Tag Archives: success

Transformation Insights – Part Two

Transformation Insights - Part Two

“The world needs stories and characters that unite us rather than tear us apart.”~ Gale Anne Hurd, Producer of Aliens and The Terminator

GUEST POST from Bruce Fairley

In my early years I was fortunate to spend some time on film sets. Unlike how the entertainment industry is portrayed in the Netflix series, The Movies that Made Us, I did not come to blows with any of my directors as Eddie Murphy apparently did with John Landis during the making of Coming to America. Nor did I witness an entire crew mutiny, as James Cameron did on Aliens. Instead, I often saw the same dynamic I’ve witnessed in the tech sector from the first moment I stepped off set and into I.T.

People coming together.

Skilled, diverse, passionate people hard at work fighting against miscommunication, technical issues, and time constraints – coming together to achieve something significant. I referred to this in my previous Transformation Insights post, The Future Always Wins as:

Collaboration Between Complementary Influencers.

This dynamic is as true of a film set as it is of a firm engaged in digital transformation. In both cases, expertise in various areas is required to create a successful whole, with C-Suite leaders in the corporate sphere tasked with providing the articulated vision at the helm. Of course, the success of any endeavor comes down to human-powered action and decision making at every level of execution. And while the challenges of a digital transformation project may not be as bone-breaking dangerous as the stunts in an action film, getting to greatness requires a similar fusion of mind and machine – of talent and technology.

If that sounds like The Terminator, consider that its box office success speaks to the fusion of mind and machine as an unstoppable trajectory – but those who deepen their humanity rather than succumb to machine rule are the heroes that triumph. This was mirrored in the making of the film, which was nearly shut down when the crew put down their tools. Addressing their humanity and acknowledging the value of their contribution changed the story from disaster to blockbuster.

Humans lead – technology serves. Not the other way around.

When that is reversed, dystopia ensues whether on screen or in the boardroom. Having witnessed many occasions in which technology was expediently obtained before its value to the user could be established, I am convinced we have lost the plot in telling a wider, corporate story. Technology was supposed to liberate not enslave. Instead, how many times have you attended a Zoom meeting or prepared weeks for a presentation only to discover the sound not working, the slide deck freezing, or even a hidden ‘on’ button? These may be simple examples, but they rob the intrepid hero of the corporate journey; the chance to shine and advance their creative talent much like the crew of Aliens putting down their tools. Now multiply that by the large scale digital transformation projects I’ve spearheaded, and it becomes clear how a broken axis between human-powered decision making and technology can break the bottom line.

Optimism and momentum towards a more positive, successful outcome hinges on more than technological expertise. It requires an understanding of the whole story – and how the team, tech, leadership, and consumers each play a role. The story you wish to tell about your corporate journey requires buy-in at every level of service – human and tech. Obstacles are not indictments, they are merely obstacles. But they do often require a third-party complementary collaborator that understands how to transform pitfalls into profits.

When I launched the Narrative Group I wanted to amplify the genius of C-Suite executives through the optimization of the business-tech relationship. Similarly to how I observed the inner workings of a set and how all the pieces had to fit together to create a screen success, I spent years observing digital transformation from the inside. Across continents and boardrooms, I learned, led, and transformed as well. This only increased my commitment to helping talented leaders tell their story successfully.

If you’re a C-Suite leader that would like to storyboard the trajectory of your corporate success, please feel free to reach out and continue the conversation at:

connect@narrative-group.com

Image Credit: The Narrative Group

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Transformation Insights

Future Always Wins

“The most damaging phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way!”
Grace Murray Hopper

GUEST POST from Bruce Fairley

Nearly a century ago in 1923, General Motors made an evolutionary leap in car design with the chemical expertise of Dupont. Debuting the new Duco paint technology, they introduced consumers to a range of car colors, thus giving the Second Industrial Revolution more variety. This was antithetical to rival Henry Ford’s ‘keep it plain to make it rain’ approach. One car – one color was his contribution to humanity. But the robotic consistency that made Ford a legend also became his Achilles heel as glamor and luxury disrupted the auto business and he was dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

When people say ‘it’s lonely at the top’ – it’s not. It’s crowded with competition. In today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – leaders that have the courage to change are able to do what some titans haven’t been able to do.

