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Archive: Aug 2019

Guide to creative problem solving

Posted: August 29, 2019 8:08 am
“Creativity” is often viewed as something vague and intangible that tends to just appear in people’s minds. However, the reality is that creative solutions are usually the result of a well defined problem solving process, as opposed to sudden inspiration that strikes from nowhere. So much so that a Creative Problem Solving process has been documented by some of the world’s most innovative brains. If this is a system that appeals to you there are seven key steps involved.
  1. What’s the goal or problem?

The first step in the process is to identify the issue, objective or goal that has triggered the need for a creative solution. Key questions to ask here might be “what am I actually hoping to accomplish?” “Where will I be in six months?” “Is this an issue others have?” Establish a set of criteria that you want to use to evaluate any potential solutions you come up with, for example avoiding certain situations or limitations.
  1. Learning more

The next stage in creative problem solving is to put time and effort into learning more about the goal or issue. That may mean time spent researching online or asking family, friends or colleagues for input.
  1. Define the creative challenge

This is usually in the form of “How can I/we…” followed by the goal or objective. For example, “How can I find a satisfying job that also covers my living expenses?” or “How can we develop products that meet a new consumer need at a lower cost?”
  1. The process of idea generation

Idea generation – is what most people associate with creative thinking. However, the reality is that it’s actually only a single stage in the process. The best way to do this is to find a quiet space, either alone or with the team involved, and then set a target of 50 ideas. The purpose of this is to write down every single idea that comes to mind, without any judgment. Even if the idea doesn’t seem particularly sensible at first, add it to the list and keep going until you reach 50.
  1. Going through your ideas

Once you have a list of 50 ideas take a break. Come back to the list after an hour – or a day – and then evaluate it against the criteria that you defined in Step 1. Do any of the solutions meet all of your criteria and, if not, which ones are the closest match?
  1. Make a plan

The next key stage is to take the creativity you’ve generated and form it into some sort of plan of action. Start with where you are now and the objective you’re looking to get to. Then add in all the small and manageable steps that will be required to get you there.
  1. Get started

The difference between great ideas and achieving goals is action – so, once you have a plan of action, get started straight away. Creative problem solving can be incredibly effective in any situation, from personal issues to corporate strategy. If you’re looking for some fresh thinking it’s an approach that really works. Our Creative Problem Solving course looks at the various problems that we face in our working lives.

Coping with stress at work

Posted: August 15, 2019 10:06 am
The workplace is a major source of stress for many people. Whether it’s dealing with an ever-expanding workload or trying to function without the right support, there may be many triggers for stress. However, while stress is common, sometimes it can become overwhelming and it’s at that point that stress at work is a real issue. That’s why it’s so important to find a way to cope with stress at work if this is a problem that you feel you have.

Identify the source of your stress

There could be many different reasons why you’re finding work stressful, including being in a job that simply isn’t challenging enough and in which you’re bored. Your current role may offer few opportunities to grow and develop or you may feel like there are conflicting demands and expectations with respect to your time and achievements. Low salary, poor working conditions, excessive workload and bad management are also common causes for stress at work.

Be alert to the signs of stress at work

Everyone is different but there are some common indications that you may be suffering from workplace stress, including:
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Being unable to concentrate
  • A compromised immune system
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
Many of the ways that we try to cope with stress at work can make this worse, for example comfort eating high sugar foods, drinking too much or smoking.

Coping with stress at work

If you feel like workplace stress is an issue for you there are a number of steps that you can take to help get past the problem.
  • Speak up. Talking to a supervisor or manager is an important first step if you’re feeling stressed. In most organisations, it’s in the manager’s interests for employees to be productive and so they will want to help put a plan in place that enables you to do this.
  • Start using relaxation techniques. From meditation exercises to yoga and taking long, calming walks, there are lots of ways to introduce more relaxation into you day and to start learning how to feel less stressed on an ongoing basis.
  • Identify what your triggers are. It can be useful to keep a stress diary so that you know exactly what it is that triggers you when it comes to stress. By tracking this over a period of two weeks you should be able to see what – or who – makes you feel like it’s difficult to cope.
  • Set some boundaries. Many of the problems we have with stress begin when we forget how to say “no.” Technology today means we can be contactable all the time and could – in theory – work around the clock. It’s incredibly important to set some boundaries, whether that’s turning your emails off after 7pm or not answering the phone after the end of the working day.
  • Ask for help. Other people, especially close friends and family, can be incredibly useful when it comes to coping with workplace stress. From making suggestions to providing support during tough times, reaching out is often the right thing to do.
Stress at work is a common problem but there are some very effective ways to deal with it so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Our Stress Management course is ideal for delegates to stay more in control of themselves as pressure increases so you can still perform well and achieve results.  

