Unleashing the big C

Unleashing the big c

I recently took part in a Connectle on Innovation Mindsets. The panel of speakers was impressive and inspiring. Take Ira Munn from Ierospace. Ira is changing the world, one Drop at a time. Later this year he will launch The Drop, a 3D-printed, energy-efficient, electric vehicle kit made from up-cycled local plastic, like the plastic clogging up our oceans. Making the body of each Drop with recycled PET plastic and a hardener additive reduces the amount of energy consumption and the amount of carbon burn in the manufacturing process. The Drop can be charged at charging stations and standard household outlets. Due to the weight of the vehicle and new technology, it has incredible range. We have the ability to go from vision to vehicle in months not years thanks to 3D printing, says Ira. This is big C – breakthrough creativity.

Adaptation that is creative, rather than reactive, leads us to a better place in the future. Mostly, in our organsiations, we are doing the little c – the incremental builds and innovations, the adjacencies. So how do we get to big C?

People who change the ways things get done start somewhere. They build their skills like a muscle. And we have tools at our disposal to do this. I use one such tool, Lego Serious Play, to open minds and unleash creativity with groups. We get participants to play with Lego, and to model their ideas. First we chat through creativity, and what makes a creative organization. And that often prompts a comment about how hard it can be to push breakthrough ideas through large, legacy organisations and systems. So this post shares thoughts on unleashing the big C.

Anyone can learn to be an original

Creativity is an expression of our uniqueness. To be creative is to be vulnerable. Creativity is also, by its very nature, disturbing. So first, acknowledging these feelings in yourself, and in those around you, is a good start. Added to that, stop thinking that the most successful entrepreneurs (inside and outside of organisations) are creative geniuses who stumbled across that ‘one big idea’. Adam Grant presents the research on this – most of these successful people are relatively ordinary people with original ideas, and perhaps surprisingly, they are taking very calculated risks. He calls them Originals, and whether at home or at work, he believes that all of us can learn to be Originals. Anyone can learn to recognise a good idea, to speak up without getting silenced, and to get new ideas to stick. Think about building a muscle. Managerial bias (evaluating the outliers OUT), confirmation bias (looking for evidence to prove you are right), and too much deep knowledge in one area can do you a disservice. Some breadth and some depth of knowledge is most helpful, says Grant. Think too about kissing a lot of frogs – and by that we mean coming up with sheer numbers of ideas, because one will stick at the right time in the right place. Take feedback from creative peers, not necessarily your evaluative management team as a first point of call. You could also do well to look out for those people who have passion for ideas as well as the execution of them.

Do new things – the seven dimensions of creativity

Doing new things, like playing an instrument or traveling to a new place, is good for your creativity. Spend time with people who are different to you. This stretches awareness, of self and of the world. It also induces a certain humility into your worldview, because over time you become aware of what you do not know. Or put another way, you become aware of just how much there is to know. Awareness is one of the seven dimensions of creativity according to Nick Heap. The others are listed here:

  • Play, which produces new insight and action, and demands the ability to suspend judgement and allow new ideas and experiences to connect and form. It is one of the reasons I love to work with Lego.
  • Flexible Persistence, because anything new challenges what is established, and you need to be flexible and persistent to ensure your ideas do not fail prematurely. You need to take others with you, influencing them and understanding ‘what’s in it for them’, so that you can harness organizational energy in pursuit of success.
  • Purpose. People show up for things that are bigger than just themselves. What’s the purpose behind what you are doing? Is it communicated and understood?
  • Attention. New ideas need positive attention, attention nourishes creativity. Yet new ideas in their essence may not fit, they disturb, and so often we do not give them attention. Think about how you might reward for innovative ‘tries’ in your context.
  • Inspiration. What is inspirational in your context? How do you inspire as a leader?
  • Power – a strange dimension, one might think. Heap defines this as the ability to make good things happen. It is about taking charge of our own destiny and creating new realities, rather than playing what John Sanei calls the victim, waiting on what other people decide.

