Tag Archives: innovation coaching

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.

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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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A How To Guide for Overcoming Procrastination

A How To Guide for Overcoming Procrastination

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

I often wonder why some people procrastinate by delaying, postponing, or avoiding solving problems, or by withdrawing from making smart decisions, taking calculated risks, or taking intelligent actions?

  • Why do they become paralyzed and unable to take the actions necessary to solve some of their key problems?
  • Why do they often resist making even the most necessary changes to support the delivery of their creative solutions?
  • Why do so many also avoid taking personal responsibility and being accountable towards achieving their desired outcomes and goals?
  • Why do people disengage, even when the situation or problem may be critical to their own, their teams, or their organizations success?

Despite knowing that there may be a range of negative consequences for procrastinating, involving a crippling, overwhelming, and paralyzing combination of reactive responses?

Which then typically impacts negatively on people’s self-efficacy and self-belief, self-worth, and self-esteem and diminishes their motivation, disengages them and immobilizes their ability to take the necessary actions and as a result, spiral downwards?

How do we help people overcome procrastination?

  • Why is this important?

It seems that procrastination is a challenge we and many others have faced at one point or another, where we struggle with being indecisive, delaying, ignoring, avoiding taking actions to initiate, progress, or completing tasks that may be important to us, as well as on issues that really matter to us, our teams, partners and organizations.

Ultimately leading to failures, and an inability to mitigate risks, or be creative and inventive and decreasing possibilities for innovation and increasing engagement, productivity, and improving performance.

Also potentially leading to feelings of loss, insecurity, inadequacy, frustration, disengagement, and depression and in extreme cases, client, project failures and job losses, and even burnout!

Why do people procrastinate?

  • The need for security and self-protection is the key root causes of procrastination

Procrastination is most often a self-protection strategy, a way of defending ourselves, rooted in fears that result in anxieties around feeling unsafe, vulnerable, and being judged or punished, especially in times of uncertainty, unpredictability, uncontrollability, and when feeling overwhelmed.

In most organizational contexts, procrastinators are likely to respond be risk-averse by:

  • Being apprehensive and even withdrawing energetically (dis-engaging) from people as well as from the creative conversation, coupled with a lack of commitment to the change process or towards achieving the agreed goal (lacking conviction and being worried about the future).
  • Not showing up and spending a lot of time and energy zigzagging around and away from what they feel is consuming them or making them feel threatened or uncomfortable (avoidance).
  • Blaming external people and factors for not “allowing” them to participate or succeed (time, workload, culture, or environment).
  • Denying that achieving the goal really matters, bringing up excuses, and reasonable reasons about why having the goal doesn’t really matter to them, as well as a willingness to take risks (non-committal).
  • Being fearful of the future, dreading what might be the range of possible negative and overwhelming events and situations (pessimism).

What are the key signals of an effective procrastinator?

The first step in noticing the key signals is to tune into our own, and peoples’ effective avoidance default pattern as to what is really going on from a systemic perspective.

By paying deep attention, and being non -judgmental and non evaluative to the range of signals outlined as follows:

Behavior Signals

  • “Playing it safe” or “being nice” by being unwilling to challenge and be challenged.
  • Resisting any change efforts, disengaging, and being reluctant to disclose and share authentically what is really going on for them.
  • Unwillingness to take risks.
  • Shying away from engaging with their partners, families, colleagues, group activities, and from having candid conversations.
  • Being overtly indecisive and non-committal.

Neurological State Signals

  • Increased anxiety and “attention deficit” syndrome.
  • Low motivation and self-confidence.
  • Diminished ability to self-regulate and self-control.
  • Diminished self-efficacy and self-concept.
  • Onslaught of the creeping doubts and the imposter syndrome.

Extrinsic or Environmental Signals Occur When Fearful of Perception of Others

  • Performing poorly, making mistakes, or failing.
  • Fearful of doing too well, or in being too successful.
  • Losing control, status, or role.
  • Looking stupid, or being disapproved of.
  • Avoids conflict situations.

