Category Archives: Leadership

People Cannot Work Forever

People Cannot Work Forever

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

When cars run out of gas, they can no longer get the job done until their tanks are filled up. And it’s the same with people, except people are asked to keep on truckin’ even though their tanks are empty.

When machines are used for a certain number of hours, they are supposed to be given rest and routine maintenance. If the maintenance isn’t completed as defined in the operator’s manual, the warranty is voided.

Maybe we could create a maintenance schedule for people. And if it’s not done, we could be okay with reduced performance, like with a machine. And when the scheduled maintenance isn’t performed on time, maybe we could blame the person who prevented it from happening.

If your lawnmower could tell you when you were using it in a way that would cause it damage, would you listen and change your behavior? How about if a person said a similar thing to you? To which one would you show more compassion?

When your car’s check engine light comes on, would you pretend you don’t see it or would you think that the car is being less than truthful? What if a person tells you their body is throwing a warning light because of how you’re driving them? Would you believe them or stomp on the accelerator?

We expect our machines to wear out and need refurbishment. We expect our cars to run out of gas if we don’t add fuel. We expect our lawnmowers to stall if we try to mow grass that’s two feet tall. We expect that their capacities and capabilities are finite. Maybe we can keep all this in mind when we set expectations for our people.

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

6 Ways to Create Trust with Your Employees

6 Ways to Create Trust with Your Employees

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Last week I wrote an article, 4 Ways to Create Trust with Your Customers. I don’t think anyone would argue (and the stats prove it) that a customer who trusts you is more likely to do more business with you. After all, why would they want to risk doing business elsewhere?

Well, it’s the same for employees. With so many employment issues today, it’s more important than ever to get and keep good employees. One of the crucial areas that can drive employee retention is trust. Just like customers, if employees don’t trust you, they may eventually leave for a competitor. And in the world of employee retention, a competitor is any other company that offers employment opportunities.

With that in mind, here are six ways to build trust with your employees.

1. Listen to your employees. Ask them for feedback. Frontline employees often have a better opportunity to know what customers think and say about you than anyone else in the company. Listen to them. And many employees have suggestions about processes and systems that can be improved. Creating an easy way for employees to share feedback and make suggestions can be a powerful way to improve the experience—for both customers and the employees themselves.

2. Act on the feedback and insights employees share with you. If you ask your employees for their feedback and insights and do nothing with it, employees eventually resent that they took the time to offer up their ideas and suggestions. And at some point, they will see it as a futile effort and waste of time, even if what they share with you is important. Employees often provide even more valuable feedback than customers. So, even if you choose not to use their suggestions, at least acknowledge their effort, express appreciation and let them know why.

3. Make sure leadership and management are accessible. If there is a metaphorical wall between employees and leadership, employees will always feel like they are on the outside. And if they feel like outsiders, any organization that may make them feel more included and appreciated could be the next place your employee—who you thought was happy—ends up working. There are different ways to go about this. An open-door policy is not always realistic. As an alternative, consider having “office hours”—a special time each week when employees can make an appointment. The point is that it needs to be easy for employees to connect with their managers, supervisors, and leadership.

4. Get out of the office and mingle with “the people.” If the only time employees see management or leadership is when there are problems, then the sight of them will create a level of fear and tension. Years ago, I read Tom Peter’s strategy he referred to as MBWA, Management by Wandering Around. The idea is that employees would not fear the sight of management, because they become used to seeing their bosses and leaders walking around. If a manager shows up just to point out problems or criticize, employees will always have concern whenever they see a manager or leader walking anywhere near them. The goal is to achieve trust, not fear.

5. Trust employees to do the jobs you hired them to do. If you hire good people and train them well, let them do their jobs. If employees feel like they are always being watched, scrutinized for their work and not being allowed to make the decisions you hired them to make, they will feel unfulfilled and frustrated. This is “Empowerment 101.”

6. Treat employees the way you want the customer to be treated. I refer to this as The Employee Golden Rule. You can’t expect employees to behave toward customers and each other in a way that’s different—as in better—than the way they are treated by their managers and leaders. Your actions and attitude toward your employees must be congruent with how you want them to treat your customers. You can’t invite them to your office, yell at them and then them, “Now go out there and be nice to our customers.”

What’s happening on the inside of the organization is felt on the outside by customers. To create the best customer experience, you must create a similar employee experience, if not even better. While there are many components that go into creating a great culture for an organization, trust is one of the essentials. Without it, you can’t expect to get and keep your best employees.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

You Can’t Innovate Without This One Thing

You Can't Innovate Without This One Thing

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

It just landed on your desk. Or maybe you campaigned to get it. Or perhaps you just started doing it. How the title of “Innovation Leader” got to your desk doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that it’s there, along with a budget and loads of expectations.

Of course, now that you have the title and the budget, you need a team to do the work and deliver the results.

