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The Square Wheels Newsletter - Issue 13

Thoughts on Creativity, Facilitation, PowerPoint, Transparencies and all that stuff...

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Main Article –
Thoughts on Creativity, Facilitation, PowerPoint,
Transparencies and all that stuff...

Jokes and all that
What's Wrong?
Different Thoughts
Would you like to join?
Last Thoughts to Leave By

Closing Remarks

Thoughts on Creativity, Facilitation, PowerPoint, Transparencies and all that stuff...

I posted a question to the new members of Yahoo! Square Wheels and people said they would like to see some thinking on creativity and facilitation. Interesting how quickly this generated a series of posts on facilitation tools. So, my guess is that there is a good bit of interest in the subject.

There is a lot of work out there on creativity. Conceptually, consider three different kinds of situations.

One point of the triangle might be a situation whereby you are creating brand new ideas in a gansfeldt - a white room where there is no anchor to reality and people can create without limit or constraint. If you think of the way advertising is created (stereotypically), you get this kind of creative freedom.

Another type of creativity might be the Kaizen kind of quality improvement thinking, where you look for a million little improvements that you implement on an almost continuous basis.

And you can then add the kinds of normal restrictions on creativity implemented with some of the documentation-deadly ISO 9000 initiatives and the various rules-dominated bureaucratic policy-wonker organizations.

From my experience, all three situations are somewhat common although we tend to avoid the extremes. Most organizations have somewhat free reign to invent ideas, but they need to be in the context of how things get done. We can generate ideas for sales, products, services, fulfillment, etc. It can be a white room situation for people if they are allowed to think out of their own job constraints.

Similarly, we need those continuous small improvements in how things are accomplished in the workplace. But it is also true that most Americans (and many other cultures) do not find these incremental changes very rewarding. They are not very exciting and tend not to generate much excitement among workers or managers.

And we can all identify with the bureaucratic, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!" approaches to organizational improvement. Some workgroups seem so bogged down in the mud that most kinds of improvement are difficult if not generally impossible. There are structured procedures for submitting your improvement ideas and you may expect to wait to receive any feedback about those suggestions <grin> .

I think that all these operate to some degree within most organizations. So here’s some of my thinking about how to approach these kinds of situations. I’ll also blend this into my ideas about facilitation. Sound like a deal?

Okay, one of the critical issues around creativity is "thinking out of the box." A much-overused, metaphor, it still works because it helps to generate perspective. I like to use the phrase, "Stepping back from the wagon," because it links to both the leadership and the support people. The key is to get away from those factors that constrain one’s thinking.

I use the illustration, Square Wheels One, that is freely available to readers just for the asking. It sets up discussions, perspective, objectivity and participation.

What I prefer to do is work with groups of 24 people and give them each the Square Wheels worksheet. I announce that they have 1 minute, working on their own, to generate as many ideas as they can as to how the illustration represents, "How organizations really work." After one minute, I ask them to work together and generate as many ideas as they can as a group.

One technique is to have them write on a transparency of Square Wheels One so that the tabletop can then make a presentation to the rest of the group. Let me also share something I learned in Asia -- tell the group to select one person to represent the group’s thinking and that they will have up to but no more than 2 minutes to share the group’s ideas.

Another approach is to do the same thing with sheets of easel pad paper. Photocopy mini’s of the image, glue-stick them onto the lower middle bottom of a landscape-oriented sheet and give them colored marking pens and pieces of masking tape. You can have a couple of groups present (maybe 3 or 4 of a session of 10) and you also have these sheets visible for the rest of the session. You can also add browsing and "yellow stickies" and self-sticking colored dots for generating additional group interaction, adding ideas or voting as to importance or impact.

(If you are interested in an expansion of these thoughts, ask me a question in the message area of Yahoo! Square Wheels and I can share more about selection, issues of face, and similar themes.)

Okay, so now you’ve established a number of things, including:

- you have gotten people to play with a theme in a humorous and general way. Remember that caterpillars can fly if they just lighten up!

- you have gotten participants to think on their own and establish some personal interaction and buy-in to the concept.

- you’ve generated some teamwork, communication and collaboration on solving a challenge - "identify some ideas in the cartoon."

- you’ve generated some focus on discussing things that work but that might not be working smoothly

- you’ve established the idea that, "The round wheels are already in the wagon." This makes it a bit safer to discuss new ideas.

- you have also established a non-confrontational language of continuous continuous improvement - Square Wheels and round wheels. You can objectively discuss the things that can be improved and share ideas that are often existing best practices. And you can do this while minimizing resistance.

I’ve used this approach with groups of 4 and more than a few times for more than 1000 people. People can get involved and engaged and they like to do so. New ideas are pretty easy if you do it with them rather than to them.

