Creativity in Health Care: The Fourth Annual Salford Research Day

September 8, 2015

Presentation by Tudor Rickards for The fourth Annual Salford Research Day, September 10th 2015

Creativity pervades the actions of health care workers. While ‘Big C creativity’ attracts the plaudits, there are many opportunities for ‘little C creativity’ in every day interactions.

I will draw on work carried out at Manchester Business School, wherever possible connecting the  concepts to practical illustrations from health care environments. The issues of creative leadership, work environment, motivation and teamwork are particularly important.

Your invitation for me to speak today came with a severe warning that I have 25 minutes to present. After 20 minutes I will receive a visual warning, and after a further five minutes I will be disconnected from the audio-visual system. This manifestation of time management reminded me of the iron laws of quality for all projects in which a balance is required between time, quality and cost.

For obvious reasons today it also reminded me of those pressures placed on GPs in the NHS so that they are able to deal with fifty of sixty people needing their services every day, a process which may be different now but used to involve flashing lights and buzzers. I am sure the illustration could be applied to the work environment of heath care workers generally.

It is worth mentioning that deadlines are as much a valuable necessity for creative action. I had been requested to fit myself into the production and consumption process. In doing so I have accept what I think of as a hard deadline. As did a lot of other contributors. According to the well-established principles of project management, the result is a rationally planned and efficient process which arrives at desired goals. Anyone who tries to design a work system without some sets of rules for negotiating interim checkpoints or hard deadlines quickly realizes the difficulties that presents.

Creativity in the work environment

This is a suitable starting point for considering creativity in the work environment. My Powerpoint for the deadline is shown above. It helps me considerably to deal with the topic I was requested to address.

However, since providing the Powerpoint I thought of two additional points, each of which I believe are worth including in my presentation. The first and more minor point requires a modification to the introductory remarks on work environment and project efficiency.

Motivation and the progress principle

The second is a wonderful summary of the work of Professor Teresa Amabile [The Progress Principle, see below] which I obtained within days of providing my own contribution to this workshop. It is a ten minute video on the fundamental principles of creativity and motivation in the workplace. I recommend you find time to take a look at it and discuss its implications for you and everyone you work with in the future.

My work may boil down to the development of ‘benign structures’ through creative leadership. Teresa shows how such benign structures support creative actions, motivation, and progress towards personal and social goals. I may have time to give some examples which are also to be found in the web-based materials below.

Web based resources

The Progress Principle

The Power of Yes And Thinking

Reflections of a medical pioneer

Creativity in Health Care

Dilemmas of Leadership

The Manchester Method

 


Morale, motivation and momentum: three mysterious concepts

February 13, 2012

Motivation remains a much used term in organizational life. Much the same might be said of morale, a term generally applied in a military context, and momentum, particularly found in sports commentaries

Recent press reports have discussed the old military concept of morale among serving troops. Discussion has focused around whether entertainment can have a positive and relatively long-lasting effect on well-being of the recipients.

Research results

A research report from the department of psychiatry of Kings College London attempts to demystify the phenomenon. The following summarises the college press bulletin of Feb 12th 2012.

The report takes a historical look at the impact of entertainment on troop morale, from World War I to the conflict in Afghanistan today. Its author notes that

‘No single factor can be guaranteed to raise morale, but those that do, will undoubtedly have some effect on mental well-being. Whilst entertainment cannot, and does not, provide absolute protection against the psychological problems associated with war, it does have a role to play in protecting service personnel against mental health problems.’

The report suggests a clear association between falling morale and rising mental health problems. Many factors are indicative of poor morale, such as desertion, absenteeism, disciplinary offences and sickness. Factors that are believed to raise or sustain morale are confidence in commanders, unit cohesion, belief in the task and the fair provision of rest and recreation.

Mark Cann, director of the sponsors of the report concurs:

‘Sending the biggest names in entertainment, free, to the frontline as volunteers with the support of the British public has a proven effect on morale, so long as it is carried out in the right way. We at the British Forces Foundation hope the findings might encourage a review of how military entertainment is conducted in future so that our work may be as effective as possible.’

The BBC added to the story drawing on historical and contemporary examples, and quotes from two military leaders

Despite a lack of research into the value of the entertainment provided to servicemen during WWI, [World War 1] it is hard to imagine it could have been anything other than a major morale-boost during such a terrible conflict.

