Free Your Mind – Mind Storming with Brian Clegg

Introducing Brian Clegg, Creativity expert and author of a bookshelf of books on the topic.  I first spotted Brian when I hired him to present a masterclass at an MBA Alumni event at a leading Business School.  The other week, he made me an indecent proposal of a completely free resource – what’s not to like about this?   I will let him take up the story after sampling ‘Free Your Mind’ by En Vogue:

Brian : Creativity in business is a funny thing. We all pay lip service to how important it is – but when times are tight and money is short we tend to pull up the drawbridge and say ‘We can do without all this new-fangled innovation. While we’re in trouble we need to stick with what we know.’

In reality, of course, this is absolute tosh. The very time when you need to be most creative as a business is when things are difficult. But it’s understandable that, in times of financial stress, you don’t necessarily want to spend lots of money to train people in being more creative.

Peter :  The critics say that the banking crash was caused by creativity.  I don’t agree.  Mindless gambling is not the same as mindful creativity.  What say you?

Brian : Absolutely. Creativity does always involve taking a risk, and that’s one of the problems many big organisations have with creativity. But it should be a controlled risk, with the impact minimised – hardly the case with the banking crash. More that though, while being creative involves taking a risk, that doesn’t make all risk taking creative. There is no creativity in bungee jumping or flinging yourself off the side of a building in the hope that the canopy over the door will break your fall. That is risk for the sake of risk. There are many ways that banks could be creative for their own benefit and the benefit of their customers – but the events leading up to the crash did not fall into this category. And the people who created this mess certainly did have creativity training.

There’s an assumption in my previous assertion re training, of course. I’m taking it for granted that there is benefit in training people in creativity. I hope there’s no doubt about the need for creativity. If everything around you stayed exactly the same, then you could carry on as you have before and thrive. But the fact is that the environment (financial and physical) is changing. Your customers are changing. Your competitors and your industry are changing. Technology is changing. You need creativity for new ideas, and you need it to solve problems. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that in this environment, creativity is nothing less than a survival essential. It’s a case of be creative or go to the wall.

Peter :  Cynics would ask if there is any point in training people in creativity? Is it either nature or nothing?  What would they do?  Get a pot of paint or a guitar and start improvising in the office or something?

Brian : In fact, there is a huge point. Everyone can be creative, but most of us suppress that natural ability. We block it in ourselves and in others. We’re great at doing this. (If you doubt that statement, next time you are in a meeting, watch out for someone coming up with an idea, then see how everyone else finds reasons why it won’t work.) And in the last few decades practical techniques have been developed that will enable anyone to come up with a much richer pool of ideas, and help them to develop and implement those ideas effectively. We’re not talking about airy-fairy conceptual creativity, but down-to-earth, practical tools that solidly deliver ideas and problem solutions.

Peter : Well, of course, you are preaching to the converted here.  As you know I operate from a suite of about 120 divergent and convergent techniques to help businesses expand ideas, develop them, make tough decisions and take the results to a profitable conclusion.  But what if you are up against it cost wise?

So, creativity training, good – cost of creativity courses, bad. If your business has the money, I would still get yourself a proper course. You can’t beat the interaction with a good creativity trainer to get people up and running with creativity quickly. But if the budget doesn’t run to it, I’ve a simple, self-managed 25 module course in the form of a PDF ebook called Mind Storm that won’t break the budget at £19.99.

To get a better feel about what’s involved, the first chapter of the book is available to download for free – or you can find out more details and purchase the full course here.

Free your mind with Brian Clegg

Peter : I like the idea of this a lot.  Bad creativity may have got us into this mess, but good creativity is badly needed if we are to get out of it.

Brian :  Agreed. I really think, given the current conditions, any business that isn’t doing something about its creativity is asking for trouble.

Peter : On that subject, I cannot resist the opportunity to play Trouble, by Ian Gillan, featuring the one and only Bernie Tormé, with whom we did a music / business masterclass recently:

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4 responses to “Free Your Mind – Mind Storming with Brian Clegg

  1. Thought-provoking stuff.

    The way I see it creativity is an attitude, a state of mind. In essence it’s about being relentlessly curious, challenging the norm and being hell-bent on creating impact. In my experience the key lies to helping people at work understand how to navigate the two opposing worlds of expansive and reductive thinking.

    Your point about ideas being crushed in meetings is invariably down to poor navigation. For instance have you ever shown an idea to anyone, asked ‘what do you think?’ and then had the wind knocked out of your sails as they criticise your idea? By asking ‘what you think?’ you are, in effect, asking them to judge your idea. We need to get into the habit of sometimes sharing an an idea with more creative invitation – eg I’ve got this idea, it’s not quite there, can you help me improve it?

    Finally in my experience businesses and people are actually much MORE creative when the proverbial is hitting the fan. Necessity as they say is the mother of invention. I’ve worked with several canny clients recently who have actually created a crisis (eg by launching products and stating challenging dates before consulting project teams). This crisis tends to focus the mind on the challenge and help separate the wheat from the chaffe in brainstorms.

    Best wishes,
    Jon

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  2. Jon, I think there’s something in what you say – if you phrase an idea that way in a meeting it will help deflect negative comments. However the fact remains that I’ve hardly ever been at a meeting where it hasn’t happened that some says ‘Why don’t we X?’ or ‘Could we Y?’ and people immediately leap in with ‘It’s been tried before,’ or ‘It won’t work here,’ or ‘You don’t understand.’…

    The aspect of being more creative when sh*t hits the fan is a matter of degrees. It’s true that having some pressure can be effective. But under really intense pressure – someone shouting in your face ‘I want an idea in the next 10 seconds!’… ‘Well???!’ you get the rabbit in the headlights effect and your brain heads down well trodden paths and can’t be creative. The right sort of pressure and deadlines is great. The wrong sort of stress and fear is deadly for creativity.

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    • Sounds like there’s a lack of leadership in the meetings you’ve been in Brian. I agree that the default position for many people is to knock down ideas. This reductive thinking habit is engrained in schooling. Children are predominately taught in a ‘here’s the question, there’s one answer what is it?’ approach. Setting some context for a meeting and sharing some creative rules (eg ideas are the currency, build don’t analyse) help to signal the kind of thinking is required at each section of the meeting.
      Agree that people shouting for ideas kills creativity. The point i was making was in the wider context. Give teams a real deadline and boy does the energy shift as the end game becomes real.

      Not so sure how prevalent the ‘give me an idea in 10 seconds’ style is. Conversely, I find the problem is that leaders end up forcing their own ideas through rather than helping their subordinates develop their own.

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