Category Archives: Creativity

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.

Image Credit: Pexels

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How Tribalism Can Kill Innovation

How Tribalism Can Kill Innovation

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

While history tends to single out individuals, the truth is that when you look behind the story of any heroic leader, what you find is a network of loyal supporters, active collaborators and outside facilitators that are behind any great achievement. Nobody accomplishes anything significant alone.

That’s probably why it’s become fashionable for pundits to encourage us to “find our tribe,” a network of like-minded people who share your ambitions. Don’t listen to them. The truth is that great things are achieved not by taking comfort from your tribe, but from going beyond it and reaching out to those who aren’t of like mind.

The problem with focusing too much on your tribe is that those people tend to think the same way you do. They frequent the same places, watch the same TED talks and read the same blogs. That may be great for giving you some comfort and confidence, but it also acts as an echo chamber that will reinforce flawed assumptions and lead you down a false path.

The Problem With Closed Networks

In 2005, a team of researchers decided to study why some Broadway plays become hits and others flop. They looked at all the usual factors, such as production budget, marketing budget and the track record of the director, but what they found was that what was most important factor was the informal networks of relationships among the cast and crew.

If no one had ever worked together before, both financial and creative results tended to be poor. However, if the networks among the cast and crew became too dense—for all intents and purposes, becoming a tribe—performance also suffered. It was the teams that had elements of both, strong ties and new blood, that had the greatest success.

The same effect has been found elsewhere. In studies of star engineers at Bell Labs, the German automotive industry and currency traders it has been shown that tightly clustered groups, combined with long range “weak ties” that allow information to flow freely among disparate clusters of activity, consistently outperform close networks of likeminded people.

Just as we need to invest in building strong, trustful relationships, we also need to go beyond our comfort zone and seek out new connections. It’s far too easy to hide in a tribe.

The Discomfort of Diversity

While studies show that closed networks lead to worse performance, it has long been established that diversity improves performance. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that diverse groups can solve problems better than a more homogeneous team of greater objective ability. Another study that simulated markets showed that ethnic diversity deflated asset bubbles.

While the studies noted above merely simulate diversity in a controlled setting, there is also evidence from the real world that diversity produces better outcomes. A McKinsey report that covered 366 public companies in a variety of countries and industries found that those which were more ethnically and gender diverse performed significantly better than others.

Yet diversity also has a downside. In Political Tribes, Yale Professor Amy Chua notes that we are hardwired to be suspicious of others. For example, in a study where young children were randomly assigned to red or blue groups, they liked pictures of other kids who wore t-shirts that reflected their own group better. A study of adults had similar findings.

So you can see the attraction of tribes. We feel uncomfortable with people who we perceive as different. Surrounding ourselves with people who see things the way we do, on the other hand, makes us feel confident and powerful.

Mixing With The Heathens

Growing up in Iowa in the 1930s, Everett Rogers, noticed something strange in his father’s behavior. Although his father loved electrical gadgets, he was hesitant to adopt hybrid seed corn, even though it had higher yields. In fact, his father only made the switch after he saw his neighbor’s hybrid crop thrive during a drought in 1936.

This became the inspiration for Rogers’ now-familiar diffusion of innovations theory, in which an idea first gets popular with a group of early adopters and then only later spreads to other people. Geoffrey Moore later pointed out that most innovations fail because they never cross the chasm from the early adopters to the mainstream.

A study done by researchers at Kellogg and Stanford explains why. They put together groups of college students to solve a murder mystery. The groups made up of students from the same sorority or fraternity felt more confident and successful, even though they performed worse on the task than integrated groups that experienced more conflict, uncertainty and doubt.

That’s the problem with staying in your tribe. Sure, it feels great to have your ideas supported and reinforced by people you like and respect, but they are doing so because they already believe the same things that you do. To actually achieve something worthwhile, however, you have to go beyond preaching to the choir and start mixing with the heathens.

Do You Want To Make A Point Or Do You Want To Make A Difference?

In my book, Cascades, I cover a wide range of movements. Some, like the civil rights movement and the campaign to save 100,000 lives, succeeded brilliantly. Others, like Occupy and the technology companies along Boston’s Route 128, failed miserably. Another thing I found is that many movements that ultimately succeeded, failed initially because they failed to go beyond their tribe.

