Can your employees perform together a team? Every organisation is facing increasing competition, and it has never been more important to encourage creativity in the office, to improve productivity and promote strong, supportive employee relationships.

Organisations that foster collaboration successfully are not only seen as the most attractive to work for, but you can also place a bet that they are the ones either leading their field or about to. Yes, your team and their ability to work creatively together CAN be your sustainable competitive advantage.

When done right, collaboration is about finding the right and diverse mix of people, collectively defining the problem and goals, and then collectively doing the work. It involves researching, listening, thinking, sharing, testing, doing more research, more thinking, more testing, and more sharing until you get to a strategy that has buy in and relevance.

Here are some of the key issues why organisations attempt to collaborate but are hindered along the way.

Problem 1 – Flies on the wall….

One of the hardest things to overcome can be the wall flower participant. The individual who might be new to the organisation, disengaged or simply does not feel safe enough to voice their ideas or an opinion.

How to fix it

Before the meeting think about the structure. Plan a structure that allow individuals to think and then have one on one discussions and build from there.

Set the session up for success. Open the session by acknowledging new starters or that some team members might be more familiar than others with the topic at hand and that is ok. Help people feel comfortable with the fact that the most important this is the discussion and it’s not about having all the ideas. In fact, it is more important to build on each other’s ideas rather than having one dominant idea creator in the room.

Look at the number of participants in the room. People are more comfortable voicing their opinions amongst a smaller number of people so if you have got a large group present a topic or question for discussion then break people up into smaller group of between 3-5. Any more than this and again you will find there is a place for people to hide and not speak up. In smaller groups its more like having a conversation and there’s time to capture everyone’s ideas.

Another way is the 1-2-4 All. This is when you propose an area for discussion and ask everyone to write down their own thoughts on a post it notes. One idea per post it. Then ask them to discuss this with some next to them (in pairs) then ask the pairs to join into 2 pairs so a group of four. Plan the time to what you want to dedicate. For example, a complex or important topic might look like:

5 mins individually
10 mins in pairs
10 mins in a group of four
Note: there will be a lot of ideas getting thrown around here so ensure you allow extra time for reporting back to the group.

Or for a faster more agile approach it might look like
1 min individually
2 mins in pairs
4 mins in a group of four
Then report back to the group.

Its important to note that if participants do not feel safe then any structure you put in place may only slightly improve the ideas.

Problem 2 – Nay sayers

Being critical to ideas upfront will crush them. Do not underestimate the terrible idea that may seem uncooked.

Most people are not confident in their ideas. It is just the way we are. Most of us have a screaming inner critic who is waiting to jump out of anything that comes out of our mouths so team this with an outer critic and any seedling idea will perish.

If you are not confident in, you alone finding a good idea then come up with some terrible ones first. Do a speed session where you are timed, and the main goal is to get as many ideas as you can rather than the quality.
Quality, well formed ideas come long after an initial collaboration session. Do you think the most innovative ideas in the world were formed from the initial lips to air moment? Hell no. Great ideas are built. They are formed, tested, deconstructed, and then reconstructed again.

How to fix it

Again, set the scene for the session and let everyone know that their main role is to create the ideas not to critic the ideas just yet. That will come later.
If the nay-sayers are still playing the devil’s advocate or taking over the discussions with negative views, then this is the time for the facilitator to interject. (Ensure your facilitator feels empowered enough to respectfully shut down a line of conversation or feedback.) Have a separate section dedicated to ‘parking lot’ where you can make note of the concern or objection and quickly move on.

This needs to be followed up quickly after the session with a repeating individual so they understand that their feedback is not helpful at that stage or you must decide as a working group to include or exclude that individual in early stage collaborations.

Problem 3 – No clear decision-making.

You have got a wealth of ideas and if you have created a safe place for ideas potentially you have had some hearty discussions as well.

The next phase is to then identify the areas for opportunity. You can do this by a dot votes system where everyone gets to select 3-4 of their own favourite ideas and select the most popular. You can then analyse the ideas by the most value to the business and prioritise them this way.

