Thoughts on creativity, innovation & purpose

#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.

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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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

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.

Let’s try Deep Work, hailed as a superpower of the 21st Century

By Gaylin Jee

deep-workI have discovered something new I like called absorb state, described by Gregory Ciotti as one of 7 ways to boost your creativity. Absorb state refers to a period of consuming information only, not creating or delivering any output. The concept is also referred to as ‘batching’. It replaces what Linda Stone calls ‘continuous partial attention’, where you give in to the temptations of multitasking on other aspects of your work.

‘Having a clear rule that forbids any distraction during focused work was freeing’ reported Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for focussed success in a distracted world. He experimented with hard focus for a day where you have to focus at least 30 minutes on every single task you do. All work is chunked into blocks of at least 30 minutes. So if you check emails, you have to spend at least 30 minutes on emails and other small diversions.

 

Batching is hard, concluded Newport from his experiment. It turns out you really need to plan ahead to ensure you have all the material and information needed for some focused blocks of work. You cannot leave one task to spin off an email requesting information, or to set up a meeting. Because you need to stay focused on your task for 30 minutes at least. But if you did ‘defocus’, you’d then need to spend the remainder of the 30 minutes doing more of what you’d jumped ship to do.

But on the flipside, he experienced more time in a flow state that he can remember experiencing in recent times. And the quality of his work improved. Added to that was increased efficiency around small task completion.

‘Deep work provides the sense of true fulfilment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy.’

Given these insights, and the appeal of spending quality time in absorb state, I think I’ll give it a try.

Disrupt yourself

By Gaylin Jee

disrupt-yourself

The best way to predict the future is to create it. – Peter Drucker.

Looking at what the future holds should be like looking at we want to create. As Vala Afshar notes, companies do not disrupt, people do.

One drives innovation and disruption in the organisation through driving personal disruption. And according to Whitney Johnson, a leading thinker on driving corporate innovation through personal disruption, the S curve developed in the early 60’s beautifully architects a map for personal disruption. To reach mastery, we must find ways to course along that S-curve journey.

“At first when we try something new the progress is slow, but as we hit the steep part of the curve, the fun begins…. With learning, progress doesn’t follow a straight line.”

Johnson’s 7 variables to reach mastery along the S curve resonate powerfully. Here they are:

  1. Take the right risks: starting something new is risky. Position yourself to play where no one else is playing (Read more on Blue Ocean Strategy if you are not familiar with the thinking).
  2. Play to your distinctive strengths: disruptors look for unmet needs, and match those with their strengths. (Take a look at the GC Index with it’s key 5 roles for Game Changing outputs. This Index measures proclivity, or how we like to contribute in role and at work, is strengths-based, and develops influence and impact).
  3. Embrace constant constraints: see things differently. ‘Constraints aren’t a check on our freedom, but rather a valuable tool of creation.’ (Read Why Breakout Growth Requires Us To Break Good Habits by A Beautiful Constraint)
  4. Battle entitlement: ‘entitlement will stifle innovation at all levels’, says Johnson. If you believe the world owes you, your S curve journey will be slow and even stunted. Give more than you take. No one really likes people who feel they are entitled to things.
  5. Step back to grow: be adaptable and curious. Sometimes that means recalibrating your metrics, and moving what feels like sideways, back or down. To disrupt you may need to redefine success.
  6. Give failure its due: get on your own S curve. Expect to fail. It is not a referendum on you. Learn. Make original mistakes. To disrupt you must walk into the unknown, and that is risky. Winners quit all the time, they quit the right stuff at the right time. – Seth Godin
  7. Be discovery driven: you can’t see the top of the curve from the bottom. Explore. Be curious. Search yet-to-be-defined places.

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.

From old to new rules – the space we choose to play in

I think we need a shift in lens.

The change we see (and drive) in the world generates a constant stream of opportunity to be explored. When we are paSky through barsranoid, we are defensive, which makes us operate by old rules, ‘close in and protect’.

If we lift ourselves away from paranoid, we have the space to get curious, expand, explore, collaborate.

