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Archive for the ‘Team-Building’ Category

Want to Harness the Power of “We”? Innovation Starts with “I”

Posted by Plish on March 3, 2014

People like to point to the fact that Thomas Edison had an entire innovation factory working for him, that innovation was a team effort.  While this is true in general, the deeper truth is that Edison was an entrepreneur.  He had to get the ball rolling.  At the beginning, the ideas were his, the dreams were his, the innovation factory was his baby.  He worked to make things happen.  Even in the context of the “We” of his facility in Menlo Park, there were commitments from each individual employed there.

Innovation starts with “I”.  It starts in the heart; it starts with an individual commitment, an individual work ethic. Before it can become a communal effort it needs to be an individual dream. Innovation has entrepreneurial roots.  When individuals come together with common goals, empowered to make dreams reality, when they’re given freedom to experiment, to be creative, to try, fail, learn and grow, when people are rewarded either intrinsically or extrinsically, then “We” means something.  Until then, it’s simply a word used in the context of stirring political, and corporate, pep rallies.

Please don’t misunderstand me. “We” is powerful.  But it’s only powerful if the following criteria are met:

  1. Everyone being called, “We”, must consider themselves part of “We.” (If I say you’re part of a Tribe, you need to agree.)
  2. Anyone saying, “We”, must be acknowledged as part of “We”. (If you say you’re part of a Tribe, I need to agree.)
  3. “We” must all believe in the same goals and means to accomplish those goals.  (Each individual agrees to certain roles.)
  4. Each individual receives a reward for contributing to “We”.
  5. Each individual must be empowered to act in ways that helps accomplish the goals of “We”.
  6. “We” does not turn against the individual.  “We” respects the individual.  As such, “We” respects, and needs, diversity – especially in the context of innovation.

“We”, paradoxically, is fragile. If all 6 of the above criteria are not met, especially the first 3, there is no “We”.   Strictly speaking, we is a virtual entity – it only exists when the above 6 criteria are met.  Saying “We can do this! We can change this!” while perhaps inspiring,  provides no direction.

On the other hand, “I” does not have the pre-requisites above.  It is powerful and strong.  Yes, there may be circumstances that hinder innovation.  But, in the end, it’s about digging deep and finding a way.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

So, how do we create “We”?

Address the needs of, inspire and empower, the individual.  Let people be “I”.  Let people be authentic, let them be true to themselves.  People are social creatures, they leverage relationships naturally when given opportunities.  “We” – Tribes – form somewhat spontaneously where individuals blossom.

You are change!

Make a difference in your own life, in your family, in your community!

The ripples will build upon themselves, and the “We” that’s formed will be even more powerful.

Innovation starts with “I”.

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Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Politics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Death to the Project Post-Mortem!

Posted by Plish on November 30, 2012

Turn to any business magazine, look in project management books, (Microsoft’s site even has a template for it!) and one of the best practices of project management is to conduct a post-mortem just after a project has been completed, and right before it’s officially ‘closed.’ The purpose is to get everyone on the team together to examine what went well in the project, what went wrong, and record this information so that others can learn.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept is a good one and should be practiced.  What I have a problem with, in particular, is use of the phrase, ‘post-mortem.’

By now you know that I’m a big fan of the power of words and metaphors – they shape how we solve problems and approach the world.  So it probably won’t surprise you then that my aversion to the phrase is tied to all the meaning around the words, ‘post-mortem.’

Think about it.

The term literally means: after death.  But what’s dead?  You just finished something that myriads of people put their hearts and souls into, and now that that something is impacting the world, you call it dead?  The project is closed, not dead. As a matter of fact, all projects, even those that resulting in the closing of a chapter, are births, not deaths! They are the beginning of something new.

By bringing the concept of death into the mix, there is a meaning conveyed that what just happened was not life-giving.  It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that what just happened needs to be dissected and analyzed, and perhaps even robbed of deeper meaning and import*.  Perhaps worst of all, it creates a sense that no continuity with this ‘dead thing’ is required.

On the contrary, the work of marketing, manufacturing, sales and product monitoring is kicking into full gear!

My point here is that it’s not about ending something, as much as it’s about a continuity of learning!  Sure, one project ends, another begins.  It’s a never-ending cycle. The commonality is that before, during and after a project, there needs to be a recursive aspect, a learning process that is ingrained into the culture.  That mindset only comes about if there’s less emphasis on analyzing ‘that which died,’ and more emphasis on learning each day what works, what doesn’t, and growing from that. And, for that to happen, we need to put the term,”Project Post-Mortem” to death, and replace it with a more forward thinking term.

