Putting on your thinking hats……..

greenhatRecently I was working with a client, running a leadership workshop where we explored different ways of thinking. It really reminded me of what a great tool de Bono’s “6 Thinking Hats” is.


whitehatI used an example of a children’s party to introduce the concepts of different thinking styles to the same situation. Putting on your black hat, might end up with a very boring party and definitely no running around! The green hat would allow you and the child’s imaginations to run riot and have the party of their dreams. The
white hat would be concerned with numbers, names and logistics. redhatRed hat thinking would ensure you considered the emotions and enjoyment of the occasion.

What really worked well in this workshop was then applying the same process to a current project and discussing how the thinking may alter your perspective and/or actions.  Finally we considered if there would be an bluehatyellowhatappropriate order to the thinking hats for their situations. This led to a very interesting discussion with a group of highly technical people, when they realised that they need to use their red hats a lot more, so that they can possible avoid some of the conflicts they are experiencing. This meant that the red hat was dotted at regular intervals in their 6 hats thinking sequence – what a revelation!




Small changes … big difference

Have you ever thought that you were doing a great job and then found some small way to make a big difference to what you do? Here is a story, just like this, of Jennifer Holloway of Spark, a personal branding expert who regularly runs workshops for her clients. This story tells of what happened when she met up and worked with Krystyna Gadd, founder of How To Accelerate Learning.

It’s good…but could it be better? ……… Jennifer’s story

JenniferMany moons ago, when I first set up my business and became my own boss, someone described me as a trainer. I instantly set about putting them straight. Having spent the last 15 years in PR, running press offices, doing media interviews and getting stories on the front page, I wasn’t a trainer. Instead, I saw myself as someone who had learnt a lot of useful stuff in their career and was simply passing this on to others, albeit in the form of workshops and seminars. (Funnily enough, just like trainers do.)

But six years have passed and the amount of time I spend standing up in front of a room of people, sharing my personal brand expertise, has grown enormously. In fact, about 70% of my income is now via workshops, so denying I’m a trainer doesn’t cut the mustard.

With this realisation in mind, I decided to take a long, hard look at what I was delivering. After all, I’d never been formally trained to impart information and although I was getting great feedback for my sessions, I wondered if I was missing a trick. Was there a way to take what I had and make it even better?

A chance encounter with Krystyna Gadd answered my question. As she spoke about accelerated learning and its ability to really embed what you teach into people’s minds so it adds value long after you’d imparted it, I knew I needed help. So I hired her to give me an honest critique of my personal brand workshop, breaking it down into what worked, what could work better with a bit of tweaking, and what wasn’t adding anything to the mix.

Let me tell you…it was some of the best money I ever spent.

As a result of Krystyna’s overarching ideas and practical suggestions, I now engage with my attendees before they’ve even entered the room. I welcome them with posters that fire their brains and set the order of the day. I check where their minds are at before we start so I can set to rest any anxieties. I have a session plan setting out each step of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I hand them a workbook designed to be useful not just in the workshop but after it too. I get them up and out of their seats, working in pairs and groups, to generate a buzz in the room. I spend more time checking where their minds are at. I get feedback in a way that specifically relates to their personal objectives. And I carry on engaging with my attendees for three or four weeks after they’ve left the room.

It’s all obvious stuff to someone who’s a trained trainer. But to the many consultants out there who, like me, came to training via a specific business route, it’s easily overlooked.

So what’s the result of all this frenetic activity? Let’s just say that if someone were to describe me as a trainer today, I’d feel entirely entitled to agree.

When I had coffee with Jennifer ….. Krys’s story

IMG_2175I sometimes get invited to coffee and having grown a little cynical (just a tad) I sometimes accept and other times might not. Jennifer Holloway sparked off my curiosity. What does a personal branding expert want from me? Will she be looking me up and down? Absolutely! Does she want to sell me something? Not sure….

When we met, the first thing I noticed about Jennifer was how easy she was to talk to and how passionate she is about personal branding. By the end of our conversation she was keen for us to work together and for me to look at her workshops and take them from “good to great”.

As with any client, I am always keen to find out what they want to get out of a session, what difference it will make and to get to know what makes them tick. Browsing on Amazon, I was taking a look at her book “Personal Branding which I “accidentally” bought (the “one click buy” button is very close to the others on an iPad!). This happy accident has been a very useful addition to my book collection. I like its simplicity and also how it is an easy read (for a non-reader like me!).

The framework that Jennifer uses for personal branding, her “Pyramid” is an easy concept to grasp and the many real life examples that Jennifer uses, help to bring it all to life. In looking at her workshop, Jennifer’s passion for her subject came over very strongly as did the depth of her knowledge. My role was not to teach her how to “suck eggs”, but to show her how a few tweaks and tips would lead her workshop participants inexorably towards the objectives in a very deliberate way. My role was also to help her gain more buy-in and engagement during the workshop, at those times when people may start to flag.

Hearing about what Jennifer has put into practice, makes me feel very proud to have worked with her and encouraged that she has taken so much on board. Hearing what her most recent participants from her newly re-vamped workshop have said should make Jennifer even prouder. If anyone is ever looking for a great experience in learning about personal branding. My recommendation will be Jennifer, any time!

The anatomy of a story

Enormous TurnipMy favourite story for use with teams, in a team building setting is “The Enormous Turnip”. When using this story, once I have read it out, I have used the following questions to stimulate a discussion:
“If you could take one character out and the story remain the same, who would it be?”
“Who would you be in the story?”
“Who is the most important character?”
“What does this teach you about team work?”

It is amazing the discussion that these questions and the story have sparked off. One person suggested they were the mouse while another, the dog. They thought teams are full of very different characters, each bringing something different, but when focussed on a common goal can work miracles!

