Category: Blog

The Order Of Chaos – Dealing With Complexity

chaos order complexityChaos, disorder, entropy – it always seems to increase. To try and make sense of this fact, organisations put in place more and more elaborate structures. We simply cannot tolerate chaos, either as individuals or as organisations.

We grow up listening to the mantra ‘You can only manage what you can measure’, or at least manage what you can grasp hold of or touch! Our endless creation of structures, procedures, and hierarchies has been a fruitless task, like repairing earthquake damage with sticky tape.

As many scientists know, entropy always increases, we can do nothing to stop it, and I do not propose that we try. Here I talk about chaos, which is what we feel and observe and which causes physical reactions such as stress. This we can do something about.

Is chaos simply a matter of perspective, a product of where we make our observations from, and how far away we are?

If you sit inside an atom and watch electrons whizzing around your head like flies around a picnic, you might think this is chaos. Step up a level and our atom now seems to have some order.

We see electrons moving around the nucleus of the atom, rather like planets orbiting around the Sun.

Step up again and you might see molecules or even real objects such as chairs or tables. It’s all about perspective. We can now see patterns, there is no random motion, BUT we do appear to have lost some detail.

Changing perspective is the backbone of creative or alternative thinking. Think of a time when you were reading house particulars. One family member sees a games room with bar, another sees a well-equipped kitchen whilst some simply see comfortable bedrooms and tranquil bathrooms. Everyone is, however, looking at the same thing but from a different perspective.

By shifting perspective we can bring order to chaos, but is this what we need (or want). I shall examine this further in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!


Do you have a social space at your place of work?

social space creative space

How many people have a ‘real’ social space at their place of work? By this I mean a space where people can gather, chat, sleep, chill, etc not a space like a canteen (where people can socialise) which has its function dictated to it.

You might ask why a company needs a space like this. Well, let me tell you a short story instead.

At a small company I worked at, we moved into some temporary offices where we had very little extra space. There was one reasonably sized room spare. We had a heated debate over what we should do with it.

There were suggestions like coffee room etc. However, I managed to persuade the boss to let us have a creative space.

We bought a couple of brightly coloured sofas, a bubble tube, a large jenga set, some 3D puzzles, a whole load of posters and some other small items.

The only rule regarding the use of this space was that no phones were allowed. That was it.

So what happened? Well if you wandered along during the day you might find someone asleep, reading a technical paper, eating a sandwich or having an impromptu meeting.

Our newly created space was also where visitors entered the building. It quickly became known as the coolest reception area around.

So was this a good idea? Yes, it was. We had a space which was multifunctional, enhanced the creativity of employees and which contributed greatly to the (organic) organisational culture of our company. It was also very cheap (around £1200 if I remember rightly).

Your space need not be like ours, or indeed like the one shown in the photo. It can, however, at very little cost, contribute greatly to the culture of your organisation.

Why not create a garden, scatter cushions near the watercooler or even create a reconfigurable space that can change with the day of the week or even the seasons. The choice is yours.

Creativity On A Shoestring – Get Yourself A Cheap Whiteboard!

Creativit on a shoestringThis article came about as part of a project to create some ideas around ‘Creativity On A Shoestring’. I thought about a) keeping things simple (one of the major requisites for both Creative Thinking and Innovation) and b) keeping things relatively low cost.

Top of my list was a whiteboard. These can be useful for a number of things including capturing ideas when they leap into your head, logging issues and problems and for people to contribute to solving such issues. In fact, you can use a whiteboard for just about anything. The main thing that guarantees effectiveness is its location.

First of all, let’s talk about cost. You can buy a cheap one but it is likely to be small. But what is a whiteboard? It is just a shiny white non-porous white surface so you could use any white gloss painted surface. So you could make your own from a large offcut of wood or (as I did) use one side of a white door. You can even paint part of a wall if you feel so inclined. If you have a home office you might find your spouse or partner complaining about this. Please use the right side of the door.

