Creativity to Design and Support Care for People with Dementia

Can we design creativity tools to support residential care staff?

On the 31st January 2012 – Professor Neil Maiden gave a talk on the mobile apps we have developed as part of the MIRROR project. His slides have been made available here (through Slideshare).

Creativity techniques and software support tools have the potential to be applied successfully to a wide range of problems. In the EU-funded FP7 MIRROR project we are working with the UK Registered Nursing Home Association to apply creativity to the design and delivery of new tools to improve the care for people with dementia. Our focus has been to support the care staff in residential homes.

Neil talked about two uses of creativity in this domain. The first was the use of creativity techniques such as improvisation and role play to engage and empower care staff in the design of new mobile technologies and apps that can improve their care of residents. The second was the design and implementation of a new mobile app intended to support care staff to think creatively to overcome challenging situations. Care staff can use the app to generate more novel, person-centred resolutions to these situations based on different creativity techniques that it supports. Neil also described how this creativity support app can be used along side other tools also under development, such as a life history app and digital rummage box running on portable tablets.

We’re interested in hearing from anyone working with similar solutions or with technology & care. Do get in touch.

Author: Kristine Pitts



Facilitating Creative Collaboration – Lessons from a Creative Entrepreneur

Alison Coward’s seminar on Facilitating Creative Collaboration went down really well with the audience. If you missed it, here is my take on it.

Alison is the founder of Bracket Projects, a consultancy that specialises in helping freelancers, businesses and organisations benefit from effective creative collaboration (, and the newly launched Bracket Creative which runs a network of talented creative people, with all the skills needed to create a project from start to finish. (

The particularly interesting thing about Bracket Creative is the way it puts together teams of freelancers to meet the specific needs of a client/project. Matching the skills and personalities required to form a creative team capable of collaborating through the duration of the project, on the completion of which the team disbands and again become independent freelancers. This notion of a pop-up business was on Business Week’s 20 Most Important Inventions of the Next 10 Years. With the recession pushing more people into freelancing and technology making it increasingly easy to work in a virtual office, it seems a logical next step for offering a “full package” of services to clients.

There are some key hurdles to note:

Finding the right people. This is not simply about matching skills – a team needs to be able to work together, so their personalities need to be at a balance with each other. This can be especially challenging with creative freelancers who are used to working independently and not having to answer to anyone but the client. They prefer to manage themselves, their time and value their autonomy. Members of a pop-up business must be able to collaborate and communicate. A team must have a balance of personalities, and Alison admits that when putting together teams she selects the team based on intuition, she knows what will work and what doesn’t. An option for the less experienced might be to use methods for determining people’s personality traits, e.g Belbin, Myers-Briggs and the like. They can give indicators to help have a spread of personalities to ensure that you have both implementors and idea people, coordinators and shapers. These tests are, however, not fool-proof.

Getting into the collaboration mindset. As part of her role in Bracket Creative, Alison kicks of a new team with a group session to get everyone on the same page. In these sessions the team members are able to develop common goals, sort out areas of disagreements, agree on processes, protocol, timescales and division of tasks. They need to find a common agenda, and get individual agendas out of the way. The team will also develop its own toolkit. This sets the tone for further collaboration down the line, as issues are aired and settled up front, making it less likely that the whole thing will fall apart due to a disagreement later on. Everybody knows what’s in it for them, and what is expected.

Key to the Collaboration Mindset:

  • Letting go of control
  • Leave your ego and your culture at the door
  • Patience
  • Sharing ideas
  • Communication
  • Motivation

The interesting thing for me is that this resonates with pretty much every creative process I’ve encountered, with some differences. One of the things that I really like about this approach though is the focus on tackling the individual agendas and elements that may cause conflict up front. Collaboration works better when people are well matched, but it still requires people to leave their egos at the door and find a common approach.

Another thing that struck home for me is the idea of People –>Process –> Technology, in that order. Get the people element right first, then decide collaboratively on the process, then match the technology to what you are planning to do. I’ve worked on many projects, especially with technology people, where the technology and process is decided, before the people involved in the project has worked through their issues to form a common and well understood and agreed on agenda. To often the agenda is set by people outside the project, or a small minority of people within the team, without the flexibility to acknowledge and work through the individual agendas of other team members. Let’s just say that these projects invariably has to regularly deal with conflicting views and expectations. Wouldn’t it be good to sort this out at the start?

The final observation is the need for a facilitator. Someone who is the force bringing people together, the negotiator in the early stages and the facilitator of communication and collaboration through the project. Without this person, in my opinion, the team would fall apart and the pop-up business idea would struggle to work.

Everybody has examples of collaboration that didn’t work, what are your examples when collaboration does work?

Author: Kristine Pitts

Everyday Innovation Networking Event

[tweetmeme]City University London and the Work Psychology Group recently completed a research project on ‘Everyday Innovation: How to enhance innovative working in employees and organisations’ This has been published by the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) in collaboration with the Charted Management Institute.

Organisations across the private, public and third sectors are increasingly recognising that innovation is crucial to their productivity and effectiveness, particularly in these tough economic times. Yet many organisations struggle to make innovation a practical day-to-day reality. This report offers several practical examples to show how to promote everyday innovative working at the employee, group, leader and organisational levels.

The findings and recommendations of the report were launched in December 2009 receiving wide interest from a range of organisations. As part of the ongoing wider dissemination, we are hosting an early evening networking event to showcase our findings in an informal setting. If you attended the December launch event, this is an ideal opportunity to follow up on the report since then. If you are yet to see the report, please come to the event to find out more.

