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3 Steps to a Truly Terrific Innovation Team

3 Steps to a Truly Terrific Innovation Team

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“What had a bigger impact on the project? The process you introduced or the people on the team?”

As much as I wanted to give all the credit to my brilliant process, I had to tell the truth.

“People. It’s always people.”

The right people doing the right work in the right way at the right time can do incredible, even impossible, things. But replace any “right” in the previous sentence, and even the smallest things can feel impossible. A process can increase the odds of doing the right work in the right way, but it’s no guarantee. It’s powerless in the hands of the wrong people.

But how do you assemble the right group of people?  Start with the 3 Ts.

Type of Innovation

We’re all guilty of using ‘innovation’ to describe anything that is even a little bit new and different. And we’ve probably all been punished for it.

Finding the right people for innovation start with defining what type of innovation they will work on:

  • Incremental: updating/modifying existing offerings that serve existing customers
  • Adjacent: creating new offerings for existing customers OR re-positioning existing offerings to serve new customers
  • Radical: new offerings or business models for new customers

Different innovation types require teams to grapple with different levels of ambiguity and uncertainty.  Teams working on incremental innovations face low levels of ambiguity because they are modifying something that already exists, and they have relative certainty around cause and effect.  However, teams working on radical innovations spend months grappling with ambiguity, certain only that they don’t know what they don’t know.

Time to launch

Regardless of the type of innovation, each innovation goes through roughly the same four steps:

  1. Discover a problem to be solved
  2. Design solutions
  3. Develop and test prototypes
  4. Launch and measure

The time allotted to work through all four steps determines the pace of the team’s work and, more importantly, how stakeholders make decisions. For example, the more time you have between the project start and the expected launch, the more time you have to explore, play, create, experiment, and gather robust data to inform decisions.  But if you’re expected to go from project start to project launch in a year or less, you need to work quickly and make decisions based on available (rather than ideal) data.

Tasks to accomplish

Within each step of the innovation process are different tasks, and different people have different abilities and comfort levels with each.  This is why there is growing evidence that experience in the phase of work is more important than industry or functional expertise for startups.

There are similar data for corporate innovators. In a study of over 100,000 people, researchers identified the type and prevalence of four types of innovators every organization needs:

  1. Generators (17% of the sample): Find new problems and ideate based on their own experience.
  2. Conceptualizers (19%): Define the problem and understand it through abstract analysis, most comfortable in early phases of innovation (e.g., Discover and Design)
  3. Implementers (41%): Put solutions to work through experiments and adjustments, most comfortable in later stages of innovation (Develop and Launch)
  4. Optimizers (23%):  Systematically examine all alternatives to implement the best possible solution

Generators and Conceptualizers are most comfortable in the early stages of innovation (i.e., Discover and Design).  Implementers and Optimizers are most comfortable in the later stages (e.g., Develop and Launch).  The challenge for companies is that only 36% of employees fall into one of those two categories, and most tend to be senior managers and executives.

Taking Action

Putting high performers on innovation teams is tempting, and top talent often perceives such assignments as essential to promotion.  But no one enjoys or benefits when the work they’re doing isn’t the work they’re good at.  Instead, take time to work through the 3Ts, and you’ll assemble a truly terrific innovation team.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Why is it important to innovate in 2023?

Why is it important to innovate in 2023?

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

At ImagineNation™ we have just celebrated 10 years as a global innovation consultancy, learning, and coaching company. During this time, we’ve identified some of the common patterns that people demonstrate as a result of feeling uncomfortable, frozen, inert, stubborn, and confused and as a result, are resistant to innovation. Where many organizations, teams, and leaders appear to walk backward as if they are sleepwalking through this time in their lives.

At the same time, we know that innovation is transformational, and why, at this moment in time, it is more important than ever to create, invent and innovate. We also know that is crucial to be better balanced, resilient, and adaptive to grow and flow, survive and thrive, in today’s chaotic BANI environment. We also know exactly what transformative innovation involves, and how to enable and equip people to connect and collaborate in new ways to effect constructive and sustainable change in a world of unknowns.

Innovation is, in fact, the water of life!

Shaping the next normal

According to a recent article by McKinsey and Co “The future is not what it used to be: Thoughts on the shape of the next normal” the coronavirus crisis is a “world-changing event” which is forcing both the pace and scale of workplace innovation.

Stating that businesses are forced to do more with less and that many are finding better, simpler, less expensive, and faster ways to operate.  Describing how innovative health systems, through necessity, constraints, and adversity have exploited this moment in time, to innovate:

“The urgency of addressing COVID-19 has also led to innovations in biotech, vaccine development, and the regulatory regimes that govern drug development so that treatments can be approved and tried faster. In many countries, health systems have been hard to reform; this crisis has made the difficulty much easier to achieve. The result should be a more resilient, responsive, and effective health system”.

We all know that it is impossible to know what will happen in the future and yet, that it is possible to consider and learn from the lessons of the past, both distant and recent.  On that basis, it’s crucial to take time out, be hopeful, and positive, and think optimistically about the future. To be proactive and innovate to shape the kind of future we all wish to have, through making constructive and sustainable changes, that ultimately contribute to the common good.

