Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in
business – delivered to your e-mail box on the first and third Tuesday
of every month.
Tuesday, 19 July 2005
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly newsletter
on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation
please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your
comments and feedback are also always welcome. E-mail me at email@example.com.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found
at the end of this newsletter.
CREATIVE TEAM LEADERSHIP
Creative teams are potentially great. They allow a group of people to capitalise
on the combined creativity of the entire team. Members build on each others'
ideas and push everyone to stretch their ideas. However, in order to work, creative
teams need two things:
A variety of participants with different backgrounds and areas of specialisation.
This is an issue I have covered several times in the past (see the archives
The right kind of leader. This is what we shall look at in this article.
It is important to bear in mind that in creative teams there is often a designated
leader – usually someone appointed by management or who is a manager.
Sometimes there is also a de facto leader. This happens when the designated
leader is an ineffective one and another team member dominates the team. When
this happens, the latter tends to become the de facto leader.
Broadly speaking, there are five kinds of team leaders.
The Dominator is the kind of person who totally takes charge of
the team. She usually has a vision, makes all the decisions and pushes people
to achieve her vision. In terms of getting things done, the dominator can
be very effective. In terms of creativity, she can limit the group's potential.
That's because the dominator tends to prefer her own ideas over other members'
and is more skilful at selling her ideas to the team. As a result, she does
not tap into the combined creativity of the group. Worse, she is often deaf
to team members' feedback to her ideas.
If there is a natural dominator in a group, she will often attempt to take
charge of the group. If there is no designated leader, or the designated
leader is weak, the dominator will usually succeed.
The squelcher is bureaucratic leader who does not like change. She
squelches ideas whenever she can with phrases like: “we don't do things
that way here” or “that would never work”. The squelcher
is a true conservative who does not like new ideas, fears change and avoids
risk at all cost. She believes in following procedures to the letter.
The squelcher believes herself to be a good and proper leader who gets things
done and done properly. And she is a good leader, provided the task at hand
is a highly bureaucratic task where veering from established procedures
is to be avoided at all costs. However, this is rarely the definition of
a creative team.
The squelcher, of course, is absolutely deadly to a creative team. She
will repress ideas and demotivate the creative thinkers.
The wimp is an insecure leader who is afraid to take any kind of
risk and worries too much about the consequences should things go wrong.
The wimp tends also to be a squelcher, however, instead of rejecting ideas
outright, she usually dilutes ideas in order to reduce risk. The wimp's
favourite phrase is: “it's a good idea, but...” After the “but”,
the wimp explains why the idea is too creative for the firm and suggests
ways to dilute the idea.
The wimp also likes to send creative ideas to committees in order to reduce
her blame for diluting or rejecting an idea. Committees, of course, are
essentially wimp teams and will likewise dilute ideas in order to reduce
risk. When a wimp sends an idea to a committee, she likes to encourage dilution
and divert blame with phrases like: “Sally had a rather radical idea
about modifying our widgets. But I'm worried that it might scare off our
more conservative clients. What do you think?”
Although not as bad as a squelcher, a wimp is nevertheless a most undesirable
The co-ordinator is often the most effective team leader. Rather
than dominating the group, she co-ordinates it. She assigns tasks, oversees
performance and reports on the results. A good co-ordinator is skilled at
assigning people tasks that take advantage of their skills and is talented
at putting together the pieces of a project.
However, a co-ordinator is not necessarily the person who brings out the
greatest level of creativity in a group. This is because she tends to assign
tasks and expect people to stick to their tasks. Nevertheless, she does
not dilute or squelch ideas and does not demand that only her ideas are
implemented. All in all, she is a good team leader.
The co-ordinator is the second best choice for creative team leader.
The inspirer is the best kind of leader for bringing out the combined
creative potential of a team. The inspirer ignites sparks of ideas which
can grow into bigger ideas. The inspirer pushes team members to stretch
their creative skills in order to be ever more innovative in their approach.
The inspirer is usually a creative person who likes ideas and encourages
others. Unfortunately, the inspirer often lacks the co-ordination skills
that can turn creative ideas into innovative results. The most effective
inspirers, however, can inspire co-ordinators to handle the detail work.
When creative results are what you need, the inspirer is the best person
to put in charge of the team.
What kind of creative team leader are you?
A GREAT IDEA TESTING TOOL
If you are a creative thinker, you have doubtless experienced this: you have
a great idea which seems to come out of nowhere. You think it through and like
it even more. Then you try to implement it, only to discover that a lot of other
people have had the same idea and have implemented it in all kinds of ways.
The next time you have a great idea, Google it first. Just enter the idea into
Google and see what results come up. And be sure to enter the idea phrased in
different ways and in different languages if you are multi-lingual.
Almost certainly, you will find that other people have had similar ideas and
have implemented them in various ways. When this happens, do not get get demotivated.
Rather look at the web pages Google links to and consider...
How does your version of the idea compare the the web page's?
What components does your idea have that the web page idea lacks? Why is
this? Have they not thought of these components, or might there be a practical
reason for for this?
What can you learn from the web page's implementation of the idea?
How can you push your idea further in order to better differentiate it
from the idea on the web page?
And, finally, is it worth pushing your idea further, or have so many other
people implemented the idea in so many ways that you are better off focusing
your creative energy elsewhere?
By Googling your idea and asking yourself these questions, you will find that
you can analyse and push your ideas further than you ever could before.
BETTER REPORT 103 ARCHIVES
If you refer to the Report 103 archives from time to time, you will be pleased
to discover that we have recently improved the index of past issues. Until recently,
the index simply listed the publication date of each issue. If you clicked on
the date, you would be able to read the archived issue. Now, the index also
includes the contents of each issue, making it easier to find specific back
issues and to browse the archives. The archives can be found at http://www.jpb.com/report103/archives.php
I launched the Imagination Club earlier this month and launched two challenges
New ideas to improve the concept of the bathtub. This is a creative exercise
used by Léon-Philippe Parez, a Belgian innovation consultant with
whom I work. A lot of interesting and amusing ideas came out of this challenge.
Ideas to improve the airline business model. Here again, we saw some interesting
ideas about how to bring the airline business out of the doldrums.
For more information about the imagination club – and to join us if you'd
like – visit http://www.jpb.com/imagination/
STRESS: GOOD FOR CREATIVITY, BAD FOR JUDGEMENT
Stress can often lead both individuals and organisations to be more creative
– sometimes much more creative. Stress focuses the mind on the issue at
hand and provides a powerful incentive to devise creative ideas. An incentive
like: “if we do not come up with a good idea, our company will go bankrupt”
or “sales of the new widgets are very low. We need new ideas on marketing
it, or I'll lose my job.” can be motivating in a scary way.
Unfortunately, although such stress can boost our creative thinking skills,
it also makes us very poor judges of our own ideas. If an idea is critical to
our survival, we desperately want it to work. As a result, we are all to likely
to make optimistic assumptions about the potential success of the idea.
Worse, we are all too likely to gamble our personal savings our our company's
capital on ideas which we judge poorly. “After all,” we are likely
to think, “if this idea doesn't work, the company will go bust. I've got
nothing more to loose. So, let's bet everything on this idea.”
Unfortunately, there is always something more to loose. Hence, when you are
under great stress to come up with new ideas, it is critical that you present
the ideas to unbiased outsiders who are not under any stress to produce or implement
At the very least, Google your idea before betting the bank on it! (see above
article, this last sentence doesn't make sense.)
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Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and
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