I like: ‘Lessons Learned.’

What would you call it?

 

 

*

One day after sleeping badly, an anatomist went to his frog laboratory and
removed, from a cage, a frog with white spots on its back. He placed it on a
table and drew a line just in front of the frog. “Jump frog, jump!” he shouted.
The little critter jumped two feet forward. In his lab book, the anatomist
scribbled, “Frog with four legs jumps two feet.”

Then, he surgically
removed one leg of the frog and repeated the experiment. “Jump, jump!” To which,
the frog leaped forward 1.5 feet. He wrote down, “Frog with three legs jumps 1.5
feet.”

Next, he removed a second leg. “Jump frog, jump!” The frog
managed to jump a foot. He scribbled in his lab book, “Frog with two legs jumps
one foot.”

Not stopping there, the anatomist removed yet another leg.
“Jump, jump!” The poor frog somehow managed to move 0.5 feet forward. The
scientist wrote, “Frog with one leg jumps 0.5 feet.”

Finally, he
eliminated the last leg. “Jump, jump!” he shouted, encouraging forward progress
for the frog. But despite all its efforts, the frog could not budge. “Jump frog,
jump!” he cried again. It was no use; the frog would not response. The anatomist
thought for a while and then wrote in his lab book, “Frog with no legs goes
deaf.”

Posted in Best Practices, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Team-Building | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Great New Tool for Collaboration (and More!) – Use a ‘Big Marker’

Posted by Plish on July 19, 2012

What do GoTo Meeting, Dropbox, and Ning have in common?

Not much really.

So, if you want to web conference, share files and create a community presence on the web, you need to subscribe to all the above services and maybe more.

Enter Big Marker.

BigMarker.com is a one-stop shop – and the majority of features are free.  Those that aren’t are very reasonably priced. And, there’s nothing to download; it’s all web-based.

Seth Godin describes a tribe as, “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea;” it’s people with, “a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

Big Marker is essentially a tribe builder.

Public or private, project management or social widgets, educate or elucidate, Big Marker can help you innovate!

~Would love to hear your experiences using Big Marker~

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Education, innovation, Innovation Tools, Project Management, Start-Ups, Team-Building, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

That’s YOUR Chunk of Open Office Space, This is MINE…

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2011

In the past I wrote about the health impact of open plan office spaces and their impact on creativity

Now it appears that open office spaces, intended to foster interaction, instead foster territorial behaviours that undermine collaboration.

 Professor of Strategic Management, Stephen Cummings, who led the study said,

“The intent of taking away dividing walls and doors is usually to improve creativity and performance by fostering spontaneous fun, interaction and sharing…However, we found evidence that it can lead to attempts by employees to re-create spatial and social structures and boundaries, actually undermining the behaviours an organisation is trying to encourage.

…most teams marked out their territory with posters, slogans and personal items, even moving furniture to create their own personalised space, which seemed to put other teams off moving into that space.  Employees also tended to use the activity rooms in their established team groups at separate times rather than mingling with other teams.”

He also mentioned that people felt that they lacked privacy and hence they had to be more rigid in their behaviours and hence less innovative.

So what to do?  Well the obvious step is to create a mix of open and private space, understand what your people are like, and build an environment that plays to individual strengths, needs and personalities.  “One size fits all,” isn’t the way to an innovative culture.

 

 

 

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Health Concerns, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

5 Tips for Building Sustainable, Innovative Communities (Chainsaws Included)

Posted by Plish on August 3, 2011

Pic Courtesy of coloradoouting.com

What do you do when the trees in your city park are diseased and need to be cut down? 

You could cut them down and dig out the stumps…

Or…

You could have chainsaw artists come out and convert the stumps into art. That’s what the folks of Craig, Colorado did in 1999.

The event was so successful it became an annual festive event.  (However, due to limited diseased trees (thankfully), stumps are now brought in and sunk into the ground for the artists to work on. )

I bring attention to this festival because it highlights 5 tips for building and sustaining innovative communities:

  1. There are no stupid ideas when brainstorming. If City Employee, Mike Shelton, didn’t suggest this in the first place, something special for the community might never have happened.
  2. The process of creating seems to naturally brings people together.  Don’t miss opportunities to bolster community around  creative output.
  3. Just because people aren’t directly involved in the creative process doesn’t mean that they can’t, or won’t have fun. Creativity breeds interest, and eventually, creative output.  Make creativity visible!! Then let people follow their curiosities.
  4. People take pride in who they are as a community.  Give people opportunities to revel in their commonality and it’ll create esprit de corps.
  5. Share who you are as a community and others will want to be a part of what you’re doing.

