Tag Archives: collaboration

You Can’t Innovate Without This One Thing

You Can't Innovate Without This One Thing

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

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

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

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

What are the qualities that make someone a successful innovator?

70 answers

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

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

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

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

+1 Answer

It’s not. Something is missing.

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

Vulnerability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

n + 1 is the answer

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

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


Here’s the full list of characteristics:

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

And the sources:

Image Credit: Pixabay

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

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

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

People at the Center – Technology as a Co-Pilot

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

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

The Power of Technology

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

1. technology but also 2. the pandemic.

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Strategy for a Post-Digital World

Strategy for a Post-Digital World

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

For decades, the dominant view of strategy was based on Michael Porter’s ideas about competitive advantage. In essence, he argued that the key to long-term success was to dominate the value chain by maximizing bargaining power among suppliers, customers, new market entrants and substitute goods.

Yet digital technology blew apart old assumptions. As technology cycles began to outpace planning cycles, traditional firms were often outfoxed by smaller competitors that were faster and more agile. Risk averse corporate cultures needed to learn how to “fail fast” or simply couldn’t compete.

Today, as the digital revolution is coming to an end, we will need to rethink strategy once again. Increasingly, we can no longer just move fast and break things, but will have to learn how to prepare, rather than just adapt, build deep collaborations and drive skills-based transformations. Make no mistake, those who fail to make the shift will struggle to survive.

Learning to Prepare Rather Than Racing to Adapt

The digital age was driven, in large part, by Moore’s law. Every 18 months or so, a new generation of chips would come out of fabs that was twice as powerful as what came before. Firms would race to leverage these new capabilities and transform them into actual products and services.

That’s what made agility and adaptation key competitive attributes over the past few decades. When the world changes every 18 months, you need to move quickly to leverage new possibilities. Today, however, Moore’s Law is ending and we’ll have to shift to new architectures, such as quantum, neuromorphic and, possibly, biological computers.

Yet the shift to this new era of heterogeneous computing will not be seamless. Instead of one fairly simple technology based on transistors, we will have multiple architectures that involve very different logical principles. These will need new programming languages and will be applied to solve very different problems than digital computers have been.

Another shift will be from bits to atoms, as fields such as synthetic biology and materials science advance exponentially. As our technology becomes infinitely more powerful, there are also increasingly serious ethical concerns. We will have to come to some consensus on issues like what accountability a machine should have and to what extent we should alter the nature of life.

If there is one thing that the Covid-19 crisis has shown is that if you don’t prepare, no amount of agility will save you.

Treating Collaboration as a New Competitive Advantage

In 1980, IBM was at an impasse. Having already missed the market for minicomputers, a new market for personal computers was emerging. So, the company’s leadership authorized a team to set up a skunk works in Boca Raton, FL. A year later, the company would bring the PC to market and change computer history.

So, it’s notable that IBM is taking a very different approach to quantum computing. Rather than working in secret, it has set up its Q Network of government agencies, academic labs, customers and start-ups to develop the technology. The reason? Quantum computing is far too complex for any one enterprise to pursue on its own.

“When we were developing the PC, the challenge was to build a different kind of computer based on the same technology that had been around for decades,” Bob Sutor, who heads up IBM’s Quantum effort, told me. “In the case of quantum computing, the technology is completely different and most of it was, until fairly recently, theoretical,” he continued. “Only a small number of people understand how to build it. That requires a more collaborative innovation model to drive it forward.”

It’s not just IBM either. We’re seeing similar platforms for collaboration at places like the Manufacturing Institutes, JCESR and the Critical Materials Institute. Large corporations, rather trying to crush startups, are creating venture funds to invest in them. The truth is that the problems we need to solve in the post-digital age are far too complex to go it alone. That’s why today, it’s not enough to have a market strategy, you need to have an ecosystem strategy.

Again, the Covid-19 crisis is instructive, with unprecedented collaborative efforts driving breakthroughs.

Drive Skills-Based Transformations

In the digital era, incumbent organizations needed to learn new skills. Organizations that mastered these skills, such as lean manufacturing, design thinking, user centered design and agile development, enjoyed a significant competitive advantage. Unfortunately, many firms still struggle to deploy critical skills at scale.

