Unleashing Your Team’s Creativity | Amy Climer

"If you want your organization to be innovative, you have to focus on developing your teams." Amy Climer, Episode 124

Innovation is what makes the world go around…

And in this episode, we’re covering techniques to help your team innovate on demand…

Dr. Amy Climer, owner of Climer Consulting and Certified Speaking Professional, specializes in helping teams understand how to increase their creativity. 

She’s here to break down the 3 factors teams need to be creative and share the tool she created that uses images to spark ideas.

Amy will also cover:

  • Why teams are the #1 source of innovation in a business

  • The 4 stages of the creative problem-solving process

  • How releasing assumptions unleashes creativity

  • The power of metaphors 

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Amy Climer: Teams are the number one source of innovation in organizations. So if you want your organization to be innovative, to be creative, you have to focus on developing your teams.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and they call me the vibrant coach and I have a fantastical guest on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. That’s what I’m trying to help you do people. I have Dr. Amy Climer on the show today and I am so excited because she is wicked smart. And I have had the privilege of hanging out with her in many a room just with like my jaw dropped open listening to the genius coming out of her. 

Like she would never say any of these things. But I can say these things. I’m so glad to have her here. Let me tell you a little bit about her. Dr. Amy Climer is the owner of Climer Consulting. She is a speaker we’re both in the NSA, National Speakers Association together and she is a very fancy speaker. She has this thing called a CSP, Certified Speaking Professional. And she’s a coach, so she can sit with you one on one and help you. 

She can sit with you with like your whole team and do the team thing and she helps people to don’t miss this, innovate on demand. Okay, and like I know what you’re thinking, oh my gosh, we have so many things we need to change. You should call Amy. She developed the deliberate creative teams scale to help teams understand how to increase their creativity. 

She hosts the Deliberate Creative podcast and is the designer of Climer Cards, in it’s like got a whole website and everything. So she will tell you how to find her. And she does creativity and team building. She’s been doing it in over 45 countries. Okay, enough. She’s amazing already. How are you? Amy? Good to have you here.

Amy: That’s like the most amazing introduction. Oh my gosh, you’re right. I would not say those things. But thank you, Nicole, it’s really good to be here.

Nicole: Yeah, well, I gotta tell you, one of my favorite memories of you is you were so generous. And you spoke to the National Speakers Association Carolinas, our local chapter here in North Carolina and South Carolina. And she’s like supposed to be on at eight in the morning or something. I forget what it was. And like something crazy happened in Asheville, North Carolina. And like, she finally gets on the Zoom, we’re like are you, because it’s not like Amy to be late. 

Hello. And so we get on there. And it’s like she’s on her neighbor’s front porch using the Wi-Fi. I’m like, What are you doing? So talk about creativity and innovation. She could have just said y’all, I have no internet. But she didn’t do that. She drove across town and sat on her neighbor’s porch.

Amy: That is true, because it’s the middle of COVID. So I couldn’t go into her house. And that was all because this construction site, there was a huge apartment complex burned to the ground. 80,000 people lost internet, but my neighbor had a different provider than I did. So anyway, I went to her house. And then later there was a thunderstorm and I’m on the porch in the thunder. It was just the day of mishaps. But we managed, it was all right.

Nicole: That’s right. But you know, she’s advanced. She’s got that PhD. She’s just like, you know, if you could write a dissertation, you can sit on a front porch in a storm. Oh, my gosh, well, I’m so happy to have you here. Because first of all, you have this really cool focus in your business is around innovation and creativity. And I fancy myself a creative person. And I think that’s really what makes business go around. I mean, like, if you’re not reinventing, you’re in trouble. So tell us why you have this focus on creativity and innovation in the first place. How did you get drawn to that?

Amy: Oh, man, there’s so many different elements that I think have made me want to get into this. I mean, one of them was just, I don’t even know what it was. But when I was a kid, like high school, I would get so frustrated with my friends when they would say, oh, I’m not creative. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. Like what? Come on! I didn’t really know much about creativity then. But I knew that like we all have this potential to be creative. And fast forward. As an adult, I learned a little bit more about this really unique, I guess story in my family that I’ll just share maybe a little bit of it.

Nicole: I would love for you. I think I’ve heard this but I want everybody else to. Tell it, like you take the time you need, really. I want to hear it.

Amy: So my mom, when she was starting about age 15 She started getting these headaches. And she went to some doctors and short version of the story is after about 15 years, she kept going to doctors, and for 15 years different doctors all kept saying, oh honey, you’re fine. Just rest more, relax. It was kind of like the typical what women heard in the 60s and 70s. And finally it got so bad that she would literally have to sit really still in a dark room for hours because any movement or light was just painstaking. 

So she and her parents, this was about three months after she married my dad. They got in the motorhome, they lived in Orlando, Florida, which is where I grew up, drove all the way to Rochester, Minnesota. 1500 miles to the Mayo Clinic. They get to the Mayo Clinic, they run a couple tests. My mom has a brain tumor. 

Nicole: Oh, my word. 

