With the unnerving brief of bringing creativity to the Information Transformation department of super-rich city bankers Gerstein de Yong Twitchett, I knew I would have to pull out all the stops. To prove how creative I was, I wore red socks to my second meeting with Clive Patterson, head of IT.
A bit daring, I thought, but he didn't seem to notice.
My presentation was a masterpiece. I listed the big names in creativity, from de Bono onwards; I had comparisons and case studies. I was confident that I could develop a first class creativity seminar, presented by top people, within three months. As my opening slide appeared, Patterson raised his hand. His team, sitting alongside, smiled wolfishly.
"I'm sure your presentation will be excellent," said Patterson, "but I just wanted to give you the good news. We've an unexpected window in two days time, so I'd like you to give the seminar then."
Shocked silence. Then I rallied, switching off the projector. "I'm not going to use that. We've all seen one too many PowerPoint presentations, and this is supposed to be creative. Instead of telling you about Friday, I'd like you to brainstorm and tell me what we are going to do." They lapped it up. Bullshit at its best.
Unfortunately, despite my bravura performance, I didn't know what to do. I bypassed a prime tenet of consultancy (never pay for anything you can make up) and authorised real cash for a briefing from a creativity guru. It was worse than I could possibly have imagined. But I am a professional.
Friday went ahead regardless. I even changed my clothes. Apparently a suit isn't appropriate: I had to buy denims (the boss's PA Phoebe assures me no one says "jeans" any more) and a brightly coloured shirt.
The morning started with an icebreaker. This involved everyone telling each other silly things about the person on their right. Even my guru couldn't explain the point of this, but apparently people expect it.
From there it was downhill. I had them responding to random words, playing childish games with towers made out of paper, pretending to be someone else (there was a fight over who would be the Parisian prostitute) and inventing unusual things to do with a coat hanger.
It was a disaster. My so-called guru had obviously been smoking the wrong substances. I would be thrown out on my ear. But then the feedback forms came in. Nine out of 10, 10 out of 10 - they actually liked it. To cap it all, Patterson gave me a big hug (creative types are hot on bonding, so I hid my wince). "Brilliant job," he said. "I didn't think you had it in you. Next week, I'd like you to look at a few irregularities the internal audit boys have discovered. If that's not too boring for a creative chap like you."
"Not at all," I said, "not at all."
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