Do you change the participants? Does the methodology change when you have a constraint like a participant time crunch? Is the methodology always applied the same way for all types of problems?
As a facilitator, you take what you are given but often if you’ve got a chance to bulk up the team at the beginning, you might try to get a mix of styles. However, don’t forget, these styles are preferences not skills and a very good facilitator is someone who will take what’s there and move the group through the process. By involving people early in doing the profile to build their understanding, they get the idea that we’re supposed to be moving around the wheel, no matter whether we’re this or we’re that. Furthermore, we are going to work together to make it work knowing these are “states” not “traits” and you make it happen. If you only have a small amount of time you might find out that your team is heavy in one style versus another so you might, if you only have four hours, spend an hour on the part they they prefer to do like implementation and spend three hours on part they least prefer so you can you can make things happen your own way. By engaging the team, they will help you make it work because they understand the process.
The method does not change regardless of the problem. But you might have to “flex” the process depending on the particulars of a problem. The process remains absolutely the same, but how you make it work, how you flex it depends on the situation you’re in. You invent new tools if you have to but the process itself and all the phases remain the same. Always trust the process so the process is going to work for you. This is exactly what we teach and focus on in our Professional Innovation Advisor (PIA) program.
First of all there are two big things – one – it is fun – people love to find out something about themselves and find out that their way of solving problems is just as good as anybody else’s way. Nobody’s a genius when it comes to creativity and we all need each other.
Second, it helps to quickly introduce this crazy thing called a process. Most people in the world are not at all process oriented they are content oriented. They are all over on the implementation side so the idea that you could use a process to help you navigate your way through a complex thing like developing a new product or solving a problem makes it easy. That’s a brand new idea for most people. They are most used to thinking it’s a bolt from the blue or whatever and so now they understand there is a process – it gives you the navigator carte blanche to lead them through the process so if they’re jumping from here to there and everywhere it’s perfect for you to say are we jumping from “one-to-eight” here or “one-to-seven”. Knowing where we are in the process, using visual tools in each step, allows people to buy-in and stay the course. This becomes a language of innovation – they can ask each other “wait a second now are we optimizing” or “I thought we were still fact-finding”. “We can talk about that and we have one of our colleagues who is a great facilitator.” The idea is just because you are, let’s say, a quadrant 2 (conceptualizer), doesn’t mean that you can’t do quadrant 4 (implementer) work and vice versa – these are temporary states and they can move fluidly. We have a good colleague who gets his participants to all chant “states not traits, states not traits, states not traits” knowing that people will flow through, stay patient, buy-in to each step because they know there is a process to go through.
Would any automobile company try to build a new car without an assembly line? Just dump the parts on the factory floor and say “go to it” to the workers? Of course not. We all know that the assembly line is a necessary part of building a car that actually works.
When you think of it, the assembly line is simply a process, one that people follow to synchronize their efforts with others. Unfortunately, many organizations try to do too many things without a process.
For example, they hold meetings. Meetings are scheduled so people can use their knowledge to accomplish pretty complicated things, including:
• solve problems,
• make decisions,
• create policy,
• manage projects,
• plan strategy, and
• innovate products and procedures.
But these meetings are held without a process. Members are unable to synchronize their thinking! Such meetings end up messy and frustrating, often without results. The individual members are trying hard, but all are thinking differently at the same time, getting in each other’s way. Here are the different thoughts people might be experiencing simultaneously:
• “What a waste of time. I could fix this in a minute.”
• “I’m not sure what we are doing. My boss told me to sit in at the last minute.”
• “We need to drill down to the root cause, no matter how long it takes.”
• “I am not budging until we define what problem we are trying to solve.”
• “We need to evaluate our options and pick the best.”
• “There are a ton of problems more important than this one.”
• “Glad I went to that creativity seminar last week .The wilder my ideas, the better!”
• “I am going to play devil’s advocate on everything I hear.”
• “I wonder how we are going to pay for all of this.”
• “I know exactly what steps to take right after the meeting.”
No wonder we have a mess. Everyone is all over the map. There is no process to follow. How could we possibly expect to achieve innovative results in meetings without synchronizing our thinking?
This week’s Minsight: How might we use a consistent thinking process to synchronize everyone’s inputs and efficiently tackle a problem? The better we follow the process, the better the result.
“Dear Min –Tonight I shared a presentation on your process and a question came up about a team with a dominating personality. How might I encourage the rest of the group and keep the dominator from scaring off the others?” Thanks, Alice
Alice: The key is setting the “ground rules” at the very beginning. If the participants understand the rules, they will actually help you navigate through the process. The group’s success depends on their skills of divergence, convergence, deferring judgment, avoiding killer phrases and following the process. Introducing the ground rules (especially if you do it in a fun way) will help set a good tone and allow the group to collectively manage members who are stepping out of line. Typically, no one wants to be seen as a bad actor once the rules about bad acting are established.
Tools like the thought catchers, posters and tent cards are very helpful in keeping the group dynamics fun. Remind enthusiastic participants to “hold that thought…use your thought catcher,” if they are eager to leap into the conversation ahead of – or more loudly than – less exuberant team members.