Strategically deciding to innovate

Strategically deciding to innovate, is the first, mandatory, powerful, and impactful lever organizations, teams, leaders, and individuals can pull to effect constructive and sustainable change that enables people to execute and deliver real benefits:

  • Deal with, and find solutions to a world full of complex and competing social, civic, and political problems that are hard to solve and aren’t going away.
  • Better adapt, respond to, and be agile in fast-changing circumstances, uncertainty, instability, and to random and unexpected Black Swan events, like the global Covid-19 Pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine war.
  • Become human-centric to help people recover and manage their transition through the challenges of the global pandemic and enable them to exploit the range of accelerating technological advances in the digital age.
  • Develop corporate responsibility, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion strategies that are practical and can work and really deliver on their promises.
  • Compete by applying and experimenting with lean and agile start-up methodologies and take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities of the global entrepreneurship movement’s new models for leadership, collaboration, and experimentation.
  • Align to the range of changing workplace dynamics and trends, resulting from the pandemic, including WFH, the “soft resignation” and the demands of a hybrid workplace.
  • Shift individual, group, and collective consciousness towards collaboration and experimentation in ways that rebuild the trust that has been lost through incompetence, corruption, greed, and dishonesty.
  • Respond creatively to meet the increasingly diverse range of customer expectations and choices being made around value.

Important to innovate – three elements

To take advantage of living in a globalized world, where we are interconnected through technologies and values and where we have an interrelated structure of reality, we can:

  • Accept that innovation-led adaptation and growth are absolutely critical and develop targets and a willingness to invest in new scalable business models, achieve fast and effective developments, and launch processes to reflect these.
  • Invest in a coherent, time-risk balanced portfolio of initiatives and provide the resources to deliver them, at scale, strategically, to innovate to the right market, at the right price, at the right time, and through the most effective channels.
  • Adopt an ecosystem approach to adapt and grow by creating and capitalizing on both internal and external networks, and stakeholder management through developing workforce ecosystems – a structure that consists of interdependent actors, from within the organization and beyond, working to pursue both individual and collective goals.

Problem-solving, cultural change, and improving people’s lives

It is more important than ever to make innovation transformational, so that it delivers constructive, ethical, and sustainable change, by building on three critical successful abilities:

  1. Seeing and sensing the real systemic problem or breakthrough opportunity:
  • What problem are we solving? And is there a customer who wants to pay to have that problem solved?
  • What problem are we solving for the customer? Who needs this?
  • What are the possibilities and opportunities available to us? And is there a customer who wants to pay to have this opportunity realized?
  • What are some of our strengths? What are some of the things we are doing well that we can build upon or exploit?
  1. Shifting the culture:
  • Where are we today? Where do we want to be in the future?
  • What are our prevailing mindsets? How can we measure and contextualize their impact? What mindsets might we embrace to adapt and grow in an uncertain world?
  • How ready and receptive are we to really embrace change?
  • What do we need to unlearn and relearn to ensure our people are open-minded, hearted, and willed to embody and enact the desired change?
  • How engaged and passionate are our people in problem-solving?
  • How might we harness our people’s collective intelligence to solve problems and realize opportunities?
  1. Aligning technologies, processes, artifacts, and behaviors as a holistic system:
  • What is our appetite for risk? How do we define risk in our context?
  • What type of innovation do we strategically want to plan for and engage in?
  • What old legacy technologies no longer serve your needs? What new technologies might you be willing to invest in for the future?
  • What disciplines are in place to ensure that people have a common understanding of the key processes and comply with managing them?
  • How are we ensuring that everyone is motivated and skilled to innovate?
  • How are we ensuring that people are acknowledged, rewarded, and organized to repeatedly innovate?
  • What are the key mindsets and behaviours that enable and equip people to embody and embrace repeatedly innovate and design solutions with the end customer in mind?

Become an adaptive and resilient difference maker

As many of us are aware, Toys R Us and Blockbuster were huge companies, that enjoyed massive success; however, this was all brought to an end due to their failure to innovate.

We can all avoid this fate by choosing to innovate and create constructive and sustainable change through:

  • Accepting and acknowledging that to survive and thrive in a BANI world, where necessity is still the mother of all invention, and the urgency to do this is more important than ever.
  • Identifying, understanding, and dealing with our own resistance to innovation, safely and proactively, and transforming resistance into resilience, to be adaptive and safely innovate.
  • Understanding where we are today and then assessing the gap to what we want to be in the future, and mitigating the risks of both closing the gap and leaving the gap wide open.
  • Enabling leaders, teams, and individuals to connect, explore, discover and navigate new ways of approaching and delivering commercially viable, value-adding, constructive and sustainable change, and outcomes.
  • Leveraging innovation to transform an organization, a business, the way people lead and team, to improve the quality of people’s lives in ways they appreciate and cherish.

“In order to transcend mere adequacy and make a mark of creative transcendence on the world, organizations need to stop walking backward, following a trail that has already been blazed. The motto of the British Special Air Service is, “Who dares, wins.” It is time for businesses to be bold, inspired, and look to the horizon. The next great innovation is out there. Will you have the guts to create it?”

Will you make a fundamental choice to innovate?

According to McKinsey and Co “The point is that where the world lands is a matter of choice – of countless decisions to be made by individuals, companies, governments, and institutions”.

Will you make a fundamental choice to use the current crisis to lead to a burst of innovation, productivity, resilience, and exploration in 2023, to take advantage of our connected world to create the constructive and sustainable changes we all want to have?

