Category Archives: Management

Nike Should Stop Blaming Working from Home for Their Innovation Struggles

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“But even more importantly, our employees were working from home for two and a half years.  And in hindsight, it turns out, it’s really hard to do bold, disruptive innovation, to develop a boldly disruptive shoe on Zoom.” – John Donahoe, Nike CEO

I am so glad CNBC’s interview with Nike’s CEO didn’t hit my feed until Friday afternoon. It sent me into a rage spiral that I am just barely emerging from. Seriously, I think my neighbors heard the string of expletives I unleashed after reading that quote, and it wasn’t because it was a lovely day and the windows were open.

Blaming remote work for lack of innovation is cowardly. And factually wrong.

I’m not the only one giving Mr. Donahoe some side-eye for this comment.  “There were a whole bunch of brands who really thrived during and post-pandemic even though they were working remotely,” Matt Powell, advisor for Spurwink River and a senior advisor at BCE Consulting, told Footwear News.  “So I’m not sure that we that we can blame remote work here on Nike’s issues.”

There’s data to back that up.

In 2023, Mark (Shuai) Ma, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Yuye Ding, a PhD student at the university’s Katz Graduate School of Business, set out to empirically determine the causes and effects of a firm’s decision to mandate a return to work (RTO).  They collected RTO mandate data from over 100 firms in the S&P 500, worked backward to identify what drove the decision, and monitored and measured the firm’s results after employees returned to work.

Their findings are stark: no significant changes in financial performance for firm value after RTO mandates and significant declines in employee job satisfaction.  As Ma told Fortune, “Overall, our results do not support these mandates to increase firm values.  Instead, these findings are consistent with managers using RTO mandates to reassert control over employees and blame employees as a scapegoat for firm bad performance.”

Or to justify spending more than $1B to double the size of its Beaverton, OR campus.

When you start blaming employees, you stop being a leader.

CEOs make and approve big, impactful, complex, high-stakes decisions.  That’s why they get paid the big bucks.  It’s also why, as Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” 

Let’s examine some of the decisions Mr. Donahue made or supported that maybe (definitely) had a more significant impact on innovation than working from home two days a week.

Ignoring customers, consumers, and the market: Nike has a swagger that occasionally strays into arrogance.  They set trends, steer culture, and dictate the rules of the game. They also think that gives them the right to stop listening to athletes, retailers, and consumers, as evidenced by the recently revealed Team USA Track & Field uniforms, the decision to stop selling through major retailers like Macy’s and Olympia Sports, and invest more in “hype, limited releases, and old school retro drops” than the technology and community that has consumers flocking to smaller brands like Hoka and Brooks.

Laying off 2% of its workforce: Anyone who has ever been through a layoff senses it’s coming months before the announcement and the verdicts are rendered.  Psychological safety, feeling safe in your environment, is a required element for risk-taking and innovation.  It’s hard to feel safe when saying goodbye to 1500 colleagues (and wondering if/when you’ll join them).

Investing too much in the core: Speaking of safety, in uncertain times, it’s tempting to pour every resource into the core business because the ROI is “known.” Nike gave in to that temptation, and consumers and analysts noticed.  Despite recent new product announcements like the Air Max DN, Pegasus Premium, and Pegasus 41, “analysts point out these ‘new’ innovations rely too much on existing franchises.”

Innovation is a leadership problem that only leaders can solve

Being a CEO or any other senior executive is hard. The past four years have been anything but ordinary, and running a business while navigating a global pandemic, multiple societal upheavals, two wars, and an uncertain economy is almost impossible.

Bosses blame.  Leaders inspire. 

Mr. Donohue just showed us which one he is.  Which one are you?

One MORE thing

This is a losing battle, but STOP USING “DISRUPTIVE” INCORRECTLY!!!!  “Disruptive Innovation,” as defined by Clayton Christensen, who literally coined the phrase, is an innovation that appeals to non-consumers and is cheaper and often lower quality than existing competitors.

Nike is a premium brand that makes premium shoes for premium athletes.  Employees could spend 24/7/365 in the office, and Nike would never develop and launch a “boldly disruptive shoe.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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Managers Make the Difference

Four Common Mistakes Managers Make

Managers Make the Difference

GUEST POST from David Burkus

Senior leaders set strategy. But middle managers and front-line managers make the difference in whether that strategy gets executed…and in whether or not people are engaged and motivated in an organization. According to Gallup, 70% of an individual employee’s engagement is determined by the manager of her team. In turn, this means that managers have a significant impact on an organization’s success or failure.

In this article, we will discuss the four common mistakes managers make and how to avoid them.

1. Talking First

The first common mistake managers make is talking first. This one is really common. Presumably managers were promoted because they solved problems and generated ideas faster and better than their peers. And there are times when quick decisions need to be made. But not always. Most often, they should facilitate discussion and allow everyone to share their opinions. This encourages collaboration and creativity among team members. By doing this, managers can create an environment where everyone feels heard and valued. Getting everyone’s ideas out gives the team the best chance of finding the optimal solution.

