Tuesday, December 22, 2015

4E's Socratic Model: a tool for encouraging creativity in teams

There has been considerable research done on identifying antecedents of creativity and the determinants of organizational creativity but researchers are yet to develop an effective model for managing creativity within a traditional hierarchical management structure. It has been suggested that using the Socratic Method to create a learning environment within an organization is a way to foster creativity in an uncertain environment (in this context the Socratic Method is defined as a directed questioning technique to encourage critical thinking). 
My PhD research has focused on the use of the Socratic Method and how it can be successfully applied to an organisational context. As a result I have developed and tested the 4E's Socratic Model and produced a facilitators guide for anyone wishing to use the model to encourage creativity in their organisations.
The guide is attached to this post and can be freely downloaded. As part of the ongoing development of my research into creativity I would appreciate any comments people would like to make on their experience using the Model. Equally, if anyone has any questions regarding its use I would be happy to answer them.
4E's Socratic Model Facilitators Guide 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Innovation needs more than the Internet

It's common today to talk about globalisation and how the Internet helps to overcome geographical constraints. However, it's easy to overlook the impact face-to-face human interaction has on creativity and innovation. My research on creativity in business with teams has shown me the stark contrast in creative outcomes when teams collaborate successfully.

Professor Adam Jaffe, Director of the Wellington-based Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, believes the answer is "to build an innovation system that encourages people to work collaboratively." He believes that the information available online is less important and less valuable because it tends to concern things that are easy to codify and to standardise. That which is tricky, complex and subtle, and which requires tacit knowledge that is hard to communicate, is best handled by individual human interactions. (Jaffe, 2014)

Start your own innovation system – head down to your nearest cafe with a few colleagues and start collaborating!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The 7 traits of effective digital enterprises

Tunde Olanrewaju and colleagues at McKinsey's London office recently published an article with this intriguing title (McKinsey, 2014). Titles like that always make me wonder, is there some secret or new tech among those 7 traits? In this case, the answer is no. Not only is there no secret, each of the traits the authors identify are simple truths that by themselves could be overlooked but together point to success!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The new digital economy

Oxford Economics, in their excellent report 'The New Digital Economy' (2011) gave early warning of the potential demise of top-down management when they said, "Traditional hierarchical decision-making is too slow for the realities of the new digital market." (p23). The reality they speak of is the need to make decisions in real time to stay ahead of the game. Not such an issue for me in my small consulting business as I am the principle customer interface; but for a company with multiple layers of management, how far removed is decision-making from the frontline?

Of course, in order to make decisions you also need access to the right information. For me – it's in my head – but what happens if I'm a decision-maker in a large company? Is the 'intelligence" you're paying me a lot of money for accessible to anyone who needs it in real time? In a strategy meeting with one of my clients, the GM complained that their problem was that their "assets" went home at 5pm. In other words the company didn't have an intelligence system that allowed critical knowledge to be shared with others.

The solution sounds easy:
  1. Enable people at all levels to make real-time decisions, and
  2. Provide access to the "intelligence" necessary to make those decisions.
I know many will say that doing this exposes a company to unacceptable risk, but surely managing risk is what management is all about?  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Has your business got a creativity gap?

I was rereading Adobe's State of Create study (2012) today and was struck by how much of a "creativity gap" there is. 80% of people surveyed agreed that creativity is key to driving economic growth, yet only 1 in 4 people feel that they are living up to their creative potential. The problem, it seems, is that there is increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work.

This stems from the risk averse nature of many businesses. When the going gets tough we tend to become more introspective, focusing on squeezing more out of what we're doing now rather than thinking creatively about what else we could be doing.

When thinking about your strategy consider the Opportunity cost of every decision you make – yes, you might be able to squeeze an extra 2% out of what you are doing now but that might mean you miss the opportunity to get a 20% lift by doing some thing different.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Talk and creativity

Carmaker, Carlos Ghosn, said in the McKinsey Quarterly (2012), "Business schools may prepare people to deal with internal crises. But I think we need to be more prepared for external crises, where it’s not the strategy of the company that is in question; it’s the ability of leaders to figure out how to adapt that strategy."

Carlos goes on to say that at Nissan they respond quickly to crises because they don't wait for solutions to problems to come from headquarters, they instead take advantage of their diverse, multinational culture and encourage their people to talk. I believe that in many businesses talk has been replaced by electronic communications. While that may be an efficient way to share information, it's not a good way to encourage people to find solutions. I've found that the most creative ideas come from vigorous discussion where multiple viewpoints are considered – why not establish regular opportunities for this type of interaction to occur (in multiple formats) and take advantage of Nissan's experience. As Ghosn says, "We are accustomed to always looking around, trying to find out who has the best ideas."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Give them facetime anytime

According to trends website www.trendwatching.com, last year 66% of consumers switched brands due to poor customer service. And if that's not bad enough,  82% of those said the brand could have done something to stop them. In a competitive marketplace it's hard enough to win a customer in the first place which means its unforgiveable to lose them unnecessarily.

I blame technology. While it has simplified many customer service processes, in some case it has taken out the human element to the extent that it is actually harder for the customer to get what they need. Plus humans have the ability (if trained and supported) to make decisions on the spot before small problems turn into big ones that cause customers to flee.

When re-engineering your processes make sure you identify the touchpoints where human interaction can add value, and then provide it. As the folks at Trendwatching say  - "give them facetime anytime". I loved their example of this strategy in action: "US insurance company Esurance now allows webcam-enabled accident appraisal via smartphone". Now that's an example of creative thinking at its best!