Tag Archives: change planning

Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC)

Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC)

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“We need to be more innovative.”

How many times have you said or heard that? It’s how most innovation efforts start. It’s a statement that reflects leaders’ genuine desire to return to the “good ol’ days” when the company routinely created and launched new products and enjoyed the publicity and growth that followed.

But what does it mean to be more innovative?

Innovation’s ABCs

A is for Architecture

Architecture includes most of the elements people think of when they start the work to become more innovative – strategy, structure, processes, metrics, governance, and incentives.

Each of these elements answers fundamental questions:

  • Strategy: Why is innovation important? How does it contribute to our overall strategy?
  • Structure: Who does the work of innovation?
  • Process: How is the work done?
  • Metrics: How will we know when we’re successful? How will we measure progress?
  • Governance: Who makes decisions? How and when are decisions made?
  • Incentives: Why should people invest their time, money, and political capital? How will they be rewarded?

When it comes to your business, you can answer all these questions. The same is true if you’re serious about innovation. If you can’t answer the questions, you have work to do. If you don’t want to do the work, then you don’t want to be innovative. You want to look innovative*.

B is for Behavior

Innovation isn’t an idea problem. It’s a leadership problem.

Leaders that talk about innovation, delegate it to subordinates and routinely pull resources from innovation to “shore up” current operations don’t want to be innovative. They want to look innovative.

Leaders who roll up their sleeves and work alongside innovation teams, ask questions and listen with open minds, and invest and protect innovation resources want to be innovative.

To be fair, it’s incredibly challenging to be a great leader of both innovation and operations. It’s the equivalent of writing equally well with your right and left hands. But it is possible. More importantly, it’s essential.

C is for Culture

Culture is invisible, pervasive, and personal. It is also the make-or-break factor for innovation because it surrounds innovation architecture, teams, and leaders.

Culture can expand to encourage and support exploration, creativity, and risk-taking. Or it can constrict, unleashing antibodies that swarm, suffocate, and kill anything that threatens the status quo.

Trying to control or change culture is like trying to hold water in your fist. But if you let go just a bit, create the right conditions, and wait patiently, change is possible.

Easy as 123

The most common mistake executives make in the pursuit of being “more innovative” is that they focus on only A or only B or only C.  But, as I always tell my clients, the answer is “and, not or.”

  1. Start with Architecture because it’s logical, rational, and produces tangible outputs like org charts, process flows, and instruction manuals filled with templates and tools. Architecture is comforting because it helps us know what to do and how.
  2. Use Architecture to encourage Behavior because the best way to learn something is to do it. With Architecture in place (but well before it’s finished), bring leaders into the work – talking to customers, sharing their ideas, and creating prototypes. When leaders do the work of innovation, they quickly realize what’s possible (and what’s not) and are open to learning how to engage (behave) in a way that supports innovation.
  3. Leverage Architecture and Behavior to engage Culture by creating the artifacts, rituals, and evidence that innovation can happen in your company, is happening and will continue to happen. As people see “innovation” evolve from a buzzword to a small investment to “the way we do business,” their skepticism will fade, and their support will grow.

Just like the Jackson 5 said

ABC, It’s easy a 123

Architecture, behavior, culture – they’re all essential to enabling an innovation capability that repeatedly creates new revenue.

And while starting with architecture, building new leadership behaviors, and investing until the culture changes isn’t easy, it’s the 123 steps required to “be more innovative.”

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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Four Things You Need to Succeed in The Good Place

Four Things You Need to Succeed in The Good Place

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You have, no doubt, seen the design squiggle. The ubiquitous scribble is all loopy and knotty in the beginning until it finally sorts itself into a straight line by the end.

It illustrates the design process – “the journey of researching, uncovering insights, generating creative concepts, iteration of prototypes and eventually concluding in one single designed solution” – and its elegant simplicity has led it to be adopted by all sorts of other disciplines, including innovation.

But when I showed it to a client, her immediate response was, “It’s Jeremy Bearimy!”*

Wha????

And that is how I discovered The Good Place, a sitcom about four humans who die, go to The Good Place, and struggle to learn what it means to be good.

The show, created by Michael Schur of The Office and Parks and Recreation fame, is a brilliant treatise on ethics and moral philosophy. It also contains valuable wisdom about what innovators need to succeed.

Questions

With all due respect, “It’s the way it’s always been done” is an excuse that’s been used for hundreds of years to justify racism, misogyny…

Tahani Al-Jamil

This quote was a gut punch from the show’s fourth and final season. As innovators, we often hear people ask why change is needed. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” they proclaim.

But sometimes it is broke, and we don’t know it. At the very least, it can always be better.

So, while “it’s the way it’s always been done” at your company probably (hopefully) doesn’t include racism, misogyny, sexism, and other genuinely horrible things, framing the status quo as an enabler of those horrors is a harsh wake-up call to the dangers of an unquestioning commitment to continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.

Decisions (not just Ideas)

If you’re always frozen in fear and taking too long to figure out what to do, you’ll miss your opportunity, and maybe get sucked into the propeller of a swamp boat.

Jason Mendoza

Even though Jason Mendoza is the resident idiot of The Good Place, he occasionally (and very accidentally) has moments of profound insight. This one to a situation that innovators are all too familiar with – analysis paralysis.

How often do requests for more data, more (or more relevant) benchmarks, or input from more people slow down decisions and progress? These requests are rarely rooted in doubt about the data, benchmarks, or information you presented. They are rooted in fear – the fear of making the wrong decision, being blamed or shamed, and losing a reputation or even a job.