“Morale is a state of mind. It is that intangible force which will move a whole group of men to give their last ounce to achieve something, without counting the cost to themselves; that makes them feel that they are part of something greater than themselves.” (Field Marshal Slim, 1956)

“Without high morale, no success can be achieved, however good may be the strategic or tactical plan, or anything else.” (Field Marshal Montgomery, 1950)

What the textbooks don’t say

Even the standard textbooks on leadership are quiet on the nature of morale, and those other M-words motivation and momentum, although there are firms offering advice and courses for dealing with the issues. My concern is that the advice I found seems firmly grounded within current Anglo-Saxon interests in feel-good factors and positive psychology and as suggested in the King’s college report, more evidence-based studies may be needed. It would be good to test variations across other cultures.


Teresa Amabile talks on Leadership, Employee engagement and The Performance Principle

October 18, 2011


Professor Teresa Amabile summarises fifteen years of research into creative leadership in terms of her concept of the progress principle

Creativity researchers consider Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School as the most distinguished and influential researcher into creativity of her generation. Her recent book with husband Steve Kramer distils this into The Progress Principle. The TED video captures the evidence reported in the book.

How creative leadership makes a difference

In productive organisations it is the everyday actions of managers and co-workers which made the difference. In unproductive organisations there is a risk-aversion and fear of making mistakes. On the contrary in productive organisations, mistakes are lived with ‘as long as we learned from what we did’.

Inner work life

For long-term development, inner work-life is supported and reinforced by everyday interpersonal exchanges. “Support people and support their processes every day” Amabile argues.

The unobserved progress principle

Most managers do not think consciously of the importance of small wins. [I have a recollection of such a point being made within the new leadership literature, but more typically leaders we more influenced by the virtues of setting ‘great hairy goals’ and inspiring visions.]

Challenges

However, an organisational crisis may release great organisational, team and individual creativity. A crisis and positive leadership support can work but “You can’t just turn this on and off”.

What can you do?

“Think what you can do to help co-workers feel good about what they are doing”. [Catch someone doing something good]. A simple and effective principle we can all apply at work.

We are all creative leaders

When I updated Dilemmas of Leadership earlier this year, I introduced one additional chapter. It examined creative leadership. I selected Teresa’s contributions as a core example of a shared ‘Platform of Understanding’ in the field. The Progress Principle was published just a few months too late for inclusion in the chapter. It is just about the first amendment for a future edition. It implicitly supports writings on distributed leadership, and enriches our maps of creativity and engagement in the workplace.


Schubert on Julia Gillard

April 24, 2011

Jeff Schubert examines the behaviours of Australian Premier Julia Gillard and asks whether she fits the psychological profile of an irrational authoritarian.

In an article on 23 March in “The Australian” newspaper, journalist Paul Kelly commented on the attitudes and values of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard – and on her apparent contradictions and back-flips on policy. Kelly wrote:

“She warned Kevin Rudd (the former prime minister, whom she deposed) against pricing carbon and then seized this policy. She campaigned against a Big Australia (population growth) and then dropped the rhetoric. She partly re-regulated the labor market and then paraded as pro-market reformer … She appears too much as a work in progress. The reason is obvious – Gillard is a Prime Minister under construction. She is engaged in self-discovery, sorting out not just her policy framework but the convictions for which she will live or die. She is not fully formed as a political persona because she got the job too early.”

Yet, there is possible a more basic – and psychological – explanation. On the face of it, Gillard seems to have many of the personal characteristics of someone who has a fear of failure rather than a need to achieve (in comparison, Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, has many of the characteristics of the latter category). The difference was extensively explored by Professor Norman Dixon many years ago in his book, “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence”.

Two forms of motivation

Dixon, stressing that he was concerned with primary motivation, rather than secondary motivation, wrote:

“The crucial difference between the two sorts of achievement – the healthy and the pathological – may be summarized by saying that whereas the first is buoyed by hopes of success, the second is driven by fear of failure. … The former is associated with the possession of a strong ego and independent attitudes of mind, the latter with a weak ego and feelings of dependency. Whereas the former achieves out of a quest for excellence in his job, the latter achieves by any means available, not necessarily because of any devotion to the work, but because of the status, social approval and reduction of doubts about the self that such achievement brings. Although these two sorts of achievement motivation may bring about rapid, even spectacular, promotion, their nature and effects are very different. The first is healthy and mature, and brings to the fore those skills required by the job at hand; the second is pathological, immature, and developing of traits, such as dishonesty and expediency.”