Event format: There will be some brief presentations followed by plenty of time for discussion and networking with light refreshments available. We hope you can join us for what we expect to be an exciting and thought-provoking evening.

If you are unable to attend but are interested in this area or discussing the report further, please contact one of the authors at the following addresses Fiona Pattersonand Maura Kerrin

Registration: Reserve your place today

The People Behind User-Centered Design and why they hold the keys to your future….

Don’t miss this event at Cass Business School, 106 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TZ. Wednesday 7 July 2010 17:30 – 20:30 (Free to attend, registration essential)

Cass Business School, in association with Electronic Ink, presents a dynamic discussion focused on User-Centered Design. Senior executives from the energy, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and financial industries will be brought together for this one night event to share insights, as well as to provide a look into the future of business systems and solution design. Join us to learn how even a modest investment in Design can increase effectiveness of business systems, and rapidly hit the bottom line. Learn about the people behind user-centered design and why they hold the keys to your future.

More information & registration details here.

How to Focus and Make Connections

[tweetmeme]Yesterday we had a seminar titled “How to Focus and Win”, given by The Twins: EnvironMENTAL Training. I found this event very interesting for two reasons.

The first is my personal frustration with the struggle to stay focused when working on something that I find boring and tedious. This inability to get my brain to cooperate and focus when doing boring tasks can mean that those tasks get left until the last minute when fear of missing the deadline forces my brain into action – A method I applied with varying degrees of success in my student days when doing revision. Even more frustratingly, I have colleagues who seem to have endless control over their focus and are able to stay focused regardless of how repetitive and dull the task is. So why can’t I do it?

Well, according to Chuka & Dubem Okonkwo, who gave the seminar, focus is something that can be trained. They showed us a selection of techniques that they use to help their clients train their brain to stay focused when doing boring tasks. They gave us some simple (though not easy!) games to do. E.g. counting in two ways at the same time, both counting down from 1000 and up from 1. (1000, 1, 999, 2, 998, 3 and so on. Try it, it’s not as easy as it may seem). The idea is that by commanding your brain to perform and focus on boring tasks – you train it so that you can stay focused whenever you need to. You also learn to find your own motivation and be able to make the most of boring tasks.

Chuka and Dubem also had us work through some visualisation exercises. Which leads me to my second point: being aware of and registering your surroundings and the impact this has on creativity.

“When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.Steve Jobs

I agree in particular with the last (underlined) point here, and this as well is something that can be trained. The exercises we did were all designed to demonstrate how easily we can recall and visualize what we already know, but they were also alluding to how much information we miss. Think about your walk home from the station or bus stop, you walk it everyday, but could you direct someone to take the same route when you’re waiting for them at home? What shops will they pass? Any land marks? Traffic lights? What if I asked you to draw your mobile phone, without looking at it, just from memory? Now compare this to your mobile. What’s different? Do you now see something you hadn’t registered before? The more detail you remember the richer your experience is.

The mobile is a good example of something you use everyday, so in theory you should be able to draw it in rich detail. But it can be harder than it sounds. We mostly don’t pay attention to the details. By training your brain to look at something and then later visualize the details, you should not only improve your ability to remember details, but also your ability to make connections.

What do you think? Have you tried something like this before? Did it work for you?

Author: Kristine Pitts

Creative meetings using web conferencing?

[tweetmeme]Web conferencing has been “the next big thing” for a while now, and with everyone worrying about their carbon footprint, it should be more relevant than ever, right? Then why do I regularly find myself on the road, train, or plane, heading for a meeting with stakeholders which could in theory have been done using tools like Skype, or even just a conference call?  Well, it works in theory, but I’ve yet to find a web conferencing tool that can do it in practice. Why is that?

This week’s seminar speaker, Mick Angel, gave me some food for thought with his presentation on Web Conferencing and Creativity. One of his case studies for his research was Google, who have virtual meetings as a default between their widely spread offices.  So if Google can make web conferencing work, why can’t everyone make it work? What is it that Google does, that makes them good at web conferencing? It can’t just be the technology – HP spent millions on high-tech conference suites (HP Halo) at $500 000 a pop with dedicated communication lines, HD screens, HD video feed and document sharing (so HD in fact that recording it would create data files of terabyte sizes) etc, etc. But even HP admits that it’s not ideal, and it’s not just because of the price-tag. The setup is too businessy and does not allow participants to collaborate easily on artifacts. So if having the flashiest, most expensive technology available doesn’t solve the problems, what does?

Maybe the problem is a cultural one. At Google, the organizational culture actively promotes and expects web conferencing to work. There are unspoken, but seemingly well understood “rules of engagement”. They also have a shared internal language that helps simplify the collaboration on documents, IM and in web conferencing. And as Mick pointed out: “if the only time your boss can assess you is when you speak up in conference calls, then those who want to succeed will seek to actively participate” – thus alleviating one of my big issues with web conferencing – the passive, quiet person who listens, but doesn’t contribute.

Would web conferencing work for us, if we had a shared language, expectations and agreed “rules of engagement” with the people we work with? Could we ever agree on it? It’s possible within a single company, but across organizations? Maybe the development of multi-user online collaboration tools (rather than single user tools – like Word – adapted to support editing by multiple users) will make it easier? Or maybe Google should start running training courses? One thing is for sure, until I figure out how to have a successful creative meeting over the web, I will probably stick with face-to-face for creative meetings. Call me old-fashioned, but I know it works, and I know how it works.

What do you think? Does web conferencing work for you? I’d be interested in hearing when it does and when it doesn’t. What’s the plusses and the negatives?

Author: Kristine Pitts