Welcome Constraints

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In the film It Might Get Loud, guitarist Jack White says that technology makes us lazy and laziness is bad for creativity. He is right. My first guitar cost £10, the strings stood about an inch (slight exaggeration but not much) from the neck which made my fingers work much harder to play the instrument than normal. As a result, people tell me that I can bend strings an incredible amount akin to Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, even though I don’t use particularly a light gauge of strings.

White often uses low-quality instruments to force him to play differently, although the Gretsch he is pictured with above is not one of them!  He says:

“If it takes me three steps to get to the organ, then I’ll put it four steps away. I’ll have to run faster, I’ll have to push myself harder to get to it.”

This is something I completely understand as a musician and a scientist.  Some of the best music I made was written using poor equipment where there had to be some kind of struggle to extract something from it.  I spent a lot of time in the 1980’s and 1990’s chaining reel to reel tape recorders together, reversing and splicing tape to create sounds that had never been heard before.  Admittedly a few of these nobody ever wanted to hear again either!

Contrary to popular opinion, constraints are useful for creativity in all walks of life.  James Dyson would not have invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner if he had not become frustrated at his vacuum cleaner which “did not suck”. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have not built the Great Western Railway without feeling frustrated that he could not get to Cornwall quickly, and so on.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge - one of the many of IK Brunel's achievements

The Clifton Suspension Bridge – one of the many of IK Brunel’s achievements

It’s important to separate what I call “real constraints” from “imaginary ones”.  A real constraint might be a law of physics, an imaginary one simply an assumption such as a way of doing things that has become a habit or paradigm within an industry. In my own experience, I was partly responsible for developing the world’s first AIDS treatment.  A real constraint was that of time.  We needed to collapse the traditional drug development process time to bring the drug to market as quickly and safely as possible.  At that time Wellcome was renowned for making tablet formulations and this would have been our “paradigm response” to the situation.  In the event, we elected to formulate the product as a capsule, something we were very inexperienced with but which would deliver the quickest route to market. This committed us to a rapid learning programme of work to develop the product. In doing so we eliminated the artificial constraint of “we always do it that way”.

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When we design creative thinking sessions for companies seeking to rethink their strategy, products, services and internal processes, I like to boundary the topic under study with the real constraints that surround it.  These should not be too many – too many constraints tend to stifle ingenious thinking and no constraints tend to produce unfocused creativity.  Some disagree with me on this, saying that creative thinking should be a no holds barred affair.  Long experience in working with people and companies that look for commercial creativity i.e. ideas that have utility suggests that this is wasteful and often does not lead to execution as the ideas developed do not pass the obstacles that are in the way of execution. The theory of constraints is well documented and mostly forgotten by people who think only about the positive side of business improvement.  I wrote recently for Sir Richard Branson on this topic in terms of the internal barriers to innovation and you can read the post at Virgin.

For many years, I’ve used my “fried egg model” to describe the essentials needed to specify a problem or opportunity that is amenable to ingenious thinking.  I was delighted when Charles Handy told me he had thought of something similar for his book “The Empty Raincoat” but later decided it was too fanciful.  The fried egg model requires there to be enough “thinking space” between “the demands or goal” and “the constraints” to provide an arena for productive creativity – “the choices”.  This is why it’s a fried egg and not a boiled one sliced through the middle!  Here is the fried egg I always carry in my bag alongside my computer as I’m sure we all do …

The Fried Egg Model - Demands, Constraints, Choices

The Fried Egg Model – Demands, Constraints, Choices

Andy Wooler offered me this excellent additional example of the use of constraints from the world of music via Arnold Schoenberg’s use of “Serialism”, of which one expression is the twelve-tone technique. We wouldn’t have the magnificent “Rite of Spring” without it. The technique requires that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another whilst preventing the emphasis of any one note. This constraint did not get in the way of exciting music and some thought it was a breath of fresh air. Of course, as it is music, not everyone agrees!

To finish, here’s that first guitar that taught me the value of constraints – I was hold it was a Hofner Futurama by the insurance salesman that sold it to me for £10.  It was heavily modified with “Brian May” Burns Trisonic pickups which were its crowning glory.  It taught me to be strong!  I eventually managed to buy another one for a similar price although his one was so bad in construction and playing that I had to take a saw to it.  It was 1977 after all – the year of punk!

