Moving outside your field

While it is essential to encourage a free flow of meaning within your organization, it is equally important to have ways of encouraging a flow of ideas from the outside.

When Neil Chambers, director of London's Natural History Museum, first joined the museum, he was concerned to improve the ways in which the museum dealt with visitors. He decided to send all his senior staff on Disney's quality service course in Orlando. Disney World may not seem very similar to a natural history museum, but Neil reckoned that his staff would make creative connections to the customer care offered by the leisure industry—and that is exactly what they did. If you go to the London museum now you can also see a move toward edutainment of which Walt Disney would have been proud.

Sir Michael Bichard, Permanent Secretary at the British Department for Education and Employment, is passionate about moving out of the traditional field of the civil service:

I learn and enhance my creativity by meeting people. I invest as much time as possible in visiting projects. I find I pick up good ideas that are not fully developed and I am able to work on them until they are fully formed and of potentially national impact.

Thinking like this is essential in a creative organization. Great Ormond Street, London's famous children's hospital, recently discovered there was much it could learn from Formula One pit stop tire and fuel changes when it came to improving its systems for intensive care beds! Often, there is no training course available to meet a very specific identified need, and for organizations determined to improve all aspects of their operations continuously, getting out and seeing how other organizations do things is essential. It is often helpful to visit enterprises that are not like yours, but where some aspect of their operation might stimulate your creativity. So, a bank might look at how a leisure attraction deals with its customers, a manufacturing business might look at systems in a service industry, and so on.

The same approach works very well for individuals looking for new thinking about the way they manage aspects of their work. In this case, it might be that an individual could choose to find out more about how people from very different organizations manage people, run meetings, handle internal communications, etc.

As well as going out to see how other people do things, it can be very helpful to invite people in to work with you. In some orga nizations this is described as being a "critical friend." It is a role I have played myself with British Telecom. As part of the process of developing a major communication project, FutureTalk, the company was keen to have a trusted outsider who would offer constructive challenge and feedback as the creative team moved from idea to product and then into the marketplace. In this case I knew a reasonable amount about the particular project, as it covered communication and learning, but the same approach would have worked even if I had known nothing at all.

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

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