Author Archives: Janet Sernack ImagineNation

About Janet Sernack ImagineNation

Janet Sernack is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a global innovation learning and coaching company that helps organisations, leaders, teams, and coaches adapt, innovate, and grow through disruption. She is an EMCC Master Practioner and ICF PCC executive, team, leadership and innovation coach, an award-winning global blogger on the people side of innovation, and presenter of the ICF CCE Coach for Innovators, Leaders and Teams Certified Program.

Learning to Innovate

Learning to Innovate

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

One of my coaching clients shared with me recently how she was feeling insecure in her job role and lacking motivation. The company she works for is acknowledged as an entrepreneurial industry leader. Because it is currently being challenged by poor sales performance, it has hunkered down and frozen any change initiatives, learning programs or new projects until mid-2025. My client is in a substantial Research and Development function, crucial to innovation, so we aimed to explore new ways of helping the company use their existing equipment (capital investments) and resources (people and expertise) to design and deliver low-cost and sustainable innovations to the market. To create a focused, meaningful, purposeful role and a values-based motivating opportunity for my client to be proactive, that impacts the company by adding value to the bottom line by improving productivity and cost efficiency because anyone can learn to innovate.

Learning to innovate

As a result of our short time together, my client felt confident and empowered, motivated and energized, to invest time in learning how to apply her current skills and strengths, focus and attention to connect with key people and resources, explore options globally for identifying new business development opportunities, and in developing her technical skillset.

My client enrolled in an online innovation learning program to learn to innovate by acquiring the fundamentals of mindset and behavior changes to shift their thinking and act differently.  

The innovation imperative has shifted

  • Productivity growth needs to accelerate

According to McKinsey and Co, in the article “Investing in Productivity Growth” it’s not only time to raise investment and catch the next productivity wave; the world needs to and can accelerate productivity growth.

“Productivity growth means getting more from our work and our investments. It is especially needed now as the world faces the many challenges of a new geo-economic era. Productivity growth is the best antidote to the asset price inflation of the past two decades, which has created about $160 trillion in “paper wealth” and even larger amounts of new debt”.

  • Adapting to the new net zero reality

The world is currently not on track to meet net-zero targets, yet many opportunities are available to accelerate efforts and help meet de-carbonization goals. Whilst some progress has been made to reduce global carbon emissions, under the current trajectory, the world won’t achieve net-zero emissions even during this century. Again, according to McKinsey and Co., in an article “Adapting to the new net-zero reality”, mitigation efforts alone are no longer sufficient – the world will need to adapt as well by going green, ramping up technologies and increasing investments.

  • Improving cost efficiencies

According to new BCG research, corporate leaders are making better cost management a priority as a hedge against ongoing economic, financial, and political uncertainties, stating that:

“Wholesale cuts are one way to manage costs. However, drastic measures such as sudden workforce reductions may lead to unintended consequences because they fail to address the root causes of inefficiencies. Nor do they position an organization for future success”.

  • Generative Ai is a critical enabler of innovation

Whether the organization focuses on developing new products, services, processes, or business models, Generative AI (GenAI) can enhance and challenge the work of leaders and teams across all phases of the innovation cycle and process.

By learning to innovate through knowing how to generatively question and listen, reveal and challenge operating beliefs and test assumptions to enable them to emerge, diverge, converge and prioritize high-quality creative ideas for change.

According to BCG in a recent article, “To Drive Innovation with GenAI, Start by Questioning Your Assumptions.”

“GenAI’s most prominent contribution is in idea generation and validation—innovation’s divergence and convergence phases. Yet, it can play an even more critical role in helping leaders confront and update the strategic assumptions at the foundation of their business and innovation strategies: the doubt phase of the cycle. Organizations that regularly question their beliefs are more resilient because they are more likely to see and position themselves to benefit from the shifts on which competitive advantage turns”.

The innovation imperative is paradoxical.

Suppose we combine the contradictory features or qualities of developing productivity growth while adapting to the new net zero reality and improving cost efficiencies. In that case, many organizations have reverted to their conventional, business-as-usual focus, relying on Generative Ai to solve their problems.

This demonstrates a typically faddish response to a revolutionary, transformative new invention whilst being avoidant and resisting the urgent need to change by building the fundamental foundations in learning to innovate.

  • Thinking and acting differently

Anyone can learn to innovate, and it starts with allowing, accepting and acknowledging that a business-as-usual focus, avoiding risk, making the tough decisions and resisting change are no longer effective, profitable, or sustainable because:

  • We all know that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
  • We can no longer afford to keep producing the same results that no one wants.
  • We can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it; we have to learn how to be, think and act differently to deliver the sustainable and innovative solution we want to have.

Learning to innovate requires a radical strategic shift

  • Harnessing collective intelligence

Anyone can learn to innovate; it’s simply a matter of knowing, combining, leveraging and scaling people’s multiple and collective intelligence – heads/cognition, hearts/emotions and hands/actions.

  • Revealing and closing knowing-doing gaps

Then, we should align these to close the significant knowing-doing gap or disconnect between what people know and what people do.

Everyone knows that innovation is the most impactful lever to use to scale and leverage change, yet are primarily unwilling to pause, stop and take time to retreat from their short-term focus, pay attention and reflect on how to equip people with the innovation fundamentals by getting people’s:

  1. Heads to make sense of innovation and what innovation means by defining and framing it in their organization’s unique context, setting a strategic focus, determining the level of risk involved in achieving it, and mitigating the roadblocks that may arise.
  2. Hearts aligned to embody and enact what innovation means by setting and sharing a passionately purposeful reason for innovation, building change receptivity and readiness for designing and delivering a range of bespoke deep learning processes and equipping people to activate it.
  3. Hands dirty by creating a safe environment where people are encouraged to emerge and share creative ideas and permission and be allowed to experiment by making small bets and mistakes and learning by doing to know what not to do.

Innovation requires a strategic and systemic focus

Innovation is subjective and contextual, so it must be defined and framed in an organization’s unique context.  It requires a strategic and systemic focus, so an organization needs to agree on whether they will choose an incremental, sustainable or disruptive strategy and the level of risk.

The 21st century requires us to unlearn, learn, and relearn a different set of mindsets, behaviors, and skills, and anyone can learn to innovate.

Commitment and conviction to learn to innovate

It’s only through being committed and having the conviction that my coaching client now has – to explore new ways of helping their organizations use their existing capital investments, collective intelligence, people resources, and expertise, supported by Generative AI and deep learning processes, to design and deliver low-cost and sustainable innovations to the market.

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Thinking Differently About Leadership and Innovation

Thinking Differently About Leadership and Innovation

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

We live in a world, with less stability, certainty, simplicity, and predictability, where regional conflicts, societal divisions, and civil unrest have increased globally. Simultaneously, technological-induced disruptive innovations and the climate crisis impact every aspect of our daily lives. This means that we live in an age of overwhelm and a world of unknowns, requiring us all to know how to uncover and eliminate our individual and collective blind spots, to be adaptive and innovative. By thinking and acting differently about leadership and innovation, we can all grow, survive, and thrive within it.

This a moment in time that calls for leaders to boldly and courageously, step up, shift out of any myopic, reactive, cost, and short-term focus, and develop their leadership consciousness.  By taking personal responsibility, and being accountable for owning and shifting their interior state or inner being, to eliminate flaws, maximize core strengths, and build confidence, capacity, and competence to adapt, innovate, and grow through disruption.  

To refocus on developing future-fit systemic and innovative solutions, that add real value in ways that serve and sustain people, profit, and the planet, differently.

Leadership is in crisis

We are experiencing a global leadership crisis.

Many leaders, in the corporate sector, and national and international institutions have become increasingly reactive. In ways that are passively or aggressively defensive, egotistic, and often self-serving. By vacillating between political correctness, denial, justification, and avoidance – and between attacking, shaming, and blaming groups, individuals, and nations for the current state of social unrest, political chaos, cultural divisions, and regional and religious conflicts.

  • Hitting a pause button

The missing key element is the leadership consciousness required in taking the time to pause, retreat (step back), reflect, and explore the deep causes, current implications, and nature of challenging, complex, and systemic problems.

Leaders are obliged to step out of their habitual comfort zones and boost their ability to bravely make sense of what is going on – and develop the foresight skills to risk mitigate and identify the most intelligent actions that will deliver high-value and high-impact outcomes that serve people, profits, and the planet.

To uncover the repetitive mindsets and behaviors that keep on producing results that no one wants, by bravely exposing and eliminating their leadership blind spots. 

Leadership blind spots

We know that most of the innovative solutions to the complex challenges we face already exist.

To unleash these desirable, value-adding, and innovative solutions, we need to empower, enable, and equip leaders to bravely and safely expose and eliminate their largely, unconscious and unknown leadership blind spots. These exist in our individual and collective leadership, they also exist in our everyday team and social interactions.

Because most leaders are smart and know what to do, and how to do it, identifying and eliminating any leadership blind spots will enable them to do it better.

Yet, despite, in many cases, years of leadership training they are at risk of being perpetually reactive, unfocused, overcome with “busyness” and addicted to the tasks involved in “getting stuff” (usually the urgent “small stuff” and not always the “important stuff”) the done. 

As defined by Dr. Karen Blakeley in “Leadership Blind Spots and What to Do about Them,” a blind spot is “a regular tendency to repress, distort, dismiss or fail to notice information, views or ideas in a particular area that results in an individual failing to learn, change or grow in response to changes in that area.”

