Tag Archives: success

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

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of October 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. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

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

  1. Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Reality — by Braden Kelley
  2. How Do You Judge Innovation: Guilty or Innocent? — by Robyn Bolton
  3. Scaling New Heights – Building Resilience — by Teresa Spangler
  4. What Great Transformational Leaders Learn from Their Failures — by Greg Satell
  5. Your Brand Isn’t the Problem — by Mike Shipulski
  6. What’s Next – Through the Looking Glass — by Braden Kelley
  7. Don’t Blame Quiet Quitting for a Broken Business Strategy — by Soren Kaplan
  8. The Ways Inflection Points Define Our Future — by Greg Satell
  9. How to Use TikTok for Marketing Your Business — by Shep Hyken
  10. Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC) — by Robyn Bolton

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

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

Have something to contribute?

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

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

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Three HOW MIGHT WE Alternatives That Actually Spark Creative Ideas

Three How Might We Alternatives That Actually Spark Creative Ideas

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Q: How might we brainstorm new ideas to serve our customers better?

A: Have a brainstorming session that starts with “How Might We help customers [Job to be Done/problem]?”

If only it were that simple.

How Might We (HMW) is an incredible tool (not BS, as some would assert), but we misuse it. We focus too much on the “we” and not enough on the “might.”

Might > We

HMW was first used to prompt people to be “wildly creative while simultaneously leveraging [company’s] innate strengths.”

IDEO popularized the prompt as a way to solve “wicked problems” – problems so complex that there is no right or wrong answer.

In both of these cases, the assumption was that the word “might” would free people from the shackles of today’s thinking and constraints and give people permission to dream without fear of judgment and reality.

“We” kept ideas tethered to the reality of the company’s “innate strengths,” providing a modicum of comfort to executives worried that the session wouldn’t result in anything useful and would, therefore, be a waste of time.

We > Might

Alas, as time went on and HMW became more popular, we lost sight of its intent (prompt wildly creative thinking about wicked problems) and twisted it to our purposes.

  • We end the HMW sentence with our problems (e.g., HMW cut costs by getting more customers to use self-service tools?).
  • We use it to brainstorm solutions to things that aren’t even problems (e.g., HMW eliminate all customer service options that aren’t self-serve?)
  • We mentally replace “might” with “will” so we can emerge from brainstorming sessions with a tactical implementation plan.

How Might Can YOU Fix HMW?

If you’re not getting creative, radical, or unexpected ideas from your brainstorming sessions, you have an HMW problem.< As a result, continuing to use HMW as a tool to prompt creative, radical, or unexpected ideas is the definition of insanity. And you are not insane. Instead, mix it up. Use different words to articulate the original intent of HMW.

How would we solve this problem if the answer to every request is YES?

Innovation thrives within constraints. Brainstorming doesn’t.

Even when you tell people not to constrain themselves, even implore them to value “quantity over quality,” you still get more “safe” ideas rather than more “crazy” ideas.

Do more than tell. Make a world without constraints real. Explicitly remove all the constraints people throw at ideas by creating a world of infinite money, people, capabilities, willingness, appetite for risk, and executive support. Doing this removes the dreaded “but” because there is no “but we don’t have the money/people/capabilities” or “but management will never go for it” and creates space for “and.”

What would we ask for if we were guaranteed a YES to only ONE request?

This question is often asked at the end of a brainstorm to prioritize ideas. But it’s equally helpful to ask it at the beginning.

This question shifts our mindset from “the bosses will never say yes, so I won’t even mention it” to “the bosses will say yes to only one thing, so it better be great!”  It pulls people off the sidelines and reveals what people believe to be the most critical element of a solution.   It drives passionate engagement amongst the whole team and acts as a springboard to the next brainstorm – How Might We use (what they said yes to) to solve (customers’ Jobs to be Done/problem)?

How would we solve the problem if the answer to every request is NO?

This one is a bit risky.

Some people will throw their hands in the air, declare the exercise a waste of time and effort, and collapse into a demotivated blob of resignation.

Some people will feel free. As Seth Godin wrote about a journal that promises to reject every single person who submits an article, “The absurdity of it is the point. Submitting to them feels effortless and without a lot of drama, because you know you’re going to get rejected. So instead of becoming attached to the outcome, you can simply focus on the work.”

For others, this will summon their inner rebel, the part of themselves that wants to stick it to the man, prove the doubters wrong, and unleash a great “I told you so” upon the world. To them, “No” is the start of the conversation, not the end. It fires them up to do their best work.

Don’t invite the first group of people to the brainstorm.

Definitely invite the other two groups.

How Might Will/Do YOU Fix HMW?

If you want something different, you need to do something different.

Start your next brainstorm with a new variation on the old HMW prompt.

How do people react? Does it lead to more creative or more “safe” ideas?

How might we adjust to do even better next time?

Image credit: Pexels

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Five Ways Discomfort Could Lead to Your Next Breakthrough

Five Ways Discomfort Could Lead to Your Next Breakthrough

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

The disclaimer on investments is that “past performance is not an indicator of future results.” In other words, don’t get too comfortable with the past. All you have to do is look at the stock performance through last year (2021) compared to this year’s performance to know this is true.

