Is Online or In-Person More Creative?

Is Online or In-Person More Creative?

By Susan Robertson

The short answer?  BOTH.  Or NEITHER.  It’s solely dependent on how the meeting is structured and managed,

A recent study found that online interactions result in less creativity than face-to-face.  The reason: when online, people mostly stare at the screen, rather than letting their eyes wander around, which sparks more divergent thought.  But the flaw with this study was that the conditions that actually result in creative thinking were not set; not in the online nor the in-person experiments.  So, even though the in-person interactions were slightly more creative, neither were very creative at all, in the absolute.

Effective creative thinking requires adherence to specific guidelines.  If done casually, without guidelines, it won’t be effective regardless of online or in-person.

10 RULES FOR BRAINSTORMING SUCCESS –  In any environment.

  1.  FREE THEM FROM FEAR –  It’s very difficult for people to share ideas if they’re concerned about negative consequences.  A climate that helps people get past the fear is critical. One key principle is to prohibit any evaluation (even positive evaluation) during the idea generation phase. All evaluation occurs only after idea generation is complete.
  2.  USE THE POWER OF THE GROUP.  Build, combine, and create new ideas in the moment.  Don’t just collect ideas that people have already had.  The building and combining is where the magic happens.  Break up into pairs or small groups to encourage even more building and combining.
  3.  GET OUTSIDE STIMULOUS.  Asking the same people to sit in the same place and review the same information won’t result in exciting, new ideas.  Talk to your customers, talk to other experts, explore what other industries are doing.  Have the in-person meeting in a park or museum.  If online, mail everyone some dollar-store toys in advance, or play music or show unusual pictures.
  4.  ENCOURAGE THE CRAZY.  Something often heard at the beginning of a brainstorming: “Every idea is a good idea.”  Followed by a collective eye roll because no one believes it. While it’s not true that every idea is a practical idea, it is true that every idea can offer useful stimulus for additional ideas. Sometimes ideas thrown in as jokes can be the spark that leads to new direction and a winning idea.  So allow, encourage, and use every idea, even if only for creative fodder.
  5.  IT’S A NUMBERS GAME.  The more “at bats” you have, the more likely you are to hit a home-run.  Drive for quantity.  Ensure the session is long enough to generate lots.  If you only spend 10 minutes, don’t expect great results.
  6.  LAUGH A LOT.  Humor stimulates creativity, so let it happen.  One easy way – have everyone introduce themselves by answering a fun or silly question.  Here’s one used in a session in December – “What’s something you DON’T need more of for the holidays?”  The resulting answers were hilarious, and some even started sparking real ideas.
  7.  HOMEWORK IS REQUIRED.  Both individual and group efforts are critical for success.   Insist on individual preparation.  Ensure everyone knows the goal, and ask them to do some homework in advance.
  8.  IT’S NOT CASUAL.  Effective brainstorming requires skillful facilitation, which is a different set of skills from managing other meeting types.  There must be a designated facilitator, who is NOT the primary problem owner. The role of the facilitator is to objectively manage the process.  Ideally, the facilitator should be someone who has no stake in the outcome and can remain neutral to all content.  Designate a facilitator far enough in advance that the person has time to fully plan the session, and potentially to study up on how to do it well.
  9.  IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, BUT DOESN’T ACT LIKE A DUCK, IT’S NOT A DUCK.  If you can’t, or don’t intend to, follow the guidelines for successful brainstorming, then don’t call it brainstorming.  For example, a meeting that just becomes a stage for one person to spout their opinions isn’t useful.  And if a brainstorming is not organized and structured appropriately, everyone will feel how ineffective it is, and they’ll be sure to skip your next session.  So, either set up for success, or don’t bother.
  10.  YOU’RE NOT DONE UNTIL YOU DECIDE. Everyone has been in this situation; it’s the end of a brainstorming session, a long list of ideas has been created, and someone volunteers to type up the list.  And…. that’s it.  There’s no action, or at least none that we’re aware of.  It’s demotivating to spend time and energy generating ideas only to feel they went nowhere.  Plan time for selecting and prioritizing the ideas during the session.  Spend at least an equal amount of time on converging as you do on diverging.  Yes, you read that right.  If you generate ideas for an hour, also spend at least an hour on selecting, clarifying, and planning.  If you leave with a huge list of nebulous, potential ideas, that’s not success.  The outcome should be a short list of clear ideas, and a plan for action.