As digital technology enters an accelerated implementational phase, the need to deploy these skills at scale will only increase. You can’t expect to leverage technology without empowering your people to use it effectively. That’s why skills-based transformations have become every bit as important as strategic or technology-driven transformations.

As we enter the new post-digital era the need for skills-based transformations will only increase. Digital skills, such as basic coding and design, are relatively simple. A reasonably bright high school student can become proficient in a few months. As noted above, however, the skills needed for this new era will be far more varied and complex.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that everybody will need to have deep knowledge about things like quantum mechanics, neurology or genomics a decade from now any more than everybody needs to write code today. However, we will increasingly have to collaborate with experts in those fields and have some sort of basic understanding.

Making the Shift from Disrupting Markets to Pursuing Grand Challenges

The digital economy was largely built on disruption. As computer chips became exponentially faster and cheaper, innovative firms could develop products and services that could displace incumbent industries. Consider that a basic smartphone today can replace a bundle of technologies, such as video recorders, GPS navigators and digital music players, that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when they were first introduced.

This displacement process has been highly disruptive, but there are serious questions about whether it’s been productive. In fact, for all the hype around digital technology “changing the world,“ productivity has been mostly depressed since the 1970s. In some ways, such as mental health and income inequality, we are considerably worse off than 40 or 50 years ago.

Yet the post-digital era offers us a much greater opportunity to pursue grand challenges. Over the next few decades, we’ll be able to deploy far more powerful technologies to solve problems like cancer, aging and climate change. It is, in the final analysis, these physical world applications that can not only change our lives for the better, but open up massive new markets.

The truth is that the future tends to surprise us and nobody can say for sure what the next few decades will look like. Strategy, therefore, can’t depend on prediction. However, what we can do is prepare for this new era by widening and deepening connections throughout relevant ecosystems, acquiring new skills and focusing on solving meaningful problems.

In the face of uncertainty, the best way to survive is to make yourself useful.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Cultivate Innovation by Managing with Empathy

Cultivate Innovation by Managing with Empathy

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Managing with empathy is a leader’s superpower. Empathy opens the door to increased innovation, collaboration, and engagement.

Experts assert that empathy is the single most important skill in today’s workplace and the numbers don’t lie: 76% of workers with empathetic leaders are reportedly more motivated and engaged than those who experience leadership with less empathy.

Leaders can harness the power of empathy to create a more collaborative and engaged culture at work. In this article, we explore empathetic leadership in the following topics:

  • What is Workplace Empathy?
  • Becoming an Empathetic Leader
  • The Benefits of Managing a Team With Empathy
  • The Connection Between Empathy and innovation

What is Workplace Empathy?

Managing with empathy requires a keen understanding of the nuances of workplace empathy and empathetic leadership. Empathy allows one to understand another person’s emotions, actions, and thoughts. Our emotional or social intelligence helps us practice empathy and understand the mindsets and emotions of others.

Empathy belongs in the workplace. While work-related responsibilities should be top of mind, your team members won’t be able to do their best work if they feel as though their emotions and feelings are invalidated or ignored. It’s crucial that team members feel as though their feelings and emotions are prioritized both in their professional and personal lives. With the power of empathy, team leaders and managers can shift company culture for the better and motivate their team to be the best version of themselves.

Empathetic leaders understand the three types of empathy:

1. Cognitive Empathy

Cognitive empathy relates to connecting to another person’s mentality and understanding how certain situations influence their thoughts. Cognitive empathy is related to “theory of mind” that explores how someone can think like another and predict what their future behavior may be.

2. Somatic Empathy

Somatic empathy occurs when one experiences a physical response to another’s feelings or experience.

3. Affective Empathy

Affective empathy involves understanding another’s emotions and responding most appropriately.

Becoming an Empathetic Leader

Managing with empathy is possible for all leaders and team members willing to start within. To connect emotionally with others, you have to first prioritize your connection with yourself. By cultivating your emotional intelligence and understanding your own emotions and feelings, you’ll be better equipped to lead with empathy.

In today’s ever-changing climate, workers have to navigate the likes of diverse workforces, virtualized teams, and global economic challenges. Being able to adapt and sympathize with the perspective and experiences of others will help you improve your empathetic leadership.

