Tag Archives: Thought Leadership

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

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

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Most of my advice to leaders who want to use innovation to grow their businesses boils down to two things*:

  1. Talk (and listen) to customers
  2. Do something

But what if you don’t want to talk to customers?

After all, talking to customers can be scary because you don’t know what they’ll say. It can be triggering if they say something mean about your product, your business, or even you as a person. It can be draining, especially if you’re an introvert.

Plus, there are so many ways to avoid talking to customers – Send a survey, hire a research firm to write a report, invoke the famous Steve Jobs quote about never doing customer research.

Isn’t it just better to stay tucked away in the office, read reports, state opinions as if they are facts (those opinions are based on experience, after all), and make decisions?

Nope.

It is not better. It is also not safer, easier, or more efficient.

To make the best decisions, you need the best data, which comes from your customers.

But that doesn’t mean you need to talk to them to get it.

The best data

The best data helps you understand why your customers do what they do. This is why Jobs to be Done is such a powerful tool – it uncovers the emotional and social Jobs to be Done that drive our behavior and choices (functional Jobs to be Done are usually used to justify our choices).

But discovering Jobs to be Done typically requires you to talk to people, build rapport and trust in a one-on-one conversation, and ask Why? dozens of times so surface emotional and social JTBD.

Luckily, there are other ways to find Jobs to be Done that don’t require you to become an unlicensed therapist.

Observe your customers

Go where your customers are (or could be) experiencing the problem you hope to solve and try to blend in. Watch what people are doing and what they’re not doing. Notice whether people are alone or with others (and who those others are – kids, partners, colleagues, etc.). Listen to the environment (is it loud or quiet? If there’s noise, what kind of noise?) and to what people are saying to each other.

Be curious. Write down everything you’re observing. Wonder why and write down your hypotheses. Share your observations with your colleagues. Ask them to go out, observe, wonder, and share. Together you may discover answers or work up the courage to have a conversation.

Quick note – Don’t be creepy about this. Don’t lurk behind clothing racks, follow people through stores, peep through windows, linger too long, or wear sunglasses, a trench coat, and a fedora on a 90-degree day, so you look inconspicuous. If people start giving you weird looks, find a new place to people-watch.

Observe yourself

Humans are fascinating, and because you are a human, you are fascinating. So, observe yourself when you’re experiencing the problem you’re hoping to solve. Notice where you are, who is with you, the environment, and how you feel. Watch what you do and don’t do. Wonder why you chose one solution over another (or none).

Be curious. Write down everything you did, saw, and felt and why. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Share your observations with your colleagues and find points of commonality and divergence, then get curious all over again.

Quick note – This only works if you have approximately the same demographic and psychographic profiles and important and unsatisfied Jobs to be Done of your target customers.

Be your customer

What if your business solves a problem that can’t be easily observed? What if you don’t have the problem that your business is trying to solve?

Become your customer (and observe yourself).

Several years ago, I worked with a client that made adult incontinence products. I couldn’t observe people using their products, and I do not have important (or unsatisfied) Jobs to be Done that the products can solve.

So, for one day, I became a customer. I went to Target and purchased their product. I went home, wore, and used the product. I developed a deep empathy for the customer and wrote down roughly 1 million ways to innovate the product and experience.

Quick note – Depending on what’s required to “be your customer,” you may need to give people a heads up. My husband was incredibly patient and understanding but also a little concerned on the day of the experiment.

It’s about what you learn, not how you learn it

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is one best way to get insights. I’m 100% guilty (one-on-one conversations are a hill I have died on multiple times).

Ultimately, when it comes to innovation and decision-making, the more important thing is having, believing, and using insights into why customers do what they do and want what they want. How you get those insights is an important but secondary consideration.

* Each of those two things contains A TON of essential stuff that must be done the right way at the right time otherwise, they won’t work, but we’ll get into those things in another article

Image Credit: Pixabay

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

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Meeting face to face, for a lovely lunch recently, with a coaching colleague, we were both shocked to discover how stressed and anxious we were feeling about being asked to deliver live workshops and face-to-face coaching to clients once again.

We shared how emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed we felt, despite having decades of knowledge, experience, and skills in being able to deliver deep learning programs and face-to-face coaching sessions, about doing live gigs again! We also agreed, that despite the range of largely effective emotionally intelligent coping strategies we developed to help ourselves and our clients self-regulate, self-manage, to better adapt to the pandemic-imposed work-from-home restrictions that the past two and half years of working, alone, and in isolation, online, had taken its toll.