How to plan a successful presentation

Posted: August 8, 2019 12:03 pm
Preparing a presentation doesn’t have to be the intimidating and overwhelming experience that many people fear it will be. In fact, with the right planning, it’s a simple and straightforward process that can help you to deliver great results. When you’re approaching a presentation, break this down into three key stages – research, content and delivery - and you’ll find it much easier to ensure that you’re confident and ready when the time comes.

Stage 1: Research

At this point it’s all about getting some insight into why the presentation is necessary and who it’s for. So, you’ll need to look at details such as:
  • Who are you going to be presenting to and what are their expectations, values and interests?
  • What are you going to be speaking about – choose an angle that is of interest to you.
  • What are you hoping to achieve with the presentation, what do you want the audience to learn or take away with them?

Stage 2: Content

Start by preparing the body content of the presentation, as this will give you an idea of how much there is to talk about and the level of detail that you want to cover. Define the ideas that you want to present during the content stage and then look for ways in which to support them. You might want to find relevant quotes, as well as data and statistics. Many people rely on their own personal experiences to make content relevant during a presentation and this can be a powerful tool. It’s also important to ensure that you’ve prepared an introduction and a conclusion in advance. This is often where people struggle with presentations but these are some of the most important moments, as they will create your first and last impressions. The introduction should make an impact, whether that’s with striking visuals, a key quote, a personal story or humour. The conclusion is your opportunity to reinforce the main messages of the presentation so that what you’ve said will be retained.

Stage 3: Delivery

There are three main options when it comes to delivery: speak from memory, use notes or speak from text.
  • Although speaking from memory gives you the freedom to move around and interact without notes or text this kind of delivery can sometimes sound rehearsed if you’re just trying to remember what comes next. It may still be necessary to have notes on hand to jog your memory if you lose your train of thought.
  • Using notes may mean cards or paper, or the technology of a presentation tool. This is often the easiest approach, as it will enable you to speak knowledgably while still maintaining some eye contact and interaction.
  • If you’re very nervous you may be tempted to speak from text i.e. writing out the entire presentation word for word and then reading it. This often results in a less engaging delivery, especially when it comes to audience engagement.
These are the key stages that are involved in planning a successful presentation. Get in touch today for more tips on planning successful presentations  

9 tips on how you can improve your communication skills

Posted: August 1, 2019 2:13 pm
Communication skills are fundamental to everything in working life, from success during the process of recruitment to getting promoted or moving into a managerial role. In fact, potential employers often rank communication above everything else, including a strong work ethic and honest and integrity. If you feel like your communication skills could use a little work these are our top tips for improvement.  
  1. Focus on being better at communication. If this is an area you really want to improve on then put some effort into it. Take a course on better communication, read up on the subject, listen to podcasts and talk to others. The more you prioritise improving this key skill the better you’re likely to get at it.
  1. Learn how to engage others in a conversation. Communication isn’t just about speaking, it’s the back and forth between people that creates the essential interaction. Asking questions is crucial to this, as is seeking out feedback and inviting people to share opinions.
  1. Don’t overcomplicate what you want to say. The simplest communication is the most powerful. You don’t have to be wordy or very intellectual to get your message across. In fact, some of the most powerful communications in history have been just a couple of hundred words long.
  1. Make understanding a priority. Take the time to listen and to process what someone says to you so that you’re sure you understand. If in doubt, ask more questions and seek more information until you have grasped the topic.
  1. Respond when you’re ready. When you’re communicating with someone there is nothing wrong with taking some time before you respond to them. This is especially important if you need a few moments to process what they have just said and compose a reply.
  1. Listen. If you don’t listen, your communication skills will always be poor. Instead of jumping ahead to what you want to say next, actually engage with what is being said to you.
  1. Don’t forget the physical side. Upwards of 65% of communication is non-verbal so don’t forget your body language – and that of your listener too. Are you standing with crossed arms? Is their posture open or turned away from you? There are many little signs of interest and engagement that can be useful in communication terms.
  1. Hold eye contact. You’ll not only be demonstrating commitment and enthusiasm if you hold eye contact but it will make you appear more trustworthy too. This applies whether you’re communicating with a room full of people or just one other person.
  1. Who are you talking to? It’s important to understand your audience if you want to improve communication skills. What do they need from this, what perspective do they bring and what are the benefits of listening to you?
  It’s simple to be a better communicator when you know how. From the way you speak to how you listen, there are many different factors that can have an impact.   Our Communication Skills course is designed to help delegates communicate more effectively with customers and colleagues.