  • Source of leadership blind spots

The majority of leaders are mostly blind to the Source from which they operate. This is often because many do not have the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to manage and self-regulate any of their unconscious un-resourceful emotional states, mindsets, and behaviors. 

Leadership Consciousness

“An ordered distinction between self and environment, simple wakefulness, one’s sense of self-hood or soul explored by “looking within”; being a metaphorical “stream” of contents, or being a mental state, mental event or mental process of the brain”.

  • Igniting the brain

Leadership blind spots are typically contained in our neurology and can be exposed and eliminated by:


Paying attention to their three core neurological levels and being intentional in cultivating their leadership consciousness.

When engaged in a coaching partnership, a leader can learn how to shift, self-regulate, and self-manage at all three levels to effectively eliminate their flaws, and learn how to think and act differently in delivering successful transformation and change initiatives.

Power of Coaching Intervention

A coach is an external disruptor who seeks to bring out the best in a leader, tap into and maximize their potential, and adds value by facilitating deep, insight-based learning processes, that shifts mindsets and result in sustainable behavior change.

Coaching helps smart people be and think beyond who they are being and beyond what they are thinking now. In ways that can empower, enable, and equip leaders to adapt, innovate, and grow, cultivate their imagination and creativity, to think and act differently in an unstable world.

This enables them to develop and implement systemic and innovative solutions in a timely way and at scale.

  • Noticing, disrupting, disputing, and deviating

Coaches partner with leaders to enable them to notice, disrupt, dispute, and deviate by accessing and harnessing resourceful emotional states, and mindsets. Coaches safely explore the “boxes”, thinking, or the “stories” a leader may have been unconsciously living within, and constricted by.

Because we can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it in the first instance.

Especially in a 21st-century world where developing leadership consciousness enables us to adapt, innovate, and grow by:

  • Reducing our brain’s ability to hijack us when doing its best to constantly keep us safe from danger,
  • Letting go of old pervasive Industrial Age mental models and perspectives, especially around cost and efficiency,
  • Relearning new future-fit ways of being, thinking, and acting differently.

And increases our ability to be agile, centered, and focused in thinking faster in the Disruption Age, where technology is accelerating faster than our human brains are.

Upskilling our brains!

A coaching partnership will create a safe and collective holding space to help leaders deep dive into the unknown develop strategies and develop their leadership consciousness in ways that:

  • Opens their minds, ignites their imagination, curiosity, and creativity, shifts their perspective, makes sense of things develops a whole systems perspective, and think differently,
  • Opens their hearts to become connected with self, others, systems, and with Source, and be empathic and compassionate,
  • Opens their will to let go of the need for control, and allows them to deal with paradox and the new to emerge, which can be designed, iterated, and pivoted, in ways that enable them to act differently, in designing and implementing systemic and innovative solutions.

Closing leadership blind spots to adapt, innovate and grow

A coach empowers, enables, and equips a leader’s capacity, confidence, and competence, to identify and close their leadership blind spots, be in charge of their minds, and think and act differently, to adapt, innovate, and grow in times of great uncertainty.

To convincingly work with, and flow with both their peoples overwhelm, and with the constraints in the external environment by:

  • Developing an awareness of their neurological RIGIDITY which exists within their emotional, cognitive, and visceral states, in turn, impacts their ability to mobilise, focus, and engage their efforts.

When a leader has a blind spot in this area, they may demonstrate rigidity, or functional fixedness, resulting in an inability to mobilise, they will be withdrawn, reactive, and become overly passive or even aggressive.  Because they are unconsciously at the effect of the “mental blocks” resulting from unacknowledged fears and anxiety.

  • Developing their neurological PLASTICITY and flexibility to be able to attend to, regulate, and focus their thoughts, and feelings, and be grounded, mindful, present, and intentional in taking intelligent actions.

When a leader has a blind spot in this area, they will not be able to access their brain’s ability to change, reorganize, or grow new neural networks, learn, adapt, and become resilient. They will not develop the agility required to shift mindsets or behaviours, or even learn the new skills that will equip them to be future-fit and deliver the results they seek.

  • Generating the critical and creative thinking, problem sensing, and solving skills required to improve their leadership consciousness and GENERATE their crucial elastic thinking and human skills required to see, think differently in solving complex and wicked problems, be future-fit, and lead others to thrive.

When a leader has a blind spot in this area, they will take a conventional and linear approach to decision-making problem-solving, and team development. They will safely stay stuck in what they know, even though what they did in the past may not have worked.

Adding value to the quality of peoples’ lives

If we keep on trying to solve the problem with the same thinking (and neurological state) that created it, we will continue to reproduce the results no one wants.

We will not be able to shift beyond what we think now, nor will we connect, export, and, discover the crucial new horizons we need to emerge to develop and implement the systemic and innovative solutions, in a timely way and at scale, that the world needs right now!

Imagine if leaders truly and deeply committed to cultivating their leadership consciousness, and make the time and space to eliminate their blind spots, how peaceful and harmonious the world could become!

If leaders could learn how to think and act differently, focus on adding value to the quality of people’s lives in ways they appreciate and cherish, and contribute to the common good, to serve all of humanity, how people, profit, and the planet could flourish.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, and can be customized as a bespoke corporate learning and coaching program for leadership and team development and change and culture transformation initiatives.

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Implementing Successful Transformation Initiatives for 2024

Implementing Successful Transformation Initiatives for 2024

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Transformation and change initiatives are usually designed as strategic interventions, intending to advance an organization’s growth, deliver increased shareholder value, build competitive advantage, or improve speed and agility to respond to fast-changing industries.  These initiatives typically focus on improving efficiency, and productivity, resolving IT legacy and technological issues, encouraging innovation, or developing high-performance organizational cultures. Yet, according to research conducted over fifteen years by McKinsey & Co., shared in a recent article “Losing from day one: Why even successful transformations fall short” – Organizations have realized only 67 percent of the maximum financial benefits that their transformations could have achieved. By contrast, respondents at all other companies say they captured an average of only 37 percent of the potential benefit, and it’s all due to a lack of human skills, and their inability to adapt, innovate, and thrive in a decade of disruption.

Differences between success and failure

The survey results confirm that “there are no short­cuts to successful transformation and change initiatives. The main differentiator between success and failure was not whether an organization followed a specific subset of actions but rather how many actions it took throughout an organizational transformation’s life cycle” and actions taken by the people involved.

Capacity, confidence, and competence – human skills

What stands out is that thirty-five percent of the value lost occurs in the implementation phase, which involves the unproductive actions taken by the people involved.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) supports this in a recent article “How to Create a Transformation That Lasts” – “Transformations are inherently difficult, filled with compressed deadlines and limited resources. Executing them typically requires big changes in processes, product offerings, governance, structure, the operating model itself, and human behavior.

Reinforcing the need for organizations to invest in developing the deep human skills that embed transformation disciplines into business-as-usual structures, processes, and systems, and help shift the culture. Which depends on enhancing people’s capacity, confidence, and competence to implement the “annual business-planning processes and review cycles, from executive-level weekly briefings and monthly or quarterly reviews to individual performance dialogue” that delivers and embeds the desired changes, especially the cultural enablers.

Complex and difficult to navigate – key challenges

As a result of the impact of our VUCA/BANI world, coupled with the global pandemic, current global instability, and geopolitics, many people have had their focus stolen, and are still experiencing dissonance cognitively, emotionally, and viscerally.

This impacts their ability to take intelligent actions and the range of symptoms includes emotional overwhelm, cognitive overload, and change fatigue.

It seems that many people lack the capacity, confidence, and competence, to underpin their balance, well-being, and resilience, which resources their ability and GRIT to engage fully in transformation and change initiatives.

The new normal – restoring our humanity

At ImagineNation™ for the past four years, in our coaching and mentoring practice, we have spent more than 1000 hours partnering with leaders and managers around the world to support them in recovering and re-emerging from a range of uncomfortable, disabling, and disempowering feelings.

Some of these unresourceful states include loneliness, disconnection, a lack of belonging, and varying degrees of burnout, and have caused them to withdraw and, in some cases, even resist returning to the office, or to work generally.

It appears that this is the new normal we all have to deal with, knowing there is no playbook, to take us there because it involves restoring the essence of our humanity and deepening our human skills.

Taking a whole-person approach – develop human skills

By embracing a whole-person approach, in all transformation and change initiatives, that focuses on building people’s capacity, confidence, and competence, and that cultivates their well-being and resilience to:

  • Engage, empower, and enable them to collaborate in setting the targets, business plans, implementation, and follow-up necessary to ensure a successful transformation and change initiative.
  • Safely partner with them through their discomfort, anxiety, fear, and reactive responses.
  • Learn resourceful emotional states, traits, mindsets, behaviors, and human skills to embody, enact and execute the desired changes strategically and systemically.

By then slowing down, to pause, retreat and reflect, and choose to operate systemically and holistically, and cultivate the “deliberate calm” required to operate at the three different human levels outlined in the illustration below:

The Neurological Level – which most transformation and change initiatives fail to comprehend, connect to, and work with. Because people lack the focus, intention, and skills to help people collapse any unconscious RIGIDITY existing in their emotional, cognitive, and visceral states, which means they may be frozen, distracted, withdrawn, or aggressive as a result of their fears and anxiety.

