Most people think that creativity is a mystical state available only to the chosen few — a state that has to be induced, conjured, and maintained.
The effort, they imagine, takes a lot of time and hard work. And since they usually don’t have the time and don’t like hard work, they reason that higher states of creativity are just not in the cards for them. And so it isn’t.
But creativity isn’t a mystical state. It’s a natural state — a human birthright. The people in your organization, in fact, are already creative. The only thing is: their natural creativity is being obscured by their own habits of mind and a variety of bothersome organizational constraints.
Their challenge is the same one as seeing the “hidden” arrow in the FedEx logo (look between the “E” and the “X”).
The arrow has always been there, but most people never notice it.
Try this experiment: Walk into a dark room from a well-lit place. Upon entering, you will not be able to see very much. Indeed, if someone asks you what’s in the room, you will either say “nothing” or “I don’t know.”
But if you linger in the room, your eyes will adjust to the available light. You’ll begin seeing the edges of things — and then the things themselves. Or at least some of the things.
“Creativity” is similar to the stuff in that room. It’s already there. People just need dynamic opportunities to linger long enough in a realm they are not familiar with in order to experience it.
This, quite simply, is the work of Idea Champions.
We help people see what they already have, but don’t know how to access.
And yes, we provide flashlights.
Bottom line, we help people make meaningful adjustments of vision, insight, and perception so they can acknowledge, embrace, and apply their innate ability to be more creative on the job.
How do we do this? The same way a gardener grows vegetables.
Our sessions cultivate individual and organizational “soil” — increasing the fertility of the environment, thereby increasing the odds of innovation flourishing.
Our methods are based on time-honored principles of human development. It is the confluence of these methods, skillfully applied and adapted to a variety of audiences that ensure results for our clients.
Please understand this: no magic pill will liberate innovation in an individual or an organization. There is no blueprint, no template, no “one size fits all.”
But there are principles, guidelines, methods, techniques, and practices that, if wisely applied, can dramatically increase the odds of innovation flourishing.
What follows is a brief summary of our approach — how we get a yield:
1. Know Thy Customer:
Long before we ever get into a room with participants, we do our due diligence — learning about WHO we are serving, WHAT they expect, and HOW our time with them will be the most significant.
Sometimes this effort takes the form of phone interviews. Or online polls. Or studying key documents our clients send us in order to understand their current reality, industry, business challenges, organizational constraints, and hoped for outcomes.
Based on our assessment of our client’s needs, we put together a game plan to get the job done. Towards this end, we draw on more than 100 “innovation-sparking” modules we’ve been developing since 1986.
Early in the design process, we invite our clients to give us feedback about our approach/agenda. Their feedback stirs the creative soup and provides us with input we need to transform a good session design into a great one.
4. Spacing In:
We make a great deal of effort to ensure that the space in which our sessions take place are as ideal as possible. Form may follow function, but function also follows form.
When participants walk into an Idea Champions session, they begin “mind shifting” even before the session officially begins. It is both our belief and experience that culture/environment is a huge X factor for creativity and innovation.
5. Drive Fear Out of the Workplace:
Peter Drucker, America‘s sage management consultant, was a big proponent of removing fear from the workplace. So are we. Towards that end, each Idea Champions session begins with a norm-setting process that makes it easy for participants to establish a dynamic culture of innovation for the day.
Here’s the bottom line: Organizations don’t innovate, people do. But not just any “people.” No. People who are energized, curious, confident, fascinated, creative, focused, adaptive, collaborative, and committed.
People who emerge from our sessions are significantly more in touch with the “innovation qualities” than when tey began. They’ve shifted. Their minds have changed. They see opportunities when, previously, all they saw were problems and constraints.
They let go of perfectionism, control, old paradigms, and habitual ways of thinking. In their place? Open-mindedness, listening, creative idea generation, breakthrough thinking, full engagement, and the kind of authentic commitment that drives meaningful change.