However, at some point a decision must be made on what the next steps look like, who is responsible and by what time does it need to be completed. The next steps might look like seeking feedback from others outside the session, present something to the board, test it with customer feedback or even give the team time to incubate which simply means to continue thinking about the ideas overnight and reconvene. Don’t leave it too long though. Incubating on ideas should not be done any longer than 2-3 days otherwise day to day roles take over and the next time you catch up it will feel like you are starting all over again. (This is the ultimate fail as you team will lose energy about the ideas and it will feel like re-work with no progress or clear outcomes.)

How to fix it

Ensure you have at least 20 mins at the end of the session to be very clear on listing the next steps, timelines, and responsibilities.

If you want to increase ownership and autonomy in the room, ask those responsible to either report back their findings as an introduction to the next section or even ask if there is someone else who would like to facilitate.

You may decide you need more information to help you prioritise your ideas and that is perfectly ok. Agree to gather the information and bring it into the next session. A great opportunity here is to think about how you can gather information external to the organisation. This is where true innovation is born. Talk to experts, gather market data, talk to customers, or end users or even different divisions in your organisation. To assist clear decision making back up any data with a human case study for evidence. As humans we love to get the facts but there is something more persuasive about learning about Joe who had a problem, came to your organisation and you helped in this way and that and he said this.

When we team a specific testimonial, feedback, or case study with data it helps us with emotional decision making as well as rational. Suddenly, the answer will become clearer for everyone involved.

The solutions I’ve outline here are all apart of the design thinking process which is a clear framework to assist collaboration, innovation and clear decision making. If you’d like to know more drop me a line.

In this article from B&T Mykel Dixon puts his case forward of why creativity has never been more important in business.

A New Demand For Creativity

Last year, LinkedIn scraped the data from over 20+ million job listings posted on their site. Creativity came in as the number one soft skill employers will look for in the next decade.

From Soft Skill To Hard Returns

In 2016, Adobe found that creative companies enjoy 1.5 times the market share. And the brands that put creativity (otherwise known as DESIGN THINKING) at the heart of their strategy outperformed the S&P Index by 219 per cent over 10 years.

McKinsey developed a ‘Creativity Index’ whereby they measured the creative capability of a company. Companies that score high on their index outperform their competitors in two key metrics:

  1. an appetite and aptitude for innovation (growth)
  2. shareholder return (profit).

It seems we’ve finally found a way to measure the ROI of our imagination and the best part is, it’s not limited to shareholders.

Company Stock To Your Back Pocket

As part of their global benchmark study, called ‘State of Create’, Adobe found that respondents who identify as ‘someone who creates for a living’ enjoyed 17 per cent higher household income than non-creators. This was backed up by the Foundation for Young Australians in their ‘The New Basics’ report. Over three years, they looked at the data of over 4.2 million job listings and found that any job that listed creativity as an attribute had an average annual salary boost of $3129 pa.

Take a minute now to update your LinkedIn profile. Put ‘creative’ in it. Go on, you deserve some of that extra cash. Humour aside, the affect creativity has on the bottom line, of both a company and an individual, and the urgency with which both entities should be making it a priority are obvious. So why aren’t we hearing more about it?

Set Fire To Outdated Stereotypes

Too fluffy and inconsequential for the boardroom. Missing the credibility most leaders look for in a mindset or skillset to make tough, strategic decisions. Better left to artists, kids, or those wacky types in colourful shirts in the marketing team.

But as the world continues to throw more ‘unprecedented events’ our way (and you can be sure it will), our ability to find and form new value, that is both original and useful is paramount to our success. If we want to stay relevant in the eyes of our customers, colleagues or company, we need to make creativity a priority. And it starts with you.

Mykel Dixon, Author of Everyday Creative: A Dangerous Guide To Making Magic At Work.

You can read the full article: https://www.bandt.com.au/why-creativity-is-the-strongest-economic-currency/

The irony is not lost on me that I am writing a blog (content) on why content isn’t all it was.

