CN – Overcome creative hurdles, and find your best you

This week,  Seth & J.P.  explore the idea of creative framework and “adding a step” from our conversation with Olympian Sarah Wells. 

Sarah talked about the process she and her coaches used to find creative solutions to find that peak performance every athlete looks for. What can you do to help your own process? Well, maybe it’s as simple as checking out the framework we discuss from the Creative Education Foundation.

Go take a look, and see how this free framework might help you in your creative problem solving. Check out our episode with Sarah Wells here – >

Who knows – maybe you’ll also find a way to add a step… to save some time.

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Transcript Below

S4E3 – Coaches’ Notes Sarah Wells

Fri, 6/3 4:16PM • 15:40


step, talk, model, hurdles, creativity, problem, solving, strides, work, creative, case, point, echo chamber, implement, race, numbers, process, run, change, thought


Sarah Wells, Olympian, JP Gaston, Seth Anderson

Sarah Wells, Olympian  00:05

Creativity is important in every area of life, because it’s really, you know, it’s problem solving. And that will show up in many different ways. It’s not just art or music, or dance or things like that. So in one example, creativity can show up in my life, in my pursuit to the Olympic Games. As I mentioned, the hurdles are the exact same distance apart. At a certain point in my career, we knew that okay, well, top hurdlers in the world take 15 strides between hurdles. But in my case, I was actually like, as every time I would try to run 15 strides between hurdles, I was like Daddy Long Legs in my way there. And so I’ve had my leg so far in front of me that I was almost breaking every step and slowing myself down. And so we decided, what we were going to do was, we were going to run 16 strides between hurdles, which meant that every single stride, I would actually try to shorten just a little bit, because I could have almost made 15 strides. But instead, why not add a whole extra stride. And instead on every one of those strides take off like an inch. So I’ll just run like a little bit more underneath myself, in order to optimize for my leg length, and to be at my fastest and carry the most momentum. And so you have to remove ourselves, like outside of the box, and creatively like what’s the way that’s going to work best for you to optimize for the result you’re looking for?

JP Gaston  01:31

All right, well, episode three of the show this week, which means episode three of coach’s notes. I’d be worried if we were on episode four coaches notes, three of the show.

Seth Anderson  01:43

That’s some great math. Thank you for walking us through that.

JP Gaston  01:51

I’ll provide a whiteboard sketch for anyone here.

Seth Anderson  01:57

Amazing. So that was a, you know, it’s interesting. That was there was so many great stories in this in this particular episode. But the one that led us in here around the creative problem solving, that Sara and her team enabled, I guess, would that be the right word?

JP Gaston  02:16

I think so. I don’t think you suspect there to be creative problem solving happening on the track jumping over hurdles that are set in a particular

Seth Anderson  02:28

point, you know, and it’s I don’t know if it’s in this clip or not, or if it’s a little bit before that clip. But she talked about how like the 400 meter hurdles, hurdles are the same height, same distance apart, they never changed, like that is a constant condition that exists. And, you know, if you pair that with some of the other things, we’ve learned about creativity this season, that that’s a constrained environment, which also is a perfect breeding ground for creativity.

JP Gaston  02:54

Absolutely. I mean, there is some creativity. I’m hoping people go back and listen to the episode and listen to the opening story, because there was some creativity in how they put that original 1900s version of hurdles together with sawed off telephone poles and bumpy grass. So there was some creativity happening there. I’m glad they’ve done some standardization here, and put the creativity on the runners.

Seth Anderson  03:17

So with that, you know, as I was kind of thinking through that whole story and Sara’s experience there, I started Googling, as one does, on creative problem solving, because I feel like, the more I delve into that the more I’m like, curious around different models are, you know, ways that you can kind of come at it, because I think, you know, again, you and I probably have a tendency to creatively problem solve. But we don’t necessarily always know the structure we’re working in, because it’s just not something at least that I’ve ever really thought about. And so as it happens, I came across the Osborn Parnes, method early all low P method old O P method to the creative education foundation. And I love this model JP, like, I think this is gonna work its way into, you know, when I’m working with someone, whether it be I don’t know, in the day job, or coaching or whatever, I really love the way this model is structured. And we were jamming on it a little bit beforehand. But if you really look at it, and it’s got four steps to it, which is basically clarify ideate, develop and implement and then we’re gonna tap into each one of those here in a second. That’s really the process that was at play here and Sarah’s example.

JP Gaston  04:37

I think it’s a great model because it’s the process that you can fit any creative problem solving, like I’ve gone through a bunch of different programs and creative problem solving workshops and stuff where they go through the different models that exist as you were alluding to, there’s hundreds, if not 1000s of models. The nice thing about this one is it’s it applies to pretty much every creative Problem Solving?