Pivot. Quickly.

Technological leaps have now advanced to an accelerated rate unprecedented in human history. Change is no longer a left curve surprise, but rather a constant evolution that offers both potentially great reward – and great risk. If growth doesn’t drive change – danger will. Visionary leaders navigate today’s ‘wild west’ landscape with an intelligent team approach. One that re-aligns technology to serve business goals rather than other way around.

But this is not a solo mission. Evolution thrives in collaboration, whether it’s upending an industry or upleveling a medium sized firm into a scalable trajectory. Optimizing the tech-business relationship takes multiple points of expertise and objective study. Where technology currently serves – and where it’s poised to strike is a critical question at the heart of any digital transformation worth undertaking. This may not be obvious at first glance. A previously valuable ‘built to last’ feature may now be hindering ‘built to evolve’ capabilities.

That is one reason why C-Suite leaders often turn to digital transformation firms such as The Narrative Group to fix the gap between their current technological resources and their ambitions. Just as GM partnered with Dupont to dazzle consumers nearly a hundred years ago, corporations that wish to present their best offer to the world need a similar confluence of five positive elements:

  • Collaboration Between Complementary Influencers
  • Creative and Analytical Engagement
  • Smart Use of Technology
  • Human Powered Learnability

And most importantly … The Willingness to Change Because the future always wins.

When I founded The Narrative Group, it was partly in response to this need for collaboration that I saw as critical to a corporation’s evolution. Going a step beyond ‘consulting’ to helping construct a corporation’s best future allows me to contribute to the safeguarding of that future for the many people that rely on a corporation’s healthy bottom line to build their own lives. Human potential is measured not only in outcome but also the way in which that outcome is achieved. Effective collaboration requires three key pillars that support an evolutionary leap:

  • Trust between the internal leadership team and the digital transformation firm hired to consult.
  • Transparency in the process from first contact through recommendations.
  • Trajectory in implementing recommendations in a way that maximizes the potential benefits.

This is part of a larger conversation that I enjoy having with clients and within my own team. I will elaborate on some of these points in future posts, but for now I hope I’ve sparked some reflection about the strength of character great leaders exhibit when they choose to master change rather than be blindsided by it.

If you’re a C-Suite leader that would like to discuss your corporation’s Industry 4.0 evolution and how to advance towards a best future outcome that aligns with your vision, reach out at:

connect@narrative-group.com

Looking forward to continuing the conversation…

Image Credit: The Narrative Group

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

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

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

Creating the place – the sacred pause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being the creative cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause involves:

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

Back to leadership basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 18, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

Image credit: Pixabay

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You Must Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

You Must Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

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

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

Safely stepping into the unknown

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

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

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

Impact of our neurological survival mechanisms

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

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

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

Resistance is futile

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

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

Hidden costs of resistance

Resistance to change prevents us from:

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

What can we do about it?

  • Being agile and adaptive

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

  • Entering the learning zone

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

  • Facing the fear

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

  • Reducing our levels of anxiety

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

Stepping into being comfortable

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

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

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

Focusing your attention and being intentional

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

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

An opportunity to learn more

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

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

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

Maximizing the dormant space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for unparalleled opportunities

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

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

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

A moment in time – taking a deep breath

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

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

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

Stepping up and into new spaces of possibility and learning

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

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

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

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

21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams

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

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

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

Walking the path forward

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Unsplash

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Everyone hates to fail, why do you?

Everyone hates to fail, why do you?

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

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

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

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

Sabotaging your chances of success

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

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

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

Pivot and adapt to disruptive events

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

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

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

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

Developing 21st-century superpowers

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

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

Rethinking our fears of failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consequences of avoiding failure

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

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

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

Benefits of embracing failure

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

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

Tips for rethinking and self-regulating fears of failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Unsplash

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What’s Your Innovation Story?

