Creativity In Action: How Dupont Developed A New, Unconventional Manufacturing Technology In A Creativity & Innovation Meeting

Many people believe that creativity is best accomplished by people working alone. While this may be true for some people, truly unexpected, outstanding creative results can be accomplished in teams, providing the creativity of individual team members is fostered and protected.

For example, consider a 3 day problem-solving Creativity & Innovation Meeting I led for a Senior Research Engineer of a Fortune-500 company who wanted to develop a new, unconventional manufacturing technology.

He wanted to do this in the meeting in a way that upgraded their current approach and enhanced cost effectiveness; identified seemingly unrelated technologies that would work; used advanced creativity principles; shared group knowledge and experiences; led to specific proposals and a plan of attack; and enabled each person to learn some creativity techniques to enhance everyday thinking skills.

This creativity & innovation meeting was held for 25 engineers and scientists in a hotel in Virginia Beach, VA. There were 7 sessions, one of which was an afternoon of free incubation time.

Session 1 consisted of the usual introductions; a review of the goals and agenda; setting a creative atmosphere; forming teams and starting team building; and using a number of advanced creativity triggers that spark creative ideas in teams.

Session 2 started with a presentation of the problem by the Senior Research Engineer who discussed what was going on and what he wanted to accomplish in the meeting. After that, individuals, and then the creativity teams, defined the problem creatively using very specific advanced creativity triggers.

In session 3, the creativity teams generated ideas abundantly to solve the problem creatively using many advanced creativity triggers, after which each individual generated their own creative ideas sitting quietly alone.

Session 4 consisted of an afternoon of free incubation time plus some fun work to enhance creative thinking.

In session 5, each person wrote a one page trigger-proposal for a new technology. Each creativity team then identified the criteria to select ideas, and suggested ways to improve the trigger-proposals of its members. Each person then wrote a one page workable proposal for the new manufacturing technology that was given to the Senior Research Engineer in charge. Each creativity team then combined the proposals of its members and developed a blockbuster proposal to solve the technological problem.

During session 6, each creativity team presented its proposal for the new technology, and the other teams helped improve and upgrade the solution. All ideas were given to the Senior Research Engineer.

Session 7 consisted of developing action plans and commitments.

The meeting was a very successful. Each person developed a one page workable proposal for a new technology. Each of the 5 creativity teams generated a blockbuster proposal by combining and developing the trigger-proposals of its members.

A few weeks later, the Senior Research Engineer told me that 15-20 patentable ideas had emerged during this creativity meeting, and I was asked to lead a follow up creativity meeting on these new technologies.

Are you more creative working alone or in a team? Different strokes for different folks. Some people create best mixing it up, working for a while with other people, and then, working alone in isolation. Which are you?

A year later, he asked me to lead a followup Creativity & Innovation Meeting to create and work on new ideas around where they were after working on the project for a year.

I led a 4 day meeting to help solve additional manufacturing problems for a unit of his large company. Present were 30 managers, supervisors, and professionals in manufacturing and R&D from 5 plant sites.

The goal was to shift paradigms and identify hot, new ideas for improving manufacturing to achieve long-range worldwide competitive leadership using “world class manufacturing principles”; uses and teaches advanced creativity techniques to solve problems creatively; achieves synergy and promotes networking and teamwork between plant sites; and leads to specific action plans and long term commitments.

We met in Washington, DC, for 4 days applying advanced creativity techniques to the problem. Several afternoons were spent in Smithsonian museums looking for trigger-ideas and metaphors to spark new ideas. At the end, many paradigm shifts had occurred, and the large number of workable solutions exceeded the most optimistic predictions. Important committed action plans were made.

Another time a business unit of Dupont asked me to lead a meeting on “environmental cleanup.” Present were managers, supervisors, and key professionals in manufacturing and R&D from plant sites across the USA. There were also expert consultants as well as very creative people who did not know much about the problem.

The goal was to generate ideas to solve a specific plant’s contamination problems: to upgrade the current approach and lower cost; to apply the outcome to other sites; to enhance team work between the environmental teams in the company; to use creative thinking; and to learn creative thinking triggers to enhance everyday thinking skills.

They wanted environmental cleanup that met their commitment to society without affecting the financial health of their businesses.

We met in Washington, DC, for 4 days applying advanced creativity triggers to the environmental problems unearthed at the meeting. They produced many new paradigms, outstanding ideas, and workable solutions, and made important action plans and commitments.

And for additional ways to solve problems creatively at work, check out my book: “CREATIVITY TRIGGERS ARE FOR EVERYONE: 

How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” 

CLICK here OR HERE.

Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university.

He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

He was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and has led numerous Creativity & Innovation Meetings and workshops for many companies, including IBM, DuPont, Amoco Chemical, Ciba-Geigy, Hoechst-Celanese, Texaco, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Milliken, Federal-Mogul, Thetford, Standard Products, and others.

His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

His other book: R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work is also available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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