Amy: And they just tell her we have to operate, we have to remove this. So they did. They operated to remove the brain tumor. It was about the size of a small pear at the base of her skull. So you know, that explains a little bit of some screwy excruciating headaches for 15 years. But there’s basically so she has the surgery, she wakes up a couple days later, she’s talking to the doctor and says, you know, did I really need to go through all this? Was this necessary. 

And he said, well, you know, pretty much any day now you were gonna go to sleep and not wake up. And so she was fairly close to dying, not maybe not days, but maybe weeks. And two years later, I was born. When I think back about that story, it’s like, all the innovations at the Mayo Clinic that led up to them, being able to diagnose her, figure out that the tumor was benign. 

So there was no cancer. All these pieces that led up to that would never have been possible without innovation. And when I think about it, I’m like, you know what, to me, this is actually personal. Like, innovation has literally saved my mother’s life so that I could be born. So maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But I think this stuff is really, really important.

Nicole: I agree. I agree. And I think you know, like, life gives you these stories. And these, this example and this path to get on. Because hello, the world needs creativity. So we’ve got to create this little champion called Dr. Amy Climer to get it done. And so that’s what you’re out there in the world doing is championing innovation and creativity. Alright, so I love this so much, I think is so important. 

And we all know, like, you know, Apple, and, you know, Microsoft, they can’t keep the same version of the software going around for very long before they have to get a new one, right. We got to have a new one. It’s really important. So you’ve sat down with many a team, many an individual. What do you do with these teams and with these individuals to help them see their creativity? 

Now I know you’ve got this really cool, you’ve got a chapter in a really cool book coming out. And then you’re also, hey, she’s writing her own book, don’t miss that. Stay tuned. And she’s got these things called Climer Cards. And she’s used her personal artistic creativity to create those. So will you talk a little bit about what you do with clients to help them?

Amy: Yeah, absolutely. So I have a model, I was trying to find a picture of it. A few years ago, I did some research as part of my dissertation. And one of the big things that came out of that is, what are the elements that teams need if they want to be creative together. And so I discovered these three factors that are critical for teams to be creative. And actually, I should back up and say, teams are the number one source of innovation in organizations. 

So if you want your organization to be innovative, to be creative, you have to focus on developing your teams. So there’s these three elements that teams need. The first is they need to have a clear sense of purpose. What are we doing together? Why are we meeting every week? What’s our point? But that purpose can’t be too tight. It’s got to be loose enough to allow for some changes and some creative thoughts. 

Teams also need to have a strong sense of team dynamics. Of we can communicate well, we can engage in some healthy conflict, but not too much conflict. And we trust each other. We trust each other meaning, I trust that I can show up as myself and be my full self with this team. And then the third is teams need to have, to know and use a creative process. 

And that’s probably the area that most teams struggle the most with, and that I ended up doing the most of my work around is because most teams don’t even know there is a creative process. And basically what this creative process is, is if you follow this, you will be more innovative. And that’s why I say I teach teams how to innovate on demand, because it’s actually a little more straightforward than most people think.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Because you said we use a creative process and you say that’s where they fail because we were chit-chatting a little bit for this started. We should have captured all that genius. We should have really done that. But the thing is, I was saying like they have lots of meetings, they have an agenda. But an agenda, hello, everybody. Write this down everybody. 

An agenda is not a creative process. Okay, there. Got that clear once and for all. All right. So I love your three things. A clear sense of purpose, clear sense of team dynamics, and then have and use a creative process. All right. So tell us a little bit about those three things. What is that? What would a clear sense of purpose be for a team?

Amy: Sure. Sometimes it’s obvious what the team’s purpose is. So for instance, the marketing team, like well you know, our job is to market, the products or the organization, our services, so forth. But sometimes it’s not so clear. And even I’m being a little flippant, I mean, some, the marketing team still needs to have a conversation and clarify what the purpose is. 

But for instance, I remember a number of years ago, I was working with an executive team of a company that was about maybe 100, 150 employees. And I asked the team, I said, what’s the purpose of your executive team? And they kind of looked at me for a minute and said, well, what do you mean. Do you mean like our mission statement? 

I said, well, that’s kind of more of the purpose of the whole company. But what about you all? Why do you meet every other week? What’s your purpose? And they kind of hemmed and hawed and basically couldn’t answer the question. So obviously, we had some work to do. And it’s interesting, because, you know, almost every company has an executive team. And so figuring out.

Nicole: Right, we got that C-suite thing going on.

Amy: Right, you know. And sometimes it’s just as simple as having a conversation and getting some clarity around that. And then the other thing that can happen with purpose is that often the leaders have a clear sense of what that purpose is, but maybe the team members don’t. And so that’s where just making sure everybody’s on the same page with that can go a long way. Now, I will say, more teams than not do have clarity around their purpose. So I end up not actually spending a ton of time on this, because most teams have this figured out reasonably well. So that’s team purpose. Shall I jump into team dynamics?

Nicole: Yeah, so let’s hear about clear team dynamics. Yeah, absolutely.