Or will you continue walking backward and sleepwalking through life, and fail to take advantage of this moment in time, to innovate, and continue life with the same thinking that is causing the current range of results, that many of us don’t want to have?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

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

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Designing Innovation – Accelerating Creativity via Innovation Strategy

Designing Innovation - Accelerating Creativity via Innovation Strategy

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

To innovate is to survive.

As an overwhelming 80% of founders believe innovation to be the heart of organizational growth, employing an innovation strategy that promotes,  facilitates, and feeds innovation is essential.

Developing a solid plan for facilitating innovation in your organization is a necessary step in your company’s growth. In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to harness innovation as we explore the following topics:

  • The Source of Innovation
  • What is an Innovation Strategy?
  • Strategizing for Innovation
  • Innovating from Within
  • A System of Innovation

The Source of Innovation

Innovation often feels like a form of magic: it’s a powerful yet elusive force that drives the best ideas and creates the greatest breakthroughs. While some prefer to wait for inspiration to strike, happenstance is hardly the driving force behind innovation.

The true source of innovation is the organization itself. Leaders must intentionally create systems, processes, and strategies that allow for innovation at every turn.

Innovation is similar to any other corporate function as it requires careful strategizing to make the best ideas come to life. In doing this, leaders can set the stage and make the most innovative ideas and processes a regular practice in their organization. Ultimately, innovation may appear in the initial spark of a great idea, but it takes purposeful, thoughtful, and conscious planning for a great idea to exist beyond that moment of genius.

What is an Innovation Strategy?

Driving organizational innovation starts with creating an innovation strategy. An innovation strategy identifies processes that allow for the most creative and effective solutions.

The ideal innovation strategy allows an organization to zero in on its audience’s expectations by:

  •  Identifying customers’ unmet needs
  • Targeting these needs for growth

A healthy innovation strategy allows an organization to create the most efficient pathways to resolving these needs and growing its company. Effective strategies for innovation follow a prioritization method to help teams understand which ideas hold the highest return. In creating a solid innovation strategy, leaders must develop a system that can be repeated time and again.

Strategizing for Innovation

From defining your goals to using tech to transform your organization into a hybrid model, the possibilities are endless when it comes to innovation. As you design your innovation strategy, it’s essential to understand the nuances of innovation. Working with an innovation consultant can help you iron out a strategy that’s best for your team. With an expert in innovation, you’ll be able to better determine effective next steps toward the business’s goals.

Consultants are equipped to explain the subtleties in innovative strategizing, such as the various types of innovation:

  • Routine Innovation.

Routine innovation is a building block that adds to the company’s pre-existing structure, such as its customer base or earlier versions of a product.

  • Disruptive Innovation.

Disruptive innovation results in a new business model that disrupts or challenges the competition’s business models.

  • Radical Innovation.

Radical innovation introduces new inventions, software, or technology to completely transform an existing business model. This type of innovation is best used to help organizations achieve a competitive advantage in the market.

  • Architectural Innovation.

Architectural innovation uses new technology to create new markets. Essentially, architectural innovation changes the entire overall design of a product by redesigning existing components.

In creating the best innovation strategy for your current needs, take into account the following guidelines:

  • Clarifying your goals and priorities.

The right innovation strategy outlines your organizational goals and efforts to identify the best actionable steps to achieve these goals.

  • Fostering alignment within your organization.

Alignment should be at the center of any innovation strategy. Everyone must be aligned in pursuing a common goal for an organization to achieve new ideas and an innovative way of working.

  • Encouraging your team to keep improving.

Complacency kills innovation. Make sure your company is always ready to move on to the next great idea by making continuous growth and development a key part of your innovation strategy.

  • Reaching long-term success.

Focusing on reaching long-term success is an essential part of any innovation strategy.

Innovating From Within

An innovation strategy becomes the most effective when leaders can ingrain the processes and practices into their culture. Once innovation becomes an integral part of how a team works, they’ll be able to keep innovation top-of-mind.

By innovating from within, you’ll create a sustainable innovation strategy that becomes part of your company culture. Consider these pillars of innovation as you center innovation strategy at the heart of your company:

  1. Models: Innovation strategies fall into two models:
  • Business model innovation
    In this process, an organization completely adapts its business model to add value to its customers.
  • Leveraging an existing business model
    This process allows an organization to use its existing business model while bringing innovation to the business itself.
  1. Intrapreneurship
    Intrapreneurship empowers employees to act as entrepreneurs while working within the company. This encourages each person to create and act on their ideas, thus fostering a culture of ongoing company-wide innovation.
  2. Corporate Accelerator
    Corporate accelerators are programs started by larger enterprises, offering aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to find mentors, access seed capital, and make important connections.
  3. Innovation Labs
    Innovation labs are a starting point for R&D teams and startups to facilitate new ideas.
  4. Open Innovation Program
    This model of R&D encourages existing employees to collaborate on new business ideas that add value to the company.
  5. External Accelerators
    Though external accelerators don’t meet in-house, they can add incredible value to an organization. Businesses can use external accelerators to advance startups and drive concepts that align with their goals and needs without covering the costs of running an in-house program.
  6. Collaboration
    Collaboration is an integral component in shaping a cohesive innovation strategy. Through constant discussion, interaction, and creative collaboration, all members of an organization work together to bring their ideas to life.
  7. Ideation
    Managing innovation requires organizations to manage ideation. In doing so, leaders work to identify the best plans for analyzing, gathering, and implementing the right ideas. Ultimately, companies need an effective system that will transform an idea into a process that gets results.
  8. Measurement
    Innovation strategies should include a plan to measure success by considering relevant metrics for each goal. For example, KPIs such as email subscribers, website traffic, and social shares are excellent metrics for tracking brand awareness.

