Tag Archives: Leadership

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of January 2023

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of January 2023Drum 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 January’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 — Curated by Braden Kelley
  2. Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet — by Robyn Bolton
  3. 99.7% of Innovation Processes Miss These 3 Essential Steps — by Robyn Bolton
  4. Top 100 Innovation and Transformation Articles of 2022 — Curated by Braden Kelley
  5. Ten Ways to Make Time for Innovation — by Nick Jain
  6. Agility is the 2023 Success Factor — by Soren Kaplan
  7. Five Questions All Leaders Should Always Be Asking — by David Burkus
  8. 23 Ways in 2023 to Create Amazing Experiences — by Shep Hyken
  9. Startups Must Be Where Their Customers Are — by Steve Blank
  10. Will CHATgpt make us more or less innovative? — by Pete Foley

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in December 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 three years:

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

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

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

The Five Gifts of Uncertainty

The Five Gifts of Uncertainty

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“How are you doing?  How are you handling all this?”

It seems like 90% of conversations these days start with those two sentences.  We ask out of genuine concern and also out of a need to commiserate, to share our experiences, and to find someone that understands.

The connection these questions create is just one of the Gifts of Uncertainty that have been given to us by the pandemic.

Yes, I know that the idea of uncertainty, especially in big things like our lives and businesses, being a gift is bizarre.  When one of my friends first suggested the idea, I rolled my eyes pretty hard and then checked to make sure I was talk to my smart sarcastic fellow business owner and not the Dali Lama.

But as I thought about it more, started looking for “gifts” in the news and listening for them in conversations with friends and clients, I realized how wise my friend truly was.

Faced with levels of uncertainty we’ve never before experienced, people and businesses are doing things they’ve never imagined having to do and, as a result, are discovering skills and abilities they never knew they had.  These are the Five Gifts of Uncertainty

  1. Necessity of offering a vision – When we’re facing or doing something new, we don’t have all the answers. But we don’t need all the answers to take action.  The people emerging as leaders, in both the political and business realms, are the ones acknowledging this reality by sharing what they do know, offering a vision for the future, laying out a process to achieve it, and admitting the unknowns and the variables that will affect both the plan and the outcome.
  2. Freedom to experiment – As governments ordered businesses like restaurants to close and social distancing made it nearly impossible for other businesses to continue operating, business owners were suddenly faced with a tough choice – stop operations completely or find new ways to continue to serve. Restaurants began to offer carry out and delivery.  Bookstores, like Powell’s in Portland OR and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester VT, also got into curbside pick-up and delivery game.  Even dentists and orthodontists began to offer virtual visits through services like Wally Health and Orthodontic Screening Kit, respectively.
  3. Ability to change – Businesses are discovering that they can move quickly, change rapidly, and use existing capabilities to produce entirely new products. Nike and HP are producing face shields. Zara and Prada are producing face masks. Fanatics, makers of MLB uniforms, and Ford are producing gowns.  GM and Dyson are gearing up to produce ventilators. And seemingly every alcohol company is making hand sanitizer.  Months ago, all of these companies were in very different businesses and likely never imagined that they could or would pivot to producing products for the healthcare sector.  But they did pivot.
  4. Power of Relationships – Social distancing and self-isolation are bringing into sharp relief the importance of human connection and the power of relationships. The shift to virtual meetups like happy hours, coffees, and lunches is causing us to be thoughtful about who we spend time with rather than defaulting to whoever is nearby.  We are shifting to seeking connection with others rather than simply racking up as many LinkedIn Connections, Facebook friends, or Instagram followers as possible.  Even companies are realizing the powerful difference between relationships and subscribers as people unsubscribed en mass to the “How we’re dealing with COVID-19 emails” they received from every company with which they had ever provided their information.
  5. Business benefit of doing the right thing – In a perfect world, businesses that consistently operate ethically, fairly, and with the best interests of ALL their stakeholders (not just shareholders) in mind, would be rewarded. We are certainly not in a perfect world, but some businesses are doing the “right thing” and rea being rewarded.  Companies like Target are offering high-risk employees like seniors pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems 30-days of paid leave.  CVS and Comcast are paying store employees extra in the form of one-time bonuses or percent increases on hourly wages.  Sweetgreen and AllBirds are donating food and shoes, respectively, to healthcare workers.  On the other hand, businesses that try to leverage the pandemic to boost their bottom lines are being taken to task.  Rothy’s, the popular shoe brand, announced on April 13 that they would shift one-third of their production capacity to making “disposable, non-medical masks to workers on the front line” and would donate five face masks for every item purchased.  Less than 12 hours later, they issued an apology for their “mis-step,” withdrew their purchase-to-donate program, and announced a bulk donation of 100,000 non-medical masks.

