Tag Archives: leadership

You can’t delegate it! You have to lead the way!

Imagine asking a panel of CEOs from top American companies: What is leadership in the 21st century?

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I had the opportunity to hear their response at a recent Procter & Gamble Alumni conference. There were two answers right away:

  • Driving change
  • Developing future leaders who can drive change

The next question:   “How do you drive change?” brought these answers:

  • you need a  process.
  • get your  best people on it  (it’s the most important thing you are doing).
  • set priorities: what do you want to change?
  • measure the results.
  • there must be consequences (move resisters out of the way).
  • teach each other how to do it ( every organization is different).
  • permanent change takes time.

Today leadership means making adaptability a way of life. It is a proactive process: identifying problems as  opportunities, creating new solution ideas and implementing  changes. These  problems may be strategic :

  • defining a new vision or mission
  • establishing high-level goals
  • finding new directions to pursue
  • exploring new markets to enter
  • engaging customers to uncover hidden needs

Or they may be tactical:

  • speeding up a  procedure
  • installing a new  technology
  • improving customer satisfaction
  • reducing cost
  • increasing quality

This week’s Minsight: How might you take the lead (without being asked) in  tackling a change opportunity  in your department or team ? One thing we know for sure is that taking the plunge is the key to the process. Once you involve others in getting started, they will not want to stop.   How about sharing feedback on your experience?

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Filed under Business, Change Making, innovation, leadership, Problem Solving, Simplexity

How might we, as leaders, adopt a process of creative problem solving involving everyone, all the time, in everything we do?

Organizations must develop new ways of thinking and behaving in order to succeed in a turbulent world. While many organizations possess ample efficiency and analytical capability, successful organizations must also learn to integrate adaptability and innovative capability into their repertoires. Creative problem solving attitudes, behaviors, thinking skills and processes must be learned and developed to the extent that they become second nature. Organizations that adopt this approach will discover that creativity competency serves to complement analytical capability in building a highly effective operation that can thrive in today’s demanding business environment.

One of the goals of the Center for Research in Applied Creativity is to help the field of creative problem solving be better understood in its applicability to innovation and real world work. Adaptability is driven by a four-stage creative problem solving process composed of generating, conceptualizing and solving important problems and implementing valuable new solutions.  Generation is the proactive sensing of intriguing problems (trends, opportunities, and needs) and is sometimes called “opportunistic surveillance”.  Physical contact with, and involvement in, real world activities alerts the individual to inconsistencies and difficulties. These inconsistencies are then used to suggest new problem areas, to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation, and to propose projects that might be worth undertaking. The problems and opportunities are recognized, but are not yet clearly articulated or understood. The next step is conceptualization, which offers a more comprehensive analysis, definition and understanding of the opportunity. In Optimization, conceptualized alternatives are systematically examined in order to develop a plan for implementing an optimal solution.  The fourth stage, Implementation, consists of experimenting with the new solution, and making adjustments as necessary to successfully implement it. Individuals have different preferences for each stage and thus are said to have different innovation process “styles”.  An easy to administer psychological instrument called the Creative Problem Solving Profile (CPSP) measures an individual’s relative preferences for the four different stages of the process and thus enables the building of cognitively diverse, highly effective  teams.

Organizational leaders must recognize, nurture, reward and synchronize the different styles of creativity associated with the various stages of the creative process, particularly as different parts of organizations tend to prefer different stages and thus, contribute differently to the creative process. Gone are the days when a company could assign “creative work” to a select group of people, say, in the marketing or R&D department. Today, much more complex challenges posed by globalization of competition and technological advancement make it imperative for organizations to engage the creativity of all members, across multiple disciplines. No longer can the creative process be seen as a “relay race,” with one department handing off pieces of a project to the next. Rather than wait for others to “do their job first,” each department must be involved throughout the various stages of the creative process. By blending different kinds of knowledge and different kinds of cognitive problem solving styles, the entire organization can more quickly and successfully implement new solutions to newly discovered, well-defined problems and opportunities.

This knowledge also belongs at every level of the organization. By using this process, organizations can identify specific problems and challenges within a milieu of vague and wide-ranging issues. For example, issues are often identified with relatively broad statements such as, “Morale is bad here,” or “Communication is our biggest problem.” There is tremendous value in transforming such statements into more specific, simply worded challenges such as, “How might we help our employees take pride in their every day work?” or “How might we make it easier for every employee to create and implement improvements to our procedures, products and services?”

The success of the process depends on the skill of the participants in applying it. This skill includes being able to use simple and specific words in asking questions and providing answers. While leaders must develop their own adaptability skills, attitudes and behaviors, it’s equally important that they champion the development of those same skills, attitudes and behaviors for others throughout their organizations. Today’s corporate environment must welcome and incubate new and different ideas. It must nurture employees who challenge the status quo, perceive a different possibility, or simply look at things that aren’t and ask, “How might we?” and “What’s stopping us?”

The new business rule: the discomfort of disruptive creativity must be embraced.