Here’s what Srdja Popović, who helped lead the Otpor movement that overthrew the brutal regime of Slobodan Milošević in 2000, told me about the initial student protests in 1992.

These were very ‘Occupy’ type of protests where we occupied the five biggest universities and lived there in our little islands of common sense with intellectuals and rock bands while the rest of the country was more or less supportive of Milošević’s idea. And this is where we began to understand that staying in your little blurb of common sense was not going to save the country.

In a similar vein, Nelson Mandela started out as an angry nationalist, but eventually learned that to get results, he would have to actively collaborate with others that didn’t quite see things the same way he did. In Poland, Solidarity’s first actions were disastrous, because they only involved workers. It was only through a later alliance between workers, intellectuals and the church that the movement ultimately succeeded.

Today, both America and the world have become increasingly tribal and it’s easy to retreat into what Srdja calls “your little blurb of common sense.” You can state your beliefs, make your point and see the heads nod around you. You can live in comfort, knowing that any voices of dissent will be quickly shouted down, as you self righteously feel they should be.

However, at some point, you will have to decide if you want to make a point or whether you want to make a difference. To achieve anything worthwhile, you have to go beyond your tribe.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Unsplash

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Celebrating World Creativity and Innovation Day 2024

Embracing Creativity and Innovation: A Pathway to Progress

Celebrating World Creativity and Innovation Day 2024

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

In a world that is constantly changing, the only constant is the need for creativity and innovation. As we celebrate World Creativity and Innovation Day, it’s essential to recognize that these two forces are the lifeblood of human advancement and the cornerstone of sustainable development.

Creativity is not just about artistic endeavors; it’s a mindset that enables us to see the world differently, to challenge the status quo, and to envision what could be. Innovation, on the other hand, is the process of turning those creative ideas into tangible solutions that drive value and impact.

Recent Innovations Shaping Our World

We live in an era where innovation is not just about creating new products; it’s about redefining possibilities. Let’s look at some recent innovations that exemplify this spirit:

  1. The Leap in AI: With the advent of models like OpenAI’s GPT-4, we’ve seen a quantum leap in artificial intelligence 1. These AI systems are not only transforming how we interact with technology but also how we solve complex problems and generate creative content.
  2. Sustainable Energy Solutions: Innovations like salt-water-powered electric generators are paving the way for sustainable energy solutions, demonstrating that we can harness the power of nature in harmony with technological advancement 2.
  3. Advances in Medical Technology: The development of the COVID-19 vaccines in record time is a testament to human ingenuity and the collaborative spirit of the global scientific community 3. It shows that when faced with a common enemy, creativity and innovation can lead to groundbreaking solutions.

The Role of Creativity in Innovation

Creativity is the starting point of innovation. It’s about looking beyond what is and imagining what could be. It’s about connecting the dots in new ways and bringing diverse perspectives together to spark breakthrough ideas.

As we observe World Creativity and Innovation Day, let’s remember that each one of us has the potential to contribute to this creative process. Whether it’s through developing new technologies, designing more sustainable systems, or simply finding better ways to do our daily tasks, we all have a role to play.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

To truly harness the power of creativity and innovation, we must foster a culture that encourages experimentation, embraces failure as a learning opportunity, and rewards out-of-the-box thinking. Organizations and societies that cultivate these values will be the ones leading the charge in the 21st century.

Conclusion

As we honor the spirit of World Creativity and Innovation Day, let’s commit to nurturing our creative abilities and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Let’s continue to innovate for a better world, one where sustainable development and human-centric solutions lead the way.

Remember, creativity is not the privilege of a select few; it’s a universal trait that we all share. And innovation is not just about technology; it’s about improving lives and creating a future that we can all look forward to.

Let’s keep the flame of creativity and innovation burning bright, for it is the beacon that will guide us to a brighter tomorrow.

This article aims to capture the essence of Braden Kelley’s thought leadership, emphasizing the importance of creativity and innovation in driving progress and addressing global challenges. It’s a call to action for all of us to embrace our creative potential and contribute to a more innovative and sustainable future.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Bing Dall-E

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Cover versions, Sequels, Taylor Swift and Innovation

Taylor Swift and Innovation

GUEST POST from Pete Foley

An inherent contradiction in almost any new innovation is that it needs to be both new, but also somewhat familiar.  If it doesn’t offer anything new, there is little motivation for consumers to risk abandoning existing habits or preferences to try it.  But if it is not at least anchored in familiarity, then we ask consumers to put a lot of effort into understanding it, in addition to any opportunity cost from what they give up for trying something new.  Innovation is difficult, and a lot of innovations fail, at least in part because of this fundamental contradiction. 

