ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘personal growth’

If You Expect Normal Results From This New Normal You’ll Be Surprised. So, How Should We View These Times?

Posted by Plish on April 16, 2020

It seems we see this phrase almost everywhere: The New Normal

“Special Report – The New Normal – Emerging Innovations in a World Shaped by Covid-19” (This is a great report from the folks at Trendhunter! Get a copy of it here)

“Learn how to thrive in the new normal.”

The problem is, this is not normal.  Yes, it’s a new situation but it is anything but normal.  Normalcy implies that there are known rules to the game, that a certain action creates certain reactions.  Instead, it seems the rules change every day.  People just aren’t sure what tomorrow will bring.

No, we are living in liminal times.

What is Liminality?

It is the blurry time that exists between what was and what is to come.  The term ‘liminal’ gained traction among anthropologists.  It’s used to describe the transitional times that occur in people’s lives, families and societies.  Weddings, funerals, births, baptisms, a Bar Mitzvah or Quinceañera, divorce, new jobs, the ‘hazing’ period that fraternities make Pledges go through-for that matter, what any initiate to a new organization goes through.   They’re all types of transitions and as such people experience liminal states.   Put simply, during these times, a person is no longer a member of what was, but she also isn’t an official member of a group either. Liminal states are thresholds into what is new.

Traits of Liminal States

Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On left side write the words “The Past” and on the right side, “The Future”.  The line is the liminal state.  Most liminal states are planned for, but on the larger scale, wars, disease, sociopolitical circumstances, can all create liminality and those are typically not planned for.   How do you know when you are inside the line?  Here are some indicators that let you know when you are in the liminal state.  (Does this describe what we’re going through?)

  1. The liminal state has its own rules and are different from what comes before and what comes after.
  2. Transitional
  3. Shared rituals
  4. Social hierarchies get upended or become non-existent
  5. Some type of social separation
  6. Introspection and reflection upon events and directions
  7. A time of rebirth, of creative remaking

Why Does Liminality Matter?

We are innovating and trying to grow and build business in a time in which it seems the target is moving.  We have no idea when ‘normalcy’ will return, if ever.  As a business, there’s no guarantee that what we create now will continue to work, and there’s definitely no guarantee that what we do now will work 3 months or a year from now.

Now and Later

Since we are in a liminal state, we are in a state in which the rules are being made.  Rules are not only being made for now, they may be being made for the future.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the suggestion that we never shake hands again.   While this is definitely a rule that we should be following in the present, whether or not that happens in the Future is still to be seen. 

What Rules do we Plan For?

Nobody knows what life is like on the other side of this liminal experience.   Heck, no one knows what next month will be like.  The gut reaction is to try and predict how the future will pan out.  However, that’s a risky move and instead it’s better to do one or both of the following.

Try and Make the Future.

Making the Future is easier said than done, and people typically have more success the more limited the scope of the changes are in time and/or space.  (About the only thing you have control of and that you can definitely make future resistant is your own attitude and your own perspectives, and even that can be quite difficult!)

Don’t Predict, Plan

The other choice is to not try and predict, but instead plan for various scenarios.  In other words, you want to look at possible futures and set yourself up so that you are able to survive in more likely futures, or multiple futures, not just one.

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning was actually popularized as a strategic planning tool by Shell .  The process can easily take months on a corporate level, but you can be as in-depth as you like.  However, the more time you spend on the exercise, the more you will understand how the future may unfold, and it will yield better results when you design products and services during these times.

Scenario planning takes a look at the past and present to better understand possible futures.  It’s a structured framework for analyzing trends and drivers be they social, technological, environmental, political, or economic.  Once you know what types of things are happening in the world you can understand the likelihood they will impact the issue you’re looking at.

I strongly suggest checking out, “4 Steps to the Future” by Richard A.K. Lum.  It’s concise with templates galore.  There is copious Scenario Planning info on the internet and in book form, but I found this handbook to be a great, usable tool to get the ball rolling and structure your thinking around what might happen and how you can prepare for it.  While doing a thorough, full blown, scenario exercise is a good thing, anything you do to help you understand possible future scenarios will be a good thing.

