What stories are you telling yourself?

It is difficult for us to get an objective look at ourselves without the stories of ourselves, notes that we have created getting in the way.

In essence, we are unable to see ourselves as others see us.

But, how can we change that? Well perhaps we need to get our Yoga Pants on and stretch a little.

One of a million stories of ourselves about ourselves

This happened just this week, a friend of mine, who will remain anonymous, posted to her social feed:

“I have officially failed as a parent 

Son’s diet consists mainly of pizza and pasta. Now he’s added pot noodles to his food choice! Although this was prompted by the ramen he had at Yo Sushi! At least he’ll be able to feed himself when he goes to uni/moves out “

The actual post was tongue in cheek in that self-deprecating way that so many British people are experts at. I assume the British are not the only nation adept at this but it certainly seems a trait.

Let’s change the story

I took the cue to delve into this by looking at it another way, I replied:

“He’s added noodles. This is not a failure in parenting, this is an expansion of his diet and cultural horizons. Noodles from the far east added to his Italian cultural intake during a time of national inward navel gazing is a feat of magical parenting. Expanding horizons and embracing a global culture is a huge win, if you choose to tell the story in a different way.”

My friend replied to my comment with:

“Oh I like that version way better 

Go me”

How quickly this went from a story of her being a “failed parent” to celebrating herself was great to see. But, as I say this was tongue in cheek.

Changing the stories we tell ourselves.

Many of the things I think about myself are stories I’ve gotten into the habit of telling myself about me. And as they are just stories, I can choose to change them.

I’ve seen this in action and used it with friends, clients and teams.

Playing games with money

The first time I was aware of this was during a money game, a friend was running. The game based on the Findhorn money game allows the participants to explore relationships to money. It is interesting to see people have strong reactions to money, which doesn’t intrinsically have any value or power. It has an acquired power or value because we tell ourselves it has through a story we all decided was true. But in fact the money we were playing with was just bits of paper with pictures of the queen and numbers on.

Not only did we explore this shared story we told about money but we also explored some of our personal stories about money. It seems that people can have a very strong emotional connection to money. It can be a fear of too little money, it can be the feeling of power too much money can have over us.

For me, I took all the cash I had for the weekend and laid it in front of me and in the first round of the game, where participants are allowed to take money from one another stacks, I sat and watched all my money disappear. I didn’t visit other people’s piles of cash. I just watch mine go.

Fear and loathing…

At first I felt fear as the money left, calculating how much was still there and if it was enough for the weekend or for fuel for the car on the way home. That fear you can feel in your body as a physical presence, for me it was like a lump in my throat.

But once all the cash had gone another feeling took over. It was a realisation that nothing bad had happened, yet my fear of having no money at all had come true. I was still OK, I was still able to get on with everything I wanted to do. This feeling felt like a relief, a weight lifting out of my chest and unblocking my throat.

I had just rewritten the story I tell myself.

This is where we get our Yoga Pants on

My friend Charlie developed this technique from the Money game to other areas of life. He calls it Identity Yoga and it is a way of changing the story we tell ourselves about ourselves (or about how we relate to things e.g. money). It is a powerful technique and is useful in stopping beating ourselves up about a story we can change. We can stretch ourselves to find that new identity.

This technique can be used to help us defeat Imposter Syndrome or explore our relationships to work, teams, family, or even our parenting techniques.

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

We demand to have more fun at work

Why do we fear having fun at work?

We can have fun, yet be productive, and take things seriously. Fun and serious work are not mutually exclusive.

Let us look at ways we can do this and what benefits are gained.

What are the benefits of having fun?

On the most basic level, by having fun together we can build social capital within the team. This is a cosmetic level of fun and many organisations only ever aim for this level of fun and play in the organisation. These organisations will be the ones who have:

  • Bought a Foosball table
  • Installed a coffee machine
  • Held company Karaoke nights.

This level of fun within an organisation will undoubtedly bring some benefits as shown in the excerpt from an article on Psychiological Science. Yet, these organisations might be missing out on potentially bigger benefits. There are greater rewards to be gained both personally and for the organisation if play is allowed to become part of the work.

And research suggests that the upsides of play extend beyond the individual. Teams of workers can benefit from play via increased trust, bonding and social interaction, sense of solidarity, and a decreased sense of hierarchy. Furthermore, findings suggest that play at work can benefit whole organizations by creating a friendlier work atmosphere, higher employee commitment to work, more flexible organization-wide decision making, and increased organizational creativity.


