What Lens Are You Looking Through?
Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. "Watson," he says, "look up in the sky and tell me what you see."
"I see millions of stars, Holmes," says Watson.
"And what do you conclude from that, Watson?"
Watson thinks for a moment, "Well," he says, "astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does that tell you, Holmes?"
"Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!"
Right on, Holmes!
For those of you trying to figure out why your business isn't more innovative, consider the above joke. The answer is in the punchline.
Your CEO looks up and sees the Board. Your CFO looks up and sees Wall Street. Your CIO looks up and sees Blackberries. Your HR Director looks up and sees diversity. And your workforce? They don't look up -- overwhelmed as they are with the tasks they've been given to deliver on next quarter's results.
The beauty of the Holmes/Watson joke (excerpted from Thomas Cathcart's and Daniel Klein's delightful book, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar...) is that it cuts to the core of the issue in very few words.
Humor does that. Which is why the Court Jester was the one who had the King's ear.
HAHA and AHA are two sides of the same coin. The same thing that triggers laughter triggers insight.
It's all about a momentary shock to the system -- the unexpected...a surprise... delightful discontinuity. And when that happens -- when we are momentarily boggled by an input that does not fit with our logical expectations, VOILA! Breakthrough! And along with it, a jolly good time.
Unfortunately, the sound of laughter in the workplace is often interpreted by managers as proof of a slacker workforce -- as if laughing and working were mutually exclusive.
Nothing could be further from the truth. "If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think" explained Clarence Darrow.
Or how about this from Carl Jung? "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves."
Or this from Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny.'"
OK. These two innovation consultants walk into a bar...March 28, 2012
The Joy of Outlandishness
Does Laughter Enable Thinking?
March 27, 2012
The Beauty of Bad
March 23, 2012
Thomas Edison on Making Mistakes
March 21, 2012
most of them."
Don't Let This Happen to You!
This poor guy just read
the next game changing
"The Six Habits of the Five Principles
of the Ten Ways
to Be 300% More Effective
While Doing Less
and Having More."
Is it just me, or do you also think
there are way too many
FREAKING BUSINESS BOOKS
pawning themselves off
as the 12 Irrefutable Laws
about saying the same thing
over and over again
in order for the ghost written author
to one day,
get hefty keynote speaking fees.
Why Good Leaders Pause
It's often the case that people expect their leaders to be decisive -- able to make difficult decisions quickly. Indeed, this kind of behavior is interpreted as one of the hallmarks of good leadership.
The reality is different, however.
The "rush to judgment" mindset creates undue pressure on leaders -- the kind of pressure that causes them to prematurely choose a path forward even when confronting a complex problem.
To be truly effective, leaders need to balance the need to quickly converge on a single solution with the conflicting requirement that multiple perspectives be considered.
Yes, spending time to gain an understanding of the thought processes behind conflicting perspectives slows down the decision-making process. But it also creates a rich opportunity for much more robust solutions.
Slowing down is not necessarily a sign of procrastination or indecision. More accurately, it is a sign of impending wisdom about to be applied.
Tolerating this period of pause requires leaders to exhibit two qualities that seem to be in short supply these days:
1. Self-confidence (not bravado).
2. Patience (not procrastination).
Unfortunately, as external pressures from above and below increase, leaders experience an increasing tendency to internalize these pressures, causing self-doubt, stress, and a relentless need to prove their worth.
The result? Leaders end up adopting pre-existing solutions not well-suited to the challenges at hand. They decide fast, but the decisions they make are all too often fatally flawed.
Being able to resist mounting pressures to act quickly requires great intestinal fortitude. It requires leaders to keep themselves and others passionately engaged in the process of finding a way through the uncertainty instead of grasping at known "solutions" which only make the problem worse.
This phenomenon is similar to the classic story of the drunkard looking for his car keys under a streetlight even though he knows it's not where he dropped them.
"I know my keys aren't there," he confesses, "but that's where the light is."
It's not easy searching in the dark. Nor is it easy convincing others to join you in the search.
Which is precisely why being an authentic leader is so difficult these days.
- Barry Gruenberg
Here's another one of Barry's fine articles.
iPhone, Therefore I Am?
I just had a realization. Well, maybe "realization" is too fancy a word. Make that more of an insight. Nah... "insight" sounds just a tad too self-congratulatory.
For want of a better word, let's call my little moment a semi-embarrassing wake up call -- the kind of learning experience I claim is good for me, but I really don't want to have.
It's a moment I've had a hundred times before, but not until two days ago, in Newark Airport, as I was exiting Flight #1140 from LA, did the whole thing really dawn on me.
There I was, merrily walking through Terminal "C", glad to be heading home after a three-day business trip, when I reached into my pocket for my trusty iPhone only to discover it wasn't there.
My iPhone wasn't there! Gone. It was gone. My iPhone was gone!
