Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: Square Weels facilitation toolkit

Can Creativity be Taught? Is that the RIGHT Question?

My Simple Framework:

We should NOT think that we have to have people go through
some kind of creativity training in order to “be creative.”


There is a long thread of 60+ comments in a LinkedIn group on Learning and Education and Training that generated a good discussion. In part, some of the people seemed to take the position that creativity needs to be taught and people can be taught to be creative. Some people think it can be “stimulated, encouraged, challenged and fostered” by environments that encourage people to share their ideas.

But others took the idea that creativity = imagination and that the latter was not something that everyone engaged in as much as some. In other words, there is a lot of creative thinking going on about creative thinking.

CJ Stape, for example, added this thought which I thought was excellent: “Creativity has several dimensions including: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.”

And there were thoughts around the reality that the workplace for so many people is just not working well in actually asking them for their ideas and thoughts on workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and involvement and motivation would tend to more than suggest that many workplaces are not very good when it comes to employee involvement on any kind of consistent basis. Large numbers of people are un-involved and dis-engaged.

And it is also true that not everyone can or will contribute equally to using creativity skills or doing creative problem solving to implement workplace ideas or innovation. But so what! That is what teamwork is for and what management should be doing, helping people make actual improvements and providing organizational support.

Should we really even be asking the question if creativity can be taught? That might imply that only some people have it and that one needs to go through some kind of training to be creative.

“Nope. Sorry. You are not allowed to be creative until you go through the Creativity Training Course offered by HR. We can get you into that in 2016. Should I put you on that list? Or, go online to the website: and sign up yourself.”

(I wonder if there is such a website or if there should be!)

Seriously: I had a client — a big global bank you know by its initials — require people to go through a course on teamwork before they could be ON a team for process improvement. They HAD TO LEARN THE PROCESSES in order to contribute. Do you know how frustrated people were because they had ideas but were NOT ALLOWED to share them?

Everyone in the workplace can contribute good ideas, or help refine ideas to optimize their impact. The creatives can throw mud at the wire fence. The pragmatics can sort out the better ones from the less gooder ones and the Devil’s Advocate folks can help to challenge them from different perspectives to help refine them.

I often talk about Spectator Sheep as those who are not involved and engaged in the actual activity and who have perspective and who are not satisfied or agreeable to how things are really working.

Spectator Sheep Yellow round bordersYou can find two posts about engaging Spectator Sheep here and here.

For me, everyone is creative and just asking the question causes a problem. My approach is to share a cartoon and have people consider the possibilities. Then, they share their individual ideas as a small group and generate some consensus on the overall performance situation. Only then do we begin to even suggest that they consider ideas for improvements in their own workplaces! We allow the creative juices to flow with virtually no constraints — since NOT contributing ideas and being creative seems to be a learned response for many.

Only then do we allow the teams / tabletops to start thinking about performance improvement and process improvement in their work, sharing ideas about the best practices of individuals, the workarounds and ideas for roadblock management, etc.

We sell simple toolkits because we believe things are simple and straightforward when it comes to asking for ideas and allowing creativity to occur:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Is creativity a muscle that needs to be exercised? It is a ZONE that one has to achieve in order to operate effectively — do you have to be in the flow (link) in order to contribute? Can only some be expected to contribute to an organization’s process improvement process? It seems like that is a perspective held by some, but my view is that everyone can contribute to the group total, collectively and collaboratively — creative is additive and not exclusive.

I added some additional thoughts to this issue in a followup blog. You can access that by clicking on the TS Eliot illustrated quote below:

Square Wheels One and TS Eliot Shadow



You might find our newly released digital virtual version of our outstanding team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, to be of interest in your organizational development initiatives. Dutchman has received 100s of fabulous reviews from its user base over the past 30 years and it is now being designed to work superbly with virtual / remote work teams on their improvement initiatives. You can find dozens of blog posts about the game by clicking here.

Please feel free to ask for ideas and support at any time, within your organization or directly to me,


For the FUN of It!


Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Free Engagement Worksheet Tool for Spring Forward Monday

We’ve been using Square Wheels as a simple tool for employee involvement and engagement for 20 years and in our attempt to help get Spring Forward Monday started, I offer up a free handout worksheet here. Get a pdf file of the worksheet by clicking on this link:

Spring Forward Monday — What are some Square Wheels –
Handout Worksheet

You will get a handout that looks like this:

Spring Forward Monday Square Wheels worksheet

The idea is a simple one to use. You can simply hand out the worksheet and ask how the illustration at the top right might represent how things work in most organizations and then, after they discuss that a bit, ask them for some ideas as to how this works in their workgroup.

This would work and it is free. Just download the pdf and print a worksheet for each person.

As a value-added alternative, you can click on the worksheet image and go to a very special offer of a complete toolkit, including images in powerpoint, a facilitation guide, multiple worksheets and other supporting information including images you can use for promoting the idea within your organization. All for the pretty outstanding and astounding price of $5.95!!

Have FUN out there and DO make an impact.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Positive Possibilities – Square Wheels for Performance Improvement

A few people have recently written that the Square Wheels One image is a negative view of how organizations really work and that it portrays the leadership in a negative way. And they seem to say that my haiku posts are also somewhat negative about how things work, too.

I guess that this reinforces my key concept that it is all about perspective — the fact that people see things differently and only through discussion can then better understand each other. That this perfectly illustrates the power of the tool is actually most wonderful. It generates different perceptions about things and allows for discussion!

As a “possibilities sorter” and a “future-focused sorter” of information and a performance improvement consultant starting back in 1978, I would simply suggest that my purpose of using the Square Wheels cartoons (back in 1993) was much more about looking for ideas for improvement than a focus on any negatives. What we do can always be improved.

The basic cartoon that started this all was framed up like this:

Square Wheels One imageand we asked, “How might this illustration represent how organizations really work?

We then allow people to talk about what they see and that is projective, it works much like an inkblot or Rorschach Test where people look at an image and then share their thoughts about what it represents. These are “projective instruments” in that people project their perceptions and beliefs onto the tool. And the use of the cartoon helps us get LOTS of ideas. What also happens is that the general thinking about the cartoon often becomes attached to how they see their organizations. They see real issues and opportunities in their own workplaces.

(you can see a post about just how many ideas result from such brainstorming and open discussion by clicking on this link and going to another post.)

Sometimes, if they are management, they see themselves in the front. More often, they feel that they are pushing someone else’s wagon, based on their responses. They also think that the ideas for improvement already exist but that communications between front and back are tough to accomplish.

Negative? Well, maybe.

Maybe if the phrase,
continuous continuous improvement”
is negative… I personally think it represents

I do frame things up with poetry and similar, sometimes taking managers to task for not fixing things that need fixing, those improvements that would make things better for all those involved… I see organizations doing more to generate intrinsic motivation and engagement.

Square Wheels Brainstorming Haiku Tomorrow is today

I think all we are doing through the illustration is anchoring to the existing reality and with the hopes that things can improve, be that about systems and processes, ideas for improvement, leadership involvement, communications or some other aspect of people and performance.

We sell tools for involving, engaging and motivating people and for leading all sorts of organizational involvement initiatives.

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

Have FUN out there, for sure!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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