Before the pandemic, many of these things seemed impossibly hard, even theoretical.  In the midst of uncertainty, though, these each of these things became practical, even necessary.  As a result, in a few short weeks, we’ve proven to ourselves that we can do what we spent years saying we could not.

These are gifts to be cherished, remembered and used when the uncertainty, inevitably, fades.

Image credit: Pixabay

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

Getting Through Grief Consciously

Getting Through Grief Consciously

GUEST POST from Tullio Siragusa

Life brings opportunities, happiness, and skyrocketing success when we decide to live it fully and without fear. Along with that, we will face challenging times that will cause us to grieve.

Globally, we are all facing a form of grief right now. Be it the loss of a loved one to Covid-19, or the loss of our free way of life — grief is all around us. Before this pandemic that we are experiencing collectively, you may have suffered the loss of loved ones for other reasons, or you may have gone through a divorce, a breakup, the loss of a friendship, or the loss of a pet.

There are many forms of loss. You can experience loss of money, your job, reputation, your faith, health, and even loss of hope.

“Loss is a normal part of life and grief is part of the healing process if we learn to face it with grace.”

To get through grief with grace it’s ideal to face it with the help of others, but for the most part you have to get through it alone. We are privileged to have family, friends, spiritual direction, therapists, life coaches and other support groups around us, but healing grief is essentially between you and yourself.

“In time of grief you need to embrace yourself, love yourself and cure yourself.”

It is easier said than done, but there is truly no other way around grief than to face it fully on your own, courageously, vulnerability and with grace.

Importance of Grace

We all, at some point in our lives, have felt as if we reached our breaking point, but eventually we wake up to the desire to not be broken for rest of our lives. For instance, while going through hard times we are not always acting our best selves. Harsh words are often exchanged with others out of the need to “dump the pain” on someone else to feel some sense of relief. After doing that, we often feel guilty about it and apologize.

It is not bad to apologize, but losing your temper and saying things you normally would not say can not only tarnish your image, but can scar someone badly enough that you lose their trust for a long time, and sometimes forever.

“When you manage your emotions while grieving, you hold on to grace, and grace is the energy of mercy for yourself and others.”

Our personality gets groomed with every pain we overcome. If we walk through life’s journey with a mindset that everything happens for a reason, and everything happens to teach us something new, then every challenging time becomes an opportunity to add strong positive and graceful traits to our personality.

The people who learn to manage their emotions during the toughest times without falling apart, add an unprecedented trait of composure, grace and an emotionally intelligent personality.

How to Get Through Grief with Grace

First, you need to fully acknowledge that grief is normal. It is not a disease. It is not a sign of weakness, or lack of emotional intelligence.

Our human body and mind is built to respond to situations. When we lose something, or someone precious, grief comes knocking. Trying to avoid that grief is not the right way to get over it. The best way to deal with grief is to embrace it and get through it.

One of my spiritual teachers used to say: “The only way to get to the other side of hell, is one more step deeper into it, that is where the exit door is waiting for you.”

“In order to grieve with grace, we need the courage to face loss as normal as anything else we experience in life.”

I know people who have avoided facing the loss of their loved ones for years, but ultimately, they had to go through it and face it. Grief will come for you no matter what, so why postpone it?

The foremost thing to handle any tough situation is to develop gratitude for all those blessed situations in your life that make it beautiful. No doubt, feeling gratitude while grieving is almost impossible, but if you develop a habit of being grateful on a daily basis, it becomes possible to feel it even during tough times.