Who should you look for? The people that perform well in the current business, with its processes, structures, and (relative) predictability, often struggle to navigate the constant uncertainty and change of innovation. But just because someone struggles in the process and structure of the core business doesn’t mean they’ll thrive creating something new.

What are the qualities that make someone a successful innovator?

70 answers

A lot of people have a lot to say about the qualities and characteristics that make someone an innovator. When you combine the first four Google search results for “characteristics of an innovator” with the five most common innovation talent assessments, you end up with a list of 70 different (and sometimes conflicting) traits.

The complete list is at the end of this article, but here are the characteristics that appeared more than once:

  1. Curious
  2. Persistent
  3. Continuously reflective
  4. Creative
  5. Driven
  6. Experiments
  7. Imaginative
  8. Passionate

It’s a good list, but remember, there are 62 other characteristics to consider. And that assumes that the list is exhaustive.

+1 Answer

It’s not. Something is missing.

There is one characteristic shared by every successful innovator I’ve worked with and every successful leader of innovation. It’s rarely the first (or second or third) word used to describe them, but eventually, it emerges, always said quietly, after great reflection and with dawning realization.

Vulnerability.

Whether you rolled your eyes or pumped your fist at the word made famous by Brene Brown, you’ve no doubt heard it and formed an opinion about it.

Vulnerability is the “quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”  Without it, innovation is impossible.

Innovation requires the creation of something new that creates value. If something is new, some or all of it is unknown. If there are unknowns, there are risks. Where there are risks, there is the possibility of being wrong, which opens you up to attack or harm.

When you talk to people to understand their needs, vulnerability allows you to hear what they say (versus what you want them to say).

In brainstorming sessions, vulnerability enables you to speak up and suggest an idea for people to respond to, build on, or discard.

When you run experiments, vulnerability ensures that you accurately record and report the data, even if the results aren’t what you hoped.

Most importantly, as a leader, vulnerability inspires trust, motivates your team, engages your stakeholders, and creates the environment and culture required to explore, learn, and innovate continuously.

n + 1 is the answer

Just as you do for every job in your company, recruit the people with the skills required to do the work and the mindset and personality to succeed in your business’ context and culture.

Once you find them, make sure they’re willing to be vulnerable and support and celebrate others’ vulnerability. Then, and only then, will you be the innovators your company needs.


Here’s the full list of characteristics:

  1. Action-oriented, gets the job done
  2. Adaptable
  3. Ambitious
  4. Analytical, high information capacity, digs through facts
  5. Associative Thinker, makes uncommon connections
  6. Breaks Boundaries, disruptive
  7. Business minded
  8. Collaborative
  9. Compelling Leader
  10. Competitive
  11. Consistent
  12. Continuously reflects (x3)
  13. Courageous
  14. Creative (x3)
  15. Curious (x4), asks questions, inquisitive, investigates
  16. Delivers results, seeks tangible outcomes
  17. Disciplined
  18. Divergent Thinker
  19. Driven (x3)
  20. Energetic
  21. Experiments (x2)
  22. Financially oriented
  23. Flexible, fluid
  24. Formally educated and trained
  25. Futuristic
  26. Giving, works to benefit others, wants to make the world better
  27. Goal-oriented
  28. Has a Growth mindset
  29. Highly confident
  30. Honest
  31. Imaginative (x2)
  32. Influential, lots of social capital
  33. Instinctual
  34. Intense
  35. Iterating between abstract and concrete thinking
  36. Learns through experiences
  37. Likes originality, seeks novelty
  38. Loyal
  39. Motivated by change, open to new experiences
  40. Networks, relates well to others
  41. Observes
  42. Opportunistic mindset, recognizes opportunities
  43. Opportunity focused
  44. Passionate (x2)
  45. Patient
  46. Persistent (x4)
  47. Persuasive
  48. Playful
  49. Pragmatic
  50. Proactive
  51. Prudent
  52. Rapidly recognizes patterns
  53. Resilient
  54. Resourceful
  55. Respects other innovators
  56. Seeks understanding
  57. Self-confident
  58. Socially intelligent
  59. Stamina
  60. Takes initiative
  61. Takes risks
  62. Team-oriented
  63. Thinks big picture
  64. Thrives in uncertainty
  65. Tough
  66. Tweaks solutions constantly
  67. Unattached exploration
  68. Visionary
  69. Wants to get things right
  70. Willing to Destroy

And the sources:

Image Credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Importance of Measuring Your Organization’s Innovation Maturity

Importance of Measuring Your Organization’s Innovation Maturity

by Braden Kelley

Is our organization a productive place for creating innovation? How does our organization’s innovation capability compare to that of other organizations?

Almost every organization wants to know the answers to these two questions.

The only way to get better at innovation, is to first define what innovation means. Your organization must have a common language of innovation before you can measure a baseline of innovation maturity and begin elevating both your innovation capacity and capabilities.

My first book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, was created to help organizations create a common language of innovation and to understand how to overcome the barriers to innovation.