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Guitar Book Collage

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

Hollywood comes to … Wakefield

With the great Bill Nelson - continuously creative for more that 45 years

With the great Bill Nelson – continuously creative for more than 45 years

It was a rare privilege and a great pleasure to make a 12 hour round trip to Wakefield on Monday, to witness the artist, musician and friend Mr Bill Nelson receive a lifetime achievement award for his work in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes.  The Wakefield Stars Scheme aims to acknowledge lifetime achievements of local people and the ambition is to pave the area all the way from the Bull Ring to The Hepworth Gallery with these Hollywood styled pavement plaques. Bill will be sitting amongst such stunning company as Henry Moore, the composer Noel Gay, John Godber the playwright, Barbara Hepworth, Sir Martin Frobisher, conservationist Charles Waterton and many others who made Wakefield’s mark on the world.

Bill has defied convention, setting his own path in a music world dominated by people who prefer to follow the latest fashion. Perhaps one of the first to start his own independent label Cocteau Records, Bill has always been at least two steps ahead of the world.  Admired by Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Brian May and many other greats.  An influence on people such as Prince, Big Country, Dave Grohl etc. and copied by post-modern acts such as My Chemical Romance and The Darkness.  You can read more on this aspect at Bill Nelson – integrity and creativity in a bottle.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the ceremony was when Bill recalled that he had stood at the foot of the stage at around the age of four years old as his father Walter played the saxophone at a wedding. Bill had been given a toy saxophone to play along with his father! He has had some sadness in his life of late, as he is suffering from hearing loss. It was this news that compelled me to make the journey for what was less than an hour at the event, having connected deeply with Bill’s sense of frustration at the thought that he may not be able to make or hear music in quite the same way ever again. I also know that Bill will rise again as there are some wonderful things that can be done in this age to mitigate the symptoms that he is experiencing. It was also lovely to see Bill’s Mum who always looks fantastic, alongside Bill’s wife Emiko and the Nelson family – a proud moment for them.

I was reminded of scenes from “Dads Army” with the Town Clerk, as the Director of Culture and the Arts attempted to read his speech without any real knowledge of Bill’s work and his impact across the world! :-) Still, it was rather charming for all that and he made a really good effort despite his lack of knowledge of Wakefield’s finest. A little less time spent in strategic planning committees and more on the street is recommended :-) Bill pointed out that the last prize he won was a bar of chocolate for striking the triangle once in a performance when he was a boy! He has been hitting all the right notes ever since despite no formal musical education. Like myself, Bill claims he cannot read music, playing by ear and using intuition to guide him into new sonic territories. It’s a refreshing change to the ‘painting by numbers’ approach that turns out identikit musicians these days.

From Hollywood to Holyground ...

From Hollywood to Holyground …

In case you are unfamiliar with Bill’s work, here’s a sample of the huge diversity of his music. Check his website out at Bill Nelson and catch up with his output. This truly was an adventure in a Yorkshire landscape which was made in heaven … Sign your name with a star …

Here's hoping the Wakefield's Starman will rise again - Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy

Here’s hoping that Wakefield’s Starman will rise again – Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy. Stay Young

The “F” Word – Leadership Lessons from Failure

This Saturday September 06 I am presenting at The Institute for Contemporary Music Performance on the subject of failure. It’s a word that managers fear, yet any successful leader or entrepreneur will usually have failed a few times if they are talking honestly about success. The lecture offers practical lessons about entrepreneurship, strategy, creativity, project planning, team leadership and execution of your strategy for people trying to do new things, via the medium of a case study. Before you ask, NOOO, it’s not your usual dull business case study!!  Read on and check out the full conference at ICMP

Failure and Success - The truth

Failure and Success – The truth

Some years ago, I sponsored an audacious plan to circumnavigate the world on a rock’n’roll tour, performing at the greatest venues on the planet and taking your audience with you. I invested nearly £50 000 of my life savings in order to help my friend John Otway to advance the enterprise forward. Alas, my involvement came too late and despite achieving a temporary turnaround in fortunes, it was not enough to recover the situation and I most the money and about 6 months effort in an attempt to help John realise his dream. I dubbed the project, “The Real Spinal Tap Tour”.  Take a look at the promo video for the tour to get a flavour of the ambition:

Like most business enterprises, the John Otway World Tour was a GREAT idea, poorly EXECUTED.  It is never enough to have a great idea in business. Meticulous execution skills are needed to bring the idea into existence and I will explore the successes, near misses and downright catastrophes that led to the eventual meltdown of the project.  To whet your appetite, here are a few stunning facts about the tour:

A comedy of errors...

