Creativity and Brainstorming

Creativity

Creativity is concerned not only with new ideas, but also with escaping old ones.  Many old ideas survive through habit or routine, and not – as they should – as a result of a continuous re-assessment of their value and validity.

Our usual method of thinking is referred to as VERTICAL THINKING, in which we proceed directly from one piece of information to the next.   Each step has to be ‘right’ before we proceed to the next.

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We regard this as ‘logical’.

Our whole system of education is soundly based upon getting things ‘right’, and this need to be right all the time is a great barrier to new ideas.

The human mind is effective because it organises data into patterns, but creativity involves breaking out of set patterns, to look at data in new ways.

To make the most effective use of information, the traditionally accepted ‘patterning system’ of the mind needs the introduction of discontinuity.

LATERAL THINKING provides the means to achieve this.

 

Lateral Thinking

Lateral Thinking does not have to be ‘right’ at each step – only at the end.

Intermediate steps in the thought process can be ‘unproven’ or ‘impossible’.  They generate still more ideas as stepping-stones to the ultimate result.

Lateral thinking involves:

  • the deliberate search for alternative ways of doing or looking at things;
  • movement for the sake of it – to generate direction rather than follow it;
  • questioning – a refusal to accept assumptions or take things for granted;
  • being aware of the arrogance of believing an accepted idea to be fact;
  • refusal to accept adequate ideas which block development of better ones;
  • looking at an idea to see where it leads – rather than if it is correct;
  • separation of the generation of ideas from their judgement or evaluation.

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Brainstorming Sessions

Although lateral thinking may be carried out by an individual, it is often more effective in a group at a Brainstorming Session.

Here one person’s ideas – however wild – can spark off different ideas in another.  One individual may come to a dead end with an idea, which one of his colleagues may pick up and develop with great imagination.

Planning A Brainstorming Session

  1. The first stage is to define the topic or problem SIMPLY and CLEARLY.

    For a sales team, it could be:

    • HOW CAN WE SELL MORE? With sub-topics of:
      • ‘What can WE do to help the company to sell more?’
        ‘What can the COMPANY do to help us to sell more?’
        ‘What can we all do TOGETHER to increase sales?’
  2. The minimum number is five or six people; the maximum twelve.

    Ideally, up to half should not be directly concerned with the topic, and may be, for example, from other departments of the company. Senior people should generally be excluded, as they may inhibit the flow of ‘wild’ ideas.

  3. Although it has an informal purpose, it is best to hold a formal meeting.

    It will be easier to keep control, and it should help free everyone to relax and to think in a different way: to come up with new ideas without expecting them to be shouted down, or judged as stupid or unrealistic.

  4. For groups unfamiliar with the technique, try a 10 minute warm-up session on a simple and concrete problem; eg ‘how to design a better toothbrush’.
  5. Plan for a duration of up to 30 minutes, but be prepared to end earlier if ideas dry up, and the session appears to have lost its drive.
  6. Taking notes of the session is difficult, but vital. (Minutes of most business meetings record only major decisions reached, but at this session, no decisions will be made; that comes afterwards).

    All ideas must be recorded, and ideally all remain visible throughout.

    Thus a single flip chart stand will not be enough, since each page would then be ‘turned over’ as soon as it was filled.  It would be better if individual flip chart sheets could be fixed to the wall in advance.

The purpose of a Brainstorming Session is to generate new ideas, not to evaluate them, which comes later.  Evaluation of any sort must be forbidden.

The word ‘no’ suggests the whole concept of rejection of an idea as ‘wrong’.  The word ‘no’ and any other negative must be banned from the meeting.

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The Task Of The Chair

The session must have a Chairperson, who will:

  • explain the purpose of a Brainstorming session
  • appoint two ‘note takers’ – and remember to change them at half time
  • ensure that everyone is ready to begin – including the note takers
  • define the topic at the start, and repeat it at intervals throughout
  • act as a lubricant to keep the session running smoothly
  • stop everyone talking at once, and encourage the quieter members to talk
  • stop people trying to evaluate ideas; ban any negative comments such as:
    • ‘I don’t think much of that’, ‘That would cost too much’, ‘That’s not new’,  ‘That’s not practical’,  ‘That’s a ridiculous idea’, ‘ That would never work’.  ‘No, we tried that in 1982, and it failed then’, and so on …………
  • make sure that the ideas are being recorded – perhaps suggesting a pause
  • ensure that the notes suitably condense ideas into simple ‘headings’ so that the meaning/worth of an idea is not lost by shortening in this way
  • if the ideas come to a halt:

be ready with suggestions of his/her own, or

summarise some points so far made (without  evaluating them), or

ask the note taker(s) to read out the ideas so far listed

  • stop the session after 30 minutes, or sooner if the ideas dry up.

Following the session, the Chairperson, together with the note takers, should collect all the notes and co-ordinate the ideas, grading them as:

  • Ideas for immediate use
  • Ideas for further exploration, and
  • Those which were only ‘stepping stones’ to other more valid ideas.

It can sometimes be of value to send a copy of the co-ordinated notes to the members with space to add further ideas which may have occurred to them since.

Letter Writing Skills

Letters are our ambassadors and provide a permanent record. Excellent relationships created face-to-face can be ruined by one poorly written letter.