A System of Innovation

Developing a comprehensive innovation strategy must go beyond general objectives such as achieving growth, creating value, and beating competitors. To truly create company-wide change through innovation, organizations should clearly articulate specific objectives that will allow for the most sustainable competitive advantage.

A thorough innovation strategy successfully embeds innovation in the very system of an organization. To implement such systemic innovation, design your innovation strategy with the following objectives:

  • Creating Long-Term Value for Potential Customers

An innovation strategy should always consider the most effective ways to create long-term value for customers. In developing a cohesive strategy, consider the type of value you’re aiming to create through innovation. Value can be created in many ways, including improving customer experience, making a product more affordable, or benefiting society at large.

In your efforts to identify what values to zero in on, consider those that will have the greatest impact in the long term. This way, your innovation strategy will include continuously iterating towards better designs in the future.

  • Capturing Value Generated From Innovations 

Innovations easily attract competitors that can pose a risk to the original product or idea. In your efforts to create a thorough innovation strategy, consider how your company plans to capture the value its innovations create.

For example, a company that creates an exciting new product should be prepared for its competition to create more affordable prototypes. In the worst-case scenario, the competition may capture the value of the innovation.

Consider these risks in your innovation strategy by identifying what complementary services, products, assets, and capabilities may improve customer loyalty. This way, you’ll already have a plan in place to ensure your organization continues to profit from every innovation.

  • Strategizing for Business Model Innovation

Technology plays an important role in innovation but isn’t the only path to new ideas. In developing a robust innovation strategy, consider the level of technology and your preferred method of innovation to pursue.

Harnessing the magic of innovation takes careful planning. Need help driving innovation in your organization? At Voltage Control, we help leaders develop innovative strategies through change! Contact us today to discuss the best path to innovation. 

Image credit: Pexels

Article first published here: voltagecontrol.com

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Shark Tanks are the Pumpkin Spice of Innovation

Shark Tanks are the Pumpkin Spice of Innovation

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

On August 27, Pumpkin Spice season began. It was the earliest ever launch of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte and it kicked off a season in which everything from Cheerios to protein powder to dog shampoo promises the nostalgia of Grandma’s pumpkin pie.

Since its introduction in 2003, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has attracted its share of lovers and haters but, because it’s a seasonal offering, the hype fades almost as soon as it appears.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for its counterpart in corporate innovation — The Shark Tank/Hackathon/Lab Week.

It may seem unfair to declare Shark Tanks the Pumpkin Spice of corporate innovation, but consider the following:

  • They are events. There’s nothing wrong with seasonal flavors and events. After all, they create a sense of scarcity that spurs people to action and drives companies’ revenues. However, there IS a great deal wrong with believing that innovation is an event. Real innovation is not an event. It is a way of thinking and problem-solving, a habit of asking questions and seeking to do things better, and of doing the hard and unglamorous work of creating, learning, iterating, and testing required to bring innovation — something different that creates value — to life.
  • They appeal to our sense of nostalgia and connection. The smell and taste of Pumpkin Spice bring us back to simpler times, holidays with family, pie fresh and hot from the oven. Shark Tanks do the same. They remind us of the days when we believed that we could change the world (or at least fix our employers) and when we collaborated instead of competed. We feel warm fuzzies as we consume (or participate in) them, but the feelings are fleeting, and we return quickly to the real world.
  • They pretend to be something they’re not. Starbucks’ original Pumpkin Spice Latte was flavored by cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. There was no pumpkin in the Pumpkin Spice. Similarly, Shark Tanks are innovation theater — events that give people an outlet for their ideas and an opportunity to feel innovation-y for a period of time before returning to their day-to-day work. The value that is created is a temporary blip, not lasting change that delivers real business value.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

If you’re serious about walking the innovation talk, Shark Tanks can be a great way to initiate and accelerate building a culture and practice of innovation. But they must be developed and deployed in a thoughtful way that is consistent with your organization’s strategy and priorities.

  • Make Shark Tanks the START of an innovation effort, not a standalone event. Clearly establish the problems or organizational priorities you want participants to solve and the on-going investment (including dedicated time) that the company will make in the winners. Allocate an Executive Sponsor who meets with the team monthly and distribute quarterly updates to the company to share winners’ progress and learnings
  • Act with courage and commitment. Go beyond the innovation warm fuzzies and encourage people to push the boundaries of “what we usually do.” Reward and highlight participants that make courageous (i.e. risky) recommendations. Pursue ideas that feel a little uncomfortable because the best way to do something new that creates value (i.e. innovate) is to actually DO something NEW.
  • Develop a portfolio of innovation structures: Just as most companies use a portfolio of tools to grow their core businesses, they need a portfolio of tools to create new businesses. Use Shark Tanks to the surface and develop core or adjacent innovation AND establish incubators and accelerators to create and test radical innovations and business models AND fund a corporate VC to scout for new technologies and start-ups that can provide instant access to new markets.

