What do creativity, innovation and NLP have in common?
In episode 5. of the Engage2Innovate podcast, Judy talks to Chris Collingwood. An NLP specialist teaching people how to think in patterns.
The technique at the core of becoming an effective innovator. It’s a fascinating discussion with Chris, on how we think and act. And how that understanding means we can be open to new potential.
Lots of takeaways that will help us all.
He’s the Managing Director of Inspiritive, and you can learn more about Chris by checking out his website inspiritive.com.au
For a quick teaser…check out this video
Or the full episode here …
Well certainly there are a lot of innovations coming. Um, one of the famous neuroscientists called V. S Ramachandran, he runs the center for the mind in San Diego. He said, I think it was back in around 2000 that the 21st century was going to be the cognitive century.
So he's expecting the century to be making great, great strides and how we think and how our brains work and how we behave. Certainly I think the, there's no doubt that some of the big changes on the way are a biotechnology what with gene editing, and what they can do with that. So the changes that are happening, are quite remarkable and I think we ain't seen nothing yet. I think the world is kind of gonna change in the next 10 years in some very dramatic ways.
There’s a couple of nice ways to debunk this whole thing about creativity. So for example, the evidence is that we as individuals as human beings are all creative. Others come from the world of linguistics and so in linguistics, every human being will create new sentences, new and unique sentences so that's an example of creativity. So we're all creative to start off with.
The problem is, the concept that people have on creativity. So if you think creativity means you're creating new products, a lot of people think creativity is creating something that's completely different and something that hasn't existed before, but when you actually look at a lot of what is created, a lot of the great ideas and the great new products, they're actually, a synthesis of various ideas so that you get something that's unique. So it's more of a synthesis process rather than some abstract idea of creating something completely different out of nothing.
I’ve found that sometimes really the, the most innovative ideas in one industry have been pinched from another. So just because it's, you know, it's been done before it doesn't mean it's been done before in your particular sector, so you can pinch from all sorts of different places, you know, it's amazing where ideas can come from, and that, that can turn into innovation.
As an example, um, one of the great thinkers of the 20th century who died back in ‘79 was an anthropologist called Gregory Bateson. Bateson made contributions, not only to anthropology, but also to, what they call the deep ecology movement. So he's one of the fathers, grandfathers really of the deep ecology movement, family therapy, systems thinking and psychiatry. He made a whole, a series of contributions to multiple fields.
However, when you look at his background, he came from a family of natural historians. But rather than going into natural history, he went and became an anthropologist and he took the ideas, the ways of thinking of a natural historian into a completely new field anthropology, and that's where he started making his first major innovations and contributions to the field.
He then took that way of thinking into other fields, psychiatry, family therapy, etc. And you often find, with very creative, innovative thinkers, they train in one field and they take the ideas and ways of thinking, what we call patterns of thinking and take it into a different field.
And I think you see the same thing in business. If you take Peter Thiels company Palintir is a multibillion dollar company nowadays and he took the idea of, using algorithms to find patterns, uh, to search for major patterns that indicate for example, terrorism, you know, security problems, but then he combined it with trained human analysts and he put the two things together. And that combination of the software, but also the trained people, the trained, intelligent analysts, those two things together is what has made his company extremely effective and very successful.
So it's a transfer of ways of thinking from one field or one area into another, I think is one of the key ways that people innovate,
There's a great book called the Structure of Scientific Revolutions by a man called Khun, written back in the very early seventies.
And what they found is, um, people in any field and it could be a business, it could be a, uh, a large well established business, people get enculturated into a way of thinking of the culture of the organization, or it could be the culture of the field. So it could be a field like psychology, uh, or any other field. And then what happens is often that somebody who is an outsider comes in with a different way of thinking that disrupts the, the old way who has not been, shall we say inculturated into, into the field or the industry.
Now in terms of our work, in terms of our training, we actually, I teach people to think in first principles to think in terms of patterns, And, you know, patterns of thinking and to be able to generalize those new and different ways of thinking into multiple situations.
What’s surprising to me in the field of NLP, we're seeing the same problems that you see in other fields where, where if a person has been taught lets say NLP only in the, in the context of coaching. So people go, oh, this is coaching. And so the patterns I learned, only apply in coaching.
And they don't realize that the same patterns could be applied to management consulting or in parenting or in sports performance or, or in negotiation. And this to me prevents or inhibits innovation.
When people think in first principles and go here's a pattern that applies in one situation, can I apply it in this other situation and then another situation that supports creativity and innovation.
Uh, Elon Musk, is a good example. Um, he went into an industry that he was, he had no background in, you know, making cars, but because he thinks in terms of patterns, he thinks in terms of first principles, He wasn't inculturated into the way, the normal way, the usual way cars are manufactured so as a result he and his company keep coming out with new, very different ways of solving major problems in manufacturing, in their case electric cars.
So for example, all a pattern is, is a repeating sequence where if you've got the first part of that part of the sequence, you can predict the second.
So a good example, a very simple example is I have a pet cat. That's a bengal cat. Now they like to leap and jump up on people's shoulders and they're quite outgoing exuberant cats. So if he comes up to me and pauses looks up at my shoulder, and then starts to push down on her legs, I can predict she's about to leap up onto my shoulder and because I've seen the first part of the sequence, I can predict the second. That’s a pattern.
As human beings everything we do is made up of patterns. So how we drive a car, how we communicate with our partners or children, how we negotiate, know how we eat breakfast. So how we make decisions, we all have our way we make it. So everything we do is made up a path and that's the foundation building block of NLP.