You can build your capacity, confidence, and competence to operate at this level by accepting “what is”:

  • Paying attention and being present with whatever people are experiencing neurologically by attending, allowing, accepting, naming, and acknowledging whatever is going on for them, and by supporting and enabling them to rest, revitalize and recover in their unique way.
  • Operating from an open mind and an open heart and by being empathic and compassionate, in line with their fragility and vulnerability, being kind, appreciative, and considerate of their individual needs.
  • Being intentional in enabling them to become grounded, mindful conscious, and truly connected to what is really going on for them, and rebuild their positivity, optimism, and hope for the future.
  • Creating a collective holding space or container that gives them permission, safety, and trust to pull them towards the benefits and rewards of not knowing, unlearning, and being open to relearning new mental models.
  • Evoking new and multiple perspectives that will help them navigate uncertainty and complexity.

The Emotional Cognition Levels – which most transformation and change initiatives fail to take into account because people need to develop their PLASTICITY and flexibility in regulating and focusing their thoughts, feelings, and actions to adapt and be agile in a world of unknowns, and deliver the outcomes and results they want to have.

You can build your capacity, confidence, and competence to operate at this level by supporting them to open their hearts and minds:

  • Igniting their curiosity, imagination, and playfulness, introducing novel ideas, and allowing play and improvisation into their thinking processes, to allow time out to mind wander and wonder into new and unexplored territories.
  • Exposing, disrupting, and re-framing negative beliefs, ruminations, overthinking and catastrophizing patterns, imposter syndromes, fears of failure, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Evoking mindset shifts, embracing positivity and an optimistic focus on what might be a future possibility and opportunity.
  • Being empathic, compassionate, and appreciative, and engaging in self-care activities and well-being practices.

The Generative Level – which most transformation and change initiatives ignore, because they fail to develop the critical and creative thinking, and problem sensing and solving skills that are required to GENERATE the crucial elastic thinking and human skills that result in change, and innovation.

You can build your capacity, confidence, and competence to operate at this level by:

  • Creating a safe space to help people reason and make sense of the things occurring within, around, and outside of them.
  • Cultivating their emotional and cognitive agility, creative, critical, and associative thinking skills to challenge the status quo and think differently.
  • Developing behavioral flexibility to collaborate, being inclusive to maximize differences and diversity, and safe experimentation to close their knowing-doing gaps.
  • Taking small bets, giving people permission and safety to fail fast to learn quickly, be courageous, be both strategic and systemic in taking smart risks and intelligent actions.

Reigniting our humanity – unlocking human potential  

At the end of the day, we all know that we can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it. Yet, so many of us keep on trying to do that, by unconsciously defaulting into a business-as-usual linear thinking process when involved in setting up and implementing a transformation or change initiative.

Ai can only take us so far, because the defining trait of our species, is our human creativity, which is at the heart of all creative problem-solving endeavors, where innovation can be the engine of change, transformation, and growth, no matter what the context. According to Fei-Fei Li, Sequoia Professor of Computer Science at Stanford, and co-director of AI4All, a non-profit organization promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of AI.

“There’s nothing artificial about AI. It’s inspired by people, created by people, and most importantly it has an impact on people”.

  • Develop the human skills

When we have the capacity, confidence, and competence to reignite our humanity, we will unlock human potential, and stop producing results no one wants. By developing human skills that enable people to adapt, be resilient, agile, creative, and innovate, they will grow through disruption in ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives, that are appreciated and cherished, we can truly serve people, deliver profits and perhaps save the planet.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, and can be customized as a bespoke corporate learning and coaching program for leadership and team development and change and culture transformation initiatives.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to join 17,000+ leaders getting Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to their inbox every week.

AI and Human Creativity Solving Complex Problems Together

AI and Human Creativity Solving Complex Problems Together

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

A recent McKinsey Leading Off – Essentials for leaders and those they lead email newsletter, referred to an article “The organization of the future: Enabled by gen AI, driven by people” which stated that digitization, automation, and AI will reshape whole industries and every enterprise. The article elaborated further by saying that, in terms of magnitude, the challenge is akin to coping with the large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing that occurred in the early 20th century in North America and Europe, and more recently in China. This shift was powered by the defining trait of our species, our human creativity, which is at the heart of all creative problem-solving endeavors, where innovation is the engine of growth, no matter, what the context.

Moving into Unchartered Job and Skills Territory

We don’t yet know what exact technological, or soft skills, new occupations, or jobs will be required in this fast-moving transformation, or how we might further advance generative AI, digitization, and automation.

We also don’t know how AI will impact the need for humans to tap even more into the defining trait of our species, our human creativity. To enable us to become more imaginative, curious, and creative in the way we solve some of the world’s greatest challenges and most complex and pressing problems, and transform them into innovative solutions.

We can be proactive by asking these two generative questions:

  • What if the true potential of AI lies in embracing its ability to augment human creativity and aid innovation, especially in enhancing creative problem solving, at all levels of civil society, instead of avoiding it? (Ideascale)
  • How might we develop AI as a creative thinking partner to effect profound change, and create innovative solutions that help us build a more equitable and sustainable planet for all humanity? (Hal Gregersen)

Because our human creativity is at the heart of creative problem-solving, and innovation is the engine of growth, competitiveness, and profound and positive change.

Developing a Co-Creative Thinking Partnership

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review “AI Can Help You Ask Better Questions – and Solve Bigger Problems” by Hal Gregersen and Nicola Morini Bianzino, they state:

“Artificial intelligence may be superhuman in some ways, but it also has considerable weaknesses. For starters, the technology is fundamentally backward-looking, trained on yesterday’s data – and the future might not look anything like the past. What’s more, inaccurate or otherwise flawed training data (for instance, data skewed by inherent biases) produces poor outcomes.”

The authors say that dealing with this issue requires people to manage this limitation if they are going to treat AI as a creative-thinking partner in solving complex problems, that enable people to live healthy and happy lives and to co-create an equitable and sustainable planet.

We can achieve this by focusing on specific areas where the human brain and machines might possibly complement one another to co-create the systemic changes the world badly needs through creative problem-solving.

  • A double-edged sword

This perspective is further complimented by a recent Boston Consulting Group article  “How people can create-and destroy value- with generative AI” where they found that the adoption of generative AI is, in fact, a double-edged sword.

In an experiment, participants using GPT-4 for creative product innovation outperformed the control group (those who completed the task without using GPT-4) by 40%. But for business problem solving, using GPT-4 resulted in performance that was 23% lower than that of the control group.

“Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, current GenAI models tend to do better on the first type of task; it is easier for LLMs to come up with creative, novel, or useful ideas based on the vast amounts of data on which they have been trained. Where there’s more room for error is when LLMs are asked to weigh nuanced qualitative and quantitative data to answer a complex question. Given this shortcoming, we as researchers knew that GPT-4 was likely to mislead participants if they relied completely on the tool, and not also on their own judgment, to arrive at the solution to the business problem-solving task (this task had a “right” answer)”.

  • Taking the path of least resistance

In McKinsey’s Top Ten Reports This Quarter blog, seven out of the ten articles relate specifically to generative AI: technology trends, state of AI, future of work, future of AI, the new AI playbook, questions to ask about AI and healthcare and AI.

As it is the most dominant topic across the board globally, if we are not both vigilant and intentional, a myopic focus on this one significant technology will take us all down the path of least resistance – where our energy will move to where it is easiest to go.  Rather than being like a river, which takes the path of least resistance to its surrounding terrain, and not by taking a strategic and systemic perspective, we will always go, and end up, where we have always gone.

  • Living our lives forwards

According to the Boston Consulting Group article:

“The primary locus of human-driven value creation lies not in enhancing generative AI where it is already great, but in focusing on tasks beyond the frontier of the technology’s core competencies.”

This means that a whole lot of other variables need to be at play, and a newly emerging set of human skills, especially in creative problem solving, need to be developed to maximize the most value from generative AI, to generate the most imaginative, novel and value adding landing strips of the future.

Creative Problem Solving

In my previous blog posts “Imagination versus Knowledge” and “Why Successful Innovators Are Curious Like Cats” we shared that we are in the midst of a “Sputnik Moment” where we have the opportunity to advance our human creativity.

This human creativity is inside all of us, it involves the process of bringing something new into being, that is original, surprising useful, or desirable, in ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives, in ways they appreciate and cherish.

  • Taking a both/and approach

Our human creativity will be paralysed, if we focus our attention and intention only on the technology, and on the financial gains or potential profits we will get from it, and if we exclude the possibilities of a co-creative thinking partnership with the technology.

To deeply engage people in true creative problem solving – and involving them in impacting positively on our crucial relationships and connectedness, with one another and with the natural world, and the planet.

  • A marriage between creatives, technologists, and humanities

In a recent Fast Company video presentation, “Innovating Imagination: How Airbnb Is Using AI to Foster Creativity” Brian Chesky CEO of Airbnb, states that we need to consider and focus our attention and intention on discovering what is good for people.

To develop a “marriage between creatives, technologists, and the humanities” that brings the human out and doesn’t let technology overtake our human element.

Developing Creative Problem-Solving Skills

At ImagineNation, we teach, mentor, and coach clients in creative problem-solving, through developing their Generative Discovery skills.

This involves developing an open and active mind and heart, by becoming flexible, adaptive, and playful in the ways we engage and focus our human creativity in the four stages of creative problem-solving.

Including sensing, perceiving, and enabling people to deeply listen, inquire, question, and debate from the edges of temporarily hidden or emerging fields of the future.