Conclusion

Whether you love or hate Pumpkin Spice Lattes you can’t deny their impact. They are, after all, Starbucks’ highest-selling seasonal offering. But it’s hard to deny that they are increasingly the subject of mocking memes and eye rolls, a sign that their days, and value, maybe limited.

(Most) innovation events, like Pumpkin Spice, have a temporary effect. But not on the bottom-line. During these events, morale, and team energy spike. But, as the excitement fades and people realize that nothing happened once the event was over, innovation becomes a meaningless buzzword, evoking eye rolls and Dilbert cartoons.

Avoid this fate by making Shark Tanks a lasting part of your innovation menu — a portfolio of tools and structures that build and sustain a culture and practice of innovation, one that creates real financial and organizational value.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Reset and Reconnect to Increase our Connectedness

Reset and Reconnect to Increase our Connectedness

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our second blog in the Reconnect and Reset series of three blogs, we stated that now is not the time to panic. Nor is it a time to languish from change fatigue, pain, and emotional lethargy. It is a significant moment in time to focus, rehabilitate, rebuild, repair, regrow and reset to increase our connectedness through linking human touchpoints that increase people-power in the fourth industrial revolution.

In the current environment, where chaos and order are constantly polarizing, it’s crucial to touch people with empathy, reignite their social skills, and enable them to become healthily self-compassionate and more self-caring to:

  • Patiently support, lead, manage, mentor, and coach them towards finding their own balance to flow with mitigating the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Take advantage of new technologies, networks, and ecosystems to re-engage and collaborate with others and with civil society in positive ways that contribute to the whole.
  • Do the good work that creates a more compelling, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future, that serves the common good.

The Landscape Has Changed and So Have the Solutions

As the fourth industrial revolution continues to implode, we need to zoom out and consider the bigger picture. Where a recent Harvard Review article What Will Management Look Like in the Next 100 Years?” states that we are entering an era, which is fundamentally transforming the way we operate. Which is defined by the disruptive growth in blockchain technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and other core digital capabilities.

All of which, in some way, is dependent on linking the key human touchpoints that increase people’s power and our connectedness.

  • An era of empathy

In the same article, management scholar Rita Gunther McGrath argued that management practices based on command and control, and expertise would ultimately make way for empathy.

Where work is centred around value creation conducted through networks and collaboration, that rely on increasing the connectedness between machines and humans rather than through rigid structures and relationships to thrive through increasing people-power in the fourth industrial revolution.

  • Capable of better

The Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experience Trends Report also states that the landscape has changed.  Where people are choosing to work flexibly, to work in the places that work best for them, and to take time for their own well-being, families, and friends.

Where people are demanding change because they care, about their leaders and their organizations, and want to be capable of developing better ideas; better innovations; and delivering better performances.

The report outlines the four things your people need you to know:

  1. There will be an exodus of leaders – and women will be the first out the door.
  2. People will demand better physical and digital workspaces.
  3. The lack of progress in diversity, inclusion, and belonging won’t be accepted.

People don’t want to become irrelevant, nor do they want their managers, leaders, and organizations to become irrelevant. People know that they can’t, and won’t go back to the old ways of doing things. People also know that they are already living in the new normal and that they need to start working there, too and to do that, we need to increase our connectedness.

Which is especially important for building people’s power and mitigating the challenges emerging in the fourth industrial revolution.

  • A transformative moment for employees and employers

Businessolver’s Eighth Annual Report on the State of Workplace Empathy describes how the pandemic has impacted on employees’ personal lives, the labor market, and the economy, and states that “we are living through a renegotiation of the social contract between employees and employers”.

Their data shows that amid the return to the office, fewer employees view their organizations as empathetic, and that workplace empathy has clear implications for employee well-being, talent retention, business results, and increases people-power:

  • About 70% of employees and HR professionals believe that empathetic organizations drive higher employee motivation.
  • While 94% of employees value flexible work hours as empathetic, the option is only offered in 38% of organizations.
  • 92% of CEOs say their response to returning to in-person work is satisfactory, compared to 78% of employees.
  • 82% of employees say their managers are empathetic, compared to 69% who say the same about their organization’s chief executive.

Yet, there seems to be a true lack of understanding, especially in the corporate sector, of what it means to be empathetic, and a shortage of time and energy to develop the mindsets, behaviors, and skills to practice it and make it a habit.

It is also a fundamental way of being to increase our connectedness and building peoples-power.

Make a Fundamental Choice to Increase our Connectedness

Even though each person is a distinct physical being, we are all connected to each other and to nature, not only through our language but also by having a deeper sense of being.

Human connectedness is a powerful human need that occurs when an individual is aware and actively engaged with another person, activity, object or environment, group, team, organization, or natural environment.

It results in a sense of well-being.

The concept is applied in psychology as a sensation or perception where a person does not operate as a single entity – we are all formed together to make another, individual unit, which is often described as wholeness.

Which is especially important for our well-being and people power in the face of the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

Strategies for Developing Quality Connections

  • Be grounded, mindful and conscious

Being grounded and mindful enables people to become fully present to both themselves and to others. It is a generous gift to unconditionally bestow on others. Especially at this moment in time, where the pandemic-induced social isolation, has caused many people to become unconsciously and unintentionally self-absorbed.