Yet when it comes to people, the opposite is often true. Past performance is often an indicator of future results. Most people get comfortable and stay where they feel safe. But, what if you were willing to be uncomfortable? What if you were willing to go against the status quo, learn something new, regardless of difficulty, and take more risks? How would you feel living in a state of discomfort?

Sterling Hawkins, author of Hunting Discomfort: How to Get Breakthrough Results in Life and Business No Matter What, shares how successful people thrive on discomfort. These are the people whose past performance won’t always indicate what to expect in the future. They thrive on risk, stepping out of their comfort zones, and are fueled by something new and different.

In the book, Hawkins teaches his five-step process that produces results:

1. Expand Your Reality: Just because you were taught that something should be a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be that way. Some might call this “thinking outside the box.” It’s shattering paradigms and challenging the status quo.

This reminds me of the story that the late, great Zig Ziglar used to tell about a family dinner that included four generations. As the dinner was being prepared, a little girl asked her mom, “Why do you cut off the end of the roast before you cook it?” Mom said, “That’s the way your grandmother taught me to cook the roast.”

The little girl then went to her grandmother and asked, “Grandma, why do you cut the end of the roast off before you cook it?” Grandma said, “That’s the way your great-grandmother taught me to cook the roast.”

The little girl then went over to her great-grandmother and asked, “Great Grandma, why do you cut the end of the roast off before you cook it?” Great Grandma said, “A long time ago, the ovens weren’t as big as they are today. We had to cut the end off for the roast to fit into the oven.”

Just because we’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean we should keep doing it that way. Expanding your reality is just looking beyond the usual and ordinary.

2. Get a Tattoo: Hawkins believes you should commit so deeply to something that you’re willing to have it tattooed onto your body. You may disagree, but you do get the point. This is about commitment. The tattoo is a metaphor. You don’t really need to permanently put your feelings on your body, but consider this …

Scott Ginsberg is known as The Nametag Guy. While in college, he found that more people would talk to him if he wore a nametag. It made him approachable. He wrote a speech and several books about how to be more approachable. He committed to wearing a name tag every day. After five years, he made the ultimate commitment to his idea. He had the name tag tattooed onto his chest. That’s commitment!

3. Build a Street Gang: Surround yourself with people who will not only support you but also hold you accountable for your potential. According to Hawkins, having a trusted accountability partner can increase the likelihood of your success by up to 95%!

4. Flip It: The book covers a process for not just overcoming problems or obstacles, but instead using them to your advantage. To Flip It isn’t about seeing the reverse. It’s more about seeing the problem or challenge from a different perspective, starting with a complete understanding of the problem, obstacle, challenge or goal.

Hawkins quotes inventor Charles Kettering who once said, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” Before you can solve a problem, you must first understand it. Clarity is paramount. You must be sure that the problem is not confused with the symptom. The problem becomes a challenge, and you must be clear about what impact solving that problem will mean to you or your organization. Most often, there is a larger purpose to the challenge. What’s the true end goal? For example, you may want to run a 10K race, but the larger vision is to be in good enough shape to run it.

5. Surrender: This isn’t about giving up. Instead, it’s about acceptance. Embrace inevitability and unpredictability. Be flexible and pivot when necessary. Sometimes you’ll find a breakthrough in the middle of the darkest problems. During the pandemic of the past two years, when faced with huge obstacles, some companies and brands not only survived but also found ways to thrive. The same is true for people.

We are in a world where change is happening at a faster pace than ever. We are faced with opportunities that are often disguised as problems and challenges. Hunting for the discomfort in your life and seizing it as the chance to have a breakthrough is what successful people do.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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You Can’t Innovate Without This One Thing

You Can't Innovate Without This One Thing

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

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

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

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

What are the qualities that make someone a successful innovator?

70 answers

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

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

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

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

+1 Answer

It’s not. Something is missing.

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

Vulnerability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

n + 1 is the answer

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

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


Here’s the full list of characteristics:

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

And the sources:

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Four Lessons Learned from the Digital Revolution

Four Lessons Learned from the Digital Revolution

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

When Steve Jobs was trying to lure John Sculley from Pepsi to Apple in 1982, he asked him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” The ploy worked and Sculley became the first major CEO of a conventional company to join a hot Silicon Valley startup.

It seems so quaint today, in the midst of a global pandemic, that a young entrepreneur selling what was essentially a glorified word processor thought he was changing the world. The truth is that the digital revolution, despite all the hype, has been something of a disappointment. Certainly it failed to usher in the “new economy” that many expected.

Yet what is also becoming clear is that the shortcomings have less to do with the technology itself, in fact the Covid-19 crisis has shown just how amazingly useful digital technology can be, than with ourselves. We expected technology and markets to do all the work for us. Today, as we embark on a new era of innovation, we need to reflect on what we have learned.

