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.

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?

 

Make it Work

I’ve been working with some coaching clients this week and I find myself saying this quite a bit:

“Make it work”

This simple phrase can say two things. Firstly, whatever it is, the block, the challenge, the issue, resolve it. Get to a better point or place, refuel or restore the relationship, find a better way to do things, catch a new idea. Make it work.

The second way of understanding this I only realised after I had said it out loud myself, on leaving, head halfway out the door. Make it Work. Focus on what inspires you, what you enjoy doing and make it what you do, full-time in place of part-time or out of work hours. Find a larger significance and purpose for it. Make it your work.

Can you?

Make it work

 

Seek inspiration beyond the oversimplfied

As guru Brian Solis recommends, I like to seek inspiration beyond the oversimplified.

At our fingertips online is a generous sharing of insights and opinions, thought-provoking, present, creative, curious and clever. Whatever you are looking for you can find. It’s up to you to pick, pocket and personalise your sources.

I’m sharing a few of my secret sources here. They inspire me, shuffle my thinking and give me ideas to connect to each other.

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Ideas

https://www.brainpickings.org/ described as ‘An inventory of the meaningful life’ and ‘cross-disciplinary interestingness, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more.’

https://aeon.co/ ‘Ideas and culture.’ Aeon is a digital magazine of ideas and culture, publishing an original essay every weekday.

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/ ‘What studies say about human behaviour and productivity.

And then there is http://www.getpocket.com. Pocket is actually bookmarking tool. But it also curates content and delivers it to me in a newsletter. It looks for articles based on the articles I have previously bookmarked or saved to Pocket. What they feed me is spot on. Quite ingenious really. Almost every headline fascinates me.

Rather than bemoan our world that is so information-laden, I celebrate the rich access to all this clever insight and opinion. As said above – it’s up to you to pick, pocket and personalise your sources.

Where do you find your inspiration?

What do you expect from disruption?

There’s plenty of chat about how vulnerable the financial services sector is to being significantly disrupted. From a consumer (human) perspective, we are coming to expect a lot more than good service and competitive offerings from our financial services partners. By good service we include attentive, quick, personalized, easy and cheap to access (no waiting on costly helplines or in patience-testing queues). We want intelligent responses, queries that are fully solved and solutions that meet our changing needs and pockets. And we expect this in more ways than traditionally we’ve been offered (telephone, face to face, website), because we are starting to understand that technological advancement and applied thinking is making this possible.

So here’s Mondo. Time for a new kind of bank.
‘Beta-test the bank of the future. New features weekly.
We’re building a smart bank from the ground up to deliver intelligent banking on your smartphone. Think timely alerts, useful data and instant payments. We’d love your help.
Be one of the first 500 people to try the bank of the future.’
Would you sign up for Mondo?

The point is there is a large vacuum between what we are beginning to realise is possible, and what we are currently offered, a chasm that over time will be crossed.

In response to the need to up their game, the EFMA 7th Annual Innovation in Retail Banking Report shows a growing trend for banks to invest in start-ups through dedicated venture funds or on an ad hoc basis. Banks have an opportunity to collaborate and partner with start-ups to launch new products and services, and thus drive innovation and transformation. To maximize benefit, you need to reposition your view of start-ups as disruptive competitors, and start working more closely with them.

‘More and more banks are setting up accelerators/incubators, or are working with independent accelerators/incubators.
Investment in innovation has been increasing consistently for the last few years at most banks according to our surveys. There are signs that this investment is making a difference in that innovation performance is also perceived to be improving.’

But let’s hold up a real mirror on what we’re doing internally too. It’s not so much about the hub and the ideas (although these are obviously important). It is about the people (humans) who will make them a reality for your consumers (humans). What they do, every day, is key – the activity, outputs and mindsets that you encourage, reward and enable, with employees, suppliers, contractors, consultants and wider networks.

MotivationsInvesting in hubs and start-ups may bring an innovative streak into your mainframe, creak it a little, but the people who drive your business forward day in and out need the right mind and skillsets, skills of the future. They need to be equipped for the innovation age we operate in. That includes leaders and others in so-called positions of ‘authority’. Without an honest appraisal of what happens on the ground, innovation is at most idealism.

So apply this ‘start-up’ partnership modelling, like EFMA says we can do with innovation hubs and new fintech entrants, to people performance.

What is your investment in people and skills innovation hubs?
Who are you partnering with for this element?

How are you preparing your teams for continued ‘failure’ – which is famously touted by the top management thinkers and business gurus as the bedrock of true innovation? How is your mainframe skillsbank increasing over time with the sort of skills you need to build for the future? What skills will you need? How do you enable experimentation, partnership working, social collaboration? How are you spotting, enabling and rewarding innovative thinkers and doers within your organisation? They are not the people who typically show up on your traditional talent management ladders. Nor are they necessarily motivated by the promise of climbing the corporate ladder.

If you don’t want to be out-disrupted, you need to think about the people and partners who can take you there, the way business gets done on a daily basis, and what sort of players you’re liberating in your organisation.  For the new skills economy is rapidly dawning, and the corporate ladder is practically dead.