Amy: So in addition to team purpose, teams need to have a strong sense of team dynamics. And team dynamics are when the interactions we have with each other and the behaviors we exhibit with each other, just you know, how we are together. Three kind of sub areas there that are important is one is our ability to communicate within the team and outside of the team. If we only communicate within, we can get a bit insular. 

And it’s usually we get more pretty stagnant. And if we’re only communicating outside, then, obviously, then we’re not really working together as a team. So communication is important. Conflict and being you want to be able to have some conflict, but not, you know, where you’re always in conflict. And you don’t always want to be avoiding it. So it’s kind of sweet spot there. And then trust, we want to be able to trust each other so that we can show up as our full selves. 

This is the area that most teams I find they understand this. It doesn’t mean they’re already always doing it well, but they at least get it. You know, knowing that they need to communicate well, I mean, no one listening to this podcast doesn’t already know that. Right. But that is an area that I tend to do a fair bit of workaround.

Nicole: Right. So when I was going through school, one of the things that we talked about was like a team contract, or something. Is that kind of what you’re talking about? Like we’re gonna agree what our dynamics should be and what they shouldn’t be. So everybody kind of knows what, how to get in that sweet spot.

Amy: Yeah, I mean, I think a team contract can be a great tool to help develop those dynamics. One thing I like about a contract or another word is, you know, guidelines or working agreements, or full value contract, whatever want to call it. What I like about it is it helps make the implicit, explicit. 

So all of us show up to team like, say, the very first team meeting, we’re all together for the first time, all of us are showing up with assumptions. Whether we know it or not, we’re all showing up, we’re like, well, this is what I would assume respect looks like. Or this is what I assume a team should look like. And so having that conversation that leads to the contract can be really valuable. Just to talk through like, whatever it is. 

Like, what do you mean by on time, right? Like some people, it’s like, we’re starting at, you know, three o’clock on the dot. And others it’s like, really, you know, show up with three, we’re gonna kick it off about 3:10. Either is fine, as long as everyone’s on the same page about it, you know. So I think, and that’s just one example. But I think yeah, that conversation can be really helpful.

Nicole: Yeah, 100%. Because it gets, it removes like the conflict that we don’t want to have. Like, I don’t like her, she’s always late. We want to get rid of that. Right. But we do want the conflict like I think we should do it this way. Well, what if we did it that way, right? We want more of that healthy conflict where we’re doing the creative, innovative, right?

Amy: Absolutely. 100%. Yeah. So the first type of conflict you mentioned, can also be referred to as relational conflict. We don’t need that. We do want to tackle the conflict around the tasks or the concepts. That can be helpful. And we don’t want it to the nth degree. Like I actually am not a big fan, typically of playing the devil’s advocate. 

Unless that is like, say, an activity you’re doing together. Like, hey, let’s take this idea and let’s play devil’s advocate for a bit on it. But what I think can be tough is if there’s a team member who just like always does that all the time. And I’ve definitely had team members. 

Nicole: It’s their thing, their shtick. 

Amy: And I’ve had this before, where a team member was really pushing back. And then in the conversation, I found out that they didn’t actually even agree with what they’re saying. They’re like, oh, no, I’m just playing devil’s advocate. I actually agree with the idea. But it had created like 30 minutes of just mess which was like, this was not helpful.

Nicole: And we’re all angry right now. We’ve lost our emotional intelligence.

Amy: Exactly. Yeah, I think there’s a sweet spot there with the conflict.

Nicole: Yeah, I agree. I agree. That’s awesome. And then of course, we need trust, right. Like so, you know, again, if you’re just playing devil’s advocate to be irritating, then we don’t trust you anymore. Is he going to do that next time?

Amy: Yeah. I mean, there’s like a really close connection there with the trust and the conflict. Yeah. You know, we’ve all been in those bad brainstorming sessions, where somebody’s like, no, we did that in 1984. And it didn’t work. You’re like, oh, dear.

Nicole: Okay well it is 20, 30 years later now. Anyway, people are stuck. You know, here’s what you can do. Please have Amy come in to help your team get unstuck. Hello, we want to innovate past 1994. All right. So then the third thing is we got to use a creative process. And really, that’s your sweet spot, right? That’s the stuff that like Amy can tell you actually how to do that. So will you talk about what it means to have a creative process.

Amy: Yeah. So there’s a number of processes out there that are basically all very similar, that you’re finding some sort of problem or challenge, and you’re generating potential ideas, and then you’re implementing those ideas. So that’s like the super simple version of every process. 

So some names, listeners might be familiar with creative problem solving, design thinking, human-centered design, there’s some that are less popular, like Synectics, and TRIZ. These are all basically, very similar, if you lay them on top of each other, they have sort of more or less different names for the same thing. 

Nicole: Okay.

Amy: It doesn’t matter which one you use. There’s some pros and cons. But for the most part, I use the creative problem-solving process, I find it’s really easy to get and understand. So for anyone who’s watching via video, this is what it looks like. And there’s four stages to it. And it’s based on how we as humans naturally solve problems. So I’ll just walk through the four stages really briefly. We start off with clarify and clarifying like, what’s the problem? What’s the challenge? 