But worse than being wrong, blamed, shamed, or unemployed is missing an opportunity to radically improve your business, team, or even the world. It’s the business equivalent of getting sucked into the propeller of a swamp boat.

Actions (not just decisions)

In football, trying to run out the clock and hoping for the best never works. It’s called “prevent defense.” You don’t take any chances and just try and hold on to your lead. But prevent defense just PREVENTS you from winning! It’s always better to try something.

Jason Mendoza

Jason does it again, this time invoking a lesson learned from his beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.

Few companies publicly admit to adopting a prevent defense, even though most companies engage in it. They play prevent defense when they don’t invest in innovation, focus exclusively on maintaining or incrementally improving what they currently do, or confine their innovation efforts to events like hackathons and shark tanks.

Incremental improvements and innovation theater keep you competitive. But they won’t get you ahead of the competition or make you a leader in your industry. In fact, they prevent it by making you feel good and safe when you’re really just running out the clock.

Perseverance

Come on, you know how this works. You fail and then you try something else. And you fail again and again, and you fail a thousand times, and you keep trying because maybe the 1,001st idea might work. Now, I’m gonna and try to find our 1,001st idea.

Michael

It’s hard to explain this quote without sharing massive spoilers, so let’s just say that The Good Place is an experiment that fails. A lot.

But it’s also an experiment that generates profound learning and universe-altering changes, things that would not have been possible without the failures.

Yes, smart innovators know when to kill a project. They also know when to try one more time. Wise innovators know the difference.

One final bit of wisdom

Innovation is hard. You will run into more resistance than expected, and things will rarely work out as planned. As long as you keep trying and learning, you won’t fail.

To paraphrase Jason Mendoza (again), you’re not a failed innovator, you’re pre-successful.

*For those of you who are, like I was, unfamiliar with Jeremy Bearimy, here’s a clip explaining it (WARNING: SPOILERS)

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

The best data

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

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

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

Observe your customers

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

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

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

Observe yourself

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

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

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

Be your customer

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

Become your customer (and observe yourself).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

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

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

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

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

How are these ways of being and acting impacting organisations?

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

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

Resulting in:

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

A unique moment in time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our shared humanity and wellbeing depend on it”.

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

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

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

Image credit: Pixabay

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Back to Leadership Basics

Taking Personal Responsibility – Back to Leadership Basics

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

I was first introduced to the principle of Taking Personal Responsibility when I attended a number of experiential workshops facilitated by Robert Kiyosaki who is now well known globally as the successful entrepreneurial author of the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” book series. At that time, in the late 1980s, the concept simply involved taking personal responsibility for your role in getting the results you get, in both challenging and problematic situations.

This principle has since evolved as the most crucial foundation for developing our emotionally intelligent, conscious, and transformational leadership capabilities. Largely through focusing on the development of self-awareness and self-regulation skillsets, which are especially important skills to cultivate in times of extreme uncertainty.

Blaming, Justifying, and Denying

Taking personal responsibility involves encouraging people to step up and out of blaming themselves or others, out of justifying their position or denying what is really going on to largely avoid the cognitive, emotional, and visceral results and consequences of their actions.

Which are essentially, largely unconscious defensive reactions to the problem or situation. So, it sounds quite simple, yet, even now, it’s still largely a countercultural principle, and a neurologically challenging one, because we are wired to survive (fight/flight/freeze) in the face of what we perceive as danger!

Especially when many of us are living in an oppositional blaming and shaming political environment, or within a passively or aggressively defensive organizational culture. Where a large section of the community, has been forced by the constraints of the pandemic, into fearing that their security and survival needs will not be met. Alternately, the great resignation and the nature of the virtual hybrid workplace have increased some people’s fears about even being able to get their jobs done!

All of this creates distorted thoughts and language that focus on “scarcity” where many people are fearing that they are not “enough” and do not have “enough” to deal with their current circumstances. Rather than leaning towards exploring and eliciting the possibilities and opportunities available in our abundant world.  As there is no clear playbook about how people can effectively and responsibly lead and manage in this unique 21st-century context, many people are floundering, languishing into largely emotionally overwhelmed states.

Where it is easier, and sometimes safer, to be a victim, blame and shame others for their helpless or powerless situation, or to justify and deny any need to change their perspective about it, never mind their role in causing their own anxious and unresourceful emotional states.

Back to Leadership Basics

Yet, it is more important than ever, for leaders and managers to help people:

  • Take ownership of their consequences and be responsible for the emotional, cognitive, and visceral results of their actions,
  • Authentically connect, empower, and enable people and communities to flourish,
  • Provide safe, transparent, trusted environments and interdependence where people can dare to think differently and potentially thrive.

This means that the range of crises, uncertainty, and disruptions we are experiencing now is forcing us to go back to basic 101 management and leadership principles.

According to McKinsey & Co in a recent article “A Leaders Guide – communicating with teams, stakeholders and communities during Covid 19” – “Crises come in different intensities. As a “landscape-scale” event, the coronavirus has created great uncertainty, elevated stress and anxiety, and prompted tunnel vision, in which people focus only on the present rather than toward the future. During such a crisis, when information is unavailable or inconsistent, and when people feel unsure about what they know (or anyone knows), behavioral science points to an increased human desire for transparency, guidance, and making sense out of what has happened”.

The Maturity Continuum – Shifting to I and We

The principle of taking personal responsibility has evolved and been enhanced significantly through the work of Steve Covey, in the “Seven Habits of Effective People” and provides the core foundations for transformational and conscious leadership through the “Maturity Continuum”:

  1. Dependence is the paradigm of you – you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn’t come through for me; I blame you for the results. Dependent and approval-seeking people need others to get what they want.
  2. Independence is the paradigm of I – can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose. Independent people get what they want through their own efforts.
  3. Interdependence is the paradigm of we – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together. Interdependent people combine their efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.

