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


Murray v Nishikori: The progress principle

January 25, 2012

Kei Nishikori

Murray has had a good Australian Open. But has he improved his play?

I watched, again, bleary-eyed, as Murray, (seed 4) played and beat the 24th seed Kei Nishikori in the quarter finals [25th Jan 2012]. I wanted to see if there had been signs of significant change in his play.

Three patterns of play were checked.


In the past, Murray’s mental attitude has been predictable. Predictable rather than positive? Under pressure he tends to get hard on himself (and his coaches). That’s changed a bit. Maybe he won’t aim his anger towards his new coach, eight time major winner Ivan Lendl . maybe, he is even managing his anger better.

His serve

Not much change here. Percentage still too low. But hits winners under pressure.

His mid-match slump?

Most disturbing was his continued tendency to drop games having gained a measure of controll over the match. I wondered would it happen after he won the first set. I wondered again after broke in the first game. Then he dropped his serve, admittedly to a ‘dead’ net mishit, but he had already lapsed.

It is too harsh to call this a major slump. But the pattern was too familiar and a bit predictable. A return to ‘normal service’ literally followed plus a break. Murray wins set easily.

And match

Mishikori, more fatigued after a tougher journey, wilted in the third set. Murray wins 6-3, 6-3, 6-1

The progress principle

In an earlier round of the tournament we commented on Murray as illustrating the principle of mommentum. For this match we might shift attention to the progress (or performance) principle.

Today’s Top Business Stories tend to have a High Gloom Factor

November 25, 2011

The twenty top business stories provided by Google today reflect a general mood of pessimism. There are no tales of heroic leaders. Bad news stories dominate over inspirational ones. The stories mostly register high on a simple ‘gloom index’

Some years ago when I started collecting leadership stories, such a sample would have contained quite a few feel-good ones would have described the successes of heroic leaders. The proportion of those stories has since that time dwindled.

Introducing the Gloom Index

This week [Oct 24th 2011] I took a look at the twenty business stories obtained from scanning the pages of Google. My crude [1-5 star] Gloom Index rating is a representation of my judgement of the mood conveyed in the stories. Don’t take too much notice of it as a scientific measure, although it might offer promise if developed into an index of cultural mood of business confidence, a kind of ‘feed bad’ factor.

The stories and their gloom factors:

Bank of England ‘to kick start ailing economy’ Presented as reaction to gloomy outlook. Gloom Index ****

Weir group buys US fracking firm for £430 million (good news unless you disapprove of fracking). Positive innovation story with slight gloom factor. Gloom Index *

JD Sports slowdown. Mildly negative financial story Gloom Index ***

James Murdoch resigns from British Boards (Bad news except for Murdoch haters so modest gloom index Gloom Index ***

Banks have ‘racist’ lending policies. Negative leadership story defended in letter to FT Gloom Index *****

Daily Mail profits fall as newspapers come under pressure . Negative leadership story Gloom Index *****

Gas prices to rise. British gas chief asks for forgiveness. News Night yesterday had CEO of British Gas defending corporate policy against assorted pressure groups,no pun intended]. He mostly apologised for lack or transparency re tariffs and promised self-regulated reforms. Negative story. Gloom Index *****

Manufacturing output falls in EU and China
A real five-star gloom story Gloom Index ****

Wage gap for young men widens (could be positive for young women but presented as a bad news story Gloom Index ***

Compass (catering giant) shows good growth globally. Hooray. A good news story [Gloom Index 0]

Nokia Siemans cuts 17,000 jobs world wide. Negative business story, but could signal attempts to survive. Gloom Index ****

Nestle creates 300 jobs in coffee pod manufacturing in UK . A mild hooray for regional good news but tempered with a slight gloom factor at its scale when opposed to the high-gloom Nokia one. Gloom Index *

Poor results from another Utilities company (United Utilities) Gloom Index *****

Tesco slashes prices in promotional campaign (good news for Consumers but neutral presentation with some negative factors as might be expected from The Independent) Gloom Index *

Qinitec (defense firm) in 45% profit rise Good news, unless you consider rise in profits of defence firms in a negative light. Gloom Index *

Banks accused of dishonest lobbying by Sir Roger Jenkins Letter critical of Sir Roger, but still high gloom factor implied in the letter. Gloom Index *****

Lloyds promises more to SMEs and start ups (good news if you believe this; slight gloom factor for cynics) Gloom Index *

50% tax rate risks talent drain from UK (bad news slant, wouldn’t you say?) Gloom Index ****

Note on the Gloom Index

As I indicated above, The Gloom Index is no more than my personal shorthand assessment of the tone of the business stories of the day. It has some connection (in a negative sense) with current attempts to develop a happiness index and measures of feel-good factors. Feel-good measures and the Gloom Index link with the interests of behavioural psychologists, and particularly those interested in the merits of a positive approach to life.

A properly-researched Gloom Index could have value in studying leadership and change. It would connect with work of Teresa Amabile on the progress principle and Richard Boyatzis and colleagues. These approaches are described in the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership.

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.]


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.