Yes! And® Blog

38 Keep it Simple

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 38 Look to see how you can make things simpler. This can save time and money… “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein Do you find some solutions are a little more complicated that necessary? This week my son was ill and wanted to sleep with his Mum, so Dad slept in his bunk bed some five feet off the floor. Waking in the middle of the night I wanted some water, but was too lazy to climb down the steps. Lying back, I invented a rope and pulley system in my mind on which I could haul up the water sitting in its beaker on the table below the bed. The pulley would screw in to the ceiling and the beaker would sit in a small container to catch any slops as I hauled it up. Thankfully I dozed off to the imagery of little beakers of water gaily jaunting through the air in a very Heath Robinson fashion. The next morning my daughter came in to wake me. I asked her to pass me up the water and explained my idea. “Oh” she said “Andrew has already done that. But he just put a little bucket on the window latch and puts his cup in it.” Hah! I looked at his device and burst out laughing. Obviously I’m Einstein’s “simpler” in his quote. Heath Robinson made a good living for many years by creating caricature drawings of “complex inventions that achieved absurdly simple results” (quotation from BBC site). He believed that many... read more

37 Check Assumptions

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 37 Check your assumptions if you want to avoid mistakes… “If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance.” Orville Wright Are you checking your assumptions sufficiently? It’s likely you make assumptions all the time, consciously or unconsciously. After all, you have to assume when you leave the house a meteorite won’t hit you on the head – otherwise you wouldn’t leave. I was reminded of assumptions at lunch the other day. Chatting to a German student who grew up in Berlin, I mentioned that I had been back there a couple of times since the wall came down, but the city no longer had the frisson of excitement present when I lived there in the seventies – when people imagined that Russian tanks might rumble down the Kurfustendamm tomorrow. There was a momentary pause in the conversation, which puzzled me until I realised later that he had grown up in the Russian zone of Berlin. I made the wrong assumption and once again my foot had an unexpected visit to my mouth. The positive result was that it made me think about the assumptions we make all the time. It appears to me that when tackling challenges there are two types of assumption: The “liberating assumption” – that which frees us to move forward, e.g. “people will read this article” The “blocking assumption” – that which stops us moving forward e.g. “we will never get the resources for this”. So When exploring situations, the creative leader should... read more

36 Influence Change

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 36 There are a number of reactions people can have to unexpected change in their work. By understanding a model of change, you can influence them  in more effective ways. “Ch-ch-changes.Where’s your shame? You’ve left us up to our necks in it”  David Bowie Lyrics from Changes  Just after six this morning we awoke to a shock wave from (we discovered) an explosion at a distant petrol storage unit. Two hours later, we received a call to tell us that the dance instructor providing the entertainment for our daughter’s birthday party was ill. Two unrelated events, but in terms of unexpected change, they are both a “foreign element” disrupting the status quo of our life. How can creative leaders cope? Time for a model. In this case, the Satir Change Model as shown in the next column. Knowledge of this model and the stage we are in helps us to use appropriate responses to change, so that we can learn and grow from the experience. ©Diagram ~ Steven M. Smith Let’s consider the Satir process using our party situation: Old status quo The party is organised and all is well. Now along comes that “Foreign Element”. Time for… Resistance At this point, there are some standard ways we could resist the foreign element, which may or may not be valid: deny it has happened and hope for a miracle (“Perhaps a parent is a choreographer”); dispute the need for change (“We’ll muddle through”), avoid communication (“Why did we answer that telephone?”); blame others (“Why couldn’t she have got out of her... read more

35 Balance Risk and Innovation

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 35 Balance the need to avoid risk with the need to innovate…   “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”  Colin Powell ~ US politician…   Is your organisation successfully balancing its need to control risk with its need to innovate?  Today, I went to church to see my son give his first public reading, prior to lighting the first Advent candle. Andrew read very well and following his reading, the priest, Father Robert gave a sermon. He spoke of people striving for perfection at Christmas and being mightily stressed by it. He reminded us that the pleasure comes not from the perfect turkey but from the social event of the meal. This sparked off a train of thought that led me to Google, (think of a search engine in reverse). Recently, a client with a group of his executives, kindly invited me on a tour of Google’s HQ near San Francisco. For someone like me, seeking examples of how organisations drive fluent thinking in to organisations, this was a dream place to visit. The Google trip showed many practical examples of how the organisation makes its environment one in which people are encouraged to relax, think and achieve. One example (which the sermon probably triggered) is the free food and drink of all types served in the cafeteria, incentivising people to stay on campus and encouraging them to talk. Our guide told us most business ideas have arisen from discussion over lunch; one way to feed innovation. Another interesting example was the pride... read more