Consider the following steps to amplify your emotional intelligence and grow your leadership skills:

1. Listen

Listening to your team is one of the fastest ways to start managing with empathy. With every conversation comes the opportunity to build a better relationship and affirm your team member’s emotions. In each conversation, be sure to pay attention, avoid distractions, and wait for the person to finish before you speak.

In addition to letting your team members fully share their opinions, the art of listening requires you to fully understand the emotions that are behind each conversation. This includes understanding nonverbal cues, identifying the tone of voice, and paying attention to body language. If you’re working remotely, managing with empathy can be particularly challenging. Take advantage of voice notes, video chats, SMS messaging, and sending photos and videos to ensure you’re virtually communicating as comprehensively as possible.

2. Get Personal

Though personal bonds in the workplace are often discouraged, building healthy professional relationships is an effective way to start managing with empathy. By forming personal connections with your team members, you’ll encourage a culture of open communication and alignment. As you both connect, you’ll find commonalities in your shared vision and values.

3. Adopt their Point of View

As an empathetic leader, it’s essential to gain emotional insight into what your team is feeling and thinking by adopting their point of view. Whether your company is remote or in-person, it isn’t always easy to understand the perspective or emotional state of your team. While some leaders shy away from discussing emotions and feelings at work, the truth is that learning more about each employee’s emotional state will help you understand how they approach their work and why they work the way they do.

4. Get Leadership Training

Managing with empathy doesn’t always come naturally. Take the opportunity to invest in leadership training to learn how to better incorporate your emotional intelligence and empathy into your management style. With the help of professional leaders, you’ll learn how to emotionally connect with your team and manage the personal and professional challenges that come your way. Consider courses in facilitation and change management as you learn the ins and outs of empathetic leadership.

The Benefits of Managing a Team With Empathy

Don’t put empathy on the backburner. While it takes time and intention to cultivate a company culture rooted in empathy, making the journey to create an emotionally intelligent environment is worth it.

Consider the following benefits of managing with empathy:

1. Better Relationships

Better relationships are a direct benefit of managing with empathy. Empathy helps team members emotionally connect as they identify personal interests and can freely communicate with each other. Use empathy to deepen relationships by asking questions about how others feel and providing careful and thoughtful responses.

2. Enhanced Teamwork

Empathy is a key ingredient in designing stronger teams. Managing with empathy encourages a desire for team members to help each other and work together. As you learn more about the challenges your team faces, you’ll naturally want to assist them in finding solutions. This type of cooperation encourages a culture of camaraderie where team members feel as though they are a critical part of each other’s success.

3. A Stronger Work-Life Balance

Empathy is a natural part of a stronger work-life balance. At times, challenges from one’s personal life can affect the way team members approach work obligations. Understanding their challenges will help you shape a better work-life balance for your team. Whether they need more time off or want more remote work, listening to and understanding their needs will help them create a healthier balance between their personal and professional lives.

4. Increased Innovation

A workforce of engaged and emotionally aligned employees allows for increased innovation. A workplace culture of empathy helps to develop soft skills such as curiosity, generosity, and equality, which encourages team members to design new creative and collaborative solutions.

The Link Between Empathy and Innovation

The link between innovation and empathy is undeniable. Empathetic leadership allows us to understand and relate to each other in a deeply profound and authentic way. Empathy is an incredible tool for innovation as it works to encourage companies and teams to center the needs and feelings of others.

By encouraging team members to adopt another’s point of view, leaders can utilize empathy as a problem-solving framework. Empathy places the experience and satisfaction of others at the heart of the creative and collaborative process. These empathetic techniques and behaviors are undoubtedly linked to the most effective designs, products, and creative solutions.

In the workplace, empathy naturally reinforces a culture of innovation as it encourages and validates the feelings and opinions of others. Regardless of the problems at hand, human-centered thinking encourages organizations to empathetically eliminate their biases, reservations, and judgment to arrive at the solution that benefits the end-user and their fellow team members the most.

If innovation is at the heart of your company, it’s time to start managing with empathy. Voltage Control offers custom programs built around connection, psychological safety, community, and play. Connect with us today to learn how to use empathetic leadership for the greatest good.