There is an opening to become aware of, and to cultivate our attending and observing skillsets, to sense and see the signals people are sending, at the moment they are sending them. To help people identify the source of their issues to re-establish a sense of influence and control that reduces their autonomic nervous system reactions and help them restore their calmness.

This is the basis to increase our connectedness, by attuning and becoming empathetic as to what thoughts and feelings lay behind their behaviours and actions, with detachment, allowing and acceptance.

  • Be open-hearted and open-minded 

Being curious about what others are feeling and thinking, without evaluating, judging, and opposing what they are saying. By knowing how to listen deeply for openings and doorways that allow possibilities and opportunities to emerge, to generate great questions that clarify and confirm what is being both said and unsaid.

To support people by creating a safe and collective holding space, that reduces their automatic unconscious defensive responses.  To defuse situations by being empathic and humble and increase our connectedness by asking how you might help or support them, and gaining their permission and trust to do so.

Increase our connectedness through being vulnerable in offering options so they make the best choice for themselves, to reduce their dependence, help them identify and activate their circles of influence and control and sustain their autonomy.

  • Help people regenerate

Now is the moment in time to focus on building workforce capabilities and shifting mindsets for generating a successful culture or digital transformation initiative by harnessing, igniting, and mobilizing people’s motivation and collective intelligence and building people power.

It is crucial to acknowledge and leverage the impact of technology through increasing people-power by developing new mindsets, behaviors, skills, and new roles, which are already emerging as fast as other roles change.

Be willing to invest in the deep learning challenges that build people’s readiness and receptivity to change, so they can embrace rather than resist it, and be willing to unlearn, and relearn, differently, by collaborating with other people, leaders, teams, and organizations across the world.

Ultimately, it all depends on being daring and willing to increase our connectedness, through adapting, innovating, and collectively co-creating strategies, systems, structures that serve the common good, and contribute to the well-being of people, deliver profits and nurture a sustainable planet.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, 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, February 7, 2023.

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

This is the final 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 check out the recording of our 45-minute masterclass, 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

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Reset and Reconnect to Transform your World

Reset and Reconnect to Transform your World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Our blog, Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World was the first in a series of three, on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. In this blog, we described how we have opportunities, to focus on being kinder to both ourselves and to others we interact with. To help us shift our mental states to transition effectively through the shock and pain of the pandemic, and rehabilitate in ways that transform our worlds.

We also outlined the range of key reasons as to why it is critical to take personal responsibility for understanding, helping, and supporting those we depend upon, and who depend upon us, to respond in ways that are respectful and compassionate, creative and courageous.

That enables and empowers people to recover and rehabilitate from the shock and pain they are experiencing from their elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety, occurring in our relentlessly uncertain and chaotic environments, through allowing, accepting, and acknowledging where people are at – and that it’s OK to not be OK!

Neither a time to panic nor languish

Right now, it is neither a time to panic, stall nor to languish in the face of change fatigue and mental lethargy.

It is a time to shift from making binary (either/or) judgements towards making linear (both/and) judgements to re-think and create a mental state, that is open and receptive to emerging possibilities and embraces change in ways that are fair and inclusive.

To transform your world through:

  • Choosing a range of constructive and positive responses to the rising levels of global economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest in our own local environments.
  • Generously and kindly demonstrating care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, and by being collaborative, appreciative, helpful, and supportive.
  • Being unconditionally willing to take the “sacred pause” that allows ourselves, teams, organizations, and to reconnect and reset, through intentionally using constraints and developing a mental state that supports them to become adaptive, creative, inventive, and innovative.

Transforming your world involves co-creating a deeper sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, to enhance our collective intelligence toward discovering and navigating new ways of thriving, flourishing, and flowing in the face of ongoing disruption.

Integrating and balancing chaos and rigidity

Dr. Dan Siegal, in Mindsight, applies the emerging principles of interpersonal neurobiology to promote compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being in our personal lives, our relationships, and our communities.

In our global coaching practice at ImagineNation™ we have observed that many of our clients are experiencing mental states that embody varying levels of discord, dissonance, and dis-order, which are deeply unconscious and are impacting them neurologically.

Dr. Dan Siegal states:

“At the heart of both interpersonal neurobiology and the mindsight approach is the concept of ‘integration’ which entails the linkage of different aspects of a system – whether they exist within a single person or a collection of individuals. Integration is seen as the essential mechanism of health as it promotes a flexible and adaptive way of being that is filled with vitality and creativity.

The ultimate outcome of integration is harmony. The absence of integration leads to chaos and rigidity—a finding that enables us to re-envision our understanding of mental disorders and how we can work together in the fields of mental health, education, and other disciplines, to create a healthier, more integrated world.”

We have seen a vast range of evidence of peoples’ internal and external, mental chaos, and self-imposed internal rigidity in many of our clients’ coaching sessions.

Knowing that when chaos and rigidity are prolonged – it creates unproductive or dysfunctional mental states and inflexible thought processing.

This makes people non-adaptive and mostly inflexible because their natural well-being is impaired (dis-order).

Our approach is to partner with clients to co-create a relationship, that supports and helps facilitate a set of more integrated mental states. This entails each person’s being respected for his or her autonomy and differentiated self through deep empathic communication, which creates the space and an opening for shifting mindsets and behaviors, to ultimately pull them towards a new possibility that may transform their world.

