Shortcuts to good ideas

A report from the Industrial Society* claims that creativity – an essential
ingredient for business success – is being stifled in the workplace. The
report’s author Alex McKie says the economic slowdown makes the environment for
creativity even more hostile. Yet she argues that it is easy to nurture
creativity without spending a lot of money. Encouraging better conversations at
work is a good first step, she suggests.

"Creative conversation is a simple approach to creativity," says
McKie. "It’s easy to do, everyone can do it, it’s cheap to implement, it
leads to value, makes life more enjoyable, is flexible and it works with old
and new technology."

So what low-cost, creative ideas can training professionals contribute to
help their businesses? And how can they fight for budgets and stand their
ground in a tight economic climate?

Chris Goscomb
Head of people and organisation development, Easyjet

There are two simple things we can contribute. One is helping people
understand themselves, the company’s values and what’s going on around them so
they know their contributions and ideas are welcome.

One of our key values is ‘everybody makes a difference’ and we promote that
from the time people join the organisation. The other thing is giving people
time to think and encouraging them to think effectively, which gives them the
opportunity to put ideas in to practice.

Respect has to be the cheapest commodity that makes the biggest difference
in the world. We use the methodology of a thinking environment, which means
paying people respect, giving people time to think and paying attention when
people are actually thinking. It brings huge dividends.

Alex Mckie
Author, Virtual value: Conversations, ideas and the creative economy

Many companies organise conferences to encourage relationships. Often the
majority of the time is planned but the most valuable time may be when people
are sitting chatting over a beer or coffee or breakfast. It is the informal
conversations where people discover common interests and experiences that are
truly valuable. So why not build in more time to chat? The benefits may be new
relationships and more ideas generated.

Kim Birnie
Director of learning, Tesco

We have a combined approach where we use in-house knowledge experts to
design and deliver training products. It’s good because then we have the right
line buying into training. Our role as trainers is to shape the training so it
has good methodology behind it.

One of the keys to maintaining a budget is making sure that training is
valued in the business. Being able to prove a return on investment in terms of
increased individual capability, team capability or business capability is a
great challenge to training and development professionals.

Helen Vandevelde
Writer on the future of work

Training professionals can generate a flow of creative flashpoints through
events and learning programmes that stimulate debate and challenge accepted
orthodoxies. It doesn’t have to cost any more, just shake up the mix. Trash the
traditional business case study. If you take a case study from an unrelated
discipline – such as examining how guerilla teams operate – you engage a deeper
vein of thinking.

You end up with a pioneering culture, where your people are committed to
creativity because of the stimulation and enjoyment they derive from it.

Janet Read
Dynamic resources leader, Prism

Using the knowledge and talents of your own people can be a cost-effective
way of training. Ask employees if there are topics they’d like to run a
workshop on. You may have to prompt and give categories but it’s surprising
what you’ll come up with.

Employees are more likely to buy into training delivered by a colleague and
at the same time you’re developing people’s presentation skills and boosting
their confidence. If you have a sister company you can keep costs down by
exchanging training expertise and resources.

Paul Rodd
Director, Barclays University

In cost-cutting times it’s important that training departments are focused
in what they do, and what they do must be, as closely as possible, linked to
the business drivers. Training departments should be in identifying areas
where, over the shorter term, they can cut costs.

If the profit-generating parts of the organisation can see that sort of
gesture, they’re more likely to be receptive to the training department in good
times. Training departments shouldn’t wait until they’re asked to cut back on
budgets, they should anticipate opportunities to make cuts and target resources
to income-generating areas, working side by side with the business.

That level of proactivity would dramatically increase the credibility of the
training function.

To access Virtual value: Conversations, ideas and the creative economy

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