The Innovation Maturity Assessment

One of the free tools I created for purchasers of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, and for the global innovation community, was an innovation maturity assessment with available instant scoring at http://innovation.help.

My 50 question innovation audit measures each individual’s view of the organization’s innovation maturity across a number of different areas, including: culture, process, funding, collaboration, communications, etc.

When multiple individuals at the same organization complete the questionnaire, it is then possible to form an organizational view of the organization’s level of innovation maturity.

Each of the 50 questions is scored from 0-4 using this scale of question agreement:

  • 0 – None
  • 1 – A Little
  • 2 – Partially
  • 3 – Often
  • 4 – Fully

To generate an innovation maturity score that is translated to the innovation maturity model as follows:

  • 000-100 = Level 1 – Reactive
  • 101-130 = Level 2 – Structured
  • 131-150 = Level 3 – In Control
  • 151-180 = Level 4 – Internalized
  • 181-200 = Level 5 – Continuously Improving

Innovation Maturity Model

Image adapted from the book Innovation Tournaments by Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich

Innovation Maturity is Organization-Specific

The best way to understand the innovation maturity of your organization is to have a cross-functional group of individuals across your organization fill out the assessment and then collate and analyze the submissions. This allows us to make sense of the responses and to make recommendations of how the organization could evolve itself for the better. I do offer this as a service at http://innovation.help.

What Do the Numbers Say About the Average Level of Innovation Maturity?

To date, the innovation maturity assessment web application at http://innovation.help has gathered about 400 seemingly valid responses across a range of industries, geographies, organizations and job roles.

The average innovation maturity score to date is 102.91.

This places the current mean innovation maturity score at the border between Level 1 (Reactive) and Level 2 (Structured). This is not surprising.
Looking across the fifty (50) questions, the five HIGHEST scoring questions/statements are:

  1. We are constantly looking to improve as an organization (3.12)
  2. I know how to submit an innovation idea (2.83)
  3. Innovation is part of my job (2.81)
  4. It is okay to fail once in a while (2.74)
  5. Innovation is one of our core values (2.71)

The scores indicate that the typical level of agreement with the statements is “often” but not “always.”

Looking across the fifty (50) questions, the five LOWEST scoring questions/statements are:

  1. Six sigma is well understood and widely distributed in our organization (1.74)
  2. We have a web site for submitting innovation ideas (1.77)
  3. There is more than one funding source available for innovation ideas (1.79)
  4. We have a process for killing innovation projects (1.82)
  5. We are considered the partner of first resort for innovation ideas (1.83)

The scores indicate that the typical level of agreement with the statements is “partially.”

What does this tell us about the state of innovation maturity in the average organization?

The numbers gathered so far indicate that the state of innovation maturity in the average organization is low, nearly falling into the lowest level. This means that on average, our organizations are focused on growth, but often innovate defensively, in response to external shocks. Many organizations rely on individual, heroic action, lacking formal processes and coordinated approaches to innovation. But, organizations are trending towards greater prioritization of innovation by senior management, an introduction of dedicated resources and a more formal approach.

The highest scoring questions tell us that our organizations are still in the process of embedding a continuous improvement mindset. We also see signs that many people view innovation as a part of their job, regardless of whether they fill an innovation role. Often, people know how to submit an innovation idea. And, we can infer that an increasing number of organizations are becoming more comfortable with the notion of productive failure, and communicating the importance of innovation across the organization.

Finally, the lowest scoring questions show us that process improvement methodologies like six sigma haven’t penetrated as many organizations as one might think. This means that many organizations lack the experience of having already spread a shared improvement methodology across the organization, making the spread of an innovation language and methodologies a little more difficult. We also see an interesting disconnect around idea submission in the high and low scoring questions that seems to indicate that many organizations are using off-line idea submission. Zombie projects appear to be a problem for the average organization, along with getting innovation ideas funded as they emerge. And, many organizations struggle to engage partners across their value and supply chains in their innovation efforts.

Conclusion

While it is interesting to look at how your organization might compare to a broader average, it is often less actionable than creating that deeper understanding and analysis of the situation within your unique organization.

But no matter where your organization might lie now on the continuum of innovation maturity, it is important to see how many variables must be managed and influenced to build enhanced innovation capabilities. It is also important to understand the areas where your organization faces unique challenges compared to others – even in comparing different sites and/or functions within the same organization.

Creating a baseline and taking periodic measurements is crucial if you are serious about making progress in your level of innovation maturity. Make your own measurement and learn how to measure your organization’s innovation maturity more deeply at http://innovation.help.

No matter what level of innovation maturity your organization possesses today, by building a common language of innovation and by consciously working to improve across your greatest areas of opportunity, you can always increase your ability to achieve your innovation vision, strategy and goals.

Keep innovating!