A comedy of errors…

Our presentation is available in your company with parallel lessons for businesses. We are also available to help you avoid similar flights of fancy or to turn difficult corners in your own projects. For the moment, here is the magical moment that started John Otway’s career, when he fell off an amplifier on The Old Grey Whistle Test, injuring vital parts. This is a stunt which Otway has developed in his career ever since, including our performance at Pfizer:

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Funk’n’Soul – An exclusive interview with George Clinton

The Godfather of Psychedelic Funk jamming it out at Kentish Town

The Godfather of Psychedelic Funk jamming it out at Kentish Town

I had the extraordinary pleasure of conducting a film interview with George Clinton at The Forum in London recently. Check out the film further down this article. In case you are not familiar with the legend that is George Clinton, here is a brief bio below: George Clinton was the principal architect of the genre of music that has come to be known as P-Funk, via his ensembles Parliament and Funkadelic. He is cited as one of a triad of most influential innovators in funk music alongside James Brown and Sly Stone. His music fused diverse genres such as Motown, The Beatles, Soul, Psychedelia, Classical and many more. Clinton has influenced several generations of musicians since such as The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Prince, Primal Scream, LL Cool J, Digital Underground and Primus. He is widely cited as a major influence on the development of hip hop music. He ranks 2nd on the list of most widely sampled artists. What then can innovators in other fields learn from the CFO (Chief Funk Officer)?

Clinton on synthesis

Clinton is a synthesiser of musical genres, bending, breaking and sometimes smashing musical conventions as to what fits in to a particular genre of music. He loved The Beatles Sargent Pepper and could not see why this could not be fitted into soul and funk music. He loved Jimi Hendrix’s wild guitar playing and could not see why this should not be included into his music and so on. Unlike so many musicians that sit inside a genre, Clinton has been a fearless boundary crosser. This quality is a hallmark of great innovators, as much innovation comes from combination and synthesis of things which others do not see as fitting together. To do this requires not just a tolerance of mistakes but a positive passion for them.

Prince exemplifies the attitude behind synthesis:

“One time, George sends me a tape and says: You pee on it and send it back to me, and I’ll pee on it and we’ll see what we got”

Find out more in the film:

Clinton on dyads

There is a long history of creativity coming from the basic unit of two, or a dyad. In the music world good examples of diverse dyads are Lennon / Mc Cartney, Goffin / King, Simon and Garfunkel etc. In other walks of life we see the same, with James Watson / Francis Crick, who uncovered the structure of DNA; and Socrates / Plato. Often the dyad is successful because individual personality styles are different enough to induce what author and thinker Peter Senge calls “creative tension”. Bootsy Collins provided the essential element of difference / creative tension in George Clinton’s case although his ensembles also contained “engines of difference” by design.

Creativity can become more problematical when we get into large groups due to the complexities of communication that exists in such groups … but not with Mr Clinton …

Clinton on creativity and structure

George also breaks conventional rules of the rock / soul ensemble, which rarely consists of more than seven members, with Clinton sometimes having up to 40 people on stage. Paradoxically, such levels of freedom require an equivalent amount of musical structure / discipline, with musical leadership passing round the band and everyone paying extremely good attention to everyone else in order to deliver a seamless performance. The parallel at work is that you can work effectively in large teams if everyone is ‘in the groove’ and if all have excellent communication skills. It’s what George nonchalantly calls “Tag Team”. If only it were so easy to organise this for everyone else!

