Think differently – do differently #FutureWork

By Gaylin Jee

think-differently-do-differentlyI have taken to including a short Think Differently session in my workshops with clients. It consists of riddles and brainteasers designed to engage, amuse and challenge. There are small prizes for those who can solve the riddles and teasers, and more prizes for those who are creative with their answers. Some come away bristling with satisfaction, others are annoyed. They are all entertained and stretched. And that’s the point of the session – to leave for a moment our groomed intention to find and offer a right answer, and instead to follow our own curiosity and find a different answer, our own answer. I want to inject an appetite for that, because it’s going to become more essential that we can think, and do, differently.

Think differently, see things differently, get to a place where you can actually do things differently, and you’re more likely to end up in the Blue Ocean.

“Creating blue oceans builds brands. So powerful is blue ocean strategy, in fact, that a blue ocean strategic move can create brand equity that lasts for decades.” – W. Chan Kim, Professor of Strategy and Management at INSEAD and Co-director of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute.

Here is a summary of Blue Ocean Strategy if you are not familiar with the thinking, Blue Ocean Strategy: Creating your own market, and an early Harvard Business Review write-up about it: Blue Ocean Strategy.

But here is the challenge. We’re not set up to think differently, and it is risky to do so. People who think and do differently can get hurt in organisations. In one large FS organisation it was simply understood that no items got a ‘red’ on the traffic light reporting system for a large project. That meant failing. And then everyone else could see you/your team/your unit were failing. The reporting didn’t reflect real progress, and surface real risks that could be mitigated for, it was about ensuring that you were not seen to be failing. How would sticking your neck out in this environment work, when time and budgets are the prize winners?

Take a look at the Millennial Disruption Index, a US study, but insights worth heeding globally: banks – your future customers would rather visit the dentist than listen to what you have to say. 73% would be more excited about a new offering in financial services from Google, Amazon, Apple, PayPal or Square than from their own nationwide bank. Nearly half the respondents in this study are counting on tech start-ups to overhaul the way banks work. They believe innovation will come from outside the industry. Given some of my own banking experiences, from the inside and as customer, I have to agree.

Establishing satellite innovation labs, or hubs, or hobnobbing with fintech start-ups seems like a very small piece of the puzzle you need to think differently about. I’d be inclined to shine the lens a little more on the motherships, the large institutions lumbering on with unwritten but carefully obeyed rules about status reports. I’d have a very frank conversation about “the way things get done around here”. That statement is another way of describing the real organisation values. On the end of that statement you could put “To Succeed”, or even “To Survive”.

The right-answer approach, and right-first-time, has been the bedrock of the ideally operationally efficient and nimble organisations we have been ruling over for years. This one-right-answer, time-and-budgets approach, often seeded in what worked in the past, seems to be a chain tightening around the necks of corporates who continue to mildly heed the imperative of establishing environments at work where it is safe to look for and experiment with different answers that might work. Or might not.

Our organisations are set up for traditional high potentials who are typically good at strategy and implementation, and understanding of incremental innovation or what we call polishing. We lay out ladders for these traditional leaders to climb, if they prove they have the right answers and the top-down, sealed-up script to implement them.

But how the world is changing – it is networked, participatory, choice-laden and unpredictable. Here today, disrupted tomorrow. How refreshing. Think Uber, AirBnB and all the other over-used examples. We need a wider range of roles, and appetites, to refresh our future.

Peter Druckers’ words seemed so outlandish at first, but feel perhaps less so now:

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

Playing in a nimble and efficient space may be risker, it seems, than actually sticking your neck out. Because over time you will be out-disrupted. But what courage it takes to think and do differently in the environments we create and reinforce at work.

Grow and support appetites for thinking and doing differently. Get your head around new roles, like Game Changers, Play Makers and Polishers. If not for your organisation, then at least for your longer-term self.

 

The wisdom to engage the group, and other new rules of work

By Gaylin Jee

There are 22 applicants for a role you are filling. So let us imagine that you invite them over at the same time for an open house over pizza. They all need jobs, so you tell them, “If you want me to hire you then just get everyone else a job.” Within 13 days, one candidate lands jobs for 3 other people. Having discovered a new skill, this candidate pulls out to go and pursue a career in recruitment.

This is part of a story from Brooke Allen, reported on by Adam Grant (author of Give and Take) in The Atlantic. Allen had the wisdom to engage the group in helping, not only with his decision, but also with helping each other to find work.

These are new rules of work.

Allen’s ad originally asked for someone “with a good heart and a giving personality.” That’s so unlike what we have been conditioned to ask for. Not formal enough, assessable, measurable, barely tangible. Is this fitting for serious business?

