Wednesday 25 January 2017

Creative Problem Solving

I returned from a Scottish Institute for Business Leaders meeting yesterday full of the joys.

As with every one of their meetings there was a speaker in the morning - this time Paul Fletcher speaking on innovation. He certainly got us thinking about innovation, the need for it, what it is, how others do it well, and what it looks and feels like to do it. A Hackathon anyone?
In the afternoon the SIBL members and guests split up into smaller groups to address real life issues, and to act as a executive board if you will for each other.

Two of the groups followed the normal pattern of using Action Learning to discuss, explore, shift and then to identify actions needed to move a situation they're struggling with forward.

As with other times I've attended a meeting Drew Pryde, SIBL's chairman, let a self selecting group come with me. Over the years these sessions have included all of the unconventional tools I use in my work, including a walking session in the woods. These are tools I use when I'm coaching procurement professionals, delivering training, facilitating procurement team strategy days, or as in this case supporting business leaders from other professions.     

As we'd been talking about innovation my sales pitch was "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. Let's innovate and do something different, something unconventional, but something that's very effective too." Basically, if you've not solved the problem via conventional means, and perhaps keep going round in circles, let's do something different instead.

I'd brought a number of tools with me, and during the initial scene setting and challenge sharing start to the session, we decided to focus on two of the tools - pipe cleaners and collages.


Can I say that again WOW. (and sorry you have to take my word for it.)

Perhaps because I've let go of the apologies about using the tools. Perhaps because I've got better at making people feel less resistant to something different.

What ever the reason, everyone there came away enthusing about the tools, and the insight and new way of looking at the situation they'd brought to the session to explore.
Confidentiality restricts what I can share, but everyone's body language had noticeably shifted at the end of the session when speaking about their situation. You'll find other non confidential and, therefore, more detailed explanations of using pipe cleaners and collage by following the hypertext links.

One member commented that the process allowed the individual to guide themselves through the challenge towards resolution. That is, it wasn't so much other people there making assumptions about what message a collage had to convey, but the individual's unconscious helping them notice that which would be of most benefit.

On reflection I see that others weren't telling the other person what they would do, or what they thought they should do - which often can raise the barriers to change. You only have to think about how you felt last time someone told you what they thought you should do to get a sense of that. I'd go so far as to say every time someone tried to provide a solution, rather than just ask a question to help the person explore the situation more fully, I stepped in.

It links to the morning's session. Paul said "innovation is just knowledge having fun" - I'd say that's what the unconventional tools are about. They also support a saying I saw recently
We're the best people to give ourselves advice. We just need the right space, the right support, great questions, and an environment in which we feel safe enough to keep our barriers down so that solutions can be found, and transformation take place.

When will you next try something different to help get you out of the challenge you're facing?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Using unconventional tools to unlock the potential of procurement teams

If you'd like to discuss how I could run similar sessions for you and your team do please get in touch. +44(0)7770 538159

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