Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Inspiring Creativity - Go Wide

When people are asked to “think creatively” they quickly get stuck in a rut; the subject they’re trying to think creatively about constrains their imagination and consequently their ideas are much less creative than they might otherwise be. In studies conducted by Thomas Ward at The University of Alabama, participants were asked to draw animals from an alien planet; nearly all the animals that people drew resembled animals from our own planet Earth. By thinking of “animals” they were led down a path of sensory organs, limbs and body shapes that broadly conformed to their existing experiences.

Your brain automatically calls up information relevant to what you’re thinking about; even the act of deciding not to think of something causes your brain to act against you, providing an image of the very thing you want to avoid. 

Try this - don’t under any circumstances think of an elephant… 

See? You probably now have a picture of an elephant in your head. Even if you don’t have an accurate memory to recall (say a pink elephant), your brain will usually construct a helpful picture for you to consider. And that’s not good for creative thinking.

If you want to change the way you think about a creative problem, then you need to change what you’re thinking about. You need to frame the problem in a new way so that your brain pulls different images from your memory helping you to see things differently. One way to do this is to find the essence of the problem you’re trying to solve. Had the students in Alabama thought about “life” rather than “animals” they might have been more creative in their interpretation of the problem and therefore in the solutions they came up with. If thinking about the essence of the problem doesn’t generate enough new thinking, try broadening your thinking even further and see where that takes you. Go wide; maybe “life” could lead you to “life on Mars”, leads to “Mars Bar” leads to “chocolate” then to the different states of chocolate (solid or molten) which might lead you to conceiving animals which have a fluid form depending on their environment…

In the end, remember that your creative output depends on where you start. So the first rule for thinking creatively is not to think differently, it’s to think of different things.

For more information vist www.designed4success.co.uk

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Why size matters (and numbers don't)...

You probably already know that many organisations have an employee engagement problem; it’s been dropping consistently for almost a decade driven partly, but not exclusively, by the global financial crisis. A recent survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that employee engagement dropped again last quarter (source: CIPD Employee Outlook, Winter 2013). Survey after survey finds the same pattern repeated all over the developed world. The link between engagement and performance is also well established; in the UK alone the cost of the “engagement” gap is estimated to be £29 BN every year in lost output.

You may already be using a survey to help understand what’s contributing to and inhibiting engagement in your organisation; there are many such surveys available and whilst they’re great at showing high level “themes” and even comparing one organisation with another they’re not so effective at helping to solve the problem. 

Image reproduced by kind permission of People Insight (http://www.peopleinsight.co.uk/)

Contrary to popular myth engagement is not about communication, nor is it something leaders “do”. Engagement is driven by relationships and the day to day interactions that people have with each other, giving rise to the powerful emotions and perceptions we all experience about our working environment. Big organisational surveys don’t tell us enough about what’s happening with real people to make a difference; the majority of relationships and interactions we experience at work happen in our teams and social networks so it’s only at this level that reports have any actionable value. Traditional surveys don’t get close to this level of personal understanding because they’re far too broad in scope; information at an organisational level is too subject to the law of averages, making it impossible for any one person or group of people to know what they need to do differently.

360° surveys on the other hand are too narrow in scope; they might provide a valuable insight into individual performance against a prescribed set of competencies but they tell us nothing about the relationships beyond those who directly respond. They focus on individuals and it’s therefore left to just one person to make the changes they personally deem important.

I’d like to introduce you to Work Life Motivation. By focusing on teams and the social networks where relationship are formed Work Life Motivation provides actionable information that people can use to work together to drive real improvements in motivation and engagement. Work Life Motivation doesn’t need to replace your 360° surveys, appraisals, psychometric tools or personality profiling; it can work with them to show the real impact on how people think and feel about the job they do and the people they work with. Work Life Motivation spreads the responsibility for making things better and shows how small changes in behaviour can add up to a big improvement. Unlike broad organisational surveys which provoke a “one size fits all” response that seldom works, or narrow individual assessments which place all the responsibility on just one person, Work Life Motivation shows how the small changes that each group or team can make together end up contributing to a big difference overall.

For more information about Work Life Motivation and how it can help your organisation improve motivation and engagement please contact us directly or visit www.worklifemotivation.com where you’ll find sample reports, pricing and relevant research material.