Kick-Starting Creativity : The “Jolt” Challenge – What is creativity?

For Wade Jackson, it started with improvisational theatre – that flash fire of spontaneous, courageous and often hilarious creativity. But what began as corporate entertainment gradually morphed into programme with more serious intent after Jackson and partner Steve Hill launched their own enquiry into the essence of comedy’s creative process.
Four years on, after delving into disciplines ranging from martial arts to neuroscience, they are this month launching nine-week training programme that has already earned plaudits from its pilot participants as well as international
experts like Stephen Covey (of Seven Habits fame).
The “Jolt Challenge” is described as an “experiential self-intelligence programme designed to foster self management and leadership within an organisation”. And, in getting to the essence of creativity, it leaves very few self-management stones un-turned.
As Jackson explains, the de-construction process just kept getting bigger.
“Initially we came up with these creativity principles and storytelling and started creating experiential training using these principles. Then we realised we wanted product rather than just the two of us doing that so we started working on creativity programme.
“That was great but we found out that what people learned wasn’t being transferred into the workplace. After two-day programme we’d get full marks on the happy sheet, but now it’s back to work. So to create change, we realised we had to look at the whole training methodology.”
That’s when they introduced the “time-space” concept – stretching the programme out and building it into the working week and organisational environment as habit rather than one-off “time-out” hit.
“I’d lived in Japan for while so was aware of the ‘kaizen’ philosophy (of continuous self-improvement) which worked in with our time-space model. We also looked at what was needed to enable creativity.
“So we started looking at value systems, whether people are in good health, issues around stress management and realised we had another programme that was about self and the need to look at self intelligence first. Once you’ve got the right mindset, creativity is muscle you first have to believe in, then learn how to exercise.”
The resulting programme now consists of book, work journal, nine weekly 90-minute sessions with facilitator (who introduces learning that can then be practised through specific exercises), and measurement component including an online Self Assessment Module (SAM) and interviews.
The book grew to over 305 pages ranging through relaxation techniques and nutrition, to mind science and belief systems, while the accompanying journal incorporates some 150 tools to help build skills that are as useful in people’s private lives as much as in their working ones.
Its impact, says Jackson, incorporates the “big 3” areas of participants’ lives – health, wealth and relationships.
“It’s bit like the body-for-life model in terms of giving you recipe, if you like, for introducing these self-improvement skills into everyday life – only it’s more for the mind. If you read this information, do these exercises and use these tools, you can’t help but create positive change for yourself.”
“Jolt” has already been trialled – it was introduced to North Shore City Council as part of its workplace wellness programme and into Westpac with the specific aim of melding two “siloed” teams into one unit. Westpac’s Auckland regional manager, consumer banking, Jason Stephens is positive about its influence.
He says it’s knocked down previously strong silos and generated “real” conversations for “the benefit of our customers, staff and financial results”. Problem solving has become much easier and, he says “we are now proactively looking for ways to grow our business by operating as one team in approaching this”.
Some organisational benefits attributed to the programme are that it: increased productivity and bottom-line; refined team cohesion; aligned people with company values/vision; improved leadership skills; improved communication; and, brought sense of fun into the workplace.
Not to be sneezed at is the fun bit, says Jackson, who reckons the traditional separations of ‘work’ and ‘fun’ as well as ‘work’ and ‘life’ are both artificial and unhelpful. The two spheres of life do and should interact. And the work you do on self development inevitably helps to lift team performance.
“Triathletes, for instance, are engaging in very individual pursuit, but when they do training together, it lifts the performance of all. So while you can measure and track the changes this programme delivers to an individual, that can’t help but feed into the organisation in terms of socialisation, teamwork, stronger connection, better communication and higher trust.”
The programme is based on SET methodology says Jackson – ie, it is Self-directed, Experiential and Time-spaced. The book was designed to allow for different learning styles and includes quotes, stories, illustrations, cartoons, movie references and trivia – all in full colour. Various components were trialled as they went along.
“Our mantra for putting it together was: Is it simple? Is it effective? And we got feedback. Some really liked one experience, others hated it. So what works for one doesn’t for another and reflects that we are all on our own journeys. So we went for majority rules, put in the tools that worked for most people and it just grew.”
People inevitably relate to the material in different ways, he adds. For instance, one participant related most strongly to quote that asked, “If someone talked to you like you talk to yourself, would you count them as friend?”
“For him, that really hit home. It was revelation that he talked to himself in such negative way. So how does that impact on work, on life, on relations? Why not have positive, empowering, supportive voice in there.”
There is deliberately holistic approach that acknowledges body-mind connection, which is why initial sessions focus on relaxation techniques and workshop sessions conclude with relaxation exercises. Old Descartes did us no favours by creating philosophical separation of mind and body that “set up lot of boundaries we haven’t yet broken down”, notes Jackson.
He acknowledges the value of his early and ongoing involvement with improvisational theatre.
“It’s fantastic vehicle for self exploration because when you do the exercises, putting aside all the benefits of spontaneity, creativity etc, you’re operating at physical level – it’s not just mind thing – as well as at an intellectual level and emotional level. It acts as mirror for you to see yourself in safe environment – don’t judge it, just be aware of it.
“I had many years of doing improvisation for performance without realising what powerful vehicle it was for experiential learning. But I also have background in hypnotherapy, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and martial arts.
Whatever works.”
He reckons business organisations are becoming more open to programmes that help develop self-knowledge – often as an aspect of leadership training.
“Investment in people is really investment in business.”
And while the programme and book are being officially launched this month, he stresses that this is only the start of the journey. He’s already thinking of how the book could be improved.
“They say art is never finished, it just stops in interesting places, so while it’s stopped, we’ll keep updating the website. It’s bit like gaining black belt in martial arts – that doesn’t mean you’ve finished, it means you’re just starting. The journey is only beginning.”

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