Try having the participants complete the Online CPSP (the Profile) before the workshop. Engaging the team in discussing their different problem solving styles can work wonders in making the process flow smoothly.
This week’s Minsight:
Every session we facilitate may not be perfect at the beginning; they rarely are. But they will be increasingly valuable as long as we follow the process and use the skills the best we can. Next time you facilitate, choose the ground rules that will best work for you. Feel like chiming in? What ground rules have you used?
We live and work in an era of rapidly accelerating change with frequent upheavals and interruptions. Everywhere we look, traditional structures are abruptly being reshaped or falling down. Many organizations that prospered during more stable times – times that rewarded routinized efficiency – now find themselves poorly adapted to today’s new economic and social realities.
Once successful companies are finding that their sure-hit formulas no longer work. Long revered icons of organizational excellence have been humbled, and even bailed out of bankruptcy and imminent demise by government intervention. Individuals, families and entire communities are finding the world shifting beneath their feet as traditional markets, industries, societal structures, and sources of employment disappear under the impact of new information technologies, global competition, lack of regulation of financial institutions, uncertainty about global warming, transitioning to new energy sources, and a restructuring of the world economy.
It is not surprising that organizations whose main virtues during previous times were predictability and reliability should find it difficult to adapt to this increasingly dynamic environment. Their employees, too, are struggling to deal with these changing times as the vast scale of change has resulted in an unprecedented need for information processing and problem solving skills. But within the scope of the challenge lies a great opportunity for the future prosperity of organizations everywhere.
Taking advantage of economic uncertainty and turbulence requires a corporate mindset eager to embrace change and innovation, and determined to benefit from it. By making a deliberate choice to incorporate an innovation process into everyday work at all levels and across all disciplines, organizations can achieve sustained competitive advantage, positive people outcomes organizations can achieve sustained competitive advantage, positive people outcomes, a “how might we?” attitude, and an inevitable change to a more innovative culture.
Here’s the scenario: Following a conference or workshop, you return to your office brimming with enthusiasm for a new strategy or skill that you are certain will help make you faster, smarter, more efficient or more innovative.
Here’s the question: How often does that new strategy or skill become part of your everyday work routine?
Here’s the answer for most people: Not very often.
What stops us from making permanent changes? While it isn’t difficult to get fired up about a new idea, most people – and organizations – underestimate the effort required to permanently alter attitudes, behaviors and routines. Long-lasting change requires deliberate and strategic planning.
Our research into creativity training over the last three decades has found a couple of key elements to making change stick:
- Training must be meaningfully impactful to ‘unfreeze’ established attitudes and behaviors. No matter how pretty or clever, a 30 minute webinar isn’t likely to contain enough depth of material to really change the way we think.
- New behaviors are most likely to be accepted and applied to daily routines when external organizational factors (ie. requirement, recognition or reward) are developed to encourage and reinforce those behaviors.
- Employees who are trained with their teams of co-workers are more likely to permanently adopt new creativity skills into their daily job routines.
The human desire for self-improvement is a wonderful thing but, as we all know from New Year’s resolutions, can also be rather fragile. Organizations that invest in developing new skills and behaviors in their employees must nurture change until it becomes the new routine.
Do you have a story about learning new routines or making change stick? We’d love to hear how you or your organization made it happen. Learn more about investing in change at Basadur Applied Creativity.
In my blog last week, I made the point that innovation is a learned process that we can all integrate into our lives to build a daily habit. Too often, innovation is seen as a final product or result, not an ongoing process.
The other widespread misconception about innovation is that it is somehow synonymous with technology. Organizations, including governments, tout their innovativeness in terms of the adoption or introduction of a new technological advancement. While great new high tech gadgets and offerings may be the result of innovation, they are not innovation itself. The process of innovation can result in new ways to do almost anything – from services to design to manufacturing processes. It is the innovation process – and the mental skills that make it work – that are the crucial element to driving progress.
Governments that tout their innovativeness with the adoption of new technologies all too frequently actually serve to signal their innovative inadequacies. New technologies often only improve the effectiveness of existing processes and routines. They enable us to vote more quickly, pay more quickly, and complain faster, but is that really all that we want in terms of innovative thinking from our governments? Real, high impact innovation in government occurs when the fundamental approach to managing and solving societal issues changes from the current, traditional model. The town of Pelham in the Niagara region of Ontario is one notable exception, as I have described in previous blogs.
In business, along with the erroneous notion that innovation equals technology, I also often hear people speak of innovation as something owned by the research and development department. It’s as if people expect that R&D folks will do innovation, find an exciting new product or service, then hand it off to the rest of the company, where innovation is no longer useful or important. The most successful innovation occurs when R&D staff team up with experts from areas like marketing, sales and manufacturing, who can bring their own knowledge of suppliers, consumers and users to the process.
Organizations that are looking to succeed today and into the future must establish a ‘How Might We?’ culture in which every employee feels motivated and empowered to find and define problems, and develop and implement creative solutions. The reward will be an engaged and imaginative workforce.