“No organisation can be creative unless it has lots of powerful people who can be models for others. You can learn to be more powerful.” – Nick Heap

Co-consulting to feed creativity, and other final tips

Encourage employees to support each other, using a co-consulting approach. This gives attention to each other and to new ideas, which feeds the creative process. Co-consulting is where one person talks about and explores an issue while the other listens, encourages, asks questions and challenges assumptions. Relax the rules so that people can play a little, just make the outcomes clear. Commit to building your influencing skills, so you are the change maker not the victim of a system that paralyses you. Try to think broadly and openly, and embellish your ability to do this by doing new things with new people. Lastly, search for the truth, in the context of your true north.

“We have the ability to come together, where creators can become consumers. We can do things differently, one drop at a time.” – Ira Munn

 

 

Top picks 2017: Adam Grant, John Sanei, Lorenzo Fioramonti, Naval Ravikant

These are my top picks for 2017. They all point to a recognition, an awareness that is bubbling and rising. As individuals and organisations, we’re coming to know that we have influence, but that the influence we have can be shaped, developed and directed in more profound ways. The works I have highlighted below ask questions we need to answer, as people and groups with power: Why am I on this career path, in this particular job, or in this organisation? Do I like ‘the way things get done around here’? What impact are we having on tomorrow, and who benefits from what we do, and how? Who doesn’t benefit, and am I ok with that? What can I/we change?

   Of the four works, three are books, and two of them are South African publications. The last work is a podcast by Naval Ravikant. Naval is the CEO and co-founder of AngelList. He’s invested in more than 100 companies including Twitter, Yammer, and many others. But this podcast is not about early stage investing. Naval is an incredibly deep thinker who challenges the status quo. As far as podcasts go, it’s a long one (2 hours). Trade a movie or two episodes of your favourite series. Naval might just change the way you think about, and live, your life. 

1. ORIGINALS, How non-conformists move the world, by Adam Grant @AdamMGrant

In his book Originals, Adam Grant explores how innovators see the world differently. But what sets this book apart is the way he champions us all to be originals – and improve the world in so doing – by recognising good ideas, speaking up without getting silenced and getting new ideas to stick.

Grant also debunks some commonly held myths. The greatest creators don’t necessarily have the deepest expertise, but rather the broadest perspective. Success is not usually attained by acting ahead of everyone, (first mover advantage) but often by waiting for the perfect time to act. Procrastination can be good. And the best entrepreneurs are not risk maximisers, they actually take the risk out of risk taking.

This book is definitely worth a read if you want to champion new ideas. It is packed with research and case studies.

2. The WELLBEING ECONOMY, Success in a World Without Growth’ by Lorenzo Fioramonti @lofioramonti

Place humans and nature at the forefront of economic objectives, says Prof Lorenzo. “We need an economy that empowers people; we need ‘pro-sumers’ rather than consumers – people that produce and consume in different ways.”

This manifesto for change in South Africa comes from a strong belief that the pursuit of growth results in more lossess than gains, and often in damage, conflict and inequality. Breaking free from the growth mantra allows us to build a better society that puts wellbeing at its centre, boosts small business and empowers citizens as collective leaders of tomorrow. Reading this book makes us more aware, prompts us to connect the dots, and also to make changes within our own spheres of work and life.

Walk the wellbeing economy talk and get your copy at local bookstore LoveBooks http://www.lovebooks.co.za/.

3. ‘WHAT’s YOUR MOONSHOT: Future-proof yourself and your business in the age of exponential disruption’ by John Sanei @IamJohnSanei

Cape Town-based trend and innovation strategist, John Sanei, explains what it takes to thrive – rather than merely survive – in our exponentially changing times. He decodes the mega-trends reshaping human behaviour and the way we do business, and explains how to innovate your business so as to make a positive impact on millions, if not billions, of people.