Article originally published at VoltageControl.com

Image Credit: Pexels

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We Must Rethink the Future of Technology

We Must Rethink the Future of Technology

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

The industrial revolution of the 18th century was a major turning point. Steam power, along with other advances in areas like machine tools and chemistry transformed industry from the work of craftsmen and physical labor to that of managing machines. For the first time in world history, living standards grew consistently.

Yet during the 20th century, all of that technology needed to be rethought. Steam engines gave way to electric motors and internal combustion engines. The green revolution and antibiotics transformed agriculture and medicine. In the latter part of the century digital technology created a new economy based on information.

Today, we are on the brink of a new era of innovation in which we will need to rethink technology once again. Much like a century ago, we are developing new, far more powerful technologies that will change how we organize work, identify problems and collaborate to solve them. We will have to change how we compete and even redefine prosperity itself.

The End of the Digital Revolution

Over the past few decades, digital technology has become almost synonymous with innovation. Every few years, a new generation of chips would come out that was better, faster and cheaper than the previous one. This opened up new possibilities that engineers and entrepreneurs could exploit to create new products that would disrupt entire industries.

Yet there are only so many transistors you can cram onto a silicon wafer and digital computing is nearing its theoretical limits. We have just a few generations of advancements left before the digital revolution grinds to a halt. There will be some clever workarounds to stretch the technology a bit further, but we’re basically at the end of the digital era.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, the digital revolution has been a huge disappointment. Except for a relatively brief period in the late nineties and early aughts, the rise of digital technology has been marked by diminished productivity growth and rising inequality. Studies have also shown that some technologies, such as social media, worsen mental health.

Perhaps even more importantly, the end of the digital era will usher in a new age of heterogeneous computing in which we apply different computing architectures to specific tasks. Some of these architectures will be digital, but others, such as quantum and neuromorphic computing, will not be.

The New Convergence

In the 90s, media convergence seemed like a futuristic concept. We consumed information through separate and distinct channels, such as print, radio and TV. The idea that all media would merge into one digital channel just felt unnatural. Many informed analysts at the time doubted that it would ever actually happen.

Yet today, we can use a single device to listen to music, watch videos, read articles and even publish our own documents. In fact, we do these things so naturally we rarely stop to think how strange the concept once seemed. The Millennial generation doesn’t even remember the earlier era of fragmented media.

Today, we’re entering a new age of convergence in which computation powers the physical, as well as the virtual world. We’re beginning to see massive revolutions in areas like materials science and synthetic biology that will reshape massive industries such as energy, healthcare and manufacturing.

The impact of this new convergence is likely to far surpass anything that happened during the digital revolution. The truth is that we still eat, wear and live in the physical world, so innovating with atoms is far more valuable than doing so with bits.

Rethinking Prosperity

It’s a strange anachronism that we still evaluate prosperity in terms of GDP. The measure, developed by Simon Kuznets in 1934, became widely adopted after the Bretton Woods Conference a decade later. It is basically a remnant of the industrial economy, but even back then Kuznets commented, “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.”

To understand why GDP is problematic, think about a smartphone, which incorporates many technologies, such as a camera, a video player, a web browser a GPS navigator and more. Peter Diamandis has estimated that a typical smartphone today incorporates applications that were worth $900,000 when they were first introduced.

So, you can see the potential for smartphones to massively deflate GDP. First of all, the price of the smartphone itself, which is just a small fraction of what the technology in it would have once cost. Then there is the fact that we save fuel by not getting lost, rarely pay to get pictures developed and often watch media for free. All of this reduces GDP, but makes us better off.

There are better ways to measure prosperity. The UN has proposed a measure that incorporates 9 indicators, the OECD has developed an alternative approach that aggregates 11 metrics, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promoted a well-being index and even the small city of Somerville, MA has a happiness project.

Yet still, we seem to prefer GDP because it’s simple, not because its accurate. If we continue to increase GDP, but our air and water are more polluted, our children less educated and less healthy and we face heightened levels of anxiety and depression, then what have we really gained?

