Tag Archives: failure

Kickstarting Change and Innovation in Uncertain Times

Kickstarting Change and Innovation in Uncertain Times

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last article, we described why innovation is transformational, and why, at this moment in time, it is more important than ever to innovate. We stated that innovation-led growth is absolutely critical and that people need to be enabled and equipped to adapt, connect and collaborate in new ways to kickstart change in agile, constructive, equitable, and sustainable ways to innovate in uncertain times. Yet, our research and experience at ImagineNation™ over the past 10 years has revealed that many governments, communities, organizations, teams, and leaders, feel somewhat – but not very – confident in their readiness, competence, and capacity to change and innovate in a world of unknowns.

Six Strategies to Kickstart Change and Innovate in Uncertain Times

To help build this confidence we have identified six key strategies and the key first steps to help you focus your attention, kickstart change, and drive and execute your change and innovation initiatives, to survive, thrive, and flourish in uncertain times.

Strategy #1

Build change readiness and receptivity to survive and thrive in an uncertain world by:

  • Giving people permission and safety that allows them to accept and acknowledge the range of emotional reactions (fears), physical consequences (exhaustion), and work-life imbalances as a result of the imposed WFH environment.
  • Acknowledging how people are feeling helps them better re-balance, adapt, and become resilient by supporting them to develop a work-life balance to better connect with others, tolerate uncertainty to change, and innovate in uncertain times.
  • Challenging people’s habitual default patterns of remaining in the safety of their comfort zones, breaking habitual “business as usual” habits, inertia, and complacency.
  • Being empathic and compassionate with people’s anxieties, confusion, insecurity, and uncertainties about their futures at work, and supporting them through their personal conflicts.

Strategy #2

Allow, accept and ack knowledge people’s fears and struggles about change, help manage their anxiety, improve their productivity and attune them to the possibilities and potential opportunities in the current business environment by:

  • Providing individual and collective support to enable people to take back and refocus their attention, self-manage anxiety, and become grounded, mindful, and fully present, with self and with others.
  • Investing in time and money to enable people to unlearn, learn and relearn how to be change ready and change-receptive, and become adaptive to effectively facilitate successful business and digital transformation initiatives.
  • Helping people get familiar with the brain’s basic cognitive functions, and build the foundations to help get work done by regulating emotions, suppressing biases, switching tasks, solving complex problems, and thinking creatively.
  • Developing 21st-century skills to shift old mindsets, develop new behaviors and the reasoning, problem-solving, planning, and execution skills to initiate and sustain business, cultural and digital transformation initiatives to embed the changes and to innovate in uncertain times.
  • Developing the fundamental foresight and energizing vision to perceive innovation strategically and systemically, adopting an approach that is holistic, human, and technology-centered, to align, enable, and equip people to adapt and grow and to change and innovate in uncertain times.

Strategy #3

Make sense of innovation, and develop a common understanding and language as to what innovation means in a unique context by:

  • Developing an awareness that innovation is, in itself, a change process, and paradoxically requires rigorous and disciplined change management processes and a chaotic creative and collaborative interchange of ideas.
  • Clarifying an energizing and compelling “why” innovation is important to an overall “cause” developing a passionate purpose and a sense of urgency towards leveraging innovation to achieve long-term success, competitiveness, and growth.
  • Knowing how to both make connections and distinguish and leverage the differences between creativity, invention, and innovation.
  • Building the safety, permission, and trust that helps facilitate, educate and coach people to deal with the emotional consequences of failure, to reframe it as opportunities to encourage a culture of taking small bets to learn quickly.
  • Taking a disciplined and methodical approach to risk planning and management, that allows and encourages a culture of smart risk-taking to reduce risk adversity.
  • Creating a consistent and common understanding as to what innovation means in their unique government, community, social, organizational, leadership, or team context and creating an engaging and compelling narrative around it.

Strategy #4

Optimize the notion that innovation is transformational and leverage it as an overall energizing strategic and systemic alignment mechanism and set of processes to kickstart change by:

  • Improving engagement, energizing and maximizing people’s potential and intentionally cultivating their collective genius to learn how to execute and deliver deep change and innovate in uncertain times.
  • Aligning technological, processes and adopting a human-centered structure for change management to deliver business breakthroughs and digital transformation initiatives.
  • Breaking down silos and supporting people to collaborate; re-connect, re-energize and re-invent themselves in a disrupted world.
  • Maximizing differences and diversity that exist between people’s demographics, cultures, values, perspectives, knowledge, experiences, and skillsets to deliver their desired outcomes.
  • Learning and coaching people to adapt to survive and thrive by solving complex problems, uncertainty, instability, and trends that are constantly emerging.
  • Improving both customer centricity and the customers’ experience.
  • Building accountable, equitable, and sustainable business enterprises that people value, appreciate, and cherish.

Strategy #5

Challenge the status quo and conventional ways of perceiving innovation to unleash the possibilities and the opportunities and kickstart change that true innovation offers by:

  • Taking a strategic perspective in the longer term and the need for investment in innovation, rather than being reactive, and short-term profit-focused.
  • Developing an understanding of the different types of innovation and how they can be applied, including incremental, breakthrough, sustaining, and disruptive, depending on their strategic imperative and motivation for change, and not just focussing on making continuous and process improvements.
  • Improving trust in organizational boards and leadership decisions, reducing self-interest and eliminating corruption, and focussing on being in integrity to successfully empower people in change and innovate in uncertain times.

Strategy #6

Explore opportunities for measuring, benchmarking, and contextualizing the impact of innovation on business performance, leadership, executive team, and organizational ability to adapt, innovate and grow by:

  • Embracing new business models, developing leadership capabilities and collaborative competencies, capacities, and building people’s confidence to perceive their worlds differently, and with fresh eyes.
  • Letting go of “old” 20th century methods of diagnosing and assessing culture, based solely on the “nice to haves” rather than exploring the emerging “must haves” to enable people to survive and thrive by experimenting with new assessment tools like the OGI® and the GLI® to quantify and qualify current and potential strengths and weaknesses.
  • Using data to know what new mindsets, behaviors, and skills to embody and enact, differently to become future-fit and succeed in the 21st century, and accepting that some of these are “not nice”.
  • Cultivating an innovation culture to embed deep change, provide learning and coaching to evoke, provoke and create mindset shifts, behavior and systems changes, and radically new sets of artifacts and symbols.

