Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rory Bremner's One Man World Summit at TEDGlobal 2009

Scottish funnyman Rory Bremner convenes a historic council on the TEDGlobal stage -- as he lampoons Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and a cast of other world leaders with his hilarious impressions and biting commentary

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Using Creativity Techniques Within Business

Do you live in South West England? Would you like to spend a day learning how to use creativity as a business tool? Then come to my workshop at the University of Bath on March 31st 2010. Your total investment is only £43 including lunch. Find out more by clicking here.

If you would likea workshop run within your own business the please get in touch directly.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Open for Creativity - instant help with Creativity and Innovation issues

This is just a quick note about Open for Creativity, a new FREE service that is intended to help people with issues that they may have surrounding using Creativity as a business tool or when things do not go as intended with innovation projects. If you have any Leadership or Management problems in these areas then we can deal with those too!

We cannot get into long diatribes for each issue but if they can be succintly put into an email or tweet then please send them in and we will endeavour to respond within an hour or two in an equally concise manner. You can find contact details here or you can use our enquiry form. You can also contact Derek Cheshire on twitter (@derekcheshire).

We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Challenging Assumptions - Digging Deeper

Most people reading this will know of the freezing weather that gripped the UK over the Christmas and New Year periods together with the associated problems. Although there was some panic buying of food in the shops, by and large we survived unscathed. Did this mean that when the road conditions were appalling, my local supermarket was making superhuman efforts to deliver my Cornflakes?

Towards the end of the freeze I went to a local supermarket and was wandering up and down the aisles when I overheard a conversation between two of the department managers. The first was obviously toeing the company line and said something like "the shelves have been full, the supply chain has been doing a great job". Nice, I thought, he recognises the contribution of drivers and warehouse staff in difficult circumstances. The second manager said "there were less people going to the supermarket because of the bad weather".

It did not matter to me, since I was getting what I wanted, but it highlights a valid point. Accepting observations about full shelves without looking at all the facts meant that I was making a number of assumptions. If I was the supermarket manager I could be patting myself on the back believing that the arrangements I had put in place worked well. Next time there was a big freeze I could do exactly the same. But what if the local council gets better at clearing roads, or everybody buys four wheel drive cars? More people will arrive at the supermarkets and the food may disappear.

Do you think that this is what happened to many of our businesses between 18 months and two years ago? There is no need to become highly cynical, but learning to question the status quo and challenge assumptions is an essential component of an innovation system.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Changes To Creativity And Innovation Blog Feed

If you subscribe to this blog using  the feedburner feed then you can ignore this posting. If you subscribe using or then please be prepared to either change to the above feedburner feed or locate the appropriate feed via the Blog tab on my website after March 26th.

The reason for this is that Blogger is withdrawing support for FTP publishing after this date, and so the published blog will be moving, probably to However, to avoid confusion in the future I suggest that followers switch to the feedburner feed which will be automatically updated at the appropriate time.

Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Story - The Easy Way To Communicate

Story is one of the best and easiest ways to communicate meaning, rather than just spraying out words like we tend to do from time to time. I came across this little gem the other day which seems apt and needs no further explanation. I do not know the author so if you have come across this before and can attribute the author please let me know.
What is recession?

This story is about a man who once upon a time was selling Hotdogs by the roadside. He was illiterate, so he never read newspapers. He was hard of hearing, so he never listened to the radio. His eyes were weak, so he never watched television. But enthusiastically, he sold lots of hotdogs. He was smart enough to offer some attractive schemes to increase his sales. His sales and profit went up. He ordered more and more raw material and buns and sold more. He recruited more supporting staff to serve more customers. He started offering home deliveries. Eventually he got himself a bigger and better stove. As his business was growing, the son, who had recently graduated from college, joined his father.

Then something strange happened. The son asked, "Dad, aren't you aware of the great recession that is coming our way?" The father replied, "No, but tell me about it." The son said, "The international situation is terrible. The domestic situation is even worse. We should be prepared for the coming bad times."

The man thought that since his son had been to college, read the papers, listened to the radio and watched TV. He ought to know and his advice should not be taken lightly. So from the next day onwards, the father cut down the his raw material order and buns, took down the colourful signboard, removed all the special schemes he was offering to the customers and was no longer as enthusiastic. He reduced his staff numbers. Very soon, fewer and fewer people bothered to stop at his Hotdog stand. And his sales started coming down rapidly and so did the profit. The father said to his son, "Son, you were right. We are in the middle of a recession and crisis. I am glad you warned me ahead of time."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Craziness and Creativity

This is an old Apple promo video that has reappeared with the release of the iPad. It features many characters that at the time were regarded as crazy in some way. Yet their craziness, curiosity, creativity and desire to disrupt the status quo had a lasting effect on all of us. So can we learn from this? Is crazy good and just how much of it do we need, after all it is a powerful phenomenon. So just how far should we be prepared to go to try and change things? How far would YOU be prepared to go?