So a good example is March 2020, the pandemic hits, all of a sudden, wow we cannot do business in person. And so let’s say a restaurant needs to clarify, well, what are we trying to do here? What’s our goal? Are we trying to get back in person as soon as possible? Are we? This is where you start asking a lot of questions. Like what is possible? Can we get takeout containers? Do we have the staff to do this? Like, can we do this safely? 

And so the clarify stages, you’re asking lots of questions. And then from there, hopefully, you end up with like one big question. How might we continue to thrive in the midst of this pandemic? Something like that. Maybe even a little more specific. And then from there, you start generating ideas. Well, what are all the ways we might do this? Well, what are all the ways we might thrive in the midst of the pandemic? 

And what I find is a limitation is that a lot of companies and teams, they generate a few ideas. Four, five, six, maybe 10. You know, that’s a start, but that’s probably more like a grocery list. I’m talking like 100 ideas, 150 ideas, and most people balk at that. But it’s actually really easy for a team to come up with 100-plus ideas in less than an hour. So it doesn’t take a lot of time if you’re using a variety of techniques. 

Now anyway, some of those ideas aren’t going to be good. They’re just, they just don’t fit or they’re, they’re, they’re not that whatever is not gonna be that good. But if 10% of those 100 ideas are good, we now have 10 really good ideas that you didn’t have at the beginning. And so that hour of time, could.

Nicole: Solid investment.

Amy: Total solid investment. I mean, you’re definitely gonna make way more money on those ideas than you did paying those staff for that hour, right.

Nicole: 100%. And if you put money in the stock market and got a 10% return, you’d be delighted. That’s what I know, right? So it’s the same principle. Okay.

Amy: Exactly. I love it. Great comparison. Yeah, so then you take those best ideas. And what I like to say is, you know when an idea first comes out of our head, it basically will like fit on a post-it note. I mean, it, it’s just a sentence, it doesn’t mean anything yet. So then we develop the ideas further. And that’s where you’re looking at like, okay, well, if we were to do this, what would this mean? How much would this cost? Is this legal? Do we have we need a permit for this?

Nicole: Wait, excuse me, that’s a very important question, people. Alright, keep going.

Amy: A good one to ask. I mean, depends on your business. But please have integrity. So you start developing these ideas and exploring them a bit more. And then finally, you implement them, or one of them. And I recommend if you can start small with that implementation, you don’t have to go full-on, but is there a way to prototype it? 

And then from there, you’re implementing, and then you’re clarifying again. Oh, how did that go? Did it work? And it’s again, it’s just a cyclical process that you do over and over again? And so that’s the basics of it, of the creative problem-solving process and how to use a creative process within your team.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. So let me tell you what she said. Because you’re like, wait, I missed one. So, first thing is that she uses this process called Creative Problem Solving process. So write that down. Okay. And then she’s putting it up on the screen again. And then it has four stages clarify, you should end up with one big, amazing question. After that, then you generate 100 to 150 ideas, you get a 10% return to get 10 good ones, then you develop, what you’re going to do. Who, what, when, where, how, why. 

And then you implement it, prototype it. All right, very good. So I love that. So there’s your little creative process. Alright, so I’m curious, tell me, tell me a story or a time where you took the team through this. And they had like a big win. I kind of think you’ve had like a big win, or you’re like, we can’t believe we did this.

Amy: Yeah, I usually I just had one happen a couple months ago, which was real exciting. Yeah. So I was working with, I think it’s okay for me to share even details in this case. I was working with my local city, the city of Asheville, and they were applying for a grant that would, this grant was all about changing monuments and public spaces. And so we have in downtown Asheville, we have this massive, huge monument to a civil war person. 

And that got taken down. And now it’s like, okay, now what, what can we put here instead? And we it’s actually like this huge square, that, you know, there’s like a fountain, and people come and hang out. And it’s actually pretty cool space. And so they wanted to look at, like, how could we transform this entire space, not just where the monument was, but this whole space to really think differently around the history that we’re talking about in our city. 

And so they had done a number of things to generate some ideas, but they kind of like, well want to take this a bit further. So they brought me in, and I spent time with about 10 or 12 of them. We did a little bit of clarification. But they had done a lot of that before I met with them. And then we generated ideas. And they already had some created. But we built on that and we got, I don’t know, a couple 100 ideas in a pretty short time. 

And then we narrowed those down to like what are the best ones? They went back and wrote up a report applied for grant and they moved to the next phase of the grant process. The organization really liked them. And it’s not final, final. We haven’t gotten the money yet. But it’s moving along. I don’t know what will happen by the time this podcast is aired, but they were thrilled.

Nicole: They got a win.

Amy: Yeah, they were just super excited. And even before they knew, they just, the feedback to me was really positive. I felt very grateful. But yeah, we helped. So the big thing in that example is regenerating more ideas and we got more clarity around which ones were the best ideas that made the most sense to look at.