To know how to emerge, diverge, and converge creative insights, collective breakthroughs, an ideation process, and cognitive and emotional agility shifts to:

  • Deepen our attending, observing, and discerning capabilities to consciously connect with, explore, and discover possibilities that create tension and cognitive dissonance to disrupt and challenge the status quo, and other conventional thinking and feeling processes.
  • Create cracks, openings, and creative thresholds by asking generative questions to push the boundaries, and challenge assumptions and mental and emotional models to pull people towards evoking, provoking, and generating boldly creative ideas.
  • Unleash possibilities, and opportunities for creative problem solving to contribute towards generating innovative solutions to complex problems, and pressing challenges, that may not have been previously imagined.

Experimenting with the generative discovery skill set enables us to juggle multiple theories, models, and strategies to create and plan in an emergent, and non-linear way through creative problem-solving.

As stated by Hal Gregersen:

“Partnering with the technology in this way can help people ask smarter questions, making them better problem solvers and breakthrough innovators.”

Succeeding in the Age of AI

We know that Generative AI will change much of what we do and how we do it, in ways that we cannot yet anticipate.

Success in the age of AI will largely depend on our ability to learn and change faster than we ever have before, in ways that preserve our well-being, connectedness, imagination, curiosity, human creativity, and our collective humanity through partnering with generative AI in the creative problem-solving process.

Find Out More About Our Work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, which can be customised as a bespoke corporate learning program.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context. Find out more about our products and tools.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Why Successful Innovators Are Curious Like Cats

Why Successful Innovators Are Curious Like Cats

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our previous blog, we shared how consciousness, imagination, and curiosity are the fundamental precursors to creativity, invention, and innovation. Where consciousness encapsulates our states and qualities of mind, our capacity for imagination and curiosity are the necessary states of mind that stimulate creativity, all of which propel successful innovators to bring the new to the world differently.

Yet, according to a recent article by the Singularity Hub “OpenAI’s GPT-4 Scores in the Top 1% of Creative Thinking”:

“Of all the forms of human intellect that one might expect artificial intelligence to emulate, few people would likely place creativity at the top of their list. Creativity is wonderfully mysterious—and frustratingly fleeting. It defines us as human beings—and seemingly defies the cold logic that lies behind the silicon curtain of machines.”

We have a “Sputnik moment” to further our creative abilities

Revealing that their recent study into the striking originality of AI is an indication, that AI-based creativity – along with examples of both its promise and peril – is likely just beginning.

“The creative abilities now realized by AI may provide a “Sputnik moment” for educators and others interested in furthering human creative abilities, including those who see creativity as an essential condition of individual, social, and economic growth”.

  • What if we, as humans, could compete with, and perhaps even complement, AI-based creativity and become successful innovators?
  • How might we spark our imagination and curiosity to gain new knowledge that reduces ignorance and sustains our relevance to benefit all of humanity?

How does this link to cats – successful innovators are like cats!

As an animal lover, and the second servant to two sublime household pet cats, I have always wondered why our cats are so curious, always exploring and getting into everything, and yet are also well known for having at least nine lives.

This, in many ways, is a similar experience of many successful innovators, who apply their capacity for imagination and curiosity to explore and navigate the edges of the system and wander into wonder into surprising states of boundarylessness.

In a LinkedIn blog, David Miller shares that:

“Leonardo Da Vinci taught us that curiosity is the basis for creativity and innovation. The more relentless our curiosity, the more likely we will be innovative and creative, and possibly one step closer to perfection. If we want to build innovative organizations, we should start by creating curious organizations which nurture and enhance the curiosity of people”.

  • Exploration and discovery

According to a post in Quora, “Why are cats so curious” the common saying that “curiosity killed the cat,” is not entirely accurate and states that:

“Cats are naturally curious animals, who also have a strong survival instinct that helps them avoid dangerous situations. Humans, on the other hand, have evolved to have a powerful curiosity that drives them to explore and discover new things”.

  • Imagination and curiosity

Suggesting that intentionally applying our imagination and curiosity, potentially enables us humans to become successful innovators, who can both survive and thrive, in today’s globally hyperconnected, constantly uncertain and continuously changing VUCA/BANI world, in ways that benefit all of humanity.

Where we have an opportunity to focus and harness our imagination and curiosity toward becoming successful innovators who cultivate and exploit their curiosity as a radical force.

Curiosity as a radical force for unforeseen bonuses

According to the author, Philip Ball in his book Curiosity – How Science Became Interested in Everything curiosity is a radical force, introduced in the mid-sixteenth century, fuelled within scientists and philosophers with a compulsion to understand why and how.

Enabling curiosity to become the engine that drives both knowledge and power, reduces ignorance and has become a source of “unforeseen practical bonuses” in all of the sciences, and innovations, since then.

Curiosity and creativity spur innovation

Curiosity is derived from the Latin “cura” which means to care. In a sense, this potentially makes successful innovators and innovative entrepreneurs “curators” of curiosities and strangeness.

Richard Freyman, in an article on curiosity, in the FS blog, states that curiosity has to:

“Do with people wondering what makes something do something. And then to discover, if you try to get answers, that they are related to each other – that thing that makes the wind make the waves, that the motion of water is like the motion of air is like the motion of sand. The fact that things have common features. It turns out more and more universal. What we are looking for is how everything works. What makes everything work”.

Someone who evokes and cares for what exists now and for what could exist possibly exists in the future by:

  • Demonstrating the mental acuity, fitness, and readiness to find the peculiar and the unusual in what surrounds them, and an ability to break up familiarities and seek new associations and unlikely connections,
  • Disregarding convention and traditional hierarchies, and allowing their minds to wander into spaces that are unknown, invisible, and intangible,
  • Harnessing their attention and patience to evoke, provoke, incubate, and generate deep and bold questions that they listen to, to result in profound* insights.

What can successful innovators learn from cats?

A recent blog post, Why Are Cats So Curious? The Science Behind Cat Curiosity, explains that a cat’s insatiable curiosity develops as a result of its survival instinct. Cats have mental acuity and fitness, because like successful innovators, they are:

  • Incredibly intelligent, and have the ability to learn from experience and remember it for years.
  • Opportunistic creatures, and are always on the lookout for a chance to explore their environments.
  • Attentive and observant, and have a heightened sense of awareness and constantly observe their surroundings, and listen deeply, to attend to, and discover any new, or missing objects or movements in their environment.
  • Always on the move, and are driven by their need for constant exploration and mental stimulation.
  • Protective in investigating any potential threats to their own and others close to them.

How to cultivate your curiosity like Leonardo De Vinci

The creative brain balances intense focus with relaxed states like daydreaming and the time and space for mind wondering and wandering. Doing this activates both our imagination and curiosity and guides any problem-solving efforts with emergent, divergent, and convergent breakthrough ideas and illuminating insights.

  1. Active minds, and are always asking powerful questions and searching for answers in their minds, through mind wandering and mind wondering in expectation and anticipation of new ideas and increased knowledge related to their questions.

They are grounded, mindful, and attentive in observing and recognizing ideas when they emerge.

Be a successful innovator like Da Vinci ask bold and difficult questions, listen deeply, and use the answers to develop your knowledge, and to inform your creative ideas for invention and innovation:

  • How can I see this situation with fresh eyes?
  1. Open minds, and come from not knowing, are always searching, sensing, and discovering new worlds and possibilities that are normally not visible, in that they are often hidden behind or below the surface of normal life.

They are open to sensing, perceiving, and illuminating possibilities to crystalize new ideas.

Be a successful innovator, like Da Vinci, and keep notebooks and a daily journal by retreating, reflecting, and recording your time mind wandering and wondering in your search for insights and answers to things you don’t yet understand.

  • What might I be assuming about……?
  1. Flexibility, adaptability, provocation and playfulness, and challenging routines, seek excitement, new adventures, and a variety of things that attract attention, increase knowledge and play, and search for a more meaningful life.

They seek learning as a fun way of expanding and applying both knowledge and imagination, as a mechanism for co-creating ideas, staying relevant, and being informed and innovating in ways that illuminate people’s hearts and minds towards effecting positive change.

Be a successful innovator, like Da Vinci and ask provocative and disruptive questions, such as: “Why do shells exist on top of mountains, why is lightning visible immediately, but the sound of thunder takes longer to travel? How does a bird sustain itself up in the air”?

  • What am I missing? What matters most?

Increasing our knowledge for the benefit of humanity

Like cats, and like Albert Einstein, we can apply our imagination and curiosity and become successful innovators who explore and navigate the edges of the system, wander into wonder and surprising states of boundarylessness, in ways that benefit all of humanity, and make cultivating and harness your imagination and curiosity a daily habit:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.” – Life Magazine 1955

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting October 3, 2023.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context. Find out more about our products and tools.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Imagination versus Knowledge

Is imagination really more important?

Imagination versus Knowledge

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Is imagination really more important than knowledge? How does imagination link to catalyzing collective innovation and unleashing corporate vitality?

When I did my research, I discovered that the answer is actually paradoxical!

Albert Einstein famously said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

Why is the answer so paradoxical?

According to a well-researched and scientific article “Einstein’s most famous quote is totally misunderstood” in BIGTHINK magazine, the author suggests that he’s really doing is encouraging people to look beyond the current, conservative frontiers of what we know and into the realm of what we’re compelled to explore next.

He describes that imagination, in Einstein’s mind, is shorthand for a thought experiment: to simulate the consequences of a theory in a regime that’s yet to be tested, where the imaginative predictions were all well-quantified far in advance of the observations/experiments.

  • Both knowledge and imagination

This means that for your imagination to take you to worthwhile places, you also need a strong foundation of knowledge of the subject to build your theory or idea.