Seth Anderson  05:01

Well, any problem really? Yeah, like any problem, you want to tackle it. And I know there’s a lot of different project management modules and like, there’s, there’s 1000s of them. But this one really spoke to me, and it might just be the shiny infographic, you know, I’m a sucker for those.

JP Gaston  05:14

I actually think what’s nice about this is it’s a good pairing of the sort of structured model and the creative approach, putting together a model for problem solving. It’s not, it’s not too heavy, like you think of project management. And it’s like, super heavy on the structure side, like number this problem one, like I’m not gonna sit down in number, my creative solutions. One dot 2.71 dot 2.7 Be like, that’s just not. That’s not how I operate.

Seth Anderson  05:44

Yeah, I mean, so if you look at clarifying, and in this case, you know, what they what they talk about is exploring the vision. So identifying the goal, the wish or the challenge. So in this era example, I mean, it’s the runner best race, ultimately, you know, you’re you’re, you’re a competitive athlete trying to compete with the best in the world, and you want to run your best race. Okay, cool. Check. We we’ve got a clear problem to solve here. And then I think, obviously, you know, in this this use case, there would have been a lot of data gathering, because obviously, she wasn’t hitting the numbers that she was setting out to when she was doing the race.

JP Gaston  06:22

i Well, yeah, I think it would be the numbers. And then also, like the numbers of the race, obviously. But then also, there’s little bits of data all over when I ran my best race. What happened when my worst case? What happened? Yeah,

Seth Anderson  06:35

yeah. So you’ve got, you’ve got some of the, like, the hard numbers, and then some of the anecdotal like, Okay, how did I feel when I ran that race?

JP Gaston  06:43

Or what did I do leading up to it, like the structure leading up to it, and very brief, but great story about that is in high school, my brother actually shot the winning basket, for the provincials for the basketball team. And they, you know, they they won, or the regionals or whatever, they went off to provincials. And that day, hours before we stopped at a KFC tab, so what did we do the next time we play basketball, we stopped. So yeah, it’s absolutely like, it’s not just the numbers, it’s the anecdotal stuff that, you know, maybe it did, maybe it didn’t make a difference,

Seth Anderson  07:22

you know, the more you can understand the more data you have, and obviously, you don’t want to end up in analysis paralysis, either. But if there’s some clear indicators, and you have some level of, you know, cause correlation to what you did, and then the ultimate outcome, I mean, you can you can play with that you can learn from that. And so that sort of leads into the next step, which is really around ID ideation. So, you know, clear problem to solve, want to run your best race. It’s not quite coming together. So then I’m assuming, you know, I think she mentioned that at some point in the episode to around talking with her different coaches and stuff. And it’s like, okay, we need to come up with a way for me to to get this this time that I’m looking for, because the conventional wisdom of taking 15 steps in between hurdles, it’s not working, I’m getting slower, I’m not getting faster. So we got it, we got to figure this out.

JP Gaston  08:11

Yeah. And I think the other thing that they employed in this space, which I think is really important, and I know, you know, before the show, we talked a little bit about jamming on this point for a second, but pulling in other people. So her coaches reached out and talk to other coaches talk to other people who are doing well, they, they didn’t just ideate in their bubble. And I think a lot of times, that’s what ends up happening is people get in their bubble, they, they ideate, either by themselves or with a limited number of people around them, or people with the same mindset trying to solve the same problem. And I think that that can that can cause problems of its own.

Seth Anderson  08:48

Or you end up with like a group thing, or, you know, as an individual, you I call it the echo chamber, right? When you have all these ideas bouncing off, and I just need to get it out with someone. And, you know, sometimes that’s the step you need to take. But when you’re talking, you know, trying to be the best in the world at something, you need a team.

JP Gaston  09:06

Well, and you might not even need them to ideate with you to be honest, like sometimes. And you’ve the echo chamber is a great example, because I feel like I do the same thing. And then sometimes when you speak it out to someone is when you actually figure out what the real problem is. And the real solution might be because you’ve now heard it played back to yourself or you’ve tried to explain it. And as you’re explaining it, you’re like, wow, wait a minute. That’s the thing,

Seth Anderson  09:30

though. And through that process, often you’ll come up with, you know, two or three different ideas may be usable, maybe not but just that process of verbalizing it, and throw out a couple ideas out there some cases with yourself in some cases with others, but I like what you said to like when when you have a team that’s willing to kind of let’s just say go out in the wilderness or even talk to the competition or someone else has done that thing before and bring back information that can be extremely useful because, you know, I guarantee she’s probably not the first or only person tend to come up with, Hey, I’m gonna take an extra step here. I’m sure someone else had done that. And being open to that information and having someone in your team that can find that information was, you know, probably at some point of a big step forward,