Nicole: So we just like to do a public announcement that if you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina, you’re really, really missing out. Okay. So I don’t know where you’re listening from, but please put this on your list of places to go. And just by the way, do you know the gal, her name is Kay. And she runs the Asheville rooftop bar tour. Do you know about this?

Amy: I think I’ve met her once. I don’t know her well.

Nicole: I had her on. She’s been on the Build a Vibrant Culture, podcast, everybody. So if you’ll go to the early episodes, she was a guest and reason why I had her on the show is because she was a postal service worker for, I don’t know, 100 years or whatever it was. And she retired and she ran, don’t miss this, she ran the same route all those years. Are you with me? Same mailbox, waving at the same people, same dogs barking at her, the whole shot. And then she retired. And now she runs the Asheville Rooftop Bar Tour. And she is fantastic. 

So you go to the, Asheville is so beautiful. It’s in the mountains of North Carolina, everybody. And you go there and she takes you up on the rooftop and you have a little cocktail and you have little appetizer, and then she tells you all about what you’re looking at off the rooftop. It’s fantastic. Now Amy, and all the folks at the city of Asheville are going to have a beautiful thing for you to look off. I bet you I bet she’ll from one rooftop bar you can see the square you’re talking about. 

That’s what I’m thinking. All right. Well, I digress. But anyways, I love Asheville, and you gotta go. Alright, so the you said that you help them get creative. Now my guess is, tell me if I’m wrong, I could be wrong, that maybe you used your Climer Cards with this team. Is that one of the tricks in your pocket, you pulled out your deck of cards?

Amy: We did use Climer Cards. So Climer Cards are this deck of cards that I created. And they’re all, at a glance, it just looks like you know, a little deck of playing cards. And they’re all there’s all these images that are paintings that I did, there’s little kind of like whimsical, iconic watercolor paintings. And I created these back in 2012 initially. 

Actually got them funded on a Kickstarter campaign, which is really cool experience. And then yeah, it was really cool. It’s a great way to like test your product, you know, like, so you’re getting into this implementation stage, you’re trying to see like, um, is this actually worth anything, and Kickstarter will tell you. So apparently mine was. It got funded.

Nicole: So people vote with their dollars, don’t they?

Amy: They do. Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s almost like a way for them to pre purchase the product before it’s created. But there’s no risk to them. Because if you don’t make enough money to actually get the product created, they get all their money back. So this is a brilliant model. But the way we use them in this example, with the city, which is a pretty typical way I use them is what happens is when you’re generating ideas is you start off. And first of all, I don’t, I don’t use brainstorming, and we can come back to that.

Nicole: I’m making a note. Brainstorming, I don’t use it. Got it.

Amy: We start off and we’re writing all these ideas down a post-it notes. And inevitably, you know, after a pretty short time, five plus minutes, you can see people’s pens are slowing down, and they’re starting to look around. And they’re sort of running out of ideas. And this is a normal human experience. 

So the tip, the trick, I guess, to getting more ideas is just do a different technique. And so what I use are Climer Cards, where we spread all these images out on the table. And I say, okay, looking at these images, use these images to spark more ideas. And this is where people start getting a little like wacky and wild.

Nicole: I love wacky and wild.

Amy: Yeah, and but it’s really fun. And some this is also where some of the ideas just like get a little too wild, almost. Which I know sometimes that frustrates people. But the point to that is that ridiculous idea might spark something else. That’s actually not so ridiculous. And so we just let it flow. Like yeah, bring it on, you know, we’ll evaluate all these later. Yeah. And so then that generates lots more ideas.

Nicole: That’s right. Well, it’s kind of like, I would think the process is a little bit like the dial, right? You know, it gets wild and wacky. And it’s like, oh, I know, that’s crazy. But how about this, right? So we’re probably self-analyzing the guy next to you is analyzing and helping you out. So I think that’s fantastic. So when you use the cards, you use the image to talk about how this image might represent what we could do in the square in Asheville and that kind of thing.

Amy: Yeah, so for instance, like alright, let me just pull one up here.

Nicole: Give us one little teeny tiny example and then tell us where to find these things. Oh, look at this octopus.

Amy: Alright, so this is an octopus. Just little simple drawing an octopus. And so it could be like, looking just using this, like what ideas get sparked because of this octopus? Now people could get really literal but like, well, I think we should have an aquarium in the center where we actually have an octopus in the aquarium. Okay, cool.

Nicole: He would freeze. It’s the mountains, anyway.

Amy: Right! It’s got to inside in the winter, but. Or it might be like, well, what if we had like the took the whole square and divided it into eight pieces. And each of those eight pieces represented something different? And then somebody else might say, oh, yeah, and then those eight pieces we could align with seasons, or the sub-seasons, or whatever. 

Or I don’t know, I’m making this up on the spot. But it just, it doesn’t matter what people say, because all these images, spark new ideas that they never would have thought of before. In fact, I do remember now, I remember there’s a giraffe here I’m holding up.

Nicole: He’s cute. 

Amy: I like him. He’s a little fat.

Nicole: Well he looks like me, anyway.

Amy: You’re gonna see these pretty soon in Africa.

