Creative techniques – selecting the right one

You, your staff or even your boss have been on a course or bought a self help book that described some creative techniques. You have tried one or two and they sort of worked, but not as you had hoped. Or maybe they did not work at all. Why could this be?

Sometimes Creativity just doesn’t work for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The problem scenario or situation has not been properly defined
  • The facilitator does not have the correct skills
  • The participants are unwilling

Or more than likely the wrong techniques have been selected. Alas you cannot use brainstorming for everything! So how should you go about categorising and selecting techniques?
The following ideas might be useful:

Group/Solo working – who is going to use this technique? Will you use it for one person or a group?

Converge/Diverge – are you looking to focus on, or identify just one possibility or are you wishing to actively generate many options or ideas?

Exploration/description – does the technique allow you to just explore or perhaps describe the situation more fully?

Reality checking/planning – you know what the possibilities are but you need to check that your ideas are feasible or to set out some course of action.

Idea generation/building – this is divergent but are you generating los of ideas or taking a smaller number and building upon them?

If we want to classify Reverse Brainstorming  then we could classify it as Solo or group working, convergent, exploring, idea generation. A Cartoon Storyboard could be classified as Solo or Group working, convergent, planning or building.

So how should you select a technique? Often we wish to perform several actions one after the other but for the sake of simplicity lets imagine you need some ideas about how to beef up your sales and marketing effort. You could work either on your own or in a group, you simply wish to generate a large number of ideas in a short space of time. Something like Reverse Brainstorming or a Nominal Group Technique might be the answer. If, however, you needed to explore or describe your current situation before moving on to generate ideas then the above techniques would not be ideal and you might find a modelling, drawing or even visualisation technique more useful.

Go on, try it! You might even find this Creativity stuff useful.

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Creative Management Challenge

Below are four simple questions, the Creative Management Challenge. Try to answer them all before looking at the answers.

  • Q1 How do you put a giraffe into a fridge?
  • Q2 How do you put and elephant into a fridge?
  • Q3 The King of the Jungle is holding a meeting for all of the animals. One of them is not there. Which one?
  • Q4 You are standing on the bank of an Alligator infested river and have to get to the other side. What do you do?

A survey by Accenture found that around 90% of Managers are likely to answer all of the questions incorrectly. Many school children under the age of six will actually get these questions right. What does this say about Management thinking? And now for the answers:

  • A1 Open the fridge, put the giraffe inside, close the fridge.
  • A2 Open the fridge, remove the giraffe, put the elephant inside, close the fridge.
  • A3 The elephant. The elephant is in the fridge.
  • A4 You swim across the river because all the alligators are attending the gathering.

I can already hear you say “Its not fair” and “they are for kids”. This is what the questions are trying to find out:

  • Q1 checks to see if you try to make simple things complicated and make assumptions about problem boundaries. Nobody actually said that the fridge was not big enough to put a giraffe inside!
  • Q2 tests your ability to consider previous actions. Who says that they are four separate questions?
  • Q3 simply tests your memory.
  • Q4 checks to see how quickly you learn. After all you must have got question 4 correct if you were a successful Senior Manager.

Try these on your colleagues and see what happens.

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