This article originally appeared on the Edison365 Blog

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

People Drive the World-Technology as a Co-Pilot via Center of Human Compassion

People Drive the World-Technology as a Co-Pilot via Center of Human Compassion

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

People at the Center – Technology as a Co-Pilot

Are people at the center of your innovation and new product plans? Have we made people the center of all things digital? Are human’s and our environment the center of the new world entering the 4th Industrial Revolution? When innovation is during groundbreaking disruptive inventions or whether innovation is iterating into new products… what is placed at the center of your strategies? What are the reasons for these new inventions?

So much is at stake, as the world turns to being driven by AI, humanoids, rockets’ red glare searching for new lands to inhabit, games and more games feeding our brains with virtual excitement and stimulation, devices galore on our bodies, in our hands, in our homes helping us navigate our every move and in many ways directing us on how to think. The acceleration of digital permeating our lives is mind boggling. The news we are fed, seemingly unbiased, the product advertisements that sneak into our feeds, the connections via too many social and work-related networks that appear all too promising and friendly too is overwhelming. Technology is encompassing our lives!

The Power of Technology

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology for all the positive it contributes to the world. Technology is allowing individuals to create! To create and earn! To take control of their lives and build meaningful endeavors. The creation of TIME and SPACE to live how we to live has been a major outcome of

1. technology but also 2. the pandemic.

Let’s explore the creator economy which has experienced an explosion of late. As referenced in the Forbes articleThe Biggest Trends For 2022 In Creator Economy And Web3, by Maren Thomas Bannon, Today, the total size of the creator economy is estimated to be over $100 billion and 50 million people worldwide consider themselves creators. Creators will continue to bulge out of the global fabric as individuals seek to augment their incomes or escape the confines or rigged corporate cultures. Technology is enabling creators no doubt!

Technology is also allowing forward acting organizations to scale growth at unprecedented speeds. Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

Curious about the effects of the pandemic, we completed a second round of research in early 2021 and discovered the following:

  1. Technology Leaders have moved even further ahead of the pack and have been growing at 5x the rate of Laggards on average in the past three years.
  2. Among the “Others” there is a group of organizations—18% of the entire sample—that has been able to break previous performance barriers—the Leapfroggers.

Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

Curious about the effects of the pandemic, we completed a second round of research in early 2021 and discovered the following:

  1. Technology Leaders have moved even further ahead of the pack and have been growing at 5x the rate of Laggards on average in the past three years.
  2. Among the “Others” there is a group of organizations—18% of the entire sample—that has been able to break previous performance barriers—the Leapfroggers.

Of course, so much technology is doing good things for the world. 3-D printing is emerging at the center of homelessness. As reported in the #NYTIMES, this tiny village in Mexico is housing homeless people. The homes were built using an oversized 3-D printer.

Another example positive outcomes of technology is the emergence of over-the-counter hearing devices. Fortune Business Insights estimates the global hearing aids market is projected to grow from $6.67 billion in 2021 to $11.02 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 7.4% in forecast period, 2021-2028.

These devices, until this year, were regulated to being sold by medical professionals at, for the majority of population in need, very high prices $2000 to $5000+ per hearing aid. Yes typically you need two. But recent innovations in ear buds and bluetooth are allowing other technology companies into the game! Take Bose for example, the FDA recently approved Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids to be purchased on their website for $895/pair. No need for a hearing professional. This significantly changes the playing field and opens the doors for so many that have put off purchases (of these not covered by insurance by the way) devices.

Entertainment & leisure travel is going to a whole new level with the help of technology. It’s wonderful that anyone with connectivity and travel the world and explore via Virtual Reality. Here are 52 places you can explore in the comfort of your home shared by NY Times. Many of us attended conferences and events over the past two years virtually. We’ll see an exponential growth in virtual reality experiences in the coming year.

So why am I talking about creating a Center for Human Compassion if so much good is really coming out of technology? Because many of the outcomes are also unrealized and not anticipated or at least publicized to prepare people. It is essential for companies, technologists, and product teams to consider the consequences of new technologies. Not as an afterthought but at the forethought, from inception of ideas we must ask what are the downsides? How will people be affected? What could happen?

The quote below is taken from the World Economic Forum report, Positive AI Economic Futures

machines will be able to do most tasks better than humans. Given these sorts of predictions, it is important to think about the possible consequences of AI for the future of work and to prepare for different scenarios. Continued progress in these technologies could have disruptive effects: from further exacerbating recent trends in inequality to denying more and more people their sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, given that work is much more than just a source of income.

WeForum brings 150 thought leaders together to share thoughts on how we create an AI world we want. For all of AI’s good, there are potentials for negative outcomes.

Let’s take the military’s fight again hobbyists and drones. In the recent article from WSJ, The Military’s New Challenge: Defeating Cheap Hobbyist Drones, how much energy was placed on Human Compassion if drone technologies, IoT and AI got in the wrong hands?

The U.S. is racing to combat an ostensibly modest foe: hobbyist drones that cost a few hundred dollars and can be rigged with explosives. @WSJ

I feel certain there was some consideration but not enough to draw out possible negative impacts and how to mitigate them before they could even start. Did we really put people at the center of what is possible with drone technologies? What do you think?