Nicole: I know! I’m gone to Africa, everybody. Send me some tips. Okay, South Africa.

Amy: So this image with this, the giraffe, people started thinking of like, oh, what if we made some things that were really tall? And so I think before people were thinking of stuff that like, you know, the human height, you know, like, first-floor height, and then all of a sudden they start thinking about, like, what if we had something that like these poles that went up like two to three stories? And that, yeah, you know, created something new. So, yeah, those are just some examples of how to use Climer Cards to spark more ideas.

Nicole: Right, right. I love that. Well, so that’s, that’s her creative problem-solving process. And one of the things she does to get that generating ideas going is her Climer Cards, right? And so you can go to climercards.com. Do I have my story straight?

Amy: You do. And when you’re typing that in, there’s no b in the word climber. So it’s c l i m e r c a r d s.

Nicole: Okay, so important to get the spelling right. Okay, that’s fantastic. Now, one of the other things, I think that my assumption is, we know what happens when you assume but I’m gonna give it a, I’m gonna let it rip anyways. Is that you are part of this book about how to be more dynamic and more effective in virtual meetings? Do I my story right there? Yeah, tell us the name of the book and tell us how you got involved. And then let’s talk about your chapter in the book for a hot minute.

Amy: All right, so the book is called Virtual Facilitation. And it’s a compilation of, I believe, 29 contributors, so I was one of them. And it was kind of cool. This guy, his name is John Berkeley, he’s one of the editors. He, when the pandemic started in 2020, he just gathered up some other facilitators and said, hey, do I want to just jump on Zoom once a week, once a week initially, and just practice stuff around facilitating virtually. 

And so this group formed. I actually wasn’t a part of it initially. And later, I jumped in and joined the group. And the rule in the group was, you could only present something to the group that you had never done before. And so it was all about practicing. Like, trying out different things. 

Nicole: Being messy. I love it. 

Amy: Yeah, it was a really cool concept. Because, you know, we didn’t need everyone to show off what they did. We wanted to like dig in and make it real. So the group actually, before I got involved, had written a book. And then when I came along, that had been going for a while. And so they were on their second book, and I was invited to write a chapter. So I wrote a chapter on the power of metaphors. 

And one of the things that I did during the pandemic was I turned the physical deck of Climer Cards into a virtual web-based app. And it’s pretty robust if I must say. It’s really cool. It’s way beyond just like, oh, here’s a PDF of Climer Cards so you can use them virtually. It’s it’s fully interactive tool that people are still using. It’s, and it’s designed, you can use it in the way I talked about. So if you’re doing a virtual ideation session, you can use use the virtual Climer Cards app. 

But it’s also for especially great for coaches, or team leaders who want to go deeper in conversations with their groups or in a one-on-one. And so the deck of cards is all designed around metaphors. And so you ask a question. So let’s say you’re coaching somebody and you want, I don’t know, what’s an example of like a question, you might start off a coaching session with?

Nicole: The question I use is what is it like to experience you?

Amy: Hmm. Okay. So in this case, you would say select a card that represents what it’s like to experience you. And then there’s 50 cards in there, they scroll through, they click on one, they can type in their name and like a sentence of why they chose the card. And then if there’s a big group, let’s say you’re asking this of everyone. Say there’s 10 people, then you can see, everybody can see each other’s responses. And then now you can talk as a group, or go into break out rooms or whatever. 

What happens is, when people respond with the image, they say different things than they would have said, without the images. And yeah, they tend to get more specific, more focused. They don’t tend to ramble as much. Sometimes they go deeper than what they would have said, without the images. So it’s pretty cool to watch actually.

Nicole: I bet it is. I bet it is. All right. And so we can we can figure that all out, too. Over on climercards.com. Yeah. And so the image acts as a metaphor. And, you know, her chapter in the book is so great. It’s the power of metaphors. And you said in here, metaphors and analogies allow us to make sense of one thing by relating it to another. And I don’t know, I think that we need some help sometimes, because we have these brains that, I mean, if we don’t give it something to focus on, it will be all over the place. 

I mean, like, you know, what do they call it monkey mind, you know, whatever I’m overwhelmed as to kind of gives you a focus place. So you share a lot about the power of metaphor. So what happens to people when they, they use the card, and they realize they’re this way, or they’re that way, or a team uses it to kind of identify. What happens with the team, when they use these metaphor cards?

Amy: I think the biggest thing is, it helps them communicate with each other understanding each other better. Yeah. And so, you know, we use metaphors all the time. I mean, even in some like, really common phrase, like, oh, I was green with envy. It’s like green, you weren’t really green. That’s actually a, you know, a metaphor that we tend, like, somehow we get that, right. And that’s actually maybe that’s even a little bit of a nebulous one. 

But if you start saying something like, oh, well, such and such is sort of like a flower, where you plant it in the ground, it’s just a seed, and then it starts growing, and you have to water and if you ignore it, it’s gonna die. And, and it’s like, oh, boom, all of a sudden, we understand each other.