Whether in-person or online, creativity happens when the correct conditions are set.  If you’re doing it casually, without guidelines, and without skillful facilitation, it may not be tremendously effective. However, with appropriate focus on the process and environment, and by following these rules, you can effectively generate creative solutions in any setting.

About the Author:  Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?”  She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies.  As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity.  To learn more, please go to: https://susanrobertson.co/.

 

 

Why Innovation Should Be More like Easter Eggs by Susan Robertson

Why Innovation Should Be More like Easter Eggs by Susan Robertson

Every year in the spring, Amy B., a buyer for a large retail chain store, hosts an Easter egg decorating teambuilding party, where she and a bunch of her suppliers spend an entire afternoon coloring and bedazzling hard-boiled eggs. None of them bring their kids—they do this for the sheer pleasure of out-of-the office bonding, creating interesting and attractive objects. The group is always amazed at the creativity of the resulting eggs. (And in case you’re wondering, no, none of them are artists.)

So why, as adults, don’t people exercise their inner child-like creativity more often? And what is it about the Easter egg party that allows them to so freely generate and express such range and diversity of ideas? There are several factors—all of which also apply to innovation.

  • Each egg represents a very low commitment. It is cheap in both time and materials to try any idea they think of, so they try lots of ideas. If one doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter—it’s just one egg.   Similarly, in your innovation work, you need to consider and try out many ideas, to ensure that only the best ones move forward. As innovation projects proceed through a company, they get more expensive—in money, time, and labor—at each successive phase. Developing Fail Fast, Fail Cheap methodologies allows you to try out lots of ideas early on, while it’s still cheap.
  • They leverage not only individual creativity, but also use the power of the group. Someone will think of an idea to try, and then toss it out to the group. Then everyone contributes ideas for how best to accomplish it. No one ever says, “Yes, but that won’t work.” Everyone just thinks of ways to help make it better. The resulting final solutions are nearly always significantly better than what the person would have tried originally.  In many companies, the “Yes, But” phenomenon is all too common, and can be very damaging to creativity and innovation. Most ideas aren’t perfect when they’re first conceived, but teams act like they should be. They point out all the problems in an emerging idea before they ever attempt to find out if there’s anything good about it. For innovation and creative problem solving to thrive, it’s critical to create an environment that nurtures ideas rather than stifles them, so you get the benefit of the best thinking of the entire team.
  • They are willing to start over when something clearly isn’t working. One woman brought eggs that were not naturally white; instead, they were brown. It wasn’t clear that dyeing them would work very well, if at all. And, in fact, the first few attempts didn’t work. So, she scraped off all the color on her unsuccessful eggs several times. But when she chose red, yellow, and orange colors and left them in the dye bath long enough, she got some of the most uniquely rich and vividly colored eggs anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately, in large organizations, too many innovation projects that aren’t quite hitting the mark proceed too far. It’s important to recognize when an idea isn’t working, and then be willing to start again when you need to.
  • Reframing the goal results in more divergent ideas. The woman with the brown eggs also tried other methods of decorating the eggs, not just coloring them with dye. Once she reframed the problem from coloring eggs to decorating eggs, everyone else also began creating the most innovative and unusual eggs of all.  This reframing of the problem is a critical step in effective problem-solving and innovation. This is because the way a problem is stated affects the potential solutions you will think of. So when addressing any obstacle, it’s a good idea to question the way the challenge or problem is worded, to see if you can reframe it to get to different and better solutions.

So the next time you find yourself with eggs to decorate—or a challenge to meet—keep these tips in mind to help you think more creatively and come up with more innovative solutions…

  1.  Fail fast, fail cheap. Test many possible ideas.
  2. Leverage individual and group creativity; “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”.
  3. Be willing to start over when the idea isn’t working.
  4. Reframe the opportunity to expand your thinking.

About the Author:

Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to:https://susanrobertson.co/

“Invisible Warriors”  – by Dr. Gregory Cooke

“Invisible Warriors” – by Dr. Gregory Cooke

This event is being hosted and promoted by the Women’s Bureau/Department of Labor.

