Facilitating creative techniques

I have written previously about the importance of different creative techniques to help with creative problem solving. One of the barriers to introducing these into the workplace may be the confidence of the leader in facilitating them. Here I want to simplify the process and offer some guidelines for facilitating creative techniques in the workplace.

The first point to make is that for many people at the moment, being at work no longer means being present in the workplace, so many of the techniques may need to be adapted for remote working.

To keep this relatively simple, I have divided the topic up into the main issues to consider,   and will address each one in turn.

 Purpose

If people are going to buy into a creative workshop, in whatever form, they need to believe that it has a useful purpose. So, clarify the purpose and consider justifying why this requires a creative workshop? For example, the need to resolve a wicked problem, or a space to create new ideas for the future generation of products.

 Space

The ideal space to hold creativity workshops, would be a flexible space, off-site with outdoor space available. Off site is always best as it signals a different way of working. It is hard to change to a creative mode when working in the same environment as your everyday work. If off-site is not an option try and find a space where a conducive atmosphere can be created – for example where there are no tables, nor computers, and plenty of wall space to exhibit outputs as you go along.

If working remotely, for example using Zoom, then ask that participants come with space around them to work, and with the possibility to move around a little. Ask them to have resources at hand, such as coloured pencils and paper.

 Timing and structure

I have linked these two together because one will determine the other.

If timing is a constraint, that is you only have a couple of hours, then it is impossible to structure that time for a complete problem-solving process. It would be more realistic to introduce a couple of creative techniques such as brainstorming and a playful variation on it, like reversals.

If, on the other hand it is more important to address a serious wicked problem or plan for a future product, then structure the process and carve out the time required.

The level of experience in use of creative techniques will also influence the time required. The more experienced you and/or the team are, the less time you will need to get into the creative mode.

Choice of technique

  • If you are new to this, stay with a technique and structure you feel comfortable with. A facilitator needs to be able to guide participants and then let them free to work on the technique. If you are nervous about trying a new technique you may be tempted to intervene.
  • Choose  according to the purpose of each session.
  • The individual differences of participants may be a factor here. Introverts may take longer to think through their inputs. Build in techniques which they will feel more comfortable with, otherwise the extroverts will dominate.
  • In choosing the techniques and planning the sessions, reflect upon whether each technique will work best done individually, in pairs or as a whole group.
    • Working alone will work well if it’s an early input around perceptions of a problem.
    • Working in pairs for some of the exercises can offer a level of support and comfort.
    • Working as a whole group can produce more ideas, as with brainstorming, however there may be issues around everyone being involved. It will depend upon the group. My advice would be anything beyond six needs to be broken down into smaller groups.

Setting ground rules for the creativity session

 This is crucial and you will need to think this through in advance and present them for agreement at the beginning. Here are the rules I like to establish:

  • Brainstorming rules: defer judgement, go for quantity, the wilder the better, build upon others ideas.
  • Be constructive – no negativity
  • Be flexible and open to other ideas
  • Encourage active listening

You might want to add rules about keeping to time, confidentiality, mobiles off etc.

Resources

What resources will you want, or can have?

For example, I usually have lots of coloured pens, post-its and paper for writing and drawing as well as flip chart boards or walls to put paper on.

In general, for successful facilitation

  •  Have a structure and be flexible enough to change it if necessary. Not all techniques work with everyone. Sometimes you need to try something different to achieve the objective of the session.
  • When facilitating a group, start with some warm up exercise, and also have a couple of short energisers to use when energy is starting to flag.
  • Set out the instructions for the exercise and then stand back and let the participants work with the technique. It is important not to step in unless it is needed to clarify something. Do not try to influence what is happening.

For more ideas around techniques and how to use them, check out the book I co-wrote with Tracy Stanley.

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. 

How to be creative – learning from creative writing

I hear many people make statements like, ‘I am not creative’. Well, I believe we are all capable of being creative. This blog offers a overview of how to be creative, tapping into my learning from creative writing.

To be creative, we need to allow our imagination to be free to roam wherever it will, and not be censured by our logical, rational mind. In this way our ideas can flourish and not be shut down prematurely.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

This can be very difficult, however it is worth pursuing if we want to develop our creativity.  In creative problem-solving workshops we work on suspending this critical mind by introducing tools and techniques that allow the intuition in. Image based techniques  fall into this category.

When we work with word-based tools, we can often revert to a logical rational mode which censors ideas.  It’s only at the evaluative stage that we start to consider the appropriateness of our ideas and apply some logical thinking to them.

As someone who has always encouraged imagery to express ideas, it seems a contradiction in terms to talk about creative writing. However let me show you what I have learned from creative writing that can be applied more generally to creativity.

Some guidance on ways in which you can encourage ideas to flourish.

  1. Write daily, preferably at a fixed time, and for a similar amount of time. I have made this a ritual in my life, so I write in the morning for at least an hour when I have a coffee. What can you create as a ritual around your writing?
  2. Take a random word or phrase and use this as a starting place to write from, then free-write and see where it takes you. Allow yourself to move into a state of flow.
  3. Observe people  and notice details about them, note them down, then write about them, developing a story around them. Who are they, what were they doing at that place, where do they live etc? If you keep a notebook with you at all times this helps.
  4. Write longhand, and don’t edit as you go along. Editing allows the rational logical mind in.  Perfectionism is the enemy of achievement, so leave the editing as late as possible.
  5. Be happy to write badly, trust to write rubbish. Don’t judge. In time these ramblings will develop into words you can use and develop ideas and projects from.
  6. Incubation works well. When you have written something and have come to a point of closure or stuckness, put it aside and leave it for a day, a week, even a month before looking at it again. You will then see it in a fresh light and will know whether and how to move on. Insights will have occurred in the meantime which can be very helpful.
  7. Don’t be hard on yourself. We are our worst enemies when it comes to self-censure.
  8. Reward yourself for small achievements.

