Beyond the Box

Interview with IdeaConnection Facilitator Peter Lloyd
By Jane Mundy
It took some convincing before Peter Lloyd accepted his first challenge as one of IdeaConnection's facilitators. At first, the idea of working on contingency didn't appeal to him but Scott Wurtele, IdeaConnection's founder, convinced Lloyd to give try it. And he liked it; so much so that he just completed his fifth challenge.

"I faced the facts: taking a gamble to work in this environment is the way the world is heading," says Lloyd. "I realized that clients have access to a world of scientific talent and IdeaConnection is ahead of the curve. If companies don't know it, they will soon find out."

photo of Peter LloydLloyd had many years of facilitating experience before accepting the first challenge that IdeaConnection offered. "I worked at new product development with consumer packaged goods, such as pizza and soft drinks – I put together different combinations," says Lloyd, who adds that his work provided a background with live problem-solving and brainstorming. So he knows how to get IdeaConnection's teams of scientists and experts to think outside the box, which is imperative when it comes to problem solving in this arena of open innovation methodology.

"I'm the first one to ask a dumb question, and that's how I get people to start thinking outside the box," explains Lloyd, "and maybe that question isn't so dumb after all because it creates a safe place for new ideas. One of the problem solvers [usually four per team] might say, ‘I had this dumb idea', and I will encourage that person. From my experience, if you keep working on ‘dumb' ideas they can turn into great ideas."

Someone needs the courage to take the first step, regardless of the outcome. And that step is typically taken by the facilitator. That person also needs good organizational skills (for instance, a lot of coordination is involved regarding the team's time zones and arranging teleconferences) and an understanding of how creative people work.

"Of course you have to be a good listener," adds Lloyd. "I listen to their complaints, suggestions and recommendations, then evaluate them to the benefit of the group. In other words, I am nurturing creative people, making sure that everyone is accommodated."

There are challenges to the challenges, however. Every team member speaks English, but creative people often have strong opinions and strong egos. But these traits are 'par for the course', the nature of creativity. "To believe in something strongly you must have a passion for truth and a belief in making a better world," adds Lloyd, "and that is what is so great about working with IdeaConnection."

How do you keep strong egos in check? "On my last challenge a forceful man with a ‘big voice' was taking over the discussion and a demure Asian woman knew her stuff but she couldn't get a word in," says Lloyd. "So I stopped the conversation. We moved a little back inside the box and eventually came out with a solution to the client's problem.

A challenge is seductive and at the same time it can be tricky because everyone wants to get paid for their contribution. Having said that, I'm anxious to start on my sixth challenge."

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