But talk to many business owners about their ability to directly link their content to active red hot leads is ambiguous. From a marketing standpoint yes, arggh, we know you need content. You need an active website. You need to update and revisit your content for the Google gods to reward you with a top of the pops ranking but if anyone out there is creating content it’s a hard slog. I know I’m the bearer of bad news here but you’re competing again millions of blogs getting published each day. That’s right each day. In 2019 its estimated that 4.4 million blogs were published E-V-E-R-Y day. It quickly starts feeling like a thankless task.

The reasons behind content creation is for two things.

  1. To share a little about you, let people get to know your area of expertise, your passions and what you do day to day.
  2. The next is to put them at the top of a sales funnel and with more and more content the intent is to work the prospect through your funnel, keep reminding them that you’re there until they are ultimately convinced that you and your business are the right option for them.

Here’s the problem of why the conversion is unclear. Subscribers, readers, followers can be a passive bystanders for many days, months and years consuming content and if we never purchase then that is a lot of time and money out the door for creators in the hope someone will pick up the phone. 

We can measure likes but we can’t measure engagement unless it results in an action.  Unfortunately, I’ve confirmed the need to create content is still there. Articles, blogs and videos are all necessary evils but if you want to engage people on a higher level we need to turn up the notch a little.

Ok Liv, ‘where’s it all at?’ I hear you say. It all lies with creating…

 …an Engaged Community

 Community offers the one thing that we all want and need which is connection. If there is anything that this time of housebound madness has taught us is that we need connections.We need to offer the chance for our customers and potential customers to meet with us on a different plain. Sure, it might not be face to face all of the time but many people have proven connection online is totally doable.

I’ve held some online sessions of late and it was with some apprehension and some reservation on whether I could create engaging experiences in the online space. My happy place is in a room full of people with a some post-its sharpies and an ability to read a room. These are all things I miss and I won’t lie it is slightly trickier in an online space but it’s totally doable. It comes down to authenticity and fulfilling a need. It could be the need for a chat or the need for information or inspiration. We’re all after something. 

Why is creating connections more effective than content?

By creating a community and connections you are offering an opportunity for people to connect, learn from each other and provide an experience.

When you write the next earth shattering post you’ll experience what many of us content creators do. Some people read it. Most will scroll past it, or like it without reading it, save it to read later (which is as good as filing it in the bin) or perhaps not even see it if because they haven’t opened up their spam that day or logged onto LinkedIn or Facebook.

By creating a conversation instead of posting an article you begin a live connection and form communication that isn’t all one way. There is back and forth, engagement respect and understanding. It’s not a passive speed read and then back into the newsfeed.

It’s an opportunity to connect with people who are facing the same challenges and discuss some solutions. It’s an opportunity to get off the sales soap box and step down and have some real conversations and its where magic happens. In this kind of scenario, its highly likely you won’t have all the answers and the good news is that you don’t need all the answers. You’re providing an opportunity for others to think.Connections are more important now more than EVER

Let’s look at the importance of connections in a time of crisis

At 8:45am on September 11, 2001 suddenly an explosion near the top of the north tower of the World Trade Centre occurred. Thousands stopped in their tracks to watch black smoke pour from the place of impact—an awful lot of smoke for what initially was mistaken for a small plane that had lost its way.

An attack on the world economy would leave more than an economic crisis, it was a human one. That statement might be sounding a little too familiar right now?In the wake of the attacks isolation and fear never being higher in NYC. Survivors had lost entire families. Workers lost colleagues and finding a new place in the world when overcome with grief is no easy feat. In 2002 Scott Heiferman done something he had never done before. He met his neighbours. The ideas of how to strengthen community engagement and connections gave him a flurry of ideas. 30 to be exact and two of which he acted on. One of those was the creation of the MeetUp platform.

Many of use have joined MeetUp groups to learn and connect over common interests and it’s a hugely rewarding networking experience. The last record of user numbers of MeetUp was done in 2017 and was flagged at over 35 million people worldwide. Clearly a few of us out there feel the need to be a part of a community.Let’s also not forget the theory of give to receive. By helping others on the journey by being involved in your world and further understanding your skills and flat out superstar charisma (ok not all of us have that but you know what I mean) people are less likely to feel pressured to click here or call now.

Now can you convert your customers and potential customers into a community? Don’t know where to start? Then let’s bounce some ideas around and start thinking what your community might look like…. I’m up for a coffee when you are.