In honor of Black History Month, the Women’s Bureau invites you to a screening of “Invisible Warriors,” a documentary by historian and retired professor Gregory Cooke about the 600,000 African-American “Rosie the Riveters” who worked at factories and shipyards during World War II, but whose contributions were largely unrecognized. The film is a powerful conversation with the women who helped shaped American history and who are now sharing previously untold stories about life during World War II. A fireside chat with the filmmaker will follow the screening.
• Date: Monday, February 14
• Time: 2–3:30 p.m. ET
• Register to attend (password: Welcome!24)https://usdol.webex.com/webappng/sites/usdol/meeting/info/3ec1707d96fa4cb9941f7ac41e5215bc?isPopupRegisterView=true&fbclid=IwAR0Dsq0Gt1QzpqaIO_QhyIp7M4VnfzvZoxf050SJc9ob0l6q5pOkqxZTDfkhttps://usdol.webex.com/webappng/sites/usdol/meeting/info/3ec1707d96fa4cb9941f7ac41e5215bc?isPopupRegisterView=true
Business is Blooming                               by Russell Trahan

Business is Blooming by Russell Trahan

Regardless of what date the calendar shows, business is blooming – and the season for sowing success is officially here. The ways businesses can promote themselves is blooming, too – blogs, podcasts, social media, website search engine optimization, television, magazines!  How can business owners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders weed out what will land on the rocks and what will bear fruit when it comes to publicity?

You see, a targeted publicity campaign is much like gardening. It requires an innate understanding of the medium where your expertise best fits, properly nurturing the attention that you generate, and reaping the rewards of increased awareness of your unique space in the business market.

So where to start? The soil, of course!

The Soil – Your Market

A successful publicity campaign starts with deep knowledge of where your knowledge works. Whether you excel at providing management solutions or the art of making the most of the clock, you don’t simply want to blast out your content like a defective garden hose. Just like different substrates, different avenues exist for your expertise – and you need to choose the one that’s best for your expressed goals.

Whether that means pitching your content out to a specific geographic area or DMA that pertains to a coming event, or providing comment on a national news story, you have to possess a keen awareness of where your knowledge best fits and the outcome that you’re hoping to elicit.

Sowing – Targeted Pitching

Just like you shouldn’t take a scattershot approach to planting seeds you hope will eventually produce fruit, you shouldn’t assume you can just cover each and every aspect of the media with a publicity campaign. It’s about targeted pitching of content to editors, writers, and producers.

Plant your expertise seeds where you have the strongest opportunity for success. That means having a firm grasp on your target market where you know you have a strong shot of developing enduring roots – not just a momentary glimpse of sunlight.

Nurturing – Building Relationships

Anyone who has ever seen that first seedling sprout in their garden or field knows that immediate feeling of elation. Things are happening! I wasn’t just tilling and watering this soil for no reason! It’s a burst of excitement in knowing that your work had paid off. But those same folks will can also identify with watching their work wilt on the vine and the inescapable thought that more could have been done.

Once you have started the process of pitching out your expertise – be it to daily newspapers in the form of interview availability, or articles to trade, industry, and association publications, it’s imperative that you nurture those leads by properly tracking and following up with the editors who have requested your comment or content.

One of the biggest mistakes that is made during a publicity campaign is fostering a one-sided relationship. Each one of those columnists and editors is looking to fill space with intriguing content on a consistent basis. Just like you wouldn’t prune your leaves or fertilize all at once when it’s convenient, you need to maintain a dialogue with those who are looking to you for answers.

That doesn’t mean to bombard them with emails or phone calls—it simply entails having a firm process in place to touch base on the status of your article or interview, and be ready to reach out when a mutually beneficial opportunity arises.

The Harvest – Frequency and Repetition

The pinnacle of sowing season is the harvest—where you can reap the rewards of your time, efforts, energy, and dedication. After months of tending to your crops, it’s finally time to take out your bushels and account for your yield.

In a PR campaign, the sowing season runs year-round as a well-targeted campaign means you’ll receive a bounty of coverage on a consistent basis – regardless of the date on the calendar.

To the Market – Benefiting from Publicity

Off to the market with your haul! This is where the hard work really pays off and you can assign a definitive, tangible value to the time investment to planting, tending, and harvesting your crop.

With publicity, post-placement marketing is a key, critical component in a campaign’s life cycle. Without effective marketing to the associations and industries who utilized your expertise in their publication you cannot truly capitalize on the commitment you made to growing your business or enhancing your audience at the outset.

