Archive for the 'Corporate Culture' Category

CEOs: Scratch the learning from the past. Embrace lifelong learning in your workpace

This environment did not train the workforce we need today and tomorrow:

OldSCHOOL

 

We need to start fostering a learning environment and culture within our own organizations that encourages life long learners. Without this culture & environment we will not be able to generate the innovation and solutions that allow us to be leaders in the market yet alone keep up the pace demanded by changing technologies and a public who demands inter-connectivity via technology. 

Learning organizations both grow and attract star innovators and performers. Organizations that refuse to change wisely & rapidly often fade or fail. There are no magic bullets when it comes to developing a learning culture and environment. It’s really damn hard work, that doesn’t seem to pay off immediately, but it does require a vision and courage to change.

 

Slideshare: Meeting the Needs of a Rapidly Changing Workforce with the Learning Organization of the 21st Century

Looking at a Shogun’s Leadership/Partnership Lessons from a 21st Century Lens

21st Century advice: Freedom of Speech  at Work Requires Partnership from Both Ends

I have been sitting on this blog post for some time now. And now with the summer coming to the end, I finally find some time to finish it. After working in training and development for over 15 years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of leadership development programs. And some programs really emphasize the importance of an open door policy, but it’s not always possible to exercise it without willingness and buy in on the part of leadership. On the other hand, people who follow need to realize that the open door is a gift that should be used wisely. 

 

Leaders should have a truly open door and be prepared to hear the good with the bad

One of my favorite stories from Japanese history is a simple story about listening and leadership…

One day while walking through his palace grounds with a retainer, the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu met a low level soldier from the ranks. The soldier had a comment to say on his regiment. When the man had finished and walked away, Ieyasu’s retainer commented with shock, “What a waste of time. How dare he address you on such a petty and insignificant manner.”

The Shogun remarked frankly:

“It took a great deal of courage for that man to approach me. If I did not listen to him, he might not ever do it again.”

 IeyasuTokugawaShogun

Tokugawa Ieyasu – Japanese Shogun who helped unite feudal Japan

With the simple gesture of listening, this remarkable man sent a message to all of his followers low and high, that they could be heard. They could speak up (within reason, of course). The most practical reasoning for this was if he had no true visibility to the workings of his court, he would not be able to guide and manage them effectively. He was probably savvy enough to recognize that his leadership and ability to lead could be impeded by courtiers seeking to pander to curry favor. 

In hierarchical structures and cultures of leadership that are top down a truly open dialogue is painfully difficult if not impossible.

 

Followers to Leaders: don’t treat us like we’re still in middle school. Encourage an open dialogue with us

When I taught middle school students, every year I encountered at least one student who would express their dissatisfaction with rules or my decisions as a teacher aloud. I met one or two who insisted that in expressing their dissent they were expressing their freedom of speech.

Engaging in this kind of argument with anyone let alone a young person who’s testing the boundaries around them can seem like a sticky wicket. I’ve met teachers who avoid giving their students choices simply because of this fact.

I get this sense from many people in leadership positions regardless of their level or profession that there is a hesitancy to allow people to speak freely because they fear the result of this freedom, namely disagreement and even expression of dislike and resentment. This is old school leadership that can be defined by that phrase: “It’s my way or the highway” or the “buck stops here.” In the age or rapid market changes due to technology this management mechanism is too slow and inefficient to allow for the innovation and change needed to keep up and excel the market demands. Collaborative leadership should replace the old school top down model.

21st Century Advice: Don’t fear an open dialogue with people at all levels. Embrace it.

However, if we operate with the fear that people will revolt if we give them too much lee-way in expressing their feelings and opinions, then we gain our ability to control and dictate but loose our ability to lead and influence. The first option allows us to have our own way, the second makes allows those we lead to become self-sufficient and make their own decisions or act freely and efficiently to achieve the whole organization’s goals.

 

Leaders to Followers: use the opportunity to speak to share the issues and work with constructive solutions to solve them

But there should still be implicit rules of partnership built in any dialogue between leadership and workers and the focus must really be upon collaboration to make the organization’s goals and mission possible.

21st Century Advice: Align yourself with your company’s mission and goals,
but also find where you bring value and express this.

For those of us who are exercising our “Freedom of Speech” with our leadership, it’s important to not only be fully appreciative of the opportunity to do so, it’s good to be mindful of how we’re framing our words.

