Category Archives: Leadership

A Superpower That Can Save The Day

Same But Different

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If there’s one superpower to develop, it’s to learn how to assess a project and get a good feel for when it will launch.

When you want to know how long a project will take, ask this simple question: ‘What must the project team learn before the project can launch?” By starting with this single question, you will start the discussion that will lead you to an understanding of what hasn’t been done before and where the uncertainty is hiding. And if there’s one thing that can accelerate a project, it’s defining where the uncertainty is hiding. And knowing this doubly powerful, like a pure two-for-one, because if you know where uncertainty is, by definition, you know where it isn’t. Where the uncertainty isn’t, you can do what you did last time, and because you’ve done it before, you know how long it will take. No new tools, no new methods, no new analyses, no new machines, no new skillsets, no new anything. And for the remaining elements of the project, well, that’s where the uncertainty is hiding and that’s where you will focus on the learning needed to secure the launch.

But it can be difficult to understand the specific learning that must be done for a project to launch. One trick I like to use is the Same-But-Different method. It goes like this. Identify a project that launched (Project A) that’s most similar to the one that will launch next (Project B) and perform a subtraction of sorts. Declare that Project B (the one you want to launch) is the same as Project A (the one you already launched) but different in specific ways and then define those differences as clearly and tightly as possible. And where it’s different, that’s where the learning energy must be concentrated.

Same-But-Different sounds simplistic and trivial, but it isn’t. More than anything, it’s powerful. For the elements that are the same, you do what you did last time, which is freeing. And for the small subset if things that are different, you dig in!

Same-But-Different drives deep clarity and extreme focus, which result in blistering progress and blinding effectiveness.

And for some reason unknown to me, asking a team to define the novel elements of a project is at least fifty times more difficult than asking them how Project B is different than Project A. So, it feels good to the team when they can use Same-But-Different to quickly easily define what’s different and then point directly to the uncertainty. And once the team knows where the uncertainty is hiding, it’s no longer hiding.

And if there’s one thing a project team likes, it’s knowing where the uncertainty is hiding.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Reset and Reconnect to Increase our Connectedness

Reset and Reconnect to Increase our Connectedness

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our second blog in the Reconnect and Reset series of three blogs, we stated that now is not the time to panic. Nor is it a time to languish from change fatigue, pain, and emotional lethargy. It is a significant moment in time to focus, rehabilitate, rebuild, repair, regrow and reset to increase our connectedness through linking human touchpoints that increase people-power in the fourth industrial revolution.

In the current environment, where chaos and order are constantly polarizing, it’s crucial to touch people with empathy, reignite their social skills, and enable them to become healthily self-compassionate and more self-caring to:

  • Patiently support, lead, manage, mentor, and coach them towards finding their own balance to flow with mitigating the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Take advantage of new technologies, networks, and ecosystems to re-engage and collaborate with others and with civil society in positive ways that contribute to the whole.
  • Do the good work that creates a more compelling, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future, that serves the common good.

The Landscape Has Changed and So Have the Solutions

As the fourth industrial revolution continues to implode, we need to zoom out and consider the bigger picture. Where a recent Harvard Review article What Will Management Look Like in the Next 100 Years?” states that we are entering an era, which is fundamentally transforming the way we operate. Which is defined by the disruptive growth in blockchain technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and other core digital capabilities.

All of which, in some way, is dependent on linking the key human touchpoints that increase people’s power and our connectedness.

  • An era of empathy

In the same article, management scholar Rita Gunther McGrath argued that management practices based on command and control, and expertise would ultimately make way for empathy.

Where work is centred around value creation conducted through networks and collaboration, that rely on increasing the connectedness between machines and humans rather than through rigid structures and relationships to thrive through increasing people-power in the fourth industrial revolution.

  • Capable of better

The Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experience Trends Report also states that the landscape has changed.  Where people are choosing to work flexibly, to work in the places that work best for them, and to take time for their own well-being, families, and friends.

Where people are demanding change because they care, about their leaders and their organizations, and want to be capable of developing better ideas; better innovations; and delivering better performances.

The report outlines the four things your people need you to know:

  1. There will be an exodus of leaders – and women will be the first out the door.
  2. People will demand better physical and digital workspaces.
  3. The lack of progress in diversity, inclusion, and belonging won’t be accepted.

People don’t want to become irrelevant, nor do they want their managers, leaders, and organizations to become irrelevant. People know that they can’t, and won’t go back to the old ways of doing things. People also know that they are already living in the new normal and that they need to start working there, too and to do that, we need to increase our connectedness.

Which is especially important for building people’s power and mitigating the challenges emerging in the fourth industrial revolution.

  • A transformative moment for employees and employers

Businessolver’s Eighth Annual Report on the State of Workplace Empathy describes how the pandemic has impacted on employees’ personal lives, the labor market, and the economy, and states that “we are living through a renegotiation of the social contract between employees and employers”.

Their data shows that amid the return to the office, fewer employees view their organizations as empathetic, and that workplace empathy has clear implications for employee well-being, talent retention, business results, and increases people-power:

  • About 70% of employees and HR professionals believe that empathetic organizations drive higher employee motivation.
  • While 94% of employees value flexible work hours as empathetic, the option is only offered in 38% of organizations.
  • 92% of CEOs say their response to returning to in-person work is satisfactory, compared to 78% of employees.
  • 82% of employees say their managers are empathetic, compared to 69% who say the same about their organization’s chief executive.

Yet, there seems to be a true lack of understanding, especially in the corporate sector, of what it means to be empathetic, and a shortage of time and energy to develop the mindsets, behaviors, and skills to practice it and make it a habit.

It is also a fundamental way of being to increase our connectedness and building peoples-power.

Make a Fundamental Choice to Increase our Connectedness

Even though each person is a distinct physical being, we are all connected to each other and to nature, not only through our language but also by having a deeper sense of being.

Human connectedness is a powerful human need that occurs when an individual is aware and actively engaged with another person, activity, object or environment, group, team, organization, or natural environment.

It results in a sense of well-being.

The concept is applied in psychology as a sensation or perception where a person does not operate as a single entity – we are all formed together to make another, individual unit, which is often described as wholeness.

Which is especially important for our well-being and people power in the face of the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

Strategies for Developing Quality Connections

  • Be grounded, mindful and conscious

Being grounded and mindful enables people to become fully present to both themselves and to others. It is a generous gift to unconditionally bestow on others. Especially at this moment in time, where the pandemic-induced social isolation, has caused many people to become unconsciously and unintentionally self-absorbed.

There is an opening to become aware of, and to cultivate our attending and observing skillsets, to sense and see the signals people are sending, at the moment they are sending them. To help people identify the source of their issues to re-establish a sense of influence and control that reduces their autonomic nervous system reactions and help them restore their calmness.

This is the basis to increase our connectedness, by attuning and becoming empathetic as to what thoughts and feelings lay behind their behaviours and actions, with detachment, allowing and acceptance.

  • Be open-hearted and open-minded 

Being curious about what others are feeling and thinking, without evaluating, judging, and opposing what they are saying. By knowing how to listen deeply for openings and doorways that allow possibilities and opportunities to emerge, to generate great questions that clarify and confirm what is being both said and unsaid.

To support people by creating a safe and collective holding space, that reduces their automatic unconscious defensive responses.  To defuse situations by being empathic and humble and increase our connectedness by asking how you might help or support them, and gaining their permission and trust to do so.

Increase our connectedness through being vulnerable in offering options so they make the best choice for themselves, to reduce their dependence, help them identify and activate their circles of influence and control and sustain their autonomy.

  • Help people regenerate

Now is the moment in time to focus on building workforce capabilities and shifting mindsets for generating a successful culture or digital transformation initiative by harnessing, igniting, and mobilizing people’s motivation and collective intelligence and building people power.

It is crucial to acknowledge and leverage the impact of technology through increasing people-power by developing new mindsets, behaviors, skills, and new roles, which are already emerging as fast as other roles change.

Be willing to invest in the deep learning challenges that build people’s readiness and receptivity to change, so they can embrace rather than resist it, and be willing to unlearn, and relearn, differently, by collaborating with other people, leaders, teams, and organizations across the world.

Ultimately, it all depends on being daring and willing to increase our connectedness, through adapting, innovating, and collectively co-creating strategies, systems, structures that serve the common good, and contribute to the well-being of people, deliver profits and nurture a sustainable planet.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

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

This is the final 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 check out the recording of our 45-minute masterclass, 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

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Music Can Make You a More Effective Leader

Music Can Make You a More Effective Leader

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

You don’t have to be a rock star with an album that makes millions to say, “Music changed my life.” You can be the leader of an organization, searching for a way to overcome an obstacle or challenge plaguing you—potentially for years.

The key to resolving an ongoing leadership challenge could lie in the music you’re listening to. Listening to the right music can actually shift the way you think, help you overcome obstacles and make you a better leader.

Suppose you’re feeling frustrated with your team, wondering why they’re not as motivated or engaged as you are, why they aren’t handling customers the way you would like, why you can’t fully delegate or something else. In that case, you’re probably asking, “How can I get them to change?”

But that may not be the right question. What if you asked instead, “What can I change in myself?” What if the thing you need to change is your internal environment, not your external one?

This is the tough question that The Leader’s Playlist, the book debut by Harvard lawyer turned CEO coach Susan Drumm, invites leaders to ask themselves.

I had the chance to interview Drumm for an episode of Amazing Business Radio. In the interview, she talked about game-changing ways leaders can become more effective. Specifically, she shared a powerful, practical tool for shifting unconscious perspectives and behaviors that may create a poor leadership outcome. That tool is music.

According to Drumm, music is a “brain hack for shifting ineffective leadership patterns.” From her decades of coaching top executives, including billionaire CEOs and high-profile political figures, Drumm knows that when someone is struggling as a leader, especially if they’re feeling strong emotions such as burnout, frustration, imposter syndrome, etc., it’s often because there’s an internal ‘playlist’ on repeat that is shaping how they view their circumstances—not outside pressures.

Drumm says, “This playlist of thoughts is keeping them stuck. It’s become that soft background music they may be unable to hear, but it’s there, hijacking their emotional state.”

The internal playlist is typically rooted in childhood “wounds.” Drumm highlights common “playlist titles” she encounters in the executives and leaders she coaches, including, but not limited to:

  1. I am all alone
  2. I am not good enough
  3. I am trapped and confined

These subconscious messages are deeply embedded in the leader’s psyche, and it’s a challenge for most leaders to simply think or decide their way out of their playlist.

During my interview, I asked Drumm if playing music can dramatically change a mood. She quickly answered, “Yes,” so I shared a short story about a favorite song I listen to in the morning when I need a little boost to get me going. The song is Perfect Day by Hoku. It is the upbeat song that was played in the opening of ‘Legally Blonde’. The lyrics don’t match with my work ethic (Sun’s up/It’s a little after twelve/Make breakfast for myself/Leave the work for someone else), but the energy, lightheartedness and overall meaning make it a great song—at least for me.

Music can alter your mood, clear your head and change how you think over time. Drumm’s book outlines a strategy for using music to tap into your subconscious. Change the way you feel, and you shift your thought patterns. Her goal is to help leaders create a playlist that reflects the life they want to lead, understand how their current playlists came to be and learn how the power of music can unlock a leader’s true potential.

So, if you’re struggling to lead your team effectively, check for an internal playlist playing in the background, and then create a literal playlist to help rewire those beliefs. As Drumm says: your personal evolution sparks your leadership evolution!

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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3 Mind-Blowing Things I Learned in Nebraska

3 Mind-Blowing Things I Learned in Nebraska

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

In the Before Times, we attended conferences to learn, make connections, and promote ourselves and our businesses. Then COVID hit, and conferences became virtual.   Although that made them easier to attend, it also made them easier to skip. Because, if we’re honest, most conferences were more about connecting and promoting than learning.

Last week, I went to one of those rare, almost mythical, conferences more focused on learning and connecting than promoting. It was fantastic! It was also in Nebraska (which is a pretty interesting place, btw).

Here are my three biggest mind-blowing takeaways from Inside Outside’s IO2022 Summit:

“Strategy is the direction you take to win in the future”

Kareen Proudian, Managing Partner at Faculty of Change

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but if you asked me to define “Strategy,” I’d respond with a long and rambling answer. Which means I can’t define “strategy.”  This admission is especially embarrassing because I have a resume littered with places where I developed, drafted, and implemented strategies, so I should have learned what the word means. But nope, I didn’t.

I suspect I’m not alone.

Asking for the definition of strategy is like asking if you must wear clothes to the office. You should know the answer. But unlike whether or not clothing is mandatory, most of us don’t know the answer, AND it’s easy to get away with never knowing the answer.

The elegant simplicity of Kareen’s definition of strategy blew my mind. It’s short, memorable, and something that most people can understand. Maybe I should share the definition with my alma maters and past employers.

“When we feel threatened, our IQ drops 50 to 70 points”

Alla Weinberg, CEO at Spoke & Wheel

When I first heard talk about Psychological Safety and Safe Spaces in today’s business world, I rolled my eyes. Hard. As a Gen X-er, I grumbled about how we didn’t need “safe spaces” when I grew up because we were tough and self-reliant, and I lamented the inevitable downfall of society caused by weak and coddled Millennials.

I was wrong.

Psychological Safety is absolutely and unquestionably essential for individuals to grow, teams to work, companies to operate and innovate, and societies to function and evolve. I’ve seen teams and businesses transform and achieve unbelievable success by discussing and living the elements they require for Psychological Safety. I’ve also seen teams and businesses fail in its absence.

These results aren’t surprising when you realize that you feel threatened when you are in a complex situation in which you cannot accurately predict the outcomes. And when you feel threatened, you are half as intelligent, effective, and creative as you are when you’re calm.

So, if you’re a manager and you’re upset that your people aren’t as intelligent, effective, or creative as they should be, it may not be their fault. It may be yours.

“Stage expertise, not industry expertise, is key to innovation success”

Sean Sheppard, Managing Partner at U+

There is deep comfort in the known. It’s why we gravitate to people like us. It’s also why companies ask job candidates and consultants about their experience in the industry and choose those with deep experience and impressive expertise. Often, there’s nothing with this question or the resulting decision.

Sometimes, it’s precisely the wrong question.

Sometimes, functional expertise is significantly more important than industry experience. After all, if you’re the hiring manager at a healthcare company looking for a Director of Finance, who would you hire – a Marketing Director from a competitor or a Finance Director from a CPG company?

That’s the case with innovation.

Decades of real-world experience (not to mention the successful launch of 100+ startups) show that successful corporate startup teams had expertise (mindsets, skillsets, executional drive) in the startup’s phase and a working knowledge of the industry rather extensive industry expertise and little to no innovation experience.

Questions are good. The right questions are better. So, the next time you’re staffing up an innovation team (or hiring a consultant), choose based on their innovation experience and willingness to learn about your industry.

Innovation happens everywhere

That’s why people from San Francisco, Austin, Washington DC, NYC, Toronto, Boston, and dozens of other places converged on Lincoln, Nebraska.

We went to see innovation in action and learn about the thriving startup community in the middle of the country. We also went to learn and connect with others committed to creating new things that create value.

Getting our minds blown was a bonus.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Reset and Reconnect to Transform your World

Reset and Reconnect to Transform your World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Our blog, Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World was the first in a series of three, on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. In this blog, we described how we have opportunities, to focus on being kinder to both ourselves and to others we interact with. To help us shift our mental states to transition effectively through the shock and pain of the pandemic, and rehabilitate in ways that transform our worlds.

We also outlined the range of key reasons as to why it is critical to take personal responsibility for understanding, helping, and supporting those we depend upon, and who depend upon us, to respond in ways that are respectful and compassionate, creative and courageous.

That enables and empowers people to recover and rehabilitate from the shock and pain they are experiencing from their elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety, occurring in our relentlessly uncertain and chaotic environments, through allowing, accepting, and acknowledging where people are at – and that it’s OK to not be OK!

Neither a time to panic nor languish

Right now, it is neither a time to panic, stall nor to languish in the face of change fatigue and mental lethargy.

It is a time to shift from making binary (either/or) judgements towards making linear (both/and) judgements to re-think and create a mental state, that is open and receptive to emerging possibilities and embraces change in ways that are fair and inclusive.

To transform your world through:

  • Choosing a range of constructive and positive responses to the rising levels of global economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest in our own local environments.
  • Generously and kindly demonstrating care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, and by being collaborative, appreciative, helpful, and supportive.
  • Being unconditionally willing to take the “sacred pause” that allows ourselves, teams, organizations, and to reconnect and reset, through intentionally using constraints and developing a mental state that supports them to become adaptive, creative, inventive, and innovative.

Transforming your world involves co-creating a deeper sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, to enhance our collective intelligence toward discovering and navigating new ways of thriving, flourishing, and flowing in the face of ongoing disruption.

Integrating and balancing chaos and rigidity

Dr. Dan Siegal, in Mindsight, applies the emerging principles of interpersonal neurobiology to promote compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being in our personal lives, our relationships, and our communities.

In our global coaching practice at ImagineNation™ we have observed that many of our clients are experiencing mental states that embody varying levels of discord, dissonance, and dis-order, which are deeply unconscious and are impacting them neurologically.

Dr. Dan Siegal states:

“At the heart of both interpersonal neurobiology and the mindsight approach is the concept of ‘integration’ which entails the linkage of different aspects of a system – whether they exist within a single person or a collection of individuals. Integration is seen as the essential mechanism of health as it promotes a flexible and adaptive way of being that is filled with vitality and creativity.

The ultimate outcome of integration is harmony. The absence of integration leads to chaos and rigidity—a finding that enables us to re-envision our understanding of mental disorders and how we can work together in the fields of mental health, education, and other disciplines, to create a healthier, more integrated world.”

We have seen a vast range of evidence of peoples’ internal and external, mental chaos, and self-imposed internal rigidity in many of our clients’ coaching sessions.

Knowing that when chaos and rigidity are prolonged – it creates unproductive or dysfunctional mental states and inflexible thought processing.

This makes people non-adaptive and mostly inflexible because their natural well-being is impaired (dis-order).

Our approach is to partner with clients to co-create a relationship, that supports and helps facilitate a set of more integrated mental states. This entails each person’s being respected for his or her autonomy and differentiated self through deep empathic communication, which creates the space and an opening for shifting mindsets and behaviors, to ultimately pull them towards a new possibility that may transform their world.

Allowing, accepting, and acknowledging

When we allow, accept, acknowledge and support people to recover and rehabilitate from the shock and pain they are experiencing as a result of recent global events and conflicts, including feelings of overwhelm, isolation, loneliness, and disconnection, we can enable them to initiate making these shifts.

According to Gallops Global Emotions 2022 Report – these are considered “negative emotions – the aggregate of the stress, sadness, anger, worry and physical pain that people feel every day” and have reached a new record in the history of their tracking.

Jon Clifton, CEO of Gallop stated in the report that their data reveals that unhappiness has been rising for more than a decade and that the world is also struggling from a silent pandemic – loneliness.

“Gallup finds that 330 million adults go at least two weeks without talking to a single friend or family member. And just because some people have friends, it doesn’t mean they have good friends. One‑fifth of all adults do not have a single person they can count on for help.”

No emotion or mental state is permanent!

It’s time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves, our clients, people, and teams by paying deep attention and being intentional as to how we might experiment and collaborate, with three key steps, to make these shifts:

  1. Co-create relationships focused on supporting integration, by being respectful and empathic in all communications, to open space of possibility, and pull people towards what creative ideas and breakthroughs might transform their world.
  2. Artfully and masterfully generatively listen, inquire, question, and disagree, to evoke, provoke and create ideas for thinking and acting differently both today and in the future.
  3. Maximize people’s strengths, differences, and diversity, to sense, see and solve problems and be creative and inventive in delivering breakthrough ideas and innovative solutions that add value to the quality of people’s lives, in ways they appreciate and cherish.

Rehabilitate with intention

At the same time, paradoxically, extending options and choices that help them shift and transition through the shock and pain of the past two and half years.

Enabling and empowering people to rehabilitate, with intention rather than regret, adopting a systemic lens through:

  • Creating safe collective holding spaces, that embrace presence, empathy, and compassion.
  • Helping people get grounded, become mindful, and fully present, enables them to make quality connections, rebuild their confidence and recreate a sense of belonging.
  • Enabling, equipping, and empowering people with new mindsets, behaviors, and skills through unlearning, learning, and relearning so they can adapt, grow and be resourceful and resilient in the face of the range of emerging problems, opportunities, and challenges.
  • Amplifying people’s strengths, reinforcing positive emotions, mitigating and reducing the way they filter information to re-ignite their intrinsic motivation and re-engage them in what they can control, what care deeply about value, or need, to survive and thrive.

A decade of both transformation and disruption

As most of us are aware, we are currently experiencing a decade of both transformation and disruption, where chaos and order are constantly polarizing, making it imperative to support, mentor, and coach people to integrate and find their balance.

To help them become more flexible and open to being adaptive, and effectively “dance in dis-equilibrium” between the constant and consistent states of chaos and order.

To enable people to see themselves as the cause in actively unlearning and letting go of old mental models, unresourceful mental states, and thinking patterns, to reimagine and redesign how they work to transform their world and create a more compelling, inclusive, and sustainable future.

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, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

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

This is the second 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 check out the recording of our 45-minute masterclass, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future!

Image credit: Unsplash

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Did You Make a Difference Today?

Did You Make a Difference Today?

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

Did you engage today with someone that needed your time and attention, though they didn’t ask?

You had a choice to float above it all or recognize that your time and attention were needed. And then you had a follow-on choice: to keep on truckin’ or engage. If you recognized they needed your help, what caused you to spend the energy needed to do that?

And if you took the further step to engage, why did you do that?

For both questions, I bet the answer is the same – because you care about them, and you care about the work. And I bet they know that, and I bet you made a difference.

Did you alter your schedule today because something important came up?

What caused you to do that?

Was it about the thing that came up or the person(s) impacted by the thing that came up?

I bet it was the latter. And I bet you made a difference.

Did you spend a lot of energy at work today?

If so, why did you do that? Was it because you care about the people you work with?

Was it because you care about your customers?

Was it because you care enough about yourself to live up to your best expectations?

I bet it was all those reasons. And I bet you made a difference.

Image credit: Dr. Matthias Ripp

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Don’t Blame Quiet Quitting for a Broken Business Strategy

Don't Blame Quiet Quitting for a Broken Business Strategy

GUEST POST from Soren Kaplan

When it comes to “quiet quitting,” the bigger issue may be a lack of purpose and meaning in your company and culture.

The term “quiet quitting” recently exploded on social media and in business circles. It describes an approach to work that has you doing the very barest minimum to meet your responsibilities. You don’t go above and beyond what’s needed. You do exactly what’s in your job description. Nothing more.

Quiet quitting has become a term to describe the ultimate “disengagement” at work. It flies in the face of the thousands of employee engagement initiatives the exist across U.S. companies today. No wonder it’s a big concern.

I believe there are two ways to look at the uproar surrounding quiet quitting.

1. Quiet quitting has always existed and is normal

One way to look at quiet quitting is that it simply highlights what’s existed forever–that some people just go to work for a paycheck and their “central life interests” lie elsewhere. This topic was in fact the focus of my PhD research many years ago. I analyzed 50 years of workplace motivation data and ultimately concluded most people don’t view their work as their primary life interest. They may still perform at an acceptable level, so they don’t get fired, but they prefer other things like leisure time, family, friends, and community activities over work. They view their job as a means to the end of doing other things outside of work. There was one exception–for senior executives, work provided a greater sense of identify and central life focus.

So, the first way to look at quiet quitting is this: It’s normal. Khan’s TikTok video simply articulated what’s always been true. The uproar arose because the concept challenges the underlying assumption that companies can successfully influence people’s central life interests, so they become more focused on work. Perhaps all the resources we’ve poured into trying to do that for so many years may have actually been futile.

2. Quiet quitting results from a lack of meaning and purpose

Another way to view quiet quitting is that it’s the result of a lack of purpose and meaning in work. If you wholeheartedly believed in your company’s vision, wouldn’t you give it your all? If you felt deeply connected to your company’s purpose, wouldn’t you want to go beyond your job description to make it a reality?

From this perspective, it’s just a matter of clearly defining your purpose and a compelling vision, and then helping everyone see their role in achieving it. It’s a more empowering lens, especially for the internal business functions focused on employee engagement, communication, culture, and strategy.

The goal then is to outline the “why” of your company, including the positive contributions you’ll make for customers and the world. Build a strategy that’s so compelling people won’t want to quiet quit at all. They’ll want to step up and lead the charge.

Moving Forward with Your Quiet Quitting Strategy

The disruptions of the past few years have challenged fundamental assumptions about life and work. Quiet quitting may simply be a pithy word to describe a reality that existed long before the pandemic, but that was amplified because of it.

The two lenses I described don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Both can be true at the same time. If you hold both as valid, your goal is simple: Create a compelling strategy to bring people on board. Give people all the reason in the world not to quietly quit. Then, recognize that some may jump on, others might not. And that’s not just okay, but may also be the new (and old) normal.

Image Credit: Pexels

Check out my new book Experiential Intelligence. The first chapter is available for free download, and the book is available on Amazon.

This article was originally published on Inc.com and has been syndicated for this blog.

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How Do You Judge Innovation: Guilty or Innocent?

How Do You Judge Innovation: Guilty or Innocent?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Several months ago, a colleague sent me a link to Roger Martin’s latest article, “The Presumption of Guilt: The Hidden Logical Barrier to Innovation.”  Even though the article was authored by one of the preeminent thinkers in the field of innovation and strategy (in 2017, Thinkers50 voted him the #1 most influential management thinker in the world), I didn’t have too much hope that I would read something new or interesting. After all, I read A LOT of articles, and 99 times out of 100, I’m disappointed (80 times out of 100, I roll my eyes so hard I give myself a headache).

This one blew my mind.

With just a few sentences and applying a well-known analogy, Martin explained a phenomenon that plagues every organization and kills most innovation.

Presumed Innocence is a fundamental human right

Martin begins by pointing out that in the legal systems of modern democracies, all citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In 1948, the United Nations extended this concept to all nations (not just democracies) in Article 11.1 of their Declaration of Human Rights.

The presumption of innocence is so important because “the presumption of guilt (or even neutrality) puts an almost impossible burden on the defendant. The State is strong and has resources far beyond that of the individual.”

Presumed Innocence is not a fundamental innovation right

Now let’s apply this analogy and the lens of presumption of innocence or guilt to business, arguably a field where we spend much more time and make far more judgments.

You, and your fellow decision-makers, are judges and jury.

It is up to you to determine whether the projects in front of you are innocent (worthy of additional investment) or guilty (not worthy).

If you presume all defendants are guilty, you place the burden of proof on them. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they will succeed and are, therefore, worthy of investment.

If you presume all defendants are innocent, you place the burden of proof on yourself (or the business as a whole). You must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they will fail.

What type of judge are you? What kind of decision-making system do you preside over? Do you presume guilt or innocence?

In most boardrooms, projects are presumed guilty.

Presumptions in practice

Let’s consider the two “defendants” (types of projects) that appear before you – core business projects and innovation projects.

Each defendant has a team of advocates. The core business typically has a large team with ample resources and a history of success. Innovation has a much smaller team with far fewer resources and few, if any, “in-market” successes.

To be fair, you ask the same questions of both defendants – questions about market growth, performance versus competitors, and what the P&L looks like.

The team advocating for the core business produces data-filled slides, reports from reputable third parties, and financials blessed by Finance. In the deluge of facts, you forget that all the data is about the past, and you’re making decisions about the future. You find the evidence compelling (or at least reassuring), determine that the team met their burden of proof, declare the Core Business innocent, and allocate additional funds and people.

Innovation’s team also comes with slides, reports, and financials, but it’s not nearly as compelling as what you just saw from the current business team. But you are a fair judge, so you ask most questions like

  • We believe we can get X% of a Total Addressable Market estimated to be Y
  • There are no direct competitors, but consumers rated this better than current solutions
  • We don’t have a 5-year NPV or P&L for this business at scale because we’re not asking for permission to launch. We’re asking for $100,000 to continue testing.

Believe? We need to know!

No direct competitors? Perhaps there’s a reason for that!

No P&L? I’m not going to throw scarce money away!

“Guilty!” you declare, “no more resources for you! Try again!”

This example illustrates what Roger Martin considers corporate innovation’s fatal flaw. In his article, he argues,

“the status quo must play the role of the prosecutor and prove that the innovation is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The innovation asserts its case, laying out the future that it imagines is plausible and explains the logic that buttresses the plausibility. The onus is on the status quo to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the innovation’s logic is flawed — e.g., the proposed economics are unrealistic, customers haven’t shown a hint of caring about the unique selling features of the innovation, competitors already have a lead on us in the proposed area, etc.

If the status quo can do so, then the innovation is guilty. If it can’t, then the innovation is not guilty, and the organization should invest.”

As much as I love the idea of requiring the status quo (managers? Executives? Stockholders?) to prove that investments should not be made (i.e., the default answer is “Yes” to all requests), it’s just not a practical solution.

Burden of proof as barrier

There’s another fundamental principle in our legal system that Martin doesn’t touch on: the burden of proof shifts as the stakes increase.

Specifically, the State’s burden of proof increases from warrant to arraignment to grand jury to trial. For example, the State must provide probable cause based on direct or other reliable information to get a warrant. But the State must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt when the defendant goes to trial and risks losing their freedom or even their life.

But in the example above, the questions (proof required) remained the same.

The questions were appropriate for the Current Business because it’s already in the market, consuming massive resources, and its failure would have a catastrophic impact on the company.

But the questions aren’t appropriate for innovation in its early days. In fact, they were the business equivalent of demanding proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to get a search warrant. Instead, a judge evaluating a project in the early Design phase should ask for probable cause based on direct or other reliable information – observed consumer behavior, small-scale research findings, or simple prototypes.

The Verdict is In

I love the concept of Presumed Guilty vs. Presumed Innocent. I see it all the time in my work, and it is painfully prevalent in Innovation Council meetings and other boardrooms where managers sit as judge and jury over a project’s (ad a team’s) fate.

I want to flip the paradigm – To make “yes” the default instead of “No” and to require managers, the keepers of the status quo, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a project will fail.

But I don’t think it’s possible (if I’m wrong, PLEASE tell me!).

Instead, our best bet for true innovation justice is not to shift who bears the burden of proof but rather how heavy that burden is at various points. From probable cause when the stakes are low to beyond a reasonable doubt when they’re high. And certainly more than a ham sandwich at any point

Image credit: Pexels

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Tell the Truth, Even When It’s Hard

Tell the Truth, Even When It's Hard

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

Our behavior is a result of causes and conditions. One thing paves the way for the next. Elements of the first thing create a preferential path for the next thing. If someone gets praised for doing A, more people will do A, even when A is the wrong behavior. If someone gets chastised for doing B, B won’t happen again, even when B is the right behavior.

The most troubling set of causes and conditions are those that block people from telling their truth. When everyone knows it’s a bad idea, but no one is willing to say it out loud, that’s a big problem. In fact, it may be the biggest problem.

When people think they won’t be taken seriously, they keep their truth to themselves. When people know they will be dismissed, they keep quiet. When people feel the situation is hopeless because there’s no way they’ll be listened to, they say nothing.

When people see others not taken seriously, that creates conditions for future truths to be withheld. When people see others being dismissed, that creates conditions for future truths to be kept quiet. When people see others in others from not being listened to, that creates conditions for future truths to remain unsaid.

And causes and conditions are self-strengthening. The more causes and conditions are reinforced, the more the behaviors become ingrained. The more people are stifled, the more they will keep quiet. The more people are dismissed, the more they’ll shut up. The more people’s truths are ignored, the more they’ll remain unsaid.

Here are three rules for truth-telling that will help you and your company move forward:

  • Without truth-telling, there can be no truth-telling.
  • The longer truth-telling is stifled, the harder it is for truth-telling to reemerge.
  • Truth-telling begets truth-telling.

Image credit — Jinterwas

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Scaling New Heights – Building Resilience

Scaling New Heights – Building Resilience

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

“I just love it when people say I can’t do it, there’s nothing that makes me feel better, because all my life, people have said that I wasn’t going to make it.” -Ted Turner

Resilience is what allows us to scale new heights. It is the strength that comes from within, the power to push forward in the face of adversity. Resilience is what allows us to confront our fears and overcome challenges. Resilience is what allows us to build something great. When we are resilient, we are able to tap into our innermost strength and power. We are able to align our team and work together towards a common goal. We are able to face our challenges head-on and emerge victorious. Companies that continually work on building resilient processes, people and continue to innovate scale new heights.

Resilience and innovation are two critical components of any successful organization. Resilience helps organizations withstand and bounce back from challenges, while innovation allows them to proactively identify and seize new opportunities. However, too often these two functions are siloed within organizations, with little connection between them. To build a stronger relationship between innovation and resilience, leaders need to create a culture of collaboration and openness that values diversity and alignment. By fostering a culture of collaboration, leaders can encourage teams to share ideas and perspectives, leading to more innovative thinking. And by valuing diversity and alignment, leaders can ensure that all voices are heard and that everyone is working towards the same goal. When innovation and resilience are properly connected, organizations are better able to weather any challenge and emerge even stronger.

As the world increasingly becomes more VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – organizations must build their resilience in order to thrive. Here are five strategies that organizations can use to encourage imagination, scenario planning, break processes, and throw out old assumptions:

  1. Encourage imagination: One way to encourage imagination is to encourage employees to think outside the box. This can be done by encouraging them to come up with new ideas, and by providing opportunities for them to experiment and try new things.
  2. Scenario planning: Another strategy that can be used is scenario planning. This involves thinking about different possible future outcomes, and making plans accordingly. This can help organizations be better prepared for unexpected events.
  3. Break processes: Another way to build resilience is to break processes. This means breaking away from traditional ways of doing things, and instead being open to new ways of doing things. Sometimes, this may mean taking risks, but it can also lead to new opportunities.
  4. Throw out old assumptions: Finally, another strategy for building resilience is to throw out old assumptions. This means questioning long-held beliefs, and being willing to embrace new ideas. By doing this, organizations can stay flexible.

Image credit: Pixabay

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