Fear of Success Signals

Some of us are unconsciously afraid of success, because irrationally we secretly believe that we are not worthy of it and don’t deserve it, and then self-sabotage our chances of success!

  • Being shy, introverted, and uncomfortable in the spotlight.
  • Being publicly successful brings social or emotional isolation.
  • Alienating peers as a result of achievement.
  • People may think you’re self-promoting.
  • Being perceived as a “tall poppy”.
  • Believing that success may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and that it might change you, but not for the better.

Fear of Failure Signals

Some people’s motivation to avoid failure often exceeds their motivation to succeed, which can cause them to unconsciously sabotage their chances of success.

  • Cognitive biases or irrational beliefs act as filters distorting reality.
  • Past pains felt from being vulnerable, abandoned, punished, blamed, or shamed in front of others, or of being disapproved of, envied, rejected, or disliked by others.
  • Fearful of looking “bad” or incompetent, in front of others.
  • Feeling threatened, a sense of danger or potential punishment, causing them to move away (freeze, fight, take flight) from confronting dangerous, painful situations as threatening.

Overcoming Procrastination Tips 

  • Co-create a safe, compassionate, and collaborative relationship

As most people find safety in procrastination at some point in time, to be an effective leader, manager, or coach in these situations, it’s important to be empathic and compassionate and “work with” where they may be coming from in terms of underlying self-beliefs:

  • “I don’t want to get hurt”.
  • “I don’t want to expose myself to risk”.

As well as respond constructively to their thoughts about how others may see them including:

  • Lacking confidence,
  • Hesitant.

Noticing how they may perceive themselves:

  • “I am nowhere near as good as I should be”.
  • “I am inadequate.”

Then by paying deep attention, and being intentional in co-creating a safe creative, and collaborative conversation that builds safety, permission, rapport, and trust by being:

  • Gentle and non-threatening, being both kind and courageous,
  • Aware of being both too direct, fast, and too laid back.
  • Providing gentle guiding, assurance, and lots of patience.
  • Focused on encouraging engagement, commitment, and confidence towards setting and achieving the desired outcome.

Ultimately enabling and equipping people to overcome procrastination creates openings and thresholds for learning and growth, to become the best person, to themselves and others, they can possibly be, and achieve the changes they wish to make in the world.

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 organisation through disruption.

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Managing Both the Present and the Future

Managing Both the Present and the Future

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last blog, we described the three characteristics that offer senior executives a “unique unfreezing opportunity” from the disruptive COVID-19 hiatus and the rate of exponential technological change. These involved developing a future-ready company that builds upon pandemic-related accomplishments and re-examines (or even reimagines) the organization’s identity, how it works, and how it grows. This means that every organization, regardless of its size and specialization, requires its leaders, and teams paradoxically, to be both competent and confident and be both human-centered and customer-centric, in effectively managing both the future and the present.

Simultaneously, we all need to ensure that they capture the best of what we’ve all learned to keep the digital momentum going and, at the same time, initiate the shift to quantum –  by exploring, discovering, identifying, and unleashing the possibilities and opportunities of a post-COVID-19 world. To maximize, what McKinsey & Co describes as a “turning point” for economies: where new patterns of consumer and business behavior have emerged at extraordinary speed and can be sustained over long periods of time because digitization has accelerated change faster than many believed previously possible.

Unlearn, relearn, reskill and upskill

Reinforcing that managing both the future and the present requires generating new ways of harnessing and maximizing people’s collective and connective intelligence by:

  • Investing in helping people unlearn, relearn, reskill and upskill to meet the needs of jobs transformed by technologies created by globally accelerated digitization.
  • Helping people create vital new references and landing points for a future that they may not have previously imagined, and by;
  • Supporting them in being comfortable with the discomfort this brings.

Focusing on developing an organizational culture that is more adaptive and innovative, where people operate as a connected, mentally tough, and emotionally agile workforce; and are enabled and empowered to dance at the edge of their comfort zones, co-create value, deliver a great customer experience and succeed in a transforming market.