Putting the Maturity Continuum to Work

In the early 2000s I was an associate of Corporate Vision, Australia’s first culture change and transformation consultancy, now the globally successful Walking the Talk organisation, for fourteen years.

Where every culture, leadership, team development, or change program we designed and presented, introduced taking personal responsibility, as a fundamental, core learning principle. Aligning it with the principle of – For things to change first I must change, which deeply challenged and disrupted people’s belief systems, habitual mindsets, thinking styles, and ways of acting.

As a seasoned coach of twenty years, these two core principles seem to still profoundly challenge the majority of my coaching clients across the world, no matter how senior their role or position is, or how knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced they are!

Where many managers and leaders have failed to self-regulate, lack self-awareness, and have unconsciously slipped into feeling victimized, powerless, helpless, and in some instances, even hopeless about their futures where some are:

  • Feeling frozen, inert, paralyzed, overwhelmed, and immobilized in their abilities to affect any kind of positive change in both their work and home environments.
  • Unconsciously slipping into blaming and shaming others for their situations,
  • Justifying their inertia through a range of “reasonable reasons” and “elaborate stories” about how it’s “not their fault” or it’s not “up to them” to make any change.
  • Simply denying their current consequences, or the importance of needing to take positive actions, and make changes.
  • Unmotivated, lack any desire for control, or have the personal power to affect change in their situation.

Initiating Taking Personal Responsibility

To accept and share responsibility starts with being bravely willing to courageously connect with our whole selves and consciously stepping back to hit our internal pause button, retreat into silence and stillness, and compassionately ask:

  1. What happened?
  2. What can I/we learn from it?
  3. What can I/we then do to create it?

Taking personal responsibility becomes a compassionate, creative, and courageous exercise in continuous learning, self-awareness, and emotional self-regulation in ways that safely disrupt people’s defensiveness and awaken them to the possibility of being personally powerful in tough situations.

It is also the basis for taking intelligent actions catalyze and cause positive outcomes, that deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our 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, October 18, 2022. 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.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Innovating Through Adversity and Constraints

Innovating Through Adversity and Constraints

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been almost two and a half years since most of us shifted to working virtually and remotely, which, in turn, seriously disrupted most of our business-as-usual behaviors and learning habits. Interestingly, this also disrupted our habitual unconscious safety and comfort zones, and, in many cases, disconnected our overall sense of security. For some of us, our ability to make sense of ourselves and our futures, has been impacted, impacting our abilities to find new ways of being creative and innovating through the range of constraints and adverse situations.

Looking inward

Some of us have also had our confidence to survive and thrive in a world severely impacted, and many of us have felt exploited, exhausted, and depleted by our employers. According to Lynda Gratton, in a recent article in MIT Sloane Magazine “Making Sense of the Future” many of us are looking inward — working through the impact of our changing habits, networks, and skills, and begin to imagine other life trajectories and possible selves.

Looking outward

Again, according to Lynda Gratton, some of us are now also looking outward to analyze how talent markets are changing and what competitors are doing, which is creating momentum and a force for change, but also frustration and anxiety, given institutional lag and inertia.

The larger-than-life, terrible, and confronting conflict in Ukraine has also inflated, for some of us, a deeper sense of helplessness and exhaustion, and amplified our concerns and fears for a sustainable future.

The momentum for change is growing 

Yet some people have successfully responded to worries and concerns about the inertia holding our companies back, and have adapted to working, learning, and coaching online. Using this moment in time to help de-escalate our reactivity to what’s been going on to deeply connect, explore, discover, listen, and respond creatively to what is really important, to ourselves, our people, teams and our organizations.

To help shift the tension between today and tomorrow, through regenerating and replenishing ourselves and our teams, by shifting the dialogue towards renewing and innovating through constraints and adversity in uncertain and unstable times.

Innovating through constraints at ImagineNation™

Innovating through constraints enabled the collective at ImagineNation™ to design and deliver a bespoke, intense, and immersive learning journey for an executive team aiming at igniting and mobilizing their collective genius to step up to face their fears, adapt, take smart risks and innovate in uncertain and disruptive times!

Some of the constraints we collaboratively and creatively mastered included adapting to differing:

  • Geographies, we are based in Melbourne, Australia, and our client was based in Canada, which made managing time zone schedules challenging, including some very early 4.30 am starts for us –  Making flexibility and adaptiveness crucial to our success.  
  • Technologies, balancing Zoom-based online webinars and workshops, with Google chat rooms and jamboards, completing one on one coaching sessions, and assigning, completing, and presenting group action learning assignments – Reinforcing the need for constant iteration and pivoting to ensure the delivery of outcomes, as promised.
  • Communicating, including air freighting hard copy reflection packs, scheduling, and partnering virtually, all within a remote and fractured working environment –Ensuring that clarity and consistency would lead to the successful delivery of the outcomes, as promised.

Shifting the dialogue

Demonstrating that we can all be resilient and creative when we live in times of great uncertainty and instability through investing in reskilling people and teams to become more purposeful, human, and customer-centric.

We can all break the inertia by challenging our business-as-usual thinking and shifting the dialogue towards exploring our inner challenges and navigating the outer challenges of our current environment.

If we commit to doing this with more consciousness, hope, optimism, and control, to follow a direction rather than a specific destination by:

  • Perceiving this moment in time as an “unfreezing opportunity” and an opening to shift out of inertia and complacency, to re-generate and re-invent ourselves and our teams?
  • Knowing how to connect, explore, discover, generate and catalyze creative ideas to rapidly and safely unlearn, relearn, collaborate and innovate through constraints and adversity?
  • Committing to letting go of our “old baggage” and ways of making sense of our new reality, by experimenting with smart risk-taking, and making gamification accessible in an environment that is unpredictable?

