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."
|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quickly grow out of date in our
In this newsletter we will explore two techniques
to break our
mental models: Appreciative inquiry (AI) and scenario
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
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
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
problems. It leads to defensive posturing, finger
pointing, and limits the scope of the solution.
Paying attention to
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
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
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
3. Dreaming of what could be if the exceptional
moments identified in the Discovery phase became
4. Designing what specifically will be different in
5. Delivering those results through a plan to move
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
|Creative Strategic Planning: Scenario Planning
Another technique for breaking mental models is
Scenario planning is a process used to stimulate
imaginative, creative thinking to better
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
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.
moving and storage
example, such forces could be
changes in regulations, demographic
shifts to the U.S. southwest, changes in values
home and family, the aging population, and a growing
concern for personal
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
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
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
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
The reviewer writes, "There are so many excellent
books on the (sometimes
elusive) subject of creativity and this is one of
"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
|Eight Creative Talents in Europe
My colleague Peter Schmidt, who is licensed to use
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
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
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,
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."
"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,
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