Print this page

"Involve-all" conferences

Finalists enjoy learning new thinking tools

Ten of the finalists in the NSTF -BHP Billiton Award 2013/2014 had a fun experience as a bonus on July 3, before attending the elegant gala awards dinner.  The NSTF had invited all finalists to attend a half-day Toolbox for Brainwaves workshop, facilitated by Truida Prekel and Bertus Louw of SynNovation Solutions, as their guests.

Opening the workshop, Jansie Niehaus said “The NSTF regards innovation and the implementation of novel ideas as so important that we believe even brilliant researchers and innovators like our finalists and award-winners can benefit from learning new ways to approach innovation.  It is also important that people learn how to create a climate around them which encourages and enables colleagues and students to produce and develop their best ideas.”   

The fast-paced workshop covered the principles and ground-rules of the Synectics / SynNovation approach, several easy, practical thinking tools, and a facilitated session working on a task proposed by one of the participants.  The objectives give an overview of the content.

 List of SynNovation workshop objectives
The ten ground-rules include “Assume positive intent” as a basis for building positive relationships, trust and collaboration;  “Speak for easy listening” (a way to put new ideas across simply, crisply and clearly); “Listening for ideas” (listening in an open-minded way, and picking up rich associations as sources for new ideas); “Find value in Ideas” (first looking for the potential benefits of any idea); and “Using concerns for direction” (finding ways to overcome concerns by suggestion practical, doable actions - rather than the usual “Devil’s Advocate” approach.)

Participants learned several new thinking tools by working on own or group tasks for which they were looking for novel ideas.  The day was wrapped up by a catalyst-guided thought-shop in which all the tools were brought together, working on the task of one of the finalists, Prof Piet Jooste of TUT.  The group generated 36 new ideas as “wishes”, and then developed 17 suggested actions from which the “task owner” could choose to build an action plan.  The task owner was very happy with the outcome of the session, with several ideas on which he can follow up.  A few participants said they wished there had been enough time for each of them to have their own task worked through the full process.

Truida Prekel of SynNovation says, ” It was pure pleasure working with this group - so receptive and responsive.  I must admit, initially a few of them looked a bit sceptical, not sure how much new they could learn from us. But soon all were playing along, and we had a lot of highly productive fun.  The fact that in the evaluations, participants said their creativity and innovation skills had increased from an average of 5,6 to 7,6 on a scale of 1 to 10, was most rewarding.  And the average rating for the workshop was 8,8 out of 10. 

Maybe a few quotes from some of the finalists will provide the best description.

  • Opened my mind and made me realise that collaborative effort in a supportive," fun" group can generate a huge amount of innovative ideas and approaches to a problem
  • I have picked up some interesting and new techniques to use in meetings. I have realised how important it is to listen to multiple ideas whether they seem crazy or not
  • New knowledge about generating ideas and implementing them. Great stuff
  • Insightful ways to ensure a positive and constructive work environment - facilitating participation. Structured process to stimulate creative ideas and solutions
  • I liked the ground rules for communication, specifically to ensure that quiet people get get opportunities to share.
  • Will apply the techniques in my Research Methodology class for postgraduate students


Several participants said they wanted their colleagues, teams and / or students to have the same exposure to new ways of thinking and finding a structured way to engage their creativity.