Seat-giving: TfL gets another good idea

December 29, 2016

Nudge

A good idea often benefits from positive add-on suggestions which nudge it further. Take London for Transport’s seat-giving idea, for example

London for Transport has tested an idea for a Please offer me a seat card. It received a substantial level of support. The idea is yet another example of creative thinking. It builds on a previous idea, Baby on Board for pregnant mothers,

This kind of YES AND thinking, is encouraged in courses on creative problem-solving which also support idea-building through other trigger phrases  such as ‘what’s good about it?‘ (WGAI )

In that spirit, I found myself asking another trigger-phrase ‘In What Ways Might We . . .?‘ (IWWMW )

What if the Offer a Seat card idea was combined with:

A little thank you for seat donators?

Selfies?

Nomination for seat-giver of the week (SGOTW)?

A positive take

In times of general gloom, a new idea faces more negative reactions, and faster. I have shared some such reactions to recent political events. So, as National Independence Day, and Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches on January 20th , we all have time to practice some of these life-enhancing exercises.


Rainbow leadership. Let’s not do a black or white on Green

June 15, 2016

Retail billionaire Philip Green appears before a parliamentary committee over his governance of British Home Stores.  He is already cast in the role of villain by some, and a heroic defender of entrepreneurial success for others. There is need for more rainbow leadership, as I will explain

The specific news story in this post deals with Sir Philip’s appearance before the Work and Pensions Committee. I also introduce a new approach to leadership, which I have labelled rainbow leadership.

What is rainbow leadership?

Rainbow leadership attempts to relocate leadership understanding through the ‘whole spectrum’ metaphor of a rainbow.

It stands alongside earlier attempts to present alternative images of reality, such as are found in the classic text Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan. The existing and familiar metaphors include the machine metaphor, the network or brain metaphor, the culture metaphor, the organic metaphor, and so on.

The rainbow metaphor connects particularly easily with interpretational approaches to exploring the real and the imagined.  In my own writings it is implied in my various treatments of creative thinking, and most recently in Dilemmas of Leadership, earlier this year. Specifically, there is emphasis on ‘Yes and’ thinking, and its comparison with Either Or thinking, for which the metaphor is often black and white or binary thinking.

What’s black and white and red all over?

What’s black and white and red all over? The Christmas Cracker teaser only works if it is spoken not written. Rainbow thinking is, according to its metaphor red, green, blue and other colours which together may recombine into white.  Rainbow leadership recognizes this part-whole issue and deals with it rather than trying to over-analyse (splitting it down to its parts).

Black and white and Green

Leaders we deserve has followed the turbulent career of Philip Green since our blog started ten years ago. His titanic battles for ownership of M&S revealed Green’s pugnacious (sometimes literally) leadership style in the heavyweight category against Stuart Rose.

His appearance today [15 June 2016] focuses on his sale of his vast retail interests in British Home Stores for a peppercorn £1 with a modest sweetener towards its huge pension liabilities. The new owners were either a brilliantly visionary group of entrepreneurs, or a bunch of body snatchers.

Its new leader, Dominic Chappell, was described earlier by The Mirror as

an ex-racing car driver and former bankrupt. In a last desperate effort to rescue the company, Mr Chappell was reported to have moved £1.5 million from the company in an imaginative but ill-fated manoeuvre more suited to the racing track. He has since paid most of it back.

The Chairman of the select committee, Frank Field, spiced up today’s contest in advance. His remarks were followed by Sir Philip’s calling for his resignation, and threatening to pull out of the ‘invitation’.

This risks further censure. Calls have been made for his Knighthood to be withdrawn.

Back to rainbow leadership

The select committee has been accused of lacking the Rottweiler style of its former Chair, Margaret Hodge. My viewing last week suggested that their conversations  with Mike Ashley showed more than a hint of rainbow leadership.

Ashley, famed for his impulsive and confrontational style, was himself more conciliatory, accepting his corporate deficiencies. He even accepted that his company had broken the minimum wage employment legislation.

It will be interesting to see whether Sir Philip also enters into this spirit of rainbow leadership today.

To be continued


Creative Leadership and Creative Problem-Solving

September 28, 2008

Research into creative leadership and creative problem-solving seem to be converging. Gerard Puccio outlines work coming out of Buffalo’s International Center for Studies in Creativity

Two research groups which can claim to be among the longest-established internationally are those at The Manchester Business School England, and at the State University New York, (SUNY) Buffalo.

