We explored the GROW model a while back in this blog, especially the issue of getting clients focused on goal and checking where they are in respect of this. In this blog I want to focus on the ‘options’ part of the model. In other words, the creative / expansive thinking stage of the process, where new ideas are considered for their own value without initial concern for their practicality.
What we most need in such circumstances are a series of ‘better brainstorming’ tools to help your client escape from habitual thought patterns and genuinely consider novel strategies to achieving their goals. Having taught on the flagship MBA programme Creativity, Innovation and Change for 12 years, I have been exposed to just about every creative thinking tool on the planet. When we are coaching, we need a small subset of these that can be done on a 1:1 basis and which are mainly verbal-linguistic in nature, as we are usually doing coaching in this mode. Here’s two of my favourites which work when a client is stuck or when they need more radical ideas than are currently being considered:
In situations where people find it hard to produce ideas, the technique of reversal can be used to overcome the blockage. Typically, reversal produces wilder ideas than conventional brainstorming. Once you are fixed on a goal, ask your client to find ways NOT to achieve the goal. For example, if the goal were ‘In how many ways may we improve the image of the department in the eyes of key customers?’, one reversal would be ‘In how many ways might we seriously damage our reputation with key customers that would lead to a long term memory of the department as worst in class?’ Once you have generated some wild reversals, examine them to see if they can be re-reversed to produce new ideas for the goal. This does not mean adding the word ‘not’, but a creative reversal of the idea. Continue to do this until ideas that are both novel and practical emerge.
The technique requires you to adopt the persona of a superhero. In this context this could be someone with ‘relevant’ qualities e.g. an expert problem solver or creative genius, or just any old hero, e.g. a superstar, fictional hero, or icon of some sort. It matters not who you pick apart from the fact that you will be comfortable ‘being them for a few minutes’. In the superhero role, ask your client to generate a number of ideas without concern for their practical value from the mind of their chosen hero. You may have to ‘scale them back’ in a second phase to ensure the exaggerations become more practical etc.
There are many more techniques to improve the efficiency of brainstorming, some of which are outlined in our books ‘Best Practice Creativity’, ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’ and in our latest publication ‘Punk Rock People Management’, which is available for FREE – just mail us with PUNK in the title.
We deliver 1:1 and group coaching sessions as part of the work he does to move clients from innovative thought to profitable action on a worldwide basis. If you would like fuller explanations of the techniques mentioned in this article or to talk to him directly about applications of creative thinking in business, please contact Peter directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will provide you with the full ‘recipes’.