Gore exemplify the benefits of play

I love the company W.L. Gore. Most people have heard of GoreTex the textiles arm of this most innovative company. The business was founded more than 60 years ago by Bill and Vieve Gore. Despite being well known for GoreTex, W.L. Gore has always had an elevated view of what it does. An “elevated view” is defined by, my mentor and friend, Jonathan MacDonald as understanding what the core purpose of your business is. W.L. Gore view that purpose as solving problems using their expertise with materials. This elevated view has allowed them to work in areas and industries one might not expect.

The heart strings of the music

I have a long term relationship with music and play guitar, not at all well, but well enough to make some music and to have worked in the music industry at times. One thing I never expected was to see Gore, that company that created textiles to stop me getting wet when climbing in Scotland, diving into the guitar strings pool and beating the competition at their own game.

The thing with Gore is they allow their people to play at work. So one of their team asked himself, “what if I could use some of these polymers and materials to make some guitar strings?” Through doing this, he could fuse an interest with his work.

The outcome of Gore’s approach is that after some iterations, this guy found he had something worth pursuing. Gore then allowed a team to form around him. This happened through people voting with their feet. If they liked the look of a project they followed the leader (or Source as my friend Tom Nixon calls this type of leader). If people believe in the project and join, then once there is a critical mass of 50 people, according to Jonathan’s book Powered By Change, Gore will spin out a new business. So it was in this case. This is how Elixir Strings was born. By allowing their people the freedom to play at work, Gore ended up with a new business. And the guitar players of the world had access to a new technologically advanced string that lasted longer.

Play is an innovation super power

Taking Gore as an example and how Elixir Strings formed exemplifies how allowing play to become part of the work can bring benefits. These benefits include:

  • Greater innovation
  • Greater opportunity
  • Allowing teams to emerge through shared interests – this is akin to using the wisdom of crowds to make better decisions.

This is one example of how play has allowed a business to innovate and lead. I will be sharing many more in future articles.

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

Has the FEAR got me?

What do you fear?

It seems a simple question, and many people have instant answers. I’m scared of spiders, I’m scared of sharks, I’m scared of heights.

But the height is not what you’re scared of, the falling from that height is what you are likely scared of.

What is my fear?

My fear is failing. I worry that I am not good enough and not able to do what is needed. Many people label this Imposter Syndrome, and there are many ways to counteract it. Or it could be a fear of embarrassing myself. One of my favourite quotes on embarrassment comes from a mentor of mine, Andrew Missingham (he was literally my mentor when I was at University). Andrew is the co-founder of the fantastically creative management consultancy BandAequals. They love to play almost as much as us. In reference to embarrassment Andrew simply says “Embarrassment is a wasteful emotion.” I often bring these words to mind when I am about to do something I feel the fear from.

Fantastic Expectations, Amazing Revelations

Ian Brown – F.E.A.R – Music of the Spheres

In his book Feck Perfuction – Dangerous Ideas on The Business of Life, James Victore writes about fear. He says to make fear your BFF. This is a good thing to do, especially as our biggest fears, fear of failure and imposter syndrome, are with us for life. The trick is to not let the fear get us. We should have the fear, but not allow it to have us.

You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.

Brené Brown – Professor, Lecturer, Author, and Podcast Host

What is stopping me?

I love the work of Brené Brown, who wrote the book Daring Greatly. Her quote above echoes Andrew Missingham somewhat. If we treat embarrassment as a wasteful emotion and dare greatly to own our story, we can achieve our goals.

Centuries ago, mapmakers labelled their work “Here be Dragons“. Well, that isn’t actually true. There are no maps with “here be dragons” written on them, nor “Hic Sunt Dracones“. There is however, a globe from 1510 with those words on. The Hunt-Lenox globe contains these words.

But, why?

Perhaps we will never know for sure. The fact that it appears on this globe and other similar warnings of monstrous beasts appear on other maps, such as the Ebstorf Map, can point towards one thing. We, as a species, have always been afraid of what we do not know. This might be an assumption, but it fits well with our modern day fears. Our ignorance of the areas marked on the maps caused us to assume they were dangerous. For all we knew at the time, this area was packed with monsters.

It is our own anxiety we are afraid of. We don’t know what is likely to happen, so we might as well label it “Here be dragons“.

We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

Franklin D Roosevelt – 32nd president of the United States

Feel the fear and do it anyway

There is a little known fact, well it is not really little known, we just act like we don’t know it. Those overnight successes, those instantly brilliant people have many failures that lead to their success. It is rare for anyone to find instant success. Remember the quote from Edison “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Embrace the ability to fail without giving up and you too can be successful.

The art of failing well

To fail well, we must learn something.