Transformative Performance:  Of course, innovations can be successful, which means we do navigate this challenge.  But how? One way is to deliver something with such transformative benefits that people are willing to push themselves over the hump of learning something new. Huge benefits also create their own ‘gravity’, often spreading via world of mouth via media, social media, and even old-fashioned human-to-human conversations. This avoids the need for brute force mass marketing spend that can create the illusion of familiarity, but with a hefty price tag that is typically beyond smaller companies

Familiarity: The second option is to leverage what people already know in such a way that the ‘adoption hump’ becomes relatively insignificant, because new users intuitively know what the innovation is and how to use it.

Wow!  The best innovations do both.  CHATgpt Generative AI is a contemporary example, where transformative performance has created an enormous amount of word of mouth, but the interface is so intuitive there is little barrier to adoption, at least superficially. 

Of course, using it skillfully is another thing altogether, but I think there is an insight there too.  It’s OK to have an ongoing learning curve after initial adoption, but initial engagement needs to be relatively simple.  The gaming industry are masters of this.    

Little Wows!  CHATgpt is brilliant innovation.  But realistically, few of us are gong to create something quite that extraordinary.  So how do we manage to create more modest wows that still drive trial, engagement and ultimately repeat business?

Science, Art and Analogy:  As a believer that a lot of interesting things happen at the interface between science and art, and that analogy is a great tool, I think we cam learn a little about solving this by taking insight from the arts.  In this case, music and movies. For example, popular music routinely plunders the familiar, and repackages it as new via cover versions.  I often do the same myself!   Movies do something similar, either with the cycle of remakes of classic movies, or with sequels that often closely follow the narrative structure of the original.  

But this highlights some of the challenges in solving this dichotomy.  It’s rare for a remake, cover version, or sequel to do better than the original.  But a few do, so what is their secret?  What works, and what doesn’t? 

  1. Distance from the original.  Some of the best movie remakes completely reframe the original in ways that maintain a largely implicit familiarity, but do so without inviting direct comparisons of alignable differences to the original. For example, West Side Story is a brilliant retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Bridget Jones Diary reframes Pride and Prejudice, She’s All That is a retelling of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, while The Lion King retools Hamlet, etc.  I’m not suggesting that nobody sees these connections, but many don’t, and even if they do, the context is sufficiently different to avoid constant comparisons throughout the experience.  And of course, in most of these cases, the originals are not contemporary, so there is temporal as well as conceptual distance between original and remake.   Similarly with cover versions, Hendrix and the Byrds both completely and very successfully reframed Dylan (All Along the Watchtower and Mr. Tambourine Man).  Sinead O’Connor achieved similar success with Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”.  For those of you with less grey in their hairl, last summers cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ by Luke Combs shows that covers can still do this. 

2.  Something New.   A different way to fail is to tap familiarity, but without adding anything sufficiently new or interesting.  All too often covers, sequels and remakes are simply weaker copies of the original.  I’m sure that anyone reading this can come up with their own examples of a disappointing remake or sequel.   Footloose, Annie, Psycho, Tom Cruise’s the Mummy or Karate Kid are all candidates for me.  As for sequels, again, I’m sure you can all name a respectable list of your own wasted 2 hours, with Highlander 2 and Jaws the Revenge being my personal cures for insomnia.   And even if we include novelty, it cannot be too predictable either.  It needs to at least be a little surprising.   For example, the gender reversal of the remake of Overboard has a point of difference in comparison to the Goldie Hawn original, but its not exactly staggeringly novel or surprising.  It’s a lot like a joke, if you can see it coming, it’s not going too create a wow.    

