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June 2006

Happy Summer! I hope you enjoy this issue of the Practical Innovator, designed to help you be more effective, productive and creative! And I hope your summer is full of marvelous adventures. As Scott Peck has written, "All adventure is going into the unknown.... If we know exactly where we're going, how to get there, and what we'll see along the way, it isn't an adventure.... It is only from adventures that we learn much of significance."

in this issue
  • Memory and Creativity? A Sensual Approach
  • Creative Strategic Planning: Appreciative Inquiry
  • Creative Strategic Planning: Scenario Planning
  • Breakthrough Creativity... What others are saying
  • Eight Creative Talents in Europe
  • Coming Attractions

  • Creative Strategic Planning: Appreciative Inquiry

    Mental models, those images, assumptions, and stories of ourselves, other people, and the way things work that we carry around inside, can get in the way of our ability to plan for the future and make good decisions. These mental models bring with them blinders that can quickly grow out of date in our ever-changing world.

    In this newsletter we will explore two techniques to break our mental models: Appreciative inquiry (AI) and scenario planning.

    Instead of looking at the world as a set of problems to be solved, AI is an act of exploration and discovery, opening up potentials and possibilities. AI is based on the affirmation of past and present strengths, successes and potentials. AI is both a philosophy of life and a methodology for generating change and planning for the future. Our focus here is on AI's methodology -- to help us break mental models.

    How does AI break mental models and open individuals and their organizations up to more creative planning?

    According to AI experts, looking at problems just causes further problems. It leads to defensive posturing, finger pointing, and limits the scope of the solution. Paying attention to problems simply underlines and reinforces their existence.

    Instead, AI opens up our thinking by focusing us on what has worked to date, or "what already is," in order to imagine what "could be" in the future and then define "what will be."

    AI is based upon the principle, described by one of its founders, David Cooperrider, that "when an artist sits in front of a landscape, the imagination is kindled not by searching for 'what is wrong with this landscape' but by a special ability to be inspired by those things of value worth valuing."

    Cooperrider and co-author Diana Whitney, go on to say: "Appreciation draws our eye toward life, stirs our feelings, sets in motion our curiosity, and provides inspiration to the envisioning mind."

    AI is also based on the belief, according to author Steve Phillips, that individuals and organizations already have most of the answers because they possess an "excellent collection" of experiences, practices and perspectives. Therefore, paying attention to these experiences and perspectives of what works will get us more of what works and will open up "amazing possibilities to be explored rather than problems to be solved."

    As it has evolved, AI involves five steps:

    1. Definition of the focus of the work. What are we exploring or inquiring into?

    2. Discovery -- through the use of an interview protocol, to explore the factors that contribute to optimum performance and best individual experiences.

    3. Dreaming of what could be if the exceptional moments identified in the Discovery phase became normal practice.

    4. Designing what specifically will be different in the future.

    5. Delivering those results through a plan to move forward.

    AI is not only an incredibly useful tool for strategic planning, change management, and resolving challenges. It is also applicable as a good coaching practice. Leaders who use probing questions in an appreciative mode that generates collaborative learning will see long-lasting behavior changes.

    By the end of the summer, you will be able to access a framework on my website to help you apply this information to your leadership challenges. Check out my website in late August!

    Creative Strategic Planning: Scenario Planning

    Another technique for breaking mental models is scenario planning.

    Scenario planning is a process used to stimulate imaginative, creative thinking to better prepare an organization for the future. Scenario planning is different from traditional strategic and contingency planning. It does not assume that there is one best answer to a strategic question or one best way to deal with a single uncertainty.

    Instead, it forces leaders to consider multiple possibilities and multiple uncertainties. For these reasons, Scenario Planning is particularly useful in situations where leaders need to break mental models about the future.

    As Professor David Garvin and I explained in our "Note on Scenario Planning," there are several steps involved in a successful scenario planning exercise.

    These steps include:

    1. Identifying the area of concern. Examples of issues that Scenario Planning can be useful in addressing are big questions, such as: "How do we position our organization to deal with the growing complexity of healthcare issues?" or "How do we grow our moving and storage business?"

    2. Researching the key themes and trends that are likely to play a major role in shaping the future. These forces include changes in demographics, economic conditions, consumer demands, governmental regulations, prevailing cultural or personal values, industry structure, global trade flows, political or legal environment, and technology.

    In the moving and storage example, such forces could be changes in regulations, demographic shifts to the U.S. southwest, changes in values regarding home and family, the aging population, and a growing concern for personal privacy.

    3. Defining the critical drivers that are most likely to significantly change the way the future unfolds. These drivers should be those that are most important to the question at hand and most uncertain.

    In the example, they might be the direction of the economy and attitudes toward the family and personal privacy.