Clinton on business

George recently started a project called Flashlight 2013, to highlight the need for musicians, artists and songwriters to own the copyright on their music. This springs from a long history of artists being ripped off by the music business. George Clinton has long thought that musicians need to be more astute in business and finance and the Flashlight project aims to shine the light on some of the things that need to be put right in this area. I must agree, having noticed that artists can be their own worst enemies in this respect. They either dismiss business skills as unimportant or are not able or willing to do the basics in business. They simultaneously whinge about being ripped off by unscrupulous music industry managers. These elements are related of course, although some of my artist friends don’t see the connections, preferring to take the “victim” position …  Check out the Flashlight Page.

Click on the fist to stop exploitation

Click on the fist to stop exploitation

I was delighted to present George with a copy of my book “The Music of Business“, which draws out relevant parallels in business and music. I also passed him a copy of my song for Prince, which is raising money for a Children’s Hospice at the moment. I hope he likes it’s funky tones and cheeky words! To read more on close encounters with George and the mothership, read One Night Alone … with George Clinton and Prince. The Academy Awards video is also well worth a look:

Clinton on the future

George has a book and a new album “First You Gotta Shake The Gate” out in October. Check the website for more details of these as they emerge. If you have never seen the Godfather of P-Funk, then check this performance out at Montreux:

Special thanks to Lois Action of Urban Unlimited for making all the arrangements. To Lee Philips and his team for making the film and Linda Vanterpool for valuable assistance on the night to ensure that our Director did not expire due to his chest condition ! :-)

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk 07725 927585

The Cure – Making Creative Duos work

I attended the launch of a new album from Reeves Gabrels, guitar player to David Bowie / The Cure, and my friend Bill Nelson, Leader of 70’s pop art groups Be-Bop Deluxe / Red Noise.  Both of these people are continuously creative musicians. But what brings two “similars” together?  Both are virtuoso guitarists and this is not always a recipe for a successful union.  I asked them to explain.

Giants of the Perpetual Wurlitzer - Bill Nelson and Reeves Gabrels

Giants of the Perpetual Wurlitzer – Bill Nelson and Reeves Gabrels

It’s a love thing

Reeves explained that he first encountered Bill Nelson’s work when he bought a copy of Be-Bop Deluxe’s “Sunburst Finish” album and a Led Zeppelin one at the same time in 1976.  He never opened the Led Zeppelin one for weeks and was captivated by Bill Nelson’s musicality and playing from the moment he heard the album.  Much later on, Bill came to hear Reeves work and also thought it went to places and depths that other artists did not go.  If this were the end of the story, there would be no album.

Serendipity and planned luck

Some years later, Reeves was visiting his guitar tech Stuart Monks to get some repairs made and it came up in conversation that he also looked after Bill Nelson’s guitars.  Reeves plucked up courage and cheekily asked if he could have Bill’s number.  He then invited Bill to come along to see him perform with David Bowie’s Tin Machine in Bradford. After the show, the two met, whereupon Bill was heard to say “You are quite the hooligan”. From that moment, the two corresponded by mail for a number of years and talked about collaboration although geography prevented this as Reeves lived in the US at this time. When Reeves joined The Cure, the idea became possible, some 20 years after it had been first discussed.

Fantastic Guitars played by Fantasic Artists

Fantastic Guitars played by Fantasic Artists

Shared values

Both Bill and Reeves share a love for doing something different with the guitar.  Yet, therein lies a challenge.  How do you make an album that transcends the trading of ‘guitar licks’?  They were both quite clear that this was something to avoid and Bill said that they spent a great deal of time talking about the approach and rather less time actually recording the tracks.  A relevant parallel here is that purposeful action often occurs when there is congruence in the vision for a project.  A more direct way of saying the same thing is the old military adage:

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Transferable Lessons

  • To make a creative dyad work effectively, it’s crucially important for each member of the dyad to understand how they can contribute in a different but complementary way. Dyads are also the basic unit of creativity and innovation in companies.  Many of the principles of successful collaboration in creative dyads at work are those that Bill and Reeves discuss.
  • Preparation is an essential part of success.  In Bill and Reeves case, this took over 20 years of gentle incubation plus extensive dialogue. Most businesses don’t have such a luxury, so they must find ways to achieve the same endpoint with less incubation.
  • Having a shared goal and knowing what you don’t want from a partnership are essential prerequisites for success.