If you are going through grief, find a peaceful place away from all those people reminding you of the loss, and try to connect to any happy moment you can recall. Feel that moment in your heart. Hold on to that feeling as long as possible and write it down later.

Whenever you feel broken, be mindful of such moments. You will soon be able to tap to a comparatively happy person inside you, anytime you need to.

“The way to develop your grace muscle is to live daily with gratitude and make a mental library of the happy moments in your life that you can borrow against, during difficult times.”

We have been living in a time in history void of pain. We are constantly seeking happiness and running from pain and suffering. Now we are being forced to face pain, suffering, uncertainty, and loss.

There are blessings inherent within loss and suffering. The blessings are always revealed on the other side of grief, and it is always hard to believe that the blessing is happening amidst grief and pain. However, if you look back in your life at the moments that defined you, the moments when you experienced the most Light, the most blessings — it was soon after your darkest hours.

“When we move through the process of grief believing in our ability to grow from the experience, we become more aware of the blessings in disguise that will come out of it.”

A sense of serenity can be achieved through releasing the pressure of the expectations of a set pattern for your life. There comes a moment when it is better to embrace what you can’t change, and develop the courage to strive for what you can.

“Acknowledging your capacities and the difference between what you can and what you can’t control, will make it easier to go through grief.”

What I am talking about is the power of surrendering to what is, instead of holding on to what could have been. For most people, grace is among the most precious trait of their personality and behavior.

If you have lost something or someone precious that is an irreparable loss, it is important to take care of yourself during those testing times. Remember that all chaos comes with an expiration date, and to surrender to the change you need to make to keep moving forward.

Remember the blessings in your life, be grateful for what is, has been, and will be, and be patient with yourself.

NOTE: For all those who have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic and have not been able to properly say goodbye, I wish that their memory be a blessing in your life.

Image credit: Pexels

Originally published at tulliosiragusa.com on April 27, 2020

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

99.7% of Innovation Processes Miss These 3 Essential Steps

99.7% of Innovation Processes Miss These 3 Essential Steps

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Congratulations! You developed and are using a best-in-class Innovation Process.

You start by talking to consumers, studying mega-trends, and scanning the globe for emerging technologies and disruptive offerings.

Once you find a problem and fall in love with it, you start dreaming and designing possible solutions. You imagine what could be, focused on creating as many ideas as possible. Then you shift to quality, prioritizing ideas that fit the company’s strategy and are potentially desirable, viable, and feasible.

With prioritized ideas in hand, you start iterating, an ongoing cycle of prototyping and testing until you confidently home in on a solution that consumers desire, is technically feasible, and financially viable.

But you don’t stop there! You know that ideas are easily copied by innovative business models are the source of lasting competitive advantage, so you think broadly and identify financial, operational, and strategic assumptions before testing each one like the innovation scientist you are.

If (and when) a solution survives all the phases and stage gates and emerges triumphant from the narrow end of the innovation process, there is a grand celebration. Because now, finally, it is ready to go to market and delight customers.

Right?

Wrong.

The solution’s journey has only just begun.

What lies ahead can be far more threatening and destructive than what lies behind.

Unless you planned for it by including these three steps in your innovation process.

1. Partnership with Sales

During testing, you ask consumers to give feedback on solutions. But do you ask Sales?

Salespeople spend most of their time outside the office and in stores, talking to customers (e.g., retailers, procurement), consumers, and users. They see and hear what competitors are doing, what is working, and what isn’t. And they will share all of this with you if you ask.

When I ask why innovation processes don’t include Sales, I hear two things (1) “it’s too early to talk to Sales” and (2) “they always tell us the same thing – it’s too expensive.”

First, if you have a concept (or two or three) with a 50/50 shot of going to market, call a few Salespeople and ask for their reactions. Nothing formal, no meeting required—just a gut reaction. And once you get that, ask when they’d like to talk again because their perspective is essential.