3.  Don’t Get De-Selected.  Learning from the two previous approaches can help us to create sufficient separation from past experience to engage and hopefully delight potential consumers.  But it’s important to not get carried away, and become un-tethered from familiarity.  For example, I personally enjoy a lot of jazz, but despite their often extraordinary skill, jazz musicians don’t fill many arenas.  That’s in part because jazz asks the listener to invest a lot of cognitive bandwidth and time to develop an ‘ear’, or musical expertise in order to appreciate it. It often moves a long way from the familiar original, and adds lot of new into the equation.  As a result, it is a somewhat niche musical form.  Pop music generally doesn’t require the same skill or engagement, and successful artists like Taylor Swift understand that.   And when it comes to innovation, most of us want to be mainstream, not niche. This is compounded because consumers today face a bewildering array of options, and a huge amount of information.  One way our brains have evolved to deal with complexity is to quickly ignore or ‘de-select’ things that don’t appear relevant to our goals. A lot of the time, we do this unconsciously.  Faced with more information than we can process, we quickly narrow our choices down to a consideration set that is ‘right-sized’ for us to make a decision.   From an innovation perspective, if our innovations are too ‘jazzy’, they risk being de-selected by a majority on consumers before they can be fully appreciated, or even consciously noticed.     

There’s no precise right or wrong strategy in this context. It’s possible to deliver successful innovations by tapping and balancing these approaches in many different ways.   But there are certainly good and bad executions, and I personally find it helpful to use these kinds of analogy when evaluating an innovation.   Are we too jazzy? Do we have separation from incumbents that is meaningful for consumers, and not just ourselves? And the latter is a real challenge for experts. When we are deeply engaged in a category, it’s all too easy to get lost in the magic of our own creations.  We see differences more clearly than consumers. It’s easy for us to become overly excited by relatively small changes that excite us, but that lack sufficient newness and separation from existing products for consumers who are nowhere near as engaged in our category as we are.  But it’s also easy to create ‘jazz’ for similar reasons, by forgetting that real world consumers are typically far less interested in our products than we are, and so miss the brilliance of our ‘performance’, or perhaps don’t ‘get it’ at all. 

For me, it is useful to simply ask myself whether I’m a Godfather II or a Highlander II, a Taylor Swift or a Dupree Bolton, or even Larry Coryell.  And there’s the rub.  As a musician, I’d rather be Larry, but as a record company exec, I’d far rather have Taylor Swift on my label. 

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

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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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4 Ways to Create Something Truly Original

4 Ways to Create Something Truly Original

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

I study innovators for a living. Every year, I interview dozens of men and women who’ve achieved remarkable things. For my own part, I publish about a hundred articles a year and my second book, Cascades, has sold well since coming out five years ago. While my achievements pale in comparison to many of those I interview, many believe my work to be original.

The most destructive myth about creativity is that there are innate traits that allow some people to be creative, while others, who lack these, cannot. The truth is that in decades of research on creativity, nobody has been able to identify any such traits. In my experience, great innovators come in all shapes and sizes.

Still, despite the diversity of original innovators themselves, there are some common principles in how they approach their work and these are things that anyone can apply. That doesn’t mean everyone can be world famous, but the evidence clearly shows that anyone can be creative and, even if it’s not a major breakthrough, make some contribution to the world.

1. Explore

In 2006, Jennifer Doudna got a call from a colleague at the University of California at Berkeley, Jillian Banfield, who she knew only by reputation. Banfield’s area of research interest, obscure bacteria living in extreme conditions, was only tangentially related to Doudna’s work, studying the biochemistry of RNA and other cell structures.

The purpose of the call was to interest Doudna in studying an emerging phenomenon that was recently discovered in microbiology, a strange sequence of DNA found in bacteria. The function of the sequences were not yet clear, but some early evidence suggested that they might be involved in some kind of immune function, helping bacteria to defend themselves against viruses.

Intrigued, Doudna began to research the sequences, called CRISPR, in her own lab and, in 2012, discovered that they could be used as a powerful new tool for editing genes. Today, CRISPR is creating a revolution in genomics, completely redefining what was considered to be possible in just a few short years.

Many have observed the role of serendipity in innovation, such as in Alexander Fleming’s chance discovery of penicillin. Yet in every case, once you look a little deeper, you find that even the most unexpected discoveries were the product of intense exploration. Like Fleming and penicillin, Doudna wasn’t looking for a gene editing technology, but she was investigating a wide number of phenomena that were previously unexplained.

The first step for innovation is exploration. All who wander are not lost.

2. Combine

I’m a relentless fact checker. Over the years, I’ve found that even if you’ve done significant research, reading papers and interviewing experts, it’s amazingly easy to get things wildly wrong. I’ve also found that fact checking can lead you to new information you didn’t know existed. So before I publish anything of significance, I always make sure to reach out to someone who can correct my foolishness before it becomes public.

