Yes! And® Blog

85 Differentiate to Innovate

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 85 If you rely too much on standardisation, what do you do when you want to differentiate or when the market changes…?   “Civilizations in decline are consistently characterised by a tendency towards standardization and uniformity.” Arnold Toynbee, British Historian Are you standardised? I have a new woman in my life. She recently helped me navigate across Europe and apart from a brief dispute, (she sent me via a Munich traffic jam when my intuition said to go via Innsbruck) we had few cross words. The children call her Mrs T. (from Tom Tom) and my wife blesses her for saving arguments over map reading. Yes, we have a satellite navigation (sat nav) system in the car and I’m really impressed with its accuracy (most of the time), the way it reduces the stress of navigating and its ease of use. However, one day when pulling out of a hotel in France, I noticed that Mrs T. had me turn right, drive up around a roundabout (traffic circle) and back past the hotel again, when it was perfectly legal and quicker to have pulled out left from the hotel. I noticed two other cars behind me do the same thing and wondered if lots of people buy satellite navigation, will we see more of this behaviour as people use the standard “best route” and forget how to read a map and the road? I envisage thousands of motorists converging on the same location along the same route at the same time, in starling-like swarms. [For videos of starlings swarming, click here, they are very impressive.]... read more

84 Use Laddering to Innovate

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 84 Sometimes, we can focus so much on one threat, we don’t notice another slipping in from a different angle – laddering can help… “If you look at life one way, there is always cause for alarm.” Elizabeth Bowen Are you looking the right way at competition? Last week, I helped run the meeting of the youngest group in our local Scout Troop, the Beavers. This event was very noisy, sometimes challenging and always fun. We played a popular game called “Rattlesnake” in which the children run the length of the hall as the two leaders throw soft foam balls at their legs. If the ball hits their legs, the child is out of the game. It’s easiest to catch them when they are running as they leap in the air, stop and dodge to avoid the balls. It’s great! We were down to the last four children in the game and as I waited to throw, one of them stopped mid run. I threw the first ball and he dodged it. Next, I pretended to throw the ball at him and he kept leaping in the air. We went on like this for thirty seconds until the other leader walked up behind him and hit his legs with the ball!  He was so focussed on me that he had forgotten the threat from the other leader. So It struck me that this is a great analogy for companies.  It’s easy in a market to focus on the “established” competition, unaware that someone else can creep up on the outside and “hit your legs”.... read more

83 Use Creative Tension

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 83 Creative Tension is something you must use if you are to be more creative …  “I believe that working together is about institutionalizing tension so we can make breakthroughs” Jim Farley, Chief Marketing Officer at Ford Motor Company Do you have creative tensions? When you think of Venice, do you imagine riding in a gondola, cruising the sun dappled canals, an operatic gondolier at the helm? Wake up. The gondolas are still there (for the tourists), but if you go, you’ll notice the locals use water buses and taxis, vaporetti and motoscafi, in the local parlance. Riding a vaporetto on holiday last year, I noticed how fast they sped along the canal and the wash they caused. This wash erodes the very buildings the Venetians are striving to preserve, leading to tension between the preservationists and the boat owners. I reflected that this is a good example of what I call “Creative Tension”. You may be aware that Dr Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describes Creative Tension in this way: “Creative Tension comes from seeing clearly where we want to be, our “vision,” and telling the truth about where we are, our “current reality.” The gap between the two generates a natural tension.” Personally I consider this to be Strategic Tension. Creative Tension to me is: “Differing views on how something should be achieved lead to creative tension between the different parties, resulting in a better outcome”. This last point is important. Without the better outcome, we simply have tension that leads to stalemate or one party imposing their... read more

82 Give Yourself Space to Create…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 82  If you allow time for your mind to freewheel you can be more creative … “I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.”  Lech Walesa, former President of Poland Need to create some space for ideas? Have you ever had a near miss on a bicycle? My recent narrow escape led to a freewheeling of ideas, so hop on for the ride! I was halfway through a 20km cycle ride on a long descent, enjoying the rest after a tough climb, when a white van cut in on me, causing me to swerve. Recovering my composure, I noticed the van belonged to a plumber and my mind leaped to the deficient plumbers who had installed our bathroom. I recalled they complained a lot about people not paying them and remembered the poor customer service they gave. This led to thoughts of how people differentiate themselves with great customer service. As I freewheeled, this notion led on to the idea of “niche” strategies (finding a small segment of the market to compete in), which steered me to Michael Porter Porter made me think of my MBA, which directed me to an ex student who had just contacted me, having set up his own business. This trail moved me on to people who take their MBA as corporate employees and then set up on their own. Which sparked the thought that MBAs are designed around corporate life, so why not have an MBA about running a small business, but aim it... read more

81 Create a Vision

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 81 A great way you can obtain a shared sense of the future is to verbalise it in an interview … “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”  Alan Kay, Computer Scientist Do you need to explore the future? Have you ever seen a “Samurai warrior” playing “Fly Me to the Moon” on a grand piano, whilst his Japanese colleagues croon along? This was just part of a slightly surreal entertainment I enjoyed at a recent Solutions Focus conference in Cologne. This was a ten out of ten event, a benchmark for other conferences, with great entertainment (my singing apart) and a great deal of learning. What was particularly useful for me was to learn new ways to use old tools and I’d like to share one with you. Traditionally, when seeking to explore the future, I have groups draw pictures or use magazine photographs. This encourages discussion as people explore metaphors they can use to describe their situation. At the conference, Hans Peter Korn, a Swiss consultant, demonstrated an excellent alternative. In this case we are using a business scenario, but you could use it for any context. How to do it If you would like a full description visit Hans Peter’s site and download the PDF with the same name as this article). It works like this. You start with a statement e.g. How will my business still be competitive in five years’ time? How will it look, what will we be doing? Peter next uses the idea of a time machine to take people five years in... read more

80 Broaden Your Thinking to Innovate

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 80 If you want to have more creative ideas, you need to change your signals and divert other trains of thought through your brain station   “There are trains that don’t come by again or ones that don’t even stop at the right station.” Juande Ramos, Former Coach of Tottenham FC, discussing his reasons for joining the club. Do you need to change your signals? We were on holiday in Venice, a perfect place I thought, to get creative ideas for a Gorilla article. Certainly there were catalysts; the picture on my mobile telephone changing from the Houses of Parliament to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as I switched it on in Venice airport (what a lovely idea!); the way the Venetians use the water for everything (e.g. collecting the rubbish); the absence of modern buildings; the speed of the vaporetti (water buses) helping to destroy the foundations of buildings the Venetians are trying to save. I had so many ideas they were all running round in my head until my wife bought me a wonderful blank paged notebook (Moleskine brand) and I sat on a train from Venice to Padova and began sketching the ideas in a radiant map.  As I mapped I thought how maps are remniscent of railway junctions, which set me thinking about metaphors for creative thinking and so I had yet another idea! Information bombards us all the time through our senses and the brain filters out the information we don’t need at that time so we don’t go crazy. To use the railway metaphor, think of information like... read more

79 Extend Your Product Range…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 79 There might be an alternative use for some of your products or services if you spend a little time thinking about it… “The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it.” Dudley Moore, Comedian and Actor Could you adapt some of your products and services to other markets with just a little thought? I’m in one of my idea phases this morning, which tends to make me a bit absentminded (anyone inferring that it might be age related may stop reading now). I was in the shower when I realised I hadn’t shaved. No problem, I’d shave in the shower; but I had no mirror. Looking down I saw the big chrome head of the waste plug and picked it up. It was a near perfect shaving mirror; it even made my face slimmer, a double whammy (and you can use it for plucking your eyebrows too gentlemen!) I wondered if the firm who made it realises this and could use it as a benefit. “Chrome waste plug with new vanity mirror facility. Even better, they could market it as a vanity mirror that doubles as a waste plug. Put that in your handbag, gentlemen. (No one is going to accuse me of political incorrectness in this article!) So This set me thinking how many other things in the same environment could be used for different purposes and could we apply the thought to organisations? There is so much emphasis on “reuse and recycle” it struck me that it would be worthwhile for organisations to have a workshop... read more

78 Avoid condemning the ideas person…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 78 The quickest way to stop people generating new ideas is to belittle the deliverer of creative ideas …  “Scudamore made his first sensible move in 19 days by calling time on his crazy idea.” Daily Mail Have you ever had an idea stamped on…how did it make you feel? On the tube recently, I noticed the back page of the “Daily Mail” and the quotation above. The “crazy idea” referred to, was to hold a 39th game of football for each team in the English Premier League. They would play in places like Australia and China, so fans in those countries could see top teams, like Manchester United, Chelsea and Fulham (joke there for English football supporters), play locally. Reading the article further, I came across some colourful phrases related to the idea, “subjected to worldwide derision”, “an abuse to football”, “humiliating circumstances” and “giant gaffe”. Other newspapers have printed articles on a similar theme. I could write another article on “selling the idea” (and probably will) but for this one, let’s focus on the reaction to the idea, which has been hysterical to say the least. Richard Scudamore is the Chief Executive of the English Premier League, a league that gets a lot of money from international business e.g. TV rights, sales of kit etc. It is surely his job to develop new ideas for the League and its teams to make more money internationally; and more money invested in the country is good for United Kingdom Inc. Whilst this idea may not be the right one for many reasons, surely we... read more

77 Check the Facts to Innovate…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 77 You need to check your facts if you want to overcome challenges…  “You can’t make progress in a bear hunt if you follow the tracks of a deer.” Dean Koontz – Author in “The Good Guy”                   “You can’t make progress in a beer hunt if you follow a bad steer.” John Brooker – Author in “The Cross Keys” Have you checked the facts…? Sometimes, I have to do something stupid to remember the basics of Creative Thinking. Recently, I co-hosted an informal gathering in a pub in London for students who had recently passed their Open University MBA exams. It was a “drop in evening” when we would meet anyone who turned up at 6.00 p.m. in “The Counting House” pub in London. Regrettably, Elvin Box, my co-host, was stuck on a train at that time. I followed my map and found myself outside “The Cross Keys” pub where a man directed me to turn left down an alleyway, walk some distance and then I would find “The Counting House”. Following his instructions, I arrived at the end of the alley where a number of people stood outside a pub door. As there was no pub sign, I inquired if it were “The Counting House” and a lady assured me it was. Finding a seat in the very crowded bar, I put up a “Beer Mat Night” sign (to the amusement of fellow drinkers) and proceeded to wait… and wait. Elvin called at 7.00 p.m. to say he was half an hour away. Still... read more