Yes! And® Blog

95 Use Metaphors to Reframe Issues …

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 95 The metaphors you use can influence how you approach a situation… “The metaphors you use to describe a situation can influence how you approach it.” – John Brooker How might you influence the way people approach a situation? My colleague and I were running an interactive focus group to gauge people’s reaction to a proposed training course on Flexible Thinking for Innovation. We had received a positive reaction but I was not convinced we were hearing all opinion. I asked if anyone had any concerns. One of the group, an experienced manager, emitted an exasperated sigh and exclaimed, “Personally I think this course is a waste of **###** time.” That perked the group up a bit! “What’s your reason for stating that?” we asked. “Well, there’s no money to do anything, even if we do come up with innovative ideas.” He then used his hands to describe an obstacle in front of him. “The budget is a huge wall around us, it stops us doing anything.” We nodded, thanked him and noted his reaction; we weren’t there to argue the case. Driving home afterwards, I mused on what he had said. It was a great example of how people use metaphors to simplify and describe complex situations. It was also an example of how the metaphors people use can influence how they approach a situation. From his point of view, it was not worth doing anything because the budget was finite, an “insurmountable obstacle” or at least one he seemed no longer willing to overcome. So If metaphors can influence how people approach... read more

93 Help judgemental people create…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 93 If you encounter highly judgemental people when using creative thinking techniques, how might you help them to be more flexible in their thinking? “The map is not the territory!” Alfred Korzybski Philosopher How might you deal with highly judgemental people when running a creative workshop?    Imagine sitting at lunch in a European capital with a large group of colleagues and clients. At your side is your host, a senior manager who proudly tells you that the main course is the national dish of salted cod. Next, imagine the waiter places the dish in front of you. The smell of fish and garlic hits your nostrils and your stomach heaves as a wave of nausea engulfs you. You know you can’t eat this food, even if the country’s President were your host. As you sit inert, you notice several colleagues grimacing as they eat and you hear your host ask quietly if everything is all right. Hideously embarrassed, you mumble that you feel unwell and with true hospitality, you are offered an omelette. As the fish dish is taken away, you recover faster than a Premier League footballer awarded a penalty shot after diving. I found myself in this situation many years ago and recalled the incident last week, when facilitating a creativity and innovation course for the Open University in the UK.  I was running an elective on the use of the “Story Spine” technique for strategic thinking. Whilst others engaged themselves in the technique, I noticed one student flicking through his course book. He looked uncomfortable and I enquired if he... read more

92 Have a Process Escape Hatch to Innovate

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 92 Process is a great tool, but have a way around it to avoid getting stuck… “Nowadays, we have become so obsessed with process, we go to restaurants and eat the menu!” Unknown Are your processes a burden? Many of you will enjoy listening to music and will use or be aware of iTunes, the Apple media download service, which allows you to purchase and listen to music on your PC. Recently, I have been enthused by a new service on iTunes called “Genius”. With this service, you click on a track you like, click the Genius button and it instantly provides a playlist of up to 99 songs to complement your selection. In addition, it lists similar tracks you might like to listen to and buy. I now use the Genius process regularly and this led me to think about my old “process” of music selection. Essentially, a song would pop in to my head and I would pull out a CD and play the album. The problem was that out of my large collection of CDs I probably only played ten, as I tended to play my favoured albums. Playing single tracks from others was a chore. When I bought an iPod, I transferred lots of albums on to it and I made up a few playlists. But again I found myself listening to the same ones. In other words, the process limited my exposure to new stimulation and so my music listening became somewhat stale. This thinking led me on to a recent conversation with a friend. He had mentioned that... read more

91 Do the Right Thing to Transform

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 91 It’s probably not too late to do the right thing … “Sometimes our best intentions do not go amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to,”              Sheenagh Pugh, poet in the poem, “Sometimes” Is it ever too late to do the right thing? This year, our family, along with many others, has suffered from a poor decision by a Government appointed official, one that applies regulation retrospectively, despite Government promises to the contrary. Although we have sympathy and support from Members of Parliament, we are told that the only way to overturn this unjust ruling is to seek a judicial review at great expense. I have many feelings about this; annoyance, resignation, frustration. But my strongest feeling is one of sadness. I’m sad because the easiest and right course of action would be for the official to change their decision, but they won’t. One lesson I learned in management is that it is almost never too late to change direction, correct a poor decision, do the right thing. Some will argue that it is a sign of weakness. A creative leader would argue that it is a sign of strength to be able to admit that you are wrong and to make an appropriate change. So Most of us will make the wrong decision or take the wrong course of action at some point in our personal or working life. We may make the decision / take the action for the wrong reason e.g. for personal advantage. Or we may go awry because we misread or misunderstand factors in the situation. And it... read more

90 Use Prototypes to Innovate…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 90 When you need to meet a customer’s need quickly, there’s a lot to be said for a prototype… “I love these emails. I would really love them if you did podcasts” A Creative Gorilla reader, in an e-mail. Are you prototyping yet? The above quotation popped in to my e-mail box at the beginning of the month. Should I do a Podcast? I mulled over it for a week or so. “Nobody would want to listen,” “My voice sounds terrible on recordings,” “I haven’t got a clue how to do a podcast.” Oh yes, I had a fine list of excuses not to do it, but one day, with an hour to spare, I took the plunge, just because someone had asked for it. I researched software programmes for recording podcasts which took just fifteen minutes on the web, thanks to a handy review. I selected Propaganda because it was rated as simple, functional and good value. Downloading it direct from the US took ten minutes, a Visa Card and a willingness to invest USD 49. I have a microphone so plugged it in, looked at the tutorial (highly unusual for a man, that) and set to work recording. I was in need of silence. Cue calls from my wife, questions from my children and a loud presenter on kids TV. I ended up in the bedroom. Peace! I began recording and a neighbour set off loud fireworks. Not the best creative climate, but all creativity has its obstacles. Eventually, I completed recording and played it back. “Er, umm, ahh,” smacking of the... read more