Empowering Humans to Design Work for Machines

Today, we face enormous challenges. Climate change threatens to pose enormous costs on our children and grandchildren. Hyperpartisanship, in many ways driven by social media, has created social strife, legislative inertia and has helped fuel the rise of authoritarian populism. Income inequality, at its highest levels since the 1920s, threatens to rip shreds in the social fabric.

Research shows that there is an increasing divide between workers who perform routine tasks and those who perform non-routine tasks. Routine tasks are easily automated. Non-routine tasks are not, but can be greatly augmented by intelligent systems. It is through this augmentation that we can best create value in the new century.

The future will be built by humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines. That is how we will create the advanced materials, the miracle cures and new sources of clean energy that will save the planet. Yet if we remain mired in an industrial mindset, we will find it difficult to harness the new technological convergence to solve the problems we need to.

To succeed in the 21st century, we need to rethink our economy and our technology and begin to ask better questions. How does a particular technology empower people to solve problems? How does it improve lives? In what ways does it need to be constrained to limit adverse effects through economic externalities?

As our technology becomes almost unimaginably powerful, these questions will only become more important. We have the power to shape the world we want to live in. Whether we have the will remains to be seen.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last two blogs on Taking Personal Responsibility, we stated that when people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders. Taking personal responsibility is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation. It all starts with seeing self as the cause of what happens to us, rather than baling it on the effects events and problems have on us! Where people can learn to recognize the structures at play in their lives and change them so that they can create what they really want to create in their lives, teams, or organizations.

In the last two blogs, we shared a range of tips for shifting people’s location, by creating a line of choice, to help them shift from being below the line and blaming others for their reactive response, to getting above the line quickly.  Through shifting their language from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us” and bravely disrupting and calling out people when they do slip below the line. How doing this allows people to also systemically shift across the maturity continuum, from dependence to independence and ultimately towards interdependence.

In a recent newsletter Otto Scharmer, from the Presencing Institute states “Between action and non-action there is a place. A portal into the unknown. But what are we each called to contribute to the vision of the emerging future? Perhaps these times are simply doorways into the heart of the storm, a necessary journey through the cycles of time required to create change”.

Creating the place – the sacred pause

When I made a significant career change from a design and marketing management consultant to becoming a corporate trainer, one of the core principles I was expected to teach to senior corporate managers and leaders was taking personal responsibility.

Little knowing, that at the end of the workshop, going back to my hotel room and beating myself up, for all of the “wrongs” in the delivery of the learning program, was totally out of integrity with this core principle.

Realising that when people say – those that teach need to learn, I had mistakenly thought that I had to take responsibility for enacting the small imperfections I had delivered during the day, by berating myself, making myself “wrong” and through below the line self-depreciation!

Where I perfectly acted out the harmful process of self-blame, rather than rationally assessing the impact of each small imperfection, shifting to being above the line where I could intentionally apply the sacred pause:

  • Hit my pause button to get present, accept my emotional state,
  • Connect with what really happened to unpack the reality of the situation and eliminate my distortions around it,
  • Check-in and acknowledge how I was truly feeling about what happened,
  • Acknowledge some of the many things that I had done really well,
  • Ask myself what is the outcome/result I want for participants next program?
  • Ask myself what can I really learn from this situation?
  • Consciously choose what to do differently the next time I ran the program.

I still often find myself struggling with creating the Sacred Space between Stimulus and Response and have noticed in my global coaching practice, that many of my well-intentioned clients struggle with this too.

The impact of the last two and a half years of working at home, alone, online, with minimal social interactions and contact, has caused many of them to languish in their reactivity, and for some of them, into drowning in a very full emotional boat, rather than riding the wave of disruptive change.

Being the creative cause

In our work at ImagineNation, whether we help people, leaders and teams adapt, innovate and grow through disruption, their ability to develop true self-awareness and be above the line is often the most valuable and fundamental skill set they develop.

It then enables us to make the distinction that creating is completely different from reacting or responding to the circumstances people find themselves in by applying the sacred pause.

When people shift towards seeing self as the cause they are able to create and co-create what they want in their lives, teams or organization by learning to create by creating, starting with asking the question:

  • What result do you want to create in your life?
  • What is the reality of your current situation?