This is no easy task. We know what is good for us can turn to bad for us when in the wrong hands, or if it’s not moderated to healthy limits. How do we help facilitate a more compassionate relationship with technology and put people at the center?

Here are four strategies to ensure you are keeping people at the center of your innovation, new products and technology development efforts.

  1. Create a Center of Human Compassion, or People Centered Technology Consortium, or what ever you wish to brand your initiative. Select trusted advisors from external (customers, partners…) and a select group of internal stake holders to join your collaborative to gather input, feedback and push back!
  2. Discuss with your trusted group very early on. Gamify initiatives around gathering what ifs! Anticipating the worst you will plan better for the best! (leaving the hope out)
  3. Build a continuous feedback loop. It is important that insights and scenarios are revisited and rehashed over and over again.
  4. Join other consortiums and get involved with AI and tech for good initiatives. If you can’t find ones you feel are of value to you and your company, start one!

Mantra for the year: #lucky2022 but not without work and placing people front and center of plans will good fortune and luck come for the masses.

As always, reach out if you have ideas you’d like to share or questions you’d like to discuss!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Why Good Job Interviews Don’t Lead to Good Job Performance

Why Good Job Interviews Don't Lead to Good Job Performance

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers, M.D.

Many hiring managers, professional school and residency interviewers and search executives know there is not a single correlation that links how someone interviews with their on-the-job performance.

“In 30 years of executive search, over 1000 search projects, and interviews with over 250,000 candidates, we cannot find a single correlation that links how someone interviews with their on-the-job performance – as interviews are traditionally conducted by the vast majority of hiring managers.” — Barry Deutsch

Yet interview theater constantly appears at a location near you.

Why?

  1. By it’s very nature, there is a power imbalance so the interviewer almost always has the upper hand
  2. Telling truth to authority can be a non-starter
  3. The process is flawed
  4. Interviewers and interviewees are not trained to interview
  5. There is an inadequate or non-existent job preview
  6. It is almost impossible to understand the culture of a potential organization without acually experiencing it for a while
  7. Interviewers look for personality, not performance, fits
  8. There is bias and the inability to accept cognitive, demographic and psychographic diversity
  9. Here is how not to answer 10 medical school and residency interview questions
  10. The process for selecting those who are interviewed in flawed.
  11. It is impossible to pick your parents or pick your boss
  12. You can’t always trust people to do what they said they would do if you work for them.

How we are filling the sickcare worker pipeline is not working. Interview theater has had it’s run. It’s time for Medical School Powerball.

While you are at it, get rid of exit interviews and annual performance reviews too.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Most of my advice to leaders who want to use innovation to grow their businesses boils down to two things*:

  1. Talk (and listen) to customers
  2. Do something

But what if you don’t want to talk to customers?

After all, talking to customers can be scary because you don’t know what they’ll say. It can be triggering if they say something mean about your product, your business, or even you as a person. It can be draining, especially if you’re an introvert.

Plus, there are so many ways to avoid talking to customers – Send a survey, hire a research firm to write a report, invoke the famous Steve Jobs quote about never doing customer research.

Isn’t it just better to stay tucked away in the office, read reports, state opinions as if they are facts (those opinions are based on experience, after all), and make decisions?

Nope.

It is not better. It is also not safer, easier, or more efficient.

To make the best decisions, you need the best data, which comes from your customers.

But that doesn’t mean you need to talk to them to get it.

The best data

The best data helps you understand why your customers do what they do. This is why Jobs to be Done is such a powerful tool – it uncovers the emotional and social Jobs to be Done that drive our behavior and choices (functional Jobs to be Done are usually used to justify our choices).

But discovering Jobs to be Done typically requires you to talk to people, build rapport and trust in a one-on-one conversation, and ask Why? dozens of times so surface emotional and social JTBD.

Luckily, there are other ways to find Jobs to be Done that don’t require you to become an unlicensed therapist.

Observe your customers

Go where your customers are (or could be) experiencing the problem you hope to solve and try to blend in. Watch what people are doing and what they’re not doing. Notice whether people are alone or with others (and who those others are – kids, partners, colleagues, etc.). Listen to the environment (is it loud or quiet? If there’s noise, what kind of noise?) and to what people are saying to each other.

Be curious. Write down everything you’re observing. Wonder why and write down your hypotheses. Share your observations with your colleagues. Ask them to go out, observe, wonder, and share. Together you may discover answers or work up the courage to have a conversation.

Quick note – Don’t be creepy about this. Don’t lurk behind clothing racks, follow people through stores, peep through windows, linger too long, or wear sunglasses, a trench coat, and a fedora on a 90-degree day, so you look inconspicuous. If people start giving you weird looks, find a new place to people-watch.