That’s why when I was finishing up Cascades, I reached out to Duncan Watts to look over two chapters on the science of networks, a field which he helped pioneer. As usual, Duncan was gracious and helpful, and pointed me towards a paper of his that I might want to include. He did so somewhat apologetically, not wanting to push his work on me, but observed that since I had largely based both chapters on his work already, it was probably okay.

This was entirely true. Much of the first half of my book is based on Duncan’s ideas. What’s more, much of the second half of the book is based on insights from my friend Srdja Popović , who trains activists around the world to create revolutionary movements. There are a number of others as well, all of who shared their wisdom with me.

None of this, of course, was at all original, but the combination is. In fact, the key insight of the book is that Duncan’s mathematical models and the on-the-ground tactics of Srdja and others are intensely related. They can inform each other in ways that both men, who are mostly unfamiliar with each other’s work, had not addressed and, I believe, are important.

3. Refine

I first got interested in Duncan’s work in 2006. I was running a large digital business at the time and, with social networks becoming a powerful force online, I thought that learning some basic concepts of network science would be useful. Much to my surprise, I found that the ideas had a powerful resonance in an unexpected area.

Two years earlier, I had found myself in the middle of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. What struck me at the time was how nobody seemed to have the first idea what was happening or why — not the journalists I worked with everyday, or the political and business leaders I would meet with regularly, nobody.

So I was excited to find, in Duncan’s work, a mathematical explanation for many of the seemingly inexplicable things that I had seen and experienced first-hand. Yet still, I had only a faint sense of what I was on to. Sure, there were obvious connections and possibilities, but I had no real framework to make the insights actionable.

That was 12 years ago (and 15 since the Orange Revolution began) and I’ve been working to refine those initial ideas ever since. Over that period, there has been no shortage of blind allies and wrong turns. Nevertheless, I kept at it and continued to learn. It took over a decade before I was able to pull everything together into something worth publishing.

4. Validate

The connection between Duncan and Srdja’s work wasn’t completely out of the blue. In fact, Duncan had made a short reference to Otpor, the movement which Srdja had helped lead, and its overthrow of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević in his book, Six Degrees. Yet there was no guarantee that the significance went any further than that.

So I began to widen my search. I looked at social movements throughout history to see if similar patterns held or whether the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and similar events in Serbia were anomalies. I struck up a working friendship with Srdja, read his book, Blueprint for Revolution and pored through the training materials on his organization’s website.

Yet to be truly useful, I needed to see if the same concepts could be applied more broadly. So I also researched and spoke to a number of leaders in other fields, such as corporate executives and people who led movements to transform heathcare, education and other things. Anywhere I could find anyone that created transformational change, I sought them out to find how they were able to succeed where so many others failed.

What I found was that while there were vast difference among changemakers, they had all eventually arrived at similar principles that made them successful, which I could validate. It took me nearly 15 years, but the journey that began with that initial connection between two vastly different sets of ideas eventually became something that I could consider to be coherent and useful.

In that way, my experience reflects many of the innovators of vastly greater accomplishment that I research and study. Truly original work doesn’t emerge fully formed from a brainstorm or sudden epiphany. It’s long years that follow, combining, refining and validating that makes the difference between an errant idea and something useful.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Pixabay

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How Do You Know If Your Idea is Novel?

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

When your idea is novel, no one will steal it. No NDA required.

If your idea is truly novel, no one will value it. And that’s how you’ll know it’s novel.

When your idea is novel, no one will adopt it. This isn’t much of a stretch as, due to not-invented-here (NIH), no one will adopt anyone else’s idea – novel or not.

When your idea is novel, it will be misunderstood, even by you.

When your idea is novel, it will evolve into something else and then something else. And then it might be ready for Prime Time.

Novel ideas are like orchids – they need love beyond the worth of their blossom.

If your idea hasn’t failed three times, it’s not worth a damn.

The gestation period for novel ideas is long; if it comes together quickly, it’s not novel.

The best way to understand your novel idea is to make a prototype. And then another one.

Your first novel idea won’t work, but it will inform the next iteration. And that one won’t work either, and the cycle continues. But that’s how it goes with novel ideas.

If everyone likes your novel idea, it isn’t novel.