The groups have collaborated on the nature of creativity since the 1970s exchanging ideas and scholars. Buffalo has appointed two Alex Osborn visiting Professors from Manchester, and Manchester has been where members of the Buffalo group (including its current Director) have completed their doctorates in creativity. Further collaboration between the groups is planned after exchange of visits this year.

In his visit to Manchester, Professor Gerard Puccio, Director of Buffalo’s International Center for Studies in Creativity traced the origins of the Buffalo creative problem-solving model from the pioneering work of Parnes and Osborn (inventor of brainstorming) to its current form.

For many years the Parnes Osborn model of creative problem-solving was taught as a sequence of steps which were sometimes modified, but retaining the appearance of a mechanically-applied process.

The Manchester and Buffalo work arrived at similar conclusions through countless practical applications of the basic model. At Manchester, cohorts of MBA students tackling business projects with the MPIA model (Mapping, Perspectives, Ideas and Actions).

Its similarity to the Parnes Osborn classical model of Objectives, Facts, Problems, Ideas, Solutions, and Action steps (OFPISA) is clear.

Both groups have moved towards a process-oriented approach to creative leadership and creative problem-solving.

The approaches also subscribe to the importance of a team facilitator or leader whose job is primarily to encourage the other team members to be open in the generation of ideas.

The view from Harvard

The principles are accepted by other researchers into creativity. At the time of writing of this post, [September 2008] an article in Harvard Business Review by Professor Teresa Amabile and Mukti Khaire of Harvard Business School offer similar guidance for stimulating creativity. They advise leaders to map stages of any project so as to target creative opportunities, create mechanisms for enhancing diversity and its benefits; for better collaboration, and for leaders to achieve ‘an appreciative audience’ .


Bush wages war on financial terrorism but fails to rally the troops

September 26, 2008

President Bush launches one more campaign in the war against terror. But this time it is against the terror that threatens global capitalism

The aging generalissimo is preparing to step down. Perhaps he will hand over to a dynamic young leader. Perhaps to one even older than himself. But step down he will, in a matter of months.

While he might have wished for respite, he has to confront one last crisis in his last days as President. The United States faces the most severe financial crisis since the 1930s.

His plan is to fight the financial war with a $700 billion attack force. But he has to win support of his financial generals who are not convinced.

When he addressed the nation he looked tired and had lost the jaunty air which has been a feature of his press conferences.

Peering at events from the UK, BBC’s celebrity journalist Robert Peston suggests that Bush is trying to bully the troops into line.

Political impact

The political ramifications of this battle are becoming clearer. The presidential aspirants have been dragged into the crisis before they would have chosen. Senator McCain has made the more assertive move, claiming that it calls for a temporary cease-fire in the Presidential campaign. He suggests a face-to-face debate scheduled for Friday [September 26th 2008] should be cancelled. Senator Obama gives a more nuanced response (a ‘yes and’). Sure, the financial crisis is vitally important and urgent. But a wannabe President has to deal with more than one thing at a time.

That exchange struck me as significant. McCain made a plausible move. Obama’s response worked better for me.

So what?

So what? I don’t get to vote in November.

There will be plenty more mud flying around, but more seems likely to stick onto the Republican candidate and his high octane vice-Presidential candidate around their grasp of financial affairs. These hits may be harder to brush off.

It just looks, for the first time in months, that the odds are swinging back to Obama, and that vulnerabilities in the McCain campaign will do his prospects real damage.


Obama: Change comes to Washington

August 29, 2008

Barack Obama adds a creative twist to his message of change. In his acceptance speech for the Presidential nomination he insists that America will change. But change will not come from Washington, he insists, it will come to Washington

It was a speech deliberately echoing the “I have a dream” speech of Martin Luther King. King’s dream was of the community of races within America.

Obama also echoed John F. Kennedy, who insisted that Americans ask not what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country.

But these echoes from the past reinforced Obama’s message for the future. In a creative leap, he turned the more simplistic change message on its head. Yes, America would change. But not because a new leader and administration in Washington would change America, but because America would change Washington. ‘Change comes to Washington’ he insisted.

This was the Obama combining policy with personality. The Obama avoiding what he has demonstrated in the past, avoiding burning bright intensifying the charisma of the leader. If anything, he seemed to be deliberately holding back for much of the speech lest the message was lost in the dazzle of full-wattage Obama.

There was plenty of yes and about the speech. Senator McCain? We are all patriots. That should not be an issue. [I remembered briefly the call by David Cameron, the newly appointed leader of the Conservatives to avoid Punch and Judy politics. Would the fine words last longer on this campaign than they did in the UK?].

