Meeting with Françoise Vignon, Creativity Leader - Executive Assistant within the Fuel BU Products and Technologies Division. Françoise leads creativity groups in a variety of fields including in technical areas with the aid of the EFICA methodology (Explore-Formalize-Ideate-Build-Plan&Act).

"I was trained in EFICA in 2003: it is a proven methodology that adapts to all groups and all subjects. The aim is to facilitate thinking outside of the box and find innovative answers.

When we come up against a problem, it can be tempting to try to resolve it too hastily. The 5-step EFICA methodology helps to take a step back, analyze the problem more holistically and find inventive, sometimes more left-field remedies.

I facilitate groups every year inside Framatome, either for the Fuel BU or for other entities. There are 20 - 25 of us within the group trained on EFICA, whether in Germany, France or the United States. Some of the groups we facilitate are multilingual in fact.

Leading a session requires preparation work up front. Together with the project manager, we draw up a specification so we don't head off in all directions. The idea is to be creative, but with a framework and guidelines. It's important to use this preparation time to establish the objective we want to achieve.

In December 2018, for example, I led a creative session on thermal-hydraulics in the Fuel BU with French, German and American participants. I worked with the project manager first to understand the issue, work out their objectives, validate the resources at their disposal. We then drew up the group of contributors.

The creativity session took place over four days. There is a mix of collective and individual work, and the group combines different disciplines so we have a broad and multidisciplinary points of view. That's one of the keys to the success of the method. Then its my role to facilitate the process according to the five steps: Explore-Formalize-Ideate-Build-Plan&Act.

Explore

First of all we devoted nearly a day to exploring the subject in depth in order to understand all the aspects of the problem and all the possible implications without any bias and without making any assumptions. This phase enable us to reach a clear view of the problem at hand. Thanks to the wealth of knowledge of all the members of the group and their positive listening (everyone listens to each other and knows they are also being listened to), we come to a good understanding of the substance of the subject we're addressing. All the participants are active in the session thanks to a set of creative tools the facilitator has at his or her disposal (mental maps, role plays, drawings, Dixit or Eureka cards, post-its, etc.).

Formalize

At the end of the first day, we formalized the problem to be addressed and reformulated it specifying our objectives, our lines of research, and we filled in the specification.

Ideate

This is the step when we identify as many creative leads as possible for each area of investigation. The goal here is to generate ideas by giving free rein to your imagination. You are encouraged to be as free-thinking and disruptive as you like – not to hesitate to put forward original points of view that may seem at first sight. Then we go further with these ideas, try to fill them out and make them a little more concrete before finally moving on to make selections. We spent half a day doing this.

Build

In this step we move from ideas to solutions. We evaluate and we select the ideas, making them as real as possible and evaluating them from every angle, whether positive or negative. We start to build action plans and consider ways to implement them. We prepare the presentation phase, insofar as possible associating the creativity methods with a Canvas* type business model template to present the ideas to the project leader.

The ideas we are looking for are those that ultimately are likely to lead to a new product or service: they must meet the objectives and all the requirements of the project, be achievable, be real potential solutions, be original and meet the objectives of the market…

Plan&Act

By this stage we are actually organizing the solutions, developing action plans and detailed and costed programs.

I lead sessions internally for Framatome and I’ve also been working for several years now with a couple of higher education institutions – “Ecole Management de Lyon” and “IMT Mines d’Alès”. During the creativity seminar in Alès, the aim is to raise awareness and show young people that it's possible to be creative in business, and in particular at Framatome. These sessions, which usually bring together a large number of companies, are an opportunity to meet our peers, other users of creative methods and share their experiences. This approach is of great benefit and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to try it out with the support of one of the creativity leaders."

*The Business Model Canvas is a template for describing the economic model of a company. It can also be used to build a launch project for a new product and/or service in an organization.