Cyriel Kortleven was the presenter for the 25 May ODA session. Cyriel shares his passion for creative thinking across the globe from Denmark to New Zealand. For this session ODA joined with the Knowledge Management Leadership Forum.
Using the metaphor of a ladder (rules and policies) placed over a banana to protect us from falling over (a risk); Cyriel demonstrated how our brains can lock us into ways of thinking that are no longer relevant. We need creativity to challenge the ‘dictates of the anti-banana task force,’ and the like who write the handbook, the policy and the practice direction that require us to use a ladder to go over the banana. Complex solutions to simple problems are woven into the cultures of organisations and accepted until someone new and very brave comes along with a more effective option. We create more and bigger ladders and bottlenecks, rules, assumptions and paradigms that get in the way. To see the ladders we have created we need to suspend our judgement and challenge traditional thinking patterns.
In one activity, Cyriel asked for the wrong answer to 3 questions. Question 1: what is the capital of Belgium? Most people answered with another capitol city or a country. The second question asked how many people were in the room. Most people responded with either a much larger or much smaller number. The final question was more challenging this asked what was Cyriel’s favourite colour, given we did not know what this might be most of the group selected a colour based on assumptions. The more creative thinkers in the group answered the question not with a colour but with a word like fridge. With this activity he demonstrated how we are focused on logical thinking patterns. We are really good at judgment and idea killers, we need logical thinking for 95% of situations and so shoot down ideas.
We have all experienced workplaces where we have suggested something only to be told, yes, but… Cyriel proposed the 3 minute rule where for 3 minutes ideas are explored with no judgement, and anyone who kills an idea needs to come up with 2 new ideas. After 3 minutes look for the gems.
Other strategies Cyriel proposed included “dreaming big” which enables us to think into new space. He believes thinking big encourages different perspectives and options where there is an unlimited budget, lots of time and maximum support. He used his own example of wanting to become an international speaker and rather than focusing on courtiers close to his native Belgium he decided to focus on New Zealand, the furthest point from Belgium he could think of. However, to determine the first step in achieving that dream he actually identified the easiest and most cost-effective action he could, he used LinkedIn to connect with like professionals in NZ. He has now been working in NZ for the past five years.
Cyriel introduced another ‘creativity’ strategy called the Darth Vader activity that uses reverse problem solving to develop ideas. In this case you develop bad ideas for 3 minutes and then reverse these. Another strategy asked what would another industry do? If we work in hospitals what can we learn from Ikea? Cyriel concluded by suggesting we consider our ‘nearlings’ (something that nearly works). We need to learn from our ‘nearlings’, many ‘nearlings’ make a few successes. We need to start our creative journey today not tomorrow; tomorrow is the land of lost opportunities.