Digital li(f)e craft

‘we are a culture that conflates happiness and success’

A new craft has emerged in the digital age: to capture, polish and publish a perfect life. We crop, recolour and hashtag our posts to embellish them, and to direct the impressions our readers take from them.

Chompoo Baritone recently created a clever set of posts. It pokes fun at Instagram users and the application of this craft to make their lives seem more glamorous or exciting. It removes the dull, useless detail that means nothing or little, or detracts from the focus we set. We cut out what we don’t want others to see. Photographers have been doing this for years. Here is a link to the work ‘‘How people lie about their lives in Instagram’.

Li(f)e craft

Li(f)e craft

The concept of the double life, the one we lead and the one we aspire to, is not new. Adam Phillips in Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, beautifully summarised by Brainpickings in this post, spells it out.

We may need to think of ourselves as always living a double life, the one that we wish for and the one that we practice; the one that never happens and the one that keeps happening… We make our lives pleasurable, and therefore bearable, by picturing them as they might be; it is less obvious, though, what these compelling fantasy lives — lives of, as it were, a more complete satisfaction — are a self-cure for.’

And,

Our utopias tell us more about our lived lives, and their privations, than about our wished-for lives. In our unlived lives we are always more satisfied, far less frustrated versions of ourselves…’ – Phillips

Brands create and feed us images and experiences of that perfect, unlived life. It’s the not having that frustrates, and creates desire. We’ve coined the term FOMO to label that cognitive over-saturation of perfection in what we see of others – it stands for fear of missing out.

Is there anything wrong with a bit of digital li(f)e craft, at an individual level? Is it motivating, self-reinforcing or depleting? Does social media allow us to amplify a serial self-perfection-promotion that’s more mask than is good for us? Is there a shadow rising, born from this intoxication?

Carl Jung investigated how we live our lives through the persona. The persona is the mask we use to present ourselves to the world. What Jung called individuation, or healthy adult personal development and adaptation to the world, is a process of tearing away the mask that conceals our true selves and only presents what the world most wants to see from us or expects of us. It is the ‘Instagram’ self, the one we want others to believe, love, admire, envy.

The mask becomes a shadow if it is only a manifestation of the unlived life, and nothing more.

Establishing your own interface with the world, not only what others want to see, is realistic, more flexible and easier to manage. It helps to navigate adult society without colliding or hiding from the true self. To present what is not perfect or conflated or shaped by ‘likes’ is risky but rewarding over time – in place of momentary happiness there may be a semblance of longer lasting fulfilment. It is the bedrock for resilience, psychological congruence (or a lack of dissonance) and meaningful engagement. It also opens up the space for connection, development and feedback that relates to you, not your fantasy life. I think brands are starting to reach that tipping point. The perfection they once poured out is gradually being replaced with something more authentic, something with real people in it. The ever-happy, giggly personalities issuing the odd “awe” are not accessible, nor are their relentless selfie-pouts and animated hand gestures. People need to from relationships with people who deliver to needs over time. The rest is just a short-lived theatrical tease, closing on the curtain call.

Too much digital li(f)e craft, over-fascination with and broadcasting of perfection, a mask, through aesthetics or ‘happiness’, leaves the narrative we build about our lives wanting. So the risk is that the narrative is inauthentic. The mask covers rather than connects.

We live in an age where we are exposed to multiple sources of information and perspectives, we can collect, digest, influence and be influenced. You no longer have to be the big company, a politician on the news, or simply be rich to have influence and audience. You can build a following through what you believe, say and do. We are empowered because we are connected, to information, to others. We have a myriad of tools at our disposal for articulating and engaging the authentic self, through the medium of our choice, at the exposure that matches our personal comfort levels.

Continued self-promotion and craft without meaningful engagement is bound to have a shelf life. Just like it has for brands. Opening up an authentic face for your brand, for you, is powerful. We can craft and drive our influence and presence in the world without bombarding our ‘fans’ with perfection. We can offer more.

In a world that’s flying into new horizons and perspectives, with more access and connection than ever before, old rules (broadcast / push / bombardment) promoting ‘self’ or the unlived life are running out. They have increasingly less attraction. This age offers, paradoxically, a real opportunity to be authentic.

The digital divide once scared me. I was afraid of who could access the real me, and what they could do with that. And then I remembered Jung and all he had to teach. I was reminded that the narrative of your life is built through exposure, exploration and authentic engagement. That’s risky as you must reveal some of your true self, not the utopia of the unlived life. But other options for me lacked depth and sustainable fulfillment. They seemed to shelter and limit growth. Growth is something we need in this digital age, learning, growth, renewal, curiosity, connection, collaboration.

Life has shades beyond Instagram fixes. If you enjoy your digital craft, that could be harmless enough. We all do it to some extent. But never lose sight of navigating your own exposure to the world, at the comfort and through the mediums of your choice. Take a few risks on your authentic self. There’s more out there than our special (imaginary) unlived life.

Strong, or human

‘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.’

Liz Ryan

Who am I?