Allowing, accepting, and acknowledging

When we allow, accept, acknowledge and support people to recover and rehabilitate from the shock and pain they are experiencing as a result of recent global events and conflicts, including feelings of overwhelm, isolation, loneliness, and disconnection, we can enable them to initiate making these shifts.

According to Gallops Global Emotions 2022 Report – these are considered “negative emotions – the aggregate of the stress, sadness, anger, worry and physical pain that people feel every day” and have reached a new record in the history of their tracking.

Jon Clifton, CEO of Gallop stated in the report that their data reveals that unhappiness has been rising for more than a decade and that the world is also struggling from a silent pandemic – loneliness.

“Gallup finds that 330 million adults go at least two weeks without talking to a single friend or family member. And just because some people have friends, it doesn’t mean they have good friends. One‑fifth of all adults do not have a single person they can count on for help.”

No emotion or mental state is permanent!

It’s time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves, our clients, people, and teams by paying deep attention and being intentional as to how we might experiment and collaborate, with three key steps, to make these shifts:

  1. Co-create relationships focused on supporting integration, by being respectful and empathic in all communications, to open space of possibility, and pull people towards what creative ideas and breakthroughs might transform their world.
  2. Artfully and masterfully generatively listen, inquire, question, and disagree, to evoke, provoke and create ideas for thinking and acting differently both today and in the future.
  3. Maximize people’s strengths, differences, and diversity, to sense, see and solve problems and be creative and inventive in delivering breakthrough ideas and innovative solutions that add value to the quality of people’s lives, in ways they appreciate and cherish.

Rehabilitate with intention

At the same time, paradoxically, extending options and choices that help them shift and transition through the shock and pain of the past two and half years.

Enabling and empowering people to rehabilitate, with intention rather than regret, adopting a systemic lens through:

  • Creating safe collective holding spaces, that embrace presence, empathy, and compassion.
  • Helping people get grounded, become mindful, and fully present, enables them to make quality connections, rebuild their confidence and recreate a sense of belonging.
  • Enabling, equipping, and empowering people with new mindsets, behaviors, and skills through unlearning, learning, and relearning so they can adapt, grow and be resourceful and resilient in the face of the range of emerging problems, opportunities, and challenges.
  • Amplifying people’s strengths, reinforcing positive emotions, mitigating and reducing the way they filter information to re-ignite their intrinsic motivation and re-engage them in what they can control, what care deeply about value, or need, to survive and thrive.

A decade of both transformation and disruption

As most of us are aware, we are currently experiencing a decade of both transformation and disruption, where chaos and order are constantly polarizing, making it imperative to support, mentor, and coach people to integrate and find their balance.

To help them become more flexible and open to being adaptive, and effectively “dance in dis-equilibrium” between the constant and consistent states of chaos and order.

To enable people to see themselves as the cause in actively unlearning and letting go of old mental models, unresourceful mental states, and thinking patterns, to reimagine and redesign how they work to transform their world and create a more compelling, inclusive, and sustainable future.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our collective, learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, presented by Janet Sernack, is a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

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

This is the second 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 check out the recording of our 45-minute masterclass, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future!

Image credit: Unsplash

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Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC)

Making Innovation the Way We Do Business (easy as ABC)

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“We need to be more innovative.”

How many times have you said or heard that? It’s how most innovation efforts start. It’s a statement that reflects leaders’ genuine desire to return to the “good ol’ days” when the company routinely created and launched new products and enjoyed the publicity and growth that followed.

But what does it mean to be more innovative?

Innovation’s ABCs

A is for Architecture

Architecture includes most of the elements people think of when they start the work to become more innovative – strategy, structure, processes, metrics, governance, and incentives.

Each of these elements answers fundamental questions:

  • Strategy: Why is innovation important? How does it contribute to our overall strategy?
  • Structure: Who does the work of innovation?
  • Process: How is the work done?
  • Metrics: How will we know when we’re successful? How will we measure progress?
  • Governance: Who makes decisions? How and when are decisions made?
  • Incentives: Why should people invest their time, money, and political capital? How will they be rewarded?

When it comes to your business, you can answer all these questions. The same is true if you’re serious about innovation. If you can’t answer the questions, you have work to do. If you don’t want to do the work, then you don’t want to be innovative. You want to look innovative*.

B is for Behavior

Innovation isn’t an idea problem. It’s a leadership problem.

Leaders that talk about innovation, delegate it to subordinates and routinely pull resources from innovation to “shore up” current operations don’t want to be innovative. They want to look innovative.

Leaders who roll up their sleeves and work alongside innovation teams, ask questions and listen with open minds, and invest and protect innovation resources want to be innovative.

To be fair, it’s incredibly challenging to be a great leader of both innovation and operations. It’s the equivalent of writing equally well with your right and left hands. But it is possible. More importantly, it’s essential.

C is for Culture

Culture is invisible, pervasive, and personal. It is also the make-or-break factor for innovation because it surrounds innovation architecture, teams, and leaders.

Culture can expand to encourage and support exploration, creativity, and risk-taking. Or it can constrict, unleashing antibodies that swarm, suffocate, and kill anything that threatens the status quo.

Trying to control or change culture is like trying to hold water in your fist. But if you let go just a bit, create the right conditions, and wait patiently, change is possible.