Taking the first steps to change and innovate in 2023

Embracing a range of new and different strategic and systemic approaches governments, communities, organizations, teams, and leader organizations can successfully kickstart change and innovate in uncertain times.

By using this moment in time to choose to refuse to walk backward and sleepwalk through life, by simply committing to take the first baby steps in allowing and enabling people to pause, retreat, reflect and:

  • Recover from the effects of working mostly alone, from home, and online.
  • Re-balance work and home lives through reconnection and resolving loneliness and rebuilding a sense of belonging.
  • Know how to tolerate uncertainty and become resilient and adaptive.
  • Reimagine and refocus a more energizing, compelling, and sustainable future.
  • Reinvent themselves, their professions, business practices, and teams in meaningful and purposeful ways.

We can then confidently, meaningfully, and purposefully energetically engage and enroll people, mobilize and harness their collective genius, to innovate in uncertain times in ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives in ways they appreciate and cherish.

To kickstart changes that contribute effectively to global stability, security, connectedness, and sustainability in the current decade of transformation and disruption.

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

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

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are August’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Why Amazon Wants to Sell You Robots — by Shep Hyken
  2. Now is the Time to Design Cost Out of Our Products — by Mike Shipulski
  3. How Consensus Kills Innovation — by Greg Satell
  4. The Four Secrets of Innovation Implementation — by Shilpi Kumar
  5. Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World — by Janet Sernack
  6. This 9-Box Grid Can Help Grow Your Best Future Talent — by Soren Kaplan
  7. ‘Fail Fast’ is BS. Do This Instead — by Robyn Bolton
  8. The Power of Stopping — by Mike Shipulski
  9. The Battle Against the Half-Life of Learning — by Douglas Ferguson
  10. The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration — by Teresa Spangler

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in July that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last two years:

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The Resilience Conundrum

From the Webb Space Telescope to Dishwashing Liquids

The Resilience Conundrum

GUEST POST from Pete Foley

Many of us have been watching the spectacular photos coming from Webb Space Telescope this week. It is a breathtaking example of innovation in action. But what grabbed my attention almost as much as the photos was the challenge of deploying it at the L2 Lagrange point. That not only required extraordinary innovation of core technologies, but also building unprecedented resilience into the design. Deploying a technology a million miles from Earth leaves little room for mistakes, or the opportunity for the kind of repairs that rescued the Hubble mission. Obviously the Webb team were acutely aware of this, and were painstaking in identifying and pre-empting 344 single points of failure, any one of which had the potential to derail it. The result is a triumph.  But it is not without cost. Anticipating and protecting against those potential failures played a significant part in taking Webb billions over budget, and years behind it’s original schedule.

Efficiency versus Adaptability: Most of us will never face quite such an amazing but  daunting challenge, or have the corresponding time and budget flexibility. But as an innovation community, and a planet, we are entering a phase of very rapid change as we try to quickly address really big issues, such as climate change and AI. And the speed, scope and interconnected complexity of that change make it increasingly difficult to build resilience into our innovations. This is compounded because a need for speed and efficiency often drives us towards narrow focus and increased specialization.  That focus can help us move quickly, but we know from nature that the first species to go extinct in the face of environmental change are often the specialists, who are less able to adapt with their changing world. Efficiency often reduces resilience, it’s another conundrum.

Complexity, Systems Effects and Collateral Damage. To pile on the challenges a little, the more breakthrough an innovation is, the less we understand about how interacts at a systems level, or secondary effects it may trigger.  And secondary failures can be catastrophic. Takata airbags, or the batteries in Samsung Galaxy phones were enabling, not core technologies, but they certainly derailed the core innovations.

Designed Resiliency. One answer to this is to be more systematic about designing resilience into innovation, as the Webb team were. We may not be able to reach the equivalent of 344 points of failure, but we can be systematic about scenario planning, anticipating failure, and investing up front in buffering ourselves against risk. There are a number of approaches we can adopt to achieve this, which I’ll discuss in detail later.

The Resiliency Conundrum. But first let’s talk just a little more about the Resilience conundrum. For virtually any innovation, time and money are tight. Conversely, taking time to anticipate potential failures is often time consuming and expensive. Worse, it rarely adds direct, or at least marketable value. And when it does work, we often don’t see the issues it prevents, we only notice them when resiliency fails. It’s a classic trade off, and one we face at all levels of innovation. For example, when I worked on dishwashing liquids at P&G, a slightly less glamorous field than space exploration, an enormous amount of effort went into maintaining product performance and stability under extreme conditions. Product could be transported in freezing or hot temperatures, and had to work extreme water hardness or softness. These conditions weren’t typical, but they were possible. But the cost of protecting these outliers was often disproportionately high.

And there again lies the trade off. Design in too much resiliency, and we are become inefficient and/or uncompetitive. But too little, and we risk a catastrophic failure like the Takata airbags. We need to find a sweet spot. And finding it is still further complicated because we are entering an era of innovation and disruption where we are making rapid changes to multiple systems in parallel. Climate change is driving major structural change in energy, transport and agriculture, and advances in computing are changing how those systems are managed. With dishwashing, we made changes to the formula, but the conditions of use remained fairly constant, meaning we were pretty good at extrapolating what the product would have to navigate. The same applies with the Webb telescope, where conditions at the Lagrange point have not changed during the lifetime of the project. We typically have a more complex, moving target.

Low Carbon Energy. Much of the core innovation we are pursuing today is interdependent. As an example, consider energy. Simply replacing hydrocarbons with, for example, solar, is far more complex than simply swapping one source of energy for another. It impacts the whole energy supply system. Where and how it links into our grid, how we store it, unpredictable power generation based on weather, how much we can store, maintenance protocols, and how quickly we can turn up or down the supply are just a few examples. We also create new feedback loops, as variables such as weather can impact both power generation and power usage concurrently. But we are not just pursuing solar, but multiple alternatives, all of which have different challenges. And concurrent to changing our power source, we are also trying to switch automobiles and transport in general from hydrocarbons to electric power, sourced from the same solar energy. This means attempting significant change in both supply and a key usage vector, changing two interdependent variables in parallel. Simply predicting the weather is tricky, but adding it to this complex set of interdependent variables makes surprises inevitable, and hence dialing in the right degree of resilience pretty challenging.

