Professional coaching is a much-overlooked creative thinking technique.
If we accept the basic premise that many of the best ideas come from the subconscious mind of the already-immersed practitioner (rather than, say, the lay onlooker) then the major challenge in generating ideas is to disentangle traditional, embedded thought pathways, to reveal more direct routes to the outcomes we’re striving for.
Call it the creativity of simplification: A professional coach can use pretty straightforward technique (albeit with a great degree of skill) to have us answer to the very questions we brought into the room with us, and may already have been wrestling with for months!
Here’s one recipe for the coach …
Restraint, patience, logic and compassion.
1. Ask the coachee some questions about the objective
2. Ask questions about the current state
3. Ask questions about the possible routes from 2 to 1
4. Ask questions about the preferred route, and the immediate intention of the coachee
This doesn’t sound too smart does it? So why does it invariably work? Because we find it hard to be disciplined in applying a logical process to our own thinking. Far too easily we make emotionally-charged leaps at (or away from) the most obvious ways of tackling a problem, without giving due consideration to the pros and cons. Having to expose these erratic responses to an outside audience keeps us in check, and makes it much easier to pursue the best course of action.
Good coaching vastly improves our options when seeking to solve a problem. It helps us access candidate solutions both analytically and creatively, and also supports us in picking the winner.
Let’s consider a brief example: I spent weeks recently working out how best to open-up conversations with target customers on a particular theme. I was convinced that the two or three most obvious routes were barred, but had failed to ask myself whether that apparent constraint was real. Once I realised I’d limited my options by presuming, I suddenly found I had a much more direct solution to my problem.And in case it’s not obvious, yes you can self-coach. That’s what I did in the example above. Perhaps best to experiment with a partner first though, to get a feel for the process before you try wearing both hats simultaneously.