Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Should managers possess and encourage creativity and innovation?

In striving for results and measuring the degree to which objectives are achieved, managers often fixate on effectiveness  – doing the right thing  – and pay less attention to efficiency  – doing things right.

This may lead to a lack of attention to solving problems or introducing improvements and the tendency to think of that well worn adage – “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”

But managers are required to “fix it” –  to ensure operational and strategic problems are solved.  Generating solutions require creative problem solving and the encouragement of creativity in themselves and their teams –  to develop the ability to go beyond the obvious daily habit and routine.

Creative Problem Solving Training Course - Capita Learning & Development
Creative Problem Solving
In his book “Applied Imagination” Alex Osborn said:

 “Creative problem solving defers judgment on a right answer. Instead, the process evaluates many possible answers, seeking patterns and relationships that might suggest solutions we wouldn’t otherwise see”. 

Naturally not all solutions and suggestions require innovation or unique ideas. However, developing the capacity to extend the style of thinking and problem solving provides the opportunity for creative solution generation.

It’s crucial to understand – and help the team understand - that creativity is:

  • An ability – creativity is often suppressed but everyone has the ability to imagine or invent something new and to generate solutions by combining, changing, or reapplying existing ideas
  • An attitude – creativity is grown by overcoming socialised norms, accepting change and newness, being willing to play with ideas and possibilities and the habit of enjoying the good, while looking for ways to improve it
  • A process – creativity requires hard work to suggest ideas and solutions. Creative people make gradual alterations and refinements – few works of creative excellence are produced with a single stroke of brilliance

It’s worth remembering that people tend to generate their creative resources in two environments:

  • In stressful situations 
  • When feeling uninhibited

The manager has massive impact on the emotional temperature of the team and the environment in which it works, and must ensure that this is free of inhibitions and:

  • Eradicates the “What will people think?” mentality which encourages conformation (promoting the notion that to deviate from ‘norms’ is wrong) but increases the toying with the “What if?” 
  • Eliminates limiting thinking about ability. People often defer to ‘experts’ to create solutions – “I can't do it”, or “There’s nothing I can do”. History, though, is replete with examples of solution generation from the unlikeliest of sources – and a good mind with a positive attitude will go far in producing creative solutions 
  • Abolishes the “I might fail” syndrome – the reluctance to risk that is caused by the societal view of failure and results in people being afraid to experiment. Fear of failure is one of the major obstacles to creativity. The cure is to change attitudes. Controlled failures should be expected and accepted – they are simply learning tools that help focus the way toward success 
  • Deals with overcertainty – the reaction of “It can't be done” gives the situation or problem power; giving up before starting is self fulfilling.  Prejudice caused by preconceived ideas often prevents clear sight beyond what is already known or believed to be possible. 

When this environment is in place, managers should develop creative methodology with the team – techniques that can help define situations or problems, explore their attributes, generate alternatives and evaluate and implement ideas. These tools include:

  • Ishikawa (or Fishbone) – an analysis tool that provides a systematic way of looking at effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects. This tool will assist the team identify and categorize the many potential root causes of problems or issues in an orderly way 
  • “5 Whys” – a simple process of articulating the current situation and asking “Why the situation or problem happens”. If the answer provided doesn't identify the root cause of the problem, the question is repeated and there is a loop back to the previous step until the team is in agreement that the problem's root cause is identified
  • De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats – this industry standard team discussion and individual thinking tool provides a means for teams to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively. Looking at a situation with this technique helps to create solutions using all approaches. 

So, should managers be creative and innovative, encouraging the team to do likewise?

The harmony of effectiveness and efficiency requires it.

Find out more about Creative Problem Solving Training Courses Available in London.

Written by David Mathieson, a learning consultant at Capita Learning & Development.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Improving your business presentation and speaking skills

Being able to present confidently and effectively in business is probably one of the most underrated skills in the working world today.

If you cast your mind back to a great business presentation you have attended, there will be a number of reasons of why it was great.  Let’s find out some of these reasons now by asking some questions:

“Was the speaker organised and kept to time commitments?”
“Were they knowledgeable and passionate about their topic?”
“Were they confident?”
“Were they able to build a relationship with the audience?”
“Did they have a clear message that was easy to understand?”
Business Presentation and Speaking Skills
Business Presentation and Speaking Skills
By even asking these questions we can start to draw out some of the strategies and behaviours of a great speaker versus an average one and it is vitally important that when preparing your own presentations, you think about these factors and not just the content which needs to be delivered.

Over the years, we have started to understand this science behind great presentations and the good news is that these skills can be shared with more and more people so they too can feel confident when delivering a presentation.

The first thing to know is that at work, you are presenting all of the time.  From meetings, staff training sessions, one to one coaching to that twenty-minute presentation you will be doing next month in front of 200 staff.  Hence, another strong reason for understanding and practicing becoming the best speaker you can possibly be.

With knowing that you are presenting and speaking in a business environment regularly, let’s share some areas to consider before your next presentation.

Great speakers have the ability to contextualise their presentations or in other words, they are fantastic storytellers. This helps to even turn the driest topic into something interesting.

Although the benefit of adding context to our presentations makes sense, most people still avoid it at all costs to purely focus on content and by doing so the belief is that with enough content the presentation will go smoothly.  This is rarely the case.

As already discussed, you may have the best content in the world for your presentation or speaking engagement, but the question still lies in ‘how can you bring that content to life?’

Contextualising your presentation can be through metaphors, personal stories, example stories or even complete make believe stories (so long as they relate back to the content!)  Yet, the human mind remembers far better when a story is told, it gives clear links, it evokes emotion and months, even years later we always remember a good story.

Perhaps take sometime out today to think of how you can start bringing your presentations to life through adding context.  A great way of checking you are organised for an effective presentation is by checking you have the three C’s.
  • Content
  • Concept
  • Context
Concept so people understand why they are there in the first place, content for the science and logical approach and context to win the hearts of the audience.

Written by Pete Scott, a learning consultant at Capita Learning & Development.