Much of the first part of the book focuses on the mindset to thrive, and moving from being a victim to being an architect of the future. Studies prove that we can change our mindsets from fixed to growth, and when we do, it leads to increased motivation and achievement.

‘Brilliant read for any entrepreneur. Very relevant. Easy reading. Loved it.’ – Shantelle Booysen – Business woman of the year.

4. Naval Ravikant on Reading, Happiness, Systems for Decision Making, Habits, Honesty, via Farnham Street Blog @naval

This wide-ranging interview is about habits, decision-making, mental models and life. I did warn you up front, it is almost two hours! Grab a pen and paper, and listen in chunks. I found it to be full of simple, relevant wisdoms.

https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2017/02/naval-ravikant-reading-decision-making/.

Each one of these picks has significantly shaped our thinking and our work at 33 Emeralds. I hope they also inspire you to action. Share this post and your thoughts on twitter: @gaylinjee

An earlier version of this article was written for Talent Talks Africa.

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Create a Massive Transformative Purpose

Many organisations remain unclear about what they are really trying to achieve on this here planet we call our home. When asked, Why does your organisation exist? they answer thus: ‘to make money’. Because to them, money is the most important thing. It is what they measure and what they prize above all else, especially above people. They talk about resources, scale, competition and maximising profits. Will these organisations survive so long into the future?

Making money is essential, but it is not a purpose. Read the inspirational classic from psychiatrist Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl practiced logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (‘meaning’), asserting that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. Newer kids on the block are talking the same language. Watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk How great leaders inspire action, by starting with Why.

A reason for existing is important to people. A reason for existing is also important for organisations. The powerful work on the exponential organisation defines a new (hugely successful) breed of organisation, “one whose impact (or output) is disproportionately large — at least 10x larger — compared to its peers because of the use of new organizational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies”. Exponential organisations all have this in common – they embrace a Massive Transformation Purpose (MTP).

“The more we organize around massive transformative purpose, the harder we’ll work, the more dedicated we’ll be, the faster we can solve big problems—and maybe most importantly, the more fulfilled we’ll feel about the work we do.”

Peter Diamandis, Singularity University.

Perhaps our Why’s are not more present and lived because we are not clear on them – as individuals or as organisations.  So this post provides a few ways we can get more clarity.

For individuals, you can take a WHY Discovery Course online from Simon Sinek. Your why is the reason you get up in the morning. Everyone has one, and knowing it helps you to make better choices, at work and at home.  In the interactive course,  you discover and articulate your personal WHY — the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires everything you do. As Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

I also like the process traced out by Peter Diamandis of Singularity University to create your Massive Transformative Purpose.

MTP.pngCreating your MTP

You can create your MTP by asking yourself the question: Who do I want to create a lasting and positive impact for? Next you identify the problem you want to solve. You can do this by writing down 3 items that get you really fired up. Now score each item against these questions, with a rating of 1 for little difference, to 10  for a very big difference:

  • At the end of your life, if you had made a significant dent in this area, how proud would you feel?
  • Given the resources you have today, what level of impact could you make in the next 3 years if you solved this problem?
  • Given the resources you expect to have in 10 years, what level of impact could you make in a 3-year period?
  • How well do I understand the problem?
  • How emotionally charged (excited or riled up) am I about this?
  • Will this problem get solved with or without you involved?

Add up your scores for each item. What gets the highest score? Focus on that item.

Here are some examples of MTP’s to inspire you: 

Virgin Galactic: “We are creating a Spaceline for Earth with the goal of democratizing access to space for the benefit of life on earth.”

X Prize Foundation: “Bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

TED: “Ideas worth spreading.”

Google: “Organize the world’s information.”

Tesla: “Accelerate the transition to sustainable transportation.”

There’s a secret to motivating individuals and teams to do great things: It’s purpose.

My hope for all organisations of the future is that they leverage abundance, having rediscovered a respect for humans and our natural systems, that they value what it is uniquely human and liberate it. Meaningful and lasting impact through innovation comes from having the freedom to create.  The real shift happening, is from competing and controlling, to creating and liberating. And a larger purpose will direct it all.