Effectively marketing the publication that you receive involves outreach to the industries who found direct value in your content—be it your perspective in an interview or your unique selling propositions in articles. Without leveraging these placements and marketing to those industries, you’ll be left with a bounty without a buyer.

With business back in full bloom, events are currently being planned and organizations are seeking experts to enrich their audiences with their point-of-view. To enjoy the full range of benefits of a publicity campaign you must think like a farmer or gardener—determine the fertile soil for your content, sow the seeds of your expertise with targeted pitching, with a green thumb frame-of-mind (in a monetary context, of course), nurture the relationships built, and then leverage your placements to begin marketing your content.

As the gardeners and farmers among you know, it doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, care, and dedication you’ll enjoy the rewards of a fruitful publicity endeavor.

About the Author:

Russell Trahan is the Owner/President of PR/PR Public Relations and the Author of Sell Yourself Without Saying A Word.  PR/PR/ Public Relations is a boutique agency specializing in thought-leaders and subject-matter experts.  He positions his clients’ expertise in front of their target market.  PR/PR Public Relations has a 20+ year history of getting 100% of their clients results.  For more information, please visit: www.PRPR.net.

Four Tips To Re-Build Trust Through Writing

Four Tips To Re-Build Trust Through Writing

“I wish I could rewind the clock and do it differently.” Bob, CEO of a mid-size organization lamented to his former colleague, Rick.  A week earlier he had sent out an internal memo warning that things were about to change. Their entire industry would soon be affected due to emerging government regulations.

The day after the memo was sent, worst case scenarios were circulating throughout the company. The gossip mill was in full swing. Fear quickly spread to vendors and customers. Within 48 hours, Bob had hundreds of emails from concerned workers, vendors and customers.

“What could you have done differently? You shared the information you had at the time.” Rick earnestly attempted to support his friend.

“Rick, I didn’t have much information from the Feds. I should have been upfront with people that I was also in the dark.” The CEO confided.

“I know but you couldn’t have anticipated that people would react so badly.” Rick responded in a compassionate tone.

“I underestimated the importance of doing more than sharing facts. My memo wasn’t very warm and friendly.” Bob admitted.

For the past two decades, Bob had focused on building a loyal team around him. He had worked hard to build their trust and was confident he had achieved it. Now, with one poorly written document, he was surprised to see how quickly that trust could erode.

Here’s what also surprised Bob: how differently employees read written communication during times of stress and change.

Bob made some blunders. You don’t have to repeat his mistakes.  As a leader, you can build trust during turbulent times by following these four writing tips:

Tip #1:   Choose Every Word Carefully.  This is critical. During times turbulent times, every word you write to your employees about the crisis will be scrutinized.

Bob’s Blunder:  He used ‘unfortunate’ in his memo. Employees obsessed about the use of this word, convinced it reflected some dire meaning.

Do This: Before you press send, ask yourself, could my reader derive some unintended meaning from my wording?  If you are not sure, get a second opinion! (or third or fourth!)

Tip #2:   Make a Human Connection.  It has been said that people will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you make them feel. This also applies to written communication. During turbulent times, employees look to leaders for reassurance and empathy. Conveying a human connection through writing fosters trust in leadership.

Bob’s Blunder: Bob’s memo came across as uncaring to employees since it lacked any expression of emotion.

Do This:  Before you press send, ask yourself, what expression of genuine emotion could I share with my readers to let them know I care?

Tip #3:   Be Transparent. When you don’t have the full information to share, be willing to honesty explain your constraints. If you do not show transparency, you risk breaching the reader’s trust. In your writing, what you leave unsaid can be as important as what you say.

Bob’s Blunder: Bob’s memo left many questions unanswered. Bob failed to share with his readers that he was limited by the lack of information he was receiving from his source, the federal government.

Do This:  Before you press send, ask yourself, have I articulated why I can’t provide more detail?

Tip #4:   More is Better. During a crisis, people can get overwhelmed. This reduces their ability to retain information. Your message may get lost. To ensure your communication is received, aim to increase the frequency of writing to employees about important issues. Repetition is key. Find ways to communicate important messages in different ways on a frequent basis during turbulent times.

Bob’s Blunder: Bob waited a few weeks between his first and second written communication about the changes and this caused concern among employees.

Do This:  Before you press send, ask yourself, have I communicated how I will continue to keep people updated?

