Category: Blog

Boosting Your Creativity

boosting your creativityThere are loads of different ways you can consider boosting your creativity – from small changes you can implement in your daily life to exercises that can help you develop your creative mindset.

Here are 5 very simple things that you can do to start off:

1. Change your workspace. There are many small changes you can implement in your office and daily life, to encourage creativity. Did you know that 60 % of the creative people operate in 2 or 3 different workspaces? Occasionally changing your environment allows your mind to see ideas from a different perspective and even formulate new solutions. Try to change your office workspace, or, if that’s not an option – maybe try working from a local coffee shop, library or even your home office just for a day.

2. Get inspiration from external stimuli. A simple way of encouraging inspiration and creativity is filling your office with various visual stimuli, especially if they aren’t related to your industry – interesting furniture, plants, paintings, photographs, different magazines.

3. Wellbeing and creativity. Our health and wellbeing can significantly influence our creativity. The healthier we feel, the more creative we tend to be. Consider standing desks, sleep-in policies, a corporate gym membership, fruit deliveries, add indoor plants or organise walk-meetings. According to studies, compared to sitting, walking while brainstorming can demonstrate a 60 % increase in the creative output. So, next time you need to come up with new ideas, consider taking a brief walk around the neighbourhood.

4. An office that supports creativity. Many hours are spent in our workplace, so naturally, it has a significant impact on our creative thinking. Even the layout of your office can contribute to everyday creativity. If you can arrange the office in a way that constantly makes people run into each other, it will encourage more interactions and conversations. The more people interact with each other, the bigger the chance for new, creative discoveries. Try and engineer those coffee machine and watercooler moments.

You can also set up different workspaces that support creative thinking: quiet rooms, chill out zones, rooms for large teams, or one on-one-discussions. Of course, not everyone can afford a major revamp of office space – you can start with simply moving the fruit bowl or a coffee maker to a new location or rename the meeting rooms to encourage a different type of thinking.

5. Let ideas brew. Interestingly, researchers discovered that allowing your ideas to “brew” for a while or go through an “incubation period” is important when it comes to our creative success. Even taking a break and stepping away from your project for just 20 minutes can significantly enhance your performance.

No wonder it is said that the best ideas come to us while in a shower. It so happens that the relaxing setting and absolute isolation of a warm shower makes an excellent incubator for new ideas. In fact, any other activities that make us feel good and relaxed, like exercising, taking a walk or cooking,  increase our dopamine flow, and fuel our subconscious “idea generation machine”.

What Comes Next?

What comes next?

We are currently in the throes of what can only be described as a catastrophe, both on a human level and also from a business point of view. It is the latter I am concerned with now, as it seems to be the thing that is most puzzling for us all. What comes next?

First of all, many people seem to think that we are having some sort of blip and then things will go back to being as they were. Well, this is definitely wrong. We have a virus that is killing people and for which there is no known cure.

Whether lockdown continues or social distancing stays with us for another year, things will not go back to being as they were towards the end of 2019.

Then we come to that awful phrase ‘new normal’. What is it exactly? The term implies that the old normal was not quite right and that a newer version will be more useful somehow. It also infers that a new state will be constant as though there has just been a change, a slight shift in our day to day lives.

The reality is that the post COVID-19 era will be characterised by change, constantly shifting environments, and also the need for rapid decision making.

So, you are thinking, how on earth do I create plans for my business? Ditch the plans (well the boring linear sort anyway) and create yourself a storyboard. Your endpoint is probably just past the end of the current wave of coronavirus and the intermediate points are wherever you want them to be (significant milestones).

So, at this endpoint, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions about how things will work because we will not know what things look like. Forget the products and services that you currently sell and think about your customers.

Will customers still want the things that you have traditionally provided, will they want something else, will they want more (or less), will they prefer it if you bundle more things together to save them going to many suppliers (a bit like going to local shops or getting supermarket deliveries during lockdown)?

Next, take a look to see if the competitive landscape is changing. Will any of your competitors be weakened or perhaps not be there at all? Will this leave gaps in the marketplace for you to fill?

And finally, you are always going to be able to make money is you have a solution to someone’s problem(s). So, try to think about potential customers who are just popping out of the other side of the pandemic. What extra things might they need, what things might they not be able to do, or what might they be afraid of?

At this point you might be thinking that there are a lot of questions to answer. Things do get harder though. Remember I suggested that our new world will be characterised by change and the need to make decisions quickly. Imagine that your business has to adapt in the same way a chameleon adapts to its surroundings.

You cannot wait to be told what to do, your business must be constantly scanning the environment around it and make decisions accordingly.

In the future, you will need to be nimble. Where you work will be immaterial, especially as technological advances will make remote working seem like we are all together. Factories will still exist but may be staffed by relatively few people.

Organisational structures will change and become flatter and more fluid with greater value placed on knowledge than job title.

For more ideas on structure and infrastructure please also read Soft Infrastructure Post Coronavirus to get a better idea of what comes next.