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How Much More Creative Could Your Company Be?

Is your company nimble, adaptable and innovative? Does it quickly capitalize on new trends and technologies, often with leading-edge products? Or is it slow to change, and often resistant to new ideas? Despite the lip service many companies pay to the concept of innovation, many continue to throw up organizational roadblocks that discourage creativity. If any or all of these five challenges feel familiar, it might be time for a creativity overhaul.

  1. “I don’t have time to be innovative.” People feel they barely have enough time to do their ‘regular’ jobs, never mind taking time to be innovative. They perceive innovation as something apart from their work, an ‘extra’ that’s been dumped on their plates and that complicates their jobs. With growing global competition creating ever more ‘lean and mean’ organizations, people can be left feeling discouraged about developing new ideas or making innovative ideas work.
  2. “What’s in it for me?” Incentives for innovation are limited or invisible. Organizational reward systems like performance appraisals and promotions are often based solely on measures of short-term efficiency and profitability. The process of innovation – from the glimmer of an opportunity to an actual result – typically takes time, usually is tough to measure, and rarely is directly rewarded.
  3. “No one told me…” Ineffective communication, both upward and downward, stymies innovative behavior. Employees near the bottom of the organizational pyramid, who may actually have the best hands-on knowledge for developing innovative new ways to do things, lack a pipeline for communicating those ideas to decision makers in upper management. Company priorities and directions are often unclearly communicated downward, resulting in unfocused innovation efforts.
  4. “I’m going to my office and closing my door.” Physical environments can encourage, or discourage innovation. Many organizations still have employees working in isolation from one another, holed away in small cubicles down long hallways. Innovation thrives when groups of people with different knowledge and innovation process styles can formally or informally share problems, information and ideas.
  5. “That’s not my department.” Like physical isolation, functional isolation discourages innovation. Many companies still divide employees into departments such as sales, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and accounting, where they pursue their own goals in separate areas. Managers focus on functional goals, rather than overall organizational goals. Silos develop as employees work solely with other specialists and begin to view other functions as less important, or even as competitors. Important organizational problems fall between the cracks; interdepartmental teams struggle as turf issues dominate meetings; and multi-departmental projects take forever to complete.

Has your company found ways to remove roadblocks to innovation? We’d love to hear your stories of success – or frustration. To learn how to build a more innovative company, visit Basadur Applied Creativity.


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Overcoming the Allure of the Status Quo: Five Ways to Build Support for Transformative Ideas

It doesn’t matter how much people hate the way things are working now; introduce a new idea and enthusiasm for the status quo is guaranteed to skyrocket. Suddenly, all the old problems with the old way of doing things will be solvable. But the new problems with a new way of doing things will be painted as insurmountable.

Acceptance of new ideas is often the most important predictor for their ultimate success or failure, so building acceptance needs to be a key component of any change strategy. Here are five ways to overcome discomfort with new ideas.

  1. Share control, credit and ownership. Provide plenty of opportunities for fleshing out the details, offering suggestions or improvements, and recognizing those who build on the idea. Ask for opinions. Everyone is more accepting of ideas they’ve helped generate than those imposed on them.
  2. Be enthusiastic – and honest. Allow your excitement and enthusiasm for the idea to be contagious. But acknowledge your own misgivings, as well. Admitting the imperfection of your idea makes it easier for others to focus on the positive rather than the negative. It may also trigger suggestions for overcoming potential future problems.
  3. Present your idea at a good time. Gauge the mood and dynamics of your group, and find a time when people are feeling positive, relaxed and engaged. Don’t make it easy for people to say no by introducing a new idea when people are upset, angry or about to end a meeting.
  4. Ask your listeners to do, not just to listen. Taking action – even if it is only information gathering – gets people engaged and begins building ownership. It also ensures the idea moves forward to another meeting, rather than being shelved and potentially forgotten.
  5. Make it pretty. Fair or not, attractive sells. Eye-catching visual aids and elements that appeal to all five senses may help your idea gain support, or at least attention.

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Basadur Profile (CPSP) to be Featured in Prestigious Journal

min copy I received exciting news last week. My most recently written research paper has been accepted for publication in the prestigious Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. The paper, co-authored with Tim Basadur and our London colleague Dr. Garry Gelade explains the research and science underlying the development of the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile (CPSP) and how the Profile is the fundamental building block directly inter-connected to the circular creative problem solving Process (called Simplexity).

This theoretical work has been underway for a very long, tough time. It is so much easier to experientially understand the Profile and the Process (learning by doing) than by analytical, detached thinking! To try to explain them in words is much more difficult, and nearly impossible, especially to folks for whom the world of creativity is very foreign.

Titled “Creative Problem Solving Process Styles, Cognitive Work Demands and Organizational Adaptability,” the academic paper explains the theoretical underpinnings of the profile, outlines the empirical results of field research and examples of applications, and adds a discussion of implications for innovation, personal and group development and change making. The article is breakthrough, in that the CPSP and creative problem solving as a scientifically rigorous process have finally been understood and accepted at the academic level. This journal is read by academics, Organizational Development practitioners and higher level Human Resource managers seeking new scientifically proven, people-centered technologies they can adopt.

