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December 20, 2010

Enlightened Leaders Leverage Creativity

I recently participated in two corporate strategic planning retreats. Both followed a conventional agenda define the mission, vision, values, strategic goals, etc. and each facilitator demonstrated appropriate sensitivity to our opinions, ensuring that all board members’ voices were heard. Their differences emerged when roadblocks developed requiring creative-thought energy.

The first facilitator employed a traditional, five-step strategy including, 1) define the problem; 2) identify criteria; 3) gather and evaluate data; 4) list and evaluate options; and 5) select the best option. We progressed effortlessly through the first three steps and then stumbled when hitting step 4. The facilitator’s response was to break us into smaller groups, charging us to brainstorm ideas and saying, "It’s time to turn off your left brain and only use your right brain.â€

The second facilitator took a vastly different approach. We were asked more thought-provoking questions and our responses were captured in a matrix. The questions were simple:

What is your understanding about this situation?

What actions do you think are needed to succeed?

Who (person or company) has overcome a situation like this before?

What actions are needed to succeed?

Each answer was assigned a provisional meaning so that as new information surfaced, it was captured and recorded on the matrix and easily shared with the group.

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