The Grass is Always Greener: And even if we anticipate all of that complexity, I strongly suspect, we’ll see more, rather than less surprises than we expect.   One lesson I’ve learned and re-learned in innovation is that the grass is always greener. We don’t know what we don’t know, in part because we cannot see the weeds from a distance. The devil often really is in the details, and there is nothing like moving from theory to practice, or from small to large scale to ferret out all of the nasty little problems that plague nearly every innovation, but that are often unfathomable when we begin. Finding and solving these is an inherent part of virtually any innovation process, but it usually adds time and cost to the process. There are reasons why more innovations take longer than expected than are delivered ahead of schedule!

It’s an exciting, but also perilous time to be innovating. But ultimately this is all manageable. We have a lot of smart people working on these problems, and so most of the obvious challenges will have contingencies.   We don’t have the relative time and budget of the Webb Space Telescope, and so we’ll inevitably hit a few unanticipated bumps, and we’ll never get everything right. But there are some things we can do to tip the odds in our favor, and help us find those sweet spots.

  1. Plan for over capacity during transitions. If possible, don’t shut down old supply chins until the new ones are fully established. If that is not possible, stockpile heavily as a buffer during the transition. This sounds obvious, but it’s often a hard sell, as it can be a significant expense. Building inventory or capacity of an old product we don’t really want to sell, and leaving it in place as we launch doesn’t excite anybody, but the cost of not having a buffer can be catastrophic.
  2. In complex systems, know the weakest link, and focus resilience planning on it. Whether it’s a shortage of refills for a new device, packaging for a new product, or charging stations for an EV, innovation is only as good as its weakest link. This sounds obvious, but our bias is to focus on the difficult, core and most interesting parts of innovation, and pay less attention to peripherals. I’ve known a major consumer project be held up for months because of a problem with a small plastic bottle cap, a tiny part of a much bigger project. This means looking at resilience across the whole innovation, the system it operates in and beyond. It goes without saying that the network of compatible charging stations needs to precede any major EV rollout. But never forget, the weakest link may not be within our direct control. We recently had a bunch of EV’s stranded in Vegas because a huge group of left an event at a time when it was really hot. The large group overwhelmed our charging stations, and the high temperatures meant AC use limited the EV’s range, requiring more charging. It’s a classic multivariable issue where two apparently unassociated triggers occur at once.   And that is a case where the weakest link is visible. If we are not fully vertically integrated, resilience may require multiple sources or suppliers to protect against potential failure points we are not aware of, just to protect us against things we cannot control.
  3. Avoid over optimization too early. It’s always tempting to squeeze as much cost out of innovation prior to launch. But innovation by its very nature disrupts a market, and creates a moving target. It triggers competitive responses, changes in consumer behavior, supply chain, and raw material demand. If we’ve optimized to the point of removing flexibility, this can mean trouble. Of course, some optimization is always needed as part of the innovation process, but nailing it down too tightly and too early is often a mistake. I’ve lost count of the number of initiatives I’ve seen that had to re-tool or change capacity post launch at a much higher cost than if they’d left some early flexibility and fine-tuned once the initial dust had settled.
  4. Design for the future, not the now. Again this sounds obvious, but we often forget that innovation takes time, and that, depending upon our cycle-time, the world may be quite different when we are ready to roll out than it was when we started. Again, Webb has an advantage here, as the Lagrange point won’t have changed much even in the years the project has been active. But our complex, interconnected world is moving very quickly, especially at a systems level, and so we have to build in enough flexibility to account for that.
  5. Run test markets or real world experiments if at all possible. Again comes with trade offs, but no simulation or lab test beats real world experience. Whether its software, a personal care product, or a solar panel array, the real world will throw challenges at us we didn’t anticipate. Some will matter, some may not, but without real world experience we will nearly always miss something. And the bigger our innovation, generally the more we miss. Sometimes we need to slow down to move fast, and avoid having to back track.
  6. Engage devils advocates. The more interesting or challenging an innovation is, the easier it is to slip into narrow focus, and miss the big picture. Nobody loves having people from ‘outside’ poke holes in the idea they’ve been nurturing for months or years, but that external objectiveness is hugely valuable, together with different expertise, perspectives and goals. And cast the net as wide as possible. Try to include people from competing technologies, with different goals, or from the broad surrounding system. There’s nothing like a fierce competitor, or people we disagree with to find our weaknesses and sharpen an idea. Welcome the naysayers, and listen to them. Just because they may have a different agenda doesn’t mean the issues they see don’t exist.

Of course, this is all a trade off. I started this with the brilliant Webb Space telescope, which is amazing innovation with extraordinary resilience, enabled by an enormous budget and a great deal or time and resource. As we move through the coming years we are going to be attempting innovation of at least comparable complexity on many fronts, on a far more planetary scale, and with far greater implications if we get it wrong. Resiliency was a critical part of the Webb Telescopes success. But with stakes as high as they are with much of today’s innovation, I passionately believe we need to learn from that. And a lot of us can contribute to building that resiliency. It’s easy to think of Carbon neutral energy, EV’s, or AI as big, isolated innovations. But in reality they comprise and interface with many, many sub-projects. That’s a lot of innovation, a lot of complexity, a lot of touch-points, a lot of innovators, and a lot of potential for surprises. A lot of us will be involved in some way, and we can all contribute. Resiliency is certainly not a new concept for innovation, but given the scale, stakes and implications of what we are attempting, we need it more than ever.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScl

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Five Keys to Leading Creative Teams Successfully

Five Keys to Leading Creative Teams Successfully

GUEST POST from David Burkus

Creativity is a team sport.

It’s been that way for a long time. But the level of teamwork required to solve problems and find innovation has increased over the last decade and even century. Most of the simple problems of the world have been solved, and the ones that remain are too often too complex to be solved by any lone, individual genius.

