Beautiful questions

It was raining. That, combined with the bad traffic out of Bournemouth meant I was running late to get to Southampton. I hate being late. It wasn’t a beautiful evening.

But it became more enjoyable. I’m so glad I made it to the CIPR Wessex ‘Creativity Workshop’ with Andy Green.

Andy is an author, international conference speaker, brand consultant, trainer and facilitator.

The premise of the workshop was to provide us with tricks and tips to think more creatively about our communication challenges. In times of economic austerity and reduced budgets in most organisations, we all need to do more with less. I’ve seen this increasingly across the board as a freelance communication consultant.

What were the top tips I learned from this workshop?

Break the challenge down – by writing it down, a challenge can be more manageable. Then by questioning every word, you’ll discover that the challenge is actually a multitude of questions. More questions, but smaller and a little easier to tackle.

Reframe the question – sing the question, show the question as a mathematical equation or draw the question. By using a different ‘language’ to pose the question you can get a different perspective. Andy sang our question to the tune of the National Anthem (there’s no recording of that).

Snakes and ladders – view both snakes and ladders as your strategies, and your tactics enable you to make them longer or shorter. Ideally your ladders should be longer, taking you further towards your objectives, while your snakes should be shorter, reducing the risks.

It’s good to recycle – sometimes a press release hits a blank, and another time, it can hit gold and get lots of great coverage. Contexts change over time. Sometimes the second attempt is the right time. So don’t waste that resource. That creative idea doesn’t need to be binned because you used it once. Similarly it’s ok to surf on someone else’s wave, and tag your story onto theirs.

Ideas rarely arrive gift-wrapped and ready to present
Ideas rarely arrive gift-wrapped and ready to present

Half baked ideas are ok – phew. I frequently have random ideas, but they are rarely complete and gift wrapped when they arrive. They need time to incubate, to be ready to share and present. Give yourself time, overnight ideally to let the idea develop.

Five whys – I love the word why, so this resonated with me. Ask why, five times, like a child will ask you why. That way you can get to the nub of the challenge, and make yourself and the business really think about what it is you are trying to achieve.

Ask beautiful questions – not ugly questions. Questions are critical. It’s all about asking the right questions to allow you to think flexibly and add value. We worry, stress and imagine unreal negative situations around ugly questions quite easily, almost without thinking. So if we spend that time and thinking power on the beautiful questions, just think how creative could we be?

We are all creative, Andy assures us. We spend an average of four hours a night, while we are sleeping, dreaming in full cinematic glory. That’s quite amazing. Now I don’t remember a jot of my dreams these days, so I can’t vouch for this personally, but I’m pretty sure it’s a fair assumption.

So now armed with some top tips to use to help with our daytime communication challenges we can all find some brilliant creative solutions to those beautiful questions.

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