Gaylin Jee is Founder of 33 Emeralds, and Co-founder of Sync the Future. She pushes comfort zones with new and sometimes radical thinking and practical tools, so that we can empower our collective futures. 

 

 

 

 

Getting on with Artificial Intelligence

Getting on with AI

At the 2017 Robot Art Competition, robotic painters produced paintings like graduating art students, described as ‘aesthetically ambiguous’. The bearded face of a man stares out from one canvas, another depicts human emotion with jagged, gloomy stripes of black and purple.

AI is a field of computer science that mimics the natural learning process of the human brain by creating artificial neural networks. Developing machines that think is not new. World War II code-breaker and mathematician Alan Turing trailblazed the idea. Virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri use AI engines to respond to enquiries. Siri can learn by using the feedback it gets to refine the results it provides. That’s why you can ask Siri to call ‘Dad’, once you’ve told it what name in your contacts is your father.

Most of us don’t intimately feel the impact of AI in our lives, or perhaps recognize it as the engine behind Siri, for example. And some of us assume ‘not in my lifetime’. Since WWII, we have come a long way. And with Google, Facebook and Microsoft investing heavily in AI systems, the future will start to look a lot closer.

AI is already advanced enough to enter into companies by way of virtual assistants, and in industries such as banking, as virtual tellers and advisors. AIs are good at processing huge amounts of data, and that’s valuable for services such as fraud detection and security surveillance. They are being used in law and medicine, not only to read and assess documents but to make recommendations, while advances in robotics are allowing doctors to perform surgeries remotely. It’s possible that soon simple surgeries will be performed by AI. South Korea has already introduced a tax on robots. They fear robots may take away jobs leading to mass unemployment. And Elon Musk is worried about AI. Speaking from a vantage point of being intimate with cutting-edge AI tech, he thinks AI could pose a threat to humanity. An AI already exists that can solve the Raven Progressive Matrices Test, an intelligence test of visual and analogical reasoning, better than the average American. Then there is Pepper, the humanoid robot featured in the cover picture, designed to read emotions by analyzing expressions and voice tones. (See this interview with Pepper.)

In future, diversity at work will include AI’s

We should learn to get on well, says Benjamin Wolh in his article How artificial intelligence and the robotic revolution will change the workplace of tomorrow, because diversity at work in the future will certainly include AIs. If robots are great at many things we don’t like or are not very good at, such as performing repetitive, monotonous tasks; concentrating for long periods of time, and quickly searching vast databases of information, we should welcome automation of tasks. You could do a better job focusing on what you have been specially evolved to be good at. But what are we specially evolved for? What does it means to be human, and what’s deeply valuable about that?

In a sense, that’s part of the problem. Liz Ryan, Founder of the Human Workplace, will tell you that we have lost a bit of humanity in the workplace:

‘There are people in this world who cannot tell you what they think and what they believe. They simply don’t know. They are programmed to be the person they think someone in authority — a hiring authority, for instance — wants them to be.’

For a long time, we have been working hard at squeezing out the nebulous, ‘hard-to-control-and-measure’ human factor. We have believed that doing so will make us more efficient. Given that creativity and FLOW at work (beyond just engagement) are now being recognised for their critical role in innovation, we’ll have to start addressing that, soon. Perhaps AI will force us to speed things up.

Working alongside machines will involve learning how to be better at being human.

Michael Harré, AI enthusiast and lecturer in Complex Systems at the University of Sydney, says that living and working with AI will push us to rethink basic assumptions about our sense of self. He believes that we will have to revise what we think consciousness actually is. Preparing for a robotic future of working more alongside machines, will force us to learn how to be better at being human.

The truth is, AI is coming for a lot of the jobs we know now. Whole careers will be innovated out of existence. But we will also innovate whole new careers into existence. People who are flexible and open to learning will continue to be in demand, says Harré, as will those who are more willing to be agile within the jobs they take.