Re-generating and re-inventing in uncertain and unstable times

In fact, many of us successfully adapted to online working, learning, and coaching environments by de-escalating any feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

To bravely focus on regenerating and reinventing ourselves and our teams and using this moment in time to be curious, shift the dialogue, explore possibilities, harness collective intelligence and ask some catalytic questions:

  • What if we intentionally disrupted our current way of thinking?
  • How might we think differently to shift our perception and perceive our worlds with “fresh eyes”? What might be possible?
  • What if we shift the dialogue to engage people in innovating through constraints?
  • How might we shift the dialogue to activate and mobilize people towards taking intelligent risks through constraints?
  • How might thinking differently empower, enable and equip ourselves and our teams to navigate the current environment with more hope and optimism?
  • What if re-consider and perceive these constraints differently?
  • How might we support people to ignite their creativity?
  • How might we equip people to be creative and develop better ideas?
  • How might we resource people to force more change and innovation?
  • How might we discover new ways of creating value for people in ways that they appreciate and cherish?

Grappling with the future is paradoxical

Finally, Lynda Gratton suggests that we need to:

“Acknowledge that this is not straightforward. Right now, many leaders are stuck between two sources of tension: the tension of enlightenment, where they can begin to imagine what is possible, and the tension of denial, where they are concerned that more flexible working arrangements will negatively affect performance. They grapple with whether the change will be necessary or possible. These are legitimate tensions that are only exacerbated by the sense of exhaustion many people feel”.

If we perceive these constraints as catalysts for setting a clear focus and direction, it might force us to experiment with creative ways of acting and doing things differently.

It might also force us to make tougher decisions around our inner and outer priorities, by exploring and discovering more balanced, creative, and inventive ways of constantly iterating and pivoting whatever resources are available to get the important jobs done.

An opportunity to learn more

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022.

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You Must Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

You Must Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been a tough two and a half for everyone since the COVID-19 crisis began. Some of us have been hit very, very hard, by the impact of the pandemic exacerbated by the rate of exponential change and now, by the impact of the conflict in Ukraine.

As result, many of us are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and languishing in varying states of anxiety and discomfort. Some of us are struggling with “not knowing” how to deal with the extreme uncertainty existing within our business and personal environments, whilst many of us are optimistically seeking to prepare and manage for what might possibly come next.

At the same time, many of us are seeking collaborative partnerships to support us and explore options for keeping both ourselves, our people, and teams engaged in moving forward creatively in a constantly changing world.  Where both the work environment and the nature of work are in a state of flux, where we are going through exceptional and extraordinary changes, and, where to both survive and thrive, we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with it all.

Safely stepping into the unknown

This creates an opening and a threshold to partner with others in resourceful and creative ways to support them, to safely and bravely step into the unknown.

To perceive this unique moment in time as an opportunity for growth, shape-shifting, and change – by empowering and equipping them to cautiously abandon and exit their comfort zones and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because the patterned worlds of our “business as usual” existences, which traditionally kept us get comfortable and calm, and helped us stay emotionally and mentally even, free from anxiety and worry to a great degree, are no longer certain, predictable or stable.

Where constant and accelerating change, coupled with uncertainty are the harsh realities of today, and of tomorrow, in the decade emerging as one of both disruption and transformation.

Impact of our neurological survival mechanisms

As humans, we have an internal need for consistency, represented by our internally mapped, largely unconscious, neurological comfort zones, our own unique places for getting comfortable, and amenable to what we habitually do. When we experience cognitive dissonance, in an extremely uncertain and disruptive operating environment, we unconsciously encounter apparent inconsistencies between what is really happening and what we believe to be really true.

As result, we often, mostly unconsciously, slip into our auto-pilot range of varied aggressive and passive defensive, reactive responses: including avoidance, denial, anger, opposition, and resistance to change. Often described as the “retreat, freeze, or take flight or fight” reactions to what is “seemingly” going on. This is because we distort and generalize our thoughts or feelings into believing that have no control over events. Which is a normal and natural neurological, yet primitive, survival mechanism that enables us to cope with the situation.

However, when we operate this way, we lose our personal power and question our abilities to shape and manifest the outcomes we want, or feel we lack the ability to influence others or constructively impact our environments.

Resistance is futile

Manifesting as feelings of discomfort, most of us will do anything to move away from – because we want to avoid pervasive, visceral, challenging thoughts and feelings, derived from our conflicting beliefs and values.  Our auto-responses or neurological urges to remove the discomfort, and typically keep us in our comfort zones, where we procrastinate, make excuses, shift into denial, avoidance, and justification, resulting ultimately, in immobilisation and inaction.

The outcome is that we may feel paralysed, and become inert, inhibiting and preventing us from developing the mindsets, behaviours, and actions required to thrive in the future. Where our only “new normal” will depend on our abilities to flow with constant change, unpredictability, instability, and uncertainty and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Hidden costs of resistance

Resistance to change prevents us from:

  • Adapting to the current and future environment is not the survival of the fittest, it’s he or she who is the most adaptive, who ultimately survives, and thrives!
  • Exploiting this moment in time as an opportunity and threshold to improve our confidence, competence, and emotional capacity to effectively transition through the range of professional and personal crises, brought on by uncertainty and disruption.
  • Exploring possibilities and unleashing opportunities available in this moment in time as a turning point to learn and grow, as a coach, leader, or team.
  • Strategizing in the new global, hybrid, and virtual work environment to improve, competitiveness, productivity, and innovation grow our practices and help our members expand their roles, and grow their teams and businesses.
  • Breaking down silos that add to many of our member’s current states of disconnection and loneliness, and inhibit connection and collaboration.
  • Creating permission, tolerance, and safety for members to safely download and let go of their fears and anxieties, share their negativity and pessimism, fears of failure,  and co-create positivity and optimism towards thriving in an uncertain future, together.
  • Embracing the new world of digitisation and experimentation, from implementing change, enhancing individual and organisational agility, and developing the mindsets, behaviours, and skills to be comfortable in constantly changing contexts.

