Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For Creative Innovation, Get Some Kids

Our socialization teaches us that failure is bad. Something to be ashamed of. But is wasn't that way in the beginning.
When we were toddlers, failure never got in the way. We just kept trying over and over and over until we reached our objective. And the grown-ups observing us cheered us on!
Sadly, that non-judgmental era comes to an end as our parents, then our teachers, start to teach us "right from wrong."
Slowly but inexorably the wildly playful child withdraws, retreating within, becoming the submerged inner child.
The good news however, is that your Inner Child is still there and still accessible...if you will take the time to find him or her.
Silly - "Don't be silly," adults said to us at some point, probably when they were growing tired of our boundless capacity to act like little clowns. Being silly can be a starting point toward accessing our inner wellspring of creativity. 
Playful - "Let's play" is the mantra of kids all over the world. The eminent Swiss child development expert Jean Piaget spent a lifetime studying children at play. He even dubbed mankind as Homo Ludens, man the playing animal. Later in life we learn about "playing by the rules," but way back when, when we were little, play was freewheeling. One thing could lead to another. Before you know it, you went from playing soldier, to being an astronaut on Mars.
Games - Often the structure of play would be games. From Hide & Seek to Red Light, games are fun, fast-paced, even thrilling exercises that produce laughter and burn off calories. Talk about stress relief! Fortunately, our love of games is not extinguished by socialization. 
Stories - At other times, the structure of play would be stories. "Tell me a story," is a plea uttered by children since time began. Stories have the magical ability to switch on the Imagination and thereby transport us to a different Reality of conjured realms. 
Imagination - "Imagine that!" we exclaim as we listen to a breathless child tell us about their wild ideas. Imagination is something we all have. It comes with the package, so to speak. It's built in. We use it all the time when we are kids, but it gets seriously dampened by socialization. 
I recently had the opportunity to work with a client organization on the topics of Creativity and Innovation. Over the course of the day, we explored ways to reclaim the Inner Child and harness its fearless energy. 
We did an ice breaker exercise where participants selected a noun that started with the same letter as their last name. So someone named Smith might select Shell or Song.  Then they mingled around the room, matching their words with other words to form unusual, interesting or odd combinations like Shell Dog or Water Egg or Cake Hat. Later in the day, they worked in teams to turn their word combinations into new product ideas. The crazy and wonderful products they cooked up were a joy to behold!
It made us all feel like kids again!
Terrence Seamon loves to help his clients to think outside the lines and get creative. Follow him on twitter @tseamon 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Let It Happen

In the new Broadway version of Mary Poppins, she sings "Anything can happen if you let it."
If you let it? Aren't we supposed to "make things happen?"
Dr. Elana Miller of Zen Psychiatry offers this wisdom:

"The ocean doesn't care about you. It is a force of nature that existed long before you were born and that will be around long after you. We operate under the illusion of control when so many of the most important things in life aren't even close to the realm of our control. When you release yourself from the illusion of control, you can relax. You can put in your best effort but let things turn out how they'll turn out. You can find moments of joy in the most simple things. So don't fight forces of nature. Ride them."

Change Can Be Wild!

"Change is wild," I recently wrote in a comment to Eric Lynn who had posted his thoughts on the topic 'Change Management is an Oxymoron.'
He wrote:  "Change is ubiquitous. It is, and always has been, simply an element of our dynamic world.  In organisations, change may happen as the consequence of external events or a new desired status may be defined. However, the "change" cannot be managed.  We can define and manage elements of the technical process involved in achieving the desired status. We cannot "manage" the human side of the process.  We humans are unpredictable and in groups, the dynamic and chemistry of our interaction is even more so. It's a fallacy to believe this can be "managed".  Human beings need to feel invited, encouraged and inspired to actively play a role in driving the organisation to achieve the new desired status.  They need a purpose, or at the very least, a good reason."
I agree with him.
I commented:  "I like your point of view on this, Eric, and I think you are on the money that Change will not be managed. It's too wild. I think we need to respect it. And then do our best to accept it and facilitate it."
What has changed about Change?
Is Change like an untamed beast set loose that we think we can command?
Is Change is like a fierce storm that we think we can control?
There was a time when change projects were "neat," having a beginning, middle, and ending. Forget about that now. These days, change is like a roaring high tide. There is no end to it.
Jack Welch once said "Change before you have to." That day has come. That is where we are. Welcome to the new normal.

If there is a new approach to change needed, I'd start with the need to respect it, just as we must respect the wild things we encounter on a safari or swimming in rough surf in the ocean.
Then we must do our best to accept it and facilitate it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Are You Creative?

Do you consider yourself creative? Some people do. Artists, writers, dancers for example.
The truth is, however, that all of us are creative. Creativity is a capacity we all have. It comes with the package, so to speak.
It's the human ability to imagine new things and have new ideas.
Our creative imagination is "always on" (that's why new ideas just suddenly pop into our heads), but we don't often harness it to address problems or to innovate.
Way back in 1926, in his book The Art of Thought, writer Graham Wallas gave us a beautifully simple and elegant process model for creative thinking that, to me, seems timeless:
In phase one, called Preparation, we tee up our creative capacity by selecting a problem or a topic, then gathering some data, doing some reading or research.
Next, in Incubation, we walk away and put our focus elsewhere. Go for a walk, as Einstein was famous for doing. Take a nap. Or just do something else. In this phase, you are distracting yourself from the focal problem so that your mind can go to work on ideas and solutions.
Illumination is the phase where the mind delivers its outputs, often in the form of words, images, ideas. These outputs are not always fully formed solutions, but are frequently bits and pieces that we experience with a 'eureka' feeling.
In the Verification phase, we put it together somehow, perhaps making a prototype, and we share it with others for feedback. This phase tests the idea, sometimes resulting in support for further development, other times not.
In 1981, I wrote this poem:
To create is to change
To be creative is to be changeful
full of change
is to be changeable
able to change

The Creator expects change
courts change

Creators open up
become soft
permeable
their boundaries loosen

Creators seek the Unknown
the Ambiguous
the Clash of conflicting waves
& keep an open mind
without closing doors
too soon

Creators play around
like kids
juggling elements
stewing ideas
cooking up the Impossible
then having a taste

& Creators get lucky
sometimes
& give birth
naturally

Then down from the hilltop they come
Speaking
breathlessly

Terrence Seamon, poet, coach, and change agent. Follow him on twitter@tseamon