This makes it a “both/and” paradox.

This means that you need both a deep knowledge of the subject or problem and a capacity to create, evolve and exploit mental models of things or situations that are often counterintuitive and counterfactual and don’t yet exist.

Doing this enables you to generate new lines of feeling and thinking, and to connect fields, problems, and ideas that others find unrelated. To ultimately inspire, and result in collective innovation.

How does this relate to innovation?

Most of us are already aware that companies increasingly need to innovate — across strategies, operations, offerings, and business models. Especially when business environments are experiencing a range of global and local crises, accelerating change and ongoing, relentless instability and uncertainty. Where many have become survival focused, and adopt a short-term reactive lens in attempts to restore “normality” and arrest a decline in long-term growth rates and competitiveness.

As well as arrest a serious decline in their corporate vitality.  Which is crucial for long-term success, growth, and sustainability. Yet some companies are unaware that imagination is upstream of innovation. Sadly lack the focus towards entering this critical realm and leveraging it to stimulate a capacity for collective innovation which is needed for corporate vitality to thrive.

Corporate vitality enables organizations to thrive

An organizational culture that embraces corporate vitality enables them to thrive, by knowing how to shape visionary strategies in the imagination age that enables it to:

  • Rebound and reinvent themselves, under pressure.
  • Ignite people’s imagination to co-create ideas.
  • Collaborate to accelerate collective innovation.
  • Deliver and accelerate growth in a VUCA/BANI.

Yet, according to research by the BCG Hendersen Institute in an article “Competing on Imagination”

“Big businesses often struggle to make use of imagination. They may try to make it a predictable process, and end up with routine and incrementalism. Or they may treat it like a magical power, celebrated in tales of great innovators, in the hope that good ideas will appear as needed. As companies grow, it becomes harder to be imaginative. Larger companies tend to focus on exploiting what they know and what originally gave them scale”.

What else inhibits the development of corporate vitality?

The BCG research also reveals that most companies don’t yet know how to ignite people’s imagination. Which is required to co-create ideas and collaborate.

Often because they usually lack the motivation, rigor, and knowledge required to:

  • Clarify, ignite, and activate imagination: what it means and how it works at either an individual or collective level.

Which restricts an ability to develop the capacity required to deviate from the norm and emerge creative insights and breakthroughs, invent, and innovate on a scale.

  • Strategically and systematically improve the individual and collective capacity to imagine: which keeps them stuck within their own spheres, and focuses on averages rather than on exceptions.

This also restricts individual and collective investment in creating free time and space for daydreaming, mind wandering, and meandering into the unknown.

  • Cultivate individual and collective imaginative capacity through social transmissions: that evoke new questions and provocative ideas.

Which keeps them restricted to the confines of their own, or current mental models, rigid role parameters, and focus on metrics and conventional short-term siloed approaches.

Ultimately inhibiting our capacity to alter our cognitive habits, allowing our minds to make new associations, develop, and experiment with new ideas.  That forms the foundations for cultivating a culture that catalyzes collective innovation and unleashes corporate vitality.

Taking a neurological approach

Research presented by Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Dr Martin Seligman, in their recent book Tomorrow Mind enables us to take a neurological approach towards igniting people’s imagination – to arouse our curiosity and co-create ideas, that result in collective innovation.

  • Default Mode Network (DMN)

Stating that when we allow our minds to wander and daydream, our brain doesn’t just “power down.” Instead it “switches to a new mode of thinking, one so vital that it is our default – or the activity our brains jump to in every free moment” which specializes in two processes: imagining and planning.

This is known as our Default Mode Network (DMN). Which activates when we let our minds wander or drift into a daydream, to create spontaneous oscillations that allow us to observe novel thought streams and extract new patterns, generalizations, interpretations, and insights.

It is the place our best ideas come from.

  • Discovering what does not yet exist

In this realm, our minds break the bonds of space and time, blending memory and fantasy, creating an eternal cycle that dances between exploitation and exploration.

Allowing us to exploit our “knowns” and explore new possibilities by imagining scenes that differ radically from the actual past and the actual present, allowing us to discover and learn deeply about what does not yet exist.

What does this mean to organizations, leaders, and coaches?

  • Power of provocation

ImagineNation™ has pioneered innovation coaching by presenting The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, globally online for more than 10 years.  To teach the traits, mindsets, behaviors, and skills to ignite people’s imagination, based on our experience that consciousness, imagination, and curiosity are the precursors to both creativity and innovation.

Where consciousness contains the states and qualities of the mind, which is where our imagination is located, creativity is the process of bringing something new to the mind, and innovation is bringing the new to the world.

  • Being a disruptive provocateur

We teach participants to become “disruptive provocateurs” who know how to compassionately, creatively, and courageously create collective holding spaces.

That creates the permission, safe space, and trust for developing generative thinking processes that enable peoples to see and solve challenging problems that evoke and emerge new discoveries, and creative ideas and generate learning by:

  • Disrupting peoples’ habitual feelings and thought processes and comfort zones,
  • Co-creating the permission, safety, and trust to deviate and differ,
  • Space and time for elasticizing and stretching habitual thought processes.

Imagination can be provocative because it arouses scenes that differ radically from the actual past and the actual present. This allows us to discover and learn deeply about what does not yet exist. It enables us to focus on being intentional, in taking intelligent and right actions to solve the problem differently and develop corporate vitality.

  • Power of prospection

Developing the co-creative frequencies requires us to alter our cognitive habits, allowing our minds to make new associations, develop, and experiment with new ideas, and cultivate a culture that embraces corporate vitality. This involves the capacity to imagine alternate futures, and developing prospection skills – “the ability within each of us to think about the future and envision what’s possible.”

According to USA-based leading global coaching platform BetterUps’ Report on the Future Minded Leader:

“Imagining ourselves into alternate futures and evaluating them as a way to make decisions and guide present action is unique”.

These occupy at least one-quarter of our waking thoughts, and when it comes to imagining the future, we are at once both our most optimistic and pessimistic selves, which is, in essence, also contradictory. Because we can both project optimism about what is to come and make risk-averse decisions to build the foundations for envisioning a range of desirable and alternate futures.

  • Sparking corporate vitality

Building an “imagination machine” – an organization where the imagination of individuals work together is fully supported intentionally and by design involves creating space for our Default Mode Networks (DMN) to activate and lay the foundations for collective innovation by:

  • Creating space and time for reflection enables people to regain control of their attention and minds, and to allow spontaneous, generative mind wandering – by engaging in simple activities like walking, reading, bathing, exercising, and free writing.
  • Making it safe and permissible to regularly expose people to the unfamiliar and the unknown – by building their discomfort resilience, provoking and elasticizing their core and habitual thinking processes.
  • Coaching, teaching, and training people to view their worlds systemically, to wander and daydream at the edges of the social fields – to sense, perceive and emerge anomalies, and counterintuitive and counterfactual patterns and trends.
  • Coaching, teaching, and training people to safely disrupt and challenge their habitual mental models – by creating mindset flips and paradigm shifts, developing their curiosity, and enhancing their cognitive diversity and agility.
  • Introducing more playfulness into the working environment – by improvising, exploring, introducing business simulations, and learning events, as well as gamification, to generate insights, that saturate us with ideas that we can then incubate.

Imagination, collective innovation, and corporate vitality

When we combine a rigorous approach to expanding and applying both our knowledge and our imagination, we can co-create ideas, and innovate in ways that illuminate people’s hearts and minds.

By altering and elasticizing our cognitive habits, allowing our minds to make new associations and unlikely connections, we can develop, and experiment with new ideas, and cultivate a culture that leverages and scales collective innovation that unleashes real corporate vitality.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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The Paradox of Innovation Leadership

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Most of us are aware that both the organizational leadership and cultural paradigms have shifted, due to the accelerating demands of the current global VUCA/BANI operating environment. Requiring us to make sense of and navigate the paradoxical nature of innovation leadership. By developing multiple perspectives to re-think how to respond positively and creatively to the high levels of tension and range of massive disruptions we collectively face in our current high-speed, constantly changing, global operating environments.

According to Otto Scharmer in a recent article for Resilience Magazine, we are facing a looming paradox – “we know almost everything that is necessary to prevent civilizational collapse – we have most of the knowledge, most of the technologies, and all the financial means necessary to turn things around – and yet we are not doing it”.

To truly differentiate ourselves and do the “right things” as adaptive and agile 21st-century leaders, and coaches, it’s crucial to learn the “soft skills” required to cultivate true, and relevant multiple perspectives. To better serve people and unlock and mobilize their collective genius to co-create a future that is regenerative, peaceful, and just, for all of humanity.

What is a paradox?

In a White Paper – Managing Paradox, Blending East and West Philosophies to Unlock Its Advantages and Opportunities from the Center for Creative Leadership, authors Jean Brittain Leslie, Peter Ping Li, and Sophia Zhao, use the term “paradox as a general term to describe the tensions individuals face due to the coexistence of conflicting demands”.

That a paradox can also be described as tensions, dilemmas, conundrums, polarities, competing values, and contradictions, and have these principles in common:

  • It is often difficult to see the presence of paradoxes in organizational life and in a VUCA and BANI world.
  • They are not problems that can be solved, as they are often unsolvable.
  • They are of cyclical or recurring nature.
  • They can polarize individuals into groups.
  • They are potentially positive when managed.
  • Managing paradox involves developing a mindset (and perspective) beyond “either/or” logic (A is either B or not B).

Polarity is the preferred term used in long-time practitioner Barry Johnson’s work. Duality is also used, referring to the yin-yang perspective on a paradox – a pair of opposite elements that can be both partially conflicting and partially complementary.

Mastering the paradoxical nature of innovation leadership requires developing the soft skills to hold two trains of competing or complementary thoughts, or perspectives, simultaneously. This enables innovation leaders to connect to, explore, navigate, and discover new territories to sense possibilities, seize opportunities, and simultaneously solve complex systems and challenging problems differently – in ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives they appreciate and cherish.

Why is it important to navigate a paradox?

Innovation leadership involves cultivating a paradoxical mindset that enables us to work outside of the “either/or” binary and logical perspective and work within the “both/and” non-logical and multiple perspectives, by knowing how to see both the:

  • Perspectives clearly,
  • Positive and negative consequences of each perspective,
  • Interrelationship and interdependence between each perspective.

Shifting perspectives – Taking a skills-based approach

A recent MIT Sloane article “Taking a skills-based approach to culture change” reinforces how important it is to support digital, cultural, and other transformation initiatives by developing people’s “soft skills”, through innovation leadership learning initiatives, specifically to develop the thinking skills required to hold multiple perspectives:

 “Unlike most types of culture initiatives, a skills-based approach can more effectively infuse new culture components into scale-ups and international incumbents alike. This approach is particularly effective for developing what many refer to as soft skills, such as perspective-taking. This ability to step outside one’s own perspective to understand another person’s point of view, motivations, and emotions helps build a psychologically safe environment in which people dare to share ideas and unfiltered information”.

  • Developing perspective-taking skills is fundamental to mastering the paradoxical nature of innovation leadership. It enables leaders and coaches to connect to, explore, navigate, and discover new territories to catalyze and harness people’s collective genius and shift perspectives differently.
  • Developing the 21st-century leadership superpowers necessary to reimagine, reinvent, design, and deliver innovative solutions to complex and challenging problems.

Making the shift – Taking the first steps

Barry Johnson’s work states that:

“Managing paradox involves moving from focusing on one pole as the problem and the other as the solution (either/or thinking) to valuing both poles (both/and thinking)”.

This is supported by a recent article “The Six Paradoxes of Leadership” by PWC:

 “Paradoxes are not new to leaders, but they are becoming have become increasingly important for leaders to navigate”.

Drafting six key questions for leaders and coaches to consider by hitting their “pause buttons” and directing their focus and attention:

 “The most urgent in today’s context and will remain important in the future. The paradoxes should be considered as a system; they impact each other and all need to be balanced simultaneously. To truly differentiate yourself as a leader, learning how to comfortably inhabit both elements of each paradox will be critical to your success.”

These multiple perspective-shifting questions include:

  1. How might you, as both a leader (and coach) learn how to navigate a world that is increasingly both global and local?
  2. How might you, as both a leader (and coach), learn how to navigate both the politics of getting things to happen and retain your character and integrity?
  3. How might you, as both a leader (and coach) develop the confidence to act in an uncertain (and BANI) world and the humility and vulnerability to recognize when you are wrong?
  4. How might you, as both a leader (and coach) learn how to execute effectively whilst also being both tactical and strategic?
  5. How might you, as both a leader (and coach) become increasingly tech-savvy and remember that organizations are run by people, for people?
  6. How might you, as both a leader (and coach) apply the learnings and successes of the past to help guide and direct you in the future?

Making the shift – Learning the innovation leadership fundamentals

At ImagineNation™  we have accredited more than 100 leaders and coaches globally as professionally certified coaches for innovation in our global bespoke online coaching and learning products and programs has validated three key poles innovation leadership requires.

Which is to know how to effectively move from focusing on one pole as the problem and the other as the solution (either/or thinking) to valuing both poles (both/and thinking) and developing multiple perspectives:

  • Both Push and Pull: noticing when people are neurologically stuck in a flight/fight/freeze mode and are reticent and unable to make the shift toward a desired future state. Leaders and coaches can safely push people towards what is urgent and “necessary” to change to survive, and simultaneously pull them towards both the benefits, rewards, and desirability of the future state and towards mobilizing them towards energetically engaging and enrolling in it.
  • Both Strategic and Tactical: noticing when people are so busy that they “can’t see the forest for the trees”, or are caught up and lost in tasks, and activities involved in getting things done, quickly, and often thoughtlessly. Leaders and coaches can focus on both what they are trying to achieve, and why they are trying to achieve, it whilst simultaneously engaging people in completing the task and observing and considering it strategically and systemically.
  • Both In the Box and Out of the Box: noticing what are peoples’ core operating systems, and being present to what is true and real for them, without judgment and with detachment. Leaders and coaches can focus both on “what is” the person’s perspective, situation, and current reality, whilst simultaneously evoking, provoking, and cultivating “what could be possible” and eliciting unconventional multiple perspectives that catalyze creative thinking differently strategies.

Grappling with the future is paradoxical

Today’s strategic landscape is like nothing we have ever seen before, which makes innovation leadership and innovation coaching skills more important than ever.

To re-think for a new age, how to courageously confront and solve serious dilemmas and complex problems, how to adapt to complex systems, be creative in transforming time, people, and financial investments in ways that drive out complacency and build change readiness.

To then deliver deep and continuous change and learning to equip and empower innovation leadership to develop the multiple perspectives required to deliver valuable and tangible results, whilst simultaneously opening new pathways to a future that is regenerative, peaceful, and just for all of humanity.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Women Start-up Entrepreneurs Battle Against Gender Stereotypes and Ageism

Women Start-up Entrepreneurs Battle Against Gender Stereotypes and Ageism

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been thirty-five years since I exited my life as a top retail corporate executive, and become a serial female entrepreneur. It’s been an awesome roller-coaster ride, which includes ten years as one of many adventurous, brave, global women start-up entrepreneurs. Its also been a very challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling learning journey, where I have been both privileged and humbled to have impacted thousands of men and women positively, and globally through my consulting, learning, mentoring, and coaching practice.

Yet, I can’t help wondering how my journey could have been significantly less challenging, and possibly even more profoundly impactful, had gender stereotypes and later, ageism not been so pervasive. Where the “Gender Stereotypes and Their Impact on Women Entrepreneurs” by the Cherie Blair Foundation qualify this further by providing evidence of gender stereotyping impacting women’s journeys to and through entrepreneurship. Which then affects their “aspirations, sources of support, opportunities, access to resources, perceptions, and the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem”.

What is the impact of gender stereotypes on women start-up entrepreneurs?

Some of the key findings revealed by this report include:

  • 70% of women entrepreneurs surveyed said that gender stereotypes have negatively affected their work as an entrepreneur.
  • More than six in ten of those surveyed (61%) believe that gender stereotypes impact their business growth and almost half (49%) say they affect profitability.
  • Stereotypes start early, shape women’s journeys to entrepreneurship, and can have a lasting impact on aspirations, confidence, and behavior.
  • Over half of the women entrepreneurs surveyed (56%) said that social approval or disapproval of different careers played a role in their choice of career.
  • The majority of women entrepreneurs surveyed (70%) also reported knowing a woman entrepreneur when they were children, suggesting the powerful influence of role models on children and young women.

What is the impact of gender stereotyping on women start-up entrepreneurs raising venture capital?

When I attended a recent webinar “Coaching for Success – How Can Investors Support Start-up Founders” held by EMCC Asia Pacific I checked out the percentage of women start-up entrepreneurs who had actually received venture capitalist’s funds. I was shocked, yet not surprised to see TechCrunch report that in the US “women-founded start-ups raised 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022, a drop from 2021.”

Here in Australia, as reported by the Women’s Agenda just 3%  of total VC capital went to all-women-founded start-ups in 2022, while just 10 percent went to those with at least one woman in their co-founding teams. This report also reveals that “83 percent of women believe their gender has impacted their ability to raise external capital, compared with 14 percent of men”.

What is the impact of gender stereotyping on women start-up entrepreneurs’ ability to impact globally?

The new Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2021/2022 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report showed that “start-up rates for women dropped by 15% from 2019 to 2020, and held constant in 2021. Women also experienced sharper declines than men in their intentions to start a business within three years and overall start-up rates in 2020, but not in upper-middle income countries”. Where “Women represent two out of every five early-stage entrepreneurs”.

This means that almost half of the world’s potential entrepreneurs have been handicapped, and are still being restrained and held back from adding value to the quality of people’s lives and making the difference they want to, and can make in the world.

What are some of the key challenges women start-up entrepreneurs face?

Referring to my own personal experience with founding ImagineNation™ as an Israeli Australian start-up 10 years ago, I am able to share a range of key frustrations and challenges which confronted me. This was catalyzed by a recent article featured in Business News Daily which shares the range of core challenges and how other women start-up entrepreneurs might possibly choose to deal with, resolve and overcome them.

Hopefully, other women start-up entrepreneurs might find some inspiration, motivation, and encouragement to be steadfast in pursuing their dreams courageously, with a bit of healthy self-compassion to creatively execute their vision for a better world, from my story.

  1. Defying social expectations

As a relatively new arrival to the Israeli start-up scene, I was repeatedly told that as an “outsider” I could not know “how we do things around here” despite my 25 years of culture and change management consulting experience. I attended weekly start-up events in Tel Aviv, and often stood, as a lone woman, alongside diverse groups of young men, usually drinking beer and dressed in black. I also found that being older than the average start-up entrepreneur, despite my 25 years of experience in mentoring women in business, I also faced the dreaded “ageism bias” and as a result, I was largely ignored at many of these crucial networking events. Because in Israel “if you don’t network, you don’t work!”