The many people to whom I have taught the CPSP and the Simplexity process over the years have readily understood and applied it successfully. However, for the many experts in the human resources, organizational development, management and creative problem solving fields that I have never been able to reach, the paper should provide a new opportunity to truly understand how the profile can be used to help them hire innovative individuals and build innovative teams and organizations.

Briefly, the Basadur Profile is an instrument that helps individuals identify and understand their unique styles for solving problems. Each unique style indicates preferences for gaining and using knowledge, and reflects the portion of the creative problem solving process that an individual is most inclined toward.Profile

Generators create options in the form of new possibilities or new problems that might be solved as well as by generating new opportunities that might be capitalized on.

Conceptualizers create options in the form of alternate ways to understand and define a problem or opportunity as well as by offering good ideas that help solve it.

Optimizers create options in the form of ways to get an idea to work in practice and by uncovering all of the factors that go into a successful implementation plan.

Implementers create options in the form of actions that get results and gain acceptance for implementing a change or a new idea.

Generators define problems as opportunities and create options by proactively searching for new problems or new opportunities. Conceptualizers seek alternate ways to understand and define a problem or create ideas to help solve it. Optimizers prefer to focus on practical solutions and uncovering all of the factors that go into a successful implementation plan, while Implementers are driven to get results and gain acceptance for a new idea or change.

Of course, most of us are a blend of the above styles. But understanding the roles we prefer when handling problems helps us to think about the actual problem solving process – the steps that we have to go through to take a glimmer of an idea and turn it into a successful program or product.

It also helps us recognize and value the skills others may bring to a team, as we cycle through the complete innovation process of finding good problems to solve, developing good solutions to those problems and implementing the solutions.

I’m thrilled that my research and work continues to contribute to the body of knowledge in the creativity field, and hope it inspires others. I will be sure to let you know when the article is published and how you can access it.

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Filed under Business, human resources, innovation, Problem Solving

A Good Idea, But…

How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s a good idea, but…?”

Invariably, the “but” is followed by a list of reasons why the good idea should be abandoned immediately, in its entirety, without even a moment more of consideration. And frequently, that’s exactly what happens.

Even if the “but” wasn’t terribly consequential, or could have been overcome, the negative thinking underlying the statement tends to doom good ideas that may have had the potential to be built into game-changing innovations. Despite paying lip service to the importance of creativity and innovation, we often greet unusual or novel suggestions with an almost immediate barrage of reasons why we can’t do things that way.

But what if we could find a way to maintain forward momentum while still outlining challenges? By deliberately and routinely using the phrase “How Might We…?”, we can turn negative thinking on its head, and put the focus on finding ways to bring good ideas to life, rather than putting them to death.

Rather than saying, “It’s a good idea, but…”, we respond with, “It’s a good idea. How might we free up money in the budget/staff time/computer resources to make it work?”

By focusing on the possible challenges that stand in the way of implementing the good idea, we not only preserve the idea as a possible route forward, but we also bring our energy and thinking to bear on the true challenge, which is the shortage of budget or staff time or computer resources.

“How might we…?” also sets a tone of collaboration, with its implicit suggestion that we can all pull together to eliminate challenges. It is a unifying statement, as compared to the divisive “good idea, but”, which establishes an atmosphere of conflict and creates the impression that one person is throwing roadblocks in front of another’s suggestion.

Good ideas are a resource none of us can ever have too many of, and they need to be nurtured and treasured. By incorporating “How Might We…?” into our evaluation of options, we can protect, preserve and build on new and innovative concepts and visions.

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A New Way of Doing Politics: Town of Pelham Embraces Innovation Process

We expect a lot from our politicians. We demand that they simultaneously prepare for the future while preserving our heritage; protect the vulnerable while enabling the strongest among us to excel; and build tomorrow’s cities and countries while balancing today’s budgets. With challenges like that, success can only come when the brightest of minds are given the tactics, tools and processes that allow them to collaborate on solutions.

In recognition of the complex challenges they face, municipal councillors in the town of Pelham, Ontario are proposing to use our Simplexity system (www.basadur.com) to explore creative solutions to a variety of key issues across their community.

With an initial question of How Might We Improve the Quality of Life in Pelham?, specific action plans have been created to explore ways to improve customer service, identify areas of opportunity and speed up council decision making.

“Council instructed staff to draft a corporate policy detailing the innovative problem solving process and how it will be embedded into our Town’s organizational structure,” said Mayor Dave Augustyn in a press release recently issued by the town. (www.pelham.ca)

Transforming the creative culture has been on the agenda in Pelham over the last year. Councillors and staff have been trained in using the Simplexity creative problem solving process. Several tough political challenges have recently been successfully tackled using the process, rather than the traditional political approach of debate. Over the coming months, the town intends to begin engaging the public in problem solving as part of its regular consultation process.


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