  • Encourage criticism – Seek our criticism, including your own, but approach it philosophically rather than emotionally. This is a discipline worth developing. Within organisations, this helps stop dogmatic behaviour and ideologies taking hold.
  • Embrace a growth mindset – Carol Dweck has published a marvellous book on this subject. A growth mindset puts us into a mode of operating where we are constantly learning and honing our skills, ideas and beliefs. We can constantly question and improve. This works on large scales with organisations and personally.
  • Redefine failure – If we begin to look at failure as a point on the route to success, then we can redefine what failure is. This is done by praising the resilience of the individual or team in sticking to the task, pointing out the advantage of acquiring the new knowledge we have gained through the failure, and assessing new data obtained.
  • Pilot projects with veracity – When projects are piloted, it is a temptation to pilot under perfect conditions. This is a mistake, as we need to learn more about what could go wrong to avoid more costly problems further along. We need to make it common practice to pilot in normal or even worst case scenarios.

For everything a reason

Right at the beginning of this article, we quoted the song F.E.A.R by Ian Brown. I love the song because of the Acrostic approach to the songwriting. Each line is four words with the initial letter of each word spelling FEAR. But the majority of the lines in the song are positive in spirit. The song starts with the line “For Each A Road“, which signifies a unique journey into our fear. The last line before the coda is “Finding everything and realizing – You’ve got the FEAR“. Once you have the fear, it no longer has you.

Once we have mastered our fear, we can realise our Fantastic Expectations and learn Amazing Revelations.

Freeing Excellence Affects Reality

Ian Brown – F.E.A.R – Music of the Spheres

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

How can I find original ideas?

Having ideas is a matter of disciplined thinking, as we have explored previously on a post about idea generation.

But how do we make those ideas original? What can we do to move towards unique ideas? How do we avoid tried and tested, one might say clichéd, ideas?

How do some people seem to always have original ideas?

The zenith of creativity is what we term the original idea. There are many arguments that state there is no such thing as an original idea. No less a figure than Mark Twain is often quoted saying “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible.” I believe this is a semantic argument over the definition of an idea and indeed originality.

Is it possible that some old ideas can be combined or viewed in a new context to create a new idea? Here at MundoNovus, we think it is entirely possible to view such a case as a new idea and not only that, an original idea.

An idea is only a thought that points towards an opportunity or possibility. An original idea is a thought that points out a new path towards that opportunity or possibility.

There’s no chance of their having a conscious glimpse of the truth as long as they refuse to disturb the things they take for granted and remain incapable of explaining them. For if your starting-point is unknown, and your end-point and intermediate stages are woven together out of unknown material, there may be coherence, but knowledge is completely out of the question.”

– Plato, The Republic – Ancient Greek Philosopher and writer of the Republic


The book Originals by Adam Grant has some good insight into how we can find original ideas. Grant breaks down three methods for generating and selecting original ideas. These are:

Questioning the status quo

When looking for new ideas it is a good start to ask fundamental questions about the way we do things. Have we stumbled into a position of accepting that things are done a certain way, because that it the way they are done? Bear in mind, if this was the way we all thought we would still be reading by candlelight. Perhaps we’d be listening to stories or news from a balladeer, as books would not have replaced the oral tradition.

Questioning the status quo is a habit that we need to consistently work at applying. By exercising this habit it becomes easier to use and something of a superpower in spotting opportunities. One of the reasons we are held back in questioning the status quo is through relying on our habitual thinking. Our brains are efficient, they will take shortcuts when one is available. This means following the connections we have made before.

These connections of B follows A or a previous followed solution to a problem become physical connections between neurons in our brain. We are seldom conscious that we are even taking a shortcut. So we need to challenge our default thinking.

I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. `{`With analogy`}` we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. `{`With first principles`}` you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.

– Elon Musk – CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Co-Founder of Neuralink and Open Ai

Thinking from First Principles

To get an original idea, building our knowledge by reasoning from first principles as our method allows us to return to the fundamental proposition or assumption we have. Aristotle describes reasoning from first principles as:

In every systematic inquiry (methodos) where there are first principles, or causes, or elements, knowledge and science result from acquiring knowledge of these; for we think we know something just in case we acquire knowledge of the primary causes, the primary first principles, all the way to the elements.

– Aristotle – Greek Philosopher and Polymath

Aristotle gives us the method for stripping any problem back to the fundamental truths. As Elon Musk points out, in  the quote above, our aim is to avoid “doing this because it’s like something else”. We often accept things as knowledge when we reason by analogy without question. This is a mistake, as we effectively outsource our thinking to the origin of that analogy.

Using this method, we can also avoid many of our cognitive biases that can lead us into habitual thinking.