Second, “too expensive” should never be the end of the conversation. It’s one piece of feedback, ask follow-up questions to understand why it’s too expensive, then ask, “What else?”  There’s always more, and some of it is useful. Plus, better to hear it now than months or years from now at the launch announcement.

2. Relay with Operations

Most companies have a process between the end of the innovation process and shipping the new offering. It’s where sourcing, manufacturing, shipping, inventory management, contracting, and many other crucial and practical decisions and plans are made.

Also, at most companies, the “transition” from the innovation process to the operational process is akin to chucking something over a wall. “Here you go,” Innovation seems to say, “we proved this will be a big business. Now go make it happen!”

Unfortunately, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, and everyone else affected usually stand on the other side of the wall, solution in hand, mouth agape, eyes wide, thinking, “Huh?”

Instead of an abrupt hand-off, the Innovation Process needs to identify when the relay-style hand-off starts, and Innovation and Operations run side-by-side, developing, adjusting, and honing the solution.

3. Hand-off to the Core Business

The hand-off to the Core Business is the most precarious of all moments for an innovation. The moment it leaves the Innovation team’s warm, nurturing, and forgiving nest and moves into the performance-driven reality of the Core Business.

The Core Business knows why it was added to the P&L, but they don’t understand how it came to be or why it is the way it is. And they definitely don’t love it as much as you do. All they see is a tiny, odd thing that requires lots of their already scarce resources to become something worthwhile.

Instead of depositing beloved solutions on the Core Business’ doorstep like an unwanted orphan, Innovation Process should ensure that the following three questions are answered and aligned to well before the hand-off occurs.

  • How material (revenue, profit) does a solution need to be to be welcomed into the Core Business?
  • Who runs the new business, and what else is on their plate?
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure the Core Business supports the new solution during its tenuous first 1-3 years?

Create a process that creates innovation

Invention is something new.

Innovation is something new that creates value.

Innovation processes that focus solely on defining, designing, developing, and de-risking a solution run the risk of being Invention process because they result in something new but stop short of outlining how the innovation will be produced at scale, launched, scaled, and supported for years to come. You know, all those things required to create value.

BTW:

  • 99.7% isn’t an exact number. In my experience, it’s 100%. But I wanted to leave some wiggle room.
  • I am 100% guilty of forgetting these three things.
  • If you’re trying to innovate for the first time in a loooooooong time, it’s ok to focus on the front end of innovation (define, design, develop, de-risk) and tackle these three things later. But trust me, you will need to tackle them later.

Image credit: Pexels

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

What Business Are You In?

(Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Think)

What Business Are You In?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“What business are you in?”

How do you answer this all-too-common question?

Do you name the company you work for?

The industry you’re in?

The function you perform?

Bad news, your business isn’t defined by the company, the industry, and even your function.

Good news, the business you’re in is defined by your customers.

And their definition unlocks incredible potential for innovation and growth.

The 2:00 am Answer

In my first few months as an Assistant Brand Manager at P&G, I had a truly terrifying experience. Sitting in a training session, a senior executive locked eyes with me and asked, “What is Brand Equity?”

My first thought was, “you tell me, buddy. I’m the newbie here.”  My second thought, and the one that came out of my mouth, was probably something straight out of a marketing textbook.

“Wrong!” he exclaimed. “Brand equity is what a consumer says if you wake them up from a dead sleep at 2:00 am and scream ‘What is [brand]?’ in their face.”

I don’t know what scared me more, being yelled at for being wrong or the idea that breaking and entering and screaming brand names at unsuspecting sleepers was suddenly part of my job description.

The 2:00 am Answer is the business you’re in

The 2:00 am answer applies to more than just brand equity.

It reveals the business you’re in.

Because it’s the Job-to-be-Done your customers hire you to do

As the training went on, we learned how this mantra manifests in everything a brand (or company) does – its products, pricing, packaging, distribution, and marketing.

For example, if the most important thing to you about laundry is that clothes come out of the washing machine clean, you have dozens of options and probably buy the cheapest one.

