, I am not making any political comment about guerrillas or the Vietminh here! Analogy is a proven way to generate ideas, especially if you are stuck and it is useful to find interesting analogies.


Here are some guerrilla tactics, not in order of importance and some ways you might adapt them. I don’t pretend it is exhaustive; as you read, think of other ways.

Recruit like minded people and operate in small groups

  • Find others in your organisation that think like you and create a network
  • Help each other to build your skills and knowledge of tools

Confront small groups, not the full force

  • Expand your network gradually
  • Find individuals of influence who are sympathetic and willing to try new methods in their teams
  • Look for small wins to show the worth of creative thinking and give those individuals the credit
  • Avoid trying to implement organisation wide creative initiatives – this is likely to promote a backlash

Choose your time to operate

  • Pick times to use creative tools that have less risk and are more likely to be successful

Be fast and use surprise

  • Be prepared to take opportunities as they arise, e.g. when people are stuck, when things have gone wrong

Use different routes

  • Celebrate small victories
  • Take a supportive approach when people are having difficulties

Be determined, wear them down

  • Accept that you will not achieve everything in a short time; persevere

Accept setbacks will happen

  • Setbacks will happen. Don’t dwell on them; learn from them and move on to the next challenge

In researching guerrilla tactics, I came across the twelve recommendations of the Vietminh (the Vietnam Revolutionary League) on various sites. Some of these sparked further ideas, though I could not find one for that quoted at the start! (I have adapted wording to reduce length):

Do not damage the land, crops or belongings of the people

  • People have targets to meet. If your methods are not likely to help them, don’t persist

Do not insist on buying or borrowing what people are not willing to lend

  • Don’t demand resources for your creative initiatives. Find them where you can or do it yourself

Never break your word

  • Don’t take more of people’s time than you said you would
  • Don’t use tools that you have not agreed
  • Don’t make them hug trees….unless they asked to

Do not say or do what is likely to make people believe you hold them in contempt

  • Just because people do not share your views on creative thinking and tools, do not criticise them. Seek to win them over by demonstrating value and success

Help people in their daily work

  • Demonstrate that creative thinking and tools can help them achieve their targets

Tell amusing, simple and short stories useful to the resistance

  • List the small wins you make and find ways to share those with others in a short, simple and amusing way

Study the customs of each region, sympathise with them and gradually explain alternatives

  • Understand the culture of different departments so that you can introduce creative thinking and tools in a sympathetic way

Show people you are correct, diligent and disciplined

  • Be organised, brief people correctly and stick to your brief unless they agree to change it


Review my recommendations and adapt them to your own context. How might you use them?

To Close

My student built up sufficient confidence over the weekend to go back and run a meeting using creative facilitation and thinking tools. She wrote to me after to say it was a great success and she received a great mark for her assignment.

So one more tip I would add is, “Have confidence.”

Have a creative week.

John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.

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