Both Human and Customer-Centric

Through developing both human-centric and customer-centric relationships that:

  • Enable people to shift from human-centered doing to human-centered being through connecting compassionately, creatively, and courageously through reciprocity and collaboration. Acknowledging that consumers have shifted largely to digital channels and many people are at home “nesting” and at the same time “languishing” in their remote and virtual workplaces.
  • Empower people to become customer-centric by co-creating collective value that customers appreciate and cherish. Acknowledging that the virus has interrupted, accelerated, and even reversed longstanding and conventional consumer and business habits.
  • Engage people in co-creation and in taking collective action to ensure that the rebound is not uneven. Enabling people to reboot creatively by maximizing the opportunities arising from the acceleration in the adoption of digital, automation, and other technologies.

As well as using innovation to add value to the common good in ways that improve humanity, by focusing on people, profit and planet.

Seizing the opportunity – it’s paradoxical

Developing future fitness requires people to not only unlearn, and see the world with fresh eyes, it also involves being able to sense and perceive it through a paradox lens; which helps us shift our focus across polarities of thought, from binary and competitive to critical, conceptual, and complementary thinking.

An often-quoted example is that as humans, we need to both exhale and inhale, we need to both rest and be active, rather than just do one or the other, or simply just either exhale or inhale, either rest or be active.

This means that a paradox is formed by contradictory yet interrelated elements that consistently coexist, and as leaders, teams, and coaches, we need to master this to develop the capability of managing both the future and the present simultaneously.

Embracing paradox

Embracing paradox involves being able to consciously shift cognitively from perceiving a prescriptive “either/or” world, which makes things black and white, right and wrong, mandatory or voluntary.

Towards embracing both poles, or polarities, and finding a balance within the dis-equilibrium.

As leaders, teams, and coaches, to seek equilibrium, by balancing both an ability to maximize and minimize people by exerting both powers over them, and by sharing power with them, to unleash both possibility and necessity thinking.

Dancing with dis-equilibrium

Letting go of an “either/or” perspective creates the safe spaces that allow people to flow with “what is” and to then evoke and provoke our thinking to perceive “what could be” possible.

By leading through dancing with dis-equilibrium to co-create a state of equilibrium to be an effective, agile, and creative leader and team member in a disruptive VUCA world.

In ways that allow people to confront and flow with tension and conflict, scrutinize any inherent contradictions by evoking and provoking creative ways in which the competing and complementary demands can be met in managing both the future and the present simultaneously.

Being both human-centric and customer-centric

Developing future-fitness requires leaders, teams, and coaches to be both human-centric and customer-centric simultaneously – to co-create organizations that integrate the values of human-centered design as a framework to balance the needs of the organizations with the needs of its users, customers, and communities, and for the common good and future of humanity.

Being human-centered

Being human-centered is also defined as being “marked by humanistic values and devotion to human welfare” which means that to create more human-centered leaders, teams, and people – we need to know how to shift the paradigm both from human-centered doingand towards human-centered being by:

  • Helping people explore and embrace their own humanness.
  • Being willing, enabled, and empowered to develop reciprocal and collaborative relationships.
  • Connecting to ourselves and others openly through how we feel, express and tap into our own emotions and those of others we interact with.
  • Being altruistic in serving the common good in ways that potentially add value to the future of humanity.

Being customer-centric

Customer-centricity is a way of doing business that fosters a positive customer experience at every stage of the customer journey. It aims at building customer loyalty and satisfaction leading to referrals for more customers. Anytime a customer-centric business makes a decision, it deeply considers the effect the outcome will have on its customers and users.