We need to rethink what it means to be human, and what’s deeply valuable about that. Given we’ve spent a lot of time taking the human elements out of workplace, that’s going to be a big shift for some.

 

If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong

“If you’ve always done it that way, it’s probably wrong.”  

– Charles Kettering, holder of 186 patents.

We tend to concentrate on things we already know, and time and time again, we fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. This focus on the familiar has costs. It was Nassim Taleb in his book Black Swan who pointed out that banks and firms are vulnerable to rare and unpredictable events called “Black Swan” events, that incurred losses beyond those predicted by their financial models. As humans, we have a tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. Taleb is not advocating that we attempt to predict Black Swan events, but rather that we should build a robustness in the face of those negative ones, and that we should exploit the positive ones that occur too.

In thinking about his ideas, what if we could to do more of this in our workplaces?

  • Unlock the ideas and contributions of more than just the usual suspects like those in positions of leadership, those in traditionally defined and recognized professions, or those who shout the loudest
  • Expect and encourage more than one right answer in solving complex challenges – rather than assuming that a right answer already exists
  • Make ‘thinking deeply’ about new answers welcome and not viewed as wasting time (this thinking has been described as a desirable form of procrastination at work, and was referenced by a panel on ‘Creativity as a business resource’ at the recent Leaderex 2017 conference in JHB)
  • Make it possible for your employees to find and create connections between ideas, visions, offerings, challenges, so that we build new visions in place of over-relying on what worked in the past
  • Get commitment to making it happen – not through sharing a vision, but through engaging people in the process of thinking deeply about, constructing and connecting all the possible ways of doing things.

So how do we closing the knowing-doing gap? There are practices and methods to assist.

Facilitated sessions using Lego, for example, can be used to set constructive, participatory, insight-rich working grounds. A facilitated LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® session can open access to new ideas, locate challenges, create visions and ways forward, and secure stronger commitment to making things happen. By ensuring everyone participates and contributes, time spent together can be more efficient and productive. Here is a bank of case studies using Lego: http://seriousplaypro.com/category/serious-play-case-studies/

There is also a method to form teams that respect, encourage and develop a diversity of game changing contribution. I speak widely already about the GCIndex and its applications so I am not devoting more time to it here.

The reality is, in current workplaces, long-term business success is not down to one person with one idea, nor is creativity the job of one department. There are many new ways of doing, methods, tools, assessments. We just need to provoke our appetite to try some of them out. Don’t we? #mindset

blackswanshadow

How can we attract game changing talent? The real size of the question.

There are people who chop through the digital transformation buzzword bingo that peppers our work lexicon these days. They inject a new reality into the aging mainframes of our organisations. Their persistence in hustling and rustling managers, rules and mindsets to achieve a vision extraordinaire, is admirable. We need them. They are the ones who can make … (at this point feel free to insert the buzzwords from your own organisation goals such as digital transformation, digital enablement, disruption, innovation, or ‘exponential, digital, social’ as I read about today) happen. So, naturally we ask, what can we do to attract these game changers to our organisation?

For a start, it is helpful that we have more clarity on the characteristics of game changers, thanks to 2015 research. They are big picture thinkers, creative and passionate idea generators, ambitious and driven to succeed. They also take risks. Where some see a glass half empty, for them it’s overflowing. They posses a creative imagination, a way of seeing things that you and I may not, as well as what psychologists have termed “productive obsessionality.” It is this last characteristic that provides them with the grit to keep on where others fall off. After all, it’s hard to change the status quo – tenacity is part of the reason many game changers can and do. This blueprint of their DNA helps to shed light on what is likely to make the game changer tick.

We assume we need to do ‘something’ to attract them, but they are not the type of talent that plugs and plays for cash, leadership titles or big projects to deliver. In fact, most of our organisations don’t have the sockets for game changers. They do not fit.