I chose to detach from this, by refusing to conform to what appeared to be men’s ideas of what a start-up entrepreneur should look, be and act like. Instead, I chose to learn as much as I could from my range of experiences, enabling me to adapt, innovate and grow, as do many other women start-up entrepreneurs when faced with these challenges, to accelerate my innovation solution.

  1. Accessing funding

With no family or relatives locally, or the ability to get a financial guarantor, I had no access to source funds externally, despite meeting a number of local venture capitalists. Who, I noticed, tended to focus mostly on investing in a “quick win” or in growth-stage start-ups. When attending a government-sponsored meeting in Sydney, to qualify for an Australian Government Entrepreneurship Grant, I was confronted by a panel of three aggressive and oppositional male VC consultants who mercilessly tore my start-up invention and myself apart. Telling me it was not worth investing in and would be replicated by others within six months. To date, it still hasn’t been copied.

I eventually recovered my composure, confidence, and courage and made the decision to bootstrap, self-fund, and pay my own way forwards, which took longer, and yet was the best decision.

  1. Struggling to be taken seriously

Even when I applied my then 25 years of consulting, learning, and development knowledge, skills, and corporate experience to research, model, and replicate the “secret sauce” behind the Israeli start-up system, it was hard for me to be taken seriously. Finding that some people, in both Israel and Australia, found defensive ways to negate and minimize my 10-year immersion in an innovation culture when I was designing, iterating, pivoting, and marketing my unique innovation learning and coaching curriculum.

I focused on continuing to develop my self-efficacy, on finding my tribe, and on researching, and building a global reputation as a thought leader on the people side of innovation, by experimenting with blogging and presenting webinars.

  1. Owning your accomplishments

In the first 9 years, I presented more than 6 free innovation webinars, and 10 blog posts a year, generously sharing my IP and knowledge, without really recognizing and acknowledging the value of my own creative ideas and inventions. Whilst this helped me find my collaborators, build an ecosystem, and added to my reputation-building efforts, I gave away far too much without getting sound financial commitments from potential clients.

I now truly value and esteem my knowledge and IP at a deeper, and still share free webinars and 10 blog posts a year.  I now focus on only presenting 2 learning and coaching programs a year where I charge participants more than double, compared to what I initially charged.

  1. Building a support network

Interestingly, this has been very challenging, due to having lived in a patriarchal culture in Israel and a “boys club” and the “old boys’ network” here in Australia which permeates every level of our organizational culture and civil society. In my experience, I have also sadly discovered that the majority of women in the consulting, learning, and development sectors prefer to compete, rather than collaborate.

I find that I am still constantly challenged by people’s ageism bias, and manage this by mostly working globally, and online, mentoring and coaching both men and women who are seeking to fulfill their potential, adapt, innovate, and grow to effect positive change in their worlds.

I also focused on developing the “friendlies” included in my global Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams alumni and network, my Linked In tribe, and my International Coaching Federation (ICF) colleagues to draw upon, and support when needed.

  1. Balancing business and family life

Having recovered from a significant burnout experience more than 25 years ago, I have been able to achieve and sustain a reasonable work-life balance. By managing, developing, and leading my business effectively, being both self-disciplined, and methodical, and being curious and creative, even when my old habitual task holism threatens to take over.

It takes focused attention and deep intention, being passionately purposeful to ensure that I stay on track with doing the “one thing” I am creating, inventing, and innovating whilst on the roller-coaster ride.

  1. Coping with fear of failure

Self-doubt, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, risk adversity, and rejection are the key neurological perils confronting many women (and men) start-up entrepreneurs. This creates opportunities for women start-up entrepreneurs to learn how to bravely and boldly be, think and act differently in articulating their passionate purpose and achieving their vision in an uncertain and constantly changing world.

I experienced a number of significant failures, which deeply hurt me viscerally, emotionally, and cognitively, as well as resulted in serious financial losses.

I focussed on using these as “teachable moments” to learn how to take smart risks, manage my self-talk and not self-depreciate my inherent self-worth. To seek feedback and help when I froze as a result of my mistakes, losses, and failure, which ultimately enabled me to develop the deep courage, healthy self-compassion, and GRIT to stay in the start-up entrepreneurship game.

This enables me to role model, mentor, teach and coach other women start-up entrepreneurs, develop embodied presence, and be congruent in walking my talk.

How can you take action to eliminate gender (and age) stereotypes as a women start-up entrepreneur?

If we want to ensure that almost half of the world’s potential women start-up entrepreneurs are empowered, and enabled to add value to the quality of people’s lives and make the difference they want to, and can make in the world, make sure to take personal responsibility in:

  • Supporting women in their efforts to make a difference and contribute to the common good, despite age or gender differences, gives women start-up entrepreneurs greater chances of long-term growth and impactful success.
  • Eliminating from your locus of control and influence, any gender stereotyping and ageism biases.

We can then maximize the benefits gender and age differences and diversity bring, and collectively make the world a fairer, more inclusive, equitable, and balanced place in all domains that contribute to the common good, and a planet that balances and includes all people equally, with profits.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starts October 3, 2023. It can be customised as a bespoke corporate learning program.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context. Find out more about our products and tools.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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A Tipping Point for Organizational Culture

A Tipping Point for Organizational Culture

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Like millions of others globally, I watched with fascination, the sensational and striking spectacle of the ceremony, significant symbolism, spectacular artifacts, and rituals at the recent King of England’s majestic coronation. At the same time, I allowed my mind to wander and wondered how this visually stunning and unrivaled British ceremony would impact the nations and realms’ culture and leadership, today and in the future, wondering if, indeed, it is at a cultural tipping point.

Where it is believed, by some, that the coronation made “two statements of great importance for today’s world about the place of religion in public life and the importance and meaning of the nation”. Acknowledging that such a monumental and marvelous event is indicative of a cultural tipping point, not only for the people it embraces but also for organizations, nations, and realms as a whole, to search for what is meaningful and valued by its people.

Making the connection

My mind wandered and made some obvious connections between the core and common elements that embody both organizational, and national cultural realms – the values, beliefs, assumptions, and mindsets that drive key behaviors and deliver the common implicit messages. As well as the disciplined systems and processes that deliver the results, the rituals that are enacted, and finally, the artifacts whose symbols represent what the culture values.

Maintaining relevance and engagement 

Like the monarchy, what do organizations need to do to maintain relevance and engagement to thrive in unstable and uncertain times, especially when their existence and legacies are being questioned and evaluated by the people they serve?

At a pivotal time when new sets of global, societal, and organizational demands are being made, largely as a result of the fourth industrial revolution, encompassing the convergence of exponential technologies impacting all of us globally.

At the same time, we are all still affected by the consequences of the global pandemic-induced lockdowns, impacting every fabric of our social and civic structures in our world today.

A case study for leveraging cultural tipping points differently 

The coronation of King Charles III provides us with a great case study of an outstanding and remarkable display of English cultural attributes.

This enables us to ask some serious questions about how national and organizational cultures and leadership in times of exponential change, like today, might thrive with uncertainty and co-create solutions to some of the most complex global challenges, by leveraging the range of cultural tipping points differently.

A range of organizational cultural tipping points

We are in effect, experiencing globally a range of cultural tipping points:

  1. At the macro level, according to a recent article here in Australia, where King Charles still resides as our head of state, the local SMH states that this realm is in a state of flux:

“The King is head of state in 15 countries. More than half of the so-called “realm states” are in the Caribbean and most of them are bailing out. Barbados two years ago, Jamaica probably next year. Belize, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are planning their exit as well”.

  1. At the micro level, according to Mc Kinsey & Co, in a recent article “New Leadership for a new era of thriving organizations” stated that organizations and leadership are also in a state of flux:

“Organizations such as Allianz, Haier, Microsoft, and Nucor are transforming their industries with a new organizational approach that seeks to be open, fluid, and adaptable; unleashes the collective energy, passion, and capabilities of its people; reimagines strategy; and focuses on delivering greater value to all stakeholders”.

“Their cultures support a more open, collaborative, and emergent way of working. And the shift to this new kind of model changes the way businesspeople must lead”.

Going back to culture and leadership fundamentals

Because culture and leadership are, according to Edgar H. Schein “two sides of the same coin and cannot understand one without the other” we have to be in charge and focused to intentionally, constructively, and creatively manage their interdependence.

He also states that culture matters because it is a “powerful, tacit, and often unconscious set of forces that determine both our individual and collective behaviors, ways of perceiving, thought patterns, and values”.

If we do not intentionally and strategically take charge, focus, and leverage these forces, we will simply always be at the effect of them, as they take us down the path of least resistance, remain implicit, and will not deliver the results we want and need in a disruptive world.

Going back to culture and leadership fundamentals

Because culture and leadership are, according to Edgar H. Schein “two sides of the same coin and cannot understand one without the other” we have to be in charge and focused to intentionally, constructively, and creatively manage their interdependence.

He also states that culture matters because it is a “powerful, tacit, and often unconscious set of forces that determine both our individual and collective behaviors, ways of perceiving, thought patterns, and values”.

If we do not intentionally and strategically take charge, focus, and leverage these forces, we will simply always be at the effect of them, as they take us down the path of least resistance, remain implicit, and will not deliver the results we want and need in a disruptive world.