To create more customer-centered leaders, teams, and people – we need to shift the paradigm from seeing business as both a source of revenue, wealth, and profit and towards customers being the reason and source of business success, or not, by:

  • Developing a customer-centric purpose, vision, and mission that every leader, team, and team member is aligned to, and has a line of sight to, and is able to contribute towards its achievement.
  • Anticipating customer and potential user needs.
  • Ensuring that there are a rigorous and regular customer and cultural assessment metrics and feedback mechanisms in place.
  • Ensuring that leadership and team capabilities to adapt and grow are aligned to achieve the purpose, vision, mission, and goals.
  • Enabling every leader and team member to connect with, and listen to customers, and then build products that meet customer needs, anticipates customer wants, and provide a level of service that keeps customers coming through the door and advocating for the brand or business.

Harnessing collective and connective intelligence

Reinforcing that managing both the future and the present requires generating new ways of harnessing and mobilizing people’s collective and connective intelligence in ways that ultimately co-create organizations that integrate the values of both innovation and human-centered design as a framework.

This helps balance the needs of the organizations with the needs of its users, customers, and communities, as well as enables leaders, teams, and organizations to collaborate towards contributing to the common good and to the future of humanity.  It will also help people co-create both vital new reference points and landing strips for a future that they may not have previously imagined, and support them in being comfortable with the discomfort this brings.

This is the next blog series of blogs, podcasts, and webinars on Developing a Human-Centric Future-Fitness organization.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

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 October 19, 2021. 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.

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Developing a Future-Fitness Focus

Developing a Future-Fitness Focus

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In a recent article “Organizing for the future: Nine keys to becoming a future-ready company” McKinsey and Co, suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic has added to the pressure to change that has been growing for many years, which is now at a tipping point. Where the most forward-looking leaders and teams see a larger opportunity – the chance to build on pandemic-related accomplishments and re-examine and reimagine the organisation’s identity, how it works, and how it grows. Referring to new research on the organizational practices of 30 top companies, they highlighted how businesses can best organize for the future – and it is all initiated by developing a human-centric, future-fit focus.

Inquiring as to how might we ensure that we capture the best of what we’ve learned and keep the digital momentum going through developing a future-fit focus within the post-COVID-19 world?

What is a future-ready organization?

The article goes on to state that future-ready companies share three characteristics that offer senior executives a “unique unfreezing opportunity” – oby co-creating new adaptive systems, that are purposeful, organic, and human-centric by:

  • Knowing who they are and what they stand for;
  • Operating with a fixation on speed and simplicity;
  • Growing by scaling up their ability to learn, innovate, and seek good ideas, regardless of their origin.

Seeing the world with fresh eyes – unlearning, re-learning, creativity and innovation

All of which need to be initiated and developed through acquiring a new lens: an ability to see the world with “fresh eyes” by letting go of many of our old mental models and paradigms to:

  • Co-create, with others, new openings and empty spaces for unlearning what may have previously been embraced and worked in the past.
  • Focus on developing a new future-fit focus that unleashes purposeful, speed, simplicity, and growth through unlearning, re-learning, creativity and innovation.

Letting go to let come

In almost every aspect of business, we are operating with mental models, paradigms, and mindsets that have become outdated or obsolete, from strategy to marketing, from organizational design, learning systems to leadership, teams, and even to coaching.

This means that the first and most crucial step in shifting towards a human-centric, future-fitness focus involves “unlearning.”

Because many of our old mental models and paradigms, which are mostly unconsciously embodied in our core mindsets, impact the choices and decisions we make, the behaviors we enact, and the results we get – and it seems, that in 2021 we are getting a lot of results that no-one particularly wants.

What do we mean by “unlearning” and why is it important?

A lot of the mental models and paradigms are embodied in our habitual mindsets, that many of us learned in school, university, or college, and even in 20th century learning programs and built our careers on are now incomplete, ineffective, and irrelevant in adapting, and in serving people to survive, grow and thrive the post-Covid-19 world.

This means that to embrace a future-fit focus we have to first unlearn the old ones.

“Unlearning” is not about forgetting.

It’s about paying deep attention and developing the awareness to see, and step outside of our old mental models or paradigms and pay attention, and be consciously aware of the:

  • Mindsets we are embodying;
  • Behaviors we are enacting;
  • and the results we are manifesting.