Easy as 123

The most common mistake executives make in the pursuit of being “more innovative” is that they focus on only A or only B or only C.  But, as I always tell my clients, the answer is “and, not or.”

  1. Start with Architecture because it’s logical, rational, and produces tangible outputs like org charts, process flows, and instruction manuals filled with templates and tools. Architecture is comforting because it helps us know what to do and how.
  2. Use Architecture to encourage Behavior because the best way to learn something is to do it. With Architecture in place (but well before it’s finished), bring leaders into the work – talking to customers, sharing their ideas, and creating prototypes. When leaders do the work of innovation, they quickly realize what’s possible (and what’s not) and are open to learning how to engage (behave) in a way that supports innovation.
  3. Leverage Architecture and Behavior to engage Culture by creating the artifacts, rituals, and evidence that innovation can happen in your company, is happening and will continue to happen. As people see “innovation” evolve from a buzzword to a small investment to “the way we do business,” their skepticism will fade, and their support will grow.

Just like the Jackson 5 said

ABC, It’s easy a 123

Architecture, behavior, culture – they’re all essential to enabling an innovation capability that repeatedly creates new revenue.

And while starting with architecture, building new leadership behaviors, and investing until the culture changes isn’t easy, it’s the 123 steps required to “be more innovative.”

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Four Things You Need to Succeed in The Good Place

Four Things You Need to Succeed in The Good Place

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You have, no doubt, seen the design squiggle. The ubiquitous scribble is all loopy and knotty in the beginning until it finally sorts itself into a straight line by the end.

It illustrates the design process – “the journey of researching, uncovering insights, generating creative concepts, iteration of prototypes and eventually concluding in one single designed solution” – and its elegant simplicity has led it to be adopted by all sorts of other disciplines, including innovation.

But when I showed it to a client, her immediate response was, “It’s Jeremy Bearimy!”*

Wha????

And that is how I discovered The Good Place, a sitcom about four humans who die, go to The Good Place, and struggle to learn what it means to be good.

The show, created by Michael Schur of The Office and Parks and Recreation fame, is a brilliant treatise on ethics and moral philosophy. It also contains valuable wisdom about what innovators need to succeed.

Questions

With all due respect, “It’s the way it’s always been done” is an excuse that’s been used for hundreds of years to justify racism, misogyny…

Tahani Al-Jamil

This quote was a gut punch from the show’s fourth and final season. As innovators, we often hear people ask why change is needed. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” they proclaim.

But sometimes it is broke, and we don’t know it. At the very least, it can always be better.

So, while “it’s the way it’s always been done” at your company probably (hopefully) doesn’t include racism, misogyny, sexism, and other genuinely horrible things, framing the status quo as an enabler of those horrors is a harsh wake-up call to the dangers of an unquestioning commitment to continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.

Decisions (not just Ideas)

If you’re always frozen in fear and taking too long to figure out what to do, you’ll miss your opportunity, and maybe get sucked into the propeller of a swamp boat.

Jason Mendoza

Even though Jason Mendoza is the resident idiot of The Good Place, he occasionally (and very accidentally) has moments of profound insight. This one to a situation that innovators are all too familiar with – analysis paralysis.

How often do requests for more data, more (or more relevant) benchmarks, or input from more people slow down decisions and progress? These requests are rarely rooted in doubt about the data, benchmarks, or information you presented. They are rooted in fear – the fear of making the wrong decision, being blamed or shamed, and losing a reputation or even a job.

But worse than being wrong, blamed, shamed, or unemployed is missing an opportunity to radically improve your business, team, or even the world. It’s the business equivalent of getting sucked into the propeller of a swamp boat.

Actions (not just decisions)

In football, trying to run out the clock and hoping for the best never works. It’s called “prevent defense.” You don’t take any chances and just try and hold on to your lead. But prevent defense just PREVENTS you from winning! It’s always better to try something.

Jason Mendoza

Jason does it again, this time invoking a lesson learned from his beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.

Few companies publicly admit to adopting a prevent defense, even though most companies engage in it. They play prevent defense when they don’t invest in innovation, focus exclusively on maintaining or incrementally improving what they currently do, or confine their innovation efforts to events like hackathons and shark tanks.

Incremental improvements and innovation theater keep you competitive. But they won’t get you ahead of the competition or make you a leader in your industry. In fact, they prevent it by making you feel good and safe when you’re really just running out the clock.

Perseverance

Come on, you know how this works. You fail and then you try something else. And you fail again and again, and you fail a thousand times, and you keep trying because maybe the 1,001st idea might work. Now, I’m gonna and try to find our 1,001st idea.

Michael

It’s hard to explain this quote without sharing massive spoilers, so let’s just say that The Good Place is an experiment that fails. A lot.

But it’s also an experiment that generates profound learning and universe-altering changes, things that would not have been possible without the failures.

Yes, smart innovators know when to kill a project. They also know when to try one more time. Wise innovators know the difference.

One final bit of wisdom

Innovation is hard. You will run into more resistance than expected, and things will rarely work out as planned. As long as you keep trying and learning, you won’t fail.

To paraphrase Jason Mendoza (again), you’re not a failed innovator, you’re pre-successful.

*For those of you who are, like I was, unfamiliar with Jeremy Bearimy, here’s a clip explaining it (WARNING: SPOILERS)

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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

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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

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