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.

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Unleashing the big C

Unleashing the big c

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

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

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

Anyone can learn to be an original

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

Do new things – the seven dimensions of creativity

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

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

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

Co-consulting to feed creativity, and other final tips

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

top-picks (1)

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.

 

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.

All change please

It is the human interface with new technologies that will mostly likely drive the best personal and business value propositions into the future. Yet both companies and individuals can miss the people behind the tools and the mindset of change for adoption of new tools. I sometimes wonder if one of the barriers to digital transformation lies in a thinking trap we’ve fallen into. It’s about change and the rhetoric around it.

climate-chalkboard_310x206I once attended a Social Anthropology lecture that covered “The myth of the unchanging past’. My much-admired, clever and somewhat quirky lecturer presented it so eruditely, and it’s been with me all the way since I was a student. But it’s taken a while for what was presented to fully sink in.

The myth speaks to the fact that we tend to assume the past never changed, and it was rather idyllic for that. We see the past as rose tinted, constant and in sharp juxtaposition to today, where there seems to be constant change clutter and chaos. Our worldview of change is as an imposter, arriving one night and settling in, needing management and containment. That’s why we have separate ‘change management projects and budgets’, run by change specialists. We don’t see change as part of who we are, and what we drive.

If you think about it, not even two days have ever been the same. Change has always been with us. Yes, the rate of change has increased. But aren’t we the ones with our feet on the pedals, accelerating the pace of change through our preferences, choices, actions and inventions?

If we have come to view change as an outsider to be managed, how does that shape our orientation to both the present and the future?

Drew Hanson interviewed Rita J King in an article for Forbes in 2012: Imagination: what you need to thrive in the future economy. Rita had this to say:

In the Imagination Age, we can collectively imagine and create the future we want to inhabit … The shape of the future is reliant on the ability to think ahead. In the Imagination Age, we are attempting to create the future we can imagine.

If we want truly novel things to happen in our organizations, we need to learn to let go of the thought that we can always foresee and plan what that newness is going to look like.’

Is that a bit of a departure from what is expected of our leaders now?

Change is all about us, it is us, and it always has been. The mindset we need for future imaginations doesn’t manage change the imposter (the thinking trap). It accepts it, lets it out and plays with it – not always an easy thing to get right in an organisation. But there are some skills that we can develop that would be useful for that. I’m interested to hear what you think those are.

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 Social Leader

In Why Being Social Makes You a Better Leader, Geil Browning talks about a new era of leadership where relationships and social connectivity matter more than ever before for powerful leadership.
Agree?
She says a social, relational approach is going to take you places, and that’s characterised by:
  • intuitive thinking
  • care for how decisions affect people
  • orientation toward relationships and a desire to get things done through people
  • a collaborative, team focused approach
  • an ability to connect ideas and work to people.

The last 3 points are most interesting.  We have powerful new tools at our disposal.   Ideas, people and social technologies are all growing up together, creating something that’s different from before.  That’s powerful.  A leadership revolution is drilling its way up through the core of ‘the way things used to happen around here’.

I like these words from Jane McConnell (@netjmc):
‘Certain social capabilities disrupt the way organisations work, challenging hierarchical management.  HR no longer controls the definition of expertise: experts emerge in discussions in internal social networks.  Communication no longer completely controls the message, the target and the timing: employees share information and make announcements spontaneously in blogs and discussion groups.’
The bird at the top of the perch is no longer necessarily the leader.
Social leaders can be anywhere.
This blog was first published in Aug 2013