Having more ideas

We have previously explored the topic of generating more ideas in our blog post Don’t stop! Have at least another 20 ideas. It is important to have many ideas to pull from. Exploring each idea, even if it does not work as we need, allows us to gain insights that can help elsewhere. By generating many ideas, we are able to move our brain away from habitual thinking. We challenge ourselves to come up with more ideas once we exhaust the obvious possibilities.

The killer idea is born out of practice and rarely arrives fully formed to someone who has not worked hard to get it. Think about some of the great ideas and innovations of the past. They are usually born of many attempts.

  • Van Gogh painted over 900 paintings in his short career, highly prolific by most measures, yet only a handful (Starry night, Sunflowers, the self portrait without his ear and the one of the café terrace at night) are world famous.
  • Irving Berlin published over 1500 songs in his long life, but I’m hard pushed to name more than a few. White Christmas, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Cheek to Cheek and Alexander’s Ragtime Band are as far as I get before I have to go and look some more up.
  • Agatha Christie wrote 75 novels in her lifetime but other than Murder on the Orient Express many people struggle to name many of them.

This is not to say that being prolific is likely to make your work successful or original. After all, Dame Barbara Cartland wrote 723 novels (mainly in the romance genre) yet I could not name one of them.

Needless to say, finding an original idea is helped, enormously, by generating an abundance of ideas. This is because the quality of our ideas increases the more we have, a phenomena known as the Serial Order Effect.

Adam Grant, the aforementioned author of Originals puts it as “When it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.”

For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

– Stephen Hawking – English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author

Gather Feedback

As much as we like to lionise those who have ideas, it is rare for a person to work alone, having brilliant, original ideas. There is a reason Sir Isaac Newton said he’d been “Standing on the shoulders of giants”. He worked with help from his peers. He read the papers his peers and those before him had published.

When we work with our peers and solicit their feedback, we make better choices of which ideas to pursue. According to cognitive research papers published by Hamada, Nakayama & Saiki the wisdom of crowds and collective decision-making outperforms individual judgment.

However, it is not as simple as that, as we must be wary of groupthink too.

Beware of groupthink

If everyone is thinking alike then no one is thinking.

– Benjamin Franklin – American polymath and founding father of the United States

David McRaney puts it well in his book You are not so smart.

“When a group of people come together to make a decision, every demon in the psychological bestiary will be summoned. Conformity, rationalisation, stereotyping, delusions of grandeur – they all come out to play, and no one is willing to fight them back into hell because it might lead to abandoning the plan or a nasty argument.”

So how do we embrace the wisdom of crowds whilst avoiding groupthink?

We will write a full article on this in the future. For now some ideas on avoiding groupthink are to:

  • Use facilitated meetings to avoid acquiescence to the highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO).
  • Solicit opinions from a variety of sources.
  • Don’t attempt to make decisions until exploration of the subject or problem has taken place.
  • Explore blind canvassing of opinion.
  • Avoid using leading questions – this is where an independent facilitator can help.
  • Test the groups decision before committing to it. Treat each idea as a bad idea and actively search for the faults.

Through using these techniques, some of the faulty logic used within groupthink can be avoided.

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

What the heck is Lego Serious Play anyway?

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® was developed with Lego 20 years ago. The method had its 20th birthday this year on the 17th of September 2021.

Many application techniques have been developed over the period the method has existed. Using these techniques, the method offers many ways to help teams and organisations.

An introduction to Lego Serious Play

LSP is an experiential system. It is based on the constructivist theory of education of the philosopher Jean Piaget and the extension of that theory into constructionism by Seymour Papert. As participants build models, they start to create knowledge from their experiences. Knowledge is shared via the method using a 3D model. Using the models as the object of discussion allows communication to not be personalised. This is useful when exploring complex and emotive subjects.

You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation

– Often attributed to Plato – Ancient Greek Philosopher and writer of the Republic

How LSP works

The process of using LSP is always facilitated using a collection of application techniques. These techniques can be used in various combinations. This allows the method to be versatile enough to cope with varying degrees of complexity.

The basic process is as follows:

  1. Start with a question to respond to. The facilitator sets the question based on the agreed focus of the session.
  2. All participants build a model in response to the question. This encourages them to build their knowledge in line with Piaget and Papert’s theories.
  3. The insights the participants have during the building process become the knowledge and ideas for each participant.
  4. The participants share their insights through their model’s story.
  5. Last but not least, the team reflects on what has been discussed and addresses questions via the model.

Additional techniques can be added to the process. This allows us to find deeper insights, propose solutions and more.

