I asked 16 payments executives to draw a vase. Let me explain…
I have been facilitating strategic planning for 20 years for one organization, PaymentsFirst. P1st is a nonprofit payments association headquartered in Atlanta, and serves financial institutions and corporations in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Their executives are some of the most well-respected in their industry. The board is made up of banking executives from across all four states. And they are pretty sharp too.
Which makes planning for strategic planning all the more difficult. In order to liven the planning session and to stimulate innovative thinking, I do thinking exercises. These elements break the monotony of talking about mission, vision, goals, and strategic objectives. But if you have facilitated the same group for 20 years, you are constantly looking for new exercises that are meaningful and that get people thinking innovatively.
So I gave each participant a blank sheet of 8.5 x 11 white paper and asked them to draw a vase. I gave them no other instructions. After 3 or 4 minutes, everyone was finished with their drawings. I then gave them a second sheet of paper and asked them to draw a beautiful receptacle to hold flowers.
I then asked each of them in turn to show off their first drawing and then their second drawing. The second effort yielded much more elaborate drawings. Even those that were not artfully inclined still had much more detailed drawings. One person drew a lovely window box. And two drew a picture of their spouse, which they explained was a very beautiful receptacle to hold flowers. This of course is a very right-brained and creative response, the perfect way to get innovative ideas flowing. Everyone declared the exercise was a hit.
Your perspective affects your outcome. Are you focused on left-brain thinking (draw a vase) or right-brain thinking (my spouse is a beautiful receptacle for flowers)? How you give instructions can limit innovative thinking. And we most often constrict our responses and work based on what we perceive are limits to what we are asked to do. If someone asks you to draw a vase (i.e. do a particular task), you might ask if they specifically want only that or if they are looking for a beautiful receptacle to hold flowers. Draw vases when that is the specific requirement. Otherwise, get creative!