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Posts Tagged ‘Team-Building’

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”.


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

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

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 »

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 »

Pirate Lessons on Innovating Business Culture

Posted by Plish on September 3, 2009


What would you think if a company:

– Gave employees equal shares in profits?

– Respected everyone as equals in all ways and expected them to live up to their code of honor?

– Elected their CEO’s?

– Stayed nimble enough to take advantage of the status quo and was a feared competitor?

– Had only three tiers of management, max?

– Designed their place of work so that there was no physical, hierarchical office structure and in fact, management ate, drank (and slept!) shoulder to shoulder with the employees?

– Designed their place of work to be optimized for their type of business?

– Always obtained and used the best technology and tools, often modifying them to optimize their effectiveness?

– Valued diverse talents and cultural backgrounds?

– Always looked for the best talent but valued passion and commitment perhaps even moreso?

– Looked for other resources such as artists and artisans to help build the company but also to provide entertainment?

– Gave people the prospect of excitement at work?

It sounds like a pretty good place to work, right? 

In its day, the above business was a welcome change to the stifling, low paying environment of mega-‘corporations’.  The only problem was that the above company was illegal to belong to and if you were found to be a member it was a crime punishable by death.

The above company is representative of the best of what pirates had to offer.  While there wasn’t uniformity among pirate groups, and there were abuses among groups, the survival and prospering of piracy as a way of life is a testimony to what can be done when the person is given rights and a share in their work (and the flip side was there as well-no work, no pay). 

At a time when people were not seen as individuals with rights and active hands in their lives, the life of a pirate was not just a means of escape, but  a way to earn wealth while being part of something bigger – a part of a brotherhood. 

I bring this up because in some ways today, people feel they are losing individuality, losing a say in where and how they work, feeling they are working too hard for the amount of pay they receive.  Companies of all sizes could learn something from pirates in structuring their organizations and cultures, in rewarding their people and providing efficient work environments.

For example,

What would company floorplans look like with little hierarchy?

What would paychecks look like with only three tiers of structure and profits being distributed to everyone in the company?

How would people work if they could use the best tools for their jobs and if they knew they were valued?

Think about it…

I’ll leave you with one last thought:

When pirates boarded a ship they would ask the crew for their opinion of their Captain.  If they thought he was  good and fair Captain, he was rewarded with cash and given a boat.  If he was not liked he was beaten up.  How would CEO’s manage their companies if they knew this rule would be applied to them if their companies were ever acquired?

To learn more about pirate life and if you’re in the Chicago area check out the pirate exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History.  It’s well worth the trip to see what pirates lives were like and what their world looked like.

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, Creativity Leadership, culture of innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Human Rights, innovation, Start-Ups, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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