If no one likes your novel idea, you may be on to something.

If you’re not misunderstood, you’re doing it wrong.

If your dog likes your idea, you can’t say much because he loves you unconditionally and will always tell you what you want to hear.

If you think your novel idea will create a whole new product line in two years, your timeline is off by a factor of three, or five.

If your most successful business unit tries to squash your novel idea it’s because it threatens them. Stomp on the accelerator.

When you are known to give air cover to novel ideas, the best people want to work for you.

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Amazing Efficiency of Systematic Guessing

The Amazing Efficiency of Systematic Guessing

GUEST POST from Dennis Stauffer

Are you as personally efficient as you could be? Most of us aren’t, and that may be because we’re not as innovative as we could be. Being efficient—for people and for organizations—isn’t just about doing things more quickly and automatically. It’s about rapidly adapting to change and discovering new strategies.

Most organizations—and most innovators—are convinced that innovation takes extra time and resources. That’s certainly true at times, but also misleading. Because being innovative can also make you dramatically more efficient. Finding solutions, making improvements and inventing new ways of doing things can save countless hours and resources—and there’s a more immediate gain than those future benefits.

Let me explain it this way.

Imagine that your challenge is to figure out how to spell a simple ten letter word: INNOVATION. (And let’s pretend you don’t already know.) You can of course start guessing, but that will take a while—a long while. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet and ten in this word. So that’s 26 to the 10th power, or more than 141-trillion, possibilities! If you guess once per second—without repeating any—it will take you more than four-and-a-half million years to cover them all.

Suppose instead that you’re at a computer, one that won’t tell you how to spell innovation, but will tell you when you’ve guessed the right letter. In other words, you can do what skilled innovators do. You can continually check whether your ideas—your guesses—are working. Now, each letter will require at most 26 guesses, one for each letter in the alphabet. You can cover all possibilities in 26 times 10 or 260 attempts. At one attempt per second, that will take you less than four-and-a-half minutes. And you don’t need to know anything about how to spell the word when you start.

Of course, the challenges you face are probably more complex than spelling a ten-letter word, and it will probably take longer than a second to explore possible solutions. But as complexity grows, so does the relative efficiency of this kind of systematic guessing.

Suppose the word you want to spell has eleven letters—INNOVATIONS. Just trying to guess it will now take you 26 times longer. That’s more than a hundred million years! When you check each of your guesses, it only adds another 26 seconds. You’re still done in less than five minutes. A hundred-million years, vs. five minutes. That’s the astronomical gain in efficiency you achieve when you know how to systematically investigate what works.

It’s as though you’re facing a genie with a puzzle. You need to solve that puzzle to make your wishes come true, and the genie won’t tell you the answer. But the genie is willing to give you clues—in the form of consequences. So to solve the puzzle, you must attempt possible solutions that will generate consequences—feedback—that will tell you whether you’re on the right track. That’s what skilled innovators do—and anyone else who hopes to successfully handle uncertainty—which is all of us.

So, if someone tells you, you don’t have time to be innovative, tell them you don’t have time not to.

Here is a video version of this post:

The Innovator Mindset YouTube channel brings you weekly tips, tricks and insights into how to be more creative, innovative and personally effective.

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Mental Orgasm – The Joy of Discovery

Mental Orgasm - The Joy of Discovery

GUEST POST from Dennis Stauffer

Recall a time when you made some discovery or figured something out for yourself. No one told you the answer. You didn’t look it up on your phone. You got there on your own. It might have been something recent, or you may have to go back, maybe even to your early childhood, to recall that moment of discovery. That thrill you felt. That excitement! It’s such pure joy that some researchers have described it as a mental orgasm.

Babies often experience this as they first learn about the world. It’s a moment scientists live for. A feeling that even the most jaded businessperson takes delight in. When something just works—and you made it happen. You solved the puzzle.

It was a frequent experience when we were babies, with a brain constantly driven to discover how the world worked. But it’s something we experience far less often as adults. From the moment you started school, you were gradually pulled away from personal discovery, and instead pushed to memorize things someone else discovered. Like how to solve a math problem, spell a word, or learn the periodic table. Those things are important, but not nearly as much fun as figuring things out for yourself.

