Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Role of The Business Storyteller

A major role of senior management is to motivate people to reach certain goals. To do that, they must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is story. There are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric, which is what most executives are trained in. It’s an intellectual process, and in the business world it usually consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation in which you say, “Here is our company’s biggest challenge, and here is what we need to do to get ahead.” And you build your case by giving statistics, facts and quotes. But there are two major problems.

First, the people you’re talking to have their own set of rules, statistics, and life experiences. While you’re trying to persuade them, they are arguing with you in their heads. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.

The other way to persuade people – and ultimately a much more powerful way – is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy. Persuading with a story is hard. Any intelligent person can sit down and make lists.

It takes rationality but little creativity to design an argument using conventional rhetoric. But it demands vivid insight and storytelling skill to present an idea that packs enough emotional power to be memorable. If you can harness imagination and the principles of a well-told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.

Read more on using Storytelling in a business context in future blogs and see the Creative Business Solutions' website for more creative ways to get ahead in business.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Gods And Creativity

Below is one of my favourite tales from an old training book. Simple but effective. Read on ...

It was not long after the Gods had created humankind that they began to realise their mistake. The creatures that they had created were so adept, so skilful, so full of curiosity and the spirit of enquiry that it was only a matter of time before they would start to challenge the Gods themselves for supremacy.

To ensure their pre-eminence the Gods held a large conference to discuss the issue. Gods were summoned from all over the known and unknown worlds. The debates were long, detailed, and soul-searching.

All the Gods were very clear about one thing. The difference between them and mortals was the differences between the quality of the resources they had. While humans had their egos and were concerned with the external, material aspects of the world, the Gods had spirit, soul, and an understanding of the workings of the inner self.

The danger was that sooner or later the humans would want some of that too.

The Gods decided to hide their precious resources. The question was: where? This was the reason for the length and passion of the debates at the Great Conference of the Gods.

Some suggested hiding these resources at the top of the highest mountain. But it was realised that sooner or later the humans would scale such a mountain.

And the deepest crater in the deepest ocean would be discovered.

And mines would be sunk into the earth.

And the most impenetrable jungles would give up their secrets.

And mechanical birds would explore the sky and space.

And the moon and the planets would become tourist attractions.

And even the wisest and most creative of the Gods fell silent as if every avenue had been explored and found wanting.

Until the Littlest God, who had been silent until now, spoke up. “Why don’t we hide these resources inside each human? They’ll never think to look for them there.”

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Working with aliens

Not an episode of Star Trek but one of my favourite techniques for a) generating results b) getting a reaction from colleagues.

This technique is one of a series in which random stimuli are used and alternative viewpoints are adopted. It works best with well defined problems or where new products or services are being considered.

To start, define the problem or situation as best you can and brief those who are taking part. A group of half a dozen or so is ideal.

Imagine that an alien spaceship has landed on earth and the aliens are looking at your problem or the object that you have described. Next try to imagine what sort of questions the aliens would be asking, what would they be curious about? Many of the checklist techniques can provide some guidance here. A possible list could be:

  • What is the purpose of this?

  • How does it work?

  • Why does it have to be this way?

  • Why do these earthlings use these materials?

  • Is it useful to me?

  • Why does this matter, and to whom?

  • Is it worth any money?

  • Is there any other value?

  • Could it be used for …..?

These (and other questions) should be asked with childlike innocence i.e. assume no familiarity with earthly concepts.

The questions may throw up some ideas which indicate that the original starting point was flawed. If this is the case then revisit the problem definition stage of the creative problem solving process. If some common themes emerge then record these and use them as random stimuli for further excursions or use a form of association to group some of themes to see if they suggest further options, choices or ideas.

To find out more about Creative Problem Solving and to obtain another forty seven great techniques visit the Creative Business Solutions product store. You can also sign up for our regular electronic newsletter too.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Are you trying to develop ideas for a new product or service?

Are you stuck? Well here is a simple technique that might help you out. Take that idea and try to apply some of the items in the following 'List And Twist' checklist to it. They may seem strange but they just might jog your memory! For instance I showed the list to someone who was writing a children's book and they were taken by the suggestion of adding a smell! The net result - a scratch and sniff book. Try it for yourself and see.

Add a step, Find other uses, Slow down, Rearrange the steps, Improve the quality,
Add motion, Add an ingredient, Make it easier, Change packaging, Combine ingredients,
Align with other product, De-automate parts, Make it more extreme, Make it more expensive , Put some fun in it, Substitute materials, Find new distribution, Change the state,
Make it self service, Combine other processes, Change the shape , Add more service,
Make it a game, Put a story with it, Celebrity connection, Reverse the concept,
Turn it upside down, Purify it, Add nostalgia, Add smell

For more ideas visit

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Humour and Creativity

Consider the following (depending on which country you are from you may miss the point in one or two):

"If you see someone doing the impossible, don't interrupt them"
Amar Bose (Bose Corporation

"Space is not remote, you can get there in an hour if you can make your car travel vertically"
Fred Hoyle (Astronomer)

"A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree"
Spike Milligan (Comedian)

"I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. Its about Russia"
Woody Allen (Comedian)

"Those who say it can't be done are being passed by those who are doing it"

"I said 'nearest the bull starts'. He said 'baa', I said 'moo'. He said 'you start'"
Peter Kaye (Comedian)

"'Hallo Rabbit', he said, 'Is that you?'. 'Lets pretend it isn't' said Rabbit, 'and see what happens'"
Winnie-the-pooh (bear, philosopher and explorer)

Now you may chuckle at one or more of the above, but did you wonder why? It is the juxtaposition of (strange) ideas that does it. It is exactly this mode of thinking that we need in the business world to be able to see things from a new perspective, generate ideas and spot new opportunities.

For more ideas visit and see what happens.

Monday, October 03, 2005

You can only manage what you can measure

There are many who say that you can only manage what you can measure. I tend to agree with that sentiment so how can I then suggest that Innovation can be managed successfully?

The answer is that Innovation can be measured. What's new I hear you ask? We have always been able to measure this using Key Performance Indicators. KPIs do not measure Innovation directly, they measure the result of Innovation. This is nit picking a little but imagine setting up an Innovation project, and the finding out from your KPIs that the number of widgets falling off your production line has doubled.

At first this seems good but ask yourself how many widgets could you actually produce? How will you know when your Innovation project really is producing the goods? Would it be nice to actually look at that process itself?

The Innovation Toolkit from Creative Business Solutions does just that. At a top level it provides some graphical output that gives you a feel for how you are doing and then provides some more concrete results so that you can a) see what you are currently doing well b) create an action plan to fix the things that are not doing so well.

All of this looks at 'soft factors' such as culture, leadership and management, desire to win, grasp of external factors etc.

To find out more about managing Innovation visit now.