Either because reality has changed or because current approaches are based on flawed or rigid thinking, faulty premises, and assumptions, or via a different consumer or technological landscape.

To then consciously choose, experiment, make distinctions, and bravely re-learn how to shift towards developing different, diverse, and more resourceful future-readiness.

The good news is that practicing “unlearning” will make it easier and quicker to make the necessary future-fit shifts as our brains become adaptive, through the process of neuroplasticity.

What are the key steps in “unlearning”?

  1. Being fully present, composed, and detached in adopting a beginner’s mind involving periodically challenging, questioning, and reassessing deeply held theories, archetypes, and conventions to provoke and evoke creative new ideas and innovative solutions.
  2. Allowing things to be and not needing to be in control, or in charge, being comfortable with being uncomfortable and willing to explore uncertainty, constraints, and threats as opportunities from a whole person and whole systems perspective.
  3. Wandering into wonder in the unknown to bravely adopt a “not knowing” stance and be more open-hearted, childlike and joyful, by bringing in awe, curiosity, and playfulness into your space.
  4. Recognizing and discerning that some of your old mental models, paradigms, and mindsets are no longer relevant or effective and be open-minded, through being inquisitive, curious, and creative in experimenting with new ones.
  5. Imagining, finding, or creating new mental models, paradigms, and mindsets that can help you adapt, innovate and better achieve your goals and growth objectives and focus on developing your capacity, confidence, and competence in being agile: the ability to create intentional shifts in different and changing contexts to re-program the mind.
  6. Ingraining the new future-fit mindsets as emotional and mental habits through attending and observing, being empathic and compassionate, questioning and inquiring, generative listening and debate, experimenting, smart risk-taking, and networking across boundaries.

What gets in the way of “unlearning”?

At ImagineNation™ we specialize in designing and delivering bespoke adult learning solutions that embrace a range of future fit mindsets, behaviors, and skills.

Whilst we have found that many leaders, teams, executives, and coaches are willing to unlearn, and re-learn, many are not.

Requiring our coaches, trainers, and facilitators to effectively resolve some of the key human-centric blockers to unlearning and re-learning including some peoples’:

  • Rigidity and fixedness in their own points of view and need to be “right” and in control of the situation.
  • Need to always appear to know, and their hesitancy around not wanting to look like they don’t actually know the answers or solutions, and are therefore incompetent.
  • Busyness, where they are too task focussed to make the time to hit their pause buttons, retreat and reflect, to review options for being more effective, productive, and creative, by thinking and doing things differently.
  • Fear of loss, or lack of safety and permission to set aside the status quo to challenge assumptions and explore new possibilities and play with the art of the possible

Towards  a human-centric, future-fit focus

For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have upended our lives as we knew them,  and according to McKinsey & Co – the resulting pain, grief, and economic dislocation will be felt long into the future.

Reinforcing that the first priority for leaders and teams, therefore, is to become more purposeful and human-centric, to lead and role model a future-fit focus.

Aimed at increasing speed and improving simplicity and by strategically scaling up people’s ability to unlearn, relearn, innovate, and seek good ideas regardless of their origin.

By being curious and creative, connected, empathic and compassionate, confident and courageous, to revitalize, and reenergize, exhausted people, teams, and organizations, currently languishing in 2021.

This is the first of a series of blogs, podcasts, and webinars on Developing a Human-Centric Future-Fitness organisation.

More about us

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 October 19, 2021. 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.

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Co-creating Future-fit Organizations

Co-creating Future-fit Organizations

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our second blog in this series of three, we opened the door to a threshold for a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit that catalyzes change through “innovation evangelism”. Focusing on building both internal and external talent, through empowering, equipping, and enabling internally cohesive and effective innovation teams.  They apply their collaborative and collective intelligence towards initiating open innovation initiatives co-creating future-fit organizations that are human-centric, adaptive, engaging, inclusive, collaborative, innovative, accountable, and digitally enabled.