33 Improvise to Innovate and Transform

 YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 33 Company policy and procedures are fine, but sometimes there is a need to improvise .   “I am more and more convinced that our happiness or unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.” Wilhelm von Humboldt, German Statesman   Do you or your organisation cope well with unexpected events or are you held back by inflexible policies? Imagine you went online to cancel a full cost airline ticket you had purchased. Due to a software error on the site you were unable to cancel it. On contacting the company’s call centre you were told that you would have to pay a £15 surcharge for cancelling by telephone. That happened to me this week. I suggested perhaps they could use some initiative and discount the charge as they were aware of the problem. No, the charge was company policy. I felt my blood pressure rising faster than an empty 747 as my mental “stall warning” kicked in. As the word implies, many organisations value the ability to organise. A great deal of effort and training goes in to developing and using policies, processes and procedures (organisational “scripts”), to ensure consistency of performance and to attempt to exert control over events. However, reliance on these methods assumes that the organisation’s internal and external environment will remain reasonably stable. For good or bad, unpredictable events happen and those organisational “scripts” can fail. It’s at this point that people need to be capable of improvisation, be they an operator or a manager. Not at the... read more

32 Innovate whatever your age

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 32 You’re never too old to innovate, but age is a great excuse to stick your head in the sand.   “I never feel age…If you have creative work, you don’t have age or time” Louise Nevelson (Sculptress, aged 80) Are you writing off yourself or others as too old to innovate? I was facilitating a workshop recently when the discussion moved to innovation. One opinion was that “Most of us (“us” as in the people in the room) are too old to make this an innovative company; we need to bring in young managers at senior level.” As a facilitator, I do not involve myself in the content but when the point was raised I wanted to whisper “NO!” You might understand why people think innovation is for the young. People over forty…they’ve more important things to think about than younger workers… they’re set in their ways… the young have plenty of energy and more time to pursue new things… innovation needs young minds…only the young can understand these new gadgets…the young sense the new trends first… I can understand why people think it, but I don’t agree with it. The sceptic in me believes that “Sorry, I’m fifty, I’m too old for innovation” means: “I’ve never done innovation and now I’m fifty I can blame it on my age” This could be a light hearted pub conversation but in reality is very important. We have a rapidly aging population in the West. Our average age in the UK is 39. In the US it is 36 and in India, 25. [Source:... read more

31 Commit for Synchronicity

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla # 31   There are some forces in this world that we tap in to but do not fully understand.  One of these is “synchronicity”.  If we follow our calling, if we commit to something completely then synchronicity will occur, in unexpected ways, to help us succeed… “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. The moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” W.N. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition [Source: “Synchronicity” by Joseph Jaworski] Are you totally committed to something in your professional life? “I wish my flight were two hours later,” I mumbled to my wife when the alarm sounded at 5.30am last Sunday morning. That afternoon, PRECISELY 120 minutes later than scheduled, the tyres of my 747 amicably divorced the runway and I wondered if there is a mysterious force in the universe, yet to reveal its corporate brand. You might consider this force has nodding acquaintance with one that C.J. Jung called “synchronicity”. He defined it as “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” In his quotation, Murray alludes to this force but calls it “providence”, a force unleashed by commitment. So So why... read more

30 Break Down Silos

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla  # 30 Organisations are in danger of becoming more insular and as creative leaders, you need to start breaking down these barriers…   “We are becoming strangers to each other, leaving communities to be marooned outside the mainstream…communities of different ethnicity and religion eyeing each other over the fences of our differences” Trevor Phillips ~ Head of the Commission for Racial Equality (UK) What are you doing to “break down the silos” in your organisation? In August, I travelled long haul on BA Business Class to run a course. As the flight was quite empty and there was no food to serve (due to a strike), I chatted to the stewardess. We had an interesting chat for about half an hour. Afterwards, it struck me that apart from a few pleasantries, I hadn’t spoken much to a member of the flight crew in a long time. It’s also been a while since I have spoken to another passenger on a long haul flight. The reason for this is that BA Business Class has seats that sit at 180 degrees to each other. To provide privacy, they have dividers between the seats – you could sit next to your mother and never know. In some circumstances that might save you from the crashing bore, but meeting others can create the germ of a new idea. So Could this be a metaphor for organisations? Despite open plan offices and matrix management I can think of three workshops I have run in the last year in which one of the issues was people working in silos or... read more

29 Think fluently to innovate

YES! AND… Facilitate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla #29 Creative thinking is not just about using the right side of the brain. You need to use the whole brain in a fluent way.    “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now” Joni Mitchell ~ Lyrics from “Both Sides Now” Do you think fluently? Driving to Pevensey in Sussex, (close to where the Normans invaded England), I played over in my mind thoughts about a course design. Arriving on a cold but sunny Pevensey beach I found myself pointing at the blue sky, using the fluffy cumulus clouds as virtual “Post It” notes to construct my course. With startling clarity I “saw” the course, murmuring “Creative Solution Finding there, creative styles there, Solution Focus at that end…” Onlookers would have seen a lunatic waving his arms at the sky but my children provided the perfect excuse for lunacy. And my impromptu “cloud mapping” worked well, allowing me to dictate the course outline on to my tape recorder. A silver lining indeed. I am not suggesting “cloud mapping” as a new technique (though wouldn’t you love to have “Post It” clouds to move on the beach) but you could give it a try (in a very isolated spot). On the drive home, my impromptu use of clouds prompted me to think about what constitutes a “creative” technique. Logically it is one that nurtures creative thinking. Books on creativity contain scores of creative techniques, including mapping. Some help analyse or structure our thinking on a situation. Some prioritise ideas. Others help us to plan implementation. Is that creative thinking? You could argue it... read more