So instead of moments of discovery, you’ve probably become conditioned to take pride in what you know. And that very pride can become an obstacle to making new discoveries. The more we identify with our knowledge, the more we want to defend it, making us resistant to understanding the world in new ways. It shouldn’t be hard to see how that might interfere with your ability to innovate, or adapt to changes in your life. The challenge we so often face is not just coming up with new ideas. It’s letting go of the ones we already have.

Innovators, and those who are most effective generally, are open to discovery. Instead of looking for reinforcement of what they already know, they seek experiences that will challenge their beliefs, always being open to revising those beliefs—open to discovery. An innovator mindset frees you to move beyond what you already know, to unleash your own brilliance. Giving you the mental agility needed to make discoveries again—and experience the kind of mental orgasm that creates.

Here is a video version of this post:

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Eddie Van Halen, Simultaneous Innovation and the AI Regulation Conundrum

Eddie Van Halen, Simultaneous Innovation and the AI Regulation Conundrum

GUEST POST from Pete Foley

It’s great to have an excuse to post an Eddie Van Halen video to the innovation community.  It’s of course fun just to watch Eddie, but I also have a deeper, innovation relevant reason for doing so.

Art & Science:  I’m a passionate believer in cross-pollination between art and science.  And I especially believe we can learn a great deal from artists and musicians like Eddie who have innovated consistently over a career.  Dig into their processes, and we see serial innovators like The Beatles, Picasso, Elton John, Bowie, George Martin, Freddie Mercury, William Gibson, Lady Gaga, Paul Simon and so many others apply techniques that are highly applicable to all innovation fields. Techniques such as analogy, conceptual blending, collaboration, reapplication, boundary stretching, risk taking, learning from failure and T-Shaped innovation all crop up fairly consistently.  And these creative approaches are typically also built upon deep expertise, passion, motivation, and an ability to connect with future consumer needs, and to tap into early adopters and passionate consumers.  For me at least, that’s a pretty good innovation toolkit for innovation in any field.  Now, to be fair, often their process is intuitive, and many truly prolific artists are lucky enough to automatically and intuitively ‘think that way’. But understanding and then stealing some of their techniques, either implicit or explicit, can be a great way to both jump-start our own innovative processes, and also to understand how innovation works. As Picasso said, ‘great artists steal’, but I’d argue that so do good innovators, at least within the bounds allowed by the patent literature!

In the past I’ve written quite a lot about Picasso and The Beatles use of conceptual blending, Paul Simon’s analogies, reapplication and collaboration, Bowie’s innovative courage, and William Gibson’s ability to project s-curves.  Today, I’d like to to focus on some insights I see in the guitar innovations of Eddie.   

(a) Parallel or Simultaneous Innovation.  I suspect this is one of the most important yet under-appreciated concepts in innovation today. Virtually every innovation is built upon the shoulders of giants. Past innovations provide the foundation for future ones, to the point where once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, many innovations become inevitable. It still takes an agile and creative mind to come up with innovative ideas, but contemporary innovations often set the stage for the next leap forward. And this applies both to the innovative process, and also to a customers ability to understand and embrace it. The design of the first skyscraper was innovative, but it was made a lot more obvious by the construction of the Eiffel Tower. The ubiquitous mobile phone may now seem obvious, but it owes its existence to a very long list of enabling technologies that paved the way for it’s invention, from electricity to chips to Wi-Fi, etc.

The outcome of this ‘stage setting’ is that often even really big innovations occur simultaneously yet independently.  We’ve seen this play out with calculus (independently developed by Newton and Leibnitz), the atomic bomb, where Oppenheimer and company only just beat the Nazi’s, the theory of evolution, the invention of the thermometer, nylon and so many others.  We even see it in evolution, where scavenger birds vultures and condors superficially appear quite similar due to adaptations that allow them to eat carrion, but actually have quite different genetic lineages.  Similarly many marsupials look very similar to placental mammals that fill similar ecological niches, but typically evolved independently. Context has a huge impact on innovation, and similar contexts typical create parallel, and often similar innovations. As the world becomes more interconnected, and context becomes more homogenized, we are going to see more and more examples of simultaneous innovation.