Game Changers challenge norms in pursuit of new realities. Difficult conversations are important for them, and organizational hierarchy typically not. A position of leadership may throw other responsibilities in the path, distractions that frustrate the dream they are trying realise. Bigger budgets and more people to manage do not necessarily feature in their plans, it’s the idea being realised that matters.

Paradoxically, it should strike you that the very qualities identified in the research into game changers, namely, imaginativeness (create the exceptional vision) and productive obsessionality (find a way to drive it through), mean it is likely that game changers do not need you. If you frustrate their efforts, they will likely find a way to do what they want to, without you. Some, in an obsessive pursuit of their vision, may just use you to push their agenda. Powers that pay service to relentless digital and innovation hype only with innovation labs, hubs, centres or cells (there’s another opportunity to add buzzords), I challenge, are not creating the type of enabled serendipity you need on a wider and more fundamental scale. We need more than the game changers and the hubs.

What if we said that what we really need, is a type of enabled serendipity in organisations, a flexibility, a pool of resource, the freedom to take a chance on something that might not work? We would need to accept that this may likely offset the neat cogs that drive what I hear described as “hard business”. How can we attract game changing talent is a big question and a larger challenge than perhaps most of us expect.

It is not only the game changer input we need, but rather a team of people enabled to deliver game changing outputs, with some room to wonder from delivering the hard business. We need to work out a different kind of socket, and build it. It’s probably a multi-plug, and the power source not exclusive to the organisation. To have a shot at building something significant, we need a big measure of courage to challenge our organisations on ‘the way things really get done around here’, and why. Put another way, who does this serve, and for how long?

If you haven’t read the book “Wellbeing Economy” by Prof of Political Economy at the University of Pretoria, Lorenzo Fioramunti, maybe now is a good time to do so.

The power lies with us, the people. Working with 5 tech trends.

By Gaylin Jee 

Accenture launched their Technology Vision report earlier this year, which identifies the top IT trends impacting organisations over the next 3 years. The theme of the report is “Technology for people, by People”.  They say this people empowering focus is not just an idea. Rather, it’s a real and purposeful call to action. Because with great opportunity comes great responsibility, and everyone needs a share in both if we, as individuals and as a collective, are aiming to shape a positive future for all.

Leaders, unsurprisingly, have a weighty role to play. They can actively design tech so that it augments and amplifies human capability. Human amplification, according to Accenture, can unleash unimagined levels of creativity, ingenuity and productivity. If played fervently, this amplification role of leaders could help people to do more, to achieve more. Indifferent, unresponsive, or even hostile approaches to tech (yes we see them all in business still), are likely to obstruct the important job of rethinking and re-establishing the company place in the next evolution of business and society.

Tech Trends 2017 Accenture

Here are the 5 trends from the report they say we should be working with, and not against:

  1. AI is the new UI: AI will become the new user interface (UI)—underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems.
  2. From platform to eco-system. We need a rich and robust ecosystem, not just a platform strategy, to lead in the era of intelligence.
  3. Workforce Marketplace: The traditional hierarchy is still dying, and it’s being replaced with a ‘workforce marketplace’. In this future you do the inventing, people. You participate in an open talent exchange, as employees, freelancers and crowdsourced workers. Intelligent companies design for this model.
  4. Design for Humans: In place of learning how to use tech, we teach tech how to enhance our lives, and make them better. Tech learns to adapt to how we behave as humans. An interesting trend, read more – Design for Humans: Inspire New Behaviors.
  5. The Uncharted: We increasingly go beyond new products and services, to new digital industries. That means new standards must be set, and there are newfound responsibilities to define the associated regulations and ethical norms.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the impact of technology innovations can be positive, because the power lies with us ̶ with people.” – Paul Daugherty, Accenture.

Paul makes a good point. We can adapt technology to fit our needs. We’ve just got to make that personal choice, to opt in, so we can get savvy about it.