If we go by the terminology used by Dixon in his book, Gillard would be described as an ‘irrational authoritarian’.

To go more deeply

Jeff has studied the motivation of leaders deeply. He writes regularly for Leaders we deserve. You can read more of his work on his blog site.


Nadal v Soderling: Nothing Personal?

June 1, 2009
Nadal reviews defeat

Nadal reviews defeat

Nadal crashed out of the French Open to Robin Soderling. The post-match interviews suggested there was nothing personal between the two. Or was there? And did it contribute to the result?

Nadal’s loss to Soderling in round four of the French Open [May 31st 2009] has been classed as one of the biggest upsets of the year. It has already been written upon at length. I just have one additional thought which may be more suited to back page gossip columns

There may have been something personal between the players. It may have worked to help Soderling’s game.

You have to go back into the history of their games to see what might have happened between these two players. And whatever it was may have been no more than one of the spats that might be expected to be no more or less in frequent in Tennis than in any other sporting area.
The BBC offers some history to the match and its antecedents.

World number one Rafael Nadal suffered his first ever defeat at the French Open in a shock 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 7-6 (7-2) loss to Sweden’s Robin Soderling. Nadal, chasing a fifth straight Roland Garros title, saw his 31-match unbeaten run in Paris come to an end in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history.
Soderling’s win comes a month after he was beaten 6-1 6-0 by Nadal in Rome. [Clue no 1]
“I told myself this is just another match” said the 24-year-old Swede … All the time, I was trying to play as if it was a training session. When I was 4-1 up in the (fourth set) tie-break, I started to believe”

The article goes on to supply other clues to the players’ attitudes to one another:

Soderling had lost his previous three matches against Nadal [Clue no 2 including a recent humiliation in Rome, which Nadal went on to win] but seemed a man transformed on Court Philippe Chatrier ..

The Spaniard struggled from the outset against a player with whom he was involved in an unsavoury spat at Wimbledon two years ago when Soderling mocked his pre-service routine [Clue No 3].

The evidence suggests?

Not a lot really. The story I am putting together may be no more than speculation.

Stay with the speculation, if only because Nadal losing is more than just ‘he had to lose on clay sooner or later’. What if any were the special elements in the loss? Might they the history between the players have worked for once as a spur to Nadal’s opponent rather than a deeply damaging mind-set of anticipated defeat.

Players say they go into every match believing they can win. This tends to get modified to ‘if I play well I have a good chance’ (Murray’s current favorite and cautious pre-match remark).

Soderling may have had visualised avenging his recent humiliating loss in Rome. He may have had two years regretting Nadal’s triumphs after their Wimbledon encounter. Which (we still don’t know how) he was able to turn to his advantage.

It’s nothing personal, as we are taught that the Mafia believed. Except I’m suggesting that revenge is always personal.

I rest my tenuous case.

Postscript

After an injury break, Nadal begins 2010 with a win over Soderling at a mini-tournament in Abu Dahbi. The Swede had advanced into the top ten in the world, Nadal had regained his number two spot, and Soderling had beaten Roger Federer in the previous round.


Losing to Nadal makes for learning and leading

April 20, 2009
Rafa Nadal

Rafa Nadal

World No 1 Raphael Nadal collected his expected victory over Andy Murray in Monte Carlo and went on to win the title. But Murray shows how losing can be a building block to future success

Raphael Nadal has become the outstanding tennis performer on clay surfaces, perhaps of all-time. His record, even as a 22 year old has led him to be hailed not just best in the world, but nearly invincible even against his closest rivals.

So Murray was expected to lose. He went into his semi-final match in the Monte Carlo event [18th April 2009] having lost heavily to Nadal on his own favourite surface, (hard court) few weeks earlier. He commented in a pre-match interview at Monte Carlo, that to win he would have to play at his best, and Nadal maybe would have to under-perform– an unlikely possibility with another title approaching for the Spanish phenomenon.