But not all teams fair equally when it comes to creative tasks, because many team leaders are better prepared to lead teams where the work is simple and easy to define. When reaching team goals is ambiguous and requires more creative thinking it also requires a different type of leadership.

In this article, we’ll outline those differences. We’ll cover five ways to lead creative teams.

1. Show Them the Constraints

The first way to lead creative teams is to show them the constraints. It may sound a little counterintuitive—after all aren’t we supposed to “think outside the box”? But one of the first things creative teams need is an understanding of the constraints of the problem—of the box their answer needs to fit inside. Research suggests creativity is more activated when people understand the constraints of the problem. Constraints aide in the convergent thinking of sifting through ideas that needs to accompany the divergent thinking of generating lots of ideas. You need both. But you need constraints first so that people know ahead of time how to judge the ideas they generate.

2. Support Their Ideas

The second way to lead creative teams is to support their ideas. Nothing stops the creative flow of ideas on a team more than hearing “That’ll never work” or “That’s not how we do things around here.” Leaders need to champion the ideas their team puts forward, at least until the idea generation phase is complete. When people think their leadership isn’t going to consider their ideas, they stop sharing them. Leaders need to not only support ideas when the team is discussing them, but also support ideas when it comes to selling them up the chain of approval needed to implement the idea. Without that support, people just stop trying.

3. Teach Them to Fight Right

The third way to lead creative teams is to teach them to fight right. We like to think of creative teams as fun and cohesive. But the opposite is true. There’s a lot of friction on a creative team. And research suggests that the most creative teams leverage task-focused conflict to generate more and better ideas. But those teams also know how to keep it task-focused and keep it from devolving into personality fights and hurt feelings. And often that requires leaders who can demonstrate and teach their people to fight for their ideas, but not fight their teammates.

4. Test What You Can

The fourth way to lead creative teams is to test what you can. Ideally, teams are going to generate a lot of different ideas. And it’s a bad idea to chase consensus and settle on an idea too soon. Instead, the most creative teams test out multiple different ideas to learn more from what worked and didn’t work, and then combine those lessons into a new and better idea. But too often, leaders facilitate a brainstorming session, circle the idea they like best, and that’s the end of it. Instead, the best leaders test as much as they can as often as they can.

5. Celebrate Their Failures

The final way to lead creative teams is to celebrate their failures. If you’re testing a lot of ideas, your team will fail. But if they fail small on a test, they’ll reduce the chances of failing big later. In addition, failures carry all sorts of lessons that can be learned to better understand the problem and generate even better ideas. That doesn’t happen unless the team understands that failure is part of the process, which is why the best leaders celebrate the risks that team members took and the learning moments their failures generated.

In fact, that’s why all five of these methods shouldn’t be looked at as a linear process. Creativity is an iterative process of ideation, testing, failure, learning, ideation, and more testing and failure. The best leaders know the goal isn’t to get it done, but to keep getting better. And that goes for the creative process, but also the team culture. The goal is to keep getting better until everyone can do their best work ever.

Image credit: Pexels

Originally published at https://davidburkus.com on May 24, 2022.

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Learning from the Failure of Quibi

Learning from the Failure of Quibi

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 2018, Steve Blank wrote a piece in Harvard Business Review questioning the viability of the “lean startup” model. Given that Steve had pioneered lean startup techniques, I was intrigued. Why would he, all of a sudden begin, to doubt an idea that had been so successful and, to me at least, still seemed so relevant, even for large enterprises.

As it turned out, what made Steve hesitate was a new venture called “New TV” that was headed up by the dream team of legendary Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and star Silicon Valley CEO Meg Whitman. Beyond talent and cache, it had raised almost $2 billion. With that much money, how could it lose?

Now we know. The venture, which eventually came to be known as “Quibi,” recently announced it was shutting down, less than seven months after its product launch. It’s become an all too familiar tale. Multi-billion-dollar washouts, including WeWork, Better Place and others, have become all too common. We need to learn from their mistakes.

You Can Have Too Much Money

At the heart of Steve Blank’s argument against his own idea was that The Lean Startup “was an answer to a specific problem,” namely that startup companies face a limited runway due to scarce capital. In effect, he sees launching a new company as a race to identify a viable business model before you run out of money.

In Quibi’s case, however, there seemed to be unlimited capital. Its nearly $2 billion in funding would give it the ability to roll out a full-fledged business and, if things didn’t work as planned, still have the option to pivot. With access to that much money plus, presumably, ample access to even more, how could Katzenberg and Whitman go wrong?

To be honest, I never found the argument to be persuasive. I’ve launched countless businesses in my career and one thing I’ve learned is that you need to keep capital scarce in the early days. Limiting the amount of money you have around forces people to face up to problems and solve them. You can’t ignore warning signs when you’re close to broke.

Quibi, on the other hand, failed because it did ignore signals. With almost limitless programming budgets, producers knew they could sell Quibi their worst work. Infighting between Katzenberg and Whitman was ignored. Potential snafus, such as the inability for consumers to screenshot and share memes or to watch on TV screens, were overlooked.

Identify the Hair on Fire Use Case

Conventional marketing strategy dictates that you identify the largest addressable market for your product. That, after all, is where you can reach the most people, scale your business and earn the most money. So it made sense for Quibi to target Millennials in search of “quick bites” to watch while on line at Starbucks.

Yet when you’re launching something new and different, you don’t want the largest addressable market which, almost by definition, already has a lot of companies serving it. Instead, you want to identify a hair-on-fire use case—a problem that somebody needs solved so badly that they almost literally have their hair on fire. That’s where you’ll find customers to put up with the inevitable bugs and glitches that always come up.

For example, with Tesla, Elon Musk didn’t target the largest addressable market—a mid-market family model—but rather Silicon Valley millionaires who liked the idea of a high performance, eco-friendly car. Those customers weren’t price sensitive and didn’t need to depend on the car to pick the kids up at soccer practice, but did give the company a foothold in the luxury market. The mass market product, the Model 3, would come years later.

I’m sure there is a “hair-on-fire” use case for a short form video platform. Unfortunately, these things are never obvious, if they were, they would already be large addressable markets. Presumably, Katzenberg and Whitman considered themselves to be so smart that they could get it right on the first try.