Innovation evangelists are change catalysts who courageously experiment with different business models and processes, to crowdsource broad and deep innovation capabilities. Usually in new ways that breakthrough corporate antibodies and barriers and deliver sustainable, meaningful, and purposeful change.  Where, according to the recent Ideascale “Crowd Sourced Innovation Report 2021”crowdsourced innovation capabilities have grown and innovation output indicators like implementation rate and time to implement have improved. In fact, businesses that were able to rapidly adapt and focus on innovation(in 2020) are poised to outperform their peers in the coming years”.

Innovation teams don’t innovate

The purpose of an innovation team is to create a safe environment that unlocks organizational and its key external stakeholder’s collective intelligence and innovation agility (capacity, competence, and confidence) to build the capability to change as fast as change itself.

Where the goal is to create a high performing, connected, and networked workplace culture where people:

  • Understand and practice the common language of innovation, what exactly it means in their organizational context, as well as exactly what value means to current and potential customers as well as to the organization,
  • Develop a shared narrative or story about why innovation is crucial towards initiating and sustaining future success,
  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value, internally and externally with customers, suppliers, and other primary connection points to build external talent communities and value-adding ecosystems,
  • Maximize differences and diversity of thought within customers as well as within communities and ecosystems,
  • Generate urgency and creative energy to innovate faster than competitors,
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives, with customers as well as across communities and ecosystems.

How innovation teams learn and develop

Sustaining success in today’s uncertain, unstable, and highly competitive business environment is becoming increasingly dependent on people’s and team’s abilities to deeply learn, adapt and grow. Yet most people and a large number of organizations don’t yet seem to value learning and adaptiveness as performance improvement enablers, especially in enabling people and teams to thrive in a disruptive world.  Nor do they understand how people learn, nor how to strategically develop peoples’ learning agility towards potentially co-creating future-fit organizations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times.

At ImagineNation™ we have integrated the four E’s of learning at work; Education, Experience, Environment, and Exposure with 12 key determining factors for co-creating future-fit organizations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times through our innovation team development, change, learning, and coaching programs.

Case Study Example

  1. Educational customisation and alignment

After conducting desktop research and key stakeholder sensing interviews, we customized our innovation education curriculum specifically to align with the learning needs of the innovation team.

We aligned the program design to the organization’s strategic imperatives, values, and leadership behaviors, we reviewed the results of the previous culture, climate and engagement surveys, as well as the range of business transformation initiatives. We then applied design thinking principles to “bring to life” the trends emerging, diverging, and converging in our client’s and their customer’s industry sectors.

Focusing on:

  • enabling people to perform well in their current roles,
  • building people’s long-term career success,
  • developing their long-term team leadership and membership development capabilities,
  • laying the foundations for impacting collectively towards co-creating future-fit organizations.
  1. Experiential learning a virtual and remote environment

We designed and offered a diverse and engaging set of high-value learning and development experiences that included a range of stretch and breakthrough assignments as part of their personal and team development process.

Focusing on:

  • encouraging people to engage in a set of daily reflective practices,
  • offering a series of customized agile macro learning blended learning options, that could be viewed or consumed over short periods of time,
  • engaging playful activities and skills practice sessions, with structured feedback and debrief discussions,
  • providing an aligned leadership growth individual and team assessment process,
  • introducing key criteria for establishing effective team cohesion and collaboration,
  • linking team action learning activities and evidence-based assignments to their strategic mandate ensuring their collective contribution towards co-creating future-fit organizations.
  1. Environment to support and encourage deep learning

We aimed at creating permission, tolerance, and a safe learning environment for people to pause, retreat, reflect, and respond authentically and effectively, to ultimately engage and upskill people in new ways of being, thinking, and acting towards co-creating future-fit organizations.