We acknowledged and accepted that we along with many of our clients were all suffering from elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety. We then agreed that it was time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves and our clients reconnect and reset by enabling them to create states of well-being, emotional agility, and mental fitness, where they can feel good, can function well, and be effective and innovative in an increasingly chaotic world.

To seek new ways of enabling ourselves and our clients to deal effectively with a range of unresourceful feelings including helplessness, powerlessness, and fearfulness about an uncertain future. 

We noticed that these feelings often caused many of our clients to contract and freeze, and become immobilised as a result of what we describe as a “bubble” of self-induced silo-based behaviours. That often evolved into extreme self-centeredness, and unconscious selfishness, which ultimately increased their feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of belonging, resulting in defensive and avoidant behaviours, in what is becoming an increasingly chaotic world.

How are these ways of being and acting impacting organisations?

Partnering in a wide range of online global coaching sessions, we noticed that a number of common trends emerged as to how our client’s teams and organisations, are being impacted at the cultural level:

  • Immobilization – many people are unable to self-manage their work from home workloads and are quietly burning out, through being overly task-focused and busy, whilst others are preferring to work autonomously, and not waste hours commuting.
  • Lacking safety and trust – many organisations are freezing all of their change initiatives, learning programs, and projects, causing people to fear loss and overall job insecurity, where many people are contracting more deeply within their “bubbles” and become even more distrustful of leadership and even more passively defensive and avoidant.
  • Lacking clarity and foresight – many organisations have slipped into being so reactive, focussing only on delivering short-term results, and are not communicating a clear strategy for leading the way forwards.

Resulting in:

  • Increased resistance to change and going back to the office adds to people’s inertia, and to their sense of disconnection and lack of belonging.
  • Increased risk adversity and conventional (cost cutting), tactical and short-term focus, inhibits any investment in Research and Development or the skills development required in developing and executing a future innovation strategy.
  • People have become even more fearful of failure, and are not stretching themselves to adapt, grow, learn and innovate with disruption, and often choosing to merely change jobs, in a competitive job marketplace, driven by scarcity, as a perceived short term solution.

A unique moment in time

This has created an opportunity, in this unique moment in time, to focus on being kinder to ourselves and to others by helping and supporting each other, respectfully and compassionately, creatively and courageously, to reconnect and reset. Despite rising levels of economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest.

What made sense yesterday may not make so much sense today.

Many of the mental models we applied yesterday may not be relevant for tomorrow because corporate culture, civic and social structures have drastically changed and digitalization has become commonplace, noting that we are shifting from a VUCA to BANI world where:

  • Brittle has replaced Volatility.
  • Anxiety reflects Uncertainty.
  • Non-linearity is an addition to Complexity.
  • Incomprehensibility is ultimately the consequence of our non-linear world and goes one step further than Ambiguity.

Paradoxically, this has created new openings to genuinely explore and discover new thresholds to adapt, generate new mindsets, develop skill sets, and power up our toolkits to keep pace with the effects of the emerging BANI world and capture complex systems by asking a  key generative or catalytic question:

How might you support and enable others to think and act differently in such a world, where old patterns seem to crumble while new ideas and systems still need to be created, invented, innovated, and established?

As the world of work changes, so does the need for everyone to consider how to be more open-hearted, minded, and willed with one another.

A final word from Gallop CEO Jon Preston in the Gallop Global Emotions Report:

“All over the world, people are trying to understand the rise of violence, hatred, and increased radicalization. They will continue to argue over what the best policy responses should be and what role social media plays in fueling negative emotions.

However, policymakers must understand why so many more people are experiencing unprecedented negative emotions and focus on the drivers of a great life.

Our shared humanity and wellbeing depend on it”.

When we generously and kindly demonstrate care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, we can also demonstrate helpfulness and support, through our unconditional willingness to reconnect and reset.

