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The DUCK Creativity Model

Any thoughts that readers may have that all management models originate in the US or the UK – or the wider Anglophone world – can be put to one side. I have discovered a marvellously powerful method for creative innovation, emerging from France.

The French model can be translated into the English acronym DUCK and it gives us the four stages of radical innovation.

D – Drop
– abandon wholly your old ways of doing things

U – Upend
– turn the old ways entirely on their head

C – Create
– build a new process, system, toolkit or idea from the inverted ideas of the past

K – Kindle
– ignite the sparks of your creative thinking with bold execution of your new ideas

DUCK Methodology

What I love about the DUCK method is its gutsy Gallic determination to stimulate creation. From now on, whenever I am in need of new ideas, I will doggedly DUCK the issue.


By the way, on a curious note, the French word for duck is canard, which the English dictionary defines as ‘a false report, rumour or hoax’.

How can that be?

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Look forward to 2014

Tomorrow, it is 2014 and the Pocket Correspondence course resumes with Volume 3: Organisational Management. It will cover operations, strategy and project management in the first quarter, and business services, finance, sales and marketing in quarter 2.

So, some of the topics you can look forward to are:

  • Procurement
  • Supply Chain
  • Lean Management
  • Process Mapping
  • Porter’s models of competitive advantage
  • Project Management
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Finance for Managers
  • Sales
  • Customer Services
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Complaints handling

And, keep an eye open for a special announcement…

We’ll say no more at this stage.

If you are reading this:

Happy New Year

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Look Back on 2013

At the start of this year, The Management Pocketblog started an experiment: The Pocket Correspondence Course – a series of blogs designed to form a wide-ranging management course, covering all areas of management. We are not finished yet.

If you have been following, you may have noticed a bit of a pattern:

The course is divided into three volumes: each one covering half a year:

  1. Volume 1: Personal Skills
    … covered personal effectiveness at work, managing yourself, your work and your emotional states, and personal development in the first quarter, before moving on to look at a wide range of communication skills in quarter 2.
  2. Volume 2: People Management
    … covered managing and motivating your people in quarter 3, and leading teams, dealing with change, and handling tough situations in the final quarter of the year.
  3. Volume 3: Organisational Management
    … will cover operations, strategy and project management in the first quarter of 2014, and business services, finance, sales and marketing in quarter 2.

It has been a real challenge to balance a deep desire to create something comprehensive with the need to keep it easy to read and quick to assimilate. Likewise, I have also tried to balance a strong dollop of theory with a vivid sense of practicality. I hope I have succeeded. If you have followed the course to any degree, please do use the comments to let me know what you have thought.

Tomorrow (as this blog gets published) is Christmas Day: Merry Christmas. So I am aware that few will be reading this. For those hardy souls that are, here are my personal favourites from a year of blogging.

  1. Self Confidence – because it was the first
  2. Career Development – because it is full of practical exercises
  3. Being Organised – because this is who I am
  4. The Interview Process – because I remember working particularly hard on this one
  5. Report and Proposal Writing Still Matters – because writing is important
  6. The Worst form of Communication – because we need to get better at emails
  7. How to Manage a Challenging Conversation – because most of us have so much to learn here
  8. Coaching: a Manager’s Best Tool – because… with a title like that, you should know why
  9. Appraisal Time: A Polemic – because of its simplicity
  10. What Motivates your Team Members? – because I am a big fan of Herzberg’s model
  11. Team Building – because this is the most creative of the series to date – I build a model just for this blog
  12. Handling Conflict – because it finished a year of blogs

Merry Christmas,

one and all.

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Creativity

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


In last week’s Pocket Correspondence Course module, we looked at problem solving, using the Synectics process. The problem with all problem solving processes is the black hole in the middle:

Problem Solving Process

That black hole is where a brilliant, innovative, creative idea happens.

Many, Many Approaches to Creativity

There are many approaches to stimulating this sort of creative idea, from bisociation to nyaka, from the Eureka method to Merlin. You will find all of these and more in The Creative Manager’s Pocketbook.