So there are people who claim to teach NLP that say that people are visual or auditory, so that they're either predominantly thinking pictures or words, as it turns out that's patently untrue, because we as creative human beings, we use all of our senses. We, we do think in pictures and sounds and language and sensation, but the idea was that one is predominant. Well, um, it all depends what you're doing. I mean, if I'm at the art gallery, I'm going to be thinking more in terms of images, but then again if I'm at a concert, sounds, but not just sounds feelings as well, same with the art gallery pictures and feelings. So it all depends on what the person's doing.
In my world, I'm very wary of a lot of the psychological testing and personality typing because I think it puts people into boxes and, um the major concern is that a person may believe the typing that they've been given. And then their behavior may change to fit the type.
And then, so a lot of big companies, these days engage with these personality studies to pigeonhole or something to go, Oh, well, then that person's not a creative, so we don't get them involved in the ideation section. This person's more of this than an organizer. So we have them doing this part. But that may not necessarily actually be the right thing for that person. So, you know, from, from where I sit from an innovation perspective, is that involving the whole team in this process and making sure you understand your team, to me is really, really important. And, um, and no, not pigeon holing everybody, and to fit into this box.
And it can stifle people who have the potential to be innovative. And um, a long tradition in Western thought is that personality is fixed.
Um there's been studies done, a psychology, long term studies where they've studied people over 70, you know, 75 years. So they've had personality tests in childhood, and then later on, and then in their senior years and they found that just from the difference between a person as a young adult, and then as a senior, people radically changed their personalities over a lifetime. So personality is very rich and very changeable.
Now one of the problems you see that that gets in the way is some leaders micromanage. If you're micromanaging people, it's very difficult for them to, to take responsibility and accountability and to actively engage with creating new ideas. Um, I want to contrast this with, a very skilled or wonderful general manager that my partner and I modelled quite some time ago. Uh, he headed up a division of a major Australian corporation, multinational.
And, his team, his people, his division had the record for getting a joint venture project, negotiated through and up and running in China, at the time. And he had a fabulous way of managing and leading people. So he focused on the big picture of the ‘what’. So this is the vision of the organization this is what we want to create. And he would frame that with the people that reported to him, making sure that he was very clear about what he wanted, you know, the outcomes and give them a free hand to work out the how. So their job was, was too come up with the ways and means to create the outcomes, he gave them a lot of leeway.
And, not only did we work with him, cause we were building a model on leadership skills, but also we built a model on how his team did cross-cultural negotiations in Asia. His team would walk over hot coals for this man, because such a good leader. Um, he didn’t micromanage at all, he focused on the what, the outcomes, and his job was to make sure that his team had all the necessary resources to, to achieve their outcomes.
So I just don't think businesses these days can afford to not embrace that innovative culture. And, unfortunately, a lot of businesses don't change and start focusing on innovation until it's too late. Um, so disruption comes along, it's out of the blue they didn't see it coming and all of a sudden they've gone from being a nice business, a good business to struggling.
And, um think that the nature of the changing world and technology that there, I think there's a risk of acceleration of disruption to well established businesses. And, um, I would certainly suggest to people, now's the time to start thinking in an innovative way and to actively build a culture of innovation in your business.
If you've got an established business and you're not actively innovating, uh, you're at great risk. Everything evolves because of an innovative culture within a business.
Henry Ford is a very good example of innovation and then a lack of innovation. And I don't know if many people know about it, but most people know about the original innovation where they mostly iterated and kept building better products and then finally came out with a model T you know, one, one color, and of course used the production line to be able to, that was the innovation.
However, um, so where he fell down is they kept producing model T's, the model T for years and general motors got formed and what general motors did, they came up with this idea of bringing out a new model every year. So the market changed from wanting just a cheap mass produced car for every man, every man and woman to people wanting differences in their cars and different colors and different factors. And he held on to his dream that was the Model T.
Amazon, like them or not like them the reason why they're continuing to be successful is that they keep innovating in new areas. Elon Musk is of course is another great example these days. You just have to keep innovating. You have to keep up with what's new, what's being done in other industries and how you can diversify. That's all part of being an innovative culture.
Obviously, if you have say small players or people who are new to business, keep in mind that, you know, the Elon Musks and the Jeff Bezos, etc, you know, uh, Amazon, uh, these people started with an idea. They didn't have vast amounts of capital when they began. It I started with an idea, an innovative idea. And then, the great things is these people have continued to innovate through time and to build cultural innovation in their organizations. So any business of any size, can um, adopt innovative thinking and build an innovative culture for sure.
So you’ll find that really exceptional leaders have great soft skills and I'll just quickly define what I mean by soft skills. So people's skills. First of all, as individuals often, these great leaders are emotionally flexible. So they're able to manage themselves and their own emotional states. So you've got the EQ part of it. Um, but other aspects of soft skills are the communication skills. You know, how do you actually connect with someone or relate to the person. How do you use language in terms of how you frame ideas, you know, requests, etc. So one part is we can all develop and enhance our emotional intelligence and another part is how we relate to other human beings, how do we relate to our team, the people that work with us.
And the term soft skills is an unfortunate term. That's the accepted term, it's been around for a long time. So it presupposes that you've got two types of skills in business that you've got hard skills and soft skills. So the hard skills will be things like, um, the numbers, you know, the finances and so on, and you know, the computer skills and the technical skills, those are hard skills.
And then they call the people side of it, soft skills. And it's unfortunate because, people then think that the hard skills are more important than the soft skills. However, it's people that drive, innovation and productivity inside of organizations.
It’s those people's skills and that emotional intelligence is what builds the culture of an organization.
I think it's a combination of technology such as algorithm and special platforms and so on and so forth combined with really good people who’ve got great people skills, communication skills, you know, emotional intelligence. Those two things is what makes a difference.