Write the new rules of work (1)

Over pizza candidates get to see the actual place of work, they meet the people they’ll work with, and they learn about the work itself. But at the open house pizza gathering Allen sets up, he also lays out these rules:

  • I’d rather everyone help each other find work than try to convince me they are better than the rest. I’ll help you find work, too.
  • If someone is “overqualified” for the position, I will try to find them a better job elsewhere rather than pay less than I should.
  • I have to care enough about you that I will tell you reasons the job I am offering might not be best for you, and you need to care enough about me to tell me why you might not be my best choice. Once we get all the objections on the table, we can address them, and only then will we both be capable of making a good decision.
  • I won’t get between you and your dreams. If you have a dream, I need to know what it is so we can figure out if this job gets you closer. If you don’t have a dream then that’s fine, as long as you really want one and you’re not addicted to wishing and complaining. I’ll consider hiring you if you can make my dreams yours too.
  • If you don’t have a requisite skill right now, I won’t hold it against you as long as you get up to speed before I make a hiring decision. People should help each other learn things, and I’ll help too.

We can write the new rules of work.

Do these really work in practice? Decide for yourself. There are a few more examples or stories in the Quartz article How to hire good people instead of nice people.

Some parting words (rules) from Allen which I like. Aim to treat others the best way you can imagine treating them, be honest and they cannot help being honest back, be authentic and they cannot help being authentic back. Strive to be a better person than you are, and you’ll figure out the rest. 

What is your remarkable? Are you selling it?

In 1991, Douglas Edwards became Google’s first brand manager. The company was barely a year old and Edwards was employee number 59. For his interview, Google co-founder Sergey Brin turned up wearing a T-shirt, gym shorts and in-line skates. He asked Edwards to answer his famous challenge.    After five minutes to think, I want you to explain something complicated to me that I do not already know.   If the candidate wasn’t the right fit, at least it could be an hour of insight gained, airing, absorbing and debating new opinions. Edwards passed the challenge. He was invited for sushi with the team after the interview.

A few weeks after joining, Brin suggested:

“Why don’t we take the marketing budget and use it to inoculate Chechen refugees against cholera. It will help our brand awareness, and we’ll get more new people to use Google.”

At the time Edwards thought this to be a bold and revolutionary approach (a little crazy perhaps?) to growing market share. But as he explains in this excerpt from his book I’m feeling lucky – the confessions of Google employee number 59, a little while later he agreed that saving lives was probably a better use of budget than running ads, which just annoyed people to no effect.

 

The idea of ads annoying people to no effect is one Seth Godin speaks widely to. The end of the TV-Industrial Complex has not resulted in the end of Television Thinking. Television thinking is trying to reach everyone by any means any time with your message. It was based on the principle of interruption, interrupt your audience and grab their attention, bombard them with a message.

The alternative to this thinking is permission marketing, defined as the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want them. And to get this right we must create and sell things that are remarkable, not only because the other options are boring but because they will be unsuccessful, no matter what anyone tells you.

Seth Godin issues an energetic plea for originality, passion, guts and daring.What is your remarkable-

‘Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring (or annoying)…make a difference at your company by helping create products and services that are worth marketing in the first place…’

I agree.

Edwards says he quit the advertising agencies he worked for before Google because he didn’t like the idea that he might have to sell something he didn’t believe in. At Google there was a headlong rush to reshape the world in a generation, accompanied by impatience with those not quick enough to grasp the obvious truth of Google’s vision.

Remarkable.

What’s your remarkable? Are you selling it?

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.

idea-1289871_960_720

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?

People want power because they want autonomy

A new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin presented two different conceptions of power to us, power as influence and power as autonomy.

“Power as influence is expressed in having control over others, which could involve responsibility for others. In contrast, power as autonomy is a form of power that allows one person to ignore and resist the influence of others and thus to shape one’s own destiny.”

The authors were interested in which of these two conceptions satisfies people’s desire for power. Do we want power to control others through our influence, or is it more about increasing our own autonomy?

Power ImageThe studies across three different continents, Europe, US and India, offer evidence that:

“… people desire power not to be the master over others, but to be the master of their own domain, to control their own fate”.

We want power over people because we want to be free. This absence of constraint, of plans not being thwarted, of ambitions not being frustrated, in essence an increase in power as autonomy, seems to quench our thirst for more power. But an increase in power as influence does not seem to have the same result, it does not quench that thirst.

The freedom to make your own decisions, and the sense of well-being that comes from doing what you want, is important.

As Julie Beck notes in her article in The Atlantic:

“All told, this research indicates that the desire for power may be somewhat misplaced: Generally, when people say they want power, what they really want is autonomy. And when they get that autonomy, they tend to stop wanting power.”

