The Art of Creative Conversations

The Art of Creative Conversations

We all know that you can’t innovate if you don’t collaborate, yet how do we make the time to have the creative and candid conversations that true collaboration and innovation requires?

Conflicting priorities and ever-present digital media distractions constantly compete for our attention. Even when we manage to get everyone in the same room, or on the same line, it seems most people have their head stuck in a device signalling that we’ve lost the fine art of conversation.

So, what can you do to get more creative ideas, to enable people to think creatively and critically, from the time you can get from your team, and have a conversation that matters, no matter where they are?

Where attention goes energy flows

Most of us have been challenged with finding effective ways of breaking and disrupting people’s habitual way of working and trying to capture their attention.  To explore how to use peoples’ differences and diversity to solve complex problems, (the #1 skill identified by the World Economic Forum needed to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution) quickly and efficiently?

Whilst most of us are aware of the value disruption can potentially bring in effecting change and learning, it’s not always an easy situation to deal with, simply because it often creates discomfort & pain.  This usually results in a sense of uncertainty & instability, which we, as people, are neurologically wired to react to & move away from.

Paradoxically most of us also know that without some kind of disruption that creates a crack, or an opening, deep learning, change & creativity seldom occurs.  

It’s not about being nice, or soft, it’s all about developing gumption & grit

Gumption is a new leadership & coaching attribute I have warmed to recently as it is particularly relevant to coaches and leaders, as an important attribute to cultivate in today’s VUCA world.

It is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination.” For those of us who grew up with a very handy container of Gumption in their kitchens know that “GUMPTION Multi-Purpose Cleanser is a mild abrasive cleaner that delivers a deep clean without the use of harsh chemicals or bleaches!”

This means that the first step is to cleanse your mind of how things “should” and “ought” to be & decide to take intelligent action & energetically pursue how they “could possibly” be, with energy & determination.

In recent article “5 Characteristics Of Grit – How Many Do You Have?” by Margaret M. Perlis, she begins it by describing how she met with close friends who have worked in education with adolescents for over 40 years  “when I asked what has changed with regards to the character of kids, in unison they said “grit” – or more specifically, lack thereof. There seems to be growing concern among teachers that kids these days are growing soft.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behaviour is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Angela Duckworth, in her TED talk, based on her studies, adapted this definition to include “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Stating that it’s the constancy of your tenacity, which is based on the degree to which you can access, ignite, and control it, is what really matters. That being risk adverse, and being unwilling to embrace and learn from failure, is the biggest inhibitor towards developing the Grit (and Gumption), necessary to survive, achieve & thrive in VUCA times.

Gumption and grit are synonymous in innovation 

This requires people to let go of being “nice” worrying about being politically correct, to develop innovation and collaboration, by being intentionally & safely contrary, provocative & disruptive involving;

  • Gumption; deeply cleansing people’s minds, to let go of old fixed, conventional & avoidance mindsets, risk adversity, fear of failure, complacency & other normal & habitual resistance factors to change they might have, without making them “wrong.”
  • Grit; passionately persevering being contrary, provocative & safely disruptive to achieve innovation goals & outcomes.

Being provocatively competent

At ImagineNation™ we teach coaches, leaders, teams and organisations to embody & enact gumption & grit by enabling them to develop an extremely subtle, artful & incredibly powerful generative skillset to become provocative competent.

This involves:

  1. Firstly, being able to work both with “what is” going on for the person, then having the gumption to detach from it & flow with it, essentially, cleansing their own mind of judgement & evaluation, & enabling the client or the person, to do the same.
  2. Secondly, having the grit to then move themselves, as well as the client, or person tenaciously & simultaneously, towards “what could be” possible & available for them, in the context of an innovation outcome or a goal, to elicit a crack or an opening for learning & change.

The characteristics of provocative competence

It’s all about having the gumption & the grit to discard “being nice” & create intentional disruptions, that safely open people’s minds & hearts in ways that rock the boat, challenge the status quo, expose any elephant’s & sacred cows & other resistant or avoidant factors that people hide behind.

The aim is to disrupt people’s business as usual mindsets, behaviours & patterns to get to the deep core of the problem, resistance or avoidance factor.

To challenge, deeply cleanse people’s minds & hearts of their habitual patterns, to create cracks, openings & thresholds for generating creative ideas & innovative solutions that ensure future success.

From our research and experience, we have identified seven key characteristics of provocative competence:

  • Candour is about being authentic, open, honest & frank, calling it as it is, without judgement & with detachment, even if it hurts.
  • Courage is about being firm, bold & brave, in the face of difficulty & challenge, being willing to confront & overcome fears.
  • Curiosity is about being inquisitive, coming from an open, beginners mind, & desiring to learn or know more about something or someone, dispelling judgement & with detachment.
  • Confidence involves feeling or believing that one can have faith in, or rely on self, someone or in succeeding in achieving an outcome or a goal.
  • Compassion involves feeling distressed, concerned & empathic to the suffering or misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it.
  • Conscientiousness is about being careful & painstakingly meticulous in achieving the outcome of goal, demonstrating conviction & commitment to go for gold.
  • Connectedness involves a state of being joined or linked, a feeling of belonging to or having affinity with a particular person or group, eco-system or whole system.

Why being provocatively competent really matters

In the Digital Age, to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where even robots are now being programmed to have social intelligence and embrace a growth mindset, that enables them to interact more effectively with us humans, we need to focus our attention towards facilitating creative conversations.

“Some jobs will disappear, others will grow & jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that the future work force will need to align its skillset to keep pace.”  

If people lose their attentional capacity & ability to be present to others, in order to have real & creative conversations, then how can we work together to collaborate & innovate, to solve the range of complex and wicked problems, confronting us as teams, organizations & communities?

If we can’t be contrary, provocative and disruptive, how will we, & those people we interact, team and collaborate with, harness people’s collective intelligence by developing the key skills in creative & critical thinking where differences, disagreements & deviations create the dissonance and disruption necessary for the cracks & openings for new ideas & solutions to emerge?  

 Join the next free monthly webinar in our Making Innovation a Habit Series – “Leading a Culture of Innovation” it’s on Thursday, 11th October 2018 at 5.00pm Melbourne & Sydney, 8.00am Amsterdam and Berlin, 7.00am London, 2.00pm Hong Kong, 10.00am Dubai and 11.00pm San Francisco on Wednesday, 10th October. Register.

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate & deep personalized learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 2, 2018. It is a deep blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles & applications of a human centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.

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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack

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Janet Sernack

Janet is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a coaching, education & culture consulting company who leads the way and helps businesses achieve their innovation goals by challenging businesses to be, think & act differently to create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.




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