How Will Coronavirus Change The World?

how will coronavirus change the world
The events which are unfolding across the world mean that post coronavirus, the world will never be the same again. Is this a good or a bad thing?

At a superficial level we have shown that if we stop driving, taking planes and in some cases manufacturing, we can actually reduce the number of toxic emissions in the air. It still leaves us with a whole load of problems to solve but it demonstrates that it CAN be done.

The coronavirus is affecting just about everyone on the planet, it is a major disruption. So will things return to normal after this?

The answer is most definitely not, but why? Well a number of things have been observed such as:

  • People being more caring towards those around them (mostly)
  • The mood of the people is playing a big part – do they want more restrictions or are they happy with what governments are doing
  • Some companies have shown that it is possible to be incredibly flexible
  • There are vast untapped resources of knowledge and expertise in our communities
  • Forced remote working can have huge benefits
  • The media can have a huge effect on the people

By and large, there have been plentiful supplies of food despite panic buying and some holdups in the supply chain. When it became obvious that there WAS enough to go round, we (in the UK at least) became British once more and queued peacefully.

Some questioned what the government and the police were doing but by and large, the people gave them a smack over the head!

So collectively we entered survival mode, realising that we had to get on in order to survive. Ignoring neighbours and panic buying food was not going to work long term.

So many of us would like to be able to work from home more (if not permanently). Just think if online shopping was cheaper and easier, we could create more leisure time for ourselves. What our UK government described as non-essential shopping would probably form the bulk of our shopping in the future.

Well, that is people taken care of but what about businesses? All businesses are in trouble right now but it should be survival of the fittest. Let us not subsidise poor businesses. For instance, airlines that treat customers badly and have poor service offerings might find themselves at the mercy of those who treat people better.

In the case of our own domestic supermarkets, those that took action early to adapt and look after vulnerable people will have a much-enhanced reputation when all this is over.

I have heard it said that the coronavirus spells the end of globalisation. I do not believe that this is so. The current globalisation is ‘globalisation of greed’, making profits anywhere and exploiting countries and their populations.

It is impossible for any country to be self-sufficient in everything so we will all have to ‘play nicely’ and there will be ‘globalisation of cooperation’ with know-how (rather than toilet rolls) being valued as a commodity.

Many businesses will be able to carry on, maybe with changes to their products and services. After all, we still require food and clothing. But the major shock to our world will also present opportunities for those that are ready and looking for them.

Nobody knows for sure where these sectors are but think of the following:

  • If people were happier to be at home, what sort of leisure activities would they favour?
  • Social distancing might mean that we don’t want to get too close but it might also force a drastic change in public transport systems
  • Companies would mainly be identified by groups of people and their values, not by buildings and equipment
  • There could be a huge demand upon the internet
  • If knowledge is a global currency will be tempted to travel more for work? If so, how can we reduce this?

Try asking yourself what has changed in your life and also look at the world from the point of view of a consumer. What would you like to see or not like to see?

Soft Infrastructure Post Coronavirus

post coronavirus soft infrastructure
What is soft infrastructure? We all understand the term ‘infrastructure’. It is a collective term for roads, railways, airports, ports, telecommunications networks, supply pipelines, etc. It is all to do with movement and these networks are all ‘hard’ i.e. they are made out of steel, concrete, and copper and they can all be touched.

Infrastructure is not quite the same as structure in an organisational context. Structure implies rigidity, a silo mentality and in many cases adherence to the past (especially in terms of behaviour). The new Organisational structures of the future will be more like infrastructures, offering support and guidance rather than controlling. Unlike the past, future (infra) structures will be wildly different, varying according to culture, market niche, company size, etc. They will, of course, all have one common theme – people.

Let us just take a break there. We could wander off into the future with some great ideas about what organisational structures could look like based on the opinions of experts and our own experiences.

There is just one tiny problem, something that is happening right now. We have a global pandemic and the measures that we are all taking are forcing us to work in very different ways compared to just a few weeks ago.

As a result, organisations might prefer to adopt some of these ways of working and as employees, we might prefer some of them too!

People need to be connected together in all sorts of ways. They are the valuable assets of the organisation and must be looked after by Human Resources, connected by IT and rewarded by the boss. But there is more, due to our dependence on intangible assets such as creativity, know-how, and culture as well as social interaction to create and exploit ideas.

For our businesses to function successfully, these things too must move around. Attempts have often been made in the past to codify these ideas, transmit them to another place and then try and extract both the message and the meaning of what has been received. Try having an email exchange with an angry colleague and you will understand the problems.

In order to have some sort of remote working, hierarchies will need to be flattened. Human nature means that those who imagine themselves with power like to be able to survey their empire and are not always comfortable viewing it remotely.

With many people away from work ill it will become apparent that a lack of employees at the coalface might reduce the capacity of an organisation to deliver a service of produce widgets. Capacity will not be reduced quite so much when those calling themselves ‘managers’ are taken out of the workforce or reallocated to other duties.

We need things to travel in ways that are not constrained by boundaries and which certainly do not travel in straight lines. Just like the ripples on a pond we might wish some things to be broadcast, such as company culture. And like a networked computer system we will need some sort of storage and perhaps some form of maintenance function to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

When thinking of communicating within a corporate environment we often think of sending things out (pushing) or receiving from others (pulling). What about when things just sort of slosh about, and proceed at their own pace or when disruptive events occur and we need a system that repairs or heals itself? We need a new type of infrastructure, one that is invisible and which connects everybody to everyone else. It must allow meaning, intuition, creativity and emotion to flow with no bottlenecks and no burst pipes. What we need therefore is the right sort of ‘network’ – a soft infrastructure rather than a hard structure .

So what does this soft infrastructure actually look like? The best metaphor I have come up with is a bowl of soup with croutons!

The soup represents the entire organisation and its culture. It is organic and simply ‘exists’. The soup contains other ingredients and most importantly – croutons. The croutons are important but are not on a higher level, they are the leaders and managers of tomorrow.

Within this organisation, pay and rewards will depend more on what you know and who you connect with rather than your job title and position in the hierarchy.

So managers and leaders will be ‘expert’ i.e. good at their job, not just promoted for long service. Other employees will also be experts in manufacturing, finance and logistics. Yes employees can move around and change functional areas but only if they are good. No more ‘Peter Principle’.

If you are thinking about change right now you might like to read When The Threat Is Here, It Is Too Late To Change! For other recent articles visit Latest Blog Posts.

When The Threat Is Here, It Is Too Late To Change!

When is it too late to change

Here I shall use the spreading of deadly bacteria as a metaphor for change.

Consider a body of water that we all know well, the Mediterranean Sea. It has a volume (give or take a cupful) of 439 trillion litres.

Now imagine 1 litre of seawater with some of the deadliest bacteria known to man. This will contain around 1 trillion bacteria.

Imagine that these bacteria divide every minute so after 1 minute there are twice as many, after 2 minutes there are four times as many.

You like swimming in the ‘Med’ whilst on your summer holidays and have heard about these bacteria. How long do you think it will take before the whole body of water is filled with these deadly bacteria and we have another dead sea on our hands?

Is it weeks, months or perhaps years?

The alarming answer is a little over 68 minutes. I’m sure that we would have longer to get out and dry off before succumbing but this is alarming.

1 minute before ‘the end’ only 50% of the water is contaminated but this is still too late. 3 minutes before the end only 12.5% is contaminated but we have still left it too late. After a certain point, it is simply too late to change.

To save our beloved swimming destination we should really stop the deadly bacteria being put there in the first place or have developed some way of killing them.

My message here is all about taking action. When is it too late to change, when no amount of action will save our business? With rapid communications and lightning-fast technology, threats to our businesses are spreading ever more quickly. When we have spotted the threat and reacted it may actually be too late to change.

In the current climate, we need to be looking at what comes next. The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ does not apply, we need new products and services before our current ones become outdated.

Scientists amongst you will recognise this as a classic exponential curve. For some industries and countries, the steepness of the curve may vary but change in this day and age is much more rapid than in the industrial revolution.

Consider the current coronavirus as an interesting example. There are two aspects that we should be concerned with. The first is how contagious it is (change spreading at a local level) and how quickly it multiples and spreads on a global level. Let us apply this to the business world.

In business, changes made by our competitors will have varying effects on the marketplace and may be difficult (or easy to copy). Should we copy technology or develop our own to achieve the same ends (or perhaps add more value)?

How will change affect us and how quickly do we need to react?

Unlike my fictitious example of bacteria in the sea, we will have more than 68 minutes to react to serious business competition. But once a competitor produces something that threatens our products or services, how long have we got to live?

So what can we do? Well, the answer is to react like a chameleon does if that is the strategy that you wish to use. Change must be instant and you will need to be scanning your business environment to see as far ahead as possible.

You will not be able to use cumbersome decision-making processes and your sales, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution will need to change with very little input from senior management.

Another possible way of creating a strategy for the future is to look at the following:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are you selling to them and why (what problem are you solving)?
  • What technology is coming over the horizon?
  • What skills do you possess as a company?
  • Who else is competing for your customers’ money?

Then consider the following just to start off with

  • How could you utilise new technology?
  • Can you make it lighter, heavier, smellier, greener …..?
  • Can you add value or combine products or services?
  • Can you use your skills to branch out into another sector?

Here are two examples.

I once met an author of children’s books who had just written a book about gardening. I introduced him to my list of things to think about and he immediately latched onto ‘add a smell’. The ‘scratch and sniff’ gardening book became a viable idea at that point.

Now consider a manufacturing company that makes a commodity such as mattresses. They have manufacturing expertise and knowledge of the human form but very little design skills. Find a designer and ‘hey presto’ you have the capability to design and manufacture higher value items such as furniture.

In the world of electronics, advances can be even more startling.

Remember, when change hits you it may already be too late to change.