Train The Monkey First

At Google’s X division, the company’s “moonshot factory,” the mantra is #MonkeyFirst. The idea is that if you want to get a monkey to recite Shakespeare on a pedestal, it’s best to start by training the monkey, not building the pedestal, because training the monkey is the hard part. Anyone can build a pedestal.

Returning to the example of Tesla and Elon much, in the case of electric cars, the “monkey” was always making a battery powerful enough to achieve an acceptable range. In the early years, that’s what the company focused on and, with an affluent customer base, they could do so without worrying too much about costs.

Once Tesla had customers, it could begin to focus on learning from them and adapting to what they wanted from an electric car. At the same time, it was able to develop manufacturing and operational capability that allowed it to scale. All of this went very slowly at first, but then accelerated at a pace that took incumbent car companies by surprise.

In the media business, the “monkey” is always to build an audience. Yet Katzenberg and Whitman chose to plow money into content, assuming that they knew what their (at that point nonexistent) audience wanted. Essentially, they blew through all of their money building the pedestal and assumed the monkey would train itself.

Your Strategy Is Always Wrong

In their letter announcing the closure of Quibi, the founders wrote, “And yet, Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing… Unfortunately, we will never know but we suspect it’s been a combination of the two.”

Yet the point isn’t that Quibi got it’s strategy wrong or that the pandemic altered its chances of success, but rather that your strategy is always wrong. Everybody gets disrupted sooner or later and every business model eventually fails. The art of managing a venture isn’t to execute the “right” strategy, but to make the strategy less wrong over time.

Katzenberg and Whitman, it seems, allowed their previous success to blind them. They appear to have simply assumed that they were so smart that they could get it all right out of the gate. They didn’t allow room for error, to make mistakes or to pivot. When things didn’t go as planned, there was nowhere else to go. They had to pack it in.

Probably the most important thing we can learn from Quibi’s failure is to not believe your own PR. Plan for and prepare things to go wrong. Nobody really knows anything until it can be observed in the real world. Or, as Steve Blank might put it, no business plan ever survives first contact with a customer.

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

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How to Write a Failure Resume

How to Write a Failure Resume

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers, M.D.

Most resumes are designed to help you find a job, get a promotion or as part of a grant submission or other way to find money. Much like an academic CV, they enumerate your multiple accomplishments, track your professional progress and contributions and , typically, spin or conceal your failures. In the worst case, you lie about them. Here are some common ones and how to spot them.

There certainly is value in celebrating your successes and positive feedback. I mean, who doesn’t like a pat on the back or an attaboy? Do you have a personal highlight reel?

However, the flip side of the coin is you should do the same for your failures. You might want to start with that team you captained as a kid that didn’t win a game all season.

Flame outs are common, even to rising stars. Here are reasons and ways to prevent it.

Medical students and other overacheivers, for example, are not used to failure.

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity under conditions of uncertainty with the goal of creating user defined value through the deployment of innovation using a VAST business model. During my career, I have attempted to do that in many ways wearing many hats such as a small business owner (private pratice), a technopreneur (creating medical devices), an intrapreneur (trying to add value to my organization as an employee), a social entrepreneur (creating a non-profit), a service provider (working as a consultant and advisor), a physician investor (having a financial interest in companies and helping to raise money for them) and an edupreneur (creating academic programs, working with mededtech companies and serving on editorial boards and medical information sites.) Sometimes, I succeeded. Most of the time I’ve failed…in some instances, miserably.

I started 3 medical device companies and many other organizational initiatives. One is still sitting in IP purgatory. The others I buried long ago. Some actually saw the light of day and continue to scale.

We pulled the plug on a digital health company, Medvoy, I cofounded. Here’s what I learned.

Since entrepreneurship is 1) a high risk endeavor, 2) not formally taught in medical education programs and 3) learned from mistakes requiring skin in the game, a part of your resume should include your failures as well as your successes. It’s just more honest, exposes your vulnerabilities and builds trust.

Many people would ask why you need a failure resume to know your failures? The answer is when you know your failure as a setback in your life, it leave a great impact on your personal and professional life. In addition, it makes you more “human” since we all fail and paints a richer picture of your journey of who you and how you coped with adversity. It is a measure of resilience, grit and perseverance.

A hybrid success-failure resume is a combination of the 1)good, the bad, the ugly 2) lessons learned and 3) future plans

The Good: All the fluff, rewards and accomplishments in your present resume

The Bad: Minor setbacks, disappointments and failures such as jobs you didn’t get, applications rejected, promotions denied, papers or submissions trashed, lousy grades, substandard clinical or teaching evaluations or poor performance evaluations

The Ugly: These are more major setbacks like getting fired, disciplinary actions or suspensions, tanking your last three companies or being convicted of a felony

Lessons learned: This is where you give an honest answer instead of the BS you spout when asked, “What is your biggest weakness?”

Future plans: Explain how you took personal responsibility for your screw ups and why I should bet on you if I’m an investor looking for the right jockey or an employer lookng for talent.

It’s hardly news that business leaders work in increasingly uncertain environments, where failures are bound to be more common than successes. Yet if you ask executives how well, on a scale of one to 10, their organizations learn from failure, you’ll often get a sheepish “Two—or maybe three” in response. Such organizations are missing a big opportunity: Failure may be inevitable but, if managed well, can be very useful. A certain amount of failure can help you keep your options open, find out what doesn’t work, create the conditions to attract resources and attention, make room for new leaders, and develop intuition and skill.

The key to reaping these benefits is to foster “intelligent failure” throughout your organization. McGrath describes several principles that can help you put intelligent failure to work. You should decide what success and failure would look like before you start a project. Document your initial assumptions, test and revise them as you go, and convert them into knowledge. Fail fast—the longer something takes, the less you’ll learn—and fail cheaply, to contain your downside risk. Limit the number of uncertainties in new projects, and build a culture that tolerates, and sometimes even celebrates, failure. Finally, codify and share what you learn.

These principles won’t give you a means of avoiding all failures down the road—that’s simply not realistic. They will help you use small losses to attain bigger wins over time.