So what is it makes a great story and one you can use in training? This is probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs but at the risk of overlooking such a fantastic tool, here goes……..let us dissect the story, revealing it’s anatomy….

They all have a beginning, a middle and an end. It is great if they have suspense, surprise and intrigue to keep people engaged.

In the beginning we learn about the “issue” or the problem and more often than not, who the protagonist is.  We then move onto the meaty middle…. “Then one day…….” and this is where you explain the “shift” that happens, or the beginning of the resolution, we may even discuss the “villain” of the piece. And finally the “happy ever after” or the cautionary tale that teaches us a lesson.

The beauty of a story is that in this world of multi-media and access to data, stories are a familiar pattern to us. We grew up listening to stories at home, at school and TV. The brain knows what a story is about, the model is familiar, so the pre-frontal cortex (that part for of the brain concerned with new learning), which is limited in its capacity, is not under too much pressure.

When we weave in emotion into a story, the right hand side of the brain is engaged. Recognising the pattern and processing the words takes part in the left hemisphere and we all know if we can engage both hemispheres during learning, it makes it a more engaging and memorable experience.

I sometimes write my own stories – taking examples from past stories such as one I wrote about the barriers to learning, using two characters called Quasimodo and Esmerelda. Of course Quasimodo is the underdog and Esmerelda the kind heroine! Familiarity, mixed with some humour and a little imagination can even make the dullest of subjects come to life!

Try playing around with unusual phrases to arouse interest and shock the brain into thinking differently. If I told you the plan was as “ugly as a rumour…..” what would that mean?

If you have never used stories, they appeal to all sorts of learners because the words produce images in our brains, evoke emotions and the language can be used to stimulate discussion and curiosity. Try small existing stories to start and maybe progress to writing your own.

I had the privilege of working with and attending training run by Margaret Parkin, who has written a number of books on storytelling in business. I can thoroughly recommend them if you need a starting point!

Creativity Flashmob and #BFLG

We had a fabulous time last week at the “Creativity Olympics” at the BFLG meeting in Leeds.IMG_2152 They were all gold medal winners and so when I asked them to pose for this photo I said “Look like winners!”

I thought you might like to see the fabulous ideas the group came up with around the “Capturing” competency so click on this link: Capturing Ideas

We had another great idea which I have already shared with other trainers…… the “Creativity Flashmob”. This is how it works:

  • The next time you have a problem you want to solve warn a few people that you will need their help
  • When you are ready, get by your flip chart or large piece of paper and text everyone to come for just 10 minutes
  • Use a creativity technique to generate ideas, keeping an eye on the time
  • Once the 10 minutes is up, everyone dissipates leaving you with the ideas and some time to evaluate them

I love it!!! No more getting stumped or coming up against a brick wall – a creative boost just when you need it!

I run creativity workshop specifically designed for teams – if you would like to know more then contact me:

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Creativity vs. innovation – a fair fight?

Give your creative super powers a boost!

My latest blogs have been around the subject of creativity and how to improve your own, by looking deeper at Epstein’s definition of the 4 creative competencies

Just to remind you, these are: challenging, broadening, capturing and surroundings. So it got me thinking, okay you can be creative – super creative in fact, but if you do not do anything with your creativity and the ideas you generate, then you will not innovate.

Recently I was speaking to an L&D manager who would like to improve the creativity within their organisation. Is it really creativity that needs a boost or is it innovation? Or both?

I have a belief that most people can be creative in some way or another, what is difficult is putting it into practice – the INNOVATION! By promoting creativity do you naturally promote innovation or do you need to do something else for that?

As a leader in your organisation what are the conditions that you foster to help the incubation and execution of creative ideas?

Are you…….

  • Creative in the way you lead – do you lead by example?
  • Encouraging – when someone comes to you with an idea, what is your response, regardless of how good it is?
  • Judgmental – are you quick to dismiss the idea, because it may not fit in with culture, resources, plans etc?
  • Supportive – in providing the right resources?
  • Promoting a culture where you CAN learn by mistakes?
  • Able to make it a safe place for your team to come up with off-the-wall ideas?

Depending on your answers to these questions, it may get you thinking about your style of leadership and whether you need lessons in creativity or innovation? Or both?

If this is something that is of interest to you, I would love to hear from you and you may be interested in learning more about creativity?

©Krystyna Gadd 2014

Increasing your creativity #4

This weeks blog, is the fourth and final one on creativity – SURROUNDINGS. How do you make your surroundings more conducive to being creative?

Give your creative super powers a boost!I suppose we should start with what we mean by surroundings:

  • Your workspace
  • Your thinking space
  • The people you spend time with

So how can we be more creative in all of these areas? Here are just a few suggestions:

Your workspace – this does not need radical rethinking all the time, but maybe a few subtle changes like:

  • Some inspirational quotations on your wall
  • New stationery
  • Rearrange the desk items
  • Rearranging the room
  • Move your workspace somewhere else for the day – I sometimes go to my local pub for a coffee and a lounge on their sofas

Your thinking space – this may be the same as your workspace, so try something new and different!

  • Walk and talk with a colleague in the countryside, bounce ideas off each other
  • Visit an art gallery or museum and take a notebook for any ideas that emerge
  • Take a bus journey and record your new thoughts
  • Keep a notebook or your smartphone by your bed to record any new ideas

The people you spend time with – do the people you spend most time with inspire you? NO? So what can you do?

  • Limit the time you spend with those “mood hoovers”
  • Increase the time you spend with enthusiastic and creative people
  • Join a new group – like the Brain Friendly Learning Group where you will be able to bounce ideas off like-minded people
  • Join a new social group to start a new hobby

If this has whetted your appetite for all things creative, then why not join us on the 24th of January in Leeds for the Creativity Olympics?

©Krystyna Gadd 2014

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