Now, my personal preferences are to use transparencies. You can use full room lighting and you can also write audience responses directly on them when working with larger groups. You can do overlays, change color backgrounds and all that stuff.

I also like the flexibility of working with transparencies. You can readily change orders. Heck, I sometimes add or remove a whole set of illustrations when it makes sense to do so. And i love to have a stack of relevant factoids or an illustration ready to illustrate an expected question or key point. It makes things a lot easier for me.

But you cannot use clear film anymore - way too boring! I use bright colors with dark black letters. Green is my color for the Square Wheels One illustration and any other where I want to generate some ideas. Yellow is my cautionary color, like where I show the gang "up to their axles in mud," and the need to get out of the ditch and up on the road. Red is danger and blue is for those "credibility images" like those about mission and visions.

At ASTD, I was talking to a new acquaintance in the Speakers Ready Room and she allowed that she had just learned how to do PowerPoint animations. She was so excited. MY initial reaction was less positive -- I imagined every slide with swirling text, fades, letter-by-letter typing and animated clip art. And I was thinking of these experienced trainers gagging and gasping for air.

After seeing a few hundred PowerPoint presentations, many with poor design, way too much animation, and a good number with "technical glitches" preventing the presenter from doing a smooth delivery. At ASTD, in front of 10,000 trainers, Tom Peters could not get his slides to advance -- it actually got him visibly upset not to mention the two times when he referred to slides that were not ready to be presented. Bob Pike had a complete systems failure a couple of years ago and could not get the multimedia projector to work at all -- luckily he brought a complete set of his backup materials!

Heck, my client on Tuesday morning wanted to review his presentation to new hires (including some new thinking about mission and vision and values) with his top management team. For some reason, the computer and the software and the projection unit kept bombing. I did bring a handout of the 6 key slides as they related to our coaching program. We had no trouble with my overheads <grin>. Or my handouts.

I think there is certainly a place for multimedia PowerPoint presentations. And I’ve seen some very professional presentations done with browser software with a variety of links and options built in as text anchors along the bottom of the page. You could simply click on that link to bring new information into the presentation or use the "Go" and "back" links to move about previously presented materials.

And we sell our games set up for PowerPoint presentation. When the sequence of events is locked down, it works well. Giving the weather patterns in Dutchman, for example, works nicely. With the new projectors having so much power, you can often work in full room light.

But I’ve got to admit that marking pens, transparencies, images and overlays, easel pad sheets and yellow stickies sure make my sessions both easier to deliver and much more interactive.

And I really don’t sit in for those whole sessions at these conferences when the presenter is standing there lecturing to me. I really want to be part of the sessions I attend as well as present and I think that the "Power of Powerpoint" is sometime lost amongst the animations and rigid structure of the presentation design.

And we are moving to sell all of our cartoons in PowerPoint. <grin>


New Jokes

What's Wrong?

For twenty-five years, Mr. Bookman had arrived at work at exactly 9:00am. He had never missed a day and was never late.

One day, 9 am passed without Bookman's arrival, it caused a sensation. All work ceased, and the big boss himself, looking at his watch and muttering, came out into the corridor.

Finally, precisely at ten, Bookman showed up, clothes dusty and torn, his face scratched and bruised, his glasses bent. He limped painfully to the time clock, punched in, and said, aware that all eyes were upon him, "I tripped and rolled down two flights of stairs in the subway. Nearly killed myself."

And the boss said, "And to roll down two flights of stairs took you a whole hour?"


Different Thoughts

Having a beer belly is a great way to meet cute, rich female cardiologists.



**Contributed to Swenny's E-Mail Funnies by Ajay Ambastha, Mumbai, India*

Memo from Director General to Manager:
Today at 11 o'clock there will be a total eclipse of the sun. This is when the sun disappears behind the moon for two minutes. As this is something that cannot be seen every day, time will be allowed for employees to view the eclipse in the car park. People should meet in the car parking area at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse, and giving some background information. Safety goggles will be made available at a small cost.

Memo from Manager to Department Head:
Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the car parking area. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will disappear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The Director General will deliver a short speech beforehand to give us all some background information. This is not something that can be seen every day.

Memo from Department Head to Floor Manager:
The Director General will today deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in an eclipse. This is something that can not be seen every day, so people will meet in the car parking area at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.

Memo From Floor Manager to Supervisor:
Ten or eleven staff are to go to the car parking area, where the Director General will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn't happen every day. It will be safe, but it will cost you.

Memo from Supervisor to workers:
Some workers will go to the car parking area today to see the Director General disappear. It is a pity this doesn't happen every day!


Would you like to join? .....

The Yoko Club?
Oh no.

The German philosophy club?
I. Kant.

