JamBerry Ltd

Thursday 24 January 2008

Unlocking Creativity

10 Mental Locks and Some Ideas on Opening Them

10 Mental Locks

In his book 'A Whack on the Side of the Head' (Warner Books, 1990) Roger von Oech identifies ten mental locks - restrictive ways of thinking that we get shut into:

  1. The right answer
  2. That's not logical
  3. Follow the rules
  4. Be practical
  5. Play is frivolous
  6. That's not my area
  7. Avoid ambiguity
  8. Don't be foolish
  9. To err is wrong
  10. I'm not creative

'A Whack on the Side of the Head'

Von Oech suggests that 'we all need an occasional whack on the side of the head to shake us out of routine patterns, to force us to re-think our problems, and to stimulate us to ask the questions that may lead to the right answers'.

Fortunately the 'whack on the side of the head' recommended by von Oech is a metaphor - no physical violence should be involved! Metaphors are a powerful technique for unblocking thinking which has become stuck and helping us to see things differently.


Much of the language we use when talking about business involves the use of metaphors - we talk of 'flooding the market', 'pumping money in', or 'freezing assets'. Some of these metaphors have become cliches - so commonly used that we no longer register the gap between the words used and the message they convey.

Stand-up comedians are good at coming up with new metaphors, which make people look at the world in a different way. For example:

"Whales living off krill and plankton is like Geoff Capes eating only hundreds and thousands."

(Sean Lock)

"The Football Association holding an inquiry into why England didn't qualify for Euro 2008 is like an inquiry being held into why the Titanic sank by the iceberg."

(Sandi Toksvig, The News Quiz)

A business presentation will be enhanced by the use of metaphors. Some you can take 'off the shelf' (to use another metaphor!) - for example:

"The mind works like a parachute -it works best when it is opened"

(The Dalai Lama)

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That's why we recommend it daily."

(Zig Ziglar)

At other times we might want to illustrate our points by coming up with our own metaphors. For example, in an e-mail to Sally Holloway when we were designing our 'Comedy Skills for Business Presenters' course, I wrote:

"It's like cooking a meal using two very different ingredients. Will it work best if we mix them together - like duck in a plum sauce; or will it be better to keep them separate as a main course and dessert, like chicken and banana?"

This metaphor helped to unblock our thinking and make decisions about when to bring together stand-up skills and business presenting, and at which points to keep them apart.

'What if?' Questions

Another useful technique for unblocking creativity is to ask "What if?" Paul Merton's flights of fancy on 'Have I Got News for You' often begin with a statement like 'Wouldn't it be great if...'

Wouldn't it be great if...

We started doing what we enjoy, rather than what we think will make a profit?

We told our customers/colleagues/bosses what we really think of them?

We made all public servants wear fancy dress (not just the judges!)

Some 'What if?' questions you might like to apply to your business - or which might prompt a reaction from your audience if used as part of a presentation:

What if...

We throw out all our policies and procedures and make up the rules as we go along?

We all stopped bothering to turn up in the morning?

Whenever we get a piece of advice, we do the opposite?


"How wonderful that we've met with a paradox. Now we have hope of making some progress."

(Niels Bohr, physicist)

Paradoxes can be a great source of inspiration. Von Oech writes 'the very act of seeing the paradox is at the crux of creative thinking - the ability to entertain two different, often contradictory notions at the same time'. For comics the bringing together of these different or contradictory ideas is often the source of their jokes.

Some paradoxes for you to mull over:

"If you can remember the sixties, then you weren't there"

(Timothy Leary)

"We can't leave the haphazard to chance"

(N. F. Simpson)

"I wouldn not care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as a member"

(Groucho Marx)

Challenge the Rules!

Stand-up comedians are very good at challenging 'rules' - often through asking 'why' questions. They'll identify an absurd aspect of everyday behaviour then ask "Why do we do that?" They'll also be willing to slay sacred cows (after all, they make great steaks!). The role of the comic is often to think the unthinkable and say the unsayable.

So - what if you started doing more of this in your business presentations? You'd certainly stimulate a reaction!

Steve Amos

January 2008

Monday 21 January 2008

What is Charisma?

What is charisma?

Often, when discussing leadership, the subject of charisma comes up. Do leaders need to be charismatic? If so, is it something you can learn?

The Cambridge dictionary defines charisma as 'a special power which some people possess naturally which makes them able to influence other people and attract their attention and admiration.' Saying people use it 'naturally' may suggest you have to be born with it, is this true?

Well-known leaders such as Ghandi or Churchill are often cited as leaders with charisma, yet we could all probably name others who are very successful but seemingly quite ordinary. So how can you be a leader who is able to influence other people and able to attract their attention and admiration?

Something that helps is being clear about your operating values, the principles by which you live your life and conduct yourself as a leader. Having a strong set of positive values means you are more likely to have a clear sense of self, be grounded and have a framework for decision-making. This strong sense of self is also very likely to be communicated to those around you.

