The Australian

Nov. 12, 2003

Unleashing the Creative Within


If your brain is stuck in first gear, Gerald Haman could be the man to shift it. We’re all born with innate creativity, he says, but most of us need a tune-up from time to time.


To set the mood, the professor from Northwestern University in Chicago uses a few creative props- giant light globes, flip charts, lollies and socks. Yes, socks. Research shows that people are 13% more creative when they take off their shoes. Once in the comfort zone, the synapses snap and the ideas begin to flow.


In one of his workshops you might hear the odd burst of karaoke or background music- all part of the relaxation process.


Professor Haman was in Melbourne last week to pass on his knowledge to lecturers at Swinburne University.


The founding partner of training company SolutionPeople, says creativity is only part of the process- We have to be sufficiently innovative to put those ideas into practice.


“To teach innovation, you need to know how people’s brain work- how they can think through a process that can lead to creativity and innovation,” he said.


To encourage people to work through that route, he has devised a set of brain teasers, patented prompts he has turned into flip card tools. He calls them KnowBrainers. These work by guiding the subject through processes that stimulate the four quadrants of the brains, all of which are used in the creative process.


They carry questions and words to stimulate ideas. These are followed up with quotations such as this one from Samuel Johnson:
”Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be overcome”.


Most customers are corporations but there is also demand for educators and post graduates completing MBA’s.


"We work in four different areas, Professor Haman said.”Product innovation is one area, certainly the most visible. Management, manufacturing and marketing are the others. “According to our clients, the return on ideas for them has been over $US2 billion [2.8 billion].”


However, not all the companies with which he has worked are resounding success. One client was US energy giant Enron, which collapsed two years ago. "We had done a lot of work with Enron,” he said.

“What I later on discovered is that Enron is highly creative but never very innovative despite the fact that a lot of organizations and investors thought it was.


“The company was good at coming up with ideas, but lousy at putting them into practice - and even worse at protecting itself from corporate excess.”


By Jim Buckell