Yes! And® Blog

48 Reward the Career Risk Takers…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 48 We should reward those people who take risks in their career as well as those who take a more conventional route “Do we give the people we hire an enriching mix of experiences?” James A. Christiansen in “Building the Innovative Organisation” Do you encourage people to take on risky projects or job? Do you reward them? Like many people in England, I sat on the edge of my seat on Saturday evening as English players lined up to take penalties in the World Cup match against Portugal. My brain told me they were going to lose but my heart hoped and the adrenaline pumped. Portugal missed and the noise in our house was deafening (my son has a very high pitched scream that would bring down a cruise missile) but England missed three and we were very sad. Whilst out running this morning, I reflected on those penalty takers and wondered if the guys who take the penalties get a bonus for risking the wrath of a sizable part of the English nation. I wondered too if organisations reward adequately those people who take risks in their career. Let’s illustrate this with a couple of examples: a. A manager, after three successful years in his job, is bored and senior management allow him to set up a new department in a field in which he has no experience but lots of enthusiasm and ideas. At his pay review six months later, his boss tells him that “his performance hasn’t quite met objectives so his salary award will be average.” Our manager thinks “I... read more

47 Avoid the Blame Culture

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 47 A blame culture is a fast way to dampen innovation and leads to a “no risk” environment. If we can learn from mistakes rather than seek someone to blame, we will have a much healthier culture … “It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.” Terry Pratchett, author in “Jingo How can you reduce the impact of a blame culture that stifles innovation?  On Tuesday night I attended an Open University MBA Alumni evening. Jo Salter the speaker, was the first woman fast jet pilot in the RAF and she had some entertaining stories about her time in the service. She recounted one tale of inadvertently detonating some explosive charges on her Tornado by accidentally turning a switch the wrong way whilst preoccupied with her checks. To make matters worse, the ground crew were working on the aircraft when they detonated (the charges, not the ground crew). This was a potentially dangerous accident and something that she might easily have covered up (“it’s an unserviceable switch, Chief”) instead of admitting her mistake to the ground crew. However, it is one thing to tell the ground crew, quite another to reveal it to... read more

46 Make Innovation Happen

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 46 It is difficult to drive innovation in some organisational cultures but there are ways to achieve it. “If something is too hard to do, then it’s not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your shortwave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we’ll go inside and watch TV.” Matt Groening, cartoonist. The Simpsons How can you make innovation happen in cultures where it struggles to thrive?    The Netherlands is very flat. Trust me; I have just spent a few days cycling round the “green heart” of Holland. It is very flat, very windy and a cyclist’s paradise. There are cycle tracks and cycle signposts all over, in towns and country. Where you have to use roads they put large cycle lanes down each side so the cars have to squeeze through in single formation. Everything appears geared (no pun intended) to the cyclist. Everywhere you look there are cycle racks, commuter cycle parks at the station and two storey cycle parks in Amsterdam. All full. Schoolteachers cycle past us, leading groups of children on bikes. Old ladies do their shopping on their bikes. Cycling is part of the culture. Whilst fighting a blustery headwind, I compared the Dutch infrastructure to Britain. Yes, we have spent (charity) money on a national cycle network, which is great if you want a cycling holiday but still leaves dangerous roads if you want to commute or go to the shops. We spend money on cycle lanes too; we have one near our house. It runs for 100 metres down... read more

45 Identify Which Ideas To Explore

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 45 Warm laughter typically identifies an idea worth exploring and explore you should. “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille.” Lyrics, Bynum and Bowling, sung by Kenny Roger Are you exploring the right ideas in your idea generation sessions? Here is another hotel story, this time from Rwanda, home of many gorilla tribes, where I facilitated a course last week. On Wednesday morning I swam in a lovely pool, the tiles fetchingly specked with white where the blue paint had flaked off. Refreshed, I returned to my room to find the shower running at five drips per minute. Frustrated, I turned to the bath and realised there was no shower attachment but a good head of water in the tap. I hate baths so, stymied, I decided to wash my hair under the tap. In the bath I realised that the tap, sited half a metre from one end of the bath, only extended a couple of centimetres from the bath side. My frustration grew. I shampooed my hair and tried to rinse it by cupping water in my hands and pouring it over, but the water being soft, my hair wouldn’t rinse. Frustration at danger levels, I squashed my head against the bath under the tap and rinsed one side. But to rinse the other I had to contort my body in the short end of the bath. Then I saw my arms and the soles of my feet were covered in blue paint from the pool. I imagined my children seeing me squeezed into one end of the bath, head... read more