Gone, as in missing. Gone, as in not in my pocket. Gone, as in WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS MY FREAKING IPHONE with all those apps and appointments and contacts?
No, I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Neither was I in New Jersey. I was in a sudden state of panic -- as far away from samadhi as a person could be, Woody Allen on steroids -- my former digital life flashing before my eyes.
Where just a minute ago I was a conscious human being firmly rooted in a deep experience of peace, now I was wildly slapping every pocket I could find like some kind of poster boy for Tourette's Syndrome
This ridiculous outtake from a movie that will never be made took less than five seconds (me having blissfully located the "missing iPhone" in my suit jacket pocket), but those five seconds were very revealing -- me (Mr. Been-On-The-Path-For-40-Years) so easily discombobulated by a (temporarily) missing phone.
Which, I guess, is a good thing -- as it popped, once again, the bubble of my own pitiful self-image of being so together -- that shiny golden calf I all-too-often worship at.
My little airport experience reminds me of that classic Zen story of the young monk who -- after ten years of deep practice in the mountain monastery -- is invited by his Master to give the morning talk at the local village temple.
The young monk's discourse was impeccable that day, his Master astounded by his protege's ability to quote from the most esoteric of Zen doctrine.
But when the talk was over and it was time for the young monk to begin his long trek back up the mountain, he could not find his sandals.
Apparently, in his excitement at having been asked to speak, he'd forgotten where he put them.
Unsmiling, his Master shot him a stern glance and pointed to the mountain top.
"Ten more years, young friend. Ten more years."
And that's exactly how long it took the monk to be asked again to give the morning talk at the village temple.
The good news? On that day he remembered exactly where his sandals were.March 18, 2012
Einstein on Stupidity
is a genius.
But if you
judge a fish
by its ability
to climb a tree,
it will live
its whole life believing
that it is stupid."
- Albert EinsteinMarch 14, 2012
20 Qualities of an Innovator
The word "innovate" can be traced all the way back to 1440. It comes from the Middle French word "innovacyon," meaning "renewal" or "new way of doing things".
Exactly what innovations actually happened in 1440 (rounder oxcart wheels?) is anybody's guess, but whatever they were, it's likely they improved the quality of life for more than a few people.
These days, the "innovation thing" is something of a no-brainer. Every company worth its low-salt lunch has identified innovation as a core competency needing to be developed.
Who in their right mind (or is it right brain?) can deny the value of improving things? Isn't this what human beings, those grand inventors of the microchip and the chocolate chip, are supposed to do?
True. But who has time?
And so begins the search for the magic pill -- the system, formula, or blueprint that will make innovation a done deal.
Innovation, unfortunately -- unlike audits, re-engineering, or your high school penmanship teacher -- is not given to systems, formulas, and blueprints. It is given to people -- restless, inspired, fascinated people with an almost cellular need to change things for the better.
And while it can certainly be supported by systems, it can never be reduced to systems.
If you want to ignite innovation in your organization, forget about slick formulas for a minute and pay attention to what's happening on the inside. Because that's where innovation starts. With the innovator -- the inspired individual, compelled to make a difference.
And the key to the innovator? The special blend of qualities that allows him or her to succeed while their co-workers are bitching and moaning on their way to their next unnecessary meeting?
Is it tools? Techniques? Metrics?
Sure, they're useful. But without the user of them having the right stuff, they're merely decoration -- like having a shiny set of new jumper cables, but no car.
And so... if you are one of the self-chosen few who are willing to stop blaming your organization, the economy, your boss, your industry, the government, HR, your mother, your astrological sign, the Board, and the bored, now's the time to start taking personal responsibility for innovating.
Now's your chance to kick things in high gear.
Now's the time to get the lead out -- to lead the revolution wherever you happen to be working at the time and make some magic.
Yes, it begins with you. But where does it begin with you?
In the words of the great psychologist, Fritz Perls, "awareness cures." Yes, it does.
Still with me?
If so, take a few minutes now to try the following exercise to get the party started.
All you need to do is rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, for how much you manifest the following qualities in the workplace. Note which ones are your strengths -- and how can you build on them. Then note which ones are your weaknesses -- and how can you strengthen them.
You might even give them to your team and ask them to rate themselves. Then get together and talk about what you've all come up with.
And don't forget to floss.
20 Qualities of an Innovator
1. Challenges the status quo
5. Entertains the fantastic
6. Takes risks
7. Peripatetic (moves about)
11. Makes new connections
13. Recognizes patterns
14. Tolerates ambiguity
15. Committed to learning
16. Balances intuition and analysis
17. Situationally collaborative
18. Formally articulate
This posting is excerpted from It's AHAppening, a series of five, 16-page creative thinking guidebooks.March 12, 2012
POLL: Why Do You Want to Innovate?
