Dr Amy Climer

Episode 8: FourSight Thinking Profile Interview with Blair Miller

Learn about the FourSight Thinking Profile and how teams can benefit from understanding their own creative preferences. In this interview with Blair Miller, one of the developers of FourSight, he shares stories and information about how to enhance your team. The last story he shares will help you see how to move your team from so-so to amazing.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to use your natural creative preference to enhance your own and your teams’s creativity.
  • How team members can build on each other’s strengths to become creative collaborators

Resources and Links:

The Weekly Challenge

Your challenge for the week is take the FourSight Thinking Profile.  Share in the comments your profile and how it impacts your work. Listen to the episode for a 20% discount too!

Transcript

Feel like reading instead of listening? You can read it below. Enjoy!

In today’s episode you will learn how your team’s creative preferences can impact your team’s creative output.

Amy Climer: Welcome to the Deliberate Creative Podcast episode #008. In today’s episode I interview Blair Miller, one of the developers of an assessment tool called The FourSight Thinking Profile. The way FourSight works is that each individual completes the online assessment and then receives both an individual and a team score showing their creative preferences (if they completed it with a team). The team can then see where their overall strengths and gaps lie, as far as the Creative Problem Solving process, which you’ve been learning about in the last few episodes. This can help them better utilize each member and become more collaboratively creative.

I met Blair last year when I took the FourSight training to learn how to deliver and lead teams through the FourSight process. I think you are going to really enjoy our conversation and learn a lot about teams and creativity. Here we go!

Amy Climer: Hi Blair, thank you so much for joining me on the Deliberate Creative Podcast.

Blair Miller: Hi Amy. It’s good to be here.

Amy Climer: Great, I’m excited to have you on the show. Can you start off and tell us a little bit about yourself, particularly your background and the type of work you do?

Blair Miller: Thanks! Briefly, I was a school teacher way back when. I was a middle school teacher for seven years and I worked with the Colorado Outward Bound. I had gotten involved in experiential education. Essentially, my interest was how are groups when they are at their absolute best having seen them out in the wilderness and doing extraordinary things. I saw that there was a real qualitative difference. I had the opportunity to go and get a Masters of Science at the Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State College and it really changed the trajectory of my life.

I started my business, Blair Miller Innovation, back in 1990 and have been working with Fortune 500 type companies. Actually, working worldwide in the areas of capability development, facilitation, in areas of strategic planning, new product development, cost optimization, and we started the company FourSight about 15 years ago to leverage a lot of these learnings and make them available for other people.

Amy Climer: Tell me a little bit about FourSight. What is that all about?

Blair Miller: FourSight is a company that is set out to leverage these insights that have been happening or pulling together academically, but also to bring together practice and create research based tools that could be available for everybody to incorporate into their practice. The mission of FourSight is to democratize creativity worldwide.

Amy Climer: I love that.

Blair Miller: Thanks. We’re not going to get there in this lifetime, but it keeps us busy.

Amy Climer: It’s all about the seventh generation, right?

Blair Miller: Right, exactly.

Amy Climer: As you know I know a fair bit about FourSight having taken the FourSight Thinking Profile training. Tell the audience a little bit about that profile and what’s it about.

Blair Miller: I’ll give you a little bit of a background. It is rooted in this academic research in creative behavior, creative thinking. Gerard Puccio, who is the chairman of the department over there in Buffalo, back in the late 80s, early 90s, he had just gotten his PhD. He was very interested in extending the learning and research around creativity. He had an experience at a training program where he was teaching a corporate audience Creative Problem Solving. He noticed that people reacted to different parts of the process dramatically differently. He thought, instead of letting that insight go, I wonder if there’s something there.

Back then, we thought of Creative Problem Solving as a six-step process and he went about deliberately serving people’s preferences for those different ways of thinking in Creative Problem Solving and through factor analysis of different questions and so forth, he developed what is today the FourSight measure.

Amy Climer: That’s really great. That’s really great.

Blair Miller: The end of that story is that when he did the factor analysis, there weren’t six separate modes of thinking, there were four. That leads to the four thinking modalities that we teach and help people understand today.

Amy Climer: I know that the Creative Problem Solving process, that cycle has gone through a lot of iterations in the last 50 years and I didn’t realize it was the FourSight research that had gotten it from six stages down to four. That’s interesting.

Blair Miller: There is a great little factoid.