44 Change Your Mindset…

YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 44 Mindset can be a major obstacle to successfully tackling challenges… “Professor Douglas Hartree told me that, in his opinion, all the calculations that would ever be needed in Britain could be done on the three digital computers which were then (1951) being built.” Lord Bowden   Is your mindset an obstacle to finding solutions? Imagine this. It’s 6.00 a.m. in a small hotel. You’re creeping down the back stairs to go for a run (OK that’s probably fused your imagination circuits). Half way down, you stumble over a young guy sitting on the stairs in his underpants. He looks at you but doesn’t say anything. You look at him and think “he must have just got back from a run and is cooling down.” You nod at each other in that polite British way and you head off for your run. Yes. That was me last week in Lincoln. Never mind that he was in his underpants (making the assumption they were his) and was otherwise naked, I thought he’d just got back from a run. Thirty minutes later I returned and “Underpants Man” was still there. We looked at each other. He didn’t speak. I asked if anything was wrong. “I’m locked out of my room,” he replied sheepishly. At that point I feel a bit stupid that I hadn’t thought this earlier. I tried to contact hotel staff at the locked reception via intercom (no response) and by telephone, getting no answer. I suggested “Underpants Man” might sit in my room but he refused (was that a look of panic on his face?),... read more

43 Become a Creative Leader …

 YES! AND… Creative Gorilla # 43 Creative people tend to have certain traits or characteristics. You can seek to emulate these… “This led me to reflect on the pictures (from a Camera Obscura). It was during these thoughts that the idea occurred to me…how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible I asked myself?”  William Henry Fox Talbot (inventor of modern photography) Please click here for link. Can you develop the characteristics of a creative person?  This week we had a few days on a farm in Wiltshire and visited Lacock Abbey. My children were keen to see the cloisters where several Harry Potter scenes were filmed and I spent some time looking at the Fox-Talbot Museum of Photography. Fox-Talbot invented the positive / negative photographic system in 1840 at Lacock Abbey, his family home.  Here we have a wealthy Member of Parliament, an eminent mathematician, a translator of ancient texts with a keen interest in physics and other sciences. He had so many abilities but could not draw. Thus he found himself on honeymoon in 1835, on Lake Como in Italy, experimenting, as you do on honeymoon, using tracing paper with a portable Camera Obscura to draw pictures. [Please click here to understand the Camera Obscura]. This led to him recording the quotation above in his journal. His invention arose due to developments in two areas of science in which Fox Talbot was interested: Optics, which led to the portable Camera Obscura and Photochemistry, in which... read more

42 Use technology to innovate…

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 42 New technology can help you to expand how you gain information to spot opportunities or issues. “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.” Alice Kahn Are you making the most of new technology? Yesterday, I ran with my friend, Elvin Box, a study day for Open University MBA students preparing for their Creativity and Innovation exam. Elvin was explaining about companies who innovate because they are pushed (e.g. by falling profits or increased competition) or because they are pulled (i.e they are attracted to innovation because they see it as a way to drive more profit or stay ahead of the competition or because it makes life more interesting). It arose that one way to be a “pulled” company is to have a structured programme of searching for new ideas. That set me thinking. An easy method to obtain new ideas is to receive a regular e-mail from Springwise (, which keeps you in touch with new business innovations around the world. A recent story was about Lewisham Council in London who have set up a web site (please click here) where local residents can upload photographs of graffiti, dumped litter and other anti social incidents they spot in the town. They upload photographs using software they download from the site and can identify the location. The Council staff then arrange for the removal of the offending item from the streets of Lewisham. This is great for the upstanding citizens of Lewisham (although you wonder if graffiti artists see it as an opportunity to get their... read more

40 Create Better Solutions…

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 40 Involve people in exploring the problem as well as generating the solution. It is a much more effective way to tackle challenges…   “There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advised”  Gore Vidal ~ Artist Do you find people are reluctant to help you find or implement solutions? A colleague and I were running a pilot course on flexible thinking and communication recently. The client’s people, at times, have to take high risk decisions (i.e. someone might die if they get them wrong). During our pre-course investigations, a member of staff revealed one paradigm in the organisation: that our course was unnecessary because when it mattered, people were just told what to do. No need for creative thinking there. It was a valid point and caused us to reevaluate how we could position the course in the context of the organisation. With a bit of thought we developed a preliminary model with high and low “risk” and less and more “time” on two axes, making our best assessment of where flexible thinking and communication fitted. The model was unfinished and fuzzy. Rather than develop it further, we presented our 2 x 2 matrix as a problem to be explored during the pilot course and asked the delegates to consider it in the context of their organisation. Wow! What I thought would be a 5 minute conversation turned into 30 minutes of really fruitful discussion. We finished with an enhanced model, placing the course firmly in context and justifying the... read more

39 Consolidate Learning

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 39 A lot of training is ineffective because companies don’t encourage people to consolidate their learning back at work before sending them off on the next course. The learning organisation is useful. The learn and dump organisation is not… “The process of learning requires not only hearing and applying but also forgetting and then remembering again.” John Gray Do you or people you work with find yourself on another training course before you’ve had time to consolidate the last one? Out running the other day I was thinking what training courses I might do this year. It then struck me that perhaps I might spend my time more constructively if I implement some of the things I have learned in the last couple of years. Now that doesn’t mean I have implemented nothing. I use a lot of the facilitation and training material I have learned, in my day to day work. But I know I could use a couple of days to review the course materials and identify some of the subtler points. When it comes to marketing though, I know I have not implemented a number of the ideas I have identified in the self study courses I have bought. In fact I know a couple I haven’t read! That led me to think about the concept of the “learning organisation”. Talking to the Head of Training for a client the other day, he mentioned that he had just sent out a note to fellow attendees on a course he had attended a year before. He asked them... read more