The participants have a short set of rules to follow when using the method. These are:

  1. The facilitator asks a question with many possible answers.
  2. Everybody builds and everybody shares.
  3. The meaning is in the model, and the builder owns it.
  4. Questions are about the model – not the individual.
  5. Mobile phones are off.

(taken from the Wiley book Building a Better Business Using Lego Serious Play)

Success stories in LSP

There are many success stories using the Lego Serious Play method. We have facilitated workshops for charities, teams of lecturers from Higher education and even small local community groups.

Many different situations have had the method applied to them, including:

There are many more case studies available too. And there are many organisations who have found value in using the method including:

  • Fujitsu
  • Toyota
  • Coca-Cola
  • Fedex
  • Google
  • Mastercard
  • Microsoft
  • Nasa
  • Nissan
  • Pfizer
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Target
  • Telia Telco
  • Unilever
  • Waitrose
  • World Bank Group
  • Harvard University
  • MIT
  • Cambridge University
  • Oxford University
  • EU
  • UNDP
  • Denmark’s Government
  • UK Government

As certificated LSP facilitators, we can help you use the method to meet your team’s or organisation’s needs.

When you’re being creative nothing is wrong

– John Cleese – Actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

Don’t stop! Have at least another 20 ideas

In brainstorming sessions, thought-showers or whatever your preferred term is, the team is likely to become fixated on the first half-decent idea. This is because we favour convergent thinking over divergent thinking. The team might spend hours with that idea working at it, or maybe even days, weeks or months. The idea might even get released into the wild. The idea may have gone through some testing, if we are lucky, but, Aaagh! It doesn’t work…

Why? We spent all that time on it, why isn’t it working?

Don’t stop ’til you get enough varied ideas.

There has been a lot of research into creativity and the generation of ideas over the last century, no less so than the landmark research by Christensen, Guilford & Wilson (1957). This research and many subsequent studies show that the ideas tend to get increasingly original, novel and remote as time passes [Why Do Ideas Get More Creative Across Time? An Executive Interpretation of the Serial Order Effect in Divergent Thinking Tasks – Beaty & Silvia].

This means that when we are looking for more ideas using a divergent thinking task, such as a brainstorming session, we are likely to find that the great ideas, the more creatively divergent ideas will occur later, and the earlier ideas will be the safe, hackneyed, overused ideas we have encountered many times before. The term used by Neuroscientists and Psychologists is the Social Order Effect.

So, what we should do is push for more ideas to be laid out on the table, but there is a problem. How do we get people to lay out the ideas and not be embarrassed or reluctant to carry on having more ideas?

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

– John Cage – American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher

How do we get more diverse ideas?

It is a valid question. And there are several ways to do it, but some can bring problems. For example, a standard brainstorming session usually has several people sitting around a table throwing out ideas, but usually these ideas get shot down straight away. We are only human, and we will often react emotionally to an idea being rejected in such a fashion. This leads many of us to play safe and only bring out ideas we consider safe, which often means boring, hackneyed or overused.

If we were in a meeting together and I asked you for the best ideas you could come up with to advertise a chocolate bar, what ideas would you come up with? Take a moment to come up with as many ideas as you can now.

I did this with my partner, I gave her 2 minutes to come up with as many ideas as she can for this very loose, half thought out brief. The caveats are that we were the only 2 people in the room. so it was less embarrassing than an actual meeting would be. She is also an arts graduate who has a long history of coming up with creative solutions.

My partner’s list of ideas

  1. Party of people
  2. Chilling out in front of a movie with a big chocolate bar
  3. Sharing a chocolate bar with a friend
  4. Hiding away as a secret chocolate bar eater
  5. Swimming in chocolate
  6. A pig in a muddy pig pen, but all the mud is chocolate.
  7. The knife and fork game (something like this video).
  8. A huge garden where everything is chocolate, like Willy Wonka’s factory.
  9. A chocolate person with wrappers for clothing.
  10. Someone is asleep in a bed that looks like a chocolate bar with the wrappers as duvet etc.

This is an incredible list for only 2 minutes.

Now, some of these ideas could make good ads or be part of the process of creating a decent ad. Some of them are already creating compelling visuals in my head, which is always a good sign.

Getting to the more creative ideas

But how do we go from these ideas to the truly great ideas for selling chocolate bars? If you live in the UK and have done for the last 15 years or so, you are likely familiar with Cadbury’s chocolate and their phenomenal advert for a chocolate bar featuring a drumming gorilla

The drumming gorilla advert, created by Fallon, is still spoken about nearly 20 years later as a high point in TV advertising. Marketing magazine named it the nation’s all-time favourite advert.