Risk-takers, Originals and all of us

By Gaylin Jee

“The last time you had an original idea, what did you do with it?” Adam Grant

Originals QuoteWe’re still using yesterday’s models and hoping they will solve tomorrow’s challenges. That’s not impossible, but it will become increasingly unrewarding. The impending World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution will radically shift life as we know it. Technology will be at the core of most work, whatever form work will take. Digital transformation will make way for digital sustainability, and innovation hubs and heroes will only take you part of the way. End states and narrow, short-term profits are yesterday’s goals.

Yet some see and create worlds of opportunity amidst this rapid ‘chaos’. We assume these people are innately creative, natural-born natural leaders, or that people who have a larger purpose and impact in the world are ‘rare’. We ask what’s in their DNA so that we can identify with them, or we ask where we can find them, and how we can work with them to release our strategic visions and intent. We also ask “can we grow and develop them?”

Let’s ventilate this topic with fresh thinking. We are coming to learn that great creators aren’t necessarily ones with the most outlandish ideas, or the deepest expertise, but also those activating the broadest perspectives, acting at the right time, with the right people around them.

We have a picture of more radical risk-takers and innovators, called game changers, from 2015 research. And we understand more about the composition of the team that drives game changing outputs. Now we also know, thanks to Adam Grant’s work ‘Originals’, that not all originality requires extreme risk taking. “I want to persuade you”, he says, “that originals are actually far more ordinary than we realise.” Grant defines originals as people who take the road less traveled, championing novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.

Why should this be significant? Because all of us can learn to be Originals.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest many entrepreneurs are just ‘ordinary’, with the same fears and the same doubts as all of us. The best entrepreneurs, says Linda Rottenberg, are not risk maximisers. They take the risk out of risk taking.  They don’t like risk any more than the rest of us. They take calculated and measured risks, balancing their portfolios. Rottenberg is CEO of Endeavour, and has spent decades training many of the worlds great entrepreneurs. She is known as “la chica loca” (the crazy girl) for insisting that entrepreneurs existed not just in Silicon Valley but also in emerging markets around the world. Even when extreme risks are taken in one area, it seems they are balanced with caution in another.

Those who champion originality, rather than conformity, move us forward. And they are not so different from most us of us, says Grant. They appear bold and confident on the outside, but inside, they are also afraid of risk and avoid it. Originals start by questioning default positions, and then take calculated risks. All of us can learn to be Originals. As Sheryl Sandberg notes in her Forward to the book:

“… any one of us can champion ideas that improve the world around us.”

Crossing the Chasm: From Innovation Hub or Hero To Innovation as Usual – How do we get it right? was the focus session delivered at the recent 2017 Talent Talks Africa Conference.

It Is Not About The Past, But The Future

By Gaylin Jee

We tend to grab onto the past and use it to design the future. It’s a profound failure of imagination. So say Stephen Gill and David Grebow. They add that the future is no longer about looking for continuity with the past and choosing shinier versions of existing technologies and trends.

This reminds me of Eddie Obeng’s work on the World After Midnight. We are still using yesterday’s models and hoping they will solve tomorrow’s challenges. That’s not impossible, but it will become increasingly unrewarding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Sometimes there needs to be a disruptive idea that lights up the crystal ball and makes us look at the future in a new way.”

You can read the full article by Gill and Grebow on the Association for Talent Development website here, but in essence they speak to a fundamental shift in training and learning, from managing hands, to managing minds. The future of learning for them is about managing minds. EQ will be important. Companies will be enabling learning, but not necessarily directing it.

I agree. Employees are catching on to the benefit of learning how to learn. Push is slowly giving over to pull, where some of us realise that we can draw down what we need from the eco-system that sits around us. That eco-system could offer the tools and tech to find out what we want to know, to communicate, to work together, to make sense of what we can do and how we do it.  Smart organisations help to set up those eco-systems. Their employees can experiment a little with what they find around them, and they’re encouraged to do that. After all, big and small ideas and innovations fall out of this type of enabled serendipity.

