Friday, February 24, 2006

Business Creativity ( why you need it and how to buy it) Part 6

In the sixth and final article in this series I look at some guidelines for running a Creativity project and some hints on how to go about choosing an external consultant.

Running a creativity project/programme

The following guidelines provide a useful framework for the management of creativity:

  • Build in the expected outputs from the project and all budgetary and time constraints.

  • Flag up problems or uncertainties early on with the project early on so that remedial action can be taken. There will be more of these than usual.

  • Hold regular reviews on the progress and delivery. Ensure that progress is always being made but do not get heavy handed. Remember your employees are involved also!

  • Where necessary and agreed, provide staff, facilities and information promptly.

  • At the end of the project both parties should undertake a joint project review to see what has been learned. If knowledge transfer is not complete then now is the time to rectify this.

Choosing the right consultant

Many clients rely on word-of-mouth recommendations when selecting a consultant. This is often the way to go when running a creativity project since it depends heavily on trust and communications.

The guidelines below show the steps that might be taken in selecting a consultant:

  • Create as full a brief as is possible.

  • Conduct a discussion with your potential consultant and get to know as much about their proposed intervention as you can. Where does their expertise lie in terms of consultancy, facilitation and training and why are they using all these strange techniques?

  • Knowledge of their track record is useful but what is more important is assessing the potential in this particular case. A track record is not so useful when you are trying to achieve something different!

  • Create an efficient but not too restrictive reporting mechanism.

  • Make sure that there is an identified way to transfer knowledge to you.

  • Make sure that at the end of the project there is no lasting dependency.

  • Do not make a choice on price alone, often in the cases of creativity and innovation it is the cost of not taking a course of action that must be considered.

How you approach these steps is determined by the level of formality you require, and the level of client-consultant interaction you envisage. Each approach has its particular strengths and weaknesses, and needs to be evaluated on an organisation-by-organisation, and project-by-project, basis. Some organisations, and most public sector clients, have a more formalised approach to the purchase of consultancy.

There are many people trading as consultants including some ‘crossover’ consultants who have moved from the arts. Their interventions tend to be aimed purely at HR i.e. team building, leadership and motivation. Whilst they are useful they are not concerned with the process of using creativity as a tool for improving the whole of your business.

Also you should try to make some sort of measurement so that you know how much of an impact your consultant has made. I have my own tool for doing this (see The Innovation Toolkit) which looks at both creativity and innovation from a ‘soft skills’ point of view. Your chosen consultant should have a similar methodology available to them

The entire article on Buying Creativity can be read and downloaded by clicking on the link.

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