Amy Climer: Right. Trivia that you really didn’t need to know but now you do. Tell us a little bit about FourSight. You said there are four different profiles or different preferences. Give us a little bit of background on what these preferences are.

Blair Miller: It’s useful to start off with a little bit about what is creative thinking, creative process because what came out of all of those years of research that you just alluded to is that it appears that creativity is an innate human quality. It’s something that we all do. When we look at how people engage in creative thinking and we watch them, we know that there’s a basic element. The heartbeat of creative thinking is expansion or diverging and contraction or focus, converging.

If that’s the heartbeat, that’s what’s driving the engine, we also have learned that this divergence and convergence happens in four different areas. Those four different areas, one is Clarifying a Challenge. This is where we submerge or immerse ourselves into a situation. We learn all about it – the who, what, where, when, why, the history, what’s known and unknown – to the end of discovering what are the essential challenges associated with this area of inquiry.

Once we have a question or a set of questions that we can pursue, we go into the next which is Generating Ideas, going in and getting lots of alternatives, lots of options, lots of ideas, but when we, through extended effort and remote associations, come up with new connections and ideas, we select, we converge again, we focus on some areas and then go into development. Developing solutions, looking at these ideas and seeing what’s really good about them. What’s working, what are the areas that we need to maintain but also really clearly and I might say lovingly, looking at where are the weaknesses, what are the areas where this idea or this concept is not working up to where we would like it to be, up to standards.

We then develop it, hone it, strengthen it, and then we move into Implementation – looking at sources of assistance, resistance to our solutions, to our plans with the goal of getting it into play, into action. That’s a little overview of Creative Process.

Amy Climer: So there are the four stages. There’s clarifying the problem, generating the ideas, developing the solutions, and then implementation.

Blair Miller: Exactly. With this, as you can see from just the overview, when we clarify, when we really deeply understand and make meaning of information or look for those patterns, that’s a very different type of thinking than the thinking involved with looking at the big picture, generating lots of ideas. It’s in that difference that we look at preference. Preference in this case is not that you like one type of thinking over the other but when we talk about psychological preference or cognitive preference, it’s useful sometimes to think of other preferences that we have.

For instance, if I asked you to catch a can of spray paint that was throwing through the ether right now. “Catch that spray can and hold it up high.”

Amy Climer: Got it.

Blair Miller: I want you to do a little sky graffiti and write your name up in the sky with your spray can.

Amy Climer: Okay. I hope all our listeners are doing this as well.

Blair Miller: I hope they are. Now the question is which hand did you use? To do your spray graffiti, did you use the hand that you normally write with?

Amy Climer: I did, yes.

Blair Miller: That’s called preference. Often, when we’re asked to do a task, we’ll approach it with our dominant hand, let’s say if it’s a writing task. If I hand you a difficult challenge or a compelling opportunity to pursue, likely, you’re going to pursue it with your preference of thinking. We call that a cognitive preference. Where we have handedness, we also have mindedness.

Amy Climer: I like that, handedness and mindedness.

Blair Miller: I made up the word mindedness but I hope people don’t care about that. The concept is there.

Amy Climer: I like it. You should talk to Webster, get that in the dictionary. There are these preferences and so now what?

Blair Miller: So we have preferences for the different kinds of thinking but there are also different kinds of behavior that’s associated with each of those preferences. When we look at clarifiers for instance, clarifiers tend to be people who really enjoy digging deep into the background of a situation. They take a fairly methodical approach to life. They can sometimes get lost in understanding all of the information associated with alternatives or with the situation.

That is quite different from an ideator. Ideators tend to be playful. They tend to take a very spontaneous approach to getting ideas, alternatives. They can overlook details and data. If you look at how clarifiers and ideators interact – short of having a really good respectful relationship with one another, they can drive each other crazy.

Amy Climer: Yes. I’m more of an ideator so I can understand. I love them because they can ask questions and think of things that I didn’t think of, but if I’m not paying attention, I can also get frustrated by them.

Blair Miller: Right and that’s spoken as someone who has done lots of complex work, I’m sure. That notion of differences between people, it can be pernicious because it’s a fundamental human diversity. It’s not a diversity that we can see on the skin. It’s not as obvious as age or gender. It’s under the skin. It’s how we approach the world of ideas and solutions and the kinds of actions we like to take. It’s easy if we don’t have positive labels for those differences to say that those differences have a negative connotation. It can drive people apart.

Amy Climer: Absolutely. I have seen it happen.