What are your strengths? Do you list them on your LinkedIn or Google+ profile? Most of us do. And this showcase often sounds a lot like, well, the businessperson next door. We have an idea of what makes us desirable and wanted at work, so that’s what we look for in ourselves and that’s what we profile.

But these days you may be more attractive for what stands you out, what makes you different. And yet when I ask the question: ‘What stands you out?’ I almost always get a great response for a game of personal strengths buzzword bingo. Liz Ryan is right – a lot of people will tell you they are who someone wants them to be.

When I am assisting others to profile themselves, and I realize I am on a straight path to winning a bingo championship, I take the time to ask these questions:

  • What was in the working day where you woke up and were excited to get started?
  • What was in the day when you come home feeling great?
  • What were you doing when you forgot the time and lost time?
  • How do people describe you? What words do people use, think of all the examples you can, informal and formal.
  • How do you make life better through what you do?
  • Tell me what you do, pretend I work as far away from your industry as possible, and wouldn’t understand any jargon at all. Think about your first language being my third.

As they talk I just record their spoken thoughts, keywords mainly. I try to note their actual words and not my version of what they are saying, or my summary of it.

When you both look at the notes afterwards, you start to get a sense of a person and not just a list of strengths. A few preferences emerge, a few values spill out and suddenly you see there is a human, there on the page, waiting for a sentence or two in which to show up, uniquely. When you pull this into a bio with a bit of narrative, it unmistakably belongs to just one person, one human, not a scorecard.

Digital guru Brian Solis says that effective engagement is inspired by the empathy that develops simply from being human. So when you craft or update your bio online, take a little time to ask yourself, in place of ‘How I am strong?’:

How am I human?

It’s a good starting point for engagement.

Follow your passion – the worst piece of career advice

In previous blogs I’ve posted about the skills we need for a prosperous digital present and future, and the ones that are likely to be in short supply. I’ve been asking the question of how we drive our own value propositions over time, one, because there is more choice and focus if we do it for ourselves, and two, because we can, thanks to our context of rapid change and technological advancement.

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Today I came across an article written about Andrew Ng, which deepened my insight. Ng is the founder of Google Brain, a deep-learning research project supercharged by Google’s vast stores of computing power and data. Ng also co-founded Coursera, the largest provider of open online courses or what we know as MOOCs, with partners Princeton, Yale and top schools Europe and China. In his interview for the article, he said that ‘follow your passion’ is probably the worst career advice you could ever give or get. His reasoning?

Ng says we are very rarely good at something when we start out, and yet we have to be good at something to be passionate about it. He does believe we can become good at almost anything. In place of following a passion when choosing where to focus your energies, we should look at what opportunity there is to learn and what the possible impact is.

‘The world has an infinite supply of interesting problems. The world also has an infinite supply of important problems. I would love for people to focus on the latter.’

The key in preparing for the future is also moving away from the repetitive and routine. This is where I think his work chimes with Seth Godin. Highly repetitive and routine tasks lend themselves well to eventual automation. That means a loss of jobs. Young people who can identify and make the most of opportunities to learn and have impact – solving real and important problems – and who seek out non-repetitive and non-routine, are on the right path.

What I like about Ng’s approach is that he also believes that innovation and creativity are teachable. They are not ‘unpredictable acts of genius’ so much as processes that are systematic that we can all improve on. Ng runs his own workshop on the strategy of innovation.

‘When you become sufficiently expert in the state of the art, you stop picking ideas at random. You are thoughtful in how to select ideas, and how to combine ideas. You are thoughtful about when you should be generating many ideas versus pruning down ideas’.

Building people for the non-routine, the human, the creative and the innovative – that’s what we’re seeking out. And we need scalable ways of doing that. Ng believes this is possible. We’re just not there, yet.

To be or not to be – the real digital leadership question

IMG_0558An authentic self is what we seek to articulate across our social media platforms. That establishes our presence, and presence is a precursor to influence. Influence is the new currency online. However when we share what we believe in and what we endorse, we take a risk.

There are unprecedented levels of social self promotion taking place online, and lets face it, sharing something that others like makes us feel good. Liking or sharing is akin to stroking, and we all like a bit of stroking. It’s a simple feedback loop, often quite immediate, and showcased for all to see. We come to know over time the type of content that gets shares and likes and ‘engagement’. Which begs the question, in world where all this activity is deemed ‘good’, over time do we end shaping our sharing of self to what gets most stroked?

Game changers, free thinkers and other mavericks have never traded on being liked. They push boundaries, change the rules, introduce new ways of seeing and believing, sometimes uncomfortable ones. The hardest part of an authentic online presence is putting out what might not get likes, but rather stirs controversial comments. It takes courage to say what you mean, because not everyone will like it, that’s your risk.

Don’t be tempted to show up only in ways that feed the populist version of ‘like’. Push the boundaries you believe in. All the great shape shifters do. And their ultimate influence is worth so much more, because it started with something they believed would make a difference, something they thought about and felt strongly about.

The digital world has introduced a new playing field. And it’s not all about being liked. Aim for more than being popular and engaging, aim to influence because you believe in a new way of thinking or doing things that will make a difference. That’s digital leadership.