Institute of Water Spitfire 1Institute of Water Spitfire 2

DevelopChange were asked to deliver two sessions to The Institute of Water (Northern Area) Conference, April 2011, Burn Hall Huby, Yorkshire.

The theme of the whole Conference was Innovation and Collaboration.

In the first 2 hour session, Dave Scott and Bob Keegan looked at reasons why it is often problematic to drive creativity, namely 'creative types' can often be difficult to manage within the workplace.

Research by Professor Adrian Furnham, of UCL has shown that there are some distinct attributes of really creative people. Namely:

Clear and consistent attributes of the highly creative person are tough mindedness and unreliability. They score low on agreeableness and conscientiousness. "Creatives" can be selfish, tough-minded, egocentric and rude.

There is also never a shortage of people willing to tell you why something won't work - people who strangle every good idea at birth with a frown, sarcasm or negativity.

However, as Professor Furnham states, "Is creativity not essential to business survival? Creatives lead, others follow. Creatives find the breakthrough, spot gaps, but most of all, come up with inventions."

His assertion, therefore, is that there is a big difference between those who can be creative and those who can take these ideas and put them into practice, ie Innovators. His recommendation would be to Hire Creative people and to Employ Innovators.

"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things."
Theodore Levitt

However, in the workplace, there exists a need to be creative on demand. Not always, not every minute within every meeting, but sometimes, given the right mindset, climate and time, anyone is capable of being creative.

After running some activities to highlight this exact fact, Dave and Bob turned their attention to using creativity as a way of not only predicting some possible future scenarios that an organisation might face, but also as a way of generating possible future solutions to such scenarios.

During this part of the session, delegates were asked to consider this quote:

"What has worked in the past has created a deep well of experience and expertise. We'd be mad not to draw on it now. But, to put it bluntly, it still won't be enough." Water UK Chief Executive. Innovation Hub Speech.

With issues such as wastage, leakage, a 70 million UK population prediction, pollution, extremes of weather, regulation and many others, how could it be possible to use creativity and creativity techniques to help prepare in advance, for such incidents possibly happening?

Dave and Bob asked delegates to:

"Broaden your mindset - Look beyond the obvious - Get out of your default setting"... identify triggers and create future possible scenarios for Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Northumbria Water.

Within their Groups, they were asked to come up with such possible future scenarios and then select one to work on further. Then, to consider, for the next three years"What will it be like living with this?" and "How does your organisation address this?"

By doing this and generating thinking way outside of the here and now of the normal organisation, it is possible to be ahead of the game, ie anticipating future customer needs or requirements, rather than responding to them after they have happened:

By looking at Innovation as a combination of Creativity, Risk Taking and Implementation capabilities, it was possible to help individuals see where their own strengths and preferences may be for each of these three areas.

By working with people with opposite strengths to their own, and across organisational and corporate boundaries, multi functional teams soon emerged who were capable of working collaboratively and effectively together, not only to identify future possible scenarios but also to start thinking about what possible solutions may need to be in place if such scenarios occurred.

To help with the 'solution finding' part of this, Bob and Dave had been asked to use some specific 'Creativity Tools' as a way of demonstrating this and they used the De Bono Six Hats model. It was explained what each colour represented and by following a structured approach to the use of these styles of thinking, each Group started to identify what might need to be in place to be an effective counter measure or solution to the future scenario they had originally thought of.

The possible future solutions were of a far better quality because of working collaboratively, making the most of the group's talents in terms of Creativity, Risk Taking and Implementation, and by using a structured approach that allowed for all aspects of team behaviour to occur, but at pre-ordained times during the process.

During the evening of that Conference, the DevelopChange team provided an activity to reinforce the thinking and behaviours from during the day. In the run up to the Royal Wedding, each of two teams of approximately 23 each, had to create a His and Hers half size model of a Spitfire, as Royal Gifts from the IoW to the Royal couple.

Once the disbelief had died down, the teams were soon at work, with Section Leaders, Team Leaders and specialists, all endeavouring to produce their aircraft on time and to the required specification of the customers in question.

This they did brilliantly as you can see! All of which proves that with the right blend of people, with the time and encouragement to achieve something special collaboratively, the Utilities have more than enough capability and competence to be ready for any possible future scenarios.