This creates a state of tension, it is this tension that seeks resolution.

In his ground-breaking book The Path of Least Resistance Robert Fritz, goes on to describe and rank these desired results as “Fundamental Choices, Primary Choices, and Secondary Choices.”

Because there is one thing that we can all do right and is totally in our control – is to shift towards seeing self as the cause and make a set of conscious choices, with open hearts, minds, and wills, as to how we think, feel and choose to act.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.”

We all have the options and choices in taking responsibility, empowering ourselves and others to be imaginative and creative, and using the range of rapid changes, ongoing disruption, uncertainty, and the adverse pandemic consequences, as levers for shifting and controlling, the way we think, feel.

Benefits of seeing self as the cause and being above the line

Applying the sacred pause to make change choices in how we act – and being brave and bold in shifting across the maturity continuum, will help us to cultivate the creativity, interdependence, and systemic thinking we all need right now because it:

  • Helps people self-regulate their reactive emotional responses, be more open-hearted and emotionally agile, and helps develop psychologically safe work environments where people can collaborate and experiment, and fail without the fear of retribution or punishment.
  • Enables people to be more open-minded, imaginative, and curious and creates a safe space for continuous learning, maximizing diversity and inclusion, and proactive intentional change and transformation.
  • Promotes ownership of a problem or challenging situation and helps develop constructive and creative responses to problems and an ability to take intelligent actions.
  • Gives people an opportunity to impact positively on others and build empowered trusted and collaborative relationships.
  • Enables entrepreneurs and innovators to invent creative solutions and drive successful innovative outcomes.
  • Building the foundations for accountability, where people focus their locus of control on what they promise to deliver, enables them to be intrinsically motivated, and take smart risks on negotiating outcomes that they can be counted on for delivering.

Tips for seeing self as the cause and operating above the line

Taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause involves:

  • Acknowledging that “I/we had a role or contributed in some way, to the fact that this has not worked out the way “I/we wanted.”
  • Clarifying the outcome or result in you want from a specific situation or a problem.
  • Seeking alternatives and options for making intelligent choices and actions, and using the language of “I/we can” and “I/we will” to achieve the outcome.
  • Replacing avoiding, being cynical and argumentative, blaming, shaming, controlling, and complaining with courageous, compassionate, and creative language and acts of intention.
  • People become victors who operate from “self as cause” where they are empowered to be the creative forces in their own lives by making fundamental, primary, and secondary change choices.
  • Trust your inner knowing and deep wisdom that everything has a specific and definable cause and that each and every one of us has the freedom to choose how to respond to it.

Back to leadership basics

As Stephen Covey says, people need to deeply and honestly say “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday” because it’s not what happens to us, it’s our reactive response to what happens that hurts us.

Being willing to step back, retreat, and reflect on the gap between the results you want, and the results you are getting all starts with stepping inward, backward, and forwards, using the sacred pause, to ask:

  • What happened? What were the key driving forces behind it?
  • How am I/we truly feeling about it?
  • What was my/our role in causing this situation, or result?
  • What can I/we learn from it?
  • What is the result/outcome I want to create in the future?
  • What can I/we then do to create it?

As a corporate trainer, consultant and coach, I found out the hard way that developing the self-awareness and self-regulation skills in taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause is the basis of the personal power and freedom that is so important to me, and almost everyone else I am currently interacting with.

It’s the foundation for transcending paralysis, overwhelm, and stuck-ness and activating our sense of agency to transform society and ourselves.

This is the third and final blog in a series of blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics. Read the previous two here:

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.

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Creating the Line of Choice

Taking Personal Responsibility - Creating the Line of Choice

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last blog, we described how people’s personal power is diminished when they don’t take personal responsibility for the impact of their behaviors and actions and the results they cause. Where many people are feeling minimized and marginalized, anxious as a result of being isolated and lonely, worrying about losing their security and freedom, and dealing with the instability in their working environments.  Resulting in many people disengaging from the important conversations, job functions, key relationships, workplaces, and in some instances, even from society. Where managers and leaders lack the basic self-awareness and self-regulation skills to control the only controllable in uncertain and unstable times, is to choose how to respond, rather than react to it.

