Not everyone thinks of monitoring as part of the creative process, but I hope to show that it is. I have written about creativity as a process rather than just a one-off experience and I have explained the first five phases. You might think that the fifth phase, elaboration, was where it finished. You have thought about your project, done the preparation, had inspiration, evaluated it and now you have set it out in detail. Surely, that’s it?
Can you implement without monitoring?
No! You need to look at the way it will work in practice, iron out the wrinkles and make it actually workable. As a writer, this is where I need to edit and proofread my manuscript. I have been appalled at how many mistakes I have found at this stage, however good I thought the draft was, even after a couple or more rewrites!
How does the monitoring phase work?
If it is possible, now is the time for a trial run, a pilot scheme or some other way of trying out your ideas in the real world but keeping your options open. Even if you have no option but to implement all in one go, make sure you treat the first few months, perhaps even the first year, as experimental. Monitor everything that may be relevant: costs, sales, output, complaints, errors, feedback from staff and customers. Identify risks you hadn’t thought of before and look at the control measures. Are the controls effective? Are any redundant? Be ready to learn and change things. Pride can get in the way. Remember your aim is to produce as good a final product as possible. Admitting mistakes is a step in the right direction.
What comes after monitoring?
Next, I will be writing about the final phase: implementation. I learnt a lot about creativity from James Taylor. If you want more on this subject go to his website
However, I have not written about the misuse of growth-statistics, which David Pilling writes about in his book, The Growth Delusion. The author quotes former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, that we are ‘mismeasuring our lives’.
How do people measure growth?
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the main index used. Everyone wants to see this number increase. We use it to compare ourselves with other countries, and with ourselves in previous years. What is it? It is the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a year, excluding investment income from abroad.
Why do GDP statistics not give a true picture of growth?
The powers that be have chosen a single measure. This gives the impression of simplicity and appears to make comparisons easy. The trouble is that life is not so simple. GDP will not reveal regional variations, or even the experiences of different groups of people in the same town. There is plenty of evidence that regional and other differences in income have been widening in the UK for some time. Different people’s real incomes are moving in opposite directions, because their prosperity depends on where they live and what industry they are in.
You can read about other criticisms of the way people use GDP in The Growth Delusion.
Do misleading growth statistics create a risk?
David Pilling and Nicolas Sarkozy have recognised a risk, which is that people will think they are being deliberately misled. They will hear how well our economy is performing,when the evidence of their own eyes contradicts that assertion. This could add to the distrust in experts of all kinds, which would be very bad for democracy. I do not want to take that risk.
It is not too late to look at predictions for the new year.
I have written about my predictions for the risks to watch for in the coming year. These included the cyber risk, Brexit, the supply chain and climate change. Many others have offered their views. I am pleased that I am not unique in my opinions and I was particularly interested in an article in Time magazine on 15 January by Ian Bremmer. He gives a longer list than mine. Have I missed something?
What’s in the Time list of predictions?
I will not reproduce the article here, but I list the main points.
China’s rising power
World/regional conflicts escalating
The tech cold war
Mexico’s forthcoming election
US – Iran relations
Public loss of confidence in major institutions
Brexit and the Conservative Party
Nationalism in South Asia
Instability in many parts of Africa
I do not disagree with Ian Bremer very much on his assessments.
I don’t remember where Donald Trump fitted into any of the risks listed, but I’m sure he’ll play a part in influencing them.
Why are Time’s predictions different from mine?
The Time article looks at global risks, whilst I tried to concentrate on ones you and I need to be most aware of. I did not mention risks which we cannot control or do much to mitigate but I advise you to think what you can do to prepare for the risks that are most relevant to your business. Some things, regrettably, we have to leave up to the Government!
And, by the way, former president Obama is not of Irish descent. Not O’Bama. He had enough trouble proving he’s an American, although he is possibly the first US president not to claim Irish ancestry.
What’s Jupiter got do do with M Macron?
In an interview with Andrew Marr, the French president said people had likened him to Jupiter, and he apparently accepted the comparison as reasonable. Not everyone in Britain is familiar with Jupiter. Many people know it is the name of a planet, but not everyone knows that, like many planets, it was named after a Roman god.
Does M Macron think he’s God?
No! I think that is the point. Jupiter was the chief of the gods, but his powers were limited. Not only did he have trouble keeping the other gods in order, but also, like all the gods, he had only limited power over humans. He was very different from an omnipotent creator, such as the deity of Christians, Jews and Moslems. (Let’s not argue right now as to whether those are all the same.)
What’s M Macron’s identity got to do with you and me?
I think the president was saying that he could lead but not dictate. He does NOT think he is God Almighty, just ‘first among equals’. Do you try to manage or dictate? We all need to have realistic ideas about who we are and what we can do. Is it time to review your management style?
If you think this is all about hindsight, you are wrong. I now know that it was foreseen by many commentators, although I wasn’t one. Of course, I’m not in the government, but they were warned and should have taken steps to mitigate the risk, and perhaps some of those affected could have done more to protect themselves, as the banks have, I believe.
Did you know that the French pronounce the name of this company like “Carry-on”? What can I say?
Whether you have dealings with Carillion or not, learn from this
Check not only your suppliers, but their suppliers, and ask yourself how safe they are.
Try to avoid becoming too dependent on any one supplier.
Look at your clients and don’t become too dependent on any one of those.
Does this advice apply when you are dealing with a company as big as Carillion?
Of course, I recognise that my advice above may be unrealistic in some circumstances, but you always need a Plan B that does not depend on your biggest supplier or client, as far as possible.
I also know that many people thought Carry-on was too big to fail, because the government wouldn’t let it. Time will tell, but I remember Lehman Brothers.
Is the Carillion crisis an opportunity for some?
Remember that the other side of risk is opportunity. If you are a competitor of this company for any of the services they provide, perhaps you will get an opportunity to tender, or re-tender, for one of their contracts. It’s an ill wind that blows no man any good. Are you ready?
I am not thinking of the risks involved in consulting for a living, like me. That could be a series, but not now. I am looking at the risks of holding a consultation, either withing your business or externally.
Remember “Brexit Means Brexit” and weep! Nobody knew then or now what Brexit means. What was it people wanted to gain or to lose?
Our contribution to the EU budget?
Access to other markets, such as China, the USA or Japan?
Always word the question, or better a series of questions, so that you will know what the answer means.
The Second Risk of Consulting: failure to manage expectations
Some people thought leaving the EU would happen as soon as the votes were counted.
Others thought all foreigners would be sent back.
There were even some who thought we would have an extra 350 million a week for the NHS!
This has led to discontent. Do be clear as to the likely process and timescale for implementing the results of your consultation.
The Third Risk of Consulting: Polarisation
Many people now treat the 48% who voted Remain, plus all the non-voters, as anti-democratic if they raise any criticisms of the process or express any views as to the way forward. The Brexiters claim to represent The People. Could your consulting lead to a feeling of anger among the “losers” and/or arrogance among the “winners”?
On most issues, a simple “yes/no” answer is not much use: there will be a spectrum of opinions, like this.
It’s an overdue improvement
I quite like the idea but I’ve got reservations
Don’t know/don’t mind
I don’t like it, but might give it a try
Over my dead body
You will often find the proportions in each category evenly spread or forming a gaussian bell-shaped curve. Getting 51% to say “Yes” doesn’t man you’re home and dry. How committed to the idea are that 51%? They aren’t all going to be in category (1). What can you do to get the ones in category (2) on board?
And what about the other 49%? How many are going to be won over, how many will put up with it but winge a lot, and how many are going to resign, take their business elsewhere, take legal action, demand a public inquiry, start a protest movement or join a terrorist organisation? Obviously, it will depend on the seriousness of the issue, but you get the point? How many employees, clients, suppliers or volunteers can you afford to lose?
You need to think how to manage the minority so as to win them over if they are in categories (3) and (4). Can you amend the plan to take into account their concerns?
The Final Risk of Consulting: complacency.
You probably know that the majority are not always right, but it is tempting to think that, if you’ve done a “successful” consulting exercise, you have all you need to enable you to go ahead with your project.
Wrong! The majority could be wrong. You still need to do enough research beforehand and also to monitor for signs it’s not working. And have a plan B. It’s a good job we’re not talking about Brexit, isn’t it?
