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By Francois Basili, President, HumaNext
More than ten years ago, I was asked by a Dell Vice President to come to Dell’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas to give the directors of her function a workshop on “Creativity and Innovation at Work”. She attended the training with about 40 of her direct reports divided in two groups over two days. I gave them a short activity that I often use to reveal how their habits of thinking and communicating impact creativity at work.
The activity involved asking participants to take three minutes to write five comments about a short memo from an employee to her boss. After three minutes I went around the room asking each person to tell me how many negative or critical comments they made, which I wrote on a flip chart. I quickly got the average and it was about 4 critical comments out of five total comments from each person.
I then asked them to see if they could find some good things about the memo. One by one, they were able to find many, including the fact that the employee who wrote it was taking the initiative to do something good.
At the end I asked them to notice that even though the activity asked them to write five comments, not five wrong things, about the memo, they all wrote much more critical comments about it than positive ones, even though it turned out that the memo had many positive and good sides to it. I indicated that rushing to find what was wrong, instead of first noticing what was right, about something can easily kill people’s spirit, creativity, and morale, preventing them from coming up with initiatives and new ideas.
Many participants tried to defend their negative comments about the memo to justify their rush to criticize it. But the surprising thing was that the Vice President reacted differently. She laughed out loud as she revealed that she came up with ten critical comments and not a single positive one. She quickly discovered her tendency to use critical thinking to find what’s wrong and fix it, which was a good thing. But at the same time, she recognized the danger in ignoring the good aspects in employees’ behavior and failing to properly appreciate it. She totally owned her behavior, laughed at the glaring results and clearly benefited from it as something she would work on changing.
I learned two lessons from that experience:
1- Many leaders, while very smart, are often not aware of certain tendencies in their behavior that have negative effects on employees and the work culture. Good leaders welcome the opportunity to discover more about themselves so they may continue to grow and excel. Continuous learning is vital. And self-awareness is the first and most important step in it.
2- The best way for people to learn is through activities that reveal to them their tendencies, strengths, and needs in practical, obvious ways.
That lesson propelled me to design HumaNext programs with as many meaningful activities as possible, particularly ones that help participants make the discovery and deduce the lessons themselves.
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Creativity & Innovation for Change
The human mind, once stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
The avalanche of powerful ideas that participants explore and create with the Creativity and Innovation for Change workshop causes an irreversible expansion of the mind. Once they are back on the job, they view things very differently. They overcome the paralysis by analysis syndrome. Their capacity to generate ideas on demand becomes one of their greatest assets.
Organizations need people who make waves, who don't do business as usual or accept the status quo. These are the people who will create new products and services, come up with breakthrough improvements, and achieve extraordinary accomplishments. These are the people who will challenge things as they are.
"People look at things as they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never have been and ask, why not?" - George Bernard Shaw
Asking "Why not?" is one of many idea-generation techniques participants learn in the Creativity and Innovation for Change training program.
What You Learn:
Thinking and the Brain:
The Case for Innovation:
Blocks to Our Creativity:
Creative Problem Solving:
Idea generation techniques
Creating Innovative Products and Services:
Building a Culture of Innovation for Change:
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- Emotional Intelligence
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Two women apply for jobs
They look exactly alike..
On their applications they list the same last name, address and phone number. They were born to the same parents, on the same day, same month, same year. Everything is identical. The receptionist says, “You must be twins.” They say, “No.”
How is that possible?
Take a moment to try to figure it out before continuing. Write the possible answers below.
This question, with a photo of two women, appeared in a national magazine, taking a full color page. Most people can’t figure it out. So you turn the page of the magazine to see a photo of a car, with the following line below it:
They are two from a set of triplets.
The quiz turned out to be an ad for a Ford SUV. The ad says,
“If the answer wasn’t obvious, start thinking differently. Which is exactly the strategy behind the totally new Ford Expedition. Brilliant solutions are easy to see in hindsight. But, having the foresight to come up with one is something completely different. Smart, innovative ideas require unconventional thinking. You have to think without boundaries. The result: 123 major innovations.”
HumaNext offers creativity & innovation training and trainer certification, off-the-shelf workshop, and assessments.