But the dream was an old dream fulfilled rather than one freshly imagined

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

The context of change was spelled out

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship our jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.
I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

[On Foreign Policy] As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home. I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons

Did it work?

I don’t know. As an outsider, recently I have struggled to understand the impact of the politics of Scotland’s governing party as it seeks independence from England. What chance do I have of assessing the impact of Obama’s performance on his prospects of election as President?

One thing is clear. Barack Obama is an exceptionally creative leader. He is offering a clear choice for change, by invitation rather than exhortation. His message is that change comes from the people: encouraged but not dictated by its leaders. It is still a message requiring the audacity of hope for its full-hearted acceptance. And it is an invitation that captures the principle that we create the leaders we deserve.

Postscript

This post deliberately avoided replicating views of other observers. As I listened in cosy darkness, I did not pick up the context and visual impact of the speech. As Google listed around 1000 news reports on Obama this morning, there are plenty of reports available to chose from.


Tessa Jowell sends a leadership message for London 2012

August 20, 2008

As the 2008 Olympics reaches a climax, interest turns to the London games of 2012. Tessa Jowell, wearing her hat as Olympics minister, sends an austerity message. We examine the rationale for this leadership action

According to the BBC

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has told [the BBC] that there will be no extra money beyond the £9.325bn already allocated to the 2012 London Games

Now that seems to me rather strange. The message has the merit of being clear and unambiguous. This government is not going to risk overspending the 2012 budget.

However, it also is so direct as to present the primary concern of the government as to confront any doubts about its prudence, and about it being in control of the financial implications of the 2012 Games.

Credit to Tessa Jowell for providing a clear message.

On the other hand …

Perhaps politicians, like Olympic athletes have to raise their game to achieve the highest accolades. The statement, for me, needed a bit more ‘yes and’. A bit more acknowledgment that at present many people are interested in how London 2012 will take British sporting achievements to a level that will continue the upsurge of pride in the sporting achievements in Beijing 2008.

In other words, the leader has to be creative in handing the concerns of an intended audience, as well as getting across a message from the leader’s perspective. A bit of ‘this is what I want you to understand’. And also a bit of ‘I understand what you are really worried about, and this is what I intend to do about it’.

Creativity is often manifest by a process which puts together two sets of ideas. Arthur Koestler called it bisociative thinking. Others have referred to Janusian thinking, implying a capacity for looking in different directions at once. For shorthand, I sometimes refer to it as Yes And thinking.

Perhaps the creativity required of a leader involves communicating in a manner which brings together rational and emotional messages. A lack of empathy is even easier to detect than a lack of a logical strategic case …


Louis Gallois Outlines EADS Position at Farnborough

July 17, 2008

Louis Gallois faces the Farnborough Air show with news of a possible loss of the tanker contract with the US Airforce, and ongoing corruption investigations

Louise Gallois demonstrates desirable leadership quality in a BBC interview in advance of the Farnborough air show.

His performance is as effortlessly skilled as those expected of his company’s products. Smooth, effortless, competent, flexible (he communicates as well in English as (presumably) he does in French.

It is hard to resist lapsing into cliché, and borrowing other bits of franglais. His communiqué showed considerable sang froid.

The substance of his answers

The substance of his answers was that his company had good highly-competitive products. EADS was, and would continue to be successful.

That’s a message most leaders want to convey, most of the time. But while some leaders have to knack of sounding convincing, others do not.

Here’s the BBC video. It is only eight minutes long, and has great potential for showing as part of leadership development programmes.

The questions (by Nigel Cassidy) were hardly posed in an aggressive way. (You’d need a different style for dealing with the in-you-face blustering of a Paxman or a Humphreys). But they covered the current and recurrent issues facing the company.

Listen to the answers

On the possible loss of the lucrative tanker contract for the USAF: Not a problem. ‘we have the best airplane .. we expect to win.. and anyway, we will go to the US .. this is only one deal.’

On on-going negotiations to sell a UK production facility to GKN:

‘…tough ..always tough, especially at the end of negotiations ..I won’t say precisely when, as that restricts my negotiation possibilities’

On oil prices: Difficult, but on the medium term an opportunity for their advanced technology products.

On the rumbling corruption scandal: Not very pleasant, but in the short-term not important. ‘My [current] people are fully committed, working like hell. And there are no guilty people without a judgement, and there is no judgment’.

Try repeating these quotes. Listen to yourself. Did you sound convincing? M. Gallois did. Why? The mystery of leadership as communication remains.