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Overview
Letters, e-mails and memos are a vital element in customer communication and internal communication. Problems in relationships and costly errors are common. Written communication also provides a permanent record and may ‘haunt’ the organisation later. E-mails make it easier to make mistakes. Schools focus on writing styles applicable to literature not the modern commercial world. This course provides the essential skills needed in an interactive and stimulating way. Participants can focus on the correspondence they are involved with.

Who Should Attend
Anyone involved in writing letters, e-mails or correspondence.

Duration
1 Day

Letter Writing – Course Objectives

Participants will learn:

  • how to ‘tune in’ to readers and avoid common errors
  • effective formats for various purposes
  • the key elements to ensure the document is interesting
  • how to ensure their documents are understood
  • how to make their documents ‘easy to read.’

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Letter Writing – Course Outline

Introduction, aims, agenda
The role of letters and memoranda in internal/external relationships
When not to use letters

Profiling the readership
Key factors in the profile of potential readers
The issue of important secondary readers
Common errors in preparation

Letter & memorandum structure
Different formats and structures
How to gain the attention of the reader
Putting forward benefits in letters
Handling ‘complaints’

Ensuring your letter is interesting
Developing an effective personal style
Key factors in creating an interesting document
How to polish your document

Ensuring your letter is understood
‘Rules’ guaranteed to reduce/remove potential misunderstandings
Common errors

Ensuring readability of your letter
What schools do not teach
The structure of paragraphs
How to improve readability
Common errors that ‘turn off’ readers

Are Your Employees Under Performing?

Detecting Poor Performance

Detecting poor performance in an employee is not always as easy as it seems, but any check list should cover the following:

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Aggression:  Appears to provoke a lot of conflict?  Others seem reluctant to work with them?  Customers sometimes complain about behaviour?

Childishness:  Practical jokes?  Silly comments?   Keeps colleagues up late at night on courses so that they’re no good the next morning.

Obsessions:  Always complaining about the same aspects of the job?  Always has ten good reasons why certain things can’t be done?  Always blames ‘the company’ or ‘the management’?

Resignation or Withdrawal:  Absolute minimum of work necessary to survive?  Refusal to volunteer?  Drifting from one task to another?  Arrives late and leaves early?  Making other people waste time – social chit-chat?

Quality of Work:  Not producing to appropriate quality standards?

Quantity of Work:  Doing less work, achieving less than others of your team?  Or doing significantly more than others – becoming a workaholic non-delegator, an indispensable over-worked hero?

Absenteeism:  Habitually absent from work?  Appear to be particularly accident-prone?  Any patterns of timing – local sporting events, days of week, etc?

Dishonesty:  Fiddling expenses?  Excessive private phone calls on the firm?  Stealing from customers?  Taking bribes?

Unrealistic Targets:  Setting targets for self which are either so easy they are certain to be met, or so difficult that there can be no blame for missing them?

Indecision:  Avoids decisions – invents pseudo-problems to distract from the important issues?

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Displacement Selling Part III

We must increasingly deal with a wide range of behaviour types amongst the customer group. Our success will be increased if our versatility increases.

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Overview
Increasingly the salesperson must be able to persuade and work with a wide variety of people. This means the salesperson must develop a ‘chameleon’ quality to quickly change behavioural style to match the other person. Over a period of many years salespeople increase their versatility in dealing with the customer types experienced.

This stimulating and practical course provides the key skills needed to accelerate versatility and deal with new customer groups quickly.

Who Should Attend
Those who have attended Displacement Selling I and Displacement Selling II.

Duration
1 Day

Displacement Selling III – Course Objectives

Participants will learn:

    • the underlying principle of Behaviour Analysis and the strengths and weaknesses of their own behaviour type
    • how to identify the behaviour type of other people easily and quickly
    • to modify their behaviour to meet the needs of different groups
    • to handle groups containing mixed behaviour types

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Displacement Selling III – Course Outline

Behaviour Types
Behaviour characteristics
Underlying behaviour factors
Reaction under stress
Behaviour groups strengths and weaknesses of each group
Self-Discovery

Behaviour Identification
Behaviour type clues
Identification-by-proxy
How negative comments may indicate behaviour type
Pitfalls in identification

Handling Different Types
Key differences between your type and other types
Versatility factors
‘Meeting’ versatility skills
Each stage in the sales process and how to modify behaviour

Mixed Behaviour Type Groups
Handling different types in Stand-Up presentations
How good proposals and reports meet the needs of different types

So You Want To Be a Consultant?

Core Consultancy Behaviours

Effective consultants need:

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  • Profound understanding of customer needs
  • Systematic analysis of the true priorities and problems within these generic needs
  • Ability to position products/services against these customer priorities
    • To multiple levels of the customer organisation
    • To all relevant members of the “decision making unit”
  • Understanding of:
    • the customer’s experience level
    • their attitude to risk
    • real or perceived “idea adoption” factors
  • Empathy – the ability to “stand in the customer’s shoes”
  • Ability to see the essential value of the sales proposition
    • In terms of the underlying business case
    • In terms of the specific non-financial benefits
    • In terms of the subjective personal benefits to DMU members
  • Relational abilities:
    • “Win-win” attitude
    • Partnership mentality
    • Communication to customers varying in knowledge, experience and certainty
  • Resilience in an extended Idea Adoption Process

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If you think you’ll make the grade then measure yourself against this core skills, build your knowledge and experience and get going.