In the Playground of Potential Futures

The Future is a horizon that glows in every second of the Now.  Each day brings new challenges, new information, new hope.  Rembrandt, Michelangelo and others of the Renaissance, rose from the liminal times of the Plague to create some of Humanity’s most powerful works.

Remember that line you drew down the center of the paper?

That Liminal space is powerful and filled with potential.  Everything to the right of that line is a product of the Past and the Liminal Line! The line is not only something that divides, it is the start, and we are living it! It’s a time to reboot and re-make, to re-create/recreate, to make new rules and perhaps jettison old ones.  Yes, these are terrible times but they are also filled with awesome potential.  Explore and use this time to re-center, forge new growth, new strategies and directions, new relationships, because what we are living through now is not a ‘new normal’.

It’s Liminal.

 

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Great Creative Minds, innovation, Social Innovation, The Future, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Three Words That Will Alert You To Opportunities for Innovation and Growth

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2017

“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can play Pokémon for that long”
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy an iPad when an Android works just as well”
“How can anyone listen to {Taylor Swift, Kanye West, etc….}?”  (This is a veiled way to say “I don’t understand.”)
I Don’t Understand…

 

Those three words represent a disconnect from people and objects. They represent a lack of understanding of how people are being served, or how their desires are (or aren’t) being met. They point to how we don’t understand how people’s aspirations may be enabled and thus they point to how we don’t understand the opportunities present.

But perhaps more importantly, those three words highlight that we haven’t taken the time to understand people. What does that say about us? We like to think of ourselves as well informed, as perhaps at The Cutting Edge, as caring human beings.  Yet, we are confronted with seemingly inexplicable phenomena where millions of people are fans of a product, service, or person.

There’s a lesson here regardless of what products we like, or what people we want for president, or what games we play. We need to be tuned in to what other people want. If we really want to build better communities, a better world, we need to understand each other. We need to know where people are coming from. We need to know what types of things are passionately driving people in their day-to-day lives.

Niches of (Not) Understanding

Those words, “I don’t understand…” alert us to niches.  When designing products and services, we must play in those niches . And as we’ve seen, those niches can be comprised of millions and millions of people.

Pay Attention

Pay attention to what people do. Pay attention to what people say. Understand what excites people. What makes people happy? What do people feel that they will lose if they don’t have something? What will people feel they will gain if they do have something or if they don’t?

Today the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, is being sworn in. His election highlights the fact that there are millions upon millions of people in this country who don’t understand how somebody could vote for somebody else. That means that there are millions of people that’s simply don’t understand their fellow Americans people that’s too high a number.  If we’re designing a better country, (and that’s something that everyone seemingly wants), we need to rise above caricatures and start understanding each other’s motivations and pains.  We need to really understand and not lump everyone into neat little political, racial, socio-economic, etc. silos of categorization.

Misunderstanding

Thinking we understand is perhaps even worse than not understanding at all. When we misunderstand, we risk going down the unfruitful paths.  We risk spending money, time and energy on things that won’t resonate and hence won’t succeed.    Can anyone say “Edsel“?

Listen For Those Three Words

“I don’t understand”  Use those words as a springboard to exploring the relationships, needs, and desires, of people. Those words are the key to new products, services, and even in the bigger picture, a better world.  At at the end of the day, the best thing we can say is, “I understand why…” , or “I understand how…”

Once we understand, we grow.  When we’ve grown, we can get to work designing  solutions:  better products, better services, a better world.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, innovation, observation, Politics, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mental Health Tip for Innovative/Creative People – Stop Unaccompanied Time Travel

Posted by Plish on August 4, 2016

Imaginations are great.

It’s a great tool that enables each of us to look at problems, understand how they got there, how to fix them, and what the impact of those fixes can be.  It helps us survive***.  Our imaginations allow us to time travel to the past and the future.  We experience images and feelings that allow us to live that which has, hasn’t, will, and/or won’t happen.

But there’s a problem.

The more adept we get at using our imaginations, our imaginations can, very often start using us. Without disciplined self-awareness, time travel gets the better of us.  We find ourselves lost in the past, turning situations over and over in our heads.