Another part of your failure resume should include gaps. What were you doing between January 2019 and March 2020 anyway? Here are some tips on how to tell your side of the story.

Maybe some day hiring managers will accept the answer, “I took a gap year to get my head screwed on”. But, for now, don’t count on it.

The renowned historian Arnold Toynbee famously quipped, “Nothing fails like success when you rely on it too much.” We may have entered a world in which nothing succeeds like failures, especially if you are honest about them. Indeed, the very last entry in Johannes Haushofer’s list of setbacks is what he called his Meta-Failure: “This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work.”

Here is what to do when your white coat gets the pink slip and some advice on explaining to the next person that you were let go.

Part of being an entrepreneur is knowing when to say no and when to pull the plug…and learn and take personal responsibility for your failure.

There is nothing wrong with giving up on a project or a dream. Stuff happens. Luck has a lot do with your success. The system is rigged.

To be happy, make it personal but don’t take it personally. Know when to quit something, Just don’t give up on yourself. The best time to fail fast and fail often is when you are young. Time is on your side, although , contrary to the saying, it won’t heal all wounds.. Take advantage of the time value of failure.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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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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Everyone hates to fail, why do you?

Everyone hates to fail, why do you?

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

If you have ever had a significant setback, made a serious mistake, or failed at completing an important task, you will have experienced some kind of deep emotional and visceral, largely unconscious, negative, reactive response to it.

By becoming passively or aggressively externally defensive and blaming and punishing others for the outcome, or by withdrawing internally, and attributing self-blame and self-punishment for what may have happened.

Everyone hates to fail because either type of reactive response stings and causes discomfort, dissonance, sorrow, suffering, and pain since you are feeling ashamed, judged, and shamed by yourself and by others. We need to re-think how we approach and digest failure, to scale and leverage it as one of our 21st-century superpowers.

Sabotaging your chances of success

According to a recent article in Psychology Today, this reactive response triggers your avoidance motivation, which then often exceeds your motivation to succeed!

Describing that the fear of failure causes us to then unconsciously sabotage our chances of success, as well as our ability to cultivate and manifest the superpowers necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

Self-doubt settles us into a denying the need to experiment, and a reluctance, full of excuses, to experiment further with adopting, iterating, and testing new and novel ideas. Or in taking smart risks, that help you connect, explore and discover and design opportunities for making important and necessary, personal and professional changes.

Pivot and adapt to disruptive events

Yet, our ability to experiment, test, validate and iterate creative ideas is critical to surviving and thriving through the current decade of both disruption and transformation – which more of us are viewing as a series of relentless, continuous, and exponential changes, requiring unlearning and radically new learning processes.

In a 2021 Deloitte survey of 2,260 private – and public-sector CXOs in 21 countries, 60% of the respondents said that they believe disruptions like those seen in 2020 will continue. The resulting challenge is underscored by another of the survey’s findings:

Seventy percent of the CXOs do not have complete confidence in their organisation’s ability to pivot and adapt to disruptive events.

This confidence can be developed by re-thinking how we approach and digest failure, to scale and leverage it as a 21st-century superpower.

Developing 21st-century superpowers

Here are the four key superpowers, to be supported by digital technologies:

  • Nimbleness: The ability to quickly pivot and move. (“We used to do this, and now we do that.”)
  • Scalability: The ability to rapidly shift capacity and service levels. (“We used to serve x customers; we now serve 100x customers.”)
  • Stability: The ability to maintain operational excellence under pressure. (“We will persist despite the challenges.”)
  • Optionality: The ability to acquire new capabilities through external collaboration. (“Our ecosystem of partners allows us to do things we couldn’t do previously do.”)

Rethinking our fears of failure

None of these 21st-century superpowers can be developed without experimentation and collaboration.

Where you are able to self-regulate your fears of making mistakes and failure, by becoming a smart risk-taker who willingly, stretches the envelope and steps outside of your safety and comfort zones.

This helps maximise your potential and ability to learn and develop in the growth zone, where we stop self-sabotaging our chances of adapting and learning, succeeding, and growing in an uncertain and unstable world.

Everyone hates to fail because it’s hard to self-regulate the basic emotions of disappointment, anger and frustration, and deep shame. Resulting from and the distorted thinking patterns that accompany failure, often immobilising you which results in an unwillingness and inability to disrupt yourself and take intelligent actions.

Slow down to rethink, respond, regroup, play and thrive

It all starts with leading, teaching, mentoring, and coaching people to slow down, to learn, and appreciate the value of taking “time-out” for retreat and reflection.

At ImagineNation, in last week’s blog, we described how this involves developing regular reflective practices, where people can pay deep attention, and learn how to master these basic emotions and unresourceful thought patterns. How this allows them to be playful and experimental in developing new mindsets, rethinking habits, and resourceful emotional states, which are foundational for developing 21st-century superpowers.

Failure can become valued as a process and resource for effecting significant human-centric change, deepening learning, and improving your future fitness.

Consequences of avoiding failure

According to the same article in Psychology today – “shame is a psychologically toxic emotion because instead of feeling bad about our actions (guilt) or our efforts (regret) shame makes us feel who we are”.

By getting to the core of your egos, your identities, your self-esteem, and your feelings of emotional well-being and resourceful thinking habits.

Because everyone hates to fail, we all unconsciously seek ways of mitigating the implications of a potential failure – “for example, by buying unnecessary new clothes for a job interview instead of reading up on the company – which allows us to use the excuse, “I just didn’t have time to fully prepare.”

Benefits of embracing failure

Rather than succumbing to the notion that everyone hates to fail, it is much more useful to develop healthier ways of embracing and flowing with it which might:

  • Motivate you to reflect deeply to consider and deliberate as to what might be the most intelligent and brave actions to take under the range of circumstances you find yourself in.
  • Inspire you to risk-taking those intelligent actions through developing sound risk anticipation, management, and mitigation strategies that help boost your confidence.
  • Commit to doing just a bit more, in inventive ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives as well to your customer’s experience of your product or service.
  • Encourage you to access your multiple and collective intelligence, be more courageous, compassionate, and creative in co-sensing, co-discovering, co-designing, and co-creating innovative solutions to complex problems.
  • Enable you to learn from others, and harness people’s collective intelligence to adapt and grow, through teaming, in ways that serve the common good.

