Executive Coaching: Creativity in Disguise
Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle featured an article about Stanford Professor Tina Seelig. Professor Seelig, a 30 year engineering prof and Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program is a creativity guru. Not only does she teach a class on Creativity and Innovation at the “d school” (Stanford’s Design School), she has delivered that class free online to 41,000 students at one time last semester. Now, that is thinking BIG.
What struck me as I read the article is how closely related design thinking is to executive coaching. Instead of focusing on products and customer experience, we apply this thinking to people and organizations. Professor Seelig says she has a “favorite example to emphasize how crucial it is to reframe a problem in order to generate a new idea. She compares two questions: ‘What is the sum of 5+5?’ And ‘What two numbers add up to 10?’ We all know the first question has only one right answer but the second question has an infinite number of solutions.” “This is profound” she says “because the way you frame the problem determines the answer you’ll get.”
This is exactly the same way we provide coaching value to our clients. We help them re-frame their situations in new ways that elicit surprising answers to tough problems. One of my long term clients cuts right to the chase when we talk. After laying out the problem, he says “Frame this for me.” I offer a reframe the problem so he can see it from a new perspective. Sometimes we go through a number of re-frames before we find the one that opens the door to creative and innovative solutions. We know it when we get there. The solution is one that isn’t top of mind. We’ve delved deeply into the nature of the problem and framed it differently leading us to a solution that is a work of art.
In the Chronicle article, Professor Seelig highlights a quote attributed to Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution. I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.” Welcome to an hour of LFC Executive Coaching!