It has been said that the only constant in life is change. This may be truer than ever. How you communicate in writing during turbulent times can leave a lasting impression on those within your organization and beyond. Your people are watching not just what you do, but how you do it. By following these four tips, you can leave a lasting legacy within your organization – one that you will not look back and regret like Bob did.

About the Author

Dr. Julie Miller is President of Business Writing that Counts! Over the past 30 years, more than 750,000 people have participated in Business Writing That Counts! on-site and online writing courses and walked away with dramatically improved writing skills. Dr. Julie and her team are focused on increasing our clients’ bottom line by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of employees’ writing. Contact her at www.businesswritingthatcounts.com

 

 

Is Fear Holding You Back From Achieving Your Goals?

Is Fear Holding You Back From Achieving Your Goals?

Is Fear Holding You Back from Achieving Your Goals?  By Angela Civitella

Research first diagnosed the fear of success a couple of decades ago. The findings, at the time, related to fear of success in women, and the results proved incredibly controversial.

Since then, however, most scientists and psychologists agree that the fear of success exists for both men and women. Fear of success is similar to the fear of failure. They have many of the same symptoms, and both fears hold you back from achieving your dreams and goals.

Signs of Fear of Success

The biggest problem for many people is that their fear of success is largely unconscious. They just don’t realize that they’ve been holding themselves back from doing something great.  If you experience the following thoughts or fears, you might have a fear of success on some level:

  • You feel guilty about any success you have, no matter how small, because your friends, family, or co-workers haven’t had the same success.
  • You don’t tell others about your accomplishments.
  • You avoid or procrastinate on big projects, especially projects that could lead to recognition.
  • You frequently compromise your own goals or agenda to avoid conflict in a group or even conflict within your family.
  • You self-sabotage your work or dreams by convincing yourself that you’re not good enough to achieve them.
  • You feel, subconsciously, that you don’t deserve to enjoy success in your life.
  • You believe that if you do achieve success, you won’t be able to sustain it. Eventually, you’ll fail and end up back in a worse place than where you started. So, you think, “why bother?”

What are the Causes?

The fear of success has several causes:

  • We fear what success will bring, for example: loneliness, new enemies, being isolated from our family, longer working hours, or being asked for favors or money.
  • We’re afraid that the higher we climb in life, the further we’re going to fall when we make a mistake.
  • We fear the added work, responsibilities, or criticism that we’ll face.
  • We fear that our relationships will suffer if we become successful. Our friends and family will react with jealousy and cynicism, and we’ll lose the ones we love.
  • We fear that accomplishing our goals, and realizing that we have the power to be successful, may actually cause an intense regret that we didn’t act sooner.

Overcoming the Fear of Success

 You can use several different strategies to overcome your fear of success. The good news is that the more you face your fears, bring them to the surface, and analyze them rationally, the more you’re likely to weaken those fears – and dramatically reduce your reluctance to achieve your goals.

Take a realistic look at what will happen if you succeed with your goal. Don’t look at what you hope will happen, or what you fear will happen. Instead, look at what is likely to happen.

It’s important not to give a quick answer to this. Take at least 15 minutes to examine the issues, and write down your answers to questions like:

  • How will my life change?
  • What’s the worst that could happen if I achieve this goal?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • Why do I feel that I don’t deserve to accomplish this goal?
  • How motivated am I to work toward this goal?
  • What am I currently doing to sabotage, or hurt, my own efforts?
  • How can I stop those self-sabotaging behaviors?

Another useful technique is to address your fears directly, and then develop a backup plan that will overcome your concern. For instance, suppose you don’t push yourself to achieve a promotion, and the biggest reason is because you secretly fear that the additional income and recognition would jeopardize your family relationships and your integrity. You’re worried that you would be so busy working to maintain your success that you’d never see your family, and you might be forced to make choices that would destroy your integrity.

To overcome these fears, start by addressing your workload. You could set a rule for yourself that you’ll always be home by 7 p.m. You could tell this to your boss if you’re offered the new position.

For issues involving integrity, you always have a choice. If you set maintaining your integrity as your top goal, then you’ll always make the right choice. By creating backup plans that address your fears, you can often eliminate those fears entirely.

The Takeaway

Fear of success is common, and many of us don’t realize that we have it. If this is your current situation, it’s time to let go of the chains that are holding you back from reaching the ultimate level of success in all that you do. Trust me, once you break free, you’ll never look back.

Angela Civitella is a certified business management coach and the founder of Intinde. www.intinde.com