In addition, managers should avoid talking first because often the first thing they say can easily be misconstrued as a command. The higher you go in a hierarchy, the more likely it is your casual suggestions will be misinterpreted as stern commands. And that not only tricks the team into taking a potentially wrong action, but it also robs them of their sense of autonomy and could degrade the quality of team culture.

2. Avoiding Conflict

The second common mistake managers make is avoiding conflict. No one wants to be the bad guy on the team—much less the manager who is also negative or confrontational. Somewhere in management training, conflict resolution workshops gave off the misconception that conflict is always to be avoided. But sometimes, in the service of avoiding conflict—managers actually avoid confronting the people and situations the team needs. Managers need to address underperformance and insubordination. And their team needs them to do it even more.

In addition, managers should encourage positive conflict over ideas, which can lead to better decision-making and innovation. When team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, it can lead to new and innovative solutions. And when they know that their ideas will be improved by the discussion with the group—the ideas get even better. Addressing conflict in a positive way can help to create a culture of open communication and trust.

3. Reacting Urgently

The third common mistake managers make is reacting urgently. To be a manager is to deal with problems. Forces outside (or inside) of the team’s control can force the plan to change or be scrapped altogether. Unexpected roadblocks can appear randomly on the horizon. And what was supposed to be a smooth, easy project can turn into a big problem. When problems (or changes) occur, many managers react as quickly as possible—but don’t think about whether that first, default reaction was the right one. Perhaps if given some time and a little discussion, the team would have found a better solution.

In addition, reacting urgently can succumb the whole team to the tyranny of the urgent—where a small but unexpected problem now appears more urgent than more important projects simply because it’s the new fire to put out. But doing so steals time and attention away from those more important projects and harms the team’s productivity even more than the initial problem would have. Managers need to respond to problems, but to respond deliberately and not urgently.

4. Assuming Availability

The fourth common mistake managers make is assuming availability. Many managers just assume their team feels free to come to them. They’ll say, “ask me anything” or claim they have an “open door policy” (assuming they even work in the same office as their team). But in reality, the first time a team member approaches their “available” manager and finds their boss to busy or less than focused, they realize how available that manager truly is—or rather isn’t. Your door might be always open, but if you’re always on the phone it doesn’t matter.

Instead, managers would gain from being deliberate and intentional about their availability. They shouldn’t promise to be available all of the time. Instead, they should be available at specific times and block them off in their calendar. That way they can give the team members their sole focus. Even better, if working colocated, they can take specific times of the day to leave the office (should be pretty easy…the door should be open) and walk out to check-in on each team member individually. Doing so not only helps team members feel seen and heard, but it also helps the manager hear more too.

In fact, being deliberately available helps to avoid the other common manager mistakes as well. By being available and listening intently, managers talk less. They become more aware of conflicts that need to be instigated. And they’re able to access more information and react less urgently. By being deliberately available, managers help build a team where everyone can do their best work ever.

Image credit: Unsplash

Originally published on DavidBurkus.com on April 24, 2023

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Time is a Flat Circle

Jamie Dimon’s Comments on AI Just Proved It

Time is a Flat Circle

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton


“Time is a flat circle.  Everything we have done or will do we will do over and over and over and over again – forever.” –- Rusty Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, in True Detective

For the whole of human existence, we have created new things with no idea if, when, or how they will affect humanity, society, or business.  New things can be a distraction, sucking up time and money and offering nothing in return.  Or they can be a bridge to a better future.

As a leader, it’s your job to figure out which things are a bridge (i.e., innovation) and which things suck (i.e., shiny objects).

Innovation is a flat circle

The concept of eternal recurrence, that time repeats itself in an infinite loop, was first taught by Pythagoras (of Pythagorean theorem fame) in the 6th century BC. It remerged (thereby proving its own truth) in Friedreich Nietzsche’s writings in the 19th century, then again in 2014’s first season of True Detective, and then again on Monday in Jamie Dimon’s Annual Letter to Shareholders.

Mr. Dimon, the CEO and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co, first mentioned AI in his 2017 Letter to Shareholders.  So, it wasn’t the mention of AI that was newsworthy. It was how it was mentioned.  Before mentioning geopolitical risks, regulatory issues, or the recent acquisition of First Republic, Mr. Dimon spends nine paragraphs talking about AI, its impact on banking, and how JPMorgan Chase is responding.

Here’s a screenshot of the first two paragraphs:

JP Morgan Annual Letter 2017

He’s right. We don’t know “the full effect or the precise rate at which AI will change our business—or how it will affect society at large.” We were similarly clueless in 1436 (when the printing press was invented), 1712 (when the first commercially successful steam engine was invented), 1882 (when electricity was first commercially distributed), and 1993 (when the World Wide Web was released to the public).

Innovation, it seems, is also a flat circle.

Our response doesn’t have to be.