We need creativity now more than ever. Creativity helps us deal with the big A word.

Ambiguity.

In a rapidly changing environment knowing the right answer off the bat is near impossible. The whole idea of ambiguity is that often we are not even clear on the problem. We are good at assuming what we think is the problem but until we stop and dedicate time to unlocking our curiosity and unleashing our creative thought, we can’t be sure.

Creativity implies freedom – freedom to think in new ways. However, we are human and as we know NEW ways of doing things can be interpreted as a threat to many of us. The whole theory of change management has been in demand for years simply due to our inability to adapt to change.


“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future”

– John F Kennedy

Here’s the four things you need to get right to help creativity thrive in your organisation:

1. Bring your whole self to work

This isn’t walking into the office (or your home office) in your track pants and stained shirt, but it is the ability to be open and transparent with the people you’re working with. It is forming a foundation of psychological safety. No one will risk potential ridicule or negative reactions from sharing new ideas, especially radical ones. There needs to be encouragement, acceptance and acknowledgement from leaders.

There’s also needs to be an acceptance that the lines of your personal life and your work life are blurred now more than ever before.

With the viral BBC clip in 2017 now certainly seeming like every parents reality we’ve had the opportunity to get a glimpse into our colleagues life like never before. But this is a good thing, right? Well, I think so. I think this crisis we have faced is an opportunity for us all to think about HOW we do this thing called work and how we control its expansiveness into our lives. We all have responsibilities and priorities that lie outside our work. These are the things that drive our purpose and if they are not the things driving us then we need to take a step back and re-asses, what the hell we’re all doing here.

2. Respect each other

This is not a hard one, but old school leadership styles demand a stoic, fear driving figure head who threatens your job all to instil some motivation. Well, I have been in organisations driven by such figure heads and you won’t be surprised when I say it flat out doesn’t work. Fear disables creativity quicker than Superman being disarmed by Kryptonite.

The blame does not all lie with leaders. Perhaps you have someone in your team who lacks a little humbleness and exerts unsubstantiated hubris. You know the type they talk down anyone else ideas because THEY have all the answers and THEY know all there is to know. You leave meetings with them feeling like a hollow tip to the back of the throat might be more enjoyable.

What’s the cure? Well its simple. Turn up when you are supposed to turn up. Let people talk and listen to ideas before shooting them out of the sky. Actually, listen. Don’t just be worried about appearing to be listening when instead you are checking your phone or thinking about if bangs would make you look better on Zoom.

Actively listen, interpret and analyse what others are stating. Respect each other and know that NO-ONE has all the answers. That is right, no-one. There may be one person in the room who makes the final call but developing possible solutions should be done together.

3. Collaborate

We all think that innovative genius comes from some guy (yes I’m using a worn out stereotype) sitting in a room all by himself with his new advancement in technology and goes on to change the world and become a multi billionaire at 24. This is not reality.

Success comes to these individuals after many failures and mockery. Look deep into any stories of creative genius or ingenuity and you’ll find a journey filled with bouncing ideas around with other experts. Building on ideas and/or straight out stealing ideas and tweaking them.

Mark Twain famously once said “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”

Mark Twain

If you’re thinking of your colleagues as simply getting in the way to you doing your job there’s your first clue you need to rethink your mindset on collaboration.

If there is anything that this current crisis has taught us is that we need each other. We need each other in our day to day lives but we also need others to help form our own individual ideas.

Collaboration is not a team building exercise. Collaboration and creative thought need to happen every day. That is why meetings are the perfect playground for you to slide right into creating a creative team.
Collaboration provides people with satisfaction and engagement, and it helps organisations turn around and deliver on new ideas, faster.

4. Follow a Framework

You know where I am going with this. I’m a design thinking consultant so of course I’m going to say this is the framework to success. Let us simplify it though. It’s simply a staged process like walking (one foot in front of the other) that will help your team begin their journey to innovation. It will help them come up with new ideas and deal with ambiguity.

