OBJECTIVE FOR TODAY
The objective for today is to capture and review your thoughts on your present situation and your goals for the future, using the SOAR technique.
You will then be able to use the new tools and insights from the other sessions in the Idea Time Creative Kickstart programme to help you to work towards your aspirations and the outcomes you want to achieve, tailoring this programme to meet your specific needs.
In order to generate new ideas you need the skills and knowledge and, very importantly, the ability for flexible thinking. You will learn about some tools that will help you – although it’s important to appreciate that the tools themselves don’t give you the creative ideas, their role is to switch on the thinking behaviours that do.
First, you will spend about 5 minutes reading today’s Crucial Core (below), which focuses on reviewing where you are right now and the aspirations that you have.
If you’d like to do any further reading, I have provided you with Bumper Bonus Bits at the end of this section. Reading these is optional, but if you’d like to have a look at your leisure you’re free to do so, either before you begin today’s Idea Time activity, or at a later stage.
Your Idea Time activity today is a SOAR analysis. It focuses on current strengths and visions for the future. The Idea Time activity is likely to take you between 10-15 minutes. Get all your thoughts out and onto paper so that you can see them visually and prioritise where you’d like to begin. Try to work intuitively, relax and have fun with the process.
Depending on how you want to use this programme, you will use the SOAR tool to reflect
on the current position of either:
• Your professional career;
• Your team, or business.
You will then build on this activity throughout the rest of the programme, using the tools and techniques in each session to perform even better at work, so that you benefit both your career and your business.
1. Focusing on strengths can produce more positive results than spending time trying to correct weaknesses. Where you can, only correct weaknesses if they are holding you back in some way.
2. Getting your thoughts down on paper helps you to gain a different perspective on them.
3. Being clear about where new ideas will help you most will help to make your creative
thinking more effective and purposeful.
Now it’s time to think about what you’d like to achieve in 2019, using the SOAR approach. SOAR is a tool from the field of positive psychology(1). The letters stand for: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.
SOAR is strengths-based, consistent with an approach known as ‘Appreciative Inquiry’. This focuses on achieving successful change management by identifying what is working well and then doing more of it, because people (and therefore organisations) will grow in whichever direction people focus their attention.
(1) For more about the origins and details of the SOAR technique, read The Thin Book of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy, by Stavros & Hinrichs.
WHAT IS SOAR?
SOAR is an alternative to the more common SWOT analysis tool (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
The weaknesses and threats in SWOT are reframed as opportunities in the SOAR approach.
When conducting a SOAR analysis, the basic questions to be answered are:
1. What are my /our greatest strengths?
2. What are my / our best opportunities?
3. What is my / our preferred future, or aspirations?
4. What are the measurable results that will tell me /us I’ve /we’ve achieved the vision of the future?
SOAR is about…
• Becoming our best
• Achieving the good vs. avoiding error
SOAR is a tool from the field of positive psychology. The letters stand for: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.
Complete your own SOAR analysis for your business here.
Questions to help:
• What advantages do you have?
• What do you do better than anyone else?
• What unique resources do you have access to?
• What do others in your industry see as your strength?
• What factors are helping you succeed?
• Where are the good opportunities facing you?
• What partnerships might you develop?
• What new growth opportunities might you pursue?
• What are the interesting trends you are aware of? e.g. social, technological, economic, political
• How will you build on and expand your strengths?
• What improvements do you want to see?
• Where will you be in 3 to 5 years?
• What accomplishments will you have achieved?
• How do you want others to perceive you?
• What new things do you want to consider?
• What difference will you make?
• What does success look like?
• What measures of success will be most important?
BUMPER BONUS BITS
Before you begin to generate ideas, it is really helpful if you have thought through the
outline of what you want to achieve. Doing so means that your idea generation will be
more focused and purposeful. In fact, we know from research that just setting some
focus areas, which in fact are a form of constraint, is likely to enhance your creativity!
Whilst this might seem counterintuitive at first, it actually makes sense. Having complete
freedom and infinite possibilities can leave us feeling somewhat overwhelmed and
unsure where to start, whereas focusing on a specific challenge can actually help to get
our creative juices flowing. Focus removes what is sometimes called the paralysis of
Creativity is the use of imagination or fresh ideas to create something new, such as a
product, service, opportunity or solution.
Appreciative Inquiry is an approach that helps us to be curious about situations and
possibilities from a positive perspective, without being unrealistic or overly optimistic.
It uses guided questions, focused on four key areas, which are:
1. Discover – to identify the things that are working well.
Example: Which areas of the presentation do you think resonated the most?
2. Imagine – to think about new ways of applying what works well to other areas.
Example: How else could we include the most successful elements of our
3. Design – to create an action plan.
Example: How can we use the most successful parts of our presentation in our
next session with the client?
4. Deliver – to set measurements for success.
Example: How will we assess the impact that our presentation approach has with
The structure of the SOAR technique is based on these four question types.
Appreciative Inquiry can be empowering and encourage proactivity. It can help with creativity because it complements some of the key requirements for great idea generation, which include deferring judgement, being affirmative and constructive, and unlocking potential.
If you’d like to learn more about AI, here are some recommended resources:
• Appreciative Inquiry, by Lori Pritchard
• Appreciative Inquiry, A Positive Revolution in Change, by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney
• Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management, by Sarah Lewis