Creativity Cannot Be Managed - What Rubbish!

I was recently taking part in an online discussion about Creativity and Innovation when one of the contributors posted something that just stopped me in my tracks. There were a few words about how Creativity and Innovation are not the same (about the only thing we did agree upon) and some very logical and left brained words about how Innovation can be managed and then the line "Creativity cannot be managed".

How come you cannot manage Creativity, but you can manage Innovation (which contains Creativity)? The rest of the article led me to believe that the author did not have a realistic grasp of the situation. As the person was obviously keen on following manuals to the letter, I had to agree that there is no manual for Creativity (one of my slogans as it happens), but we know enough to be able to manage creative and idea generating processes very successfully indeed.

There is much documentation on creative techniques for solving problems, generating ideas and making decisions. We know which ones work best for different types of working, and there are many guiding principles to help us set up our environment and ensure that creativity is nurtured. We know the best ways to capture ideas and share them, we can calibrate idea generation pipelines and we know the ideal characteristics for creative team members, creative teams and of those who try to manage them.

Better still we know how creativity fits into the process of Innovation as a whole, so how can anyone claim that Creativity cannot be managed? The answer lies in perspective. Many consultants and advisers think that Innovation is something that you do to a system i.e. you apply it by turning a handle and following the book rather than a framework and a set of behaviours that help you to innovate. Thus they get stuck when it comes to Creativity, you cannot just do it, there is no step by step guide to the whole process yet the principles I mentioned previously can be applied (within your individual context) to create a measurable and hence manageable system.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

How To Estimate Your Innovation Costs

There is no manual that says exactly how to do this or how much you are likely to spend innovating but here is a common sense approach that seems to work well. Imagine that you are a company that needs to introduce 5 new products into the market place. First of all you need to spend some time generating ideas. Without knowing your actual method of idea generation and until you have had time to calibrate your own process then this is a bit of 'wetted finger in the air' calculation. We know that the ration of truly wacky ideas to those that might be worth looking at is one order of magnitude i.e. 10 to 1. Similarly, the ratio of 'might be worth looking at' to 'definitely worth a look' is once again an order of magnitude.

So if we want to have just one idea that is worth pursuing then we should expect to generate at least 100 crazy ideas, thus our small company wishing to create 5 new products will need at least 500 crazy ideas. So far so good, but how do we generate the ideas? You could collect them in a suggestion box but the quality would be variable and it may take a while although the cost would be low. An idea generation session with a group of people could generate your ideas in less than a day. This would be more expensive and would only use a 'snapshot' of the expertise and knowledge available to you.

By now you should get the idea that we can roughly work out how many ideas are required, and how long this would take and the resources that would be used. Not all ideas make it to products so some extra redundancy needs to be built in, and then there are overheads such as management and the costs of prototyping and manufacture, but these should be aspects with which you are already familiar.

So there you are, a simple way of working out your Innovation costs. But hang on a minute, life is not quite that simple. Below is a list of other things that you might wish to consider:
  • HR requirements (culture, motivation, working practices)
  • Idea capture systems (how do you record ideas and avoid forgetting them)
  • Knowledge transfer (what worked, what did not, avoiding reinventing the wheel)
  • Feedback for improving all aspects of your process (including estimating costs!)

This is a simple guide but good enough to allow you to get some sort of handle on the cost of Innovation if you have never done anything quite like this before. Reality is a little more complex - good luck.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Harnessing The Power Of Rebels

The Royal Society is known the world over for the contribution of its members in the field of Science. The Royal Society is celebrating 350 years since its founding to promote science, technology and engineering and it numbers many famous names amongst its fellows including Christopher Wren, Stephen Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners Lee. This small band is well known for their achievements and perhaps not so well known for being cantankerous, awkward and in some cases downright dangerous.

Back in 1752 a man flew a kite into a thunderstorm in an attempt to harness the electricity present within the clouds. Luckily he succeeded and his efforts led to the lightning conductors that we see on tall buildings today. The gentleman’s name was Benjamin Franklin, a name well known in the USA today.

At the same time as he was working within the bosom of the scientific community and harnessing the power of lightning he was also a thorn in the side of the British government, trying to gain independence for the colony and developing relations with France. So what, I hear many ask?

Many of our advances have come from such ‘pressure cookers’ where questioning and sometimes rebellion are tolerated and even sometimes encouraged. In order to capture this genius we need to learn to recognise and then manage these situations In particular, being able to live with ambiguity, tolerate high degrees of risk and practise hands-off management are high on the agenda for those wishing to make use of such talents within their businesses.

See also Making Use Of Oddballs.