Blair Miller: Here, what we’re trying to do with FourSight, we’ve attempted is to make the language a fairly straightforward and positive in the description of each of these thinking modalities of the developers who like nothing more than to take an existing idea or new idea and really refine it. Make it better, to make it bright. To test it and understand it, but they take a great deal of time. When they are contrasted with implementers who really just believe deep in their toes that the way to advance understanding is to go out and try it, to just do it and let the chips fall as they may. Then very, very quickly understand what’s going on and learn from it and adjust their behavior. There you see the oil and water between developers and implementers. Developers want to take the time to just refine and understand and implementers just want to go out and do it.

Amy Climer: The developers want to get it just right and the implementers are thinking, “Hey, let’s prototype it. Let’s go and test it. Then we’ll know.”

Blair Miller: Exactly. While the implementers can get into kind of the cycle of action for action’s sake and developers might get lost in perfection, perfecting a solution before moving forward, there is a huge benefit for each having a relationship with the other to refine and improve their performance.

Amy Climer: It’s really a balance. You need to do some refining. You want to have some planning but at the same time, you don’t want to over plan. You do want to get started because you get that more immediate feedback. You need really a little bit of both.

Blair Miller: You really do and the thing to remember is that these preferences have an impact. I was just asked recently to come up with a keynote speech. It was exciting. It was over in Kuwait and I asked my host over there all about it. How many would there be, how long should it be, who is going to be in attendance. I’m a clarifier. That’s what I do. I like to ask lots of questions and learn about it. I sat right down and I started writing a list of all of the things I could talk about. I was going to have like 45 minutes and I wrote down everything. It was great. I left it and I came back to it, and I wrote down some more things. It was really fun. I got right down to it because ideators, that’s what ideators like to do. I’m an ideator also. Ideators love to come up with lots of things.

Amy Climer: Yes, I know.

Blair Miller: I looked at it and I had a great talk. It would have taken 4.5 hours.

Amy Climer: Right and people have been falling asleep – not because you’re not interesting.

Blair Miller: What I did is I called on my team. I’ve got a great developer on my team. I said, “Will you sit down with me?” I’ve got a process here. We’ve got this Creative Problem Solving process but I got sucked right into my preferences and I spent all this time clarifying, all this time ideating, and I had too much. My developer sat down with me and she said, “Let’s review. What are you doing and what’s really good here?”

Amy Climer: What’s most important?

Blair Miller: She helped me refine that talk down to a wonderful 45 minutes that was very well received because she was doing what developers are really good at – helping lead and refine that – and that helped focus my energy and my attention so we could go off and have a great talk.

Amy Climer: I think it’s a great example of how you’re using the different profiles to collaborate and to really come up in the end with a better product than you would have created by yourself.

Blair Miller: The thing is that when you’re a leader, if you understand the pool of preferences and how those preferences are interacting in yourself and with your team/teams, it can be an absolute blessing. It can guide your thinking, it can guide your assignment. But if you don’t understand it, it can be a constant source of distress and kind of bafflement as to why aren’t people doing their best?

Amy Climer: Absolutely. In thinking about that, thinking about the teams and the different preferences within a team, what do you think is the ideal profile for a team? Do you want to have a mix of different preferences or do you want to have more of one type or another?
Blair Miller: We have some research that has been aiming at this and I can say for teams that are going to be together for a long period of time that really the ideal is to have a diverse set of representation. This is not to say that each individual, even with the strong preference cannot engage in all these different ways of thinking. By having a diverse team, you can spread the load. Spread the load of leadership in these different areas. You’re a strong ideator. Now I’m an ideator too but I’m a little stronger as a clarifier and sometimes, I lose energy around ideation. If you and I were working together, if you could take the lead and say, “Hey, we’re going to take some time here to really explore some alternatives,” I could rest a little bit and follow your lead. I’m still engaging, I’m still participating, but I may not have to take a lead.

Amy Climer: I think that’s a good point especially if you’re following the Creative Problem Solving process and going through clarifying, ideating, developing, implementing, and if the teams understand the four stages and then they understand everybody’s preference, then they also know, “Okay, we might be in the stage I’m not most excited about but we’re going to get to my stage.”

Blair Miller: Exactly. We’re going to get there and that leads us to the other side of is there an ideal team or are there ideal skills?

Amy Climer: Yeah because skills and preferences aren’t the same thing.