What can we do about it?

  • Being agile and adaptive

In normal times, creating a comfort zone is a healthy adaptation for controlling much of our lives. Yet having the boldness, bravery, and courage in extreme uncertainty, to step up and out of our comfort zones helps us be agile and adaptive in transitioning, growing, and transforming through the enormous challenges, disruptions, and adversities many of us are confronting.

  • Entering the learning zone

In fact, once we do take the first baby steps out of our comfort zones and into our fear zone (fear of loss, blame, shame, envy, punishment, retribution, opposition, being controlled, humiliation, being envied or made wrong) we can safely enter the learning zone. Being in the Learning Zone is the first stopping point toward generating creative energy and expanding our comfort zones.

  • Facing the fear

Doing this builds the foundations for being more comfortable with being uncomfortable by facing, feeling, acknowledging, and letting go of some of our deepest fears by dealing with them rationally and realistically, with empathy and compassion, and without bias and distortion.

  • Reducing our levels of anxiety

By withdrawing, discerning, and deciding to let go of the need to be constantly in charge and in control and be willing to enter the Growth Zone, where everything that happens is a resource for being tolerant, and accepting, of the possibilities for making positive change.

Stepping into being comfortable

This is a great opportunity to co-create a new playbook for ourselves, our people, and their teams by enabling and empowering the mindset shift to the Growth Zone, to transform cognitive dissonance, and use it as the creative tensions toward being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This involves engaging in a set of consistent and regular practices, to build and support a willingness to embrace change, disruption, and uncertainty, to take on even the impossible.

  1. Hit your Pause Button: retreat from activity, get grounded in stillness and silence, and be fully present to your energetic state. Be mindful and pay deep attention to recognise your patterns, attune to what is really going on, and get unhooked from any internal chatter, stories, and unconscious default patterns.
  2. Label Your Thoughts and Emotions: be fully present and get connected to yourself and to others you are interacting with, feel the feeling, knowing that it is transient.
  3. Acknowledge and Accept: allow yourself to accept and embrace the range of feelings, be empathic, compassionate, and open-hearted with yourself and with others.
  4. Detach from and Observe your Thoughts and Emotions: be willing to create and sustain an open mind, be inquisitive and curious, explore the non-judgemental space between your feelings and how to effectively respond to them.
  5. Identify difficult feelings: as you experience them and find more appropriate ways of responding instead of reacting, be willing to become a “detached observer”.
  6. Be emotionally agile: learn to see yourself as the operating system, filled with possibilities, knowing that you are more than one part of it and flow with it
  7. Be courageous and brave: challenge the status quo, and your habitual thinking, feeling, and decision-making habits and build your confidence to reboot, consistently disrupt yourself and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  8. Be imaginative and creative: reimagine your most desirable future state, be optimistic and positive about choosing the best ways to reset, and walk your way forward into the unknown.

Focusing your attention and being intentional

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable, enables us to re-think creates openings and thresholds for developing 21st-century superpowers, limitless possibilities for change, growth, learning, and innovation.

By empowering us to respond positively to uncertainty, and dynamic change that respects and engages people’s values and humanity, in co-creative and innovative ways that improve the quality of people’s lives in ways they value, appreciate, and cherish.

An opportunity to learn more

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022.

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.

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Dare to Think Differently

Dare to Think Differently

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

As many of my colleagues are aware, I am at heart, a maverick, an unorthodox or independent-minded person. Who is curious and inquisitive, and finds change and challenging the status quo exciting, fascinating and stimulating. I am also, considered, by some, as a misfit, someone whose behaviors and attitudes sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way, that often rocks the boat. There is a range of consequences for people like me, who dare to think differently, especially now that I have also achieved the status of a Modern Elder – “the perfect alchemy of curious and wise, with curiosity leading to expansive inquiry while wisdom distills what’s essential.”

Coupled with both the challenges and constraints of the currently disrupted Covid-19 and digitized world, I am finding that the consequences of being different have intensified, become more impactful, and are often, quite confronting. Where differences cause resistance to change, divisiveness, and conflict, rather than maximizing differences in ways that embrace our humanity, diversity, to harness collective intelligence to make the organization, or world a better, more inclusive, and safer place.

Diversity is of the Essence

According to Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Dignity of Difference- How to avoid the clash of civilizations,” he states that “we are living in the conscious presence of difference”.

Which exists in the home, in the street, in our workplaces, communities, and countries where we constantly encounter groups and cultures whose ideas and ideals are unlike ours. “That can be experienced as a profound threat to identity. Identity divides.” Considering that “the world is not a single machine, it is a complex, interactive ecology in which diversity – the biological, personal, cultural and religious – is of the essence.”

“When difference leads to war, both sides lose. When it leads to mutual enrichment, both sides gain.”

As is currently being evidenced by the tense and tentative Ukrainian and Russian border confrontation, with its potentially tragic consequences. Where Yuval Noah Harari states in a recent article in The Economist – “At the heart of the Ukraine crisis lies a fundamental question about the nature of history and the nature of humanity: is change possible? Can humans change the way they behave, or does history repeat itself endlessly, with humans forever condemned to re-enact past tragedies without changing anything except the décor”?