The advertisement was released on the 31st of August, 2007. By November of that year, over 6 million views had been registered across online video sites. The actual ad does not feature a chocolate bar. Cadbury is referenced only by the production credited to “Glass and a Half-Full Productions.”, which is subdued, and the purple backdrop to the Gorilla, which is a nod to Cadbury’s corporate colors. Why did this idea not get shot down as soon as it was mentioned?

Well, there is a full article in the Guardian from ten years after the release of the advert, quoting the creative director of Fallon on how the idea came about and how the advert got made. In the article, Phil Rumbol, Cadbury’s director of marketing, tells how his bosses thought he was mad and quotes them as saying ‘Let’s get this right. You want to make an ad that’s three times longer than a normal ad, has no Cadbury’s chocolate in it and there’s no message?’. Yet, he won the argument. The idea go accepted, and the rest is chocolatey history.

How do we not have our ideas shot down?

One of the ways to not have ideas shot down is to forgo all judgment at idea conception. Easier said than done, you might way. It works, but only if we find ways to facilitate sessions that can turn off people’s innate ability to judge or even prejudge an idea before it has had a moment to breathe.

There are fun ways to do this too. Lego Serious Play has this built-in to the application techniques in that particular system. But what if we are a group in a cab and need some ideas quickly before we arrive at our venue? We can’t get the Lego out there, but we can use some other fun techniques, like this one described below:

“Bad” Ideas Only

This is a technique we love. It allows us to suspend judgment by subverting it into amusement. We are searching for the worst ideas to amuse ourselves.

The technique we have developed follows this format:

  • We write down the provocation/brief
  • Everyone responds with their “bad” ideas in three rounds
    1. Round one – 2 minutes
      • Write as many “bad” ideas as possible.
      • Count ideas – winner of most ideas wins this round – reward in your own way – we prefer a chocolate (apparently it is a fixation).
      • Share ideas, but don’t discuss, yet.
    2. Round two – 2 minutes
      • Write as many “bad” ideas as possible.
      • Count ideas – winner of most ideas wins this round – reward
      • Share ideas but don’t discuss
    3. Round three – 5 minutes
      • Write 3 or more “bad” ideas as possible
      • Everyone with 3 or more ideas gets a reward, the one with the most ideas gets a reward
    4. Collate all ideas and go through as a list
    5. Treat each idea as a good idea, explore its possibilities – advantages and disadvantages
    6. Try combining some ideas or writing down ideas sparked by other ideas.

Why Bad Ideas Only Works

By using this technique, we are telling ourselves we are looking for “bad” ideas but we are gaming that premise by using time limits and prizes to gain quick ideas. The secret is that the brain is as bad at coming up with “bad” ideas as it is with good ideas if we judge them. If we suspend judgment and search for quantity rather than quality, we will find there is actually no difference between a good idea or a “bad” idea and by searching for more, we go beyond the obvious and find the potentially brilliant leftfield creative ideas, the ones featuring drumming gorillas.

You can use this technique for writing alone, and you can also use it to beat writer’s block. The only downside if you are using the technique on your own is that you have to supply your own rewards.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

The Serial Order in effect

According to the research mentioned above, the serial order effect is unusually robust. We can look into why ideas get more creative the more we have, or we can use the fact that they do and roll divergent thinking practices into our everyday life.

MundoNovus can help you identify ways to create a more divergent thinking workspace. It is not a choice between divergent thinking and convergent thinking. We need both. It just so happens that due to many reasons, including our learned need to “get the right answer”, we tend to overly rely on convergent thinking.

Convergent thinking is useful for decision making, but not when coming up with ideas to decide between. What we need is the ability to become adaptive thinkers and use the correct one at the correct time. The structures we add through the use of play and liberating structures ensure you can become adaptive and use divergent thinking when you need it.

When you’re being creative nothing is wrong

– John Cleese – Actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

Building trust shouldn’t be stressful

Building trust in teams is as important today as it ever has been.

“Right! We are going to do a trust-building exercise.”

Cue the groans and the stress levels increasing throughout the team as the team leaders or facilitator break out the blindfold or ask you to pair up.

Have we been doing the wrong thing when attempting to build trust?

What do we get wrong in traditional trust-building exercises?

Traditional trust-building exercises are likely to cause more distrust than actually build trust within a team. Think of the “fall back” exercise where one participant has to trust the other and fall back into their partner’s arms, or the one where the participant is lead around a course by their partner whilst blindfolded. Instant stress for many participants.

Why is this? Well, let us look at what actually happens when you ask someone to fall back in another person’s arms.