    4. Creating scenarios around those critical drivers. Scenarios are alternative hypotheses about how the world might unfold, specifically designed to highlight risks and opportunities facing the organization. Effective scenarios challenge the thinking of participants by instilling a deeper appreciation of the many factors that could shape the future. Different future scenarios in our example could be a growing U.S. economy with a return to community values, or a growing U.S. economy with a preference for individualism.

    5. Finally identifying the implications of each alternative future on the organization, in terms of strategies, options, and early warning signals, to better prepare the organization to deal with the alternative futures that could unfold. For example, entering the file destruction business, developing alliances with retirement communities, staying on top of demographic trends, etc.

    There is a lot more behind scenario planning than is described in this brief introduction. But I urge you to explore the topic further since by opening up managers' mindsets and breaking prevailing mental models, scenario planning heightens sensitivity to change and awareness of possible futures. Scenario planning experts believe, in fact, that the accuracy of the scenarios is less important that the conversations they generate.

    Breakthrough Creativity... What others are saying

    A reader called my attention to some comments on CEOExpress.com about the book, "Breakthrough Creativity:"

    The reviewer writes, "There are so many excellent books on the (sometimes elusive) subject of creativity and this is one of the best....

    "One of the most important components of "breakthrough creativity" is the realization that creativity is not just a "thinking" phenomenon. It can also be manifested in being a nurturing team leader, connecting differently with associates, strengthening relationships with clients, etc. Levesque's identification and exploration of this component sets her apart from de Bono, von Oech, and others whose work I also admire.

    "[Many authors, including] Goleman, and countless others have expanded and enriched our understanding of 'human capital.' With this book, Levesque makes her own unique and substantial contribution to a collaborative exploration of unfulfilled humanity."

    Eight Creative Talents in Europe

    My colleague Peter Schmidt, who is licensed to use the Eight Creative Talents in Europe, has recently founded a new consulting practice with consultants Rolf Happel and Marcus Gottschalk: Innovation-Europe. The mission of this new consultancy is to provide exceptional services for enhancing the innovation of a company's product development process and for creating a distinctive company culture for innovation.

    Coming Attractions

    Stay tuned for the next issue, which will complete the article on strategic planning and the eight creative talents begun in the last issue. It will also have articles about intuition and the eight creative talents and more information about appreciative inquiry.

    Memory and Creativity? A Sensual Approach

    At my college reunion last month, I heard Professor Curtis Smith talk about his research on the brain and our memory functions. Smith has some exciting findings for enhancing our memory abilities and our creativity as well.

    Essentially, each of our senses -- smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch -- all have their own memory functions. What we hear is stored in our auditory memory, what we smell in our olfactory memory, and so on.

    These memory functions are in addition to our more cognitive memory. Smith argues that one reason we forget so easily is that we are overusing our cognitive memory, and not taking full advantage of the memory functions of our senses.

    To improve our memory system, Smith advises us to associate the item or person with something that will force us to use not just our cognitive memory but at least one of our other memory functions as well.

    I have tried the techniques over the last couple of weeks and they work! When I meet someone new, I tie their name to a song, thus evoking my auditory memory (When I met my new neighbor Amy for example, I immediately starting singing the song "Amie...what you wanna do?....") or an image to call forth my visual memory (When I was reintroduced to Jim, I pictured him as the letter "J" to distinguish him from his shorter and more muscular colleague Matthew -- an "m").

    So... what does all this have to do with our creativity?

    Too many of us are living in our heads. We are forced to analyze, brainstorm, and problem solve, all using our cognitive brains.

    Perhaps it's time for us to get into our bodies more.... to get in touch with our senses. I have a client who is a strong intuitive who continues to feed her love of art and art history to be sure she stays in touch with the more sensual side of life. Doing so helps her stay balanced in times of crises and thus in better touch with her creativity.

    Here are some suggestions to help you use your body and five senses when you need inspiration or are otherwise blocked in your creativity. Instead of a brainstorming session, go dancing, eat some exotic food, go to an international grocery store and smell foreign spices. See what comes to mind!

    Or focus on the challenge you are facing, use Mike Vance's and Diane Deacon's "Sensanation" technique (described in their book "Think Out of the Box"). Imagine what the challenge must smell, taste, feel, look, or sound like to get a new perspective and come up with a creative solution?

    "If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."

    -- Thomas Alva Edison

    "If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place."

    -- Margaret Mead

    "If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never."

    -- Kierkegaard

    Breakthrough Creativity Products, Services and Workshops

    Consulting and facilitation services support leaders in strategic planning, new business creation, teambuilding, and leadership development. Services include organizational, team, and individual assessments, with proven diagnostics, and ongoing support for leaders and teams.

    Workshops that provide substantive material in an interactive environment, focused on practical application, are also available. Sessions include:

    * Becoming a More Creative Leader

    * Developing the Strategic Leader

    * Building Team Talents with the Eight Creative Talents

    Because of their modular design, workshops can be easily customized to meet each group's particular needs.

    Quick Links...

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