What's Your Innovation Story?

Many, but not all, innovations involve some kind of technology, and start as an invention. Many of these technology-based inventions that may eventually become innovations are created by startups, but many are created inside large companies as well. In both cases, these technology-based potential innovations are often created by engineers or technologists that are well-versed in the problems they are solving to make the technology work, but not always with the problems that the technology may solve for customers. Often the inventors speak the languages of science and technology, which is not always the same language as that understood by the potential customers for their invention that they hope will become an innovation.

As I wrote before in the always popular, and often linked and liked – Innovation is All About Value – there are three keys to achieving a successful transition from invention to innovation:

1. Value Creation

Value Creation is pretty self-explanatory. Your innovation investment must create novel or incremental value large enough to overcome the switching costs of moving to your new solution from the old solution (including the ‘Do Nothing Solution’). New value can be created by making something more efficient or effective, possible that wasn’t possible before, or by creating new psychological or emotional benefits. This creation of new value is what most people focus on, but you can’t achieve innovation without achieving success in the next two components as well.

2. Value Access

Value Access can also be thought of as friction reduction or experience design. How easy do you make it for customers and consumers to access the value you’ve created? How well has the product or service (or the experience of using it) been designed to allow people to access the value easily? How easy is it for the solution to be created? What is the employee experience like? How easy is it for people to do business with you?

These are some of the questions you must ask and answer as you seek to create success in the value access component of innovation.

3. Value Translation

Value Translation is all about helping people understand the value you’ve created and how it fits into their lives. Value translation is also about understanding where on a continuum your solution falls between the need for explanation and education. Incremental innovations can usually just be explained to people because they anchor to something they already understand, but radical or disruptive innovations inevitably require some level of education (often far in advance of the launch).

Done really well, value translation also helps to communicate how easy it will be for customers and consumers to exchange their old solution for the new solution.

Unfortunately, not all three parts of innovation success are equally understood or valued.

Most people understand that the creation of new value (aka value creation) is a key component of innovation success.

Many people understand the concept of barriers to adoption and that value access is thus also a key component to whether or not an invention successfully makes the transformation into an innovation.

BUT, few understand that value translation is probably the most critical component to innovation success. Because value translation inevitably requires both explanation AND education in varying amounts, having a good Evangelist (see The Nine Innovation Roles) that is a gifted storyteller on your innovation team will prove crucial to your innovation success. If people don’t understand how your new solution fits into their lives and why they should abandon their old solution, even if it is the ‘do nothing’ solution, then you stand no chance of your invention becoming an innovation.

And what’s the difference between an invention and an innovation? Wide adoption…

Achieving wide adoption comes not from some catchy advertising campaign, but from creating ridiculous amounts of value in the solution itself, the way that people access the solution (or the experience that they have), and in the story you create around it.

The Role of Experience in Your Innovation Story

Many true innovations create an experience that someone wasn’t able to have before, or take a painful experience and turn it into a delightful one. The automatic transmission liberated millions of people from the struggle of successfully starting a car on a hill and the worry of grinding their gears every time they go to shift gears.

How does using your potential innovation make people feel?

What is the experience like?

Where is the experience awkward or full of friction?

Could it be better?

Experience design has become increasing important because a good or bad user experience, customer experience, or employee experience creates stories, stories that get shared, stories that sometimes take on a life of their own. This is what happens when something goes viral. Sharing of the story itself becomes a new story, meaning that people are now sharing two stories (the original story, and a new story about the sharing of the original story). The power of these shared stories is why the various fields of experience design are growing both in terms of visibility and the numbers of people employed in these kinds of roles (customer experience, customer success, user experience, human-centered design, etc.).

When it comes to innovation, experience and design matter.

Bringing It All Together

Crafting a compelling innovation story requires both a compelling value proposition and a memorable experience. When you have both, your innovation story will be more engaging, easier to tell, and more likely to be shared.