Another factor that is often present with charismatic leaders is a willingness and ability to take a genuine interest in those around them. Charismatic leaders reach out to others and show a real interest. In that way there appears to be an increase in energy when they engage with others. Ineffectual leaders on the other hand, often have little impact on the energy of those around or at worst, even drag energy levels down.

There are of course other aspects that can contribute to a leader's ability to influence and gain respect. Each leader can develop a style that 'fits' with them as individuals as well as meeting the needs of the organisation. This is where leadership training programmes and \ or coaching can make a real difference. Having an opportunity to explore individual strengths, values and style can lead to a real growth in leadership effectiveness and that is likely to translate into better results all round.

Thursday 17 January 2008

Women in Business

Did you know that although women represent almost half the workforce, studies have revealed that they reach management positions in less than 64% of UK companies.

I have recently become a mentor for the women's mentoring network, based in the SE under the auspices of SEEDA. The aim is to encourage women to tackle issues at work and at home that might be holding them back. These issues can be many and varied as I know from the training we do. So I am looking forward to working with these women to help them make the most of themselves!

See our new Women's training programme launching in Feb!

Monday 14 January 2008

Why do experiential training?

We are sometimes asked "Why do you do experiential training? Isn't training in the classroom just as good?"

We do Experiential Training because it involves all the learning skills: listening, watching and doing which in turn lead to:
· Better communications at all levels
· An understanding of working together to achieve a specific end result
· A common language to develop across the team based on the experience

These in turn will lead to:
· Better rapport between managers and others
· A development in sensory acuity – improving awareness of their own senses and others
· Outcome orientation – switching attention to what you want to achieve and away from reasons why it “won’t work”.
· Behavioural flexibility – enhancing the ability to recognise how to change behaviour, both in themselves and in others

Thursday 10 January 2008

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act comes into force on the 6th April 2008. Are we all ready?
The Act makes provision for a new offence of corporate manslaughter and for this to apply to companies and other incorporated bodies, Government departments and similar bodies, police forces and certain unincorporated associations.
Prior to this legislation it was possible for a corporate body, such as a company, to be prosecuted for a wide range of criminal offences, including manslaughter. To be guilty of the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter, a company had to be in gross breach of a duty of care owed to the victim. The prosecution of a company for manslaughter by gross negligence was often referred to as "corporate manslaughter". As the law stood, before a company could be convicted of manslaughter, a "directing mind" of the organisation (that is, a senior individual who could be said to embody the company in his actions and decisions) also had to be guilty of the offence. This is known as the identification principle. Crown bodies (those organisations that are legally a part of the Crown, such as Government departments) could not be prosecuted for criminal offences under the doctrine of Crown immunity. In addition, many Crown bodies, such as Government departments, do not have a separate legal identity for the purposes of a prosecution.
Therefore it was extreemely difficult to actually have a sussecful procecution in this matter.
The new offence builds on key aspects of the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. However, rather than being contingent on the guilt of one or more individuals, liability for the new offence depends on a finding of gross negligence in the way in which the activities of the organisation are run. In summary, the offence is committed where, in particular circumstances, an organisation owes a duty to take reasonable care for a person's safety and the way in which activities of the organisation have been managed or organised amounts to a gross breach of that duty and causes the person's death. How the activities were managed or organised by senior management must be a substantial element of the gross breach.
The elements of the new offence are:
The organisation must owe a "relevant duty of care" to the victim.
The organisation must be in breach of that duty of care as a result of the way in which the activities of the organisation were managed or organised.
The way in which the organisation's activities were managed or organised (referred to in these notes as "the management failure") must have caused the victim's death. The usual principles of causation in the criminal law will apply to determine this question. This means that the management failure need not have been the sole cause of death; it need only be a cause.
The management failure must amount to a gross breach of the duty of care. The Act sets out the test for whether a particular breach is "gross". The test asks whether the conduct that constitutes the breach falls far below what could reasonably have been expected. The Act sets out a number of factors for the jury to take into account when considering this issue. There is no question of liability where the management of an activity includes reasonable safeguards and a death nonetheless occurs.

In reallity, whilst this will be hyped in the press and by many companies selling products, the basic requirements of managing Health & Safety in the workplace have not changed. If your current systems for the management of Risk (Health & Safety) in your organisations are robust then little will change or require to change. If on the other hand you do not know whether they are robust enough or are aware of weaknessess then now would be a good time to review them. This need not be a start from the begginning but at least an audit to determine where work may be required. If you would like support in the process please give us a call we are only to happy to discuss your requirements.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Welcome to our new blog!

Welcome to our new blog. This blog aims to provide you with tips and insights into issues around personal and team development. We have contributors from a range of different backgrounds from trainers, coachses, marketing and more. So if you want to know anything about how to get the best from your staff, this is the place to be.

Please do join in our conversations!