Resulting in an ability to co-create a better sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, through enhancing our emotional intelligence.  To effectively self-regulation and self-manage the superpowers and strategies required to thrive, flourish and flow, and make transformational changes in the face of relentless uncertainty, disruption, and a chaotic world.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. You can also register for our free 45-minute masterclass on Thursday, 25th August, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future! Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

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

‘Fail Fast’ is BS. Do This Instead

'Fail Fast' is BS. Do This Instead

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“Fail Fast”

It’s an innovation mantra uttered by everyone, from an entry-level programmer at a start-up to a Fortune 100 CEO.

But let’s be honest.

NO ONE WANTS TO FAIL!

(at any speed)

The reality is that we work in companies that reward success and relentlessly encourage us to become great at a specific skill, role, or function. As a result, our natural and rational aversion to failure is amplified, and most of us won’t even start something if there’s a chance that we won’t be great at it right away.

It’s why, despite your best efforts to encourage your team to take risks and embrace “failure,” nothing changes.

A Story of Failure?

A few weeks ago, while on vacation, I dusted off an old copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. As a kid, I was reasonably good at drawing, so I wasn’t worried about being bad, just rusty.

Then I read the first exercise: Before beginning instruction, draw each of the following:

  • “A Person, Drawn from Memory”
  • “Self-Portrait”
  • “My Hand”

I stared at the page. Thoughts raced through my head:

  • You have to be kidding me! These are the three most challenging things to draw. Even for a professional!
  • How am I supposed to do this without instructions?
  • Maybe I’ll skip this step, read the rest of the book to get the instructions I need, then come back and try this once I have all the information.
  • Forget it. I’m not doing this.

Confronted by not one but THREE things to be bad at, I was ready to quit.

Then I took a deep breath, picked up my trusty #2 pencil, and started to draw.

The results were terrible.

A Story of Success

It would be easy to look at my drawings and declare them a failure – my husband is missing his upper lip, I look like a witch straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the thumb on my left hand is the same length as my index finger.

But I didn’t fail*.

I started

I did my best

I learned a lot

I did better the next time.

By these standards, my first attempts were a success**

Ask for what you want

Isn’t that what you want your team to do?

To stop analyzing and posturing and start doing.

To do their best with what they have and know now, instead of worrying about all the possibilities.

To admit their mistakes and share their learnings.

To respond to what they learned, even if it means shutting down a project, and keep growing.

Ask them to do those things.

Ask them to “Learn fast.”

Your people want to learn. They want to get smarter and do better. Encourage that.

Ask them to keep learning.

Your team will forget that their first attempt will be uncomfortable and their first result terrible. That’s how learning starts. It’s called “growing pains,” not “growing tickles,” for a reason.

Ask them to share what they learned.

Your team will want to hide their mistakes, but that doesn’t make anyone better or wiser. Sharing what they did and what they learned makes everyone better. Reward them for it.

Ask the team what’s next

It’s not enough to learn one thing quickly. You need to keep learning. Your team is in the trenches, and they know what works, what doesn’t, and why. Ask for their opinions, listen carefully, discuss, and decide together what to learn next.

You don’t want your team to fail.

You want them to succeed.

Ask them to do what’s necessary to achieve that

“Act Now. Learn Fast.”

*Achieving perfect (or even realistic) results on my first attempt is impossible. You can’t fail at something impossible

** To be clear, I’m not making a case for “participation trophies.”  You gotta do more than just show up (or read the book). You gotta do the work. But remember, sometimes success is simply starting.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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

Why Data-Based Decisions Will Lead You Straight to Hell

Why Data-Based Decisions Will Lead You Straight to Hell

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Many years ago, Clay Christensen visited his firm where I was a partner and told us a story*.

“I imagine the day I die and present myself at the entrance to Heaven,” he said. “The Lord will show me around, and the beauty and majesty will overcome me. Eventually, I will notice that there are no numbers or data in Heaven, and I will ask the Lord why that is.”

“Data lies,” the Lord will respond. “Nothing that lies can be in Heaven. So, if people want data, I tell them to go to Hell.”

We all chuckled at the punchline and at the strength of the language Clay used (if you ever met him, you know that he was an incredibly gentle and soft-spoken man, so using the phrase “go to Hell” was the equivalent of your parents unleashing a five-minute long expletive-laden rant).

“If you want data, go to Hell.”

Clay’s statement seems absolutely blasphemous, especially in a society that views quantitative data as the ultimate source of truth:

  • “In God we trust. All others bring data.” W. Edward Deming, founding Father of Total Quality Management (TQM)
  •  “Above all else, show the data.” – Edward R. Tufte, a pioneer in the field of data visualization
  • “What gets measured gets managed” – Peter Drucker, father of modern management studies

But it’s not entirely wrong.