  • Are they thoughtful?
  • Are they constructive?
  • Are they forward thinking? Not focused on what happened or how things are with the past but defined by new possibilities for the future.
  • How can we help drive achievement of the organizations success? How can we be an asset?

 

Additional Reading & Resources:

How traditional leadership structures can destroy creativity and innovation:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140707105756-681714-13-ways-to-destroy-creativity-and-innovation

Ieyasu Tokugawa quotes:
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/tokugawa_ieyasu.html

The Patience of Ieyasu Tokugawa:
http://hanofharmony.com/the-patience-of-tokugawa-ieyasu/

 

 

 

Why you shouldn’t panic about robots & software taking your job… just yet

Elon Musk of Tesla has recently noted that Artificial Intelligence poses an Arnold Schwartzenegger sized threat to our well-being as a species. However, for now…People will always be needed when navigating through the complexity of emotions and unpredictable human interaction is needed.

I’d like to expand more on the list and its description below or add to it. So this post is just an initial exploration of this subject.

So how do you insure that you have value in your organization once the move to automate work and tasks begins?

  1. Remember that successful businesses rely on people – Therefore, shine where people, humanity & emotions matter. All that talk on the value of Emotional Intelligence is relevant in the upcoming techpocalypse. Robots or software still can’t manage people. They also can’t read and respond to emotion… (yet. That’s a joke – sort of I think they may be working on robots that can emote and respond to emotion).
  2. Demonstrate your ability to make key decisions or act when processes and procedure come up short or doesn’t work. – Any task or process that can be documented or automated is up for grabs where automation is concerned.  – EXAMPLE: Creating standardized reports from excel data. 
  3. Become an innovator or connector of ideas or ways to improve process to meet your group’s business needs. Most software & robots can’t innovate or come up with innovative ideas. As the article posted below states your ability to be creative sets you apart from automation.

 

EmpathyvsRobots

Images from the Morguefile

 More to think about (related posts):

Great postHow to Keep Software from Stealing Your Job

SlideShare – 17 Cartoons That Will Change Your Business by @BrianSolis @Gapingvoid from Brian Solis Slide 18 of this presentation really speaks to the importance of empathy and solving real problems in business. Sometimes the best solutions come from solving human suffering or difficulties and “that requires empathy.”

Traditional leadership just won’t do – we need collaborative leaders

Traditional leadership just isn’t going to cut it anymore if we want to build a collaborative and engaged workforce that generates winning ideas that will help us find innovative solutions to achieving affordability while staying ahead of our competition.  We need to re-examine how we lead our people.

A few differences between the leaders of the past versus the ones needed today and tomorrow:

  • Traditional leaders tend to hoard information while collaborative leaders embrace transparency & openly share knowledge – Under a collaborative manager, staff get answers and can build solutions faster without having to always ask for information.
  • Traditional leaders drive or lead in offering solutions to their team while collaborative leaders encourage suggestions and ideas from their team – Collaborative leaders sit back and listen and encourage creative solutions from their people. They don’t always drive the solutions or discussion and create a “Yes” culture. More, they trust their people (whom they’ve selected, hired, or developed) to bring the best solutions to the table.
  • Traditional leaders fight fires and focus on symptoms while collaborative ones seek to uncover the root causes of issues – Collaborative leaders are often asking “why?” They also encourage their staff to as why &  find the causes of issues or innovate better and more efficient processes. Traditional ones often are resigned to work with the systems and environment as the are and NOT challenge them.

 

Read more about the differences between traditional & collaborative leadership  – Differences between Traditional & Collaborative Leaders

The Leadership Secret that will Help You Super Charge Your Team – How honing your Emotional Intelligence can help you manage and build a team that’s positive and collaborative.

Image from Innocentive

TraditionalvsCollaborative

You’ve got diamonds in the rough, you just have to look for them

Sorry for the long hiatus from my blog life.

Wow, that’s an understatement, at almost 10 months with no writing or sharing.  I hope to be more attentive to this blog in the near future. It’s been too long.

Since I have been fascinated with the idea of the odd man out in corporate culture since I started working there over 15 years ago, I started crafting a story/presentation on the value of “Outliers & Misfits” within a corporate setting.

If you’re to summarize the message in three lines it would be this:

  • If you’re a CEO, manager, or leader, learn how to appreciate the value that these outliers can bring to your company or organization. Learn how to engage or entertain alternative perspectives.
  • Understand that their misfit energy & ideas should be channeled according to your business goals, and learn how to do so.
  • If you’re an outlier or misfit, then learn how to communicate clearly so that your ideas align with organization goals. And don’t forget to find a champion.

