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. 

On being creative

Being creative is good for the soul. This is, I know,  a sweeping statement. However, let me explain what I mean by this.

Creativity is about using all parts of our brain, both our logical, rational minds and our intuitive, more ‘open to possibility’ minds. This surely can’t do us any harm. In fact, I would argue that by doing this, we are more likely to be taking wiser decisions and living our lives in a fuller way.

So, what does it mean to be creative? 

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

That depends upon each individual. Each of us has our own possibilities for becoming more creative. Some people will have an interest in the arts, some will be interested in developing creativity and innovation at work. Some will be developing their writing or photography, and others may express their creativity through activities such as cooking or sewing.  There are many ways in which we can develop our creativity. What is important is to search out and find your own path to being creative.  If nothing else it will offer you a richer experience which you can carry with you throughout your lives.

What are the benefits of creativity?

A blogpost I shared last year offered some benefits of creativity and they are summarised here:

Working creatively can be motivating. It energises and can build up a strong sense of self-confidence.

Creativity can re-ignite our passion. When we are lost in working creatively we are in what  Csikzentmihalyi  calls a state of flow. Being in a state of flow leads to a sense of happiness. It is a form of mindfulness in which we are in the present, absorbed by our creative pursuits,  and not focusing on the past or future.

Developing a creative pursuit can open ourselves up to new opportunities and possibilities. A sense of positivity can result from creative pursuits. It is great to see and reflect upon something tangible that we have achieved. Who knows where this may lead in terms of personal change and development?

Becoming more creative is about doing things differently. Enjoying doing things differently will impact on our whole life and generate more sense of fun in our lives.

Working creatively can reduce stress levels. There is some evidence that stress levels fall when we are absorbed in a creative task, whatever our level of ability.

By becoming more creative we can become more productive at work. We begin to challenge the existing way in which things are done. and search out new and better ways of doing them.

By introducing a creative approach in the problem-solving process, we find that our skill at solving problems develops immensely. Creative problem solving enables and encourages us to see the big picture and not to go down the same road each time we encounter a problem.

Finally, being more creative will be less boring and you will have fun!

Bene Brown had this to say about creativity:  

“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity isn’t benign. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.

 So, suppressing our creativity can be negative for us.

During the recent lock-downs due to the COVID pandemic many people have turned to creative pursuits, and there seems to have been an upsurge in interest in these.

So how can you become more creative?

  1. Start by reflecting on what creative activities in your past have brought you joy.
  2. Start with small amounts of time and dedicate this on a regular basis to that activity. It need not be ambitious to start with, half an hour a day is good. Build up a habit of doing this.
  3. Find a buddy who has a similar creative interest and support one another. Arrange to meet/ chat regularly so you can make progress.
  4. Seek out workshops/training to follow to develop your creative pursuits. There are lots around that have free offerings. For example, social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter have interest groups or people to follow in different creative fields.
  5. Seek out other more experienced people in your creative field to follow and to gain tips on your development.

Finally, just do it. Start small and take baby steps and you will start to reap the benefits.

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. 

Create your vision with a storyboard

Many organisations talk about creating a vision for their future. However what many do is to create a vision statement. This just doesn’t work for me. Visions need to be inspirational and for this to happen they really need to soar above the limitations of words.

For this reason, I usually recommend creating a future vision through image work, at least in the first instance. To check out ideas for creating a vision using drawing, take a look here. In my next blogpost I will take a look at some other tools for creating vision, such as collage.

Ok, so you have an inspirational vision and you have shared or even better co-created it with your employees, colleagues, family. What next?

One process that you can try, is to create a storyboard to show both your future vision, where you are now, and the steps to get there.  This seems to be versatile enough to satisfy people who need a structured approach, and is also attractive to people who dislike a structured approach. For this latter category it can be fun to complete all the boxes using images.

To complete your storyboard

Take a large piece of paper and create 6 numbered  boxes as shown.

  • Put your vision image into box 6,  and in box 1 you put a picture to represent where you are now.
  • Brainstorm the gap between where you are now and your future vision. Find other people to work with on this.
  • Turn the ideas coming out if this brainstorm into actions.
  • Put all the actions down on a separate piece of paper and then work out where they fit on the journey from box 1 to box 6.
  • It  is often difficult to take those first steps from box 1 to box 2 . It’s a bit like stepping into treacle and you may get stuck. Working backwards from box 6 can help in this process. so ask yourself, what is the last action I need in place before I achieve my vision.

For people who are less structured, this can remain as a loose journey based upon some big action steps. Drawing them can be fun and inspiring.
If you are a more structured person then you can work with defining each step and adding targets etc to them.  Bullet proofing can be helpful at this stage to check out what can prevent and what can help achievement of the final vision.

This process can be used in many different ways. for example, I have coached people to use it to develop their strategy, or to map out their personal and professional development. It is also very useful as a process withing creative problem solving to pull together the different stages of the process.

I hope this has given you some ideas for working with putting vision into reality. The next step to take is to do exactly that – take some action!

 

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. The use of storyboarding and how it fits into creative problem solving is covered in this book.

The importance of raising energy in a meeting

In January I wrote about icebreakers and their value in setting the scene for an event. Today,  to follow on from this, I will focus on the importance of raising energy in a meeting and how to do it.