Observe yourself

Humans are fascinating, and because you are a human, you are fascinating. So, observe yourself when you’re experiencing the problem you’re hoping to solve. Notice where you are, who is with you, the environment, and how you feel. Watch what you do and don’t do. Wonder why you chose one solution over another (or none).

Be curious. Write down everything you did, saw, and felt and why. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Share your observations with your colleagues and find points of commonality and divergence, then get curious all over again.

Quick note – This only works if you have approximately the same demographic and psychographic profiles and important and unsatisfied Jobs to be Done of your target customers.

Be your customer

What if your business solves a problem that can’t be easily observed? What if you don’t have the problem that your business is trying to solve?

Become your customer (and observe yourself).

Several years ago, I worked with a client that made adult incontinence products. I couldn’t observe people using their products, and I do not have important (or unsatisfied) Jobs to be Done that the products can solve.

So, for one day, I became a customer. I went to Target and purchased their product. I went home, wore, and used the product. I developed a deep empathy for the customer and wrote down roughly 1 million ways to innovate the product and experience.

Quick note – Depending on what’s required to “be your customer,” you may need to give people a heads up. My husband was incredibly patient and understanding but also a little concerned on the day of the experiment.

It’s about what you learn, not how you learn it

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is one best way to get insights. I’m 100% guilty (one-on-one conversations are a hill I have died on multiple times).

Ultimately, when it comes to innovation and decision-making, the more important thing is having, believing, and using insights into why customers do what they do and want what they want. How you get those insights is an important but secondary consideration.

* Each of those two things contains A TON of essential stuff that must be done the right way at the right time otherwise, they won’t work, but we’ll get into those things in another article

Image Credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Laddering Up Your Career Portfolio

Laddering Up Your Career Portfolio

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers, M.D.

A career used to describe your roles in one company throughout your working life, like a career at Monsanto, Deloitte, a university or IBM. But, the workplace and generational attitudes have changed, along with a prolonged life expectancy, so careers now mean something different. Now, a career includes all the roles you undertake throughout your life – education, training, paid and unpaid work, family, volunteer work, leisure activities and more.

In today’s world the term career is seen as a continuous process of learning and development. For physicians, those activities that contribute to a career can include:

  • training
  • education
  • employment
  • work experience
  • community activities
  • enterprise activities
  • employment
  • different life roles
  • volunteer work
  • leisure activities

The traditional career ladder for doctors meant 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and then 4-6 years of residency or fellowship followed by 30-40 years of practice, if not more. The contemporary career trajectory is much different. Exit ramps exist and clinical practice half-lives are shorter.

Investment advisers often suggest bond laddering as an investment risk management strategy. A bond ladder is the name given to a portfolio of bonds with different maturities. For example, you buy bonds with maturation dates that are 1 year, 3 years,5 years and 10 years with variable returns. When one matures, you retire it and buy another on the ladder. Physician entrepreneurs should consider doing the same with their careers as a way to hedge career risk. Doctors, like most everyone, need some side gigs. But, you don’t want to quit your day job until the time is right.

Career laddering is a also a way to leverage your impact. As you move how you spend your time on one thing to another, the results of your efforts should be more meaningful and impactful, whether it be helping more people, helping to solidify your personal brand or creating a higher return the investement of your time. Think about your position, authority, and influence. How are you using them to positively impact the lives of your sphere?

Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, diversify your interests and job roles, gradually retiring one to assume another. For example, while clinical practice is the focus of most doctors, take time to build your interest portfolio and dedicate the requisite time and attention to those roles to build value in them. Such roles can be teaching, volunteering, advising, writing, consulting,entrepreneurship or many others. Then, when it’s time, prune or retire one of the roles to assume another on the ladder.

The strategy also applies to advising or consulting. At some point, if you have done things right, people will be coming to you to ask for help. Here are some tips on how to navigate the gig economy.

For example, you might want to apply these criteria to whether you accept your next gig based on fit:

  1. Does it meet your personal and professional needs?
  2. Do you trust the people ?
  3. Do you think the business is viable and how long will it take?
  4. What are the next critical success factors and do you have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies to deliver them?
  5. Are you satisfied with the compensation being offered?
  6. Is there a conflict of interest with other projects?
  7. How much will this intrude into your non-work life and other commitments?
  8. Is the problem the company wants to solve important to you?
  9. How much time, effort and travel is expected?
  10. How much liability is there?

Don’t get stuck in the three boxes of life. Laddering jobs during your career, including after traditional retirement age as an encore career, is a great way to keep you engaged and satisfied.

Here is the case against early retirement. Many of these studies clearly show that health problems intensify after workers qualify for retirement benefits and abate after policies encouraging work are introduced. In addition, there are financial and social consequences.

The word is out. For the first time in 57 years, the participation rate in the labor force of retirement-age workers has cracked the 20 percent mark, according to a new report from money manager United Income (PDF). Some work longer because they want to. Most do it because they think they have to.