But, if you want to be sure that clothes will be immaculate after the first wash because you know your kids will wear anything, even if it has stains, which will lead the other parents to judge you, you have one option – Tide.

Why the 2:00 am Answer matters

The 2:00 am Answer also defines where you have a right to play and to win.

Sometimes this space is bigger than you expect, revealing incredible opportunities for innovation and growth.

Sometimes it’s smaller than you want, exposing a strategic misalignment between what you offer and what your customers want. This happened to LEGO and took the company to the brink of bankruptcy.

In 1998, LEGO posted its first loss in company history. To reinvigorate growth, it shifted from being in the business of Toys to being in the business of Play. This led to two decisions that, while strategically aligned with Play, almost bankrupted the company. First was the introduction of new toys specifically designed to be built in less than 10 minutes so kids could start playing quickly. The second decision took LEGO into other aspects of play – video games, amusement parks, and a TV show supported by a line of action figures.

In 2003, LEGO reported a $238M loss, and with only one profitable product line, the future was bleak. So, LEGO started talking to customers (though probably not at 2:00 am). Through the conversations, LEGO learned that its expansion into all forms of play and the prioritization of Play over creation (building) wasn’t LEGO-y in the minds of consumers. So they rejected the new offerings. Instead, people loved LEGO because it offered “creative play” – the freedom and ability to turn ideas into tangible and interactive 3D models.

LEGO listened and went “back to the brick.”  The results speak for themselves. In 2015, LEGO overtook Ferrari to become the world’s most powerful brand. In 2021, LEGO earned $8.06B in revenue, a 27% increase from the prior year.

How to get and use the 2:00 am Answer (without committing a felony)

First, get clear on the business you WANT to be in. Ask yourself and your colleagues, what do we want our customers to hire us to do? Push beyond the easy and obvious answers (usually functional Jobs to be Done). How do you want customers to feel after hiring your company (emotional Jobs to be Done)? How do you want them to be perceived (social Jobs to be Done)? What Job to be Done do you want to do uniquely well?

Second, talk to your customers one-on-one at a time and place of their choosing. Ask them why they hire your business. Again, push beyond the easy and obvious answers to understand what they want to feel and be perceived after choosing you. Ask what other options they considered and why they hired your business.

Find and close the gap. What’s the difference between what you wanted to hear and what you actually heard? If the gap is bigger than expected, how can you expand and innovate your business to grow into all the Jobs people want to hire you to do? If the gap is smaller, how can you shift or redirect efforts to grow in ways where you have permission to operate?

The 2:00 am Answer can be the key to defining, growing, and transforming your business.

Who says nothing good happens after midnight?

Image credit: Unsplash

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

True Leaders Inspire Freedom

True Leaders Inspire Freedom

GUEST POST from Tullio Siragusa

A baby elephant was tied to a pole at the zoo. For years she tried to break free tugging at the pole by the rope tied around her neck.

She tried and tried and could never break free.

Many years later, she grew to be a very big and powerful elephant. She was still tied to the same pole. She could break free of her bondage so easily now that she had become a big elephant, but her mind conditioning will not allow her. She doesn’t even try.

Much like the elephant in this story, we have been conditioned for a very long time in a work culture that is based on commands and controls. A work culture supported by an education system that was developed for the assembly line, industrial revolution. An educational system that subtly teaches subservience.

From a society’s viewpoint, we have also been part of a narrative for thousands of years that encourages self-sacrifice, for the greater good, which is contrary to our nature as human beings.

Do we have a lot stacked up against us, or do we just have the baby elephant syndrome, and think we can’t break free?

I was in Russia three years ago. Specifically, in Siberia Russia where I met with Tomsk State University students to talk about freedom-based cultures. We talked about shared authority, self-managed teams, equivalence, and leaders versus bosses.

These young men and women were curious, and open, and had many questions. I had just finished talking about the sense of duplicity that is predominant in many people’s lives today.

Having to be one way at the office, and another at home. We talked about how duplicity causes stress, and worse how it does not foster trust among people because it does not encourage authenticity.

