The 8 Laws Of Creativity
How To Solve Real Problems
Creativity* In Action
* For the context of this article I’m defining creativity as follows. ‘The act of using our passion and our brains to connect with ideas, build value and solve problems.’
In business and in life there are two reasons why we need creativity. Given the world as it now is we need it more than ever and we will have to think much harder if we are to make life better.
The Two Reasons Why We Need Creativity:
- To solve a problem/address a challenge.
- Make the most of opportunities.
Both demand we use our brains and we might do this individually or as a team. In both modes we are likely short on objectivity — as an individual we only have our own thoughts and as a team we need to engage meaningfully to make real progress. Trouble is in such a dynamically complicated world we are likely to lack time, resource, experience, and more.
So Here’s What I Think We Need To Do:
1. Ask The Right Question
It’s far too easy to ask the wrong one. That’s usually the question that feels comfortable and suits your current understanding. It probably fits your own/existing argument. The right question stretches us and makes sure we put the challenge into better context.
We’ve long suggested we should avoid solving the wrong problem really well.
Step One. Be sure the question actually represents what you are really trying to do. Yes, really!
2. Putting A Frame Round It
When you think about it, any question can be approached from many angles. And it’s those angles that will deliver value — they are the most important. Deciding on the angles to get at your question makes a big difference to the result.
Researching the question will challenge you to discover as much as you can, and that’s the first chance to question your own beliefs and opinions. It’s also the first phase of building the frame within which to think.
Step Two. Get stuck in — understanding the context and situation. Start to ‘draw’ a map of everything that needs considering.
3. Building A Squad
While you are understanding the dimensions of the challenge you will start to understand the contributors you are going to need. You’ll need those with the passion, skills, insights and the ideas to help.
Involving them as the picture emerges is what real collaboration and ownership is all about. Not only will they help with the challenge they will be evangelists for implementing the solution at the other end.
Step Three: Form the team based on who cares, what matters and what needs to be done.
4. Engaging In The Art Of Conversation
Whatever anyone will tell you, structured conversation is by far the best way of tackling anything but it’s not as easy as it feels. Prejudice, opinion and projection can be fearsome enemies of the right conversation about the right stuff.
By now you will have the basic kit.
A clear and defendable challenge that needs to be addressed, the context and the dimensions of the challenge that needs to be discussed, a squad of people assembled to tackle it and a framework of specific conversations — an agenda!
Step Four: Arrange the conversations in the best order: aims and outcomes first (in context) the right content comes second and then figuring out what matters, that’s third.
5. What Does Step Four Mean?
Conversations, like stories, need an arc. A beginning a middle and an end. Having the fluency to use them — when, why and with conviction takes practice. And like all good thinking we start with our end in mind.
- The Outcomes and Aims drive the whole discussion. Get that clear with everyone. The aim is likely to be a different one to how things are today.
- The Context describes where we are today — a truthful situational analysis.
- And thirdly ‘What Matters’ — everything that needs discussion if we are to think through how to move from the context to achieve our aims.
Step Five: Get everyone on the team to understand frameworks and story-telling. And do it in a meaningful and determined way.
6. Make It Visual
There’s many a way to have the conversation. By far the best way is have someone create a big white wall. Get a good facilitator and someone with good handwriting to drive and take note of the conversations you have decided are needed.
Give each conversation a big space all of its own. Ideally the person on the wall can also draw pictures where the conversation would benefit from it. The whole experience raises the level of engagement, debate and ultimately ownership. The idea is that these aren’t separate conversations — they are different parts of ONE conversation — getting underneath the challenge at hand.
Step Six: Plan out the ‘framework’. Draw out the headlines and the point behind each ‘module’. Decide the right order in which they need to be thought through.
7. Thinking By Capturing Everything That Matters
If you have the ‘wall capture’ and someone writing down the key insights, then it’s now time to understand what’s been said — a lot of that understanding will happen during the process but never as much as with sober reflection.
The whole point of thinking this way is — ‘thinking this way’. It opens the mind. It’s properly collaborative. That means you are collectively figuring out what’s important and what matters, emerging from what’s been said.
Step Seven: Reflection and analysis of the big picture. Distilling the juice and ‘seeing’ the plan that’s starting to emerge.
8. Simple Truth
A while after the team has met, a crisper representation starts to form. This has to be the ongoing connective tissue for team. These evolutions are not separate from the framework . The inevitable changes are the way the framework lives — stuff will change and so must the framework itself.
What we’ve done is build a way of thinking — not only about the question asked in Step One but what we know needs to be done — continuously and from now on. That’s it — we are now thinking differently — structured and visually. Structured Visual Thinking™.
Step Eight. Keep the insights, the value and the framework as fresh and as connected to everyone as possible. Repeat Steps Four To Seven as much as required.
An Example Of Generic Frameworks In Action
Setting The Conversational Baseline. To get going in any situation we need to know where we want to go, where we are right now and what do we consider critical to be able to get there.
Exploring All The Variables
In any situation there are often no right or wrong answers — the challenge is to reduce the risk of error and arrive at the better results possible. The challenge is always opening our minds to the possibilities and doing real justice to the options.
Making Decisions & Getting Into Action
Execution is the most important part of strategy. Without it there’s no point of the strategy. So what do we need to make that plan and make everyone work appropriately to deliver it — all of it lined up to meaningful milestones of achievement.
Putting It All Into Context
This is best done as a collaborative endeavour, and ideally done at large scale. Getting people to ‘see’ the result of their thinking is a major factor in gaining attention and sustaining the result.
Contact me at john@grouppartners, via Skype on johncaswell or on mobile — +447920759250