One of the key features of an innovation culture is the nature of the conversations.

People are bubbling with ideas and as importantly other people are receptive to them.

Because it is not just about creating big, new ideas.

If the culture is not open to new ideas then frustration occurs.

To build this exchange leaders in particular have to become better at holding creative conversations.

Remember your best dinner parties and you will capture the feeling of a creative conversation.

Ideas flow, new perspectives are welcome and the conversation seems to have a life of its own as it meanders in all sorts of directions.

At the moment leaders and managers are proficient at conducting critical conversations e.g. this is what is wrong with your idea or I like your idea but….

The problem with hearing ‘but’ all the time is that after a while people stop generating ideas or they only offer the small, safe ones.

There is a better way.

The good news is that learning to hold creative conversations is a skill that can be learned and there are a few tools that can help you along the way.

Here are some of my favourites ways as an consultant to build a more innovation culture:

1. Yes ‘And’

This is an oldie but a goody!

When you receive an idea you simply try and add something to it.

You cannot judge the idea — your aim is to try to make it better, bigger and more complete.

You are adding water and sunlight to a seed in the hope that it might flourish.

2. What I find interesting……

We are taught to think in a binary way — god/bad, yes/no or right/wrong etc.

With this in mind rather than automatically reaching for the accept/reject button a good practice is to think in another dimension.

Ask yourself:

– What I find interesting about your idea is ……….

– What I find original about your idea is ………

– What I find surprising about your idea is……….

In this way you force yourself to suspend your judgement and meaningfully look for other aspects of the idea that were not initially present.

3. The essence of your idea is…..

A habit that I have taught myself is to always think about any idea or concept on 2 levels. The core or essence of the idea and the expression of the idea.

Sometime when we reject an idea we do so because of the way an idea is expressed but the core idea may be a very good one e.g. offering a reward to your best customers for 10 years loyalty is a great core idea but sending them around the world is probably not an affordable one (the expression of the idea).

In this case a wonderful core idea (e.g. recognising loyalty) might be rejected due to its cost (the expression).

Clarifying the essence of an idea is an effective tool to firstly ensure that you have heard and understood the idea in the first place and to separate the different elements.

In summary:

Conducting creative conversations between idea generators and idea receivers is a fundamental building block of a more creative and innovative culture.

But remember, these are roles not people.

One day you can create an idea, the next you might be the enhancer.

The important point is that it is not enough to generate big, new ideas and hope that people will be receptive to them.

Together you can build a better idea that everyone can own.

What’s more if I know that you are going to be initially receptive to my idea than I am more likely to take a risk with my ideas.

I would love to show these skills and tools to your leaders and managers via a creative conversation workshop.

If this interests you then please contact me.



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