People Who Dare to Think Differently

Adam Grant, in his book “The Originals – How Non-Conformists Change the World” describes an original (n) as “A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity”.

The book goes on to explain strategies, through studies and stories how to champion new ideas and fight groupthink, in constructive ways that maximize diversity and differences and promote dissent, as the basis for cultivating original thought to effect positive change.

Ray Dallio, in his book Principles explores this further, suggesting that “if you are like most people, you have no clue about how other people see things and aren’t good at seeking to understand what they are thinking because you’re too preoccupied with telling them what you yourself think is correct.” Often causing divisiveness rather than inclusion, resistance to change, and as a consequence, missing the possibilities and opportunities that may be present.

This also impedes our overall adaptiveness and creativity in an exponentially changing, world, to make real progress, and constructively change and limits the potential for innovation, growth and ability to contribute to the common good.

Change Management Has Changed

In a recent article from the Boston Consulting Group, they stated that  “Effective change management requires leaders to shift away from one-size-fits-all approaches and develop an expanded set of context-specific strategies”.

Which are truly adaptive, collaborative, energize, catalyze change, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective intelligence, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all, and contribute to the common good.

To ultimately collectively co-create a set of different, empowered future-fit leaders, teams, and organizations – who courageously, compassionately, and creatively contribute toward an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

Welcoming Dissent and Thoughtful Disagreement

At ImagineNation™ we dare to think differently and teach train, and coach people and teams to maximize their potential to lead, manage, coach, through implementing and embedding change and innovation, differently.

We enable people to lead in the imagination age by empowering, enabling, and equipping them to be and think differently to:

  • Flow with some people’s need to be “right” and in control, when they are being defensive, abusive, and divisive, even when disagreement and conflict occur.
  • Artfully and skillfully use cognitive dissonance and creative tension to pull people towards a new possibility and envision a new and compelling future.
  • Be inclusive to support mutual enrichment, through co-sensemaking, that helps them create “order” (in their own context) and simplicity from complexity and change.
  • Self-regulate and self-manage emotionally in the face of uncertainty and volatility.
  • Be relatable, empathic, inspiring, and artfully and skillfully influential in helping people open their minds and hearts toward co-creation, collaboration, and experimentation that ensures a shared contribution for mutual gain.
  • Be creative and inventive to maximize their multiple and collective intelligences through learning, contrarian thinking, constructive debate, and creative conversations that generate discovery.

In ways that engage deep generative listening, inquiry, questioning, and differing that uses cognitive dissonance to unleash the creative energy that triggers and generates thinking differently.

When people are trusted and empowered to think differently, they co-create a frequency that allows, awakens, and activates their adaptive and innovative leadership qualities, consciousness, states, and qualities of mind and heart, to effect positive change.

Taking wise and intelligent action

It also enables them to wisely choose the most intelligent actions that result in adaptive and innovative outcomes.

This helps creativity to flourish and disrupts and interrupts those people, whose complacency, conformity, and rigidity create divisions, and feelings of desolation and exclusion that kill our capacity and competence to collaborate, create and invent.

Leaving me to wonder and inquire;

  • What if the “strangers” among us simply listen, with open minds and open hearts to the thought, feelings, and opinions of others, with both curiosity and detachment?
  • What if we could collectively co-create safe containers and collective holding spaces, that maximize our differences and diversity, and simply share a creative conversation about what could be possible?
  • How might we maximize our diversity of thought, to enable us to think differently about the issue, opportunity, or problem in ways that supported differences for mutual enrichment?

There is no wisdom on one point of view

Might this result in a deeper connection when there is polarization between people?

Might it be possible to co-sense and co-create a sense of inclusion, and an opening for a deeper philosophical exploration and discovery for thinking differently about the role, nature of and impact prescriptive points of view on how people truly feel, really think, and deeply act in our globalized and connected world?

Might it help us collectively to co-create making it a better place?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022. 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 to upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more.

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Disrupt Yourself, Your Team and Your Organization

Disrupt Yourself, Your Team and Your Organization

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Moving into a new year is always a time for retreating and reflecting to accelerate growth and harvest new ideas from our feelings, thoughts, and learnings gleaned from the last two years of disruption, extreme uncertainty, and instability. Whether you are actively seeking to disrupt yourself, your team, and your organization to effect sustainable success this year, or not, we all have the opportunity to adapt, innovate and grow from the range of challenging events that impacted us in the past 24 months. This is why it might be useful to see these disruptive events as positive, powerful, and impactful forces for creating new cracks in your own, or your team or organizational soil – to sow some imaginative, creative, and inventive seeds for effecting positive change in an unstable world.

To see them germinate the desired changes you want for yourself, your team, and organization and deliver them, to survive and thrive in 2022.

We are all being challenged by disruption

Our status quo and concepts of business-as-usual have all been significantly disrupted, resulting in a range and series of deep neurological shocks, that have shaken many of us, our teams, and our organizations, to our very cores.  Some of us adapted to a sense of urgency and exploited the opportunity to reinvent, iterate, or pivot our teams and organizations, towards co-creating individual and intentional “new normals” and just “got on” with it. Some of us have continually denied, defended, and avoided making changes, where many of us have sunk deeply into our fears and anxieties, falsely believing that our lives, and our work, would eventually go back to “normal”.

This is because a significant number of our habitual, largely unconscious mental models and emotional states, were disrupted, largely by events beyond our individual and collective control.  Causing many of us to experience “cognitive dissonance” (a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors that produce feelings of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance) from the chaos, discomfort, confusion, and conflict.