The Ford-Nixon club?
Pardon me?

The Alzheimers club?
Forget it.

The Ebert movie club?

The Groucho Marx club?
You bet your life.

The quarterback club?
I'll pass.

The Rhett Butler club?
I don't give a damn.

The compulsive rhymers club?

The Spanish optometrists club?

The Procrastinators club?
Maybe, next week...........

The Self-Esteem Builders?
They wouldn't accept me, anyway

The Agoraphobics Society?
Only if they meet at my house.

The Codependents Club?
Can I bring my friend?

The Prayer Group?
Lord willing!

The Peter Pan Club?
Never, Never.



111,111,111 times 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, and purple.

Clans of long ago that wanted to get rid of their unwanted people without killing them use to burn their houses down - hence the expression "to get fired."

Canada is an Indian word meaning "Big Village".

There are two credit cards for every person in the United States.

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

"I am." is the shortest complete sentence in the English language.

The term, "the whole 9 yards," came from WWII fighter pilots in the South Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got "the whole 9 yards."

The most common name in the world is Mohammed.

The word "samba" means "to rub navels together."

The international telephone dialing code for Antarctica is 672.

The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher.

Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny) was allergic to carrots.

Until 1965, driving was done on the left-hand side on roads in Sweden. The conversion to right-hand was done on a weekday at 5 pm. All traffic stopped as people switched sides. This time and day were chosen to prevent accidents where drivers would have gotten up in the morning and been too sleepy to realize that this was the day of the changeover.

The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin during World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.

The celebrated author pronounced "Dr. Seuss" such that it rhymed with "rejoice."

In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam."

Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson."

More people are killed annually by donkeys than die in air crashes.

The term,, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye," is from Ancient Rome. The only rule during wrestling matches was, "No eye gouging." Everything else was allowed, but the only way to be disqualified was to poke someone's eye out.

A 'jiffy' is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.

Hershey's Kisses are called that because the machine that makes them looks like it's kissing the conveyor belt.

Money isn't made out of paper, it's made out of cotton.

Every time you lick a stamp, you're consuming 1/10 of a calorie.

A person afflicted with hexadectylism has six fingers or six toes on one or both hands and feet.

Someone who has a fear of being on stage and performing has topophobia. If someone has a fear of bananas and fans, are they bananafanaphobic? Fee Phi Mobic? (Ya gotta be into old rock and roll to get this one!)

A Saudi Arabian woman can get a divorce if her husband doesn't give her coffee.

Barbers at one time combined shaving and haircutting with bloodletting and pulling teeth. The white stripes on a field of red that spiral down a barber pole represent the bandages used in the bloodletting.

More people are killed annually by donkeys than die in air crashes.

The kiss that is given by the bride to the groom at the end of the wedding ceremony originates from the earliest times when the couple would actually make love for the first time under the eyes of half the village!

The last member of the famous Bonaparte family, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, died in 1945, of injuries sustained from tripping over his dog's leash.


Aikido -

Saw recently that someone said they were from the Aikido school of facilitation rather than the Karate school. My question is why do they use a martial arts metaphor -- are they being attacked all that much?


Last Thoughts to Leave By

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.
Jennifer Unlimited-

I have yet to hear a man ask for advice
Gloria Steinem-

I never married, because there was no need. I have three pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband. I have a dog that growls every morning, a parrot that swears all afternoon, and a cat that comes home late every night.
-Marie Corelli-

I am a marvelous housekeeper.
Every time I leave a man I keep his house.
-Zsa Zsa Gabor-

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.
-Eleanor Roosevelt-

Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are
removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes
out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

One good turn gets most of the blankets.

There are two kinds of pedestrians- the quick and the dead.

Life is sexually transmitted.

Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

If you want your spouse to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say, talk in your sleep.

What has four legs and an arm? A happy pit bull terrier.

Every morning is the dawn of a new error...

A flying saucer results when a nudist spills his coffee.

For people who like peace and quiet; a 'phoneless cord.

I can see clearly now, the brain is gone...

I used up all my sick days, so I'm calling in dead.

Mental floss prevents moral decay.

Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.

If at first you DO succeed, try not to look astonished!

If things get any worse, I'll have to ask you to stop helping me.

If I want your opinion, I'll ask you to fill out the necessary forms.

Don't look back, they might be gaining on you.

It's not hard to meet expenses, they're everywhere.

Help Wanted: Telepath. You know where to apply.

Look out for #1. Don't step in #2 either.

Budget: A method for going broke methodically.


Our member list will always be confidential. We value every subscriber and respect your privacy. I am a bit of a privacy nut, myself.

Newsletters are archived at in the Newsletter section.
Comments, thought, ideas and suggestions are always appreciated,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Performance Management Company
864-292-8700 or


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