Sharing the key messages

My mind then wandered and considered what might be the key messages being communicated by this incredible series of marvelous events, and wondered how relevant and engaging they might be to people today:

  • A coronation signals the conferment of God’s grace upon a ruler,
  • A coronation appoints the king as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England,
  • A coronation is a joyous and celebratory event.

Back to the SMH “The people got what they wanted. The cheers in the Mall, the boulevard built for the adoration of royalty, were real, even if the masses were down on those for the Queen’s Jubilee.”

Impacting the future

It remains to be seen if this powerful, majestic, memorable, and significant once-in-a-lifetime ceremonial event will ultimately help unify or divide the English realm. Which it seems, is facing its own range of unique challenges and a controversial cultural tipping point, ultimately and seriously impacting its future viability.

Back to the SMH “But Charles’s big show might be his last great day. The last dance of a wheeling, brilliant circus that has entertained and beguiled but which soon enough, in its distant realms, will stutter and shrink and reel no more.”

Why does this matter?

This matters today because we are individually, and collectively at a range of social, civic, and organizational cultural tipping points.

Where our organization and leaders are also dancing many of our “last dances”, and “stutter and shrink and reel nor more” because, according to some, we are not strategically focussed on leveraging the culture and leadership basics:

  • Implicitly clarifying values that focus on delivering value that improves the quality of people’s lives that they appreciate and cherish and explicitly making them an active part of corporate life.
  • Ensuring that leaders role model and enact behaviors that demonstrate the values in action, where people are accountable and rewarded by rigorous systems and supportive disciplined, and agile processes.
  • Co-creating powerful sets of rituals, symbols, and artifacts, aligned to the values, that deliver the “new architectures” to create permission, safety, and trust that drive collaborationexperimentation, innovation, inclusion, and sustainability.
  • Communicating engaging and inclusive messages that resonate creativity, respect, and appreciation for people, profit, and the planet.

Shifting the organizational cultural tipping points

It’s time to transform leadership to transform organizations, in ways that are self-aware and inspiring, meaningful and purposeful, equitable and sustainable, with increasing speed, resilience, and efficiency to guide organizational cultures and leadership that:

  • Helps people navigate and balance in-person and remote work, be mentally healthy and well, and make the way for both applied AI and human skills development.
  • Develops new rules for attracting and retaining people, close the capability chasm and walk the talent tightropes to better equip, empower and harness people’s harness collective intelligence to make both the organization and the world better places.
  • Creates, invents, and innovates new ways of thinking, and acting that ultimately shift the range of cultural tipping points to meet new sets of global, societal, and organizational demands and challenges emerging in the 21st century, and lets go of what is no longer relevant to better serve humanity as a whole.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, which can be customised as a bespoke corporate learning program.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context. Find out more about our products and tools.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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A Different Approach to Well-being, Resilience and Creativity

A Different Approach to Well-being, Resilience and Creativity

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our previous blogs, we outlined the need, in our chaotic world of unknowns, to reclaim our focus and attention and take charge of our own minds. By reclaiming these, and enhancing self-awareness we have a deeper understanding of the sources of our anxiety and distractions.  How to self-manage and self-regulate them through developing deliberate calm. To effectively create consciousness, and a safe space that potentially transforms the power of our minds and hearts to connect with others, cultivate well-being, harness people’s collective genius, and generate our resilience, through thinking about creativity differently.

Transforming fear and alarm

This mobilizes the energy our fears, anxiety, and alarm provide to transform the power of our minds and develop physical and psychological well-being. We can then apply proven neuroscience principles and coaching practices to cultivate resilience and think about creativity differently.

Transforming our fears and alarm in this way increases our resilience in responding to events in real-time, anticipating future events, and processing learning’s post events. It also enhances our well-being and creativity to enable us to be courageous and compassionate when inventing and innovating in an uncertain and constantly changing environment.

The potential outcomes include people experiencing more positive emotions, increased engagement at work, increased development of positive relationships, and more meaningful and purposeful work. These help us be adaptive, and transform the power of our hearts and minds to be creative, accomplish, learn, adapt, grow, and innovate through disruption.

Well-being is in crisis

In the latest report, by Udemy on “Workplace Learning Trends” they compare data collected from Australian workers (human capital) in early September 2022 with previous surveys in November 2019, August 2020, and May 2021.

They discovered three surprising truths about well-being, including:

  • Workers’ resilience levels are waning. More than two-thirds of workers (68.5%) felt like they were burning out at work. This is impacting workers’ levels of performance, job satisfaction, and commitment.
  • There is a crisis for meaningful work Only 39.1% of workers said their work was valuable and worthwhile, versus 47% in 2021, and 52.9% in 2020.
  • Many workplaces are wasting their well-being Workplaces have too much invested in EAP services (which are proving only slightly more effective than doing nothing) and not enough in more effective tools that workers are more comfortable accessing like Wellbeing Artificial Intelligence Bots, Wellbeing Apps, Wellbeing Workshops and Wellbeing Coaching.

This reinforces the need to think and act differently when we approach cultivating well-being, resilience, and creativity to better realize our human potential and human skills in times when they are our most valuable assets and needed the most and are crucial to future success!

Developing deliberate calm

“Deliberate calm” involves developing a practice of adaptive, intentional choices that anyone can develop by embracing what was once regarded as “soft” stuff: self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness to learn proactively and lead dynamically amid the most uncertain circumstances, where according to Aaron De Smet, the co-author of “Deliberate Calm: How to Learn and Lead in a Volatile World”:

“Why do we say “deliberate”? Because if you’re not deliberate about it you will probably freak out. I need to be very deliberate in knowing that I’m in a chaotic situation, knowing the stakes are high, knowing there’s a lot of uncertainty, and then deliberately calming myself down and taking stock”.

Deliberate calm looks at the inner world, the outer world, the context, and the dynamic between those and starts by slowing down to create a safe space for people to enjoy the benefits of deliberate calm.  This helps activate, focus, and unleash our creative brains and facilitates thinking about creativity differently.

Hitting our pause buttons

Creating deliberate calm is one of the most critically urgent human skill sets to develop.

It involves creating for ourselves and co-creating, with others, more normalized states of equilibrium and calmness. This enables us to cultivate our physical and psychological well-being, develop resilience and unleash creativity differently by accessing our collective intelligence, skills, and experience through applying proven neuroscience principles and coaching practices.

It starts with initiating a habit of pausing long enough to take deep breaths, retreat, reflect, and access these inner parts of ourselves; including noticing our emotions, identifying our triggers, observing our physical reactions to normalize our equilibrium, coherence, and calmness, and focusing on thinking about creativity differently.

Re-appraising our situation

We can then reappraise what is really going on, by identifying what our emotions are telling us, sustaining the most resourceful emotions and letting negative ones go, and finally, by identifying the key options for taking positive actions. Ultimately take smarter risks, make smarter decisions, and take more intelligent actions that cultivate our well-being, develop our resilience, unleash creativity differently, and satisfy our desire for meaning, purpose, and accomplishment.

As evidenced by our global coaching practice, this personally empowering and energizing activity focuses our attention, minds, and hearts on what really matters, and on what we can truly influence and control in a world of unknowns, and engages people deeply in doing the value-adding, productive and meaningful work that delivers it.

Three new deliberate calming practices to access and unleash our creative brains

  • Being grounded: involves being fully embodied, whole, centered, and balanced in ourselves and our relationships, we are in complete control of our mental, physical, and emotional selves, and are not easily influenced or shaken by other ideas or individuals.
  • Our unconscious mind, through our brains’ default mode network (DMN), is freed to wander, and be spontaneous in emerging and generating novel and surprising ideas and patterns.

This is usually achieved by regularly practicing a range of very simple activities that help us get centered, including removing any distractions (mobile phones), deep breathing (box breathing), and slow grounding repetitive exercises such as Feldenkrais.

  • Being mindful: involves focusing our conscious attention on the present moment, our physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions in an accepting, nonjudgmental, and discerning way. It involves training our unconscious minds to notice, focus and pay deep attention to what is really going on, for ourselves, for others, and in the system, we are operating within.
  • Our conscious minds are now provided with the focus necessary for guided problem-solving and for identifying the actions required to deliver the desired outcomes.

This is usually achieved by simple activities, by directing your focus when walking during the day (in nature without headsets), yoga, swimming, golf, tennis, listening to music, cooking, or by simple mindful meditation practices.

  • Being conscious: involves being in the present moment, or fully in the “here and now,” and means that we are grounded, fully aware, and mindful of what is happening at every moment because we are now consciously aware and able to shift our minds and generate creative thinking strategies.
  • Our conscious minds are able to exploit possibilities and make sense of the ideas that surface in the mind-wandering phase, by accessing the salience network, which then recruits the executive control networks, in our brains to refine and develop an idea. We can then exploit the range of creative ideas to make unexpected connections and to emerge, diverge and converge novel ideas for thinking about creativity differently, as well as for smart risk-taking, decision-making, and innovative problem-solving.

Empowering people to envision and transform

Creating a safe space, to transform the power of our minds and hearts to connect with others cultivates our well-being, harnesses peoples’ collective genius, generates resilience, and unleashes creativity by thinking about creativity differently.

This manifests as an opportunity to empower people to plan and make the nudges necessary to kickstart change, envision and plan for the future of unknowns.

Rather than unintentionally colluding with their unconscious panicking and retreating from the fears, anxiety, and risks currently emerging in an uncertain world full of disruption and crises.

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Friday, May 12, 2023.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique innovation context.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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