Tell me about the last time you failed

On the whole, expect to fail. Do it quickly. Learn. Move on. Perhaps even to something different. That’s the new formula. And it makes sense to have new formulas in light of the fact that the business models we used yesterday no longer seem to produce the results we need for tomorrow. The rules of the game have changed. And it happened while we were sleeping. It’s called the World After Midnight (WAM).

“Most of us spend our lives acting rationally in response to a world we recognise and understand but which no longer exists.” Eddie Obeng on the WAM

 

Smart FailureThis new formula for success goes by the name of rapid fire, rapid fail. Obeng calls it Smart Failure. Failing fast and often is the best approach and the key to success in many areas of business, says a Mu Sigma Report (a decision and analytics firm). Take it from the software industry, and as an approach echoed by engineers working in the pharmaceuticals, material sciences and automotive industries. To develop a successful product, try out many ideas through successive experimentations. Technology can enable that. Then learn from each small failure, so that your end product is better. Failure isn’t bad for business, it leads to something else happening.

‘When you view building a business as a series of experiments, you start to see failure as an inevitable step in the process.” Andrew Filev, CEO and founder of Wrike, a software firm in Mountain View, California.

But can we widen this approach to other working contexts? Are we ready to fail? And are customers and brands ready for that too?

In business we have spent a lot of time trying to reach ‘perfect first time.’ For years we have aimed to refine and control, to measure and predict, to reduce margin for error, streamline. We have thoroughly believed and put full effort into making our work, outputs and our futures more knowable, comfortable and sure.

Yet rapid change and technological evolution (which we all drive) is painting a future quite different from this. We can’t predict with too much accuracy. Now our task is to accept that and to learn to work with iterations of a future. We have to be committed to the experiment without being sure of success at the end, or what exactly the success might be. We need to be able to try something new that nobody has done, and get it wrong. We haven’t let go to that quite yet. We ask people to be creative and innovative, but in our organisations we still have a relatively poor tolerance for getting it wrong. We see it and often feel it as incompetence.

When we do start to let go, it will show in the people we look for – we’ll want people who know how to fail and can learn from it. In interviews, we’ll ask: “Tell me about the last time you failed?” or “How often do you fail?” At regular meetings we might ask “What are you learning from your failures?” or “How many failures have you had so far?” We might even ask future employers: “How does your organisation fail?”

Sound far-fetched? Maybe it’s the language we’re using. It seems somewhat black and white for the complexity of our world.

Some worldview adjustments on failure will emerge over time. Failing may just become smart.

Are you ready for a game-changing future?

Our desire to attract and recruit Game Changers is increasing.

That’s because they can use the chaos of rapid change and advancement to fuel organisation competitiveness and success. Game Changers drive innovation. We need innovation to survive. But recruiting Game Changers is just one of the steps to a future-fit organisation and not necessarily the first. Few organisations are ready for the Game Changers they seek, or have within their midst.

Game Changer

Game Changers are people who accelerate evolution at every level. They have this ingenious ability to see round corners and to spot hidden or less than obvious opportunity. Their openness to new ideas and willingness to take risks combined with a high drive to initiate change means they can upend organisations, industries and markets. And they do, because they are typically obsessive about turning their ideas into reality. However it is actually quite common for Game Changers to leave large organisations. Why is this?

To understand more about Game Changers, business insight and talent consultancy eg.1 carried out research and produced this report “The DNA of a Game Changer.” Their work sheds a lot of light on a much-needed group of talent with the potential to change landscapes for those around them. Game Changers are described as needing space and latitude to be creative and to demonstrate their value to the business. Their obsessive imagination and relentless focus on making their ideas real is what we seek yet it also means they can come across as demanding, uncompromising and impatient. They can alienate others and appear disruptive. Frustration can drive Game Changers to seek fulfilment away from the structures that limit them – slow moving, hierarchical and risk-averse organisations.

If we want Game Changers and the successes they drive in our organisations, we need to ensure they are championed by an individual who is senior or has influence within the organisation. We also need to get comfortable with allowing them the freedom they crave to make decisions as well as give them permission to take some risk (and fail). How many of us do this already on a day-to-day basis?

And it doesn’t stop there. Even solo Game Changers or innovation heroes will not produce the competitive edge we need for what lies ahead. We need to think about the collection of individuals who, together, can accelerate evolution at every level. These are not collections of Game Changers, or Game Changers and their minions. There are other roles that help to secure game changing results. The four additional roles identified in the eg.1 work for truly game-changing teams are Play Makers, Strategists, Polishers and Implementers.