Finally, what are the main points to take from this and apply to creativity in a general sense?

  1. Allow your imagination the freedom to roam. In writing we can do this by using daily writing times, in creativity we can use techniques such as image work. don’t leave room for the censor to enter!
  2. Don’t be afraid to incubate your ideas. Leave them, put them to one side, do other things, then come back to them. This can be for any amount of time. Trust your intuition here.
  3. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.

What would you add to this?

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached people  in a variety of corporate settings, and developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently published a book on creativity for leaders with Dr. Tracy Stanley, entitled Creativity Cycling .

Creative Problem Solving when working alone

We are living in extraordinary times, and it is even more important not to shut down our minds to new ideas. When we do, we often leap into solutions for our problems. Creative problem solving (CPS) is an approach which encourages fresh and open thinking. However, with more of us living in a confined situation, due to COVID 19, how do we work on CPS techniques when we are working alone?

One approach is to use technology to set up virtual meetings and I am sure that many are doing this. However, we can work successfully alone in a creative mode. There are many possibilities in the technology field for working alone, such as this mind mapping software.

However, working with a screen all day can be counterproductive. Often, we have our best ideas when doing something away from our desks such as going for a walk, taking a break, even while we sleep. It helps to prepare our minds to allow ideas to incubate while we are doing other things.

So how do we prepare our minds?

I propse here to lead you through an approach to the three-stage process on creative problem solving whilst working alone. You can of course try any of these techniques on their own.

Stage 1: understanding the problem

In the same way as we prepare in group problem solving, we can use techniques to explore the problem. I favour using imagery for this and suggest you draw the problem as a rich picture or put together a collage to represent the problem. This is an activity you can do  alone. You can virtually share this with others if possible as it helps to get  reflections and  perspectives around the problem..

After working visually you can then pull all the elements of the problem together using mind mapping or a fishbone diagram.

Stage 2: Exploring solutions

When we understand what the problem is, then we can brainstorm ideas to resolve it. This is also something we can do on our own, even though input from others is so much better.

Other techniques you could try include using metaphor as a prompt for new ideas. Find a random image from magasines or photos you find online,  and ask yourself, in which way is this image like your problem. Note what comes up. don’t search for anything spexiific, it is imporatnt that the mage you choose is a random one.

At this stage you could select your best solution and move onto stage 3 or collect your ideas together into a storyboard.

Stage 3: implementing the solution

At this stage of the CPS you start with some bullet proofing to see if your ideas are viable. Some techniques you can do on your own might include drawing up a help/hinder diagram or a force field analysis. Both identify the forces that would work in favour of any ideas being implemented and those that would work against.

A fun approach to try on your own is the Disney strategy. Although this is normally done with others.  Place three chairs in a triangle ,  marking each one  to represent one of the three roles, Dreamer, Realist or Critic.  Then spend a short time in each position making the case for the idea you are bullet proofing. Note the arguments that would be made in each position, and on the next round adjust your ideas to take these into account.

When this is finished, after  three or four rounds, collect any insights or changes you have made to your ideas and start to build your action plan.

If you have used the storyboard then this becomes your action plan and you can add in more detail as the plan takes shape.

You can find all of these techniques and more in the book, Creativity cycling that I co-authored with Tracy Stanley.

Stay safe, stay creative.

 

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached people  in a variety of corporate settings, and developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently published a book on creativity for leaders with Dr. Tracy Stanley, entitled Creativity Cycling .

Why Creative Problem Solving?

It was widely reported that in 2016 the World Economic Forum cited creativity as one of the top 3 skills organisations would need by 2020. The top skill which has been consistent in their reporting is critical problem solving.

Critical problem solving is much improved when a dose of creativity is added because many organisations get stuck in loops of thinking.  The saying, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ is so true.

Creative problem solving is an approach that offers opportunities to develop both critical thinking and creative approaches to problems. The result is that better and different solutions may be identified.

Continue reading “Why Creative Problem Solving?”

Why Creative problem solving is more effective than ‘non-creative’

 

I have been working with creative problem solving (CPS) since the early 90 ties, and have facilitated many groups using CPS. I have also used some of the techniques in other ways, with people one to one and as part of a facilitated workshop on change. The reason I am passionate about this approach is that it works! Continue reading “Why Creative problem solving is more effective than ‘non-creative’”

The importance of not leaping into solutions before understanding the problem

A recurring theme has been going around in my head lately and this has been reinforced on two separate occasions this last few days. This is about reaching conclusions about a solution before identifying the problem.

The first occasion that cropped up lately for me was in an article in the Observer on Sunday 20 March 2011, written by Neal Ascherson, questioning whether we are addressing the right problems in reaching solutions, and quoting examples in both Libya and Japan. In this he also quotes someone he met who said that “As an engineer, I can tell you the root of all human mistakes. It’s people putting things right, before they have finished finding out what’s wrong”. Continue reading “The importance of not leaping into solutions before understanding the problem”