Quantitative Data’s blessing: A sense of safety

As humans, we crave certainty and safety. This was true millennia ago when we needed to know whether the rustling in the leaves was the wind or a hungry predator preparing to leap and tear us limb from lime. And it’s true today when we must make billion-dollar decisions about buying companies, launching products, and expanding into new geographies.

We rely on data about company valuation and cash flow, market size and growth, and competitor size and strategy to make big decisions, trusting that it is accurate and will continue to be true for the foreseeable future.

Quantitative Data’s curse: The past does not predict the future

As leaders navigating an increasingly VUCA world, we know we must prepare for multiple scenarios, operate with agility, and be willing to pivot when change happens.

Yet we rely on data that describes the past.

We can extrapolate it, build forecasts, and create models, but the data will never tell us with certainty what will happen in the future. It can’t even tell us the Why (drivers, causal mechanisms) behind the What it describes.

The Answer: And not Or

Quantitative data Is useful. It gives us the sense of safety we need to operate in a world of uncertainty and a starting point from which to imagine the future(s).

But, it is not enough to give the clarity or confidence we need to make decisions leading to future growth and lasting competitive advantage.

To make those decisions, we need quantitative data AND qualitative insights.

We need numbers and humans.

Qualitative Insight’s blessing: A view into the future

Humans are the source of data. Our beliefs, motivations, aspirations, and actions are tracked and measured, and turned into numbers that describe what we believed, wanted, and did in the past.

By understanding human beliefs, motivations, and aspirations (and capturing them as qualitative insights), we gain insight into why we believed, wanted, and did those things and, as a result, how those beliefs, motivations, aspirations, and actions could change and be changed. With these insights, we can develop strategies and plans to change or maintain beliefs and motivations and anticipate and prepare for events that could accelerate or hinder our goals. And yes, these insights can be quantified.

Qualitative Insight’s curse: We must be brave

When discussing the merit of pursuing or applying qualitative research, it’s not uncommon for someone to trot out the saying (erroneously attributed to Henry Ford), “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a horse that goes twice as fast and eats half as much.”

Pushing against that assertion requires you to be brave. To let go of your desire for certainty and safety, take a risk, and be intellectually brave.

Being brave is hard. Staying safe is easy. It’s rational. It’s what any reasonable person would do. But safe, rational, and reasonable people rarely change the world.

One more story

In 1980, McKinsey predicted that the worldwide market for cell phones would max out at 900,000 subscribers. They based this prediction on solid data, analyzed by some of the most intelligent people in business. The data and resulting recommendations made sense when presented to AT&T, McKinsey’s client.

Five years later, there were 340,213 subscribers, and McKinsey looked pretty smart. In 1990, there were 5.3 million subscribers, almost 6x McKinsey’s prediction.   In 1994, there were 24.1M subscribers in the US alone (27x McKinsey’s global forecast), and AT&T was forced to pay $12.6B to acquire McCaw Cellular.

Should AT&T have told McKinsey to “go to Hell?”  No.

Should AT&T have thanked McKinsey for going to (and through) Hell to get the data, then asked whether they swung by earth to talk to humans and understand their Jobs to be Done around communication? Yes.

Because, as Box founder Aaron Levie reminds us,

“Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent’s market is like sizing a car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.”

* Except for the last line, these probably (definitely) weren’t his exact words, but they are an accurate representation of what I remember him saying

Image Credit: Pixabay

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

Cultivate Innovation by Managing with Empathy

Cultivate Innovation by Managing with Empathy

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Managing with empathy is a leader’s superpower. Empathy opens the door to increased innovation, collaboration, and engagement.

Experts assert that empathy is the single most important skill in today’s workplace and the numbers don’t lie: 76% of workers with empathetic leaders are reportedly more motivated and engaged than those who experience leadership with less empathy.

Leaders can harness the power of empathy to create a more collaborative and engaged culture at work. In this article, we explore empathetic leadership in the following topics:

  • What is Workplace Empathy?
  • Becoming an Empathetic Leader
  • The Benefits of Managing a Team With Empathy
  • The Connection Between Empathy and innovation

What is Workplace Empathy?