Which saw many of us, disconnect cognitively and emotionally, from the current disruptive reality, where some of us secretly hoped that “it will all go away” manifesting and festering fundamentally and unconsciously, as inherent neurological immobility, (freeze, fight, flight) resulting in many areas as resistance to change.

Why disrupt yourself, your team, and organization?

Yet disruptive change is inevitable, the speed and pace of exponential change cannot be stopped, the range of complex and wicked global and local problems that need to be solved collectively, aren’t going away.

Job security and full-time employment, as hybrid and virtual work, and technology accelerate, are becoming “things of the past” as the workplace continues to destabilize through digitization, AI, and automation.

Whilst the war for talent also accelerates as the great resignation sets in and people make powerful, empowered life balance decisions and are on the move globally.

Taking the first steps to disrupt yourself, your team, and organization

In this time of extreme uncertainty, we have a unique moment in time, to disrupt ourselves, teams, and organizations by:

  1. Hitting our individual, collective mental, and emotional pause buttons, to retreat from our business-as-usual activities, and take time out to reflect upon paying attention and qualifying:
  • How specifically have I/we been disrupted?
  • How have our people,  teams, and customers been disrupted?
  • What are some of the major collective impacts on our organization’s current status and how might these impact our future growth potential and overall sustainability?
  • How connected are we to an exponential world, how can we ensure that our feelings, thoughts, and actions, connect with what is really happening to us, our teams, and our customers?
  • What causes disconnection and how might we manage it to be more mentally tough and emotionally agile in an extremely uncertain future?
  • What really matters to us, our teams, organizations, and customers – what do our people, teams, and customers really want from us?
  • What are some of the key elements of our organizational strategy to enact our purpose and deliver our mission?
  1. Generating safe, evocative, provocative, and creative conversations, that evoke deep listening and deep questioning, about how to individually and collectively reconnect, revitalize, rejuvenate and reenergize people, teams and organizations to survive and thrive through asking:
  • How can we engage and harness our people and teams’ energies in ways that mobilize their collective intelligence to evoke new mindset shifts and new ways of thinking and acting?
  • What are some of the key mindsets and traits we need to disrupt, shift, and cultivate to be successful to adapt and grow through disruption?
  • What skills do our leaders and teams need to learn to think and act differently to shift the organizations culture to deliver our strategy?
  • How might we shift our teams and organizations to be agile, and redesign our organizations for both stability and speed?
  • What does it mean to us, our teams, and organizations to be creative, inventive, and innovative – How might we shift our teams and organizations to be more creative, inventive, and innovative?
  • What are the new behavioral norms that will support and enable us to execute agile and innovative changes?
  • How might becoming agile and innovative help our people, teams co-create a healthy, high-performing, and sustainable organizational culture?
  • How might becoming agile and innovative add value to the quality of people’s lives and help our customers flourish?
  1. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable by developing our peoples, teams, and our organizational “discomfort resilience” and dance of the edge of your comfort zones through:
  • Creating safe environments where people and teams are allowed to experiment,  have permission, and are trusted to practice, make mistakes as they move through difficult emotions, and take little bets in low stake situations.
  • Intentionally breaking organizational routines and habits, to create space in people’s brains for new neural pathways to be developed.
  • Enabling people and teams to become mindful of their triggers, to interrupt their automatic reactions.
  • Equipping people and teams to thoughtfully and intentionally respond to situations, that make them uncomfortable and risk-averse, by knowing how to think differently.
  • Bringing more play into the way people work, encourages people to be imaginative, inquisitive, curious, and improvisational, to seek different ways of thinking and acting, that really make a difference in how work gets done.
  • Support people and teams to learn by doing, and failing fast, without the fear of blame, shame, and retribution, despite it being risky to do that.

Why not disrupt yourself, your team, and organization?

The future is going to be full of disruptive events and circumstances that will impact is our families, communities, team, and organizations, and the conditions of extreme uncertainty and disruption are not going to go away. In fact, they are fundamental to what might be described as our collective “new normal” and it’s up to you to disrupt yourself, your team, and organization, to lead, adapt and grow, to survive and thrive through it.

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting May 2022. It is a blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Contact us now at mailto:janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt, and grow your business, team and organization through disruption.

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Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

According to McKinsey & Co, in a recent article The new roles of leaders in 21st-century organizations they say that the focus of leaders, in traditional organisations, is to maximize value for shareholders. To do this effectively, they say that traditional leaders typically play four different roles – the planner (developing strategy and translating it into a plan); the director (assigning responsibility); and the controller (making sure everyone does what they should minimize variance against the plan). Whilst these represent the core and foundational business management and leadership roles essential to successful organisational performance, the world has changed significantly, and traditional organisations are being severely disrupted. Requiring the development of new, adaptive, and supplementary, and new leadership and team roles, which embrace the set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams – strategically supported by digital technologies, and an ecosystem focus to thrive in the face of exponential change and a VUCA world.

Maximizing the dormant space

This creates a space of unparalleled opportunity towards reshaping the world anew by activating what might be considered the dormant space, between traditional leadership roles and the possibility of a set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams.

To be embraced, enacted, and embodied by conscious leaders and collaborative teams in more purposeful, meaningful, and innovative ways that serve people, customers, and the common good.

The new roles of leaders and teams in the 21st century

The leadership paradigm has shifted, in the past 20 years, to focus more on “co-creating meaningful value with and for all stakeholders, expanding beyond shareholders to include customers, employees, partners, and our broader society”.

Taking the stance that in an open system, everyone must win through co-creation, collaboration, experimentation, and innovation that results in delivering great customer experiences.  To retain and sustain current customers, and to attract and attain new ones in an increasingly competitive global marketplace!

Making the key “leadership challenge of our times” as one which cultivates transformative eco-system-led learning and change, nurturing connections, exploration, discovery, creativity, collaboration, experimentation, and innovation at all levels of the system.

Requiring the traditional organisational leadership roles, to shift towards bravely and boldly “stepping into the uncharted territories of future possibility” and weaving these possibilities into the way people work and commune together.

To co-create new “holding spaces” for igniting, harnessing, and activating people’s collective intelligence to embrace and execute change and deliver the desired commercial outcomes their organisation wants.

Openings for unparalleled opportunities

It seems that we not only survived through the emotional and mental anxiety and overwhelm of living in “a world of disruption, drama, and despair” we also saw the range of disruptive events as a “crack” or opening in our operating systems, for unparalleled opportunities.

By intentionally embracing the “key changes that currently reshape all our innovative learning systems” including the action confidence (courage and capacity to step into something new and bring it into being, creating reality as we step into it) to:

  • Deepen the learning cycle (from head-centric to the whole person: heart, head, and gut-centric).
  • Broaden our perspectives and actions (from an individual focus to an eco-system focus).

A moment in time – taking a deep breath

One of the many challenges our collective at ImagineNation™ faced during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns (we had six long ones here in Melbourne, Australia over 18 months) was the opportunity to slow down, hit our pause buttons, retreat and reflect and take some very deep and slow breaths.

To make time and space to rethink, respond, regroup, experiment, and play with a range of wondrous, imaginative, and playful ideas, to unlearn, learn and relearn new ways of being, thinking, and acting to sense and actualize a future that is wanting to emerge – even though, then and right now, it was and still is unclear how.

Acknowledging that whilst many of us, and the majority of our clients were experiencing the range of significant emotional reactions, mental stalling, and the anxiety and overwhelm of living in “a world of disruption, drama, and despair” as well as sensing and perceiving the world that is emerging as one of unparalleled opportunity”.

Stepping up and into new spaces of possibility and learning

Individually and collectively, we focussed on a range of rethinking, responding, and regrouping strategies including adopting new 21st-century leadership roles.

Initially by taking responsibility for sustaining our own, our partners, and our families, emotional energy, mental toughness, engagement, and overall wellness.

Then consciously enact and embody the new set of emerging 21st-century leadership roles as visionaries, architects, coaches, and catalysts:

  • Being visionaries: by co-creating a collaborative and global collective of aligned ecosystem partners with clear accountabilities within a virtual, profit share business model.
  • Being architects: by iterating, pivoting and sharing our IP and learning programs to close peoples’ “knowing-doing gaps” to help them unlearn, learn, relearn, reshape and develop their 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams.
  • Being coaches: by exploring working with the range of innovative new coaching platforms, including BetterUp and CoachHub to better democratize, scale, and share our strengths, knowledge, and skills to help a significant number of people deal more effectively with the impact of virtual hybrid workplaces.
  • Being catalysts: by focussing on partnering with clients to break down their self-induced protective and defensive “silos” to support them to become aware, acknowledge, accept, and resolve their feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection, and overall anxiety.

21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams

It seems that these are just some of the 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams which act as the foundations necessary to survive and thrive through the emerging decade of both disruption and transformation.

Summing these up into more concrete actions for leaders and teams include cultivating and sustaining these five superpowers:

  1. Transformational Literacy: The ability to increase our capacity to collaborate and co-create across institutional and sector boundaries through “shifting consciousness from ego-system awareness to eco-system awareness.” to pioneer solutions that bridge the ecological, the social, and the spiritual divides existing in the 21st
  2. Nimbleness and Agility: The ability to shift and re-think and re-learn in changing contexts, to quickly experiment, iterate and pivot to adapt and move forwards collaboratively through mindset flips to emerge creative ideas and innovative solutions that are appreciated, valued, and cherished.
  3. Scalability: The ability to rapidly build desired and most relevant internal capabilities, to shift capacity and service levels through increasing creativity, invention, and innovation in ways that meet changing customer expectations, and satisfy their demands and future requirements.
  4. Stability: The ability to maintain “action confidence” and operational excellence under pressure that frees people from the constraints of “getting it right” and allows them to continuously unlearn, learn, relearn and change through “failing fast” or forward, without being blamed or shamed.
  5. Optionality: The ability to “get out of the box” to build and develop value chains, stakeholder engagements, or an ecosystem focus to acquire new capabilities through external collaboration.

Walking the path forward

According to Otto Scharmer, in a recent article “Action Confidence: Laying Down the Path in Walking” the leadership qualities we also need to nurture in order to lean into the current moment and to source the courage to act are: Humility. Vulnerability. Surrender. Trust.

It might be time to hit your own pause button, retreat and reflect, inhale a deep breath in this precious moment in time to develop your path forwards and develop an ecosystem focus and an ecosystem focus and a human-centric, future-fit focus.

To embrace, enact and embody a set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams and reshape your innovative learning systems by developing the action confidence to adopt an ecosystem, whole person, and a whole perspective that contributes to the good of the whole.

Join our next free “Making Innovation a Habit” masterclass to re-engage 2022!

Our 90-minute masterclass and creative conversation will help you develop your post-Covid-19 re-engagement strategy.  It’s on Thursday, 10th February at 6.30 pm Sydney and Melbourne, 8.30 pm Auckland, 3.30 pm Singapore, 11.30 am Abu Dhabi and 8.30 am Berlin. Find out more.

Image credit: Unsplash

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