If you read this blog, I know you want to innovate -- but I don't know WHY. Click here to take the poll. Results posted here in a few weeks.March 11, 2012
Where Einstein Got His Great Ideas
March 10, 2012
Going Viral on the Cutting Edge
This is fabulous. Totally refreshing. And since it's all about razor blades, appropriately "edgy". Oh, it's already gotten more then 2.4 million views on YouTube. PS: How can you create a cool viral video that promotes your product or service?
Get the juices flowing
How to Capture the Wisdom of Your Organization's Elders
What do Clint Eastwood, Madeline Albright, Willie Nelson, Alan Alda, Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Ravi Shankar, Edward Kennedy, Andrew Wyeth, Frank Gehry and a host of other creative movers and shakers have in common beside fame?
If you work in an organization and are looking for a simple way to capture the wisdom of your senior people before they move on, here's a clue how to do it.
Honor the past, live in the present, be open to the future...March 06, 2012
ANNOUNCING! National Good Idea Day
Let me be the first to inform you that today is National Good Idea Day -- a day I am officially declaring without any approval from our dysfunctional government or any slick lobbying group attempting to hustle other people's products or services for a hefty commission.
As the official invoker of this fabulous new holiday, it is my honor to explain that the purpose of this way-better-than-groundhog-day extravaganza is for YOU to pitch your hottest new idea to someone you trust in the next 60 minutes. Got it? Good! Go! (And if anything comes of it, please let us know).March 05, 2012
Innovation from the Inside Out
Some, I'm happy to report, are actually doing something about it. Hallelujah! They are taking bold steps forward to turn theory into action.
The challenge for them is the same as it's always been -- to find a simple, authentic way to address the challenge from the inside out -- to water the root of the tree, not just the branches.
External systems and protocols, no matter how seductive they are to create, are simply not sufficient to guarantee real innovation. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Systems die. Instinct remains."
This is not to say that organizations should ignore systems and structures in their effort to establish a culture of innovation. They shouldn't.
Unfortunately, when the addiction to systems and structures rules the day, an organization's quest for a culture of innovation degenerates into nothing much more than a cult of innovation.
Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That's where innovation originates -- from deep within the inspired individual who understands that his/her sustained effort is what's required to go beyond the status quo.
The organization's role -- just like the individual manager's role -- is to get out of the way. And while this "getting out of the way" will undoubtedly include the effort to formulate supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that systems, processes, and protocols are never the answer.
They are the context, not the content. They are the husk, not kernel. They are the menu, not the meal.
Ultimately, organizations are faced with the same challenge that religions are faced with. Religious leaders may speak passionately about the virtues their congregation needs to abide by, but sermons only name the challenge and remind people to experience something -- they don't necessarily change behavior.
Change comes from within the heart and mind of each individual. It cannot be legislated or evangelized into reality.
What's needed in organizations who aspire to a culture of innovation, is an inner change. People need to experience something within themselves that will spark and sustain their effort to innovate -- and when they experience this "something," they will be self-sustaining.
They will think about their projects in the shower, in their car, and in their dreams. They will need very little "management" from the outside. Inside out will rule the day -- not outside in. Intrinsic motivation will flourish.
People will innovate not because they are told to, but because they want to. Open Space Technology is a good metaphor for this. When people are inspired, share a common, compelling goal and have the time and space to collaborate, the results become self-organizing.
You can create all the reward systems you want. You can reinvent your workspace until you're blue in the face. You can license the latest and greatest idea management tool, but unless each person in your organization OWNS the need to innovate and finds a way to tap into their own innate brilliance, all you'll end up with is a mixed bag of systems, processes, and protocols -- the husk, not the kernel -- the innovation flotsam and jetsam that the next administration or next CEO or next key stakeholder will mock, reject or change at the drop of a hat if the ROI doesn't show up in the next 20 minutes.
You want culture change? You want a culture of innovation?
Great. Then find a way to help each and every person in your organization come from the inside out. Deeply consider how you can awaken, nurture, and develop the primal need all people have to create something extraordinary.March 03, 2012
WEBINAR #1: Ideation Jump Start
Idea Champions is happy to announce the launch of its new webinar curriculum for 2012 -- a series of high value 60-minute tutorials for companies wanting to foster innovation in a way that is encouraging, empowering, and enlightening.
Here's a brief description of the first one -- a webinar that has already been delivered nine times to Chubb Insurance.
IDEATION JUMP START is a powerful way to catalyze brilliance, creativity, and new ideas for individuals and teams at every level of your organization. It is especially beneficial for people who are committed to going beyond the status quo and originating elegant, new approaches to meeting pressing business challenges.
Prior to the webinar, we will help you define 1-3 challenges you want participants to address in the webinar.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:
1. How to access breakthrough ideas from your subconscious mind
2. Four mind-opening techniques to help you originate powerful, new ideas on and off-the-job
3. Five simple ways to increase the effectiveness of small group brainstorming
4. How to give and receive the kind of feedback that decreases naysaying and increases the odds of powerful