Faster and More Competitive Innovation:  Today social media, search technology and the web mean that more people know more of the same ‘stuff’ more quickly than before.  This near instantaneous and democratized access to the latest knowledge sets the scene and context for a next generation of innovation that is faster and more competitive than we’ve ever seen.   More people have access to the pieces of the puzzle far more quickly than ever before; background information that acts as a precursor for the next innovative leap. Eddie had to go and watch Jimmy Paige live and in person to get his inspiration for ‘tapping’.  Today he, and a few million others would simply need to go onto YouTube.  He therefore discovered Paige’s hammer-on years after Paige started using them.  Today it would likely be days.  That acceleration of ‘innovation context’ has a couple of major implications: 

1.  If you think you’ve just come up with something new, it’s more than likely that several other people have too, or will do so very soon.   More than ever before you are more than likely in a race from the moment you have an idea! So snooze and you loose. Assume several others are working on the same idea.

2.  Regulating Innovation is becoming really, really difficult.  I think this is possibly the most profound implication.  For example, a very current and somewhat contentious topic today is if and how we should regulate AI.  And it’s a pretty big decision. We really don’t know how AI will evolve, but it is certainly moving very quickly, and comes with the potential for earthshaking pros and cons.  It is also almost inevitably subject to simultaneous invention.  So many people are working on it, and so much adjacent innovation is occurring, that it’s somewhat unlikely that any single group is going to get very far out in front.   The proverbial cat is out of the bag, and the race is on. The issue for regulation then becomes painfully obvious.   Unless we can somehow implement universal regulation, then any regulations simply slow down those who follow the rules.  This unfortunately opens the doors to bad actors taking the lead, and controlling potentially devastating technology.

So we are somewhat damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.  If we don’t regulate, then we run the risk of potentially dangerous technology getting out of control.  But if do regulate, we run the risk of enabling bad actors to own that dangerous technology.  We’ve of course been here before.  The race for the nuclear bomb between the Allies and the Nazi’s was a great example of simultaneous innovation with potentially catastrophic outcomes.   Imagine if we’d decided fission was simply too dangerous, and regulated it’s development to the point where the Nazi’s had got there first.  We’d likely be living in a very different world today!  Much like AI, it was a tough decision, as without regulation, there was a small but possible scenario where the outcome could have been devastating.    

Today we have a raft of rapidly evolving technologies that I’d both love to regulate, but am also profoundly worried about the unintended consequences of doing so.  AI of course, but also genetic engineering, gene manipulating medicines, even climate mediation and behavioral science!  With respect to the latter, the better we get at nudging behavior, and the more reach we have with those techniques, the more dangerous miss-use becomes.  

The core problem underlying all of this is that we are human.   Most people try to do the right thing, but there are always bad actors.  And even those trying to do the right thing all too often get it wrong.  And the more democratized access to cutting edge insight becomes, parallel innovation means the more contenders we have for mistakes and bad bad choices, intentional or unintentional. 

(b) Innovation versus Invention:  A less dramatic, but I think similarly interesting insight we can draw from Eddie lies in the difference between innovation and invention He certainly wasn’t the first guitarist to use the tapping technique.  That goes back centuries! At least as far as classical composer Paganini, and it was a required technique for playing the Chapman stick in the 1970’s, popularized by the great Tony Levin in King Crimson. It was also widely, albeit sparingly (and often obscurely) used by jazz guitarists in the 1950’s and 60’s. But Eddie was the first to feature it, and turn it into a meaningful innovation in of itself. Until him, nobody had packaged the technique in a way that it could be ‘marketed’ and ‘sold’ as a viable product. He found the killer application, made it his own, and made it a ‘thing’. I would therefore argue that he wasn’t the inventor, but he was the ‘innovator’.  This points to the value of innovation over invention.  If you don’t have the capability or the partners to turn an invention into something useful, its still just an idea.   Invention is a critical part of the broader innovation process, but in isolation it’s more curiosity than useful. Innovation is about reduction to practice and communication as well a great ideas

Art & science:  I love the arts.  I play guitar, paint, and photograph.  It’s a lot of fun, and provides a invaluable outlet from the stresses involved in business and innovation.  But as I suggested at the beginning, a lot of the boundaries we place between art and science, and by extension business, are artificial and counter-productive. Some of my most productive collaborations as a scientist have been with designers and artists. As a visual scientist, I’ve found that artists often intuitively have a command of attentional insights that our cutting edge science is still trying to understand.  It’s a lot of fun to watch Eddie Van Halen, but learning from great artists like him can, via analogy, also be surprisingly insightful and instructive.   

Image credits: Unsplash

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