Individually within the organisation
- Could individuals learn to use more of their creativity?
- How can they bring it through in their organisation?
First off I threw my energies into finding out as much as I could about creativity. Little was then practised in business. Creativity had been a hobby horse for years and now it was to become my livelihood. This was long before the internet, so it was shoe-leather work, meeting academics in universities and accessing reference libraries. It meant reading and talking about the theory of learning and creativity, which are intimately interlinked.
Previous experience that shaped my thinking
Before setting up my own consultancy I spent some years with an American firm of consultants called Kepner Tregoe (KT), who specialised in the rational side of problem-solving in business. Their ideas and research had exerted a strong influence on me, first when I was a client of theirs in my role as Head of Training in an international firm, and then as KT Managing Director UK.
KT had found ways of bringing some measure of intellectual rigour and discipline to the messy job of managing the un-academic realities of running a business. They applied reason to everything as far as possible, whilst recognising that there really were other factors that human beings bring to bear when making up their minds what to do… such as imagination and motivation. These remained outside their focus and teaching.
My explorations into Creativity
How do you investigate something as wonderful as ‘creativeness’? How can it be brought down from the mystical realms of the artist into forms that can be understood and made use of by down-to-earth engineers, scientists, technicians, managers and supervisors? In other words, ‘knowledge workers’?
I began looking for the invisible patterns that might be discerned in actions that had resulted in unusual excellence. Not simply in business, marketing and product innovation, but in any fields of human activity where people seemed to have reached exceptional heights: in all the arts, in sport and war, in love and in learning.
It was indeed possible to distinguish certain patterns of thinking that seemed to be common to a wide variety of different forms of endeavour. Then it was a matter of taking those abstract patterns, labelling their components, and converting the results into hypothetical ‘rules for being creative’.
Business leaders generally do not find time for abstract concepts; they prefer practical tools that they can get their fingers around and put to instant use. If I was to be able to earn a living as a consultant I needed to make tools, not for the hand, but for the mind. Tools for creative thinking.
It led me to design a whole range of ‘creative instruments’ which embodied, in a concrete and practical forms, the abstract concepts produced from my research.
What happened next
I began using the instruments with several significant firms in the UK and the Netherlands, trying them out. Winning some success, and discovering the gaps. I learned for instance, that single-track concentration on releasing the creative energies of managers during a training programme could cause them re-entry problems when they returned to their normal work environment. Their enthusiasm for creative thinking tended to upset colleagues who hadn’t been with them. It was a lesson that I took with me on the next step of the journey.
A lucky break and a life changing opportunity
One company heard what I was up to in creativity and asked me over to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It was Philips. After I had worked with them for a few days they asked me to join a project team as their external consultant. The project was to develop a methodology for problem-solving which could be used for improving management performances anywhere in Philips world-wide.
Naturally being part of an advanced forward-thinking organisation, the Philips team were aware of most of the existing methodologies used by other companies round the world. They wanted to go one better if possible, especially to develop something which would not be too idealistic whilst carrying the credentials of authenticity.
In founding my consultancy I had named it Joint Development Resources. Here was an ideal joint development project with a prestigious organisation where we could develop the state-of-the-art training methods for mutual benefit… if we succeeded…
Results from the Project
We set to work. There were several members of the team, but the prime movers on the Philips side were Dr Hans Horeman and Dr Niek Wijngaards, Hans being in charge.
Within four years we had completed the project for Philips:
- we had designed what we called the ‘Deva’ system, Deva being short for a Dutch phrase meaning ‘Skilful Thinking’
- it included a body of learning materials, decently published in-house, including a range of books and booklets, manuals and instruments of various kinds
- we had programmes running in several locations and had trained ‘mentors’ on site to carry them out, supporting in the factory what was learned off-site
The project team was disbanded in 1981, but by virtue of my special agreement with Philips, I continued to progress the work with a small team within my consultancy.
Ahead lay continuing work for me in Philips and in a wide variety of other leading companies, implementing ‘Deva’, further developing the concepts and especially their applications.
For many years this work was far ahead of the market, recognised by only a few advanced thinkers and innovators, especially Professor Bob Garratt and Professor Ronnie Lessem. The launch of our first book, The Colours of your Mind*, raised our profile and took our work across the world, into North America, India, Asia and Australia. It was a best seller.
Our most significant discovery: Thinking-Intentions
There are many things I value, not least the enduring friendship with my colleagues in the Philips Project Team and the recognition I received from those few adventurous people who could see the significance of the research and made good use of it for raising performance.
What our project team did in those four exciting years is still, to me at any rate, amazing. For we came quite early to invent Thinking-Intentions, this new language for thinking which unites the Person with their Task by describing both in precisely the same terms.
The ‘Thinking-Intentions’ are the mental muscles we use to initiate our thinking, which leads to –
- our thoughts,
- our conclusions
- and our actions.
Whenever you bring the right thinking energy to a difficult situation or Task, you are then at your best. But if you cannot recognise either your own resources or which of them are needed by the Task, mistakes happen. Thinking-Intentions give you a language for how you are thinking and how the Task needs you to think. So far, there is no other language which maps the one on the other in quite this way.
Thinking-Intentions bridge from our internal drivers of thinking across to the elements that are within all tasks that we undertake in life – big or small. They were our unique findings which I have been privileged to take world-wide, through my own teaching and through licensing Associates under the name “Effective Intelligence”.
I hope this short gallop through the history behind Thinking-Intentions gives you something to reflect upon. Now, alongside our continuing work in businesses and universities, we have opened up Thinking-Intentions to individuals who are pursuing their own self-development and learning here and for families with children still at home here.
If you would like to be in touch with me please use Contact
My good wishes
Professor Ronnie Lessem’s books can be found here on Amazon
*The Colours of your Mind Collins 1988, Fontana 1989, Available here