And so the shift extends, from managing hands, to managing minds, to perhaps a connecting of minds (which happens beyond the boundaries of the traditional organisation). A little more control and direction is relinquished, and a little more agency adopted on the part of employees.

We are fortunate to live in the times we do, with all this technological advancement. We can access learning and connection everywhere. That is just as well, for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is fast approaching. And the survival of the fittest in this revolution will not be those most responsive to change, but rather those who are one step ahead of it.

This article was first published on Talent Talks Africa.

What is your company’s Mindset Orientation?

By Gaylin Jee

Even a giant can streamline, increase speed and encourage innovation. 

General Electric (GE) has done this through making lean startup part of the mindset and the culture at the organisation, using a programme called FastWorks.

Leader of GE Culture and co-founder of GE FastWorks, Janice Sempe:

“We had a culture of being addicted to being right, … we had a culture of perfection. We didn’t know how to partner with our customers and see their problems from their perspective.” “We had to train our leaders to lead in a different way. We had to get them to ask questions in place of provide answers.”

Often our focus is on activity, or getting things done. If we shift the focus from customer requirements confusion to customer validation, to building a minimum viable product and then pivoting, to learning as we go along, we get better product to market more quickly. In place of having thinly spread teams, GE builds dedicated teams. These teams are fast, and focused. Using FastWorks, GE has successfully introduced lean startup principles in a non-tech environment, and in a highly regulated industry.

Based on the lean startup methodology principles of Eric Ries, creator of the Lean Startup methodology, FastWorks is essentially a set of tools and practices designed to build better products for customers, more quickly. There are 100s of FastWorks programmes across GE. FastWorks decreases the cycle time for product development. GE uses it to get closer to customers, to encourage innovation, increase speed to market, improve chances of success, and, generally, to make it easier to get things done.

Sempe shares the challenges and tangible successes that GE has driven through creating a culture of experimentation in the podcast interview How An Enterprise Makes Lean Startup Part of The Mindset And Culture. These kinds of successes she notes are about a lot more than training. You have to think more broadly about your organisations ability, in terms of its behaviours and cultures, to support the application of a lean startup approach. This is more than giving permission to fail, it is asking the questions: What new skills are needed and can be developed? Will new behaviours required be rewarded? How will our performance management system support this? What are the new expectations we have of employees?

At GE, 5 new belief statements were introduced. They wanted to think about failure in a different way, and to reframe barriers, giving permission for people to accept and adopt new ways of thinking and acting. Not meeting an outcome is a great way of getting to a better solution. You learn as you go along. The bold GE statements are:

  1. Customers determine our success
  2. Stay lean to go fast
  3. Learn and adapt to win
  4. Empower and inspire each other
  5. Deliver results in an uncertain world.

The GE performance management system has also been reworked, from a linear process of setting and measuring goals at the start and end of each year, to an on-going process that encourages asking the right questions. It allows for adaption. Employees are expected to experiment and pivot based on what they are learning from their customers.

It would be naïve to think that an organisational change like this is easy. Sempe says they are learning as they go, and she admits that it is hard. There has been considerable commitment to the programme. In the first year of implementation, Ries trained around 1000 GE executives on Lean Startup. There are also numerous coaches in the organization. But the results are tangible. Sempe offers two proof points in her interview:

  1. A new product (an engine) getting to market 2 years ahead of competitors with significant cost savings to the company, positioned very well with customers as a result, by using FastWorks principles;
  2. An efficient low cost energy solution for their power and water business, development costs were reduced by 60% by using the principles of FastWorks.

Define your company's mindset orentation

The Singularity Hub describe FastWorks as part of the company’s Mindset Orientation, or MO, one of 8 principles for leaders to make the most of the exponential age. It is worth reading the article to find out what the other 7 are.

What is your organization’s mindset orientation? What commitment is there to learning and adapting faster than the change that’s happening around you?