Tips for rethinking and self-regulating fears of failure

A few tips to support you to rethink, respond, regroup and thrive that we will explore more deeply, through real-life stories and examples, in our next two ImagineNation™ blog posts (November and December):

  1. Be willing to redefine and reframe failure as what it means in your unique context, review past failures and see if you can find benefits that resulted from them.
  2. Set approach goals and not avoidance goals to view failure as a challenge that can be mastered.
  3. Control the controllable by intentionally managing your mindsets, shifting any negative perspective, and unpacking distortion and generalisations about failures and their negative consequences.
  4. Imagine yourself doing well, achieving your goals by composing and painting a picture or image of a desirable and compelling future success.
  5. Develop healthy self-compassion for when you do mess up, make mistakes and fail, by being kind and understanding, and empathic to your won humanness.
  6. Focus on every experience, no matter what it brings is an opportunity for deep learning and creative and inventive change.

Rather than living in a world where everyone hates to fail, why not adopt the rethink, respond, regroup, thrive pattern, be future-fit and develop your set of 21st-century superpowers in the face of the acute disruption of COVID-19?

Where it is expected that the business environment, over the next three to five years, will be the most exciting and innovative period that many of us may learn from and experience in our lifetimes?

Want to know why you might have a fear of failure?

Participate in our online research study “Ten Signs you may have a fear of failure” which we adapted from the article “10 Signs That You Might Have Fear of Failure… and 2 ways to overcome it and succeed” by Guy Winch Ph.D. in Psychology Today. Click here to access the survey.

We will happily share the results and findings with you if you leave your name and email address on the form provided. By sharing these details, you will also qualify for a complimentary 30 minute one on one online innovation coaching session, with one of our global professionally certified coaches to help you overcome your own anxieties and fears about failure and develop your 21st-century superpowers.

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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You Must Play and Experiment to Create and Innovate

You Must Play and Experiment to Create and Innovate

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Growing up in the fashion industry, in 1980’s Paris, I forged an exciting global career and experienced, first hand, a diverse range of the most amazingly innovative fashion presentations ever.  It was the dawn of an explosive era where fashion really mattered and wonderful events became really fantastic happenings featuring a lot of playful and experimental theatrical performances and fabulous guest stars on the catwalk. “From Claude Montana to Thierry Mugler, from Giorgio Armani to Franco Moschino, from Jean Charles de Castelbajac to Christian Lacroix, there were many designers who shaped the aesthetics of the era with their creations and shows” – whose creativity, still impact us across the arts and other key industries today.

Being playful and experimental

Reinforcing that in the arts and other industries, and in our professional and personal lives, newness, creativity, and innovation only happen through people being willing to be both playful and experimental.

This is useful to know, especially with the range of constraints and restrictions occurring globally as a result of fierce governmental reactive response to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Coupling these with the challenges and limitations of a remote and hybrid workplace, are combining to cause many of us to achingly long for more freedom, fun, play, and adventure.  Yet, many of us, are feeling bound to our laptops, TV’s and kitchens, and are locked within the boundaries of our homes and local neighbourhoods.

It is possible to shift the range of negative feelings that lockdowns produce by exploring possibilities and opportunities for expanding our knowledge and learning, by knowing how to be more playful and experimental, and especially by taking up a set of regular reflective practices.

A unique moment in time

Using this unique moment in time to take up a set of reflective practices to ignite our creative juices and expand our appetite and capacity for creativity.

At the same time, use this moment to explore opportunities to learn and expand our knowledge, because, knowledge plays an important role in the productivity and prosperity of economies, organisations, and individuals and the post-Covid-19 world is going to need a lot of new knowledge in the coming decade of both disruption and transformation.

Expanding our knowledge

Most of us are aware that, our desire to create, and actually be playful and experiential usually involves learning from some kind of direct experience.  Like painting, where our hands are likely to get dirty, where we may produce a number of poor efforts (which we often hide) before we eventually create one, we can accept and live with.

Learning from a direct experience is more effective if coupled with reflection – that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.

Where research reveals that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by a greater perceived ability to achieve a goal in that it improves your confidence, self-belief, and conviction that you can achieve it.

Learning from reflecting on experience

Making the learning experience a playful and experimental one allows us to have fun, in ways that engage our multiple intelligences – our cognitive brains, and heart and gut brains in ways that create meta-shifts that challenge our mental maps.

This also helps us develop our learning agility – “learning what to do when you don’t know what to do” especially important in a world of constant and disruptive change.

Which will especially be a very vital and critical skill set to cultivate in the post-Covid-19 world, where there is no playbook, or reliable template for long-term planning the results we might want, in a disruptive and uncertain future.

Starting with elastic thinking

It starts with developing our elastic thinking skills, where according to Leonard Mlodinow  –  it is now prime time for people to harness the power of “elastic thinking” to navigate an unstable world and underpins our ability to adapt and be creative.

And involves “developing the capacity to let go of comfortable ideas and become accustomed to ambiguity and contradiction; the capability to rise above conventional mindsets and to reframe the questions we ask; the ability to abandon our ingrained assumptions and open ourselves to new paradigms; the propensity to rely on imagination as much as on logic and to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas; and the willingness to experiment and be tolerant of failure.”

At ImagineNation™ we developed a four-step cognitive process to help people stretch their mental maps, feelings, thinking, behaviours, and actions, enabling them to be playful and experimental by focussing on these key elements that enable reflective practice:

  1. Discovering
  2. Sensemaking
  3. Internalising
  4. Applying

Exploring the role of failing fast

Getting to the creative and innovative outcomes, when playing and experimenting with thinking or acting differently, usually involves some kind of failure, where we fail flat on our faces!

Yet when being brave playful and courageous, and experimenting, you have to be willing to make mistakes and fail. The key is to try out things, and experiment, like children, do, and not worry about what others think and say about you, when you make a mistake or fail.