Murray on clay

Murray is still learning the curious art of playing tennis on clay. For most of the world, clay court tennis is a different game requiring different skills. The surface partly negates the big serve merchants. Points are lengthy and tightly contested. A particular skill is simply keeping correctly balanced, which involves (among other things) sliding into shots. Get it wrong and you look foolish, clumsy, and wrong-footed.

The Americans, no lovers of clay court tennis, had politely opted to pass up this tournament, postponing their first tournament of the year on the surface. Murray had never beaten any tennis player in the top twenty on clay. During the earlier rounds of the tournament he had to call on his general tennis skills to compensate for deficiencies in his clay court game which blunted some of his exceptional mobility.

Nadal performs to order

In the first set of he semi-final against Murray, Nadal performs to order. At times he seemed to toy with Murray with drop shots which made the Scot look leaden-footed. A bedraggled Murray ended the set a poor second.

What happened next

What happened next was partly predictable. Murray lost the second set. What might also have been predicted was that Murray would try to find a way to up his game against Nadal. Easier said than done. What was unpredicted was that Murray would find a way to compete, and even challenge for the set, losing only after a thrilling set which suggests that there will be further and closer encounters over the next few years.

Loser or learner?

For many people, sport is all about winning. That is for me as simplistic as saying that sport is all about competing. At least we might take a more careful look at what winning means.

Frank Dick, no mean motivator of athletes, liked to distinguish between losing an event, and being a loser. It’s a fair point. Each tennis tournament is designed to produce a winner. For many observers that means it produces a whole bunch of losers, including whoever is the last player to lose. More thoughtful commentators line up with Frank Dick’s view of the benefits of learning through losing.

Work with business teams is increasingly showing the importance of two related factors, learning from experience and resilience which help differentiate expected from the extraordinary performance. At the level of the team, these are factors which can be encouraged through good leadership. For top athletes the encouragement requires high individual efforts. The learner as leader of self. But there is also evidence of the role of a more widely distributed leadership process.

Murray even a few years into his professional career took responsibility for selecting a team of coaches whose members share the roles of mentors, technical and medical advisors, and so on. This was after Murray found the one-to-one relationships with coaches unacceptable. This seems to have become the case with as great a coach as Brad Gilbert, a story that has never been made public, and which would perhaps demonstrate that ultimately personal success has to be anchored in an individual taking personal responsibility for that success.

‘Now look what you’ve made me do’ is the cry of the real loser.


Tai Chi, Team Leadership and Contented Cows

April 15, 2008

A Metro News article tells of a new angle on motivational methods.

Rob Taverner performs the ancient martial art in front of his 100 cows every morning to get them in the right moo-d to produce lots of milk.

The 44-year-old organic farmer visits the animals at 9am each day to run through his ten-minute routine of slow movements and breathing techniques – dressed in his distinctive overalls and wellies. He said: ‘Tai chi is all about leaving your problems behind and getting into a better zone and my mood definitely transfers to the cows’.

Crazy or What?

This blog has not been afraid to espouse the unusual. In the past we have looked at Horse Whispering, Mandrill management …

But Tai Chi for improved productivity of a herd of cows? What possible justification can there be for taking this starting point for insights into leadership?

Pause a moment

Many ideas start out as being mocked, and then dismissed as obvious. I assume this is item is likely to fall more in the former than the latter category.

Mr Taverner attracted quite a lot of publicity nationally for his tale of Tai Chi. It had the sort of quirkiness that appeals to Brits. The organic farmer also handled the media rather well. In a radio interview he added a further twist to the tale.

The cows were not just happy but their contentment had been accompanied by a measurable increase in milk production. Did all this leave himself open to ridicule? Well yes, a bit, but not enough to bother a diligent student of Tai Chi. And he had an added twist to the story.

Tai Chi and Team Leadership

He had gone down to his local rugby club over the weekend [April 12-13, 2008]. Seems the under-fourteen squad greeted him with their own humorous (as in Rugby club humourous) version of a Tai Chi warm up.

See? I said there was a connection with team leadership. According to the farmer the team went on to win its competition.

Make your own mind up

A momentary bit of eye candy? Or should we be looking more closely at the rationale for applying Tai Chi as part of a sporting leader’s armoury of techniques which help team members generate fierce resolve?

Acknowledgement

To Jonathan Guiliano for introducing me to Bob Sutton’s entertaining and well-informed blog