“Why didn’t I do that?  I should’ve done this.  Where was the support? …”

The questions can flow on and on in vivid color.  We replay everything and embellish it – feeling every decision in the pit of our guts.  It’s real. We’re in the past.

Then there’s the scenario planning that’s gone haywire.  We travel from past to future without taking a stop in the Present.

We see, smell, hear, feel, every alternate time path.   We see the failures; we see the success, but then something messes it up.  Again with the self-talk:

“I should’ve done this. I can’t believe he said that.  How dare….”

This type of negative time travel seems to impact us the most when we are anxious and under stress.  Our brains and bodies don’t know the difference though.  As a result we get more anxious, our blood pressure shoots up, heart rate speeds up.  Left unchecked, our productivity goes down… Our bodies are living the reality of time travel in our minds.

The solution?

Become cognizant of the fact that you’re imagining the reality – not actually living it.  In short, stop time traveling and come back to the Present.  Say something out-loud to yourself, “This isn’t the reality. I’m anxious (angry, upset, impatient, etc.)”

Then it’s a matter of acknowledging something positive. Be thankful for something at that moment.  In essence you are interrupting and re-writing the experience from being something that happened (or will happen) to an experience in the now with positive ramifications.  (There’s a great series on healing emotional memories by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D. .  Check it out!)

Our imaginations are wonderful.  They dynamize our innovation and creativity and enable us to design products and services that impact the world in positive ways.  The ability to time travel is key to this.  Just make sure you travel with yourself and make every journey into the past and future fruitful and pleasant.

We are more than the sum of our experiences – good and bad.  Don’t get sidetracked by past and future memories of the bad.

🙂

 

*** –  “Prehistoric men and women who worried a lot were more likely to survive than their carefree, positive-thinking peers. Thinking negatively served as an early warning system. It triggered the brain to recognize actual and potential threats in the moment, and it also aided the brain in imagining dangerous scenarios that didn’t exist. If people were prepared at all times, they were more apt to survive.” – from Curious. by Todd Kashdan, Ph.D. (Quoted here)

 

Posted in health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation and Independence Both Start with”I” (Happy 4th!)

Posted by Plish on July 4, 2016

Innovation and Independence both start with “I”. It’s not a coincidence!

This country was founded by people who said, “I am going to make a difference!”

Those are the same words spoken by entrepreneurs and innovators world wide.

Not to mention that research shows that when fear is low, innovation is high.  So work to make your country, your work, neighborhood, homes, and your self, less fear filled!  Work towards creating a world where each person, each “I” can say with the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Provide safe spaces where people (yourself included!) can innovate and grow.   Allow innovation to flourish and you will indeed make the world a better place, one innovation at a time!

Happy Independence Day!!  Happy 240th Birthday, USA!

 

 

 

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, Human Rights, innovation, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ramifications in Innovation (Lessons from Bonsai)

Posted by Plish on February 17, 2016

Screenshot_2016-02-11-18-12-20 (Copy)

When people say, “There will be ramifications if you do that,” most people interpret that to mean that there will secondary, negative consequences to an action.  In the world of Bonsai,  ramification is good; it means (often artist assisted) branching, and a healthy tree branches, and branches, and branches, with leaves growing from the smallest branches.  More leaves means more sunlight gathering capacity and that translates into more energy being captured and sent to the roots.  Stronger, finer roots means strength during lean times and stability in storms.

Without ramification, a tree will be a one trick pony.  It will have few branches and large leaves.  Young trees start out with little ramification.  However, older trees, like those pictured above, optimize their light capturing ability with multiple little branches and many leaves.  At the heart of this growth is a battle – the survival of the fittest branch.  You see, as a tree branch grows, cells at the tip of the branch stimulate growth and simultaneously create hormones that inhibit the growth of branches below it.  It’s a tree’s way to ensure that the strongest branches get to the light, and keep it.

In the world of innovation, the same thing happens.  Certain projects or products, certain mindsets start soaking up energy -they grow at the expense of other projects sucking up money and personnel.  The lead projects can often send signals, cultural hormones if you will, that stifle the growth of other projects.  It’s a self-sustaining cycle.  Even though the energy obtained from success goes back to the roots of the company, a tree doesn’t grow stronger from one branch and a couple of leaves. It needs many branches, many leaves.  It needs ramification.

But, contrary to trees growing in the wild, bonsai are constrained in vessels.  This puts stressors on the plant, and if you don’t make adjustments for these stressors, the tree won’t thrive, and in fact, may die.  So, you need to optimize the leaf output because that means you optimize energy capture, thus helping optimize  the root system, effectively giving the tree physical support and a place to store energy in lean times. (Not to mention, a tree with ramification looks nicer :))

How do you do it?

You create ramification by cutting off the ends of strategic branches. By doing this, you are giving the plant the opportunity to change direction. You’re effectively telling the bonsai tree that even though it is growing in a certain direction, you now give the tree freedom to grow somewhere else; in fact, you’re forcing it. New branches, and hence new leaves, will come out near where you had cut, but these branches will take different directions. In addition, since the inhibitory hormone is temporarily inactive, the tree will sometimes find some other place to bud from where, for reasons known only to the tree, there is a perceived better opportunity.

In the world of innovation and creativity, the equivalent process is to give people opportunities to take things in new directions.  It’s telling people to forget what’s gotten them this far, forget the direction they’re going, and let the dormant ideas sprout and be nurtured.  Just as ramification unleashes new growth in a tree, in a company (and in people!), active branching out fosters creative growth.   When the tip of a branch is trimmed, the dormant buds respond to the environment, to changes in sunlight and moisture.  Similarly, when creative ideas are no longer subject to inhibitory cultural hormones, they are free to respond and grow, sensing and responding to the light of market moving trends and needs.

One way of achieving ramification is to do what some companies call the 20 percent rule (or 10%, 15% depending on the company).  Dave Myers, an engineer in one of W.L. Gore’s medical product facilities, spent his 10% time working on his mountain bike.  From this seemingly disconnected activity, Gore developed Ride-On bike cables and Elixir guitar strings.

Remember, ramification, is a subtler process in contrast to more aggressive pruning. Pruning can take away major resources from a tree and causes gross restructuring.    Once a major branch is gone, it’s gone and not coming back any time soon.  Conversely, ramification is gentler way of reallocating  the way a tree receives energy and expends it in growing.  In organizations of all types, ramification is about recognizing the organic structure that is present and fostering the growth of those organisms (i.e. people) within it.    Organic growth occurs when there’s abundant nourishment and a lack of inhibitory signals – growth finds its way to the light.

What steps can you take to start the process of ramification?

Start by asking some key questions:

Ask yourself what your people are doing.  Heck, ask the people themselves! (see the Innovation Audit.) Do they have opportunities to grow organically and hence help the company grow organically?  Are there signals being sent by the culture at large that stifle the growth of latent potential within the company? Do people mock what others are doing? Is there an acceptance of what people do and what they bring to the table? Are there projects that have great promise but are consuming large amounts of energy with little to show for it?  If things start growing are they given opportunities to continue to grow?

Have people ask themselves if they are hitting a wall; perhaps even more importantly, ask yourself!  The best way to stop hitting it is to stop going in the direction of the wall!  Re-route yourself, forget what direction you’re going, and go in the direction you want to go. Learn anew!!

Dormant buds are present in trees and they never sprout because dominant branches stifle with their inhibitory hormones.  In a creative culture, innovation occurs when people’s understanding of the markets are allowed to percolate; let them feel the light and give them support by giving little opportunities for people to feel part of the bigger organism.  Nourish people!

I remember in high school our principal, Dr. Duffy, pointed out that we were green going into the world.  “That’s okay,” he said, “because green things grow.”

The same holds in a company.  You want ramification.  You want people learning alternate ways of branching out and finding success.  One branch, one project, isn’t sustainable.  Ramification in some ways is synonymous with diversification.  Abundant ‘leaves’ means more ways of absorbing energy from the markets of the world, and more energy means stronger roots. Become lush with greenery, foster the growth of many branches and the results will not only benefit your company, but people (employees and customers), their families, and the world, in richer and more diverse ways.

 

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: