Municipal politicians in the small town of Pelham, Ontario are investing in the development of internal creative leadership skills, as they work toward transforming the town’s creative culture. Beginning with the question ‘How Might We…?’, Pelham is looking to change how it approaches challenges and opportunities.

Council members and staff have been trained in the Simplexity creative problem solving process, an eight-step process leading from problem finding and definition through to solution implementation. In recent weeks, the process has been used by council to focus discussion and help resolve issues.

Instead of following the normal process of engaging in debate and counter-debate on the issue of a potential Site Alteration bylaw, councillors opted to use the Simplexity process to begin by defining the problem through consensus. Mayor Dave Augustyn facilitated the session and used a flip-chart to record “key facts” about the “ambiguous situation” of fill being dumped on agricultural lands. After agreeing on the most important facts, councillors outlined eight distinct challenges that needed to be solved. Each challenge begins with the positive phrase, “How might we…?” Town staff was directed to go to work and return to the next meeting with ideas and recommendations for addressing those distinct challenges.

On his blog ( Augustyn recognized the value of the Simplexity process in helping the town address various challenges. “Council will continue to use this creative problem solving process to not only deal with this particular issue, but to also take steps toward solving several other key challenges and opportunities that face our community,” he wrote.

As Pelham staff and councillors become more skilled creative leaders, they intend to engage the public in problem solving as part of their regular consultation processes. With the right tools and skills, collaboration, consensus and creativity can become a regular part of the political process.