Find Your Digital WeirdThere is much opportunity to show up these days. Social networking platforms are like stages for shining and showing off your personal and professional experiences, quirks and skills. We can connect, debate and create, at scale. It’s true. Technological advancement brings access like never before. New tech helps us to get heard, find opportunities and get things done, not to mention magnify individual good, says futurist Graeme Codrington.

Unsurprisingly, this level of access also applies to personal information about ‘us’. According to digital thought leader Mike Saunders, two years ago the World Economic Forum (WEF) had already named data the new currency. If you are not paying for a product, such as an online social networking platform (most of us are on one at least), then you should understand that you are the product.

So whilst we throw up concerns around privacy, and indeed we are right to question, perhaps we should focus our questions beyond whether we have privacy or not, to whether we are happy with the trades we are making in exchange for our personal information. Good questions to ask are, what information does this platform hold about me, and what are they doing with it? What value does it add for me?

Take Alexa. Alexa is a cloud-based virtual personal assistant that is continually updating its intelligence, something like Apple’s Siri. You ask or command and Alexa responds. You may be searching for information, such as news, weather, traffic or for a new recipe, or asking Alexa to play your ‘tunes’ or the radio. But you can also use Alexa to get things done. You can ask it to create to-do lists, shop, order an Uber and control smart home products (think temperature, alarms). “Keep up with your busy lifestyle and maximise the potential of the smart devices that you own with increased convenience” says this website, with its blog helping you to compare Google Home and Amazon Echo, so that you can make an informed decision on design, features and capabilities. Alexa is a paid service, and it is learning all the time, based on what you feed it, and you benefit. There is your trade.

On LinkedIn, the free version, you get to profile yourself professionally and to tap into the opportunities presented through a global living network. You are the product – just like you are on Facebook and Instagram, if you are not paying for the service. As inspirational speaker and strategy facilitator Siphiwe Moyo reminds us, it is not just millennials, everyone has options and choice and we should be exercising that choice. Exercising choice means becoming aware of what your options are, and understanding them well, so that you can make informed choices or trades, and really take advantage of what a digital age offers.

Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review contributor shows us how we can do this in her work Standout. She grew up in a very small town in North Carolina – pre-Internet era – and felt incredibly frustrated with the lack of opportunities. She argues that too many of us still believe that heads down and hard work hard equals recognition and career success. Clark teaches us how to develop big ideas, leverage affiliations and build a community of followers. The process of finding great ideas and getting them heard makes it possible for us to change the world for the better (previously quite difficult, when we were non-digital). But is also the best form of career insurance. You capitalize on your unique perspective and knowledge and inspire others to listen and take action. Recognize your own value, cultivate your expertise, and put yourself out there, she says. It is no surprise that her examples Seth Godin, who in his book, “We are all weird” notes:

 

“The choice to push all of us toward a universal normal merely to help sell more junk to the masses is both ineffectual and wrong. The opportunity of our time is to support the weird, to sell to the weird, and, if you wish, to become the weird.”

 

In the workplace of tomorrow, robots will perform repetitive, monotonous tasks. They can do them better and faster than we can. That means our human energy is freed up to focus on what we are evolved to do. New tech can actually unlock human potential. Is it unlocking yours? And where are you showcasing that?

#FindYourDigitalWeird 

The article was written for and first published on TalentTalks.

#creativity#innovation#purpose

  • We can be prosumers or makers – we do not have to be just consumers of what others make. In this way we can shape our own worlds.
  • Creativity starts with the individual, and growth mindsets are key enablers for the future. We must provoke, unwrap and explore the way we understand the world, and discover the individual contribution we make.

“We do not see the world the way it is, we see the world according to our instruments.” – Immanuel Kant.

  • Traditional employee engagement measures will not secure the game changing outputs needed for a Fourth Industrial Revolution future. Creativity will become a business essential. We need people in Flow at work, creating amazing things to make the shift from ‘compete’ to create, from Red to Blue Ocean.
  • Innovation is a team effort. The hero innovator is a myth. There are many diverse contributions to game changing outputs. Once we recognize, appreciate and truly enable these different inputs, we move closer to an innovation-as-usual. We also build resilience through positive, appreciative and strengths-based approaches in our workplaces.
  • Innovation can and should have purpose. Purpose brings focus and directs attention and action. It engages humans. It keeps them motivated and flexibly persistent. Making money on its own is not a purpose. That is a result. Each person should reflect on and poke awareness of their impact and purpose, within the larger scheme of what’s being done at work.

“The world has an infinite supply of interesting and profitable problems, it also has in infinite supply of significant problems. I would love for us to focus on the latter.” – Andrew Ng

  • Purpose can be massively transformative. Some organisations outstrip the performance of more traditional, slow-moving peers. These organisations go beyond competing to creating. Whilst leveragingexponential technologies can be key to success, exponential organisations have one thing in common, they acknowledge their “Massive Transformative Purpose”.
  • As leaders, our great responsibility and challenge is to champion, enable and example creative, purposeful work. Creative cultures are aligned through a golden thread of purpose, and led by inspirational role models.
  • Creativity and innovation can no longer be the preserve of the elite or of genius talent. But you need strong muscles to effect meaningful change. Flex your muscles and build them. Invest in them. Disrupt yourself and keep learning. The system around you will almost always seek the path of less change. Creativity is by its very nature disturbing. Creativity is risky. Take novel opportunities to champion originality within your system, improve how you recognize and speak up about new ideas, and get them to stick.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

 

Tried of the same old workplace tools and methods for discovering more about yourself and the future direction of your business? We use tools such as Lego Serious Play and The Game Changer index to open the horizons on any business or personal challenge.

Contact us.

This blog is a collection of simple wisdoms from influencers I admire.

Dorie Clark

In a globalised society, your ideas can attain greater scale than ever before possible.

Make a commitment to something larger than yourself. A great idea is about more than just you.

The best ideas don’t stay tied to their creators forever, they go out into the world and make a difference because people make them their own.

Seth Godin

The choice to push all of us toward a universal normal merely to help sell more junk to the masses is both ineffectual and wrong. The opportunity of our time is to support the weird, to sell to the weird, and, if you wish, to become the weird.

Peter Drucker

Every organisation must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.

Margaret Heffernan

Thinking is a rather prosaic, low-tech concept, often forgotten and easily underrated.

Immanuel Kant

Dare to think!

Virginia Satir

Get excited about who you are, what you are, what you have and what can still be for you. Tune into your own wisdom. Your responses to the events of life are more important than the events themselves.

Naval Ravikant

Live the life you have. Embrace the future. Set up systems rather than goals.

Be radically honest and truthful.

Believe in compound interest – everything runs on compound interest, from business to personal relationships.

 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Margaret Mead

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

More beautiful questions

Innovation starts with thinking about, asking and owning the answering of questions. The payoff to asking better questions is that we can tackle the unknown and find better solutions. Innovators move the world forward through questions. They ask – What if? Why?

As we grow from children into adults, we learn that playing it safe has merits. Questions can show weakness, ignorance and may be perceived as challenge – thus unveiling unwillingness or a lack of desire to co-operate. Questions slow things down and introduce perceived inefficiencies. Many of us, over time, become more measured in the questions we ask. Some just stop questioning altogether. Questions can be risky. But this stepping back comes at a huge cost. We miss opportunities to check our understanding, and we gradually lose our natural sense of wonder and curiosity. Questions allow us to organise our thinking about what we do not know. Asking a good question can challenge a long-held wisdom, and put new perspective to the familiar. Questions help us to solve new and unfamiliar problems. Questions can change us, and the world around us.

If more beautiful questions have so much to offer us, particularly as we wake up to the imperative of ‘curiosity’ at work, why don’t we spend time thinking consciously about how we question, and aiming to improve the questions we ask? Encouraging questioning and developing skills in this art and science seem highly undervalued. What if we could harness the beautiful power of questions to move us into new dimensions?

Getting to more beautiful and purposeful questions – a few pointers

  • There is no right or wrong question, but a good question is rooted in an authentic curiosity. This is different to a criticism in disguise, or an ‘ask’ to prove a point.
  • Explore the question with the person who asks it. Turn the question around and out. Ask what everyone else thinks.
  • Encourage questions, and don’t think you always have to answer them. Encourage ownership of questions. Every innovator starts out with ownership of a question.
  • Create a culture of valuing questions. There needs to be a better understanding of the value of questions and what questions do, so that they are better received, and so that we get better at asking them.
  • Don’t let questions become career limiting moves. Don’t label questioners as obstructive and disagreeable. Instead, support people in the practice of their skill to ask more beautiful questions, the kinds of questions that move us forward.
  • There is something to be said for the total novice or rookie, who poses the question that may seem ‘stupid’ but that actually naturally challenges accepted wisdom. Why have we always done it this way? Who comes to something with innocent eyes, and what questions do they have?
  • Encourage shared ownership of questions. This is sometimes referred to as collaborative enquiry, where everyone plays a part in answering the question. You can use techniques like Lego Serious Play to model the answering of questions, and to generate more questions to be asked.
  • Be conscious of what you think you already know. Our own depth of knowledge can conspire against questioning. A sense of knowing can mean we stop asking where it might matter most.
  • Practice your questioning and develop it like a skill. Questioning is one of the 5 skills of the Innovators DNA that can be learned and practiced.

Have a go at asking and answering these questions yourself, right now:

What is the big question in your organisation / your work … how might we / I? Can you turn your mission statement into a mission question? What if companies replaced their mission statement with a mission question, and then shared ownership for answering that question with the whole company? What impact would that have?

This post draws a lot on The Knowledge Project, Farnam Street Blog, by Shane Parrish, this episode: “Improve Your Life by Improving Your Questions”. The podcast is an interview with Warren Berger — journalist, speaker, author and self-proclaimed questionologist. Explore this topic in more depth by listening to the full podcast or read the book, A More Beautiful Question. It shows how the world’s leading innovators, education leaders, creative thinkers and start-ups ask game-changing questions to nurture creativity, solve problems and create new possibilities.

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

 

 

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.

top-picks (1)

Many organisations remain unclear about their purpose. When asked, Why does your organisation exist? they answer: ‘to make money’. Money is essential, but making money 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.  How can we get more clarity?

Simon Sinek describes your ‘why’ as 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.  As Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Your personal WHY — the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires everything you do.

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

Ask yourself the question: Who do I want to create a lasting and positive impact for? Identify the problem you want to solve by writing down 3 items that ignite something in you. 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:

Patagonia: We’re in business to save our home planet.

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.”

Tesla: “Accelerate the transition to sustainable transportation.”

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

What if organisations of the future leveraged abundance, balanced with a fundamental respect for our natural systems?

Could it start with a large and more meaningful purpose in your organisation?