1. How to free up time to innovate using the meeting audit!

    By Russ Schoen

    “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”

    – Dave Barry, “Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn”

    What is one of the most common barriers to innovation?

    During most innovation workshops that I facilitate, at some point I’ll ask the group, what are the barriers to innovating here?

    One of the most common answers given is “we don’t have enough time to innovate.”

    When I follow up with the question, well what is one of most unproductive uses of your time in this organization? The most common answer is – yup, You guessed it. Meetings.

    Think about your own work life for a moment. Think about the last five meetings you attended at work. Would you say they were engaging? productive? A good use of your time and your fellow colleagues’ time?

    Chances are, you answered that at least one in three of those meetings was a complete waste of your time. If so, don’t fret you are not alone.

    Did you know?

    In surveys conducted — in the US alone - where approximately 11,000,000 meetings are held every week as many as 25–50% of those meetings are characterized by those attending them as a waste of time.*

    Not only that. Here’s one more bit of bad meeting news. An MIT Sloan Management study showed that the more time employees spend in unproductive meetings, the more dissatisfied they are with their work and more likely they are to quit their jobs. Ouch.

    (*source: MIT Sloan Management: The Science and Fiction of Meetings: Winter 2007)

    So if you really want to free up some time to innovate, one of the best ways to do so is to clear out some space to innovate. And one of the quickest ways to do that is a meeting audit!

    What is a Meeting Audit and how do I conduct one?

    The purpose of a meeting audit is to identify meetings that you can stop holding (or attending) or that you can shorten which will free up time. A deliberate meeting audit takes about 30 minutes with a team and many teams find that they can cut about 20% of the total meetings they hold or attend on a monthly basis.

    To conduct a meeting audit, gather your team (and you can do this alone if you work independently)

    1. Create a list of all the meetings you and your team hold or attend on a regular basis (we recommend on a flipchart or white board)
    2. Review the list with the whole team and ask, which of these meetings could we stop holding? Which ones really are not that productive? Which ones can be shortened or altered? Which ones do we really need to attend and which ones can we stop attending?
    3. Physically, cross out the meetings that the group would like to stop holding or attending.
    4. Add up the time that will be freed up for your team if you stopped holding those meetings.
    5. Commit to using that time towards innovation efforts.

    Got concerns?

    Now you may be thinking, there is no way that we can stop holding that monthly x meeting! People will flip. It’s too important. Well one suggestion is not to kill the meeting all together – take a break from holding or attending meeting for a month and see if people really miss it. If they do, you can always reinstate it (and hopefully make some changes to make it more productive). If its not missed it, then you can officially kill it!

    Time to Innovate: Next Step

    So if you want to innovate and you think you don’t have enough time, why not conduct a meeting audit? You’ll deliberately clear out some much needed space and time from your schedule and overcome one of the most frequently cited barriers to innovation!

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  2. PPCO: Why it is a great Creative Power Tool to take out for a spin this summer

    …If you want to boost creative output.

    By Russ Schoen

    Imagine you are teaching a child to ride a bicycle. You make sure his helmet, elbow and knee pads are on correctly. You help him onto the bike and give him a gentle push and he peddles away for the first time.

    15 seconds later, the bike starts to wobble and the child falls off the bike. You catch up to him and he is looking up to you, waiting for you to give him some feedback.

    Would you say?

    “I can’t believe you fell off. You’ll never learn to ride a bike!”


    Of course you wouldn’t.

    You’d probably focus on what worked and give a suggestion for improvement. Maybe, you’d say something like, “Way to go. You rode the bike for 15 seconds. Try again and this time focus on holding the handle bars straighter.”

    Now, why is this second approach much more useful to a child? Because is encourages him to do what’s working and to improve what is not.

    And here’s the thing. The same principle holds for yourself and for those you work with. If you want more creative output, give feedback in a way that supports and nurtures what is working and encourages to change what isn’t.

    And one of the best all around tools to do that is PPCO.

    What is PPCO?