Check out Fantastic Guitars over at the website.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Paul Mc Cartney

FT Beatles salmon SMALL

Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Asset Management Company …

What can one say about the innovation and creativity skills of a man who composed songs ranging from Eleanor Rigby, The Long and Winding Road, Blackbird to The Frog Song? Let’s start at the beginning:

Beginnings

Paul Mc Cartney was born on 18th June 1942 to parents who were around 40 years old when he arrived. Much of his early life was spent playing on bomb sites on the outskirts of Speke in Liverpool. His father was a jazz musician, playing the trumpet and a self taught pianist. He used to tell Paul “Learn to play the piano – you will get invited to parties”

LIverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney's birth

Liverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney’s birth

One of the most important elements of the bond between Lennon and Mc Cartney was the fact that both of them had lost their mothers early on in their lives. A partnership needs a bond and early childhood experiences are frequently very powerful in this respect. Other examples include Simon and Garfunkel and Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who were childhood classmates. All proof positive that you really just need “A little help from your friends” …

Help - The Beatles as represented by Corporate Artist Simon Heath - Twitter @simonheath1

Help!! – The Beatles as represented by Consulting Artist and friend Simon Heath – Twitter @simonheath1

Creative Tension

It is reckoned that Lennon and Mc Cartney were quite different personalities. See an assessment of the Fab Four’s Myers Briggs types. There is of course some disagreement as to where each of them sit as (a) your type varies over time and (b) it’s rather difficult to assess John and George these days … :-( Some argue that John Lennon was an ENTP, which is my own type – a rare breed. In any case, it’s interesting to note that all of The Beatles occupied essentially minority types, especially George Harrison who conceived of the idea to produce large scale concerts to highlight world poverty issues long before Bob Geldof got on the case with Live Aid etc.

The case for diversity

The case for diversity

Mc Cartney and Innovation

Paul Mc Cartney is perhaps a lower risk taker than John Lennon, what psychologist Professor Michael Kirton would call an adaptor, as compared with those people he classed as innovators. Adaptors tend to work within the system, producing ideas that are more within accepted wisdom and so on whereas innovators tend to challenge existing norms, producing more radical ideas, some of which are impractical. Contrast “Yesterday”, written by Mc Cartney with “I am the Walrus”, written predominantly by Lennon. In business, adaptors often have greater success than innovators, as they tend to produce ideas that are less challenging and which are recognised by consumers in the marketplace as being a logical build on existing ideas. Often we need both innovators and adaptors to produce sustainable innovations: The innovators to produce the hard-to-copy ideas and; the adaptors to help bring the ideas into a practical market focus. Here’s a graphic comparison of the two types, with Mc Cartney perhaps being the more adaptive individual and Lennon the more innovative one. This probably explains the intense different loyalties between fans of Lennon or Mc Cartney.

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Whereas Paul Mc Cartney has traversed musical genres, these have tended to be within existing musical paradigms, for example in his writing of Standing Stones, an album of original classics. He has also tended to be a great arranger of other people’s music. For example Mc Cartney wrote the distinctive mellotron introduction “Strawberry Fields Forever” for John Lennon. His latest album, entitled “New”, provides us with a set of Beatles’ inspired songs. After all, he has nothing to prove. This does not mean that he did not produce anything outside the paradigm. For example it was Mc Cartney that instigated the use of tape loops on “Revolver”. Here is the title track from the album – some shades of Sargent Pepper in this I feel …

Mc Cartney and Creativity

Paul Mc Cartney says that he still seeks advice from John Lennon when songwriting, imagining what John would advise him to do. This skill is what psychologists call projection and fantasy and is embodied in creativity techniques such as ‘Superheroes’, ‘The Disney Creativity Strategy’, ‘Six Thinking Hats’, ‘Wishing’ and so on. Here’s a graphical view of some creativity tools which one of our clients devised at the end of a masterclass event we designed for them, with a representation of the Superheroes approach in the centre. Can you guess what the others are?

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients - in graphical form

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients – in graphical form

He also exhibits playfulness in his approach to creativity. For example, Mc Cartney woke up with “Yesterday” in his head.  For several weeks the lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs”. I certainly identify with the idea of putting down a prototype in order to develop an idea into an innovation, both in my life as a musician and as a Research and Development Scientist. Sometimes, putting down any idea produces the creative tension needed to develop a better idea.