Are you the same person at the office, as you are at home? Does your work environment dictate what you should wear at the office? Do you have to show up and leave at a certain time? Do you have to do things you don’t care to do, just to please your boss? Do you compete with your peers, or work as a team? Are you free to speak your mind and offer up suggestions for company improvements?

Today’s work environment based on command and controls, does not foster innovation, or creativity. Today’s work environment demands conformity.

“Today’s work environment wants you to stay a baby elephant for the rest of your life.”

Freedom Cultures

I went on to explain how leaders earn followers because they are willing to serve, and they are willing to be of service.

What’s the difference between serving and being of service?

You can get paid to serve but being of service is a state of being that cannot be purchased. You enjoy being of service because it is part of who you are at your core.

“True authentic leaders are of service, because they desire to serve — it is a calling.”

The difference between a boss and a leader is that of control vs. freedom. One requires you conform to how things are done, the other encourages you to find better ways to do things, to create, to innovate, and to do things on your terms.

Why would companies not embrace freedom?

Fear is the main reason. The other reason is that much like the elephant they just accept things for how they have been, instead of how things could be.

Some of the questions and comments these young men and women asked me were:

  • How do you make the change from a command and control to freedom-based company?
  • How can companies adopt this in countries that don’t encourage free societies?
  • This is one of those big, change the world ideas, how can it be implemented?

The questions left me feeling a sense of hope and excitement that these university students saw the value of what was being presented and started to wonder about how to implement it.

I answered every question truthfully and made myself available for follow up with any of the students. The comment made about “changing the world” stood out for me.

I looked at the young man in the eyes and said to him: “It is someone like you, who will start a company, become the leader of one, and remember this presentation, that will make the change.

Then one of your people will do the same, and the trickled down effect of that will change a society, a country, and the world.”

Some of us are on a mission to start this change, to spark it, to inspire it, with a Radical Purpose Movement to help organizations embrace freedom and equivalence.

My personal mission and responsibility, as the author of the upcoming book “Emotionally Aware Leadership” is to stop the spread of a worldwide epidemic that fosters co-dependency and keeps us in a mind-set prison of not being able to break free of controls.

“The most pervasive disease that plagues all of humanity is low self-worth.”

True leaders operate from a high level of self-worth that is inner directed, not based on external outcomes, or input. Those leaders encourage others to believe in themselves and to grow.

Want to change the world?

You must break free of the limiting mindset conditioning. You can’t be a giant elephant and act like you are still a baby tied to a pole. More importantly as a leader you want to inspire freedom in your organization, at home, and in the world.

Freedom is synonyms with happiness.

Tomsk State University presentation about freedom-centered cultures:

Image credit: Pexels

Originally published at tulliosiragusa.com on April 29, 2019

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

Engaging Consciousness in the Emotional Work of Organizational Transformation

Engaging Consciousness in the Emotional Work of Organizational Transformation

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Organizational transformation is a uniquely human endeavor. Navigating the journey to change starts with understanding the employee experience and creating space for emotional safety in the workplace.

According to organizational behavior expert Sigal Barsade, emotions are the key to encouraging higher performance and achievement. Her research shows that emotions influence employees’ wellness in addition to driving productivity. Thus, to influence organizational transformation, leaders need to take a closer look at how emotions factor into the employee experience.

In this article, we’ll discuss emotions and their role to change management in the following topics:

  • The Employee Experience
  • The Transformation Timeline
  • Emotions at Work
  • An Engagement of Consciousness

The Employee Experience

Without a keen understanding of the employee experience and your team’s emotional state, sustainable change is more fantasy than reality. In your efforts to initiate organizational transformation, consider first transforming employees’ work experience to promote a sense of emotional well-being.

In shaping the employee experience, it’s critical to understand employees’ expectations for emotional safety in the workplace. As most employees value their mental health above all else, they expect their working environment to promote trust, purpose, and social cohesion. Moreover, they want to know that leadership recognizes their contributions and that there is room and opportunity for sustainable growth and development. Similarly, team members want their personal sense of purpose to be in alignment with the organization.