1. We Live In a World of Atoms, Not Bits

In 1996, as the dotcom boom was heating up, the economist W. Brian Arthur published an article in Harvard Business Review that signaled a massive shift in how we view the economy. While traditionally markets are made up of firms that faced diminishing returns, Arthur explained that information-based businesses can enjoy increasing returns.

More specifically, Arthur spelled out that if a business had high up-front costs, network effects and the ability to lock in customers it could enjoy increasing returns. That, in turn, would mean that information-based businesses would compete in winner-take-all markets, management would need to become less hierarchical and that investing heavily to win market share early could become a winning strategy.

Arthur’s article was, in many ways, prescient and before long investors were committing enormous amounts of money to companies without real businesses in the hopes that just a few of these bets would hit it big. In 2011, Marc Andreesen predicted that software would eat the world.

He was wrong. As the recent debacle at WeWork, as well as massive devaluations at firms like Uber, Lyft, and Peloton, shows that there is a limit to increasing returns for the simple reason that we live in a world of atoms, not bits. Even today, information and communication technologies make up only 6% of GDP in OECD countries. Obviously, most of our fate rests with the other 94%.

The Covid-19 crisis bears this out. Sure, being able to binge watch on Netflix and attend meetings on Zoom is enormously helpful, but to solve the crisis we need a vaccine. To do that, digital technology isn’t enough. We need to combine it with synthetic biology to make a real world impact.

2. Businesses Do Not Self Regulate

The case Steve Jobs made to John Sculley was predicated on the assumption that digital technology was fundamentally different from the sugar-water sellers of the world. The Silicon Valley ethos (or conceit as the case may be), was that while traditional businesses were motivated purely by greed, technology businesses answered to a higher calling.

This was no accident. As Arthur pointed out in his 1996 article, while atom-based businesses thrived on predictability and control, knowledge-based businesses facing winner-take-all markets are constantly in search of the “next big thing.” So teams that could operate like mission-oriented “commando units” on a holy quest would have a competitive advantage.

Companies like Google who vowed to not “be evil,” could attract exactly the type of technology “commandos” that Arthur described. They would, as Mark Zuckerberg has put it, “move fast and break things,” but would also be more likely to hit on that unpredictable piece of code that would lead to massively increasing returns.

Unfortunately, as we have seen, businesses do not self-regulate. Knowledge-based businesses like Google and Facebook have proven to be every bit as greedy as their atom-based brethren. Privacy legislation, such as GDPR, is a good first step, but we will need far more than that, especially as we move into post-digital technologies that are far more powerful.

Still, we’re not powerless. Consider the work of Stop Hate For Profit, a broad coalition that includes the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, which has led to an advertiser boycott of Facebook. We can demand that corporations behave how we want them to, not just what the market will bear.

3. As Our Technology Becomes More Powerful, Ethics Matter More Than Ever

Over the past several years some of the sense of wonder and possibility surrounding digital technology gave way to no small amount of fear and loathing. Scandals like the one involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica not only alerted us to how our privacy is being violated, but also to how our democracy has been put at risk.

Yet privacy breaches are just the beginning of our problems. Consider artificial intelligence, which exposes us to a number of ethical challenges, ranging from inherent bias to life and death ethical dilemmas such as the trolley problem. It is imperative that we learn to create algorithms that are auditable, explainable and transparent.

Or consider CRISPR, the gene editing technology, available for just a few hundred dollars, that vastly accelerates our ability to alter DNA. It has the potential to cure terrible diseases such as cancer and Multiple Sclerosis, but also raises troubling issues such as biohacking and designer babies. Worried about some hacker cooking up a harmful computer virus, what about a terrorist cooking up a real virus?

That’s just the start. As quantum and neuromorphic computing become commercially available, most likely within a decade or so, our technology will become exponentially more powerful and the risks will increase accordingly. Clearly, we can no longer just “move fast and break things,” or we’re bound to break something important.

4. We Need a New Way to Evaluate Success

By some measures, we’ve been doing fairly well over the past ten years. GDP has hovered around the historical growth rate of 2.3%. Job growth has been consistent and solid. The stock market has been strong, reflecting robust corporate profits. It has, in fact, been the longest US economic expansion on record.

Yet those figures were masking some very troubling signs, even before the pandemic. Life expectancy in the US has been declining, largely due to drug overdoses, alcohol abuse and suicides. Consumer debt hit record highs in 2019 and bankruptcy rates were already rising. Food insecurity has been an epidemic on college campuses for years.

So, while top-line economic figures painted a rosy picture there was rising evidence that something troubling is afoot. The Business Roundtable partly acknowledged this fact with its statement discarding the notion that creating shareholder value is the sole purpose of a business. There are also a number of initiatives designed to replace GDP with broader measures.

The truth is that our well-being can’t be reduced to and reduced to a few tidy metrics and we need more meaning in our lives than more likes on social media. Probably the most important thing that the digital revolution has to teach us is that technology should serve people and not the other way around. If we really want to change the world for the better, that’s what we need to keep in mind.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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