If you are not dabbling in design thinking this can seem all too impossible and irrelevant. You might be saying “we’re no Apple or IBM” or “it’s not applicable to us”. I’d wholehearted disagree on both counts but for the cynics out there I encourage any organisation to find its own framework. In reference to the quote from Mark Twain earlier look at design thinking, or Agile or Lean principles and steal small elements from each one.

Start small and experiment with what suits your organisations biggest challenge. If its reducing waste look at Lean, if it’s defining the difference between what customers say they want and what they really want then start with design thinking, or if its improving efficiencies and getting more done with less then explore Agile.

Follow a framework or steal someone else’s. The steps do not matter. Allow your team to do the work they love by giving them the freedom to play with the way things are done. The main point here is start small but just get started.

Are you being too critical in your meetings? Yes, it’s a time of high stress but when you criticise others ideas too early it has a detrimental effect to the free flow of ideas.

I’ve seen it time and time again. There is absolutely the need to analyse ideas and to consider the risks but if you do it too soon you are restricting the creative process. In fact you are flat out shooting it in the jugular.

A simple way to stay positive is to define your problem ahead of time into a ‘positive action statement’.

It’s a stressful time sure but now more than ever we need to keep stretching our creative legs and seek the opportunities.

Video 3min watch

How? was the question I was asked last week after posting a video on ‘bringing your culture online’.

Here’s a quick exercise anyone can implement to refocus on your culture as well as encouraging your team turn up to your online meeting with a mindset of active contribution rather than passive attendance. Heighten your teams engagement and leverage their creativity.

Here’s a quick vlog on one of what I consider to be one of the best tips to holding a creative online meeting.

The numbers and research don’t lie, most of our meetings suck. According to research by Gallup senior executives spend two days or more a week in meetings despite the fact that 67% of meetings are considered to be “failures”. I’d dare say that time would have significantly spiked in the last couple of weeks for most execs.

Anything that requires us to turn up and zone out is not just a waste of time but a waste of our creative potential, a waste of an opportunity to truly connect and collaborate.

You can’t write an article on improving meetings without quoting some scary stats. Steven Rolberg’s research states that…

62% of participants said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

Poor meeting structures lead to low engagement and poor culture. If you want a more productive team who creates big ideas and gets stuck into creative problem solving, then you need to dedicate time to connection and heightening collaboration. The way to do that is to ensure you allocate time in your meeting to focus on culture, create an interactive experience and tie the jobs to be done back to the overall higher purpose and vision for the team.

Allocate time

In my experience this works best in the opening of the meeting. Dedicate 15 minutes at the beginning of your next team meeting and use this time to seek input from everyone who attends. This will help you stop your team feeling like passive participants and make them feel more like active contributors and idea makers.

Interactive experience

In a time like this where things are so uncertain, and people are experiencing high levels of change and stress

Some think of focusing on culture and engagement as nice things to do or the icing on the cake. We need to make the cake first sell it then we’ll think about ourselves later. Wrong. Instead, think of engagement and your culture as the cake tin. It’s what enables you to make the cake in the first place. Want a better cake? Then fix the holes in your tin.

So here’s 3 activities to get you started…

Method 1.

BRING YOUR VALUES TO LIFE.

Grab your list of values. Select one each week or each meeting and ask the team to each come prepared with one or two ideas as to how that value can be represented in your next online meeting.

Collate the ideas, discuss and pick some nice easy ways that you all agree as a team you want to uphold over the next few weeks.

Use the next meeting to summarise what was agreed to and at the end of the meetings to a value check in. Take 2 mins to write down how you think it went. Keep experimenting and tweaking as you go.

Benefits: This activity requires everyone to do some pre-work before the meeting so they are already in the mindset that they will be required to contribute.

It helps your team focus on agreed to goals and decision making. There’s not one individual who makes the call but a group who are working together. Essentially you are working out your collaboration and team cohesion muscles.

Method 2.

GET VISUAL.