There’s more on The Beatles and Creativity in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business“. We are currently considering some corporate events with the cast of “Let It Be”, as it turns out that I’ve performed with “Paul Mc Cartney” at open mic jam sessions in my home town a few times over the years. Contact us for more details or to arrange a unique business masterclass or conference.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Beatles 2

Still Life with Apple, Mac ca and The Beatles

The future of data

Big Data

I recently presented and facilitated a summit event for 100 people to explore the future of clinical data management using a suite of creativity and innovation techniques with my colleague, friend and associate Steve Gorton.  The issue of data management is complex and contentious.  As an illustration of this, the NHS recently withdrew a strategy to sell patient data to interested parties, after it asked the public to opt OUT of an imposed strategy rather than to opt IN. This serious misjudgement of public opinion has caused outrage and has required the NHS to reconsider its strategy. It is self evident that the collection of large volumes of health data has potentially huge health benefits if treatments for diseases can be found from this. However the strategy also has some potential downsides if moral hazard creeps in, with insurance companies using the data to hike insurance fees for certain classes of people, the potential for it to be used in recruitment and so on.  It seems that the reaction is made up of a number of concerns for ‘data leakage’ coupled with concerns about who owns the data and therefore who can benefit from its sale to third parties. Treatment of this topic as if it is a benign issue has cost the NHS a lot of money and an equivalent amount of credibility. The topic is complex with many unknown and unknowable parts.  It’s what Steve and I call a ‘wicked problem':

Wicked problems - uncertain ends and means or both

Wicked problems – uncertain ends and means or both

So, what did the clinical data management managers make of the session? Rather than providing a suite of creativity tools, we offered them the chance to immerse themselves in three ‘creativity states’.  All good proprietary creativity techniques are based on some underlying ‘states of mind’, which occur naturally when people are in the mode of ideation. The three we offered are shown below.  These were found to be easier and quicker to access than the recipes for creativity offered by the product based creativity consultancies.

Three creativity principles from Human Dynamics

Three creativity principles from Human Dynamics

To bring these alive delegates explored “The future of clinical data management”.  They were asked to produce the most interesting and most unusual ideas to unpick the topic and “drain the Clinical Data Management swamp”. One theme was “Defining the role of clinical data management so everyone understands where the future lies”.  Why?  Because it is felt the rest of the system does not have much awareness or understands the key role that Clinical Data Management plays within the developmental process. Our first step was to break the wicked problem down into some more manageable chunks given the short time allocation.  This is how we ended up:

Digesting a wicked problem into more manageable entities using expert facilitation

Digesting a wicked problem into more manageable entities using expert facilitation

The headline outputs that are shareable from the session broke down into the “Most Interesting” ideas for further development and the “Most Unusual” ideas to act as provocations for more detailed thinking:

Wonderful and Wierd ideas for future development

Wonderful and Wierd ideas for future development

Most interesting: “What would be the outcome if Clinical Data Management  were to go on strike?” – developed from the reversal principle – this produced a rich seam of ideas, some of which have real value to the participant’s own companies if developed

Most unusual:  “Redefine and develop the brand so it remains current and up to date (like the annual Formula 1 team rebranding)” – developed from the projection principle.  This pointed participants to consider ideas in the arena of PR and marketing, not natural areas of strength for the profession

Whilst these require further development (and the groups went on to develop a broad range of more specific ideas within the event) the aim was/is to get people thinking wider from at least two perspectives and come up with some really practical and pragmatic ideas that generate traction.

This type of approach enables people, teams and organisations to stand back from the “wickedness” and begin to separate “the wood from the trees” and disperse the fog of confusion.  Importantly it is about creating value to help things happen quicker, for less investment and more satisfaction within the role.

Steve teaches Peter some new chords

Steve teaches Peter some new chords from the fog of confusion ….

Would you like to find out more about how these and similar approaches allow you think further and faster outside current wisdom and experience?  We’ll offer a pack of materials to help you.  Just mail us at peter@humdyn.co.uk

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.  Check out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.