89 Make Team Decision Making Easier

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 89 Your style of communication can influence how you make decisions in the creative problem solving process… “We don’t know the effect of our actions. That is because we are either too embarrassed to (want to) know what actually was implemented or are too busy to track what was implemented.”          Pete Senge, Management Consultant, in “The 5th Discipline” Does your team struggle to make decisions or make them too quickly? I was re-reading a book this week on the science of non-verbal communication, “The Elusive Obvious” by Michael Grinder. (Buy it at In the book, Michael describes two types of communication style; Approachable and Credible. The Approachable style, he says, tends to be more People focussed and the Credible style more Issue focussed. Groups tend to form a culture over time which we can describe as mostly Credible, mostly Approachable or a mix. What was especially interesting for me, as someone who uses creative solution finding  (CSF) processes with groups, was Michael’s comments (see Page 57 of the book) on how groups with a bias towards one style or the other work through the basic problem solving process of Gather (information); Evaluate; Decide; Implement. The mostly Credible groups tend to shorten the Gathering stage and are quick to make a decision. Whether they have gathered the appropriate information to make the decision is questionable. The mostly Approachable groups  spend a long time gathering information and tend to be reluctant to move from the Gathering stage. They seek consensus and harmony and so can take an age to make a decision in case... read more

88 Have Fewer Rules and Innovate …

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 88 If you set up too many rules and measures, people start to focus more on the rules and measures and less on what is really important …  “We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn’t obey the rules.” Alan Bennett, Playwright in “Getting On” Do more rules and laws really help? Do you know that scientists predicted that high mounted brake lights would reduce rear end car collisions by 50% and that studies reveal it is in reality 4.3%? Are you aware that anti lock braking systems have had a negligible effect on accident reduction because drivers with ABS drive faster and closer to other cars? I found these facts in an extract from Tom Vanderbilt’s book “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do”. I noticed the article because he mentioned that in Kensington High Street, London, where I (and several Gorilla readers) used to work, fatal, serious and minor traffic injuries dropped by 60% in one year. “Wow,” you might think, “What miraculous road safety improvements did they install?”  In fact, they removed the bulk of the previously installed road safety improvements, including 95% of the traffic signs and the guardrails along the pavement (sidewalk). Drivers are less distracted and so pay more attention to other road users whilst pedestrians are more cautious. How can we relate this to business? In 2002 the US Government introduced the Sarbanes Oxley Act, improving financial reporting to protect investors from the actions of a few criminals who had falsely reported company revenues and profits. Speaking with someone who... read more

87 Communicate to Innovate

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 87 You need to communicate simply and frequently if you are to communicate effectively… “Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.” Robert Greenleaf (Researcher in to Leadership). “And not communicating them often enough…” John Brooker Have you something to communicate? Last Monday morning, I took the lift at the Judge Education Institute north of Beijing (a highly recommended training location). On the floor, beautifully woven in to the lush Chinese carpet in both Mandarin and English, was the name of the day; Monday. The next day, in a different lift, a different carpet informed me it was Tuesday. As I was in Beijing and seven hours ahead of my normal time zone, I found this incredibly useful because at 7 a.m. I was wondering what day of the week it was! I was delivering a Powerful Communication Course out there and I thought the carpet was a perfect example (if rather lavish!) of frequent communication, something that is vital in the implementation stage of the innovation cycle. And if we look at Kotter in his book Leading Change, it also meets a number of other criteria: It is simple (see quotation) It is repetitive / frequent It is a different location from the normal workplace (Kotter says “different forum”) so the message can be seen amongst all the clutter The carpet is just like a frequent advertising flyer! Kotter has a few more criteria and I have included these at the end of the article. So In the current economic climate, I do not recommend you go to your Chief Operating... read more

How to Run a Creative Thinking Workshop [Yes! And. Blog #86]

If you take a risk and run a creative workshop it can pay dividends… “Can you imagine, they asked me to do an extra session so we could do the “Disney Technique!” Open University MBA Student . The excited quotation above is from a student (we’ll call her Inga) who attended my MBA – Creativity and Innovation Workshop. In this case, Inga achieved more than just running her own workshop, but more of that later. Let me tell you first what she did. As part of a course assignment, Inga chose to produce some new concepts for an existing product in her company. She was rather nervous about facilitating a workshop but decided to use the creative and facilitation techniques she had experienced during our workshop. Here’s a summary of what Inga did: Session 1 She took a small group (four people including her) to the park to run the workshop: On the way, each person had three minutes to speak uninterrupted about the customers for the product and their lifestyle In the park, they summarised their points on paper They reviewed key points about the original product concept and added a few more They reviewed material on what makes a concept successful in their company, prior to identifying new concepts They looked at key consumer trends for 2009, using material gained previously from the Internet They looked at benefits to the consumer, splitting them into rational and emotional benefits. At this point, they wanted to know why these benefits were important but ran out of time so stopped for further review. This session lasted just an hour. One... read more