The issues of Brexit are more pressing. Are you ready?
Is anything really new?
One fairly new risk is Fake News, which has probably always been around but has become more of a phenomenon in 2016 than ever. I agree with David Cameron and Barak Obama that this is very dangerous, as some people don’t know who they should trust, whilst others are apt to believe lies put out on social media, especially if they listen only to people they think they’re going to agree with. If people believe either anything or nothing, will they believe your messages? I’m talking about:
your businesses community involvement
replies to complaints or allegations
This means that we need to manage the reputational risk more cleverly than ever.
Want to talk to me about any of the above? Send me an e-mail or use the contact form on the website. Or even phone me 01925 445215.
I have made a Christmas offer of my detective novel, Accounting for Murder, Double Entry, for FREE on Kindle for the five days ending today, 22nd December 2017. It has been so successful that I wanted to offer some of my other books, the non-fiction ones, free for limited periods in the coming year. If you have not taken advantage of it, you can still buy the book, follow this link to Kindle’s website.
What’s on offer in the New Year?
I am offering a free Kindle version of How to Avoid Being Misled by Statistics for the five days from the 15th to the 19th January 2018 but if you can’t wait, you can always buy it! Follow the link. It has had only one short review. A favourable one. The more I hear about Brexit, the more important I think it is to know how to interpret statistics sensibly.
Why is elaboration a phase in the creative process?
Elaboration is listed fifth in the seven steps of the creative process that I have written about. It comes after you have done your preparation, allowed time for incubation, had some inspiration and carried out your evaluation. It is unwise to rush into one phase before you have completed (well nearly) the ones that need to precede it.
What is elaboration?
Elaboration is the working out of the details of your project. This is where the perspiration occurs. It is not to be confused with implementation. This phase should take place before you go live. You have still time to change things or even abandon the project. With a book, it is writing the first draft. Not going to a publisher, not even self-publishing. There’s work to be done after this is finished. You do not go into elaboration while sitting in the garden or walking in the countryside. You need to be in the office, putting it all on paper. Probably discussing it with the people who will have to carry it out.
What not to do during elaboration: Risk Management!
At this stage, try not to do too much Risk Management. (Did I really write that?) You can pour cold water on your ideas before you’ve had time to work them out fully. You can overthink or overanalyse everything. Once you’ve got something fairly well thought out, you should ask what are the risks and how can they be managed. Remember that risks need to be evaluated in relation to the potential costs and benefits of the project. That will enable you to see whether the cost of possible control measures is likely to be justified.
Evaluation is the fourth of the seven steps of the creative process in business which I have written about. This is the process of deciding whether to commit your time and money to a particular project. Not every idea is worth following up. You have to select or at least prioritise.
Why is evaluation the third phase?
Until you have done your research, you don’t know enough to make any meaningful evaluation. You also need to have had at least one lightbulb moment so you know what you were planning on doing with all the information you have gathered. And that doesn”t usually come until after you have allowed the ideas time to incubate. You don’t want to leave evaluation much later or you will be in danger of doing too much abortive work.
How should evaluation be conducted?
You need to decide what are the criteria you are going to use. What is important to you? Think of positive and negative factors. Cost? Availability of resources, including expertise? Lead time? Ultimate benefit? Dealing with an immediate issue? Nonfinancial benefits? Risks?
I suggest you list all the criteria you think are important and give each a weighting. Then give each project under consideration a score against each factor, multiply (a x b) and rank by score.
How many projects should you have in your evaluation?
This is a subjective decision. However, if you are doing only one, you can get very frustrated when you hit a brick wall, such as ‘writer’s block’ if the project is a book. I switch to another project and come back to the first one. You also don’t want to come to a halt once the first project is finished. You want to be able to get on with the second one, but not from scratch. I always have several on the go.
Can you have too many projects in your evaluation?
You can spread yourself too thin. You can be doing everything at once and never complete anything. I have heard that some very successful businessmen work on five projects, with another twenty or so in reserve. This means each project is at a different phase most of the time, so if you are fed up with, say, research, you can go to a project that is in a different phase. That keeps you fresh.
Remember, if you need help with evaluation, have a chat. I may be able to help you.
Helping people manage the risks and claims in their businesses and in life.