Monthly Archives: November 2012

How Might We…? Creative Problem Solving Transforms Political Process

Municipal politicians in the small town of Pelham, Ontario are investing in the development of internal creative leadership skills, as they work toward transforming the town’s creative culture. Beginning with the question ‘How Might We…?’, Pelham is looking to change how it approaches challenges and opportunities.

Council members and staff have been trained in the Simplexity creative problem solving process, an eight-step process leading from problem finding and definition through to solution implementation. In recent weeks, the process has been used by council to focus discussion and help resolve issues.

Instead of following the normal process of engaging in debate and counter-debate on the issue of a potential Site Alteration bylaw, councillors opted to use the Simplexity process to begin by defining the problem through consensus. Mayor Dave Augustyn facilitated the session and used a flip-chart to record “key facts” about the “ambiguous situation” of fill being dumped on agricultural lands. After agreeing on the most important facts, councillors outlined eight distinct challenges that needed to be solved. Each challenge begins with the positive phrase, “How might we…?” Town staff was directed to go to work and return to the next meeting with ideas and recommendations for addressing those distinct challenges.

On his blog ( Augustyn recognized the value of the Simplexity process in helping the town address various challenges. “Council will continue to use this creative problem solving process to not only deal with this particular issue, but to also take steps toward solving several other key challenges and opportunities that face our community,” he wrote.

As Pelham staff and councillors become more skilled creative leaders, they intend to engage the public in problem solving as part of their regular consultation processes. With the right tools and skills, collaboration, consensus and creativity can become a regular part of the political process.

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Filed under innovation, leadership, Problem Solving

Leading the way to innovation

Steve Jobs once said that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower, and he was right in many ways. But I’d add that while innovation may define a leader, a leader also creates innovation. In fact, today’s most effective leaders are those who have learned how to spur the growth of innovation across their organizations and throughout their teams.

With the simple first step of valuing the process of problem-finding, leaders can begin to create a climate of innovation. Organizations that deliberately practice the art of problem finding are likely to encounter and anticipate the opportunities and customer desires that will lead to new solutions and new products that redefine their market sector.

Successful leaders focus their efforts on removing the roadblocks that stand in the way of corporate innovation. They break down departmental silos and encourage collaboration; they disrupt routines that encourage ‘business as usual’; and they seek new technologies and methods that can improve what they do and how they do it. They take calculated risks to venture into the unknown, and when something doesn’t work out as expected, they consider it a learning opportunity to build on, not an occasion for fixing blame.

In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, innovation not only distinguishes between leaders and followers, but frequently also distinguishes between success and failure.

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Filed under Business, innovation