Get participants to get and A4 piece of paper and a sharpie. Ask them to draw a picture 5 mins before they’re due to dial in that represents how they have been feeling that morning or day. You can have fun with this but just make sure the image is visible to everyone online. (Hence the sharpie instead of a pen). If the kids are at home grab a crayon if you have to. Then ask everyone to show their picture. If there is anyone who wants to share why they drew that picture. You’ll find some people are feeling great and some who might be feeling a little challenged that day could perhaps do with a phone call from someone who has some energy to give that day to support them. We’re all going through a lot so morning you might be on top of the world and afternoon you might need a pick me up.

Benefits: How many emails do you send each day? How many drawings do you do each day? By drawing an image, you are instantly activating new pathways in your brain. By opening new pathways, it allows you to interpret information differently and allow more critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Method 3.

GIVE A SHOUT OUT.

Tell a story that represents someone demonstrating the values either within your organisations or serving a client.

Give recognition to someone who has helped deliver on a project or task. Then go a step further and ask them to explain how they managed to get all the work done or how they prioritised this job with everything else they had going on.

The more you can get other to recognise positive behaviours and not just outcomes the more you help them to realise that they too can deliver on their seemingly endless tasks and major projects.

Benefits: This builds trust within your team and it helps people feel valued for the work they do. Trusting one another is one of the most valuable commodities we possess, and it is vital to cohesive teamwork. By going the one step further and asking the recognised team member to explain ‘how’ they achieved what they did or how they prioritised means that others in the team can then see how they themselves can follow positive behaviours and processes for the same outcomes. This step also fosters transparency and avoids the ‘hold your cards close to your chest’ behaviour which fractures teams. Success breeds success.

Don’t forget that your workplace culture is your own. Develop your own rituals. You can adopt some of the above or go out on your own and create something unique to your organisation that can create a sense of comradery and belonging.

Experiment and improve. Question the outcome, structure, behaviours and necessity of every meeting. Was it necessary to all jump online? Did everyone need to be there. Could the same be achieved by simply heading onto a teams chat or slack. If it’s an important announcement does everyone need to login at that point in time or could you simply send a video Prime Minister style give everyone a chance to digest then come into an online meeting to discuss peoples thoughts and questions.

If you’d like more tips on how to bring your culture online get in touch. No pressure, no pitch.

Stay creative! Cheers, Liv

This morning may have been the first morning most of the community logged into workplace meeting from home. How did it go?

Some are relishing the change. Others having their laptop set up in the bedroom and across the hall from the bathroom with 2+ kids at home is proving to be challenging or more like the multitasking challenge from hell.

Before you reach for that bottle of SSB before 10am lets press reset.

The problem with most online meetings is that it can be a distracting set up. Then its mostly a my turn, her turn, his turn to talk set up. Here’s a few tips to think about before you connect tomorrow.


Start with a culture moment


Take 10-15 mins to share some positive moments of what you’ve noticed happening with your teammates, colleagues and leaders around you.

Congratulate people who are demonstrating the values and behaviours you want your organisation to embrace now more than ever and into the future.

If your facilitating ask a leader or manager to start and then get everyone involved.

Being present


There’s nothing worse than a leader logging in when they feel like or taking calls while the meeting is going on. Yes, it’s time for urgency but support your team by dedicating solid time to them. I’m not talking about a one-off life or death moment I’m talking about a solid pattern of repetitive behaviour.

Look to structures meetings so they’re kept short and work them around the other priorities for the day. If it can’t be done say your piece and bounce. You’ll feel better about addressing the major priority you have, and you won’t diminish the time the rest of the team need to connect.

Give your team the freedom to collaborate and get back to you.

Driving engagement


There’s nothing more detrimental to any meeting than a ‘lets go around the table and share what we’re working on today, this week, for eternity’ structure.

It sure can feel like an eternity. While people speak other participants are checking out their hair or how killer their new virtual background looks.

Think about how you can mix it up.

Who’s going to do what, by when?


Last and you know it’s not least. Ensure as a team everyone keeps each other accountable. Reiterate the importance of the tasks outlined and the implications if things don’t progress.

There’s nothing more refreshing than leaders and teams who can be completely open and honest with each other. Think of it as a half time motivational huddle.

Then get out there smash those tasks and keep the progress updates as frequent as sales alerts at Christmas or the onset of a retail shut down during Covid-19. Ooops too soon?