7. Balancing Polarities:
Human beings, by nature, are dualistic, (i.e. “us” vs. “them,” “short-term” vs. “long-term,” “incremental” vs. “breakthrough,” “left brain” vs. “right brain”.)
The contradictions that show up in a corporate environment (or workshop) can either be innovation depleters or innovation catalysts. It all depends how these seeming conflicting territories are navigated. Idea Champions is committed to whole-brain thinking — not just right brain or left brain thinking.
Our work with organizations, in a wide variety of industries since 1986, has shown us again and again that one of the pre-conditions for innovation is a company’s ability to strike the balance between these seeming polarities.
Each workshop we lead and each consulting engagement we commit to is guided by our understanding of how to help our clients find the healthy balance between the above-noted polarities.
8. Expert Facilitation: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile when someone contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind,” wrote St. Exupery.
This, quite simply, is what Idea Champions does. But we do far more than just contemplate. We also architect and build.
Since 1986, we’ve been facilitating innovation-sparking engagements for an extraordinarily diverse group of organizations. Bottom line, we are a flock of modern day alchemists. We have mastered the art and science of turning lead (or leaders) into gold. And we can train your people to do the same thing we do.
9. Experiential Challenges: “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.”
So said the great Chinese sage, Confucius. This 14-word quote describes the essence of Idea Champions work. Simply put, we get people off their “ifs, ands or buts,” and into the experience of what’s possible.
While we value theory, research, models, data, best practices, business cases, and most of the other flora and fauna of business life, we have come to understand that the challenge of sparking insight, breakthrough, and behavior change, is best accomplished by doing — not talking.
That’s why all of our sessions include experiential challenges (AKA “action learning”) that provide participants with visible ways of seeing innovation in action — what supports it and what obscures it.
NOTE: Our five year consulting and training contract with AT&T, after their divestiture, began by us teaching their Director of Training and Development how to juggle in five minutes — and then help him translate his breakthrough into ways he could radically grow his business.
10. Emergent Design: Awakening the creativity of an organization’s workforce is not a follow-the-dots exercise.
Although all of our interventions begin with carefully crafted project plans and agendas, our facilitators are fluent in the art and science of making the kind of real-time adjustments, refinements, and improvisations that are the difference between a good session and a great session.
Facilitators who attempt to imitate our approach find it difficult to succeed without first learning how to master the art of emergent design. The good news is that it can be learned — and this is just one of the things we teach in our Train the Trainer programs.
11. Edutainment: Idea Champions sessions are a hybrid of two elements: education and entertainment. We know that if participants are enjoying themselves the chances them learning (and applying the learning on-the-job) increase exponentially.
That’s why we make all of our sessions a hybrid of education and entertainment. Participants do not get tired. They do not get bored. They do not sneak long looks at their Blackberries.
And the reason they don’t? Because they are having a great time — and it is this “great time” that makes it infinitely easier for the “education” to happen.
12. Full Engagement: Idea Champions sessions are highly participatory. Our facilitators are skilled at teasing out the brilliance of participants, regardless of their social style, job title, or astrological sign.
But perhaps more importantly, our facilitators know how to help participants tease out each others’ brilliance. Eventually, everyone gets into the act. The shy people take center stage and the power players take a back seat. Bottom line, the collective wisdom in the room gets a much-needed chance to be accessed and expressed.
And it is this real-time experience that jump starts a similar response in the workplace soon after.
13. Convergence: Idea Champions is successful because what we do works. And one of the reasons WHY it works is because our sessions help participants translate ideas into action.
Ideas are powerful, but they are still only the fuzzy front end of the innovation process. Ultimately, they need to turn into results. Creativity needs to be commercialized. Our workshops, trainings, and consulting interventions help our clients do exactly that.
14. Tools, Techniques, and Takeaways: Ideas Champions closes the gap between rhetoric and reality. We don’t just talk about innovation or teach about it — we spark the experience of it. And we do that in very practical ways.
One way is by teaching our clients how to use specific, mind-opening techniques to access their innate creativity. Another way is by providing our clients with a variety of innovation-sparking tools, processes and materials they can use on the job.