Firstly, their stress levels increase and their anxiety starts to build, especially so if they are introverted for whatever reason. “What if it goes wrong? What if this person thinks they are funny?” The thing that is happening here is that we are explicitly getting people to question the trustworthiness of their partners or team mates. If something does go wrong, accidentally perhaps or not so accidentally perhaps, then we have seriously damaged a person’s ability to trust others and trust anything else we might do with them in the session.

But what is the gain, are we really building trust in our team or are we just testing trust?

In order to succeed in these exercises, we expect participants to trust one another without actually doing anything to build that trust. We are only testing the trust we generally have in strangers and that is not likely to be a deep trust that is conducive to being a team that performs well together.

A man trusts another man when he sees enough of himself in him.

– Gregory David Roberts – Author

How can we actually build trust?

To figure out how we can start building trust in our teams we need to look at what trust really is. Trust has been well studied and we know that trust is deeply entwined with our emotional responses and can vary dependent on the situation. The Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei highlight three elements that help us to build trust.

The three elements of Trust

  • Authenticity
  • Rigour in logic
  • Empathy

We come across these words a lot and there are emotional dimensions to how we often use them. We can get a gut feeling about someone and it is often based on these elements but we may not have been consciously viewing them in the other person.

Authenticity is apparent when someone is true to themselves and is working from their own set of values and principles, it is hard to fake and people are likely to trip up if they do attempt to fake it.

Rigour in logic is important as it allows us to see the intent other people apply to their work, relationships and so on.

Empathy is the tough one as it is the one where it takes time, the one where we need to build that relationship between us. We have to spend some time creating empathy and often we feel too busy to spend that time.

If we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress.

– Frances Frei – Harvard Business School Professor

Fun & Games to build trust

We find that trust is best built using fun games that work to put people into the same state. rather than in exercises where there is a hierarchy or power dynamic. One of our favourite games that help to build trust is one that we call clumping but may well go by other names.

The basics of the activity are that everyone is in a circle together having warmed up a little through some fun exercises. The facilitator shouts a word, for example, “Elephant”, and a number of people (5 or 6 seems to work well) jump into the middle to make a scene, like a still image version, with their physicality.

This activity helps to build that empathy as people start to align their levels of awkwardness and silliness trusting that others will join them if they lead the way and trusting enough to join a scene once someone has started it. The activity helps people to relax as it goes along too as it becomes fun and participants start to laugh which aids the release of dopamine which reduces stress.

How we can help

At MundoNovus we have many more games and liberating structures or activities and can bring these into your organisation, building trust in your teams. We will work with you to develop a team or sets of teams that actively listen to one another and build solutions together.

We also create structures and equip you with methods that will uncover knowledge within the organisation that has until now been silent or unnoticed. This will move your organisation along towards becoming as creative and forward-thinking as possible.

And, who knows? We may even create a team of creative geniuses who support each other.

Adults play too (or should).

– Julie Lythcott-Haims – Contemporary American educator

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

The importance of trust

What does it take for a team to perform optimally?

For teams to perform at their best they need to trust one another and that is something that takes time to be built and can so easily be destroyed.

I wanted to look at how top-performing teams can push their work into areas that are outstanding and even exceptional. It seems that trust is the key.

Who do you look to as a creative genius?

Do you consider Picasso a creative genius? What about Thomas Edison, Alan Turing, Georgia O’Keefe, Elon Musk, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Banksy, Elizabeth Gilbert? I admire these people for what they have achieved, some more than others. But, I’m reticent to cite anyone as a creative genius on their own as it builds a cult of individualism around creativity and I don’t think that is a true reflection of where real creative thinking comes from.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

– Ernest Hemingway – Writer (1899 – 1961)

My candidate for the title creative genius

I’m a rugby union fan and because of my father’s influence, I am a Leinster and Ireland supporter. This means I worship the legendary centre who played for both of these teams, Brian O’Driscoll. Now, Brian O’Driscoll, or BOD as he is often known, is lauded as one of the greatest centres to play the game due to the beautifully creative mindset he brought to the game (BOD is retired since 2014). There are many videos on Youtube that show  BOD’s genius in action such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcFgM4-_V5Y.

The reason I mention O’Driscoll in this post is that he exemplifies trust in his teammates and this goes a long way towards my view of him being a genius of creative play. Take a look at this “no-look” pass (or blind pass) where he trusts his teammate to be in the correct place in order to make his quick thinking work to the advantage of the team.