Nathan Ott (CEO of eg.1) and Dr John Mervyn-Smith (Chief Psychologist of eg.1), in collaboration with Dr Adrian Furnham (University College London) have designed a way to identify these role players. It is called the GC Index and it is a completely online tool that assesses real and potential contribution of individuals to a company, role or project. It challenges traditional methods – in place of measuring personality type, skills or leadership qualities, it focuses on output. That’s a welcome distinction. The eg.1 work turns a corner in the way we approach the future.

Are you ready to change the game?

For more information about the GC Index and how it can be used in your organisation, drop us a mail. We are accredited to administer the tool and to deliver personalised feedback.

 

 

Are you in good shape? #futureskills #futurethinking

We are gradually phasing into a digital world, one that is starting to look and feel very different. And yet in our organisations, we still focus so much on what we have been used to in the past. We look for and build more traditional leadership and management skills.  Our HIPO’s (high potentials) are typically good at strategy and implementation. And we reward them for climbing a ladder to larger budgets and bigger teams. But will these HIPOs prepare us adequately for what’s ahead?

IMG_2651

 

‘We can no longer predict the future with any accuracy, but we can build ourselves to flourish there.’

 

 

Do you still think you can predict and control what happens tomorrow? Is your strategy to hang on to what you have, to keep doing what you do better than anyone else, to avoid out-disruption through your excellence, tweaking bits at the sides with a new product or service?  That is not likely to be enough.

What never seemed possible is now reality. New technologies, ways of living, consuming, working and interacting emerge all the time. We need people in our organisations who think and see things differently, who drive new frontiers, who believe in their ideas and pursue them, who take risks. What we offer (like the corporate ladder) may no longer be attractive for the people we need most, if it ever was.

Embracing and leveraging a future that looks little like today is held somewhere in the way you think. Vast and constant change presents a steady flow of new opportunity. Our mindset and the way we view the world, and the skills we build to thrive within it, are critical enablers to unlock that. But they are so often overlooked as we debate the differences between management and leadership, fight over technical expertise, and insist on ways of working that simply do not yield the outputs we need.

How about shaping a future that changes the game? How about refreshing the lens on the people you need, how you attract them, and the ways of working that make this all possible?

It is likely that the outputs and skills we need most will be in short supply tomorrow, exactly because many people and organisations are just ‘hanging on’, being buttressed by change and disruption.

Your appetite to explore and develop the skills you’ll need for tomorrow will become a competitive lever for you. Proactively and positively crafting your own future using new technologies will become essential.

At 33 Emeralds we challenge you to think about how you are going to fare in a world that is uncertain and unpredictable. We have worked with many individuals in organisations, as well as game changers who have left corporate life to shape their own craft. We believe in a business case, offer simple insight, and assess appetite for risk and change. We form intelligent strategy and define approach to fit current realities, allowing you to experiment, build your own savvy, and execute on whatever it is you have lined up.

Are you in good shape for tomorrow?

It is our belief that focusing on predicting the future will leave us short. Instead, we should aim to build ourselves for it. And then approach it with glee.

If there is nothing that excites you about your future, perhaps you should give us a call.

What can you see? Innovation for life

Jamie Lawrence speaks about the real power of a growth mindset on HR Zone. People with a growth mindset, put simply, believe they can. They embrace learning and fear failure less. Here are a few examples from Jamie’s post that illustrate the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset:

Fixed: This is too hard

Growth: This may take some time

Fixed: I’m no good at this

Growth: What am I missing?

Fixed: I made a mistake (messed up)

Growth: Mistakes help me to learn (what can I learn?)

When I read Jamie’s post, I was struck by the thought that a growth mindset must be an essential enabler of innovation, but also innovation with significance. I have written before about following your passion and why this could be the worst piece of career advice, and how innovation on its own is can be empty:

‘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.’ Andrew Ng, founder of Google Brain and co-founder of Coursera.

Just for a moment, empty your mind. Think about it as a blank slate. Imagine your work is empty of fulfillment and significance. What if that emptiness was then viewed as a snow-white page ready for prints? What if you then applied a growth mindset to what you could do?

The innovators DNA talks to 5 key skills we can all refine. Implicit in this work is the belief that these skills can be developed by anyone. One of the 5 skills to refine is to be able to observe the world like an anthropologist. Anthropology teaches us to be aware of the lens through which we view the world, and to observe ‘the other’. When you attempt put your own worldview aside, it is amazing what you can ‘see’.

How can what you do merge with what you like to do, and with what is significant?

What can you innovate into your life? Is ‘life’ and ‘work’ as separate as you thought? Is innovation for life? The future may hold fewer boundaries than we’re familiar with. Let’s see who can get used to that.