What’s more, since social security costs will exceed income in 2020, by delaying retirement ,you will be doing your part for your country’s budget.

You don’t have to do all this full time. Instead you can be a digital nomad or follow the 10/20/30 plan.

Some cities or towns will pay you to move there. Job switching for higher pay is common.

Create a career portfolio and rethink your encore career: You lower your risk, increase your return and can wake up with a smile on your face having made a wise investment.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Meeting face to face, for a lovely lunch recently, with a coaching colleague, we were both shocked to discover how stressed and anxious we were feeling about being asked to deliver live workshops and face-to-face coaching to clients once again.

We shared how emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed we felt, despite having decades of knowledge, experience, and skills in being able to deliver deep learning programs and face-to-face coaching sessions, about doing live gigs again! We also agreed, that despite the range of largely effective emotionally intelligent coping strategies we developed to help ourselves and our clients self-regulate, self-manage, to better adapt to the pandemic-imposed work-from-home restrictions that the past two and half years of working, alone, and in isolation, online, had taken its toll.

We acknowledged and accepted that we along with many of our clients were all suffering from elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety. We then agreed that it was time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves and our clients reconnect and reset by enabling them to create states of well-being, emotional agility, and mental fitness, where they can feel good, can function well, and be effective and innovative in an increasingly chaotic world.

To seek new ways of enabling ourselves and our clients to deal effectively with a range of unresourceful feelings including helplessness, powerlessness, and fearfulness about an uncertain future. 

We noticed that these feelings often caused many of our clients to contract and freeze, and become immobilised as a result of what we describe as a “bubble” of self-induced silo-based behaviours. That often evolved into extreme self-centeredness, and unconscious selfishness, which ultimately increased their feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of belonging, resulting in defensive and avoidant behaviours, in what is becoming an increasingly chaotic world.

How are these ways of being and acting impacting organisations?

Partnering in a wide range of online global coaching sessions, we noticed that a number of common trends emerged as to how our client’s teams and organisations, are being impacted at the cultural level:

  • Immobilization – many people are unable to self-manage their work from home workloads and are quietly burning out, through being overly task-focused and busy, whilst others are preferring to work autonomously, and not waste hours commuting.
  • Lacking safety and trust – many organisations are freezing all of their change initiatives, learning programs, and projects, causing people to fear loss and overall job insecurity, where many people are contracting more deeply within their “bubbles” and become even more distrustful of leadership and even more passively defensive and avoidant.
  • Lacking clarity and foresight – many organisations have slipped into being so reactive, focussing only on delivering short-term results, and are not communicating a clear strategy for leading the way forwards.

Resulting in:

  • Increased resistance to change and going back to the office adds to people’s inertia, and to their sense of disconnection and lack of belonging.
  • Increased risk adversity and conventional (cost cutting), tactical and short-term focus, inhibits any investment in Research and Development or the skills development required in developing and executing a future innovation strategy.
  • People have become even more fearful of failure, and are not stretching themselves to adapt, grow, learn and innovate with disruption, and often choosing to merely change jobs, in a competitive job marketplace, driven by scarcity, as a perceived short term solution.

A unique moment in time

This has created an opportunity, in this unique moment in time, to focus on being kinder to ourselves and to others by helping and supporting each other, respectfully and compassionately, creatively and courageously, to reconnect and reset. Despite rising levels of economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest.

What made sense yesterday may not make so much sense today.

Many of the mental models we applied yesterday may not be relevant for tomorrow because corporate culture, civic and social structures have drastically changed and digitalization has become commonplace, noting that we are shifting from a VUCA to BANI world where:

  • Brittle has replaced Volatility.
  • Anxiety reflects Uncertainty.
  • Non-linearity is an addition to Complexity.
  • Incomprehensibility is ultimately the consequence of our non-linear world and goes one step further than Ambiguity.

Paradoxically, this has created new openings to genuinely explore and discover new thresholds to adapt, generate new mindsets, develop skill sets, and power up our toolkits to keep pace with the effects of the emerging BANI world and capture complex systems by asking a  key generative or catalytic question:

How might you support and enable others to think and act differently in such a world, where old patterns seem to crumble while new ideas and systems still need to be created, invented, innovated, and established?

As the world of work changes, so does the need for everyone to consider how to be more open-hearted, minded, and willed with one another.

A final word from Gallop CEO Jon Preston in the Gallop Global Emotions Report:

“All over the world, people are trying to understand the rise of violence, hatred, and increased radicalization. They will continue to argue over what the best policy responses should be and what role social media plays in fueling negative emotions.

However, policymakers must understand why so many more people are experiencing unprecedented negative emotions and focus on the drivers of a great life.

Our shared humanity and wellbeing depend on it”.

When we generously and kindly demonstrate care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, we can also demonstrate helpfulness and support, through our unconditional willingness to reconnect and reset.