Nicole: Right. That’s like an employee that you don’t onboard correctly.

Amy: Right. They start wilting away, right? Like a flower.

Nicole: They do. And you’re like, where’d they go? They quit because nobody paid attention to them. And they never got direction, and they’re frustrated. So they left the building.

Amy: I do have one plant in my office right now that unfortunately, I have ignored and it’s looking pretty sad.

Nicole: All right, well, we have got to let you go see your water that thing. All right. So well, I want to go back because I took the note and we cannot let it, you know, people are like go back to the brainstorming thing. I thought brainstorming was good. Why, Dr. Amy Climer why is brainstorming not any good? Why? Tell us about that. We were taught that like in MBA school and everything? Tell us about that.

Amy: Well, not not to smack down MBA school, but no, I’m just kidding. Okay, so first of all, there’s some confusion about what brainstorming is. So just want to clarify that. 

Nicole: Perfect. 

Amy: Brainstorming is a technique to generate ideas, but is not, it’s not ideation. So ideation is like the heading, brainstorming would be a subheading as one technique. And then there’s 100 other techniques you can use. So when I’ve talked about brainstorming, specifically, I mean, a group of people sitting around a table or standing or whatever, but they’re verbally sharing ideas as they come to their, as they pop in their heads. 

So they’re just like, boom, boom, boom, boom, verbally sharing. Now, this can work in some situations. But here’s some of the downsides and I won’t get into all this research, gonna just point out a couple. One of the things that happens is that the first idea that’s shared, everyone thinks like, oh, that’s the direction we’re going. Okay.

Nicole: Oh, yeah. Groupthink starts kicking in.

Amy: Right. And everyone starts following in that sort of that category or that direction, even though they had this idea that was completely off the wall in an other direction, which might have been excellent. But then there is like a little hesitation to share it. So that’s one of the things that happens. And the other just the obvious I think most of us have experienced before is not all the voices are heard the same, right? 

Like some people generate ideas really fast. I actually tend to be one of those people. And I can get caught up and just you know, shouting out ideas and forgetting like oh wait, there’s some other people that maybe aren’t as comfortable shouting out their idea. Or if you have you know, different dynamics, like you have the boss in the room. Then the boss’s idea is going to carry more weight, and people are going to think, well, mine is not as good as the boss’s idea. Right? 

If you instead just start off quietly writing. Write down the ideas, everyone’s quietly writing on their own, it can be on, you can do this digitally, you can open up a Google Doc or something, or post it notes or whatever. And now all of a sudden, the ideas first of all, they’re a lot more equal. Because we may not even know who said what, and hopefully you don’t even care. 

And it also means that right from the beginning, you’re going to have more diverse ideas. And you’re not going to get stuck going down one direction. So teams can get really good at brainstorming. But it does take a fair bit of practice and discipline. And so that’s why I tend to avoid it that unless I’m working with a team for a long time, let’s just skip that and get into some other techniques.

Nicole: Right, right. Yeah, I’m really kind of going back to what you said about the things you got to do. You got to have the right team dynamics. And that sounds like all the wrong team dynamics. Groupthink and let’s honor what the boss says. And we’re not as smart as him or her or whatever was going on there. All right. 

So I absolutely love that. Now, you’ve mentioned a couple times about other techniques. So brainstorming but only if you start quietly on your own, and then bring it out. Of course, using your Climer Cards. Can you share maybe one more innovation, creativity technique that maybe we might investigate? Or you could help us with?

Amy: Sure. Yeah, actually, one of the things that has come up, at least once today we’ve been talking already is this idea of assumptions, right. So we all, we all make assumptions all the time every day. And most of the time, these assumptions are fairly benign, and they might even help keep us safe and healthy, and they can be good. But often, when you’re looking at a challenge, there’s assumptions baked into that, that we don’t even realize. 

So an example of an assumption that I found, kind of bumping up against in the pandemic is, so I have this background, before getting into creativity work was around team building. And I’ve led I can’t even tell you how many 1000s of hours of team building programs. And so I know all these team building activities, right, and some of them are great, some of them are bad.

Nicole: Which I love. I love team-building activities. Let’s have you back and talk about that. I love that stuff.

Amy: So, there were so many people, facilitators, who were trying to take those exact activities and do them virtually. And soon we started like questioning the assumption like, well, would it be better instead of like doing this exact activity, virtually just scrap that and create a whole new activity that actually lends itself better to this virtual space? You know, some activities translated well, but some didn’t. And it wasn’t until letting go of that assumption that we have to do the same activity, that that allowed us to start looking at new ideas. 

So one of the things that I try to do with my clients is to look at, well, what are the assumptions behind this? And then what happens this is it’s almost like a game. If we take these assumptions and we reverse the assumption, then what? So I don’t know why I mentioned restaurants earlier, but I’ll go with that again here.

Nicole: Because she’s hungry. It’s 5:18pm. I heard her stomach growling actually. We’re gonna, okay. Anyways. And let’s just say if you live in Asheville, okay, it’s gonna take her like an hour to figure out where to eat if she’s going out because there’s so many good places to eat. Anyways, I digress. Okay, so reverse the assumptions. Restaurants.

Amy: What if you were to reverse the assumption that a restaurant made the food for you. And if you reverse that, what if you show up to a restaurant and make your own food? And like there’s this restaurant, there’s this restaurant, I’m blanking on. I want to say it’s in a spring it’s at a spring in Central Florida. I grew up in Orlando, and we’d go to this is really amazing spring like freshwater spring and they had this restaurant where every table had this huge griddle. 

And they just brought you pancake batter. And they brought raw eggs. And you know, you want eggs, you just make your own eggs. Right. And you know, you get your whole family there y’all cooking breakfast together. It was so fun. And I was thinking we probably paid more than if they made the food for us.

Nicole: That’s right, and you’re you know, and you’re like we could have done this at home but it’s way more fun and public.

Amy: You don’t have to do the cleaning so that’s good.

Nicole: That’s right. That is fantastic.

Amy: A lot of ideas can come from being willing to like suspend the assumptions for a little bit.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. All right, people you have had a major download and you know, one thing that I did not do at the top of the show is I do, I’m searching for ideas and definitions of leadership. And so I don’t want to get away from this call, because we’ve got Dr. Amy Climer here who is a major brain trust. 

So and she goes out works with all these leaders gets them to be creative and innovative and get out of their own way and get a clearer sense of purpose and get their team dynamics and get a creative process in place. She does amazing things. But what’s your definition of leadership? What makes somebody great?

Amy: Oh, that’s a good question. See, I think you should just have people pick a card of what their definition of leadership is.

Nicole: I love that. That’s right. This card represents. That’s right.

Amy: So I think it’s funny. I just was talking to somebody yesterday about the same question. So I should have come more prepared. But I’ll just, from the of my head.

Nicole: No, no, you got a lot to share. Just let it rip.

Amy: So a couple of thoughts. I think there’s a couple pieces, well, more than a couple but a few pieces. But one of them is this visionary piece. You know, like, I think the leader is about, I think about, you know, like somebody’s on watch on a sailboat. You know, on their climb up to the top of the mast, and like they can see the furthest and, or, you know, up on the top of a mountain. 

And, like, you can see things that other people lower down in the organization can’t see just because that’s not their job to see them. But then the challenges that I see a lot with leaders is they can see that they have this vision, they’re super excited about it, they believe in it so deeply. 

And then being able to translate that and like break it down it for everyone else to get that sometimes is the hardest part. And so I think that’s a really important piece of that leadership is being able to communicate that vision and sort of rally everyone and get them motivated and excited. And then taking those steps to actually bring it into reality.

Nicole: Yeah. So I got a vision, here’s a vision. So be the leader that has the vision, right? You’re a visionary. But then you do all of this creative process, creative problem-solving process to figure out how to go from big picture to frontline, right? And you and so I picked my card in my mind. 

So I picked the giraffe as my definition of leadership, everybody. So she had the little, remember the cute little chubby giraffe. Okay, so that’s Nicole Greer. That’s her definition of leadership. And you know what I think it is, just sticking your neck out. There it is. Look at that. That giraffe is like, I’ll just stick my neck out here and let’s give it a whirl. Right. 

And that’s what leaders need to do. So leaders listening, here’s what I want you to do. Stick your neck out, actually put your fingers on the keyboard, go and check out www.climercards.com And then if they want to find out more about you, personally, Dr. Amy Climer where would they go?

Amy: They can go to climerconsulting.com. Same spelling c l i m e r consulting.com. And you’ll learn more about my programs and keynotes that I do and so forth.

Nicole: Okay, yeah. And or, you know, here’s what you do. Load your people up, take them to Asheville on Friday, and let them stay on Saturday you’ll be the most loved and adored leader of all time, I’m just saying. And so then again, tell us about the book. When is it going to be out? The one about the virtual.

Amy: The Virtual Facilitation book is already out. It came out January 2023. Yeah, it’s on backorder though or something? No, it was. It’s fully in stock. You can order, you can order from either website climercards.com, or climerconsulting. I think you can also get on Amazon as well. And probably some other places. Yeah, I am writing another book that will be out 2024 which is about innovation in teams. Basically a lot of the stuff we talked about, so look for that in late 2024. I think. I think that’s when it’s going to be out.

Nicole: Okay. Well, when that sucker hits the Amazon, let’s do this again and talk it through. Okay, I would love to do that. Okay, well, everybody, thank you so much. I know you thoroughly enjoyed your time with Dr. Amy Climer and with me, Nicole Greer, the vibrant coach. So here’s what we would love for you do. 

Go down and like this episode. Just real quick hit the like button takes a hot second. Do that. Maybe make a comment that’s helpful for us. And then both Amy and I can be found over on the LinkedIn. Nicole Greer and Amy Climer Dr. Amy Climer would love to be LinkedIn with you. Thanks so much, Amy, for being on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. It’s been a delight.

Amy: Thank you. Bye, everyone.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email Nicole@nicolegreer.com. And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at nicolegreer.com.

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