Photo by Cathy Mü on Unsplash

What are energisers?

These are exercises, or some form of activity that can be inserted into a workshop or meeting to raise the energy of the group. Coffee can of course serve that purpose, and it works for me in a morning! However, the use of group energisers increases the energy level of the whole group and can inject a sense of fun into any meeting.

When to use energisers?

  • Energisers can be used at the beginning of an activity, or during it when energy is dropping in the room. After lunch is a great time for an energiser.

  • At the beginning of an event an energiser can also work as an icebreaker to create a good environment for the work ahead. For example, if it is a training event encouraging creative thinking, the use an energiser to open up the group and start to develop a creative climate for the event.

  • Mid-way through a project an energiser can be used to re-invigorate the thinking and energy in the group. This can rekindle the enthusiasm and motivation of the group.

  • Longer term projects or programs may warrant more time spent on energizers. This can be at the beginning to create a working climate, and throughout the project when energy is starting to flag. For a lengthy program a longer time can be justified in setting the scene. Here, energisers may be of a different nature.  Outdoor exercises, dance workshops, cookery classes have been examples of energisers I have noted.

    To summarise:

  • Energisers raise energy when it is most needed.

  • Use them to develop a group climate for the success of the event/program.

  • Insert them anywhere into a program or event to reinvigorate it.

  • They may only need a short time to work.

Energising virtual groups

I have offered a couple of  examples of energisers hereHowever we are currently living in a time when group meetings are not encouraged. Therefore it is important to consider how to energise groups who are meeting virtually.

 Many people will be struggling with a loss of energy during these times. Using platforms such as Zoom are good for virtual  meetings however, there is a tendancy to sit rather passively when we are facing a screen. Raising energy at the start of such meetings can make a difference to the climate of the meeting and ensure it is more productive.

So how do you do this?

I hope that these simple guidelines may help.

  • To raise energy people need to be physically active. This is more difficult sitting in front of a screen but not impossible. Ask participants to stretch, to stand, do some gentle exercise before the meeting gets underway properly.

  • To enable everyone to participate, ensure that each person gets a chance to contribute early on. Prepare in advance and ask them to send in or have  something ready to share.

  • For example, ask each person  to send in a photo of themselves as a baby – put these up anonymously and ask participants to decide which one belongs to which participant. You could also use first car, a first pet or favourite song etc.

  • You could ask each person in turn  to state two truths and a lie and ask everyone else  to decide which is the lie.

Use your imagination here , prepare ahead, and then limit discussion  to two minutes per person.

Create an atmosphere of fun if the meeting warrants it. For training, or creative/innovation working groups then it would. However, for other more serious meetings  then use an exercise which is a little more serious. Remember the aim is to encourage sharing and for everyone to raise their energy early on in the meeting.

What  have you used to energise a virtual meeting?

 

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 .

Testing Ideas with the Disney Strategy

When working with the three stage creative problem solving (CPS) process, the third stage is to test possible solutions before they are put into practice.

As with the previous stages, this stage requires both a divergent and convergent phase. In the divergent phase, one of my favourite tools to use is the Disney Strategy  to do the testing.

This can be a fun way of looking at the factors that can help or hinder the implementation of a solution. It’s based upon Walt Disney’s way of working, and developed into a tool by Robert Dilts, one of the founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

It simulates the kind of feedback that could be encountered when a solution is put into practice. So, it unearths the barriers there may be to implementation. It then offers a process for reflecting on how these can be overcome.  This process can be a very valuable way of testing any ideas before presenting them to wider audience. It’s a kind of bullet-proofing.

Continue reading “Testing Ideas with the Disney Strategy”

Better Brainstorming and how to achieve it

Last month I wrote about stage 1 of the creative problem solving process (CPS). Today’s post is about the second stage, exploring options to resolve the problem.

The first part of this stage 2 is to open up to all possible approaches to resolving the problem. There are many techniques which you can use to do this, and a lot of them are based upon brainstorming.

Brainstorming is something that is much abused and  I want to share with you ways in which you can improve it.

Brainstorming

Let’s start with your experience. I am certain that you will have experienced that time when someone has suggested that you all brainstorm a topic. It might be, for example, ideas for the next marketing campaign, or ways of handling customer feedback.

So, it goes something like this –‘lets brainstorm’ -then you all get together and throw a few ideas out. One of the ideas gets picked up and a discussion follows. During this process you may not have noticed that one of the more introverted members of the team is very quiet. At the end of the 15 minutes allocated, you have a direction to move on, however is it the best? and have all members of the team felt that they have been heard? I would bet that the answer is no these questions.

Continue reading “Better Brainstorming and how to achieve it”

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?”

10 Creativity Tips

Kangeroo builder110 creativity tips which can help you with new ideas and to challenge assumptions.

    1. Be open to possibilities – this means thinking ‘yes and’, not ‘yes but’ and keeping all senses on alert for new ways of ‘seeing’. Not being judgemental and not jumping to defensiveness. When faced with someone else making a proposal that you would normally reject, take time to consider how it could work and then how you could build upon it.

Continue reading “10 Creativity Tips”