Resulting in an ability to co-create a better sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, through enhancing our emotional intelligence.  To effectively self-regulation and self-manage the superpowers and strategies required to thrive, flourish and flow, and make transformational changes in the face of relentless uncertainty, disruption, and a chaotic world.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. You can also register for our free 45-minute masterclass on Thursday, 25th August, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future! Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration

The Phoenix Checklist - Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.”   Sun Tzu

As reference I love using Michael Michalko book, Thinkertoys. It’s been on my shelf since first released in the 1991, especially in the most challenging times. This book has gotten me and my businesses through 2 gulf wars, 9/11/01 economic aftermath, 2008/9 deep recession and even good times where innovation felt no need.

In chapter 14, Phoenix, he shares the CIA’s checklist for dissecting and solving critical problems. BUT don’t just use this for tackling a problem, use it to help you design new business models, new revenue models, innovating a new product… the checklist applies to scenario planning and breaking down opportunities into manageable strategies to execute new ideas, processes and products.

It’s a strategy used and touted by experts over and over again and it works: The Phoenix Checklist Strategy. Challenging your own assumptions every minute of the day is not a bad thing right now. Putting a framework around how best to challenge your team and build stronger more reliable assumptions and plans is a great idea. I am sure there are strategies already at play and that too is a great thing. What more could be done today that you are not already doing? Maybe this is a great basis for the first question you want to answer using the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) trusted Phoenix checklist.

Below is the Phoenix Checklist but broken down in the way we at Plazabridge Group use the tool for innovating new ideas and solving critical issues for our clients.

>Start here: Can you imagine the result if you solve the problem?

Illusion licensed from iStock by PlazaBridge GroupGet those creative juices flowing.

What do you see?

What’s the first thing you see?

What’s the 2nd thing you see?

I. Define the problem– The first stage is to tackle the checklist.

Below are the Typical questions we ask and may have answers for… but go deeper!

  • Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
  • What benefits do you get by solving the problem?
  • What are the unknown factors?
  • Have you encountered this problem before?
  • What data do we have to help us dissect the problem down into smaller pieces?

We often fail to go deeper into defining the challenges to be solved or opportunities to create Go deeper questions:

  • What are you not yet understanding?
  • What information do you have?
  • What is not the problem?
  • Is the information you have sufficient? Insufficient? Superfluous? Contradictory?
  • Can you describe the problem in a chart?
  • Where is the limit for the problem?
  • Can you distinguish the different parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships between the different parts of the problem? What is common to the different problem areas?

Then go even deeper exploration:

  • Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related issue?
  • Try to think of a familiar problem with the same or similar unknown factors.
  • Suppose you find a problem similar to yours that has already been resolved. Can you use it? Can you use the same method?
  • Can you reformulate your problem? How many different ways can you reformulate it? More generally? More specifically? Can the rules change?
  • What are the best, worst and most likely outcomes you can imagine?

Designing the plan checklist:

Our team starts here cutting through most challenges or designing new opportunities we want to tackle.

What will solving this problem do for our company? Answer this question daily for two weeks. See what happens. It’s magical really!   Define, Write, chart, and visualize every step of the way. Assign roles to each member of the team to tackle component outcomes of the exploration.

  • How will you solve the whole problem? Can you break the problem down?
  • How much of the unknown can you influence?
  • Can you deduce something useful from the information you have?
  • Have you used all available information?
  • Have you taken into account all the essential factors in the problem?
  • Can you identify the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the accuracy of each step?
    • Draw these out –
    • Then redraw them
    • And again
  • What creative techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
    • After exploring creative techniques go back to the previous bullet point and draw out the steps again.
    • Then again
    • And yes ONE MORE MAGICAL time

Imagine again the results in the perfect world! What would the results be, look like, feel to everyone in the company, to you and to your customers?

  • Can you imagine the result? How many different types of results can imagine?
  • How many different ways can you try to solve the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • Can you intuitively see the solution? Can you check the result?
  • What should be done? How should it be done?
  • Where, when and by whom should it be done?
  • What do you need to do right now?
  • Who will be responsible for what?

Now what? Can you do more with the plan?

  • Can you use this problem to resolve any other issues?
  • What are the unique qualities that make this problem what it is and nothing else?
  • Which milestones can best highlight your progress?
  • How do you know when you are successful?

This last point is so very important and often left out of processes. There are stages of success. Success doesn’t happen all at once so how will you create your timeline to give any new plan a chance to succeed? Better yet, how will you know if you are not succeeding? The plan was well thought out, a lot of time was invested and possibly a lot of money! Don’t give up but in your scenario planning do know what you are watching for to say, how and where shall we adjust along the way and constantly question how to improve the plan. Give it long enough, give it a fighting chance, put your top minds in the company on these challenges and opportunities.

Create your opportunity team of diverse thinkers! They are your innovators.

Create your action team! They are your executors!

Now you are ready for the next challenge or opportunity. Start at the top and repeat.

Original Article

Image credits: iStockPhoto (purchased by the author)

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.