We can’t predict what’s going to happen with any accuracy, or control too much for it. But we can build ourselves to play in the new future.

That’s the shift I think we need.

A value proposition for the future

What’s your value proposition for the future?

I have a few questions to reflect on.

Here’s the context.  More than a few individuals and businesses are ‘doing’ social media, seemingly because everyone else is doing it.  There is a mix of urge, rush, relish and reticence to be present, present on platforms that are fast-growing or driving lots of referral traffic, new platforms, old ones.  And some are feeling somewhat skeptical about the value of it all.  When times get tough, it’s a low’ish priority, and social activity and commitment drops.

What’s happening is that social wasn’t crafted and formed up front with a good dose of reflection and strategy, and it hasn’t  stuck in any value-driving way.  In place of developing an orientation for the future, we are just busier!

What could be happening, is that social engagement could be steering us to a better place in tough times, keeping a thread that’s linking into the future, staying connected and exploring new possibilities.

So here are the questions:

Do we start with our goals and context as number one, and see how social technology may or may not plug-in, where and how, to everything we do?  Or is it a pack-on?

Is there a change process involved in adopting new social tools?  How does that impact enjoyment, uptake and return?

Do we sometimes say no thanks to some platforms, even if they are (very) popular? (We can and we should.)

What happens when we let an external provider take all the reigns for our social media activity?  Are you just present, with a target frequency of posts?  Do you lose some of the nuance,  because interaction is brokered through a third-party, and you are not close to that interaction?

16054830Social media can activate a piece of a larger puzzle, a plan, a future goal.  To do that, we need to think about our individual context, where we are now, where we might want to be, what tools can make that possible.  Then we need to identify the skills we need and focus on developing them.

The MIT Leadership Framework, one of many, speaks to ‘sense-making’, ‘visioning’, ‘inventing’ and ‘relating’.   Developing and exercising your curiosity, learning, connecting, finding and sharing new insights, showcasing your thought leadership, shaping current and new offerings – that’s leading too.

Leadership is enabled these days with a myriad of new social media at our disposal.  We can all lead, ourselves, others, our businesses.  And we can also shape our own value proposition into the future in so doing.  In place of a one-size-fits all, let’s think about the unique and different, the personalised, the customised.

Explore what’s new out there, evaluate what tools might work for you, say no to ones that don’t, experiment.  Think about what will make you valuable in the future.  Find and remain connected to a network of global early adopters who explore, engage and share.  With curiosity and an open mind, we will delight ourselves.

The knowing doing gap

Today I have been asking myself this question:

Who puts into practice all the top tips we’re gifted with through our plentiful social media streams?

Last year I conducted a little experiment.  It was motivated by a theme that runs through a lot of my work – choosing to be smart about how we manage our working lives and the vast amounts of information we encounter on a daily basis.  The experiment was this: I had booked a longish holiday but wasn’t savouring the thought of returning to an overly full inbox of emails to process.  Before I left for the holiday, I cancelled my subscriptions to updates, newsletters etc.  In short, I didn’t miss much of what was being delivered to me, and it was a good chance to refresh or ‘re-relevance’ the slate.

Now I am doing another experiment based on the question above. I read at least five to ten ‘top tip’ articles a week.  Some of them really offer little gems that we all could use to maximise our enjoyment of life and work. I am intrigued to find out how much of the advice we receive every day on Twitter and LinkedIn is put into practice.

Here are some of the titles of recent ‘top tip’ articles:

▪    4 ways to fast track that promotion

▪    5 ways to make your employees hate you

▪    10 tips to a more professional Linkedin profile

▪    11 rules of highly profitable companies

▪    12 tips for team building

▪    33 ways to be an exceptional entrepreneur

Jeffrey Pfeffer spoke about a ‘knowing – doing’ gap. We know what to do, we just aren’t closing the loop and doing it for better results.

Using the hashtag #DoingGap, through my twitter account (@gaylinjee), I am going to turn the ‘top tips’ from these articles into questions, to see who is actually putting them into practice and with what effect.  Join me and add your own answers.  I’d love to hear them.