Your innovation story also requires the same type of design thinking process to achieve. You must:

  1. Understand who your audience is
  2. Define what they will find convincing about the value proposition and the experience that your innovation will create
  3. Come up with ideas on how you will tell your innovation story (including the appropriate level of explanation vs. education)
  4. Choose one and prototype your innovation story
  5. Test it with people
  6. And iterate until you find that your innovation story (as well as your potential innovation) is resonating strongly with your target customers

So, plan ahead. Design your innovation story at the same time you’re designing a compelling innovation value proposition and innovation experience. Think about what people will say about your potential innovation as they begin using it. Show it to people and ask them for feedback about your potential innovation. Craft an explanation for it, build an education plan, and test both. Take all of what you learn from asking and testing these things to begin crafting your innovation story, while also refining the design of the product or service, and the experience of using it, to make both more compelling. In doing so, at the same time you’ll also make help your innovation story that much more powerful, and increase your chances of achieving innovation success!

If you need help telling your innovation story, I can help you on the tactical side (commissioned articles, white papers, webinars, collateral, keynotes, workshops, etc.) or by building you a complete innovation evangelism strategy (for an external audience, an internal one, or both). Click here to contact me.

This article originally appeared on CIO.com

Image credit: Dreamlightfugitive.wordpress.com


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Google’s Insights into Successful Teams and Managers

A little over five years ago I created an evolution of a Gary Hamel framework from The Future of Management that I titled The Innovator’s Framework and included in my popular first book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire.

The Innovator's Framework

Recently Google recently released some of its extensive research into the skills and character traits of good managers and effective teams, and surprisingly the secret to a high-performing team lies less in the individual team members and more in the broader team dynamics: “Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.” High-performing teams, they found, almost always displayed five characteristics:

Google High Performing Teams

According to their research, by far the most important team dynamic is psychological safety – the ability to be bold and take risks without worrying that your team members will judge you. Now have a look at Google’s previous findings on the Eight Characteristics of Great Managers:

Google High Performing Managers

Eight Characteristics of Great Managers

When you compare the traits of a successful team, a successful manager, and the heirarchy in The Innovators’ Framework its interesting where the three overlap and where they diverge.

What do you see?

Sources: World Economic Forum
Image Credits: Google re:Work

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Confessions of a Business Artist

Confessions of a Business Artist

I am an artist.

There, I’ve said it. This statement may confuse some people who know me, and come as a shock to others.

Braden, what do you mean you’re an artist? You’ve got an MBA from London Business School, you’ve led change programs for global organizations, helped companies build their innovation capabilities and cultures, are an expert in digital transformation, and you can’t even draw a straight line without a ruler. What makes you think you’re an artist?

Well, okay, that may all be true, but there are lots of different kinds of artists. I may not be a painter, a sculptor, a musician, an illustrator, or even a singer, but I am an artist, a business artist.

What is a business artist you ask?

A business artist sees through complexity to what matters most. A business artist loves working with PowerPoint and telling stories, often through keynote speeches and training facilitation, or through writing. A business artist loves to share, often doing so for the greater good, sometimes to their own financial detriment, in an effort to accelerate the knowledge, learning, and creating new capabilities in others. A business artist is a builder, often creating new businesses, new web sites, and new thinking. A business artist is comfortable stepping into a number of different business contexts and bringing a different energy and a different approach to creating solutions to complex requirements. Part of the reason a business artist can do this is because a business artist values their intuitive skills just as much as they value their intellectual skills, and may also consciously invest in getting in touch with higher levels of intuitive capabilities, enabling them to excel in roles that involve a great deal of what might be termed ‘organizational psychology’.

A business artist often appears to be a jack of all trades, sometimes bordering on what was portrayed in the television show The Pretender, and can be an incredibly powerful addition to any team tackling a big challenge, but a business artist’s incredible ability to contribute to the success of an organization is often discounted by the traditional recruiting processes of most human resource organizations because of its emphasis on skill matching and experience, skewing hiring in favor of someone with a lot of experience at being mediocre at a certain skillset over someone with limited experience but greater capability. A business artist often appears to be ahead of the curve, often to their own detriment, arriving too early to the party by grasping where organizations need to go before the rest of the organization is willing to accept the new reality. This is a real problem for business artists.