With increased emotional wellness comes higher employee engagement and a more motivated workforce. With a stronger sense of emotional safety in the employee experience, leaders will find that their team is prepared to engage in organizational transformation.

The Transformation Timeline

 “You have to attract people… you can’t bribe or coerce transformation.”
Greg Satell

Once you prioritize the employee experience in your change strategy, you can begin the organizational transformation timeline. Organizational transformation is a process that happens through gradual change, resulting in sustainable behavioral transformation. This type of comprehensive change can only occur through a series of repeatable actions and innovative systems, not one-time initiatives.

Take steps towards sustainable change with the following phases of organizational transformation:

Phase One: Fight Resistance

To sustain organizational transformation, leaders and team members need a solid strategy for managing resistance. Resistance often stems from the discomfort that change brings.

To move beyond this fear, leaders should explain that while transformation involves many unknown factors, the forthcoming change will bring overall positive results. By showing team members how they will benefit from a change, leaders can overcome resistance and encourage their employees to support the initiative.

  • Freezing of Behaviors
    In Lewis’ Change management model, change is broken into three steps: freezing, changing, and refreezing.

    In the first phase of organizational transformation, the “unfreezing” process will occur. This involves recognizing one’s need for change and defining new behaviors that replace the former methods and practices. During this very fluid phase, team members and leaders identify and share data that supports a need for change.

Phase Two: Facilitate Adjustment

After strategically managing resistance to change, the next phase in achieving organizational transformation is facilitating the adjustment period. During this phase, team members are no longer actively resisting transformation but still need time to adjust to the changes the new initiative brings.

In the adjustment period, changes are discussed in detail, and team members are invited to provide criticism and feedback. This phase allows team members to personalize the change as they recognize their individual roles in achieving organizational transformation. In a successful adjustment phase, every team member is aligned with the necessary actions for the next phase: acceptance.

  • Changing

Within the adjustment phase of organizational transformation, team leaders will actively change their old habits. At this time, all stakeholders work to replace undesired behaviors with desired ones.

Phase Three: Foster Acceptance

In phase three of the organizational transformation timeline, you’ll lead your team into the acceptance phase with a solid vision and strategy for sustaining the changes over time.

  • Refreezing

In the foster acceptance phase, refreezing occurs when changes are stabilized and become the new normal. As the organizational transformation nears completion, team members are in the best position to cement these changes by ensuring a legacy of growth.

Phase Four: Ensure Consistency

The fourth phase of organizational transformation establishes consistent and sustainable growth. Consistency is a direct result of repeatable actions from strategic processes, intentional routines, and innovative practices that allow each team member to enact changes that carry into the future continuously.

Emotions at Work

A clear strategy for long-term change is only a roadmap to organizational transformation. After setting the stage for change to take place, leaders must engage in the emotional work of transformation.

Change takes emotional labor, requiring an environment that is uniquely attuned to address employees’ emotional needs. In the workplace, emotions can be an accelerator for transformation. To engage emotions in the most effective way, leaders can create conditions that ensure psychological safety.

Research shows that to solidify organizational transformation, we must mitigate emotional harm and, in doing so, foster emotional commitment from team members. While emotional harm isn’t tangible, it presents itself in certain ways that can create anxiety, fear, and similar negative responses in employees. Essentially, working to facilitate positive experiences alongside potentially negative emotions is the key to harnessing a safe space for transformation. Leaders that are able to manage the effects of stress successfully can transform a high-pressure environment into a space for high performance.

Sonja Kresojevic, the founder of Spinnaker Co. and a proponent of using agile principles for organizational change, firmly believes that true transformation is a product of an empowered organization. According to  Kresojevic, the more we humanize change through emotional labor and healing initiatives, the more we are able to influence others and start shifting organizations in the direction of transformation.

Leaders can promote healing and psychological safety by allowing employees to share their thoughts and criticisms freely and without retribution. With an increase in support and emotional safety, your team will be ripe for organizational transformation.

