Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Lessons from a Creative Coach

Peter Harris giving the boys some advice

Ideas man Peter Harris certainly delivered on his promise of helping residents learn to generate creative ideas when he spoke at Warrane on May 18.

Peter showcased many different systems that he and others have used over the years to help them to come up with new concepts to solve pressing problems, both in the commercial world and in personal life.

Peter spent quite a bit of time explaining one of his favourite systems, Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, which uses the Overview/Planning, Information, Creative, Optimistic, Emotional and Caution hats.

He explained that each hat can be worn by a different person in a problem-solving group or be alternated by an individual. He said that there is no particular order for hat use and there is no need to use all of the hats during any one session.

“Don’t always go for the first idea you have,” Peter told residents. “Try to generate as many as you can and then work from there.”

Peter, who has more than 30 years experience as a team leader and creative director in magazine and TV advertising with the Murdoch and Packer media groups, gave many examples of how he helped to come up with ideas that won multi-million dollar contracts.

The products he had to promote included everything from Toyota cars and home swimming pool safety to air travel on Qantas jets. To help the process along he said he had personally developed a range of systems. He showed residents how some idea generation systems worked, including the Creative Black Box, the Creative Whack Pack, the Work Box of Ideas, the Random Thought “ice breaking” technique and the Ideas Engine, Building Blocks and Performance Plus systems.

Some of the techniques he used regularly included, forcing himself to “just start”, “revisiting past successes” to get new inspiration and “clearing away the undergrowth”.

Peter said it was also a regular practice of his to stop work at precisely 11.55 every morning and reflect on his progress.

He said it was also important to always “consider humour” – to strive to see the funny side of life.

He urged residents to never lose an opportunity to network as widely as possible.

“Networking is so important,” he said. “Make friends all the time because you never know (where it might lead).”

He also emphasised the need to take control of your own life.

“If you don’t take control of your life, someone else will,” he said, “and guess what they have got in mind for you? Not a lot.”

Peter said that he believes his great strength is that he never tires of coming up with new ideas (which include many ideas for board games that he has developed) and the fact that he is “terminally cheerful”.

“I consider myself a very lucky guy,” he said.

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: Details of other guest speakers are available here]