Focusing on:

  • developing peoples discomfort resilience and change readiness,
  • encouraging people to be empathic, courageous, and compassionate with one another, to customers as well as to those they were seeking to persuade and influence,
  • allowing and expecting mistakes to be made and valued as learning opportunities and encouraging smart risk-taking,
  • reinforcing individual learning as personal responsibility and team learning as a mutual responsibility and establishing a learning buddy system to support accountability,
  • offering a series of one-on-one individual coaching sessions to set individual goals and support people and the teams’ “on the job” applications.
  1. Exposure to different and diverse learning modalities

We designed a range of immersive microlearning bots by providing regular, consistent, linked, multimedia learning options and a constantly changing range of different and diverse learning modalities.

Focusing on:

  • providing an informative and targeted reading list and set of website links,
  • setting a series of coordinated thought leading webinars, videos, podcasts, and magazine articles aligned to deliver the desired learning outcomes,
  • outlining fortnightly targeted team application and reinforcement tasks,
  • helping the team to collaborate and set and communicate their passionate purpose, story, and key outputs to the organization to build their credibility and self-efficacy,
  • designing bespoke culture change initiatives that the innovation team could catalyse across the organization to shift mindsets and behaviors to make innovation a habit for everyone, every day.

Collectively contributing to the good of the whole

Co-creating future-fit organizations require creativity, compassion, and courage to co-create the space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and experiment with new ideas. To catalyse change and help shift the workplace culture as well as crowdsource possibilities through open innovation.

In ways, that are truly collaborative, and energize, catalyze, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective genius, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all. To ultimately collectively co-create a future-fit organization that contributes to an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

This is the final blog in a series of three about catalyzing change through innovation teams, why innovation teams are important in catalyzing culture change, and what an innovation team does, and how they collectively contribute toward co-creating the future-fit organization.

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 8-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centred approach and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more

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Innovation Teams Do Not Innovate

Innovation Teams Do Not Innovate

Guest Post from Janet Sernack

In our first blog in this series of three blogs, we reinforced and validated the importance and role of collaboration. We then described the range of emerging new, inspirational, and adaptive models that lean into complexity and catalyze and embed sustainable innovative workplace culture change. Where some organizations, like Alibaba, Disney, Google, Salesforce, and GE, developed their future fitness by courageously investing in catalyzing, igniting, and leading change through innovation teams.

Innovation teams are teams that don’t innovate!

Conventional team collaboration performance and development approaches are still relevant and foundational to long-term organizational success.  And, a new range of organizational needs are emerging in our fast-changing and disruptive world, that complement conventional team development processes including the importance of:

  • Providing a unified and holistic and systemic “collective mind” focussed on adding value to customers,
  • Being agile, focused, and in charge to make faster decisions,
  • Sharing resources and insights to reduce costs,
  • Working interdependencies to improve efficiencies and productivity,
  • Shifting focus from being competitive towards co-creating ecosystems to solve bigger, more complex problems, to lead, embed, and sustain value-adding change in a disruptive world.

According to the authors of Eat, Sleep Innovate, an innovation team is formed to develop “something different that creates value” and do this best in a culture where such behaviors come naturally.

These behaviors include:

  • Curiosity
  • Customer obsession
  • Adeptness to ambiguity
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment
  • Accountability

Purpose of innovation teams

The purpose of an innovation team is to create an environment that unlocks an organization’s collective intelligence (capacity, competence, and confidence) and builds the capability to change as fast as change itself.

Usually, through providing mentorship, coaching, and learning process in ways that align, engage, enable, equip and leverage peoples’ collective intelligence to:

  • Adapt to higher levels of ambiguity and uncertainty,
  • Challenge the status quo and help break a conventional business as usual habits, leadership styles, and comfortable ways of working,
  • Provoke future “fast forward” (horizon three) thinking,
  • Support the implementation of digital and organizational transformational efforts,
  • Collectively and collaboratively drive innovation across organizations pragmatically and make it a reality,
  • Leverage synergies across ecosystems to solve complex problems and deliver increased value to customers.

Ultimately, to provoke and evoke future “fast forward” creative discoveries and experiment with new platforms and possible future business models to help guide future renewal and reinventions.