The death of the super chickens

Margaret Heffernan, in both her talk “Forget about the pecking order at work” and her book Beyond Measure, lays out the problem we have in our organisations. We are most likely to find practices that can work against our purpose. We might find that we have a culture of competitiveness or secrecy. It is hardly surprising. Our society puts us all into direct competition with one another to go to the right school, get the best grades, rise to the top.

We celebrate the individual when we should celebrate the work of everyone in our organisation and encourage each person by listening to them and trusting them.

As for the super chickens, watch the talk to find out what happened to them:

Nobody wins unless everybody wins
– Randy Papadellis – CEO of Ocean Spray

So how do we build this culture of trust?

At MundoNovus we facilitate games and liberating structures and can bring these into your organisation to build trust and courage within your workforce. We will work with you to develop a team or sets of teams that actively listen to one another and build solutions together.

We also create structures and equip you with methods that will uncover knowledge within the organisation that has until now been silent or unnoticed. This will move your organisation along towards becoming as creative and forward-thinking as possible.

And, who knows? We may even create a team of creative geniuses who support each other.

The road to success is littered with mistakes, it matters more to build trust and encourage ambition than to reward obedience.

– Margaret Heffernan – Beyond Measure

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

You’re not listening well enough

The structures in our organisations are, more often than not, a contributory factor for ruin. We still rely on top-down management to set the course and come up with new ideas and strategies. We tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people who reflect our worldview and opinion back to us. This could lead us to disaster.

But, there is something we can do about this, something easy to do that will provide the radical results we need.

You’re missing the rest of the picture

There is a real threat to every one of our organisations, whether they are small businesses, large corporations or national governments, from inherent biases within the structure of our organisations and ourselves. These can range from overconfidence and overoptimism to confirmation bias and the need to conform or groupthink. In fact, Ralf Dobelli identifies 99 different biases in his book The Art of Thinking Clearly that we can be making use of without realising it.

These biases are analogous to shortcuts in our thinking and we may be so used to them that we don’t realise they are present in our thinking. They are the result of our life experience which is the sum of our upbringing including education, surrounding culture and many such factors. It is therefore useful to us to circumvent such biases by attempting to hear from a wider set of people with a wider set of variations in their upbringing, education, status, cultural background etc. This will uncover some of our inherent blind-spots. This will help us to see some of the rest, if not all of the rest, of the picture.[/vc_column_text][gca_standalone_testimonial gca_testimonial_quote=”We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.” gca_testimonial_name=”Frank A. Clark” gca_testimonial_position=”American lawyer and politician (1860 – 1936)”][vc_column_text]

The real problem

In his book Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed champions diverse thinking and makes a particular point about our bias towards people who share our viewpoints and experiences. We will tend to surround ourselves with people we identify with and our identity is informed by our beliefs, background and perspective amongst many other things. This is a subconscious bias and becomes a habitual way of thinking known as homophily

Are there any solutions?

The good news is yes there are solutions. There is some element of paradox in that to free ourselves from this problem requires some structure. This can be in the guise of:

  • Being pragmatically conscious of our bias and seeking to counteract it

Or in some cases such as top-down management and hierarchical problems causing us not to hear from a wider pool of people MundoNovus can help by:

  • Using facilitated meeting practices that can encourage organisational cultural change
  • Offering workshops on exercises that encourage listening with intent
  • Playing structured games that are designed to gain deeper insights into your organisation, how to meet your goals and who your customers and clients are (including what they are looking for)

The paradox of this is that using structures will allow more freedom within your organisation for voices to be heard and actively listened to.

This stuff really works

We have found through our work that using structured practices, especially play which allows a low bar to entry and taps into our brain’s pleasure centre, has helped organisations to bring about change and have some of those deep conversations that are often not heard.

Don’t just take our word for it though, this article in McKinsey Quarterly from March 2017, gives a great insight on how German electric utility RWE confronted bias to form a new culture and make better decisions.

Depending on the way you organize decision processes, when the boss speaks up first, the likelihood that anybody who’s not the boss will speak up with a dissenting opinion is much lower…

…we’ve now made it mandatory to list the debiasing techniques that were applied as part of any major proposal that is put before us as a board.

Using play we can help to circumvent these biases by, for example, allowing conflicting ideas to be encouraged. This is a safe way to encourage conflict which is often actively discouraged within organisations leading to entrenched groupthink.

We can bring serious results from using games, exercises, liberating structures and play.

I think everyone should just do it; just start with it even on a pilot basis. You don’t have to start rolling it out across 1,000 people. You can start with your own board, with a few test examples, and see if you think it helps you. But if you do it, you have to do it right; you have to be serious about it.

– Bernhard Günther – CFO, RWE

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation be ready for whatever the world throws at it. Let’s play!

Image credit: Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

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