One area we see most often is leadership. The leader as a facilitator makes things easy for people, he knows the process, leads them through. A good leader is going to make sure the action plan happens when many people might be looking at their watches and want to go. In all sessions, it’s imperative to leave enough time for action planning. If you have a two-hour meeting, make sure you put in about a half an hour for action planning – don’t leave it for the last 10 minutes!
Another critical area is accountability – getting names down to make sure the people in the room are people who feel their necks are on the line, they have to get something done. Get the names up and involve these people. When the right people are involved get them to say okay, what might be done, how might we do this? Stay with the course going sideways, not going up and down. Another big problem with action planning is that it’s often the first time you get people to commit to something. This way you really learn what people are really thinking – “I’ve got to put something down but I really know my heart belongs to the other department that I’m in.” It’s so important to really test people’s practicality and really work on / are we working on / are you really committed to what you’re saying? Don’t put something down because you feel you should or you’re really not sure that it’s real what you’re committing to.
Get the calendar out – right in front of you. Everybody’s calendar comes out. OK, what is the next step – have we got that down? When are we going do it – get that down – everybody writes it out. Can everybody do it? Well, you can’t wait until everybody says yeah I could do it. The saying is – we don’t all have to be there. If we get nine out of ten or eight out of ten, let’s write it down and get moving. What happens next – when is the next one going to be? And those team meetings get nailed down right there, not left up in the air – they’re down and everybody knows that.
The more you can adhere to these two leadership and commitment principles, the better the final action will be. The leader has to be drive the bus – keep pushing and asking is it done, is it done? What can I do to get things going faster? Getting names down and all the little steps that need to be done further drives accountability. If you hit a roadblock, step in, do some fact-finding, use the process to unblock it – roadblock sessions are vital to keep moving some plans forward to implementation. They also get people involved and really excited. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your hard work result in the action plan getting done.
It all goes back to the definition of creativity – we are very firm on not having any definition of creativity. If you ask fifteen different people what animal do they think best illustrates creativity, you’re going to get 15 different answers. Playing this up further, someone likes peacocks because it has got a lot of color – someone else likes raccoons because they can solve problems. There are some people that say, well, there are people who can get things done quickly. We stay away from that. What we do is we try to educate people, that the creative process is everything and if you’re not going through the creative process, people have different skills in all of them.
Some people are really creative about implementing – it’s a tough job to implement. Some people are especially creative – think about the Apollo Thirteen crew. It took incredible creativity to solve the problem of getting back to earth with a damaged spacecraft. How about people who can really find ways to elicit new problems from people by asking questions? How about people who are all over the map and looking for new problems to solve? To them the name of the game is finding problems.
So we are very careful – we don’t distinguish between creativity and innovation – it’s a process. It’s a process that requires all four styles and we like to get people feeling good about whichever one they like best. An advertising agency one said, “It ain’t creative unless its sells.” and that’s one of the best things we’ve learned – you can have lots of ideas but that’s only part of the creative process. Another saying that we really like is, “Creativity is a implemented change.” That’s what creativity is. Unless you’ve done it, you haven’t done anything creative. The poet Keats said, “Nothing is real until it is experienced.” You can talk all you like, you can have all the ideas but it’s not real until you experience it. Like when you’re running a Simplexity session and you have people experiencing the whole process – now it’s real – now you feel it.
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.
Everyone knows some people can be hesitant to share an idea for fear of losing creative authorship or don’t want to collaborate because they want their idea to be recognized as their own. Simplexity Thinking smashes through this roadblock. By the time you finish ideating, nobody knows whose idea it was in the first place. There’s so much work on building during divergence – the key statement is: “I’d like to build on that idea – I’d like to build on that idea.” You don’t have several people throwing up ideas willy-nilly all over, they’re done one at a time, we listen to each other and we build and so you build on this and you build on that – a new idea pops out and by the time you’ve built and built, you’ve got such different ideas, and such better ideas. We have research that shows that it’s always good to extend effort. It’s better to spend twenty minutes than ten, it’s better to spend forty because very often the best ideas turn up at the end. Why? Because you’re building on early ideas and building and building so there’s an excitement that starts coming up as you hear a good idea and you build on it and make it better and you twist it and turn it.
The other way it happens is during the convergence – during the telescoping. You pick what you think are some of the best ideas but you realize we don’t really know all about them. You start the second stage that is clarification and understanding. Five different people picked this idea. Why did you pick it? You hear different reasons why people picked it. You hear different interpretations of the idea and now you start building some more and you say that gives me another idea and out pops another idea and by the time you finish and pick, nobody really is sure whose idea it was – we all had a hand in building it. So it’s a tremendous team builder in the right sense, we don’t just slap each other on the back – we worked together and we’re so proud of the fact that we came up with really great ideas.
Another way is crediting an idea. Not only do I like to build on an idea, I like to build on “George’s” idea so I’m giving credit to George whose idea I’m building on. Those two are really great factors so there’s a lot of skill that can be learned and can be used by team members who can work and love to solve problems because they’re helping each other.
A challenge is all of those things. Innovation is not focused on hi-tech or products or services. Any challenge you’ve got – we can’t do this, we can’t do that, our business model is not working – whatever it is you need to have people who want to make change – you need a great change making process. We really dislike the term managing change, managing change means we are going to make change whether people like it or not. We’re going to shove it down their throats. Adaptability is the name of the game and adaptability means we’re driving change.
If you recall some earlier topics on adaptability, any good organization is deliberately proactively driving change. They are looking for ways to make things better internally and externally – one of the biggest things they do well is called problem finding. Problem finding doesn’t mean a new product or a new service. It means something you can’t do and you have internal customers, external customers and you want to have people who are not sweeping problems under the carpet. These folks are flagging them and defining them. When you are re-doing process redesign you don’t want to be strictly looking at optimization and implementation – that is where Six Sigma and Lean efforts work. That’s fine but if you keep focusing on that you’re going to be getting incremental changes. You want to bring innovation in where you can do the right hand side of the Simplexity wheel as well – where you start looking at breakthrough challenges in processes and business models – these are the potential game changers. That completely changes the focus from strictly products and services.
YES – the owner is your key person. The owner knows more about the problem than anybody else. If you don’t have an owner don’t do the session. It all revolves around the owner – all we’re trying to do is help. This person(s) knows everything and a good owner is one who is going to be very forthcoming – he/she will not only answer questions, they often give even more information that nobody asked for, so the owner is critical. The only thing the owner can’t do – lead the session. An owner cannot lead the session – these two roles must be separate.
One of the biggest problems people deal with are bad meetings. When we ask people how many of them have been in a meeting which was total waste of time, all hands go up. When we start asking why – what are some of the things that go wrong? Usually the answer is there was no accountability – nobody in that group was accountable. Why in the world would you have a meeting without someone totally accountable? The only reason for having a meeting is to solve a problem that is verbatim – solve a problem, get from A to B. There is no other reason for wasting people’s time. You have to have an owner involved – someone who’s willing to do something – where the whole subject and the objective of the meeting comes. As participants, our job is to help our owner get into action going all the way to step 8 – action.
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.