What else would you add?

Posted in creativity, Crowdsourcing, Design, innovation, Social Innovation, Team-Building, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

At Least 12 Lessons in Innovation From Flowers

Posted by Plish on November 13, 2010

I was reading an article yesterday, don’t even remember what it was about, but my mind went to when I was a kid and I became fascinated with cross-pollinating my mom’s African Violets.  I was constantly trying to come up with cool color combos of white and purples – something new: Innovation, African Violet Style…

Usually when people speak about innovation and plants, the metaphor is one of seeds and planting.  I like that metaphor, but one that is even more rich is the metaphor of pollination.  After all, pollination is the process by which flowers reproduce.  It’s how flowers survive (and have survived for millions of years!).  The mixing of genetic material results in new fruit, new flowers that have  the best (and/or worst) of the parent plants.  It’s just like ideas.  Different ideas commingle and the result is often a fantastic amalgam of the parent ideas.

Not surprisingly,  the innovation/pollination metaphor can be taken much further.  But, before we do, let’s do a quick primer in plant reproductive biology.

Pollen (see the diagram below), which originates on the Anthers of the Stamen,  gets carried via various mechanisms, to the Stigma of the Pistil.  Once Pollen lands there, a tube grows down the Style so that the sperm nuclei can be conducted to the ovules.  That’s it.   Fertilization occurs and a fruit is the result.   

To flesh out some more ways in which innovation is like pollination, I made a simple mindmap describing  various types of flowers and the processes by which fertilization occurs.  Here it is:

Click for a Larger Version

So, how else can we learn to innovate by looking at the pollination metaphor? Let’s walk around the above mindmap starting at the lower right and flesh this out.

  1. Wind.  It’s effective for some plants, but not for all.  Plants that use the wind usually don’t rely on much else and they usually don’t have fancy flowers.  The wind does all the work and the rest is up to chance.  You probably Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, nature, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Team-Building, The Human Person, The Senses, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

What is Shibumi?

Posted by Plish on October 22, 2010

“Rise above it!”

We’ve all heard the phrase.  When circumstances around us threaten to destabilize our world at work or at home, we are told that we can “Rise above it!” –  Transcend the problems as it were.

But, as we find ourselves being churned and spun by the waves of the world, pulling ourselves out of the swirling waters and rising above requires some serious energy expenditures.  In fact, there are times that we may even wonder if the effort is worth it.

That doesn’t mean that we need to let ourselves be swamped, though.  We have another choice:

We can live in the waves

Experience the beauty of the swirls

Catch glimpses of sun through foam

We can ask “why?”; not with anger but with curiosity

We can move in and through the water of which we are

Feeling the currents that pull, carry and caress

We create…

opportunities, movement, intention, beauty

from the wisdom of chaos…

There is no need to rise above-

In fact, the beauty and elegance of your creations would not be possible

were you not part of the waves…

 

 “The Shibumi Strategy” is a story of one man’s struggle, growth and change, through difficult  circumstances.   It’s an easy read yet it’s filled with wisdom that author Matthew May distilled from his eight years of working with and for Toyota.   These tidbits can be applied to solving problems and fomenting change both at work and at home. 

It’s worth reading, if for no other reason than to make us think less about doing and more about being and becoming.  Interestingly, when we shift our thinking in this way, we end up doing more, or more precisely, we design more beauty…

The The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change becomes available on November 16th. The ebook version  is available now.

Posted in Authenticity, Books, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Stories, Tactics, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Want to Increase Creativity and Innovation? Touch and be Touched

Posted by Plish on August 5, 2010

We’ve all experienced the gentle pat on the back, or touch on the hand when things aren’t going well.  Well, it seems that these touches are helpful in more ways than we typically think.

Research has shown that touching is helpful in  a myriad of ways.

 According to the article:

A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”

“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”

Some of my thoughts on applying this?