Blair Miller: We may have a team that is lopsided in one way or the other and if you look at the nature of the work, that may be a very appropriate mix and that’s’ great. Every team is going to have to engage in all of those thinking modalities and if you have awareness, for a really complete project, we need to engage in clarifying, ideating, developing, and implementing. If you have tools, if you have a process that you can follow, then you can self manage or you can identify somebody to be the project lead and make sure that all of those areas are addressed.

Amy Climer: If you have team and they are only together for a short time to perhaps put together some ideas or recommendations, they are not actually implementing so if they don’t have an implementer, that’s probably okay.

Blair Miller: Exactly. Now within that short period of time, they still may need to have somebody who is watching the clock or managing the agenda, and who will speak up and say, “Hey, we need to keep moving.” But you don’t necessarily have to have someone who has preference in that area to do that. You may just need to assign the role.

Amy Climer: Blair, I’m curious if in your experience working with teams, I know you have worked with so many. Do you have an example of how FourSight really transformed a team, maybe helped them move from the state of not really getting along, maybe butting some heads because of different preferences but not understanding that into where they really were just rock solid and that they understood each other, they had developed some respect. Have you had experiences where you’ve seen that progression or transformation?

Blair Miller: I think one of my favorite stories is right to that line. It was a small marketing team in a healthcare system. It was fairly small, maybe 10 people on the team and before I became involved with them, they were doing good work. The organization was happy with the output of the team. The manager when I talked with him, now he was a new manager, he said, “There just seems to be tension and strife on the team.” He didn’t really quite understand why it was happening. He had a good personal relationship with each member.

I went to meet with his team and before I was getting ready in a room that was near where all their desks were, this person came up to me and said, “I know we took that instrument, that FourSight thing and if it doesn’t show, if it doesn’t prove that my manager is not a real blocker of new ideas and is just stuck in the mud, then it’s not worth anything.” I thought, “Whoa, that’s pretty harsh.” We went through the preferences and I invited people to share their preferences by taking their piece of paper and if they wanted to, pin it up on a wall. In this case, everybody agreed to that. Sure enough, this person who had come up to me and the manager had strikingly different profiles.

Amy Climer: That makes sense.

Blair Miller: We had a break and this person came up to me during the break and said, “If I understand it right, it may not be that my manager is such a horse’s rear end, it may be that we’re just really, really different.” I nodded and I said, “Yeah, well what would that mean?” She said, “I think what it means is I’d like to have some time after break to talk with the group.” This person actually took over the first five minutes after break and said, “I have an apology to make. I have been holding our manager in a really bad place. I’ve not been shy about telling everybody in this room what I think of him. I’ve been wrong.”

Now I had the chance to stay with this team over time and sure enough, the tensions went away. I’m picking on this one relationship but these sorts of relationships were happening throughout the team and it gave them a chance to stand back and gain an appreciation for their colleagues, the other team members, and to look at it from that lens of “what is it that you’re doing that I don’t do and how is that something that could assist both of us?” Everybody on this team was very committed to the mission of this organization. They all wanted to do good work together. I hold that out as an example.

Amy Climer: I love that example. It’s great. One thing I really like about that and I would think people listening can relate to is that woman that had insight and then took the time after the break and shared that apology, it seems so humble of her and setting aside her ego and realizing, ”I played a role in this.”

Blair Miller: Amy, the way you’re putting that is really great because that humility, the maturity of her ability to look at herself and then to apologize appropriately and to be vulnerable, it really played a huge part of it.

Amy Climer: I could see just by those five minutes really changing the trajectory of the team. That’s a great story. We only have a few minutes left so I’m wondering if you can speak briefly to what have you seen are barriers as well as assets that teams have in relation to creativity and innovation? What do teams do that can strengthen creativity and what are things that get in the way of their creativity?

Blair Miller: We could talk a lot about that.

Amy Climer: That will be a whole another episode, right?

Blair Miller: Right, another episode but I would say that fundamentally, if teams have been caught in a thinking paradigm where there is a single right answer, I’m going to pick on education a little bit. As a former teacher, I feel like I have a right.

Amy Climer: Sounds fair.

Blair Miller: A lot of us went through an education system that was based on the Q&A model where the teacher has the question and the student is supposed to supply the answer. In that situation, if the student on a test can recall the answer and apply it reasonably well, they get a good grade, they graduate from high school, they get into good colleges, and they get into good graduate schools. By the educational system, they are thought of as our best thinkers.

Amy Climer: Right, they are the best test takers.

Blair Miller: That’s just not the kind of thinkers we need in a dynamic changing world. We need people who are really good at figuring stuff out. When you have a team that gets stuck in that thinking paradigm that there’s a right answer and when you’re generating ideas, you need to criticize every idea because you got to analyze it right away to know is that the right answer or is it not the right answer. As opposed to really diving in and together collaboratively working together to look at the entire dynamism of an opportunity or of a challenge.

Amy Climer: Great because usually, there are a lot of different right answers.

Blair Miller: Usually a lot of different right answers. If they can discover, if they can shift their thinking paradigm, learn something like some of the tools and the processes that I know they are going to learn on this podcast, they learn their preferences and their styles, and they build diverse teams where they are exposed to people, colleagues who think differently than they do and they can learn to work with them in a collaborative way, that can overcome a lot of the barriers.

Amy Climer: Absolutely. That is very consistent with what I’ve seen in the work I’ve done as well, that so much of it is just how we approach it and how we approach the people we’re working with.

Blair Miller: Yeah.

Amy Climer: Blair, this has been really helpful, really educational, and I think people are going to get a lot out of this. If they want to learn more about FourSight, where should they go?

Blair Miller: The best place is the website, it’s FourSightOnline.com. There are videos, there are white papers, and more are being uploaded weekly.

Amy Climer: Great, that’s awesome. Blair, thank you so much for being on the podcast and we will put the information that Blair shared, the website address, we will put that on the show notes for everybody.

Blair Miller: It was wonderful to join you today, Amy. Thank you very much.

Amy Climer: I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Blair Miller. I certainly did. I love that story he shared at the end about the marketing team. Very powerful to hear how FourSight impacted them. Thank you so much Blair for sharing it with us.

Blair has also so generously offered a 20% discount to anyone listening who would like to take the FourSight Thinking Profile. Go to FourSightOnline.com and use the code “climer” to activate that discount. You can use it for your entire team or just for yourself individually. Your weekly challenge is to go take the FourSight profile and learn more about your own creative preferences. Then, visit the shownotes at climerconsulting.com/008 and share in the comments your profile and how your preferences impact your creativity. It would be great to learn from each other.

If you would like someone to lead your team through the FourSight process, feel free to reach out to Blair or me. I am a trained facilitator in FourSight and in the Creative Problem Solving process. We can work together to make your team more creative and effective.

Also, this week I want to share the winners of the Podcast Review Contest, which ended on July 12. Two people were randomly selected to win a free deck of Climer Cards. TinaHallis and LbruntonFL are both winners and your deck of cards are on the way. The person who was selected with the best review is Crimson Peony. Her review is titled “New Discovery” and is rated with 5 stars. She or he writes, “I came across this gem of a podcast a few weeks ago. Amy is smart, funny, entertaining, and overflowing with great information for the creative and those who aspire to be. Can’t wait to share it with my peoples. Keep up the good work Amy. You inspire me!”

Crimson Peony, thank you so much for the kind review. I hope you do share it with your peoples. I don’t have your contact info, so please reach out to me via email or on my website and we will arrange your coaching sessions. Thank you so much for the review.

Thank you everyone for listening this week. Go complete the FourSight Thinking Profile and use the 20% off code from Blair. One more time that is “climer” and you can enter it at FourSightOnline.com. Have a great week and I’ll see you next time! Bye!

Note: The links on this page may be affiliate links. That means I get a small commission of your sale, at no cost to you. However, I only share links to products that I or my guests believe in. Enjoy them! 

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  • Amy Inspires Creativity Growth in Everyone
    January 5, 2022 by cjpowers7 from United States

    Amy Climer’s show helps all of us grow our creative muscles. She is authentic and cares about her listeners. Amy empowers us with tools that work in the office, training sessions, and our communities. The best part is her ability to make what feels out of reach, something that can be accomplished with simple steps forward.

  • A great way to get inspired!!
    March 8, 2021 by binglish from United States

    Love listening to Amy’s podcast! Her guests are awesome and conversations are full of inspiring information.

  • A must for people who want to think better
    May 26, 2019 by Dhensch from United States

    Amy Climer hit a home run with this podcast and continues to get hits with every episode. I was hooked with the first one and binge-listened to the four solo episodes about the Creative Problem Solving process. Her knowledge of the subject of creativity and innovation is incredibly deep. And, she makes it easy for others to learn and apply. I have listened to other "expert" podcasts and Amy's is different in that she holds nothing back. Episode after episode offer practical insights, tips and tools. She has a generosity of spirit that is contagious.

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