 

 

Week 2 Reflections: No One is Born “A Creative”

3Monkeys

It’s the 2nd week of Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations and the focus this week has been on individual constraints to innovation. According to Owen’s there are three main individual constraints to innovation: perception, intellection, and expression.

I’ve taken a cue from the last course I took (#edcmooc) and I’m making an attempt to define what I’ve learned this week visually (see the image above). But what I’ve really taken away from this week’s content are the following three bits:

Lesson 1: “There is no such thing as a creative personality.”

In other words, creative people aren’t born, they’re made or developed by their learning and experience. Numerous studies have shown that children are naturally open to experience and creative. But arguably our education system and life experience shapes or constrains this ability to be creative. We are taught the proper way to solve problems or how to keep our ideas and thoughts in check.

What Owens does argue is that there are personality traits conducive to creativity, and these are:

  • Agreeableness
  • Extroversion
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness
Personality traits conducive to creativity

If neurosis is so bad for creativity – how does this explain Woody Allen?

Logically, if you are open-minded to multiple ways of seeing a problem you’ll come up with a number of different ways to solve it. If you’re agreeable and able to connect effectively with others, you’re better able to explain your solutions to them.   Neurotic behaviors and thinking on the other hand can negatively affect one’s ability to be creative here’s an example of how neurotic thinking can prevent creativity and innovative problem solving.

“I can’t share that solution or express that that in front of others, they’ll think I’m a.)wrong, b.)stupid and I’ll just embarrass myself.” 

In order to be a truly effective at innovation, you need to be able to share your ideas freely without fear of being judged.  Perhaps that’s ultimately what makes Woody Allen one of the most creative storytellers of our time. He’s portrayed himself as the lovable neurotic, but he has never flinched at attempting to portray this neurosis in stories that examine the human condition from different perspectives.

Lesson 2: It’s important to always approach the problem from multiple perspectives.

In reading through Chapter 2 of “Creative People Must be Stopped, I ran across the story of a playwright who purchased different “odd magazines” for hobbies or topics foreign to her. Her purpose was to “see” things from that particular magazine audience’s views and therefore reinterpret what might be seen in her own vision portrayed in her plays.  Of course, your savvy marketing professional would simply call this focusing on your target markets, but there’s something so simply empowering about this approach to seeing other’s views of the same situation or problem you’re attempting to solve.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re analyzing a problem:

  • How would someone who is completely polar opposite to me see this problem? How would they describe it?
  • Why might they not see it as a problem?
  • What solutions may they came up with?

Lesson 3: It’s not how cool your idea is, it’s how you sell it to your audience.

Inarticulate but might be right

Sometimes, and I admit I’m guilty of this as well, when you come up with what you think is a ‘great idea’ its logic seems to inherently obvious to you and therefore everyone else should see it that way. However, other’s way of viewing things may NOT be aligned with your own.  I feel that this is one of my greatest Individual Constraints to innovation. I’m not always adept and explaining or selling my solutions to others.  In actuality, I am really the Asian guy in the image above from Kathy Sierra’s blog post from years back. I often have hunches or feelings about when things are right or wrong, but I’m not always able to explain them to other people around me. This is where exercises and questions from my previous lesson would come in handy. Or…

Developing a ‘common language’ might be helpful.

Reminds me of that meeting game "B.S. Bingo."

Reminds me of that meeting game “B.S. Bingo.”

I had to laugh when Owens made a dig at using ‘buzzwords.’ As he noted, they may make you feel important, but they’re not a great way of gaining common understanding of both the problem and your proposed solution.  At one of my former jobs, a former colleague of mine and I played a game called B.S. Bingo in meetings that seemed like more verbal exposition than development or planning (or action).  Though arguably, these same buzzwords are the common language used by people in the corporate world to talk with each other. I do agree with Owens that when they’re bandied about to elevate your business klout or savvy they’re simply about posturing. However, I should consider that if this is the ‘speak’ that’s being used by people who are using this language, I should develop translations of my ideas in this language.

I’ve decided to create a template for writing out my ideas to better articulate them. It’s pretty simple. I would take the idea as I see it and then translate it into at least three or four different perspectives including the intended audience or end user, my peers, my boss, and my boss’s boss. This may take a little more discipline than I’m used to.