Managing with empathy requires a keen understanding of the nuances of workplace empathy and empathetic leadership. Empathy allows one to understand another person’s emotions, actions, and thoughts. Our emotional or social intelligence helps us practice empathy and understand the mindsets and emotions of others.

Empathy belongs in the workplace. While work-related responsibilities should be top of mind, your team members won’t be able to do their best work if they feel as though their emotions and feelings are invalidated or ignored. It’s crucial that team members feel as though their feelings and emotions are prioritized both in their professional and personal lives. With the power of empathy, team leaders and managers can shift company culture for the better and motivate their team to be the best version of themselves.

Empathetic leaders understand the three types of empathy:

1. Cognitive Empathy

Cognitive empathy relates to connecting to another person’s mentality and understanding how certain situations influence their thoughts. Cognitive empathy is related to “theory of mind” that explores how someone can think like another and predict what their future behavior may be.

2. Somatic Empathy

Somatic empathy occurs when one experiences a physical response to another’s feelings or experience.

3. Affective Empathy

Affective empathy involves understanding another’s emotions and responding most appropriately.

Becoming an Empathetic Leader

Managing with empathy is possible for all leaders and team members willing to start within. To connect emotionally with others, you have to first prioritize your connection with yourself. By cultivating your emotional intelligence and understanding your own emotions and feelings, you’ll be better equipped to lead with empathy.

In today’s ever-changing climate, workers have to navigate the likes of diverse workforces, virtualized teams, and global economic challenges. Being able to adapt and sympathize with the perspective and experiences of others will help you improve your empathetic leadership.

Consider the following steps to amplify your emotional intelligence and grow your leadership skills:

1. Listen

Listening to your team is one of the fastest ways to start managing with empathy. With every conversation comes the opportunity to build a better relationship and affirm your team member’s emotions. In each conversation, be sure to pay attention, avoid distractions, and wait for the person to finish before you speak.

In addition to letting your team members fully share their opinions, the art of listening requires you to fully understand the emotions that are behind each conversation. This includes understanding nonverbal cues, identifying the tone of voice, and paying attention to body language. If you’re working remotely, managing with empathy can be particularly challenging. Take advantage of voice notes, video chats, SMS messaging, and sending photos and videos to ensure you’re virtually communicating as comprehensively as possible.

2. Get Personal

Though personal bonds in the workplace are often discouraged, building healthy professional relationships is an effective way to start managing with empathy. By forming personal connections with your team members, you’ll encourage a culture of open communication and alignment. As you both connect, you’ll find commonalities in your shared vision and values.

3. Adopt their Point of View

As an empathetic leader, it’s essential to gain emotional insight into what your team is feeling and thinking by adopting their point of view. Whether your company is remote or in-person, it isn’t always easy to understand the perspective or emotional state of your team. While some leaders shy away from discussing emotions and feelings at work, the truth is that learning more about each employee’s emotional state will help you understand how they approach their work and why they work the way they do.

4. Get Leadership Training

Managing with empathy doesn’t always come naturally. Take the opportunity to invest in leadership training to learn how to better incorporate your emotional intelligence and empathy into your management style. With the help of professional leaders, you’ll learn how to emotionally connect with your team and manage the personal and professional challenges that come your way. Consider courses in facilitation and change management as you learn the ins and outs of empathetic leadership.

The Benefits of Managing a Team With Empathy

Don’t put empathy on the backburner. While it takes time and intention to cultivate a company culture rooted in empathy, making the journey to create an emotionally intelligent environment is worth it.

Consider the following benefits of managing with empathy:

1. Better Relationships

Better relationships are a direct benefit of managing with empathy. Empathy helps team members emotionally connect as they identify personal interests and can freely communicate with each other. Use empathy to deepen relationships by asking questions about how others feel and providing careful and thoughtful responses.

2. Enhanced Teamwork

Empathy is a key ingredient in designing stronger teams. Managing with empathy encourages a desire for team members to help each other and work together. As you learn more about the challenges your team faces, you’ll naturally want to assist them in finding solutions. This type of cooperation encourages a culture of camaraderie where team members feel as though they are a critical part of each other’s success.

3. A Stronger Work-Life Balance

Empathy is a natural part of a stronger work-life balance. At times, challenges from one’s personal life can affect the way team members approach work obligations. Understanding their challenges will help you shape a better work-life balance for your team. Whether they need more time off or want more remote work, listening to and understanding their needs will help them create a healthier balance between their personal and professional lives.

4. Increased Innovation

A workforce of engaged and emotionally aligned employees allows for increased innovation. A workplace culture of empathy helps to develop soft skills such as curiosity, generosity, and equality, which encourages team members to design new creative and collaborative solutions.

The Link Between Empathy and Innovation

The link between innovation and empathy is undeniable. Empathetic leadership allows us to understand and relate to each other in a deeply profound and authentic way. Empathy is an incredible tool for innovation as it works to encourage companies and teams to center the needs and feelings of others.

By encouraging team members to adopt another’s point of view, leaders can utilize empathy as a problem-solving framework. Empathy places the experience and satisfaction of others at the heart of the creative and collaborative process. These empathetic techniques and behaviors are undoubtedly linked to the most effective designs, products, and creative solutions.

In the workplace, empathy naturally reinforces a culture of innovation as it encourages and validates the feelings and opinions of others. Regardless of the problems at hand, human-centered thinking encourages organizations to empathetically eliminate their biases, reservations, and judgment to arrive at the solution that benefits the end-user and their fellow team members the most.

If innovation is at the heart of your company, it’s time to start managing with empathy. Voltage Control offers custom programs built around connection, psychological safety, community, and play. Connect with us today to learn how to use empathetic leadership for the greatest good.

Article originally published at VoltageControl.com

Image Credit: Pexels

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

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

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

Innovating Through Adversity and Constraints

Innovating Through Adversity and Constraints

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been almost two and a half years since most of us shifted to working virtually and remotely, which, in turn, seriously disrupted most of our business-as-usual behaviors and learning habits. Interestingly, this also disrupted our habitual unconscious safety and comfort zones, and, in many cases, disconnected our overall sense of security. For some of us, our ability to make sense of ourselves and our futures, has been impacted, impacting our abilities to find new ways of being creative and innovating through the range of constraints and adverse situations.

Looking inward

Some of us have also had our confidence to survive and thrive in a world severely impacted, and many of us have felt exploited, exhausted, and depleted by our employers. According to Lynda Gratton, in a recent article in MIT Sloane Magazine “Making Sense of the Future” many of us are looking inward — working through the impact of our changing habits, networks, and skills, and begin to imagine other life trajectories and possible selves.

Looking outward

Again, according to Lynda Gratton, some of us are now also looking outward to analyze how talent markets are changing and what competitors are doing, which is creating momentum and a force for change, but also frustration and anxiety, given institutional lag and inertia.

The larger-than-life, terrible, and confronting conflict in Ukraine has also inflated, for some of us, a deeper sense of helplessness and exhaustion, and amplified our concerns and fears for a sustainable future.

The momentum for change is growing 

Yet some people have successfully responded to worries and concerns about the inertia holding our companies back, and have adapted to working, learning, and coaching online. Using this moment in time to help de-escalate our reactivity to what’s been going on to deeply connect, explore, discover, listen, and respond creatively to what is really important, to ourselves, our people, teams and our organizations.

To help shift the tension between today and tomorrow, through regenerating and replenishing ourselves and our teams, by shifting the dialogue towards renewing and innovating through constraints and adversity in uncertain and unstable times.

Innovating through constraints at ImagineNation™

Innovating through constraints enabled the collective at ImagineNation™ to design and deliver a bespoke, intense, and immersive learning journey for an executive team aiming at igniting and mobilizing their collective genius to step up to face their fears, adapt, take smart risks and innovate in uncertain and disruptive times!

Some of the constraints we collaboratively and creatively mastered included adapting to differing:

  • Geographies, we are based in Melbourne, Australia, and our client was based in Canada, which made managing time zone schedules challenging, including some very early 4.30 am starts for us –  Making flexibility and adaptiveness crucial to our success.  
  • Technologies, balancing Zoom-based online webinars and workshops, with Google chat rooms and jamboards, completing one on one coaching sessions, and assigning, completing, and presenting group action learning assignments – Reinforcing the need for constant iteration and pivoting to ensure the delivery of outcomes, as promised.
  • Communicating, including air freighting hard copy reflection packs, scheduling, and partnering virtually, all within a remote and fractured working environment –Ensuring that clarity and consistency would lead to the successful delivery of the outcomes, as promised.

Shifting the dialogue

Demonstrating that we can all be resilient and creative when we live in times of great uncertainty and instability through investing in reskilling people and teams to become more purposeful, human, and customer-centric.

We can all break the inertia by challenging our business-as-usual thinking and shifting the dialogue towards exploring our inner challenges and navigating the outer challenges of our current environment.

If we commit to doing this with more consciousness, hope, optimism, and control, to follow a direction rather than a specific destination by:

  • Perceiving this moment in time as an “unfreezing opportunity” and an opening to shift out of inertia and complacency, to re-generate and re-invent ourselves and our teams?
  • Knowing how to connect, explore, discover, generate and catalyze creative ideas to rapidly and safely unlearn, relearn, collaborate and innovate through constraints and adversity?
  • Committing to letting go of our “old baggage” and ways of making sense of our new reality, by experimenting with smart risk-taking, and making gamification accessible in an environment that is unpredictable?

Re-generating and re-inventing in uncertain and unstable times

In fact, many of us successfully adapted to online working, learning, and coaching environments by de-escalating any feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

To bravely focus on regenerating and reinventing ourselves and our teams and using this moment in time to be curious, shift the dialogue, explore possibilities, harness collective intelligence and ask some catalytic questions:

  • What if we intentionally disrupted our current way of thinking?
  • How might we think differently to shift our perception and perceive our worlds with “fresh eyes”? What might be possible?
  • What if we shift the dialogue to engage people in innovating through constraints?
  • How might we shift the dialogue to activate and mobilize people towards taking intelligent risks through constraints?
  • How might thinking differently empower, enable and equip ourselves and our teams to navigate the current environment with more hope and optimism?
  • What if re-consider and perceive these constraints differently?
  • How might we support people to ignite their creativity?
  • How might we equip people to be creative and develop better ideas?
  • How might we resource people to force more change and innovation?
  • How might we discover new ways of creating value for people in ways that they appreciate and cherish?

Grappling with the future is paradoxical

Finally, Lynda Gratton suggests that we need to:

“Acknowledge that this is not straightforward. Right now, many leaders are stuck between two sources of tension: the tension of enlightenment, where they can begin to imagine what is possible, and the tension of denial, where they are concerned that more flexible working arrangements will negatively affect performance. They grapple with whether the change will be necessary or possible. These are legitimate tensions that are only exacerbated by the sense of exhaustion many people feel”.

If we perceive these constraints as catalysts for setting a clear focus and direction, it might force us to experiment with creative ways of acting and doing things differently.

It might also force us to make tougher decisions around our inner and outer priorities, by exploring and discovering more balanced, creative, and inventive ways of constantly iterating and pivoting whatever resources are available to get the important jobs done.

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.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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

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

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

Dare to Think Differently

Dare to Think Differently

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

As many of my colleagues are aware, I am at heart, a maverick, an unorthodox or independent-minded person. Who is curious and inquisitive, and finds change and challenging the status quo exciting, fascinating and stimulating. I am also, considered, by some, as a misfit, someone whose behaviors and attitudes sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way, that often rocks the boat. There is a range of consequences for people like me, who dare to think differently, especially now that I have also achieved the status of a Modern Elder – “the perfect alchemy of curious and wise, with curiosity leading to expansive inquiry while wisdom distills what’s essential.”

Coupled with both the challenges and constraints of the currently disrupted Covid-19 and digitized world, I am finding that the consequences of being different have intensified, become more impactful, and are often, quite confronting. Where differences cause resistance to change, divisiveness, and conflict, rather than maximizing differences in ways that embrace our humanity, diversity, to harness collective intelligence to make the organization, or world a better, more inclusive, and safer place.

Diversity is of the Essence

According to Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Dignity of Difference- How to avoid the clash of civilizations,” he states that “we are living in the conscious presence of difference”.

Which exists in the home, in the street, in our workplaces, communities, and countries where we constantly encounter groups and cultures whose ideas and ideals are unlike ours. “That can be experienced as a profound threat to identity. Identity divides.” Considering that “the world is not a single machine, it is a complex, interactive ecology in which diversity – the biological, personal, cultural and religious – is of the essence.”

“When difference leads to war, both sides lose. When it leads to mutual enrichment, both sides gain.”

As is currently being evidenced by the tense and tentative Ukrainian and Russian border confrontation, with its potentially tragic consequences. Where Yuval Noah Harari states in a recent article in The Economist – “At the heart of the Ukraine crisis lies a fundamental question about the nature of history and the nature of humanity: is change possible? Can humans change the way they behave, or does history repeat itself endlessly, with humans forever condemned to re-enact past tragedies without changing anything except the décor”?

People Who Dare to Think Differently

Adam Grant, in his book “The Originals – How Non-Conformists Change the World” describes an original (n) as “A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity”.

The book goes on to explain strategies, through studies and stories how to champion new ideas and fight groupthink, in constructive ways that maximize diversity and differences and promote dissent, as the basis for cultivating original thought to effect positive change.

Ray Dallio, in his book Principles explores this further, suggesting that “if you are like most people, you have no clue about how other people see things and aren’t good at seeking to understand what they are thinking because you’re too preoccupied with telling them what you yourself think is correct.” Often causing divisiveness rather than inclusion, resistance to change, and as a consequence, missing the possibilities and opportunities that may be present.

This also impedes our overall adaptiveness and creativity in an exponentially changing, world, to make real progress, and constructively change and limits the potential for innovation, growth and ability to contribute to the common good.

Change Management Has Changed

In a recent article from the Boston Consulting Group, they stated that  “Effective change management requires leaders to shift away from one-size-fits-all approaches and develop an expanded set of context-specific strategies”.

Which are truly adaptive, collaborative, energize, catalyze change, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective intelligence, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all, and contribute to the common good.

To ultimately collectively co-create a set of different, empowered future-fit leaders, teams, and organizations – who courageously, compassionately, and creatively contribute toward an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

Welcoming Dissent and Thoughtful Disagreement

At ImagineNation™ we dare to think differently and teach train, and coach people and teams to maximize their potential to lead, manage, coach, through implementing and embedding change and innovation, differently.

We enable people to lead in the imagination age by empowering, enabling, and equipping them to be and think differently to:

  • Flow with some people’s need to be “right” and in control, when they are being defensive, abusive, and divisive, even when disagreement and conflict occur.
  • Artfully and skillfully use cognitive dissonance and creative tension to pull people towards a new possibility and envision a new and compelling future.
  • Be inclusive to support mutual enrichment, through co-sensemaking, that helps them create “order” (in their own context) and simplicity from complexity and change.
  • Self-regulate and self-manage emotionally in the face of uncertainty and volatility.
  • Be relatable, empathic, inspiring, and artfully and skillfully influential in helping people open their minds and hearts toward co-creation, collaboration, and experimentation that ensures a shared contribution for mutual gain.
  • Be creative and inventive to maximize their multiple and collective intelligences through learning, contrarian thinking, constructive debate, and creative conversations that generate discovery.

In ways that engage deep generative listening, inquiry, questioning, and differing that uses cognitive dissonance to unleash the creative energy that triggers and generates thinking differently.

When people are trusted and empowered to think differently, they co-create a frequency that allows, awakens, and activates their adaptive and innovative leadership qualities, consciousness, states, and qualities of mind and heart, to effect positive change.

Taking wise and intelligent action

It also enables them to wisely choose the most intelligent actions that result in adaptive and innovative outcomes.

This helps creativity to flourish and disrupts and interrupts those people, whose complacency, conformity, and rigidity create divisions, and feelings of desolation and exclusion that kill our capacity and competence to collaborate, create and invent.

Leaving me to wonder and inquire;

  • What if the “strangers” among us simply listen, with open minds and open hearts to the thought, feelings, and opinions of others, with both curiosity and detachment?
  • What if we could collectively co-create safe containers and collective holding spaces, that maximize our differences and diversity, and simply share a creative conversation about what could be possible?
  • How might we maximize our diversity of thought, to enable us to think differently about the issue, opportunity, or problem in ways that supported differences for mutual enrichment?

There is no wisdom on one point of view

Might this result in a deeper connection when there is polarization between people?

Might it be possible to co-sense and co-create a sense of inclusion, and an opening for a deeper philosophical exploration and discovery for thinking differently about the role, nature of and impact prescriptive points of view on how people truly feel, really think, and deeply act in our globalized and connected world?

Might it help us collectively to co-create making it a better place?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, 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 to upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more.

Image credit: Unsplash

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