    PPCo is a thinking tool that is effective at giving people or yourself feedback in a way that supports creative thinking. It is a simple structure that is easy to use. Each letter in the tool has a meaning:

    The first P stands for Plusses: What is good about the idea?

    The second P stands for Potentials: If the idea succeeds, what other benefits might result?

    The C stands for Concerns: Phrase your concerns as open ended questions that begin with the phrase How to.

    The O stands for Overcoming Concerns: brainstorm ideas for answering your concern.

    When you want to give someone feedback (including yourself) on a new idea or project, use PPCO.

    An example of a PPCO

    Let’s say you run a local sandwich shop and you are looking to grow your business. One of your employees comes up with a detailed recommendation to attract college students to the shop.

    Using a PPCO, you would first share

    Plusses: What is good about the idea?

    So looking at the recommendation, really focus on the positive aspects.

    Plusses: College market is huge, there are multiple colleges within 10 miles of the shop, this is a great way to spread word of mouth marketing.

    Potentials: If the idea succeeds, what other benefits might result?

    Potentials: It might lead to… increased profits, new store locations, more vacation time.

    Concerns: Phrased as open ended questions that starts with how to.

    Concern: How to make a really compelling offer to a college student?

    Overcome your concerns: Brainstorm ideas to answer your concern

    How to make a really compelling offer to a college student?

    Do a buy one, get one offer. Offer free delivery. Offer a mid-semester and final exam special. Offer student groups, big discounts to cater their events.

    Now imagine, the person who came to you with this idea. By giving them feedback in this manner, you have encouraged them and empowered them to continue sharing their ideas. And this is just one benefit of a PPCO

    Why PPCO is so useful to boost creative output?

    PPCO is a tool that when used well creates a safe environment for people to share new ideas and try new things. Instead of projects or ideas that aren’t perfect being “punished”, the emphasis is on learning and focusing on what working and tweaking what doesn’t.

    And it is quick to use. You can use PPCO in 15 minutes or less.

    Now, you may be thinking that something like, this PPCO tool is way too easy, how can it really make a difference.

    Put PPCO to the test in the next 15 minutes

    "Feedback is
    the breakfast
    of champions.”

    -Ken Blanchard

    From having personally used this tool with everyone from teenagers to Fortune 500 executives, to teachers, I can tell you that it creates a lot of value and positive energy. But don’t take my word for it.

    I want you to take it out for a spin and here’s how.

    The next time you have an idea to solve a challenge or someone (your child, spouse, a co-worker) brings a new idea to you or you need to give someone feedback, use PPCO.

      As a reminder,
    • First share the plusses: What is good about the idea/project?
    • Then share the potentials: If this idea or project was successful, what future benefits might result?
    • Think of any concerns: share them as how to questions
    • Overcome concerns: come up with ways to answer the concerns.

    Go ahead and try the tool now!

    Just like a child who falls off a bike needs a little encouragement to get back on and try again, one secret of creative leadership is so do most adults.

    Use the PPCO tool and watch yourself and others peddle their way to success.

    The PPCO was originated in the early 1980’s by Diane Foucar-Szocki, Bill Shephard and Roger Firestein.

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  3. Creativity and Neuroscience - A Three Minute Quiz

    By Russ Schoen

    According to recent research on the topic of creativity and neuroscience, which of the following statements are True and which ones are False?

    1) Idea generation — the ability to generate novel ideas — is associated with a state of lower cognitive control - which in English - is the ability to turn your mental filters off and have fewer restrictions on your thoughts and behavior.This corresponds to less activity in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain (the part of the brain that regulates decisions, thinking and actions).

    True False

    2) Idea evaluation also involves a mental state in which an individual is able to turn the cognitive filter in the prefrontal cortex off.

    True False

    3) The most creative individuals may be those who are the most cognitively flexible – that is - the most creative individuals are those who can deliberately turn their cognitive filters on or off at the appropriate times.

    True False

    Source: Chrysikou, E. (2012) Your Creative Brain at Work, Scientific Mind, (July/August), pages 24-29.

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago