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Team Creativity At Work I and II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best
Edward Glassman : Creativity & Innovation Meetings Solve Problems

Creativity & Innovation Meetings

Solve Important Problems of Your Organization

By Edward Glassman, PhD

I have led 'Creativity & Innovation Meetings' to solve diverse company problems, including:

  • raising quality at work;
  • identifying new products;
  • improving chemical yield during a complex manufacturing process;
  • reducing waste at work;
  • applying world class manufacturing principles to a product;
  • lowering costs and increasing effectiveness of environmental cleanup for a chemical company;
  • developing a new technology for manufacturing a specific product;
  • handling manufacturing waste for an automobile parts firm.

Creativity & Innovation Meetings solve important company problems. Advanced creative thinking techniques help you combine more diverse bits from your environment and in your mind into unexpected new and useful ideas.

I also consider Creativity & Innovation Meetings the best way to teach advanced creativity techniques: the participants want to learn the techniques to apply to the problem.

The Sequence

Although each Creativity & Innovation Meeting differs, the same basic sequence appears in all. The following illustrates a typical flow for a four day meeting:

First session: Introductions; review the goals and agenda; initiate team building within each team; use techniques to create a creative atmosphere; learn that trigger-ideas spark creative ideas during linear and nonlinear creative thinking.

Second session: The meeting organizer explains the problem and some participants give short talks in their areas of expertise, when necessary. After that, individuals, and then each team, define the problem using advanced techniques.

Third session: Each team produces ideas using many techniques, after which each individual generates ideas sitting quietly alone. Participants usually produce about eight hundred ideas that we display in the meeting room.

(Fourth session: An afternoon of free incubation time plus some individual fun work to enhance creative thinking.)

Fifth session: Each person combines ideas displayed in the room into an innovative one-page proposal for a fresh approach to solve the problem. The teams then identify the criteria for an effective, high quality solution. Each participant shares their one-page proposal with his or her team and receives feedback for improvement based on the criteria the team identified. Each person then revises the one-page proposal and gives it to management.

(Sixth session: An afternoon of free incubation time to enhance creative thinking.)

Seventh session: Each team combines the proposals of its members and develops a blockbuster solution to solve the problem.

Last session: Each team presents its blockbuster solution to the other participants and receives ideas for improvement from everyone, an exciting, constructive time. Then the participants commit to action plans that implement the best solutions.

Participants

Whom you include depends on the problem and other goals. For example:

  • Forty-two people attended a meeting arranged by a vice-president of marketing to develop new products, including the CEO, its president, the vice-presidents and managers of sales, marketing, manufacturing, engineering, and finance, and the directors of personnel and quality. The other people included key professionals in sales, marketing, customer relations, industrial design, manufacturing, engineering, and finance.
  • In a meeting designed to attack environmental-cleanup problems, the organization included managers and key professionals from R&D and maintenance, as well as outside consultants, university professors, people from government, and experts from other companies. Very diverse.
  • A consulting engineering firm and its client, a chemical company, worked together in a meeting that contained vice-presidents, managers, supervisors, and key professionals from engineering, R&D, marketing, manufacturing, and finance.
  • One organization included customers to solve mutual problems in a meeting that comprised managers, supervisors, department heads, and key professionals from marketing, R&D, and manufacturing.

In short, Creativity & Innovation Meetings may include executives, managers, supervisors, department heads, key professionals, and other people from manufacturing, R&D, human resources, finance, maintenance, and marketing. The mix and number of each level and function of the participants depends on what the organization wants to accomplish.

Outcomes

The outcomes fascinate and gratify. Management receives hundreds of ideas to solve the problem, including some high-quality gems. In addition, each participant hands in a one-page proposal, many containing fresh and unexpected approaches. And each team produces a unique, high-quality solution. Sometimes participants combine solutions from different teams and develop them further. After one spectacular meeting, the senior R&D person in charge told me that fifteen to twenty patentable ideas emerged.

Participants say they enjoy the time well spent. They write positive evaluations ("I wish I had learned this stuff 15 years ago"). They learn techniques to achieve quality solutions and most people say that they will use them on the job. (Sometimes people make action plans to spread the creative thinking techniques throughout the organization.)

A SUCCESS STORY: People in a Fortune-500 company asked me to lead a four-day meeting to solve their "world class manufacturing" problems. Managers, supervisors, and key professionals in R&D and manufacturing from five plants attended. They wanted to shift paradigms, gain new perspectives, produce new ideas to improve manufacturing practices, and capture long range, world wide competitive leadership.

They sought to accomplish their goals using modern creative thinking techniques. They also wanted to attain synergy among the participants, share what's happening at different locations, and promote networking and teamwork between each plant site. And they wanted specific action plans and commitments from the participants at the end of the meeting, a tall order.

We met in Washington, DC for four days and applied advanced techniques to problems they unearthed early in the meeting. The participants spent two free afternoons in the NASA Space Museum and parts of the Smithsonian Institution. By the end of the four days, they shifted many paradigms and produced an incredible number of outstanding ideas and quality solutions that exceeded the most optimistic predictions. They easily made committed action plans. •

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