Historically, people responded to innovation in one of two ways: panic because it’s a sign of the apocalypse or rejoice because it will be our salvation. And those reactions aren’t confined to just “transformational” innovations.  In 2015, a visiting professor at Kings College London declared that the humble eraser (1770) was “an instrument of the devil” because it creates “a culture of shame about error.  It’s a way of lying to the world, which says, ‘I didn’t make a mistake.  I got it right the first time.’”

Neither reaction is true. Fortunately, as time passes, more people recognize that the truth is somewhere between the apocalypse and salvation and that we can influence what that “between” place is through intentional experimentation and learning.

JPMorgan started experimenting with AI over a decade ago, well before most of its competitors.  As a result, they “now have over 400 use cases in production in areas such as marketing, fraud, and risk” that are producing quantifiable financial value for the company. 

It’s not just JPMorgan.  Organizations as varied as John Deere, BMW, Amazon, the US Department of Energy, Vanguard, and Johns Hopkins Hospital have been experimenting with AI for years, trying to understand if and how it could improve their operations and enable them to serve customers better.  Some experiments worked.  Some didn’t.  But every company brave enough to try learned something and, as a result, got smarter and more confident about “the full effect or the precise rate at which AI will change our business.”

You have free will.  Use it to learn.

Cynics believe that time is a flat circle.  Leaders believe it is an ever-ascending spiral, one in which we can learn, evolve, and influence what’s next.  They also have the courage to act on (and invest in) that belief.

What do you believe?  More importantly, what are you doing about it?

Image credit: Pixabay

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Do You Find Growth By Searching, Seeking, or Stalking?

Do You Find Growth By Searching, Seeking, or Stalking?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Growth is the lifeblood of any organization, and the quest for growth opportunities is not just a strategic imperative. It is a fundamental necessity because the ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities is a game-changer for companies wanting to achieve sustainable success and stay ahead of the competition. 

The challenge, however, is that not all opportunities are the same – some are head-smackingly obvious, while others are like trying to nail down JELL-O.  Yet companies take a “one size fits all” approach to finding, developing, and capitalizing on them.

SEARCH when need to transform

What do you do when you need information but don’t know precisely what you need and certainly don’t know where to find it? You Google it or, in less-branded terms, you search for it. 

When searching for growth opportunities, you’re looking for something but don’t know exactly what you need or where you’ll find it.  Finding opportunities requires you to go beyond traditional market analysis and adopt a learner’s mindset to see ways to disrupt the status quo, challenge existing paradigms, and create new value propositions for your customers.

Searching is a creative process that entails investing in R&D, fostering a culture of intrapreneurship, and experimenting with new technologies. It requires a culture of creativity, experimentation, and agility to adapt to changing market dynamics.  You have to be willing to be wrong on your way to being right, to move slowly so you can act quickly, and to throw out the timeline to harness the game-changing opportunity.

SEEK when you need to innovate

What do you do when you know what you need and generally where to find it?  You seek it out – you go to where you think it will be, and, on the off-chance it’s not there, you pivot to Option B.

When you’re seeking growth opportunities, you have a target in mind but are not 100% sure how to hit it.  Maybe you know you want to enter a new geography, but you need to figure out how to do it successfully and avoid the mistakes of previous entrants.  Maybe it’s a new industry or category, but you must understand if and how to do it without disrupting your existing business model.

Seeking is both creative and analytical.  You look for data and market intelligence, interview experts and individuals, analyze industry trends and explore untapped segments. It also requires you to stay open to surprises and new possibilities and take calculated risks to capitalize on emerging trends or consumer preferences.  Like searching, it requires patience.  Unlike searching, it respects a deadline.

STALK when you need to improve

Just like a lioness stalking a wildebeest, you do this when you see an opportunity and know exactly how to capture it. Yes, there will be zigs and zags along the way, and an unexpected competitor may pop up. But this is who you are and what you do. 

When stalking opportunities, you bring the full value and power of your experience, expertise, resources, and capabilities to bear on an opportunity.  This may happen when you’re operating and improving your core business.  It may also occur after you’ve searched (and found) an opportunity, sought (and decided on) a strategy, and now you have the confidence to launch and scale.

Do Your Approaches Align with Your Goals?

Most companies say that they want to transform. Still, very few have the patience or intestinal fortitude to search because there is no Google for Transformation that produces the exact plan you need to transform successfully.

Companies also tend to stalk when they want to innovate, leaving opportunities to change the game and build sustainable competitive advantage on the sideline because they’re too uncertain or take too long.

Growth requires all three approaches – search, seek, and stalk – but only happens when your chosen approach aligns with your goals.

Image credit: Pexels

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Companies Are Not Families

Companies Are Not Families

GUEST POST from David Burkus

It’s unclear where the metaphor got started. In fact, it probably didn’t start as a metaphor (“we are a family”); it probably started as a simile (“we are like a family”). Some well-meaning executive somewhere described the company culture as feeling like a family. (That a high-powered CEO would feel like the paternalistic chief of anything is a dilemma for a different article).

Over time, more and more corporate leaders started using “like family” until logically one decided to take it to the next level and skip the “like” altogether boasting “we’re a family.”

But a company is not a family.

And further a company shouldn’t be a family.

When companies began to overuse the family analogy, results are rarely positive. Instead, pushing for family levels of commitment can actually do damage to the culture. And in this article, we’ll outline the ways that the “family” metaphor can lead to dysfunction. As well as the steps team leaders can take to transform their dysfunctional fake families back into the thriving work teams they were trying to build in the first place.


[Watch the Video Above or Keep Scrolling to Read]

What Happens When We’re “Family”

Misusing the “family” metaphor at work can lead to several ways employees get abused. Three in particular stand out.

1. Work/Life Boundaries Get Blurred

Many of the organizations that emphasize the family feel end up taking actions that blur the lines between work and life for most employees. This was seen much more often before the pandemic, when companies flouted free food, dry cleaning, endless parties, and all sorts of amenities designed to make life as easy as possible—as long as you never left work. But that became a problem unto itself. Employees never left work, opting to spend more and more time with their “work family” but never getting the downtime needed to be sustainably productive.

Committed Employees Get Taken Advantage Of

When companies or even team leaders overemphasize the family metaphor, the next logical step is asking for family-level committed from employees. This creates a lot of opportunities for leaders to take advantage of employees. One project after another gets taken on, without considering existing commitments and making it difficult for employees to say no. Beyond overload, over-committed employees can also be asked to commit more and more unethical actions. When the survival of the company—sorry, the family—is a stake, employees can feel pressured to use any means necessary. See Theranos or WeWork for two recent examples.

3. Departing Employees Get Labeled as Betrayers

If those employees decide the don’t like blurry boundaries (around work and life or around ethics) and choose to move on—that creates a whole new issue. In organizations that overemphasize family, it becomes easy to label to departures as a form of betrayal. It’s not uncommon for companies to cut off all communication with former employees and instruct their people to do the same. Beyond being just plain wrong, this mindset can actually limit a company—since research shows former colleagues that stay connected become potent sources new knowledge for each other and their new employers.

What’s Wrong With Team?

The intent behind labeling a company as a family might have been noble. We want a strong culture or people bonded to each other and pushing each other to new levels of performance. But if that’s what we want, what’s wrong with just calling that a team? Strong teams deliver exactly that. And whether you’re in a company that’s abusing the family metaphor or not, here’s a few actions you can take to build a stronger team.

1. Redefine Purpose

One of the reasons for choosing the family metaphor was a poorly executed attempt at bonding teams and organizations together. But just saying you’re a family doesn’t build bonds. Instead, research suggests that one of the most potent ways to bond a team is by pointing to super-ordinate goals—goals so big they require collaboration. And for organizations, the super-ordinate goal is most often the stated purpose or mission. But even here, there’s work to be done. Most organizations write lofty mission statements that are difficult for employees to connect with. It falls on team leaders to translate that lofty purpose into one that bonds and motivates. And the best way to do that is to redefine it from a big and bold “why” (why do we do what we do?) to a specific “who” (who is helped by the work that we do).

2. Encourage Boundaries

Despite what it may seem like at first, committed employees isn’t always a positive. The line between committed and over-committed people is incredibly thin. Many managers think they want people who will work until the project is done—arriving early and staying late if need be. But the truth is that in a modern economy, work is never done. So, the only way to stay sustainably productive is to make sure every employee enjoys down time as well. More and more companies are experimenting with ways to encourage boundaries such as forbidding after hours email, moving to four-day workweeks, and even paying people to take their vacation time. And results all suggest the same thing: time away from work makes work better.

3. Celebrate Departures

No matter how committed employees are some of them will move on. New opportunities present themselves. Life changes happen. And so do plenty of other reasons for an employee to look elsewhere. In the face of this inevitability, treating departures like betrayals never made sense. Instead, departures ought to be celebrated. Employees who leave on good terms ought to be seen as alumni representing the organization even in their new endeavors. In addition to information, departing employees become a powerful new source of referrals for new hires too. There is no better recruiter than a satisfied former employee now working in a new company talking with their potentially dissatisfied new colleagues. In addition, treating employees well as they’re departing has a motivating effect on the employees who stay, as they watch how positively their former colleagues were treated and trust that they’ll be treated the same one day too.

Calling your company a family, may have been a well-meaning metaphor, but it hasn’t been a very useful one. Most employees don’t want a dysfunctional family. They want a team that’s bonded through purpose and built on trust and respect. They don’t want to be seen as family one day and divorced family the next. They want to know their contribution was valuable even after they leave. They don’t want leaders who over-commit and abuse them.

They want leaders who help them do their best work ever.

Image credit: David Burkus

Originally published on LinkedIn on December 9, 2021

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Good Intentions Pave the Way to Innovation Hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and nowhere is that more true than in innovation.