At the same time, adopting a reflective practice supports our willingness to let go and come from a beginners mind, to unlearn what may have worked previously, whilst being vulnerable and open-hearted, minded and willed to deeply reflect on what happened and what knowledge you may gain and what you might learn from it.

Continuously learning from reflective practice

This means that “work must become more learningful” where an organisations’ or teams’ collective aspiration is set free and people have permission, safety, and trust to be playful and experimental.

To “learn by doing and reflecting” through being:

  • Encouraged to continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire,
  • Re-educated to elasticize their thinking and develop new mental maps and where expansive patterns of feeling and thinking are nurtured,
  • Committed to continuously learning how to learn together, at a speed faster than the competition.

Resulting in the intelligence of the organisation or team exceeding the intelligence of individuals in the team and in the organisation, and by harnessing the collective’s capacity to create, invent and innovate through enacting a set of habitual reflective practices.

CCS Cards for play and critical reflection:

As a side note, it’s worth mentioning a tool we like to use that can provide both a sense of play and an opportunity for critical reflection. As many of you may know, CCS Cards are image cards containing a special set of photos, illustrations, and words. Just holding them, sorting them, and talking about what particular cards might mean for you, is an enjoyable, playful activity that often leads to fresh, creative responses.

Furthermore, as a tool for reflective practice, CCS Cards give people a powerful way to recall and recreate their lived experiences by incorporating their feelings and emotions. The cards provide participants with self-selected representations that they can link to all the associated concepts, feelings, words, and actions that were part of the lived experience. Armed with this clearer picture, they are better able to reflect upon and learn from their experience.  The cards also provide an easy way to share and compare their reflections with others, which is vital for effective collaboration.

Bringing together theory and practice

Enacting a set of reflective practices helps us effectively bring together and integrate theory and practice, where through reflection, people are able to:

  • Discover new mental maps, feelings, thoughts, and ideas,
  • Make sense of these in their own context or situation,
  • Internalize and assimilate the impact of these mental maps, thoughts, feelings, and actions by introducing options and choices for being, thinking, and acting differently,
  • Apply that information to add to their existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding,
  • Adapt how they feel, think and act as resources in new, unknown, unexpected, and disruptive situations, as well as in how they plan, implement, and review their actions.

Surely, these might comprise a helpful set of strategies to embrace to help you thrive in these challenging times?

Isn’t there an inherent opportunity for all of us to discover and explore new ways of having more fun, by being playful and experimental?

Perhaps we might discover new ways of adapting and thriving individually and collectively co-create more individual freedom, wonderful fun, and exciting adventures that we are all craving, and become future-fit, in our constantly changing, uncertain, and unstable world.

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, February 1, 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, to upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

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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Failing Fast Leads to More Failure

Most Companies Fail at Innovation Because...One scary statistic is that 70% of change initiatives fail. An overwhelming proportion of new product launches fail. Most new businesses fail.

The sad fact is that failure is all around us.

Is this why so many organizations talk about a fear of failure being one of their major innovation stumbling blocks?

And, so what mantra do many innovation and growth gurus expound as a solution?

“We need to fail fast.”

“We need to fail forward.”

“We need to fail smart.”

So, the solution most innovation consultancies put forward to organizations already coping with the wide ranging effects of failure, is to tell their employees that they need to fail more.

Say what?

If you can’t tell already, I really hate the whole fail fast mantra. Can we kill it yet?

You don’t want to fail fast, you want to learn fast.

And so, if you switch to learning fast instead, the efforts of your employees should then become laser focused on identifying what you need to learn with each iteration, or each experiment.

And your focus should also then become all about how well you are instrumenting for the learning you are trying to achieve.

This is more consistent with failing forward, but WE ARE NOT FOCUSED ON FAILURE.

Focusing on failure, leads to failure. Failure becomes the expected outcome.

Instead, we are focused on learning fast, and we can learn equally well from success as we can from failure – if our learning instrumentation is good.

The way that you achieve success in change AND in innovation, is by working hard to move the potential causes of failure farther forward in the innovation or change project lifecycle so that you have an opportunity to either design the flaws or obstacles out, or communicate them out by forcing the tough conversations during your planning process (for change or innovation) — this comes before you even begin executing your plan.

You’ve got to surface the sources of resistance, the faulty assumptions, and the barriers to be overcome — early.

Then we build a plan focused not on quick wins, but on maintaining transparency and momentum throughout the change implementation.

You may have noticed that I use the terms innovation and change almost interchangeably (often in the same sentence). This is because innovation is all about change, and because many of the barriers to change inside organizations are the same barriers that innovators face.

As an answer to these challenges, I created the Change Planning Toolkit™ to help organizations beat the 70% change failure rate by providing a suite of tools that allow change leaders to make a more visual, collaborative approach to change efforts. At the center of the approach sits the Change Planning Canvas™, very visual, very collaborative ala Lean Startup to help you prototype and evolve your change approach before you ever begin. The toolkit comes with a QuickStart Guide and my latest book Charting Change was designed to ground people in the philosophies that will help them succeed with both little C change efforts (projects) and big C change efforts (digital transformations, mergers, acquisitions, INNOVATION, etc.).

So, stop bringing more failure into your organization, and instead bring the tools into your organization that will help you achieve more success!


The Experiment Canvas

To help everyone accelerate their learning and to achieve better success in their human-centered innovation efforts, I will be creating and licensing a Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit™ to innovation consultants and practitioners around the world. I have been sharing early elements with my clients and I’m proud to be able to give you all a valuable taste of the kinds of tools that will be in this toolkit when it launches later this year by providing advance access to the first free download – The Experiment Canvas™. Designed to be used iteratively, and to quickly capture in a visual, collaborative way (in similar fashion the Change Planning Toolkit™).

Download The Experiment Canvas™ as an 11"x17" scalable FREE PDF download
(a 35″x56″ poster size version is coming soon)

If you’re not clear on what the Change Planning Toolkit™ can do for you, please join me Thursday, June 8th at 9am PDT on Twitter for an Ask Me Anything (aka #AMA) session on the Change Planning Toolkit™ using the hashtag #cptoolkit and well, ask me anything!

A future #AMA on the Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit™ is coming soon too!

Innovation Audit from Braden Kelley

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