An Engagement of Consciousness

An organization’s penchant for the unknown is essential in driving organizational transformation. In your efforts to humanize change management, it’s crucial to understand and accept human nature’s role in experiencing change. In understanding our natural inclinations toward risk aversion in the face of change, we can work to replace this avoidance of uncertainty with curiosity, vulnerability, and authenticity in the workplace. This approach to change management will transform the way we work, the risks we take, and our willingness to accept change.

Much of organizational transformation is dependent on accepting uncertainty: that the future is unclear and we don’t have all the answers. The real secret to driving organizational transformation is empowering people to develop and accept new ideas on their own. Managing the uncertainty of organizational transformation takes time, allowing for the unfreezing, changing, and refreezing process to take place as stakeholders consider their options.

Rob Evans, Master Coach of Collaboration and Transformation Designer, shares that giving people a chance to court the unknown, is essential for change acceptance as it allows new ideas to seep in and take hold.

Practicing patience during the change management process allows for “engagement in the full consciousness,” in which leaders can kickstart the organizational transformation timeline and encourage employees to buy into the change. By pairing deliberate strategy with time for authentic employee engagement, radical transformation is an inevitability.

Ready to start the journey to organizational transformation? Consider a new approach to the employee experience. Voltage Control can help you and your team define the best path for your organization’s transformation. 

This article originally appeared at VoltageControl.com

Image credit: Pixabay

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

Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You know ALL the innovation tools and frameworks:

  • Design Thinking
  • Lean Startup
  • Disruptive Innovation

But knowing and doing are two different things.  When I first learned Jobs to be Done, it felt painfully obvious, exactly like the customer research I did for five years at P&G.  Then I had to do it (conduct a Jobs to be Done interview), and it was difficult (ok, it was a disaster).

And teaching others to do it is a third entirely different thing.  Because by the time you have the skills and expertise to teach others, you’ve forgotten what it was like to start from the beginning.

It’s easy to forget that before you can read a sentence, you must know how to read a word.  Before you can read a word, you must recognize a letter.

So let’s go back to basics.  Back before the methodologies.  Before the frameworks.  Before the theories.  Let’s go back to the letters and words that are Innovation’s essence.

Let’s go back to the Innovation Alphabet.

Assumptions, every innovation has them, and every innovator tests them to reduce risk

Brainstorming, a great way to get lots of ideas and maybe even some new ones

Customers, the people we innovate for

Disruptive Innovation, cheaper, lower quality products that appeal to non-consumers

Experiments, how you test assumptions and reduce risk

Fun, what innovation should be

G

Hope, it springs eternal in the heart of every innovator

Ideas, where most innovations start

Jobs to be Done, the problems people have/the progress they want to make (and the hill I will die on)

K

Leadership, the most crucial element in innovation (and often the biggest barrier)

Mistakes, how we learn, grow, and make progress

No, the start of a conversation, not the end

Opportunities, a nice term for “problem”

Problems, where all innovations should start

Quiet, what we sometimes need to think big and create something new

R

S

Team, how innovation gets done

Uncomfortable, what innovation should make you (especially if you’re a senior executive)

V

W

X

whY, the one question you can never ask enough

Zzzz, what you finally get to do when you’ve changed the world

As you can see, some letters still need words.  What should they be?

Are there better words for some letters?

Let me know in the comments!

Image credit: Unsplash

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

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

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of December 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 December’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Forbidden Truth About Innovation — by Robyn Bolton
  2. A Letter to Innovation Santa — by John Bessant
  3. Preserving Ecosystems as an Innovation Superpower — by Pete Foley
  4. What is a Chief Innovation Officer? — by Art Inteligencia
  5. If You Can Be One Thing – Be Effective — by Mike Shipulski
  6. How to Drive Fear Out of Innovation — by Teresa Spangler
  7. 3 Steps to Find the Horse’s A** In Your Company (and Create Space for Innovation) — by Robyn Bolton
  8. Six Ways to Stop Gen-Z from Quiet Quitting — by Shep Hyken
  9. Overcoming the Top 3 Barriers to Customer-Centricity — by Alain Thys
  10. Designing Innovation – Accelerating Creativity via Innovation Strategy — by Douglas Ferguson

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in November 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 three years:

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