  1. Team building events can accomplish a lot more than just bring people together, but…
  2. Building teams needs to be done all the time.  There needs to be an active, ongoing building of esprit de corps, but…
  3. Perspectives regarding the touching of coworkers might need to be reassessed.  It’s interesting to think that current  ‘hands off’ practices might actually be hurting innovation.
  4. It seems obvious to say, but personal lives, the relationships people have outside of work, do make a difference in the workplace.
  5. People who are more tactile, more ‘touchy-feely’ might be a good addition to a team.
  6. Although it’s not directly mentioned in the article, the touching phenomenon might help explain the benefits of why having pets is a good thing.  Pets in the workplace, anyone?
  7. Customer service (think healthcare) should be open to allowing and fostering touching in the proper contexts so as to better treat people as whole beings.  This could also give customer service people more credence and build better bonds between customer and company.
  8. Massage therapy shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a necessity in the workplace.
  9. I’d be interested to know if things like brushing hair, or touches like those experienced at beauty parlors or hair dressers, has positive effect.   It does in senior care facilities, why not use it in other places?
  10. How might technology be used to foster human interaction and touch?

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Authenticity, Biology, creativity, culture of innovation, Evolution, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Society, stress, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Embracing Scope Creep

Posted by Plish on July 23, 2010

We’ve all experienced it.

We’re cranking along in a project and someone comes in with a ‘brilliant’ idea or a new documentation requirement. 

AUGHH!  Time is ticking, money is being spent.  Why couldn’t this have been brought up at the beginning of the project?!?!

There are basically three responses:

  1. Ignore the request and move forward promising to fold features into the next version
  2. Agree to the request and try and get more time/money
  3. Agree to parts of the request and move the rest into the next version.

All three of these cause angst to the team, to management, and perhaps even the users.  They result in more time and money being spent.  Creativity likewise drops as people go into crunch mode trying to accomplish more with less. 

It’s Scope Creep.

So, why would anyone want to embrace this?

Let’s step back a moment.

We all have a tendency to look at projects as totally linear processes.  Everyone  agrees up front what needs to be done,  money is allotted, a timeline is set and everyone is off to the races.  The project moves into execution mode – efficient execution.

But, we also know that projects aren’t linear phenomena.  They’re a combination of fits and starts, looping back, problems and solutions.

So what happens?

When we first embark on projects, we keep our fingers crossed and hope that nothing gets in the way of launching the product  – that there is no Scope Creep.  As the project progresses we continue with the same mentality, constantly moving forward but at the same time looking over our shoulders, trying to anticipate what might occur before it does.   We hope nothing will knock us off our tenacious trek towards launch – especially no new product requirements.   Nevertheless, these new requirements seem to come and wreak havoc. 

But, there is a bright side.  

Scope Creep is more than something that should be avoided and/or grudgingly dealt with because where there is Scope Creep, there are opportunities to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Project Management, stress, Tactics, Team-Building, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

R.A.D. Curricula Needed in Techie Times

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2009

I was recently in a discussion about a do-it-yourself digital camera called the “Big Shot“. 

The main point of contention was whether or not this device actually helped kids learn about photography.

Make no bones about it, the Big Shot definitely has an impact on kids – especially the inner city children that were able to try this out.  The Big Shot is a great tool for getting children together, for giving them pride in what they build, for getting them to socialize, to share their creativity.  Rock On, Big Shot!!

However, with regards to actually teaching about photography, I’m not sure it hits the mark. 

To have a powerful impact teaching anyone anything, the teaching should inspire:

R-Respect for the past

A– Awe of the present experience

D – Dreams for the future

Teaching should be R.A.D. !

Following the R.A.D. model I would propose the following kits and curriculum:

Respect for the past – A do-it-yourself single shot camera kit that lets kids see film developing; A pinhole camera; A contact photograph of a leaf would all be instructive about light and how people took and still take pictures.

Awe for the present experience – Build the Big Shot.

Dreams for the future – This actually happens naturally when ‘R’ and ‘A’ occur.  Ask them to dream based upon what they’ve experienced. 

When the R.A.D. process is followed, people (adults and children alike) see themselves as part of a continuum, not just techno-consumers.

In today’s day, it’s too easy to see technology as a stand alone solution to our problems.  Sure, technology can be helpful, but real solutions start in the locus between the ears and behind the eyes, the place where we bow respectfully to the past, get excited with awe about the present, and realize there is so much more that the future holds, and we’re all a part of it. 

 

Posted in Authenticity, Brain Stimulation Tools, children, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Education, imagination, innovation, Play, Society, Team-Building, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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