Monthly Archives: November 2017

Funny how you can come up with great solutions!

From good solutions to great solutionsJohn Cleese is considered one of the funniest people on the planet.  I don’t think I need to argue this point.  A very funny man and a core member of the acknowledged funniest group ever – Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  So you have to ask yourself “why were they so much better than their peers and predecessors?” The likes of The Goons, Morecombe & Wise, Derek & Clive, The Two Ronnies and The Goodies.

I’m not funny at all according to my children.

They do acknowledge however that I am very good at solving problems.  Whether it be technical problems, commercial problems, mechanical problems, cooking problems or general life problems.  I think I’m good at problem solving because I can look at issues using lots of different lenses.  I have spent time as a Student, Software Engineer, Soldier, Salesman, Accountant, Marketer, Entrepreneur, Chairman, Writer & Consultant.  Its easy for me to bring different perspectives to bear.   From my point of view; I can be relied on to come a with good solutions to most problems.  But sadly, they are rarely great solutions.

So this is where John Cleese comes in.

There’s a fascinating video of John Cleese on You Tube, talking about Creativity in Management.    Because its by John Cleese it’s a bit funny, but it’s not a comedy skit.  He tackles the serious subject of how to be creative on demand.  He makes a number of points, like finding the right place to be creative and being open to creativity rather than being close minded.  But at 19 minutes in, he talks about the one thing that separated him from his peers, most of whom he acknowledged were natively funnier than him!

Its taking your time.

Most people, including comedians, set aside time to solve a problem – such as creating a funny skit.  When they solve the problem, jobs done!  However, John Cleese didn’t.  He allocated time to solve a problem, perhaps 4 hours, and used all of the time.  So if the Monty Python crew arrived at a solution within the first hour, they would spend the next three hours, revising and improving or set it aside and start again from a different direction.  This means they could then compare and contrast their skits, selecting the best and sharpening them.  So rather than one skit on say “the ridiculousness of bad products” they could improve it by taking it from a car salesman skit   to the famous dead parrot skit.

What can I learn from this though?

Despite the fact that most people know me as someone who is gregarious and happy to speak to one to a thousand strangers, I’m actually quite introverted and spend the majority of my working hours alone.  This means when I solve a problem, I usually have no one to challenge me and I never spend any additional time trying to “solve it better”.

Sadly, this means I settle for good solutions, rather than great solutions, without even realising it.

I don’t challenge my assumptions, I work within them.  I don’t approach the problem from different angles.  I solve it, pat myself on the back on and move on.  For near on ten years I sold sales campaigns on a fixed project fee basis and made the client wear the risk of us not hitting agreed targets.  So “trust” became a barrier to sale with new clients.   They just wanted to pay for success, who wouldn’t?  But we couldn’t do that.  Funding projects with cashflow at the end only is difficult and the risk of bad debt becomes enormous as success fee only campaigns attracts the wrong type of clients.  Consequently nobody does it.

But then I went back and had another look.

Spending more time on a problem I had already solved, came up with an unexpected result.  I suddenly realised that the overall project fee (success based) could be unbundled from our invoicing.  How specifically we do it, I’d rather not be explicit about because it’s a competitive advantage, however by doing this:

  1. The client is happy as they are paying for successful sales outcomes only.
  2. Getting new clients to trust us is vastly easier to achieve.
  3. Its better busienss as our risk is reduced – the client proves themselves as a good debtor upfront.
  4. The cashflow for the project is provided by the client as we invoice them at each milestone.

I wish I had spent the extra time ten years ago solving this problem.  Great solutions can come easily.

So do yourself a favour, watch the John Cleese Video.  Its 37 minutes of extraordinary insight.Creativity in Management