We have a unique moment in time to shift their defensiveness through being compassionate, creative, and courageous towards helping managers and leaders unfreeze and mobilize to exit our comfort zones.  To take intelligent actions catalyze and cause positive outcomes, that deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.

Why do people avoid taking personal responsibility?

People typically avoid taking personal responsibility for reasons ranging from simple laziness, risk adversity, or a fear of failure, to feeling change fatigued, overwhelmed, or even victimized by the scale of a problem or a situation.

Resulting in a range of different automatic defensive, and a range of non-productive reactive responses including:

  • Avoidant behavior, where feel victimized and targeted, people passively “wriggle” and the buck gets passed onto others, and the real problem or issue does not get addressed or resolved.
  • Controlling behavior, where people ignore their role in causing or resolving the real problem or issue, and aggressively push others towards their mandate or solution, denying others any agency.
  • Argumentative behavior, where people play the binary “right-wrong” game, and self-righteously, triggered by their own values, oppose other people’s perspectives in order to be right and make the other person wrong.

Creating the line of choice

At Corporate Vision, we added a thick line of “choice” between “personal responsibility” and “blame, justification and denial” to intentionally create space for people to consider taking more emotionally hygienic options rather than:

  • Dumping their “emotional boats” inappropriately onto others, even those they may deeply care about,
  • Sinking into their habitual, and largely unconscious default patterns when facing complex problems, which results in the delivery of the same results they always have.
  • Not regulating their automatic reactive responses to challenging situations, and not creating the vital space to pause and reflect to think about what to do next.

To enable them to shift towards taking response-ability (an ability to respond) and introducing more useful options for responding in emotionally agile, considered, constructive, inclusive, and creative ways to the problem or the challenge.

Noticing that when we, or others we interact with, do slip below the line to notice whether to “camp” there for the long term or to simply choose to make the “visit” a short one!

Doing this demonstrates the self-awareness and self-regulation skills enabling people to take personal responsibility. Which initiates ownership and a willingness to be proactive, solutions, and achievement orientated – all of which are essential qualities for 21st century conscious leadership that result in innovative outcomes that result in success, growth, and sustainability.

Shifting your location – from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us”

Developing the foundations for transformational and conscious leadership involves:

  • Supporting people to acknowledge and accept that the problem or challenge is not “out there” and is within their locus of control or influence.
  • Shifting the “Maturity Continuum” to enable leaders and managers to be both independent and interdependent.
  • Creating a line of choice to think, act and do things differently.
  • Calling out people when they slip below the line.

It involves supporting people to let go of their expectation that “they” or someone else, from the outside, will fix it, and supporting them to adopt a stance where:

  • “I” or “we” can and are empowered to do it,
  • “I” or “we” are responsible for getting above the line,
  • “I” or “we” can choose a different way of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in this situation.

Developing conscious leadership

At any time, everyone is either above or below the line because it is elemental to the type of conscious leadership we all need to survive and thrive, in a world where people are seeking leaders, managers, and working environments that require interdependence.

To operate in the paradigm of “we” – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.

We cooperate together by creating the line of choice where we call out to ourselves and others when we slip below it, to get above the line as quickly as possible.

Where interdependent people and communities combine their efforts, and their self-awareness and self-regulation skills with the efforts of others to achieve their growth and greatest success by increasing:

  • Transparency and trust,
  • Achievement and accountability,
  • Diversity and inclusion,
  • Experimentation and collaboration.

All of these are founded on the core principle of taking personal responsibility, which is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation.

Bravely calling out self and others

When we take responsibility for managing our own, “below the line” reactive responses, by habitually creating the line of choice, we can bravely call out ourselves and others when we slip below it.

Because when we don’t call ourselves and others we interact with, we are unconsciously colluding with their emotional boats, default patterns, and automatic reactive responses, which inhibit their ability to effect positive change.

When we safely awaken ourselves and others, we can get back above the line quickly and choose different ways of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in the situation.

Alternately, people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders.

In fact, developing a habitual practice of emotionally intelligent and conscious leadership by safely and bravely disrupting ourselves and our people, in the face of ongoing uncertainty, accelerating change, and continuous disruption.

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

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.

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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.

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