Delivering these, as smart and multi-disciplinary teams in ways that are timely, agile, and disciplined that potentially support and bring significant value to customers, the market, and to the organization.

Unconventional stretch collaboration requires connection, cognitive dissonance, and conflict

Experimenting with, iterating, and adapting new collaborative models, enables organizations and their leaders, to shift their focus – from being defensively competitive towards being creatively constructive.

Where the goal is to create a high performing, connected, and networked workplace culture where people:

  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value,
  • Maximize differences and diversity of thought,
  • Generate the urgency and creative energy to innovate,
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives.

Innovation teams create discord and generate conflict

At ImagineNation™ we have found that the best way for innovation teams to perform is through building safety and trust, whilst simultaneously being safely provocative and evocative in creating discord and conflict to disrupt peoples conventional thought processes, behaviors, and habits.

To engage people in maximizing differences and diversity to generate creative ideas, and experiment with inventive prototypes, that ultimately solve big and complex problems and deliver commercially astute, innovative solutions.

By connecting, networking, and focussing on co-creation and emphasizing collaboration, inclusion, and mutual accountability, and not on being competitive.

Dealing with the organizational blockers – Innovation teams

At ImagineNation™ our experience has enabled us to understand and reduce the range of key common blockers to transformational and innovation-led change initiatives.

Where we support clients identify, and resolve and remove them by enabling and equipping innovation teams to:

  • Develop agile and innovation mindsets: building capability in safely exposing and disrupting rigid mindsets through customized mindset shifting, behavioral-based, skills development programs.
  • Understand the impact of the organization’s collective mindset: supporting teams to develop an empathic understanding of one another, then shifting how they feel and think to act differently, and cultivate the discomfort resilience when facing the challenges and failures in the innovation rollercoaster ride.
  • Enable leadership development: through educating, mentoring, and coaching leaders to grow their adaptive, collaborative, engaging, and innovative team leadership and membership capabilities.
  • Foster the development of an adaptive and innovative culture: by applying the cultural assessment and diagnostic processes that result in pragmatic culture change initiatives.
  • Ensure strategic alignment: sensing, perceiving, and developing a mutual focus, common language and understanding, and a collaborative networked way of working, that bridges the gap between the current and desired states.

Setting up an innovation team – the critical success factors

At ImagineNation™ we have also helped our clients identify, and embed the critical success factors, that enable innovation teams to drive and embed innovation-led change and transformational initiatives by ensuring:

  • Alignment to the mission, vision, purpose, values.
  • Strategic allocation of resources.
  • Leadership team sponsorship and mentorship.
  • Investment in team members and leader’s capability development.
  • Thinking big and focussing on clarifying and delivering future “fast forward” far-reaching solutions to highly impactful challenges.
  • Organization engagement and enrolment in implementing changes and creating, inventing, and delivering innovative solutions.
  • Lines of sight to stakeholders, eco-system players, and customers, taking an empathic value-adding perspective at all times.

Innovation teams – an unfreezing opportunity to co-create future-fit organizations

Embracing this type of collaborative approach creates an unprecedented opportunity for organizations, who have been upended as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, to develop a sense of urgency toward unfreezing and eliminating their corporate antibodies.

Empathizing with the range of challenges leaders are facing right now, where many are slowly waking up to a post-covid world, where there is an unprecedented and urgent opportunity to co-create a “new normal” that is well-designed to lift any of the emotional barriers to teamwork, locked-down relationships and online fatigue.

Opening the door to a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit that allows and encourages people to re-imagine, re-learn, reinvent and co-create new, fresh future fit, adaptive and innovative, people and customer-centric systems, structures, business models, and ecosystems.

All of which are mandatory for delivering future “fast forward” strategies for applying the collaborative and collective intelligence required for increasing value in innovative ways that people and customers appreciate and cherish, in ways we have not previously imagined, that connect with and contribute to, the good of the whole.

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 8-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centred approach and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.