JP Gaston  10:14

she’s not the first runner who’s less than six foot two people out there who have had some challenges to figure out,

Seth Anderson  10:24

you know, but that said, you know, then you get to sort of the next stage of things, which is around developing because now it’s like, okay, we’ve got a couple of good ideas, what are we? How are we going to actually like, implement these, so you’re gonna have to work on them. And I think in her case, she talked about like, basically having to change her whole stride, and having to kind of like run underneath herself a little bit. And like, just doing that, I think of Steph Curry, you know, one of the greatest three point shooters, when the greatest greatest shooters in NBA history, after his junior year of college, he completely changed his shooting for, like the entire thing. Because he knew it wasn’t gonna translate into the NBA, which is, you know, just crazy because you get to such a high level doing it a certain way. And now you got to make like, maybe this these couple of subtle little changes, but it changes everything.

JP Gaston  11:13

I don’t know how you do that. Like, I don’t know how she went for as long as she did running the way she did. And then now she’s got to change up her entire stride. That’s crazy.

Seth Anderson  11:23

And astride doesn’t sound like a lot. But when you’re talking like 1/100 of a second being the difference of whether you make it or not, like astride the big deal.

JP Gaston  11:33

It’s also a little bit counterintuitive, which is what I love about the story. Like I think a lot of times we just we go we go on the intuitive and we think that’s going to be the solution like, oh, less steps would be better, because we’re touching the ground less, there’s less friction, there’s less blah, blah, blah. And and in their case, they were like, wait a minute, let’s actually turn that around for a second.

Seth Anderson  11:55

Well, exactly. And I mean, I’m sure it will obviously at some point, they went through some sort of, you know, similar matrix to come up with, let’s get it down to 15 steps. And let’s figure let’s, let’s find a way to do that. And I think having the awareness that, hey, this isn’t working, and it’s not going to work, let’s pivot.

JP Gaston  12:09

Also the work required, like, just mentally, I’m just thinking if I was trying to, if I was constantly running the same space, and I needed to cut three, a single, like three foot step out of that whole space and equally divided. Among the other steps. That would be tough. I mean, she’s adding a step, right. So now I’m taking, I’m trying to aggregate an inch or two inches off of every single step that that would be really hard.

Seth Anderson  12:41

Yeah. But, you know, again, you think about that championship mindset, you want to get where you’re going, and you have to make those kinds of adjustments, and you have to be open to it and willing to. And I think that speaks to how she was able to get to the level that she was is the willingness to make a change like that.

JP Gaston  12:58

Well, I think between this step in like the develop step that we’re in right now, and then implement step, there’s this cool, try it sort of mentality to it, we’ve got to the point where we’ve developed something. And now we want to implement, and there’s sort of this little testing phase in between where you’re kind of flipping between develop and implement a little bit, that’s always the most interesting space to me, try it fail, try it again, fail, try it again.

Seth Anderson  13:24

I mean, this kind of harkens back to our conversation with DNA of only wanting to try things if you’re really good at them, because this is kind of where the rubber hits the road on that. Because I would imagine the first few times of adding that extra step, there was probably a moment and be cool to ask her, we never really got that far. But there was probably a moment where I was like, Screw this like. Because like, that’s a big change. That’s a hard thing to do. And maybe her mindset of maybe it all works seamlessly, but like, generally speaking, you want to make a change like that. That’s where the rubber hits the road. And that implement phase, I think is where a lot of a lot of things die. So that’s like, the most crucial part is, you know, you’ve gone through this whole process to that point. And there are probably times where it should die, right, like get there. But there are times where it’s like, oh, no, this is not the right thing. I need to I need to go back. I need to rewind a second. You know, in this case, it sounds like it worked out. But I just thought it was cool to kind of look at this model and just in this, like one minute voice clip, you can see this whole thing basically play up.

JP Gaston  14:27

I’m very visual in conversation and I’ve got this thing running through my head for she’s just running and she jumps over a hurdle. And then she runs and I just picture like putting your hands on the next hurdle and being like nope, I didn’t step properly go back to the start. Do it again, jump run step.

Seth Anderson  14:44

That’s that’s the process a lot of times you know, you want to become the best in the world that anything I don’t care what it is. It’s it’s gonna be a lot of testing and failing and trying again, and iterating and all that. So

JP Gaston  14:56

yeah, I love this model. And if anyone’s interested in taking a look at it, it’s great. On education very long. I’ll put it in the show description.

Seth Anderson  15:06

So I did it.

JP Gaston  15:08

If you haven’t listened to the episode or if you just want to listen again, that link will be in there as well. But as we step away from this week, we’re leaving people with question like we did last week talking about your creative process. So, this week, think about, you know, what steps do you have in your creative process and what steps could you add to get just a little bit faster

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