So where should your whiteboard be located? I am assuming that you have the luxury of choosing a location where everybody in your business, office or team has access. No one person should be seen to be the guardian of this precious resource.

You might be suspicious of staff or colleagues but they have to be trusted at some point. Locate the whiteboard where it can be accessed by the maximum number of people. This could be near the watercooler or coffee machine in a small office e.g. a solicitor or financial adviser. For larger offices, use your common sense (or imagination).

The only major things that you must do are to give people an idea of why this whiteboard has appeared and what it might be used for. It is also important to acknowledge all contributions and suggestions.

Happy whiteboarding!



Innovation – Do You Have Your Head In The Sand?

Innovation head in the sandDo you have your head in the sand regarding your Innovation efforts? Could you be caught in the dreaded cycle of ‘Non-Innovation’?

Let me explain. Over a number of years, I have observed that many businesses enter what I call the ‘Cycle of Non-Innovation’. Businesses for whatever reason, decide that they must innovate. They also decide that the initial spend is an investment and so should produce an appropriate return. So far so good.

The initial state is what I call ‘Market Directed Innovation’. It is a state in which a business feels it must respond to something in the marketplace. Not wishing to spend too much money, a business will decide, we can do this, it’s not difficult. For many, this becomes a state of ‘False Confidence’. You think you know what to do and how to do it but don’t.

As time progresses a business will realise that there is more to this Innovation lark than meets the eye. maybe you realise that there is a lack of planning, finance or even management. You are now in a state I call ‘Scramble’.

You now carry on, perhaps spending even more. By now you have not made an investment, but have a significant cost instead. Your spend has gone up but there is no return on your investment. Enter the ‘Panic’ state.

At this point, your competitors, who were behind you, are now overtaking. You must do something. And the next state? Next, you progress to ‘Market Directed Innovation’. You are in a cycle which will become ever more costly and ever more dangerous. On the way around, you do have a couple of opportunities to break out but the more you go on, the more costly and more brutal the interventions become.

So please don’t get caught with your head in the sand, help is available. Please get in touch via my contact page to find out how to break the cycle of Non-Innovation. If you simply would like to get some useful hints and tips on a monthly basis then please subscribe to my newsletter.

What do Creative Thinking and Moccassins have in common?

Training in NepalI recently spent ten days in Nepal taking two Negotiation Skills workshops. As you would expect, I managed to weave in quite a bit of creative thinking!

The participants were high-level officials from various Nepalese Government Departments and Ministries. In advance, I learned that they did not care for each other that much and did not get on.

Each workshop was 3 days long. After a day I saw that these people were getting on like a house on fire. So what was the problem? They just simply did not know each other and did not understand the other group’s point of view.

Many of the negotiations taking place in Nepal concern the building of dams and Hydropower generation capacity. The process involves the government, along with foreign developers, transmission line owners, international banks and displaced local people. Quite a tangle!

On day 3 we ran a fairly complex simulation and it was at that point the penny dropped. One attendee (a government employee) simply said that they did not realise how difficult it was being the developer.

These people had simply focused on getting the best deal at any cost, and had not considered the point of view of the half a dozen or so other parties. This did not mean they could not do a good deal, but that they might just make things run smoother and take less time.

At this point, I introduced them to ‘Walking With Moccasins’, one of my favourite creative techniques. It is derived from the time when a young Indian brave would follow an elder around for a lunar month and observe not just everything he did, but how he did it. It was an exercise in learning what, how and why.

You can do this in the workplace. Don’t just observe, do things too. I have a much more elaborate version that I use outdoors but it does require safety to be taken into account!

Anyway, the point is that by ‘getting into the shoes’ of your enemies, collaborators, product or service users you can learn a great deal that might be to your advantage. As a result of reading this you may wish to learn more. If so, then please do get in touch. Visit my Contact page to find out how you can do this.

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