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Executive Coaching: Creativity in Disguise

Sometimes it is necessary to re-frame your thinking before you find the solution that opens the door to creative and innovative works of art.

Sometimes it is necessary to re-frame your thinking before you find the solution that opens the door to creative and innovative works of art.

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!


More Leading From Center
See LFC Executive Coaching in action and take a look at this video clip from LFC client Christian Rommel, former CSO, Intellikine, a biotech startup acquired last year in a $310 MM deal.  Or read my other blog posts that give you some insight into your potential and the possibilities of your business:
Leadership Landmines – As a leader, have you ever done something that later blows up in your face? It seems innocuous at the time. Then BOOM! Of course, we’ve all done that. [read more]
Be Smart, Not SMART – Happy 2013! It’s that time again. Resolutions and goal setting are the standard for this time of year. [read more]
You Are NOT Your Company – You spend the majority of your time working and when you’re not actually working you’re thinking about work, worrying about work, dreaming about work. [read more]

About the Author

Lori MazanLori Mazan is the founder of Leading From Center, originally started as Seventh Wave coaching in 1996. A seasoned advisor and executive coach herself, Lori also provides high caliber, hand picked and personally supervised affiliate coaches. One of the first 300 certified coaches in the US, Lori has been working for almost two decades with Fortune 100 executives in companies including Chevron, Sprint, and Roche/Genentech, as well as funded growth companies like Coverity, Intellikine, and Tapjoy. Her background includes training thousands of people in leadership skills ranging from deep listening to complex arenas of conflict resolution, motivation, and organizational and political savvy. Blending experience with theory, Lori taught 10 years of college level social psychology and group dynamics courses. Lori lives in Southern California with her son, two cats and a dozen goldfish. She has a 20+ year practice in the art of Tai Chi Chuan.View all posts by Lori Mazan →

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