MyIdeaTranslationTool

Image of worksheet

Click the link above to view/download the worksheet

Reflections Week 1: Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations

6 constraints to innovation - image from Leading Strategic Innovation Course

6 constraints to innovation – image from Leading Strategic Innovation Course

Yes, I’m taking another MOOC. This time it’s Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations taught by Prof. David Owens via Coursera & Vanderbilt University. Owens is the author of the book Creative People Must Be Stopped and he’s worked as an engineer and project developer at IDEO.

Because of work and time constraints I’m not taking the studio project track for this course (requires group participation in a project). I do think that I would probably gain much more in doing so, but considering the limited amount of time I have in the next two months, I’m opting out of the course project (sad about it).

My first impressions of the course

I’m having a difficult time feeling engaged with the course community because the forums are overwhelming. Imagine a attending lecture hall inside a football stadium, that’s what it feels like in there. And I don’t have a cheese hat or giant foam hand to wave around. It’s probably best to join a study group, but Yogita (former #edcmooc or Elearing & Digital Cultures student) has started a G+ Forum and I’m hoping that more discussion will take place there.  Despite the lack of engagement in the course community, I’m still enjoying the lectures a great deal. Professor David Owens and his supporting staff or crew have done a fairly good job making the lectures more visually engaging.  He’s interjected himself in the lecture videos and sometimes interacts with the slides using props or himself.  Even if you’re not interested in participating in the course activities or following through with the entire course, I highly recommend checking out the lectures. I plan to use Owen’s arguments when framing proposals for innovation within my own group at work.

David Owens Participates in the Visual Presentations of his Lectures

David Owens Participates in the Visual Presentations of his Lectures

Course Content So Far

This week Owens has provided an introduction to how the course is structured around overcoming six constraints to innovation as he has them outlined in his book:

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Organizational
  • Industry/Market
  • Society
  • Technology

Seems like he’s maintaining that one of the keys to successfully implementing innovation is not just to overcome these constraints but to pinpoint the sweet spots where these constraints overlap and cherry pick the ones that will have the greatest impact. It’s these constraints that you should focus on overcoming to solve the problem of making the innovation or idea viable in your current situation.

I’ll admit when I first started taking this class, I was skeptical about how the book frames innovation around a negative: “Creative People Must Be Stopped.” Even after reading the course introduction I asked myself why are we structuring how we innovate around constraints or why “we can’t innovate.” Now it makes a little more sense to me, as Owens is taking not just the “glass half full” view, he’s looking at the constraints as a possible puzzle to solve instead of an impossibility that restrains you.  I like that way of thinking.

Discussion about Overrated Innovation Companies

In week 1 we were asked to participate in the discussion and point out leading companies who are overrated innovation-wise. If I were to continue with Owen’s line of thinking around overcoming innovation constraints, it seems that any company can be innovative or appear so simply by overcoming the constraints to making their products or services viable:

  • Nike promoted their products and overcame public accusations over unfair labor practices by courting & using the Olympic Idols of our day to promote their products. Though the fall from Olympus has been a long drop for a few of these idols lately.
  • As Owen’s Pointed out in his lectures. The inventor of the walking sausage grill in Germany overcame the problem of having good foot-traffic accessible space by making his food vending carts more than just mobile. They  made them ‘ambulatory.’
  • And finally Apple overcame a number of constraints as noted in my forum post lost in a sea of posts:
InnovationPost1

Sorry about the size. You can click on it to read at a reasonable size.

My challenge to myself in the next few weeks is to look at the constraints within both my own workplace and my life and try to pinpoint which constraints I want to focus on overcoming. I also want to work on my ability to frame and sell my ideas using arguments that work with the different audiences I face. I’m also hoping to do more reflection on how I’ve adapted and sometimes even thrived working in corporate culture in addition to some avenues for participating and influencing this culture even as a wee little cubicle person.

I’ll admit this freely here: I like change at work and problems to solve. I’ve never been one for finding that ‘secure’ job where you mindlessly go with the flow, and part of me believes that the world is changing so fast that that formerly pervasive sort of job mentality may be going the way of the dinosaur. However, this may not be the view of many people tied into the traditional view of work and I have to temper this as well as explain how opportunities for innovation and change can benefit and their end value out-weigh the perceived or real fear and chaos that change brings to some.

http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/782259

At one point this too was a good design. Image from the Morguefile


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