Good Intentions Pave the Way to Innovation Hell

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

That’s one of the insights I took away from InnoLead’s Q1 report on corporate innovation priorities.  The report is an eye-opening look at the impact of AI on corporate innovation as experienced by corporate entrepreneurs themselves.  But before deep diving into that topic, the report’s authors shared intriguing data about member companies’ innovation structure, leadership engagement, organizational connections, and results. Nestled amongst the charts were several that, when taken together, got my Spidey senses tingling.

61.0% of innovation teams are “directly under a high-visibility leader with a broad company focus.”

This is great because innovation needs senior leaders’ support and active engagement to survive, let alone survive for long enough to produce meaningful results. Add this to the fact that 45% of senior leadership teams frequently discuss the “progress and value of the innovation program,” and all signs point to innovation as a strategic priority.

But (you knew there was a but, didn’t you)…

If “broad company focus” means “no P&L responsibility,” we have a problem.  In every for-profit company I’ve worked for and with, people with P&L responsibility have greater power, influence, and access to resources than people without a P&L.  This division may not feel fair, but it makes sense – the people who bring in profit and revenue will always be more influential than people who represent “cost centers.”

You can see the impact of P&L owners who are, understandably, focused entirely on delivering short-term results throughout the report – 75% of companies have shifted their focus more towards near-term priorities, and 61% shifted their innovation portfolio away from Horizon 3 (also known as radical, breakthrough, or disruptive innovation).

As for all those discussions, it’d be great if they focused on walking the talk of innovation. But suppose it’s only innovation platitudes or, worse, questioning innovation’s ROI. That doesn’t bode well for the “high-visibility leader with broad company focus,” the innovation team, or the company’s culture.

71.2% of innovation teams’ customers or business partners are unaware of the team’s existence, don’t engage, or engage only occasionally.

Welcome to Innovation Island!  Where the cool people work on cool things in cool offices while all you drones slave away doing the same thing you’ve always done and making the money that pays for the cool people to do cool things in their cool offices.

I’m sure this isn’t the message the innovation team intends to send, but it’s the one received by most organizations.

When arguing for Innovation Island, managers often point to the organizational antibodies likely to swarm and kill H3/radical/breakthrough innovation and even some H2/adjacent innovations.  They’re right, and those innovations must be “protected.” But not every innovation needs protection.  H2 and certainly H1 innovations, where most portfolios are now, should be shared with the core business because the core business will eventually run them.

The bigger problem, in my opinion, is that innovation teams don’t seem to be reaching out to others in the organization.  Like the P&L owners they report to, people in the core business are busy running the business and generating revenue.  Very few have the time or energy to seek out the innovation team to discuss and explore innovation.  Companies that want to build a culture of innovation need to turn their innovators into evangelists, not residents of an island connected to the mainland by a single drawbridge.

23.4% of innovation teams are considered outsiders or actively undermined by other functions and business units.

This may not sound bad, but add to it the 55.0% that are “somewhat integrated with occasional collaboration” with other departments and business units, and you may be tempted to believe that Innovation Island would be wise to invest in a surface-to-air missile defense system.

Sadly, this perception of the innovation team as “The Others” isn’t surprising when considering that the most important tactic for building a relationship between innovation and the functions or business units is already having strong relationships and interpersonal trust (75.3% of respondents).  The least effective (4.7% of respondents) is “writing down shared objectives and expectations.”  So, no, the email you sent is not enough to win friends and influence people.

Bottom line

Well-intended companies appoint a senior executive to lead the innovation team because they’ve been told that doing so is powerful proof that innovation is a strategic priority.  They hire outsiders to inject new thinking into the organization because they know that “what got you here won’t get you there.”  They cordon the team and their work off from the rest of the organization because they read that separation is essential to preserving innovation’s disruptive nature. 

But if the senior executive doesn’t have the organizational power and influence that comes with P&L ownership, the team doesn’t have strong personal relationships with others in the business, and other functions and business units don’t know the team exists or how to interact with it, innovation will go nowhere.

But that’s better than where it could go.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Implementing Successful Transformation Initiatives for 2024

Implementing Successful Transformation Initiatives for 2024

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

Differences between success and failure

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

Capacity, confidence, and competence – human skills

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

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

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

Complex and difficult to navigate – key challenges

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

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

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

The new normal – restoring our humanity

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

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

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

Taking a whole-person approach – develop human skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reigniting our humanity – unlocking human potential  

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

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

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

  • Develop the human skills

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

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

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

Image Credit: Pixabay

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This One Word Will Transform Your Approach to Innovation

This One Word Will Transform Your Approach to Innovation

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Have you heard any of these sentences recently?

“We don’t have time”

“Our people don’t have the skills”

“We don’t have the budget”

“That’s not what we do”

I hear them all the time.  

Sometimes they’re said when a company is starting to invest in building their innovation capabilities, sometimes during one-on-one stakeholder interviews when people feel freer to share their honest opinions, and sometimes well after investments are made.

Every single time, they are the beginning of the end for innovation.

But one word that can change that.

“We don’t have time – yet.”

“Our people don’t have the skills – yet.”

“We don’t have the budget – yet.”

“That’s not what we do – yet.”

Yet.

Yet creates space for change.  It acknowledges that you’re in the middle of a journey, not the end.  It encourages conversation.

“We don’t have time – yet.”

“OK, I know the team is busy and that what they’re working on is important.  Let’s look at what people are working on and see if there are things we can delay or stop to create room for this.”

“Our people don’t have the skills – yet.”

“Understand, we’re all building new skills when it comes to innovation.  Good news, skills can be learned.  Let’s discuss what we need to teach people and the best way to do that.”

“We don’t have the budget – yet.”

“I get it.  Things are tight. We know this is a priority so let’s look at the budget and see if there’s a way to free up some cash.  If there’s not, then we’ll go back to leadership and ask for guidance.”

“That’s not what we do – yet.”

“I know.  Remember, we’re not doing this on a whim, we’re doing this because (fill in reason), and we have a right to do it because of (fill in past success, current strength, or competitive advantage.”

You need to introduce the YET.

It is very rare for people to add “yet” to their statements.  But you can.

When someone utters an innovation-killing statement, respond with “Yet.” Maybe smile mischievously and then repeat their statement with “yet” added to the end.

After all, you’re not disagreeing with them. You’re simply qualifying what they’re saying.  Their statement is true now, but that doesn’t mean it will be true forever.  By restating their assertion and adding “yet,” you’re inviting them to be part of the change, to take an active role in creating the new future state.

There’s a tremendous amount of research about the massive impact of this little word.  It helps underperforming students overachieve and is closely associated with Dr. Carol Dweck’s research into fixed and learning mindsets.

The bottom line is that “YET” works.

Put YET to work for you, your organization, and your efforts to innovate and grow.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023After a week of torrid voting and much passionate support, along with a lot of gut-wrenching consideration and jostling during the judging round, I am proud to announce your Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023:

  1. Robyn Bolton
    Robyn BoltonRobyn M. Bolton works with leaders of mid and large sized companies to use innovation to repeatably and sustainably grow their businesses.

  2. Janet Sernack
    Janet SernackJanet Sernack is the Founder and CEO of ImagineNation™ which provides innovation consulting services to help organizations adapt, innovate and grow through disruption by challenging businesses to be, think and act differently to co-create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.

  3. Greg Satell
    Greg SatellGreg Satell is a popular speaker and consultant. His first book, Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age, was selected as one of the best business books in 2017. Follow his blog at Digital Tonto or on Twitter @Digital Tonto.

  4. Mike Shipulski
    Mike ShipulskiMike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

  5. Braden Kelley
    Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Human-Centered Experience, Innovation and Transformation consultant at HCL Technologies, a popular innovation speaker, workshop leader, and creator of the Human-Centered Change™ methodology. He is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons and Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

  6. John Bessant
    John BessantJohn Bessant has been active in research, teaching, and consulting in technology and innovation management for over 25 years. Today, he is Chair in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Research Director, at Exeter University. In 2003, he was awarded a Fellowship with the Advanced Institute for Management Research and was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Management. He has acted as advisor to various national governments and international bodies including the United Nations, The World Bank, and the OECD. John has authored many books including Managing innovation and High Involvement Innovation (Wiley). Follow @johnbessant

  7. Pete Foley
    A twenty-five year Procter & Gamble veteran, Pete has spent the last 8+ years applying insights from psychology and behavioral science to innovation, product design, and brand communication. He spent 17 years as a serial innovator, creating novel products, perfume delivery systems, cleaning technologies, devices and many other consumer-centric innovations, resulting in well over 100 granted or published patents. Find him at pete.mindmatters@gmail.com

  8. Geoffrey A. Moore
    Geoffrey MooreGeoffrey A. Moore is an author, speaker and business advisor to many of the leading companies in the high-tech sector, including Cisco, Cognizant, Compuware, HP, Microsoft, SAP, and Yahoo! Best known for Crossing the Chasm and Zone to Win with the latest book being The Infinite Staircase. Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners. Chairman Emeritus Chasm Group & Chasm Institute

  9. David Burkus
    David BurkusDr. David Burkus is an organizational psychologist and best-selling author. Recognized as one of the world’s leading business thinkers, his forward-thinking ideas and books are helping leaders and teams do their best work ever. David is the author of five books about business and leadership and he’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, CNN, the BBC, NPR, and more. A former business school professor turned sought-after international speaker, he’s worked with organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

  10. Shep Hyken
    Shep HykenShep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

  11. Build a common language of innovation on your team


  12. Howard Tiersky
    Howard TierskyHoward Tiersky is an inspiring and passionate speaker, the Founder and CEO of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, innovation consultant, serial entrepreneur, and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. IDG named him one of the “10 Digital Transformation Influencers to Follow Today”, and Enterprise Management 360 named Howard “One of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers That Will Change Your World.”

  13. Dennis Stauffer
    Dennis StaufferDennis Stauffer is an author, independent researcher, and expert on personal innovativeness. He is the founder of Innovator Mindset LLC which helps individuals, teams, and organizations enhance and accelerate innovation success. by shifting mindset. Follow @DennisStauffer

  14. Stefan Lindegaard
    Stefan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is an author, speaker and strategic advisor. His work focuses on corporate transformation based on disruption, digitalization and innovation in large corporations, government organizations and smaller companies. Stefan believes that business today requires an open and global perspective, and his work takes him to Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia.

  15. Douglas Ferguson
    Douglas FergusonDouglas Ferguson is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist. He is the founder and president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based change agency that helps enterprises spark, accelerate, and sustain innovation. He specializes in helping teams work better together through participatory decision making and design inspired facilitation techniques.

  16. Teresa Spangler
    Teresa SpanglerTeresa Spangler is the CEO of PlazaBridge Group has been a driving force behind innovation and growth for more than 30 years. Today, she wears multiple hats as a social entrepreneur, innovation expert, growth strategist, author and speaker (not to mention mother, wife, band-leader and so much more). She is especially passionate about helping CEOs understand and value the role human capital plays in innovation, and the impact that innovation has on humanity; in our ever-increasing artificial/cyber world.

  17. Soren Kaplan
    Soren KaplanSoren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

  18. Steve Blank
    Steve BlankSteve Blank is an Adjunct Professor at Stanford and Senior Fellow for Innovation at Columbia University. He has been described as the Father of Modern Entrepreneurship, credited with launching the Lean Startup movement that changed how startups are built; how entrepreneurship is taught; how science is commercialized, and how companies and the government innovate.

  19. Diana Porumboiu
    Diana PorumboiuDiana heads marketing at Viima, the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software in the world, and has a passion for innovation, and for genuine, valuable content that creates long-lasting impact. Her combination of creativity, strategic thinking and curiosity has helped organisations grow their online presence through strategic campaigns, community management and engaging content.

  20. Robert B Tucker
    Robert TuckerRobert B. Tucker is the President of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.

  21. Dainora Jociute
    Dainora JociuteDainora (a.k.a. Dee) creates customer-centric content at Viima. Viima is the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software in the world. Passionate about environmental issues, Dee writes about sustainable innovation hoping to save the world – one article at the time.

  22. Accelerate your change and transformation success


  23. Arlen Meyers
    Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, an instructor at the University of Colorado-Denver Business School and cofounding President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameyers/

  24. Ayelet Baron
    Ayelet BaronAyelet Baron is a pioneering futurist reminding us we are powerful creators through award winning books, daily blog and thinking of what is possible. Former global tech executive who sees trust, relationships and community as our building blocks to a healthy world.

  25. Leo Chan
    Leo ChanLeo is the founder of Abound Innovation Inc. He’s a people and heart-first entrepreneur who believes everyone can be an innovator. An innovator himself, with 55 US patents and over 20 years of experience, Leo has come alongside organizations like Chick-fil-A and guided them to unleash the innovative potential of their employees by transforming them into confident innovators.

  26. Rachel Audige
    Rachel AudigeRachel Audige is an Innovation Architect who helps organisations embed inventive thinking as well as a certified Systematic Inventive Thinking Facilitator, based in Melbourne.

  27. Art Inteligencia
    Art InteligenciaArt Inteligencia is the lead futurist at Inteligencia Ltd. He is passionate about content creation and thinks about it as more science than art. Art travels the world at the speed of light, over mountains and under oceans. His favorite numbers are one and zero.

  28. Paul Sloane
    Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

  29. Phil McKinney
    Phil McKinneyPhil McKinney is the Author of “Beyond The Obvious”​, Host of the Killer Innovations Podcast and Syndicated Radio Show, a Keynote Speaker, President & CEO CableLabs and an Innovation Mentor and Coach.

  30. Ralph Christian Ohr
    Ralph OhrDr. Ralph-Christian Ohr has extensive experience in product/innovation management for international technology-based companies. His particular interest is targeted at the intersection of organizational and human innovation capabilities. You can follow him on Twitter @Ralph_Ohr.

  31. Jeffrey Phillips
    Jeffrey Phillips has over 15 years of experience leading innovation in Fortune 500 companies, federal government agencies and non-profits. He is experienced in innovation strategy, defining and implementing front end processes, tools and teams and leading innovation projects. He is the author of Relentless Innovation and OutManeuver. Jeffrey writes the popular Innovate on Purpose blog. Follow him @ovoinnovation

  32. Dean and Linda Anderson
    Dean and Linda AndersonDr. Dean Anderson and Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson lead BeingFirst, a consultancy focused on educating the marketplace about what’s possible in personal, organizational and community transformation and how to achieve them. Each has been advising clients and training professionals for more than 40 years.

  33. Get the Change Planning Toolkit


  34. Shilpi Kumar
    Shilpi KumarShilpi Kumar an inquisitive researcher, designer, strategist and an educator with over 15 years of experience, who truly believes that we can design a better world by understanding human behavior. I work with organizations to identify strategic opportunities and offer user-centric solutions.

  35. Scott Anthony
    Scott AnthonyScott Anthony is a strategic advisor, writer and speaker on topics of growth and innovation. He has been based in Singapore since 2010, and currently serves at the Managing Director of Innosight’s Asia-Pacific operations.

  36. Anthony Mills
    Anthony MillsAnthony Mills is the Founder & CEO of Legacy Innovation Group (www.legacyinnova.com), a world-leading strategic innovation consulting firm working with organizations all over the world. Anthony is also the Executive Director of GInI – Global Innovation Institute (www.gini.org), the world’s foremost certification, accreditation, and membership organization in the field of innovation. Anthony has advised leaders from around the world on how to successfully drive long-term growth and resilience through new innovation. Learn more at www.anthonymills.com. Anthony can be reached directly at anthony@anthonymills.com.

  37. Paul Hobcraft
    Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Follow @paul4innovating

  38. Jorge Barba
    Jorge BarbaJorge Barba is a strategist and entrepreneur, who helps companies build new puzzles using human skills. He is a global Innovation Insurgent and author of the innovation blog www.Game-Changer.net

  39. Chateau G Pato
    Chateau G PatoChateau G Pato is a senior futurist at Inteligencia Ltd. She is passionate about content creation and thinks about it as more science than art. Chateau travels the world at the speed of light, over mountains and under oceans. Her favorite numbers are one and zero.

  40. Jesse Nieminen
    Jesse NieminenJesse Nieminen is the Co-founder and Chairman at Viima, the best way to collect and develop ideas. Viima’s innovation management software is already loved by thousands of organizations all the way to the Global Fortune 500. He’s passionate about helping leaders drive innovation in their organizations and frequently writes on the topic, usually in Viima’s blog.

  41. Alain Thys
    Alain ThysAs an experience architect, Alain helps leaders craft customer, employee and shareholder experiences for profit, reinvention and transformation. He does this through his personal consultancy Alain Thys & Co as well as the transformative venture studio Agents of A.W.E. Together with his teams, Alain has influenced the experience of over 500 million customers and 350,000 employees. Follow his blog or connect on Linkedin.

  42. Bruce Fairley
    Bruce FairleyBruce Fairley is the CEO and Founder of The Narrative Group, a firm dedicated to helping C-Suite executives build enterprise value. Through smart, human-powered digital transformation, Bruce optimizes the business-technology relationship. His innovative profit over pitfalls approach and customized programs are part of Bruce’s mission to build sustainable ‘best-future’ outcomes for visionary leaders. Having spearheaded large scale change initiatives across four continents, he and his skilled, diverse team elevate process, culture, and the bottom line for medium to large firms worldwide.

  43. Tom Stafford
    Tom StaffordTom Stafford studies learning and decision making. His main focus is the movement system – the idea being that if we can understand the intelligence of simple actions we will have an excellent handle on intelligence more generally. His research looks at simple decision making, and simple skill learning, using measures of behaviour informed by the computational, robotics and neuroscience work done in the wider group.

If your favorite didn’t make the list, then next year try to rally more votes for them or convince them to increase the quality and quantity of their contributions.

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Download PDF versions of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020, 2021 and 2022 lists here:


Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020 PDF . . . Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 . . . Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023

Happy New Year everyone!

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Innovativeness = Effectiveness

Innovativeness = Effectiveness

GUEST POST from Dennis Stauffer

What makes you effective? Is it your knowledge and experience? Is it your commitment? Is it perhaps luck sometimes? Simply put: Being effective is about making what you want to happen, happen. It’s about shaping the world around you to fit your hopes and dreams, and aspirations. About creating your desired future. That means something needs to change, or why bother, right? And when something needs to change, what you’re really doing is a form of innovation.

Your innovativeness and your effectiveness are closely intertwined. Becoming more innovative makes you more effective and therefore more successful. Both personal attributes are enhanced as you become more creative, imaginative, resourceful and observant. As you become more skilled at managing the inevitable changes we all confront, you’re better positioned to find—and lead—your way through them.

Innovation and effectiveness both demand that you’re able to somehow account for the realities you face, while at the same time shifting those realities. This world is a dynamic place, it’s always fluid and evolving. You need to align with those changes, even as you attempt to make changes.

Whether you’re launching a new product or venture, trying to advance your career, or maybe start—or repair—a personal relationship, your challenge is not to just go do what needs to be done. It’s to figure out what needs to be done, to get to where you want to be. In other words, effectiveness and innovativeness are complementary. To be effective, you need to be innovative, and the more innovative you are, the more effective you’re likely to be.

Here is a video version of this post:

The Innovator Mindset YouTube channel brings you weekly tips, tricks and insights into how to be more creative, innovative, resourceful imaginative and open–all the things that innovation requires, and that you need to be effective.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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