Now is the time for a change. Given human’s increasing access to knowledge, and the shorter time now required to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills required to perform a task, people who are comfortable with complexity, ambiguity, and capable of learning quickly are incredibly valuable to organizations as continual change becomes the new normal. Because experience is increasingly detrimental to success instead of a long-lived asset, given the accelerating pace of innovation and change, we need business artists now more than ever.

So how do we create more business artists?

Unfortunately our public schools are far too focused on indoctrination than education, on repetition over discovery. Our educational system specializes in creating trivia masters and kids that hate school, instead of building a new generation of creative problem solvers that love to learn and explore new approaches instead of defending status conferred based on mastery of current truths (which may be tomorrow’s fallacies). We are far too obsessed with STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) when we should be focused on STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Music). Music is creative math after all. My daughter’s school has a limited music program and NO ART. How is this possible?

To create more business artists we need to shift our focus towards art, creative problem solving and demonstrated learning, and away from memorization, metrics, and repetition. Can we do this?

Can we create an environment where the status quo is seen not as a source of power through current mastery and instead towards a system where improvements to the status quo are seen as the new source of power?

Organizations that want to survive will do so. Countries that want to stay at the top of the economic pyramid will do so. So what kind of country do you want to live in? What kind of company do you want to be part of?

Do you have the courage to join me as a business artist or to help create a new generation of them?

Image credit: blogs.nd.edu

This article originally appeared on Linkedin


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Get More Done

Get More Done

What Matters Most Management (WMMM) is the Key to Success

Most times you’ll see this posed as a question “What matters most?” as people grapple with finding the meaning of life. That is not the case here…

Instead I would like to share with you my simple management philosophy that will help you be more successful in today’s sometimes overwhelming, chaotic world of too many competing demands on your time.

I will help you succeed on a whim! (well, okay a WMMM)

Your success in this case comes from following the whim (or WMMM) of What Matters Most Management. It can be tailored for use in managing your time, a project, etc. For simplicity we’ll look at time management today by popular request (people ask me all the time how I manage to get so much done).

It involves quite simply making a quick inventory of all of the things that you could focus on today, or that you’re being asked to focus on, and identifying three key things:

1. How big of an impact will completing this task have (Hi/Med/Lo)

2. How big of an effort will it take to complete this task (Hi/Med/Lo)

3. When will my energy be the best for completing this task (Morning/Afternoon/Evening)

This daily inventory of tasks can be done in your head, or on paper, depending on how detail oriented you are. After you have your mental or written list, then plan your day, prioritizing of course any tasks with a low effort/high impact combination (often very rare).

You will also want to prioritize any tasks that involve getting others to do work. Getting others started on their work sooner rather than later, will lead to those tasks getting done faster because they are not sitting in your inbox.

Consider also whether it makes sense to start a task you can’t finish today or not. Sometimes there is no advantage to starting something today instead of tomorrow if you’ll end up finishing it tomorrow either way. Other times there will be tasks you need to finish tomorrow that you’ll have to start today to make it work. Going through this exercise is how you’ll identify What Matters Most (WMM).

I find this method to suit an organic person like me much more than a rigid system like Franklin Covey, plus systems like that don’t take into account when the ideal time might be to do a certain type of work based on the composition of your day and personal energy patterns. Save up somewhat mindless, administrative type work for when you’re brain is tired and do your more creative, intense work when your mind is fresh.

It’s also amazing how frequently the Pareto Principle proves out (where the items that deliver 80% of the value only require 20% of your effort, and vice versa). Focus on that 20% that will drive the 80% of your potential positive perception in the minds of others and in tangible impact in your life.

The WMMM approach works the same on projects, and can be super powerful when a family, project team, etc. all follow a similar philosophy.

The WMMM approach can also be used by product managers and entrepreneurs to create more successful products and services!

Go ahead! Try it! I think you’ll find that you’ll get more done, and sometimes more importantly, people will notice.

Image credit: earningmoneytoday.com

This article originally appeared on Linkedin


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