But there are two ‘master techniques’ that will serve a busy manager magnificently well. Let’s try them out. To do so, think of one or two problems for which you want to find a creative solution. Write them down in your notebook in the form:

‘I would like to discover how to…’

This is your ‘problem definition’.

Exercise 1: Sleep on it

Most creativity methods implicitly recognise that creativity happens while we are not looking. Given a problem, our brains will work on it at any time they have spare capacity. So the master technique creates that space by taking your mind off actively considering the problem – or anything else. Go for a walk, go out with friends or, better yet, take a nap. Best of all, write down your problem definition before you go to sleep at night.

The second stage to the process recognises that, when our brains are busy, ideas can’t find the room to get out. They tend to emerge either when something in our environment triggers them to emerge, because it bears some form of similarity, so the barrier is lowered, or in the spaces when our minds are still, like in the shower, walking to the bus stop, or drinking a coffee.

Since you cannot arrange the trigger event that lowers the barriers momentarily, create the quietening conditions that will let your idea emerge. Spend some time doing nothing that requires deliberate thought. Daydream, jot random thoughts onto a page, or sip a coffee or a tea, looking out of the window.

Constructive idleness is one of the two master techniques for creativity.

Exercise 2: Up and Down

Many creativity techniques are about breaking the mental constraints that we impose on our own thinking and finding a new way to look at the problem: so called ‘thinking outside the box’. Here, ‘the box’ represents your mental constraints.

The master technique for doing this is to start with your problem definition: ‘how to…’ and ask your self:

‘What is my reason for wanting to…?’

Keep asking this question of each answer (akin to the 5 Whys Technique) until the answer is both fundamental and self-evidently true. This is your ultimate purpose. Having gone ‘up’, now come back down, with the question:

‘How else can I achieve this purpose?’

Keep asking this to generate creative new options.

Further Reading 

  1. The Problem Solving Pocketbook
  2. The Creative Manager’s Pocketbook
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The Synectics Problem Solving Process

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


As a manager, one of your responsibilities will be to solve problems. Set aside the small day-to-day problems you are constantly tackling: when you have a bigger,more challenging problem, how do you handle it? Do you have a process?

One process for structured problem solving – ideal for teams to use – is called Synectics. The methodology was developed observing many problem solving sessions by two Arthur D Little consultants,  George Prince, Bill Gordon and their team in the 1950s. The story of its development is on the Synecticsworld website.

The process has nine steps:

Synectics Problem Solving Process

1. Task Headline

Define the problem in the form ‘How to…’

2. Task Analysis

Set out why the problem exists, and its background, the oportunity before you and what you have already tried or thought of. If you have one, set out your ‘dream solution’, so that later, you can see if there are ways to break down the barriers to achieving it.

3. Springboards

Invite provocative statements and random ideas to set off creative thinking, like:

  • ‘Why can’t we…’
  • ‘I want to…’
  • ‘If only we could…’
  • ‘One idea might be to…’
  • ‘With unlimited resources, we could…’

4. Selection

Select the most appealing ideas to emerge from the Springboard, to work on further. These may be practical, visionary or intriguing.

5. Ways and Means

Look for practical steps to develop selected ideas, and ways you may be able to implement them.

6. Emerging Idea

Allow one idea to emerge as the strongest potential solution.

7. Itemised Response

Evaluate the Emerging Idea, looking for ideas for how to make it work until you identify the best way forward, if the idea were finally chosen. Test out your level of satisfaction with the idea/implementation package: is this your possible solution?

If it is not, return to Step 6 and work with a new Emerging Idea.

8. Possible Solution

State and document the Possible Solution and the associated implementation approaches.

9. Next Step

Document the actions to be taken, by whom and to what deadlines?

Further Reading

  1. The Problem Solving Pocketbook
  2. There is a host of valuable resources about Synectics on the Synectics World website.

Seven more problem solving methods in The Management Pocketblog

  1. Going round in circles: Problem Solving Simplicity
    Fisher and Ury’s Circle Chart
  2. The Fertile Mind of Edward de Bono
    The Six Thinking Hats Methodology
  3. Six Tools from Six Sigma
    Includes 5 Whys, Fishbone Analsys and SIPOC Analysis
  4. The DMAIC Solution Process
    An alternative to Synectics
  5. Go to the Gemba
    Argues for being at the right place to solve a problem
  6. Truly Radical!
    Appreciative Inquiry as a radical approach to problem solving
  7. Adapting and Innovating
    Two opposite approaches to problem solving
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The Interview Process

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Interviews are an essential part of management: conducting them and also being interviewed from time-to-time, for promotions or a new job.

Interviewing others

Finding people’s faults is an easy task, and one most interviewers take to with relish. It serves little purpose, however, since we all have plenty of them.  The primary purpose of a job interview is to find their talents, skills, expertise, motivation, enthusiasm…

These are what makes it worth considering someone for employment. Only then should you be evaluating whether any shortcomings raise the risk of employing that person too high.

Pocketblog covered the topic of interviewing in some depth in our three-part series: ‘The New Manager’s Guide to Interviewing’.  It covered:

  1. Preparing the Ground
    Increase your chances of success well before the interview.
    It covers how to:

    1. Think about the job requirements
    2. Handle the advertising and admin
    3. Review applications
    4. Prepare for the interview
  2. Getting it Right
    Hints and advice for conducting and effective interviews.
    It looks at:

    1. Questioning
    2. Social skills
    3. Responding to candidates’ answers
    4. Inviting questions
  3. Polishing your Process
    Tips and tricks of the trade, such as:

    1. Fact checking
    2. The ‘horns and halo effect’
    3. Psychology
    4. Data protection

Being Interviewed

If there were only one tip that I could give to any interview candidate it would be this one:

Fundamentally, when you go for a job or promotion interview, your interviewer only wants to know one thing. All of their questions are just variants on one question – different ways to get at one answer.

And if you know what that question is and make sure that you answer it every time, by giving a different part of your answer to that one question with every answer you give, then you will have taken every opportunity the interviewer has given you.

The Question

So, what is that one question your interviewer wants answered?

‘Why should I recommend you for hiring or promotion?’

And how do you answer that? Simple. You have to tell them the benefit they, or their team or department, or their organisation will get from making that choice. And that boils down to the most fundamental question that humans ask: ‘what’s in it for me?’

Interview question and answers

That then begs the question: what do they want? To optimise your answers you have not only to show that you can deliver what they want, but you must also do your preparation and find out what they want. Six things are particularly common:

  1. Safety and Security
    Employers – and interviewers – often want to avoid mistakes. Can you show that you are a safe choice; that you meet all of their fundamental requirements and have a track record to back that up?
  2. Performance
    What evidence can you give to show that your performance will be exceptional? Some employers want stars.
  3. Quality
    If the organisation puts a strong focus on quality in its materials, then so should you in your answers. Demonstrate your attention to detail and drive for perfection. Your written materials and personal appearance must reinforce this message.
  4. Ease of Transition
    In some circumstances, an employer is looking for an easy life. They are under pressure and don’t want to work hard to get a new staff member trained and ready. Like a good convenience meal, you need to show how you can deliver to the standard required with the minimum of preparation.
  5. Cost
    Beware of employers looking to minimise cost. If you do find one offering an attractive role, prepare your negotiating options in advance. Trial periods can make sense. But emphasise the difference between remuneration and employment costs and identify how employing you can be cheaper than a less experienced and less ‘expensive’ candidate.
  6. Staying Power
    One of the biggest costs of employment is the recruitment process. If your prospective employer is looking for someone who will commit to their organisation for a long time and you have changed jobs every 18 months, you will need to prepare a very fine answer to that challenge.

More on being Interviewed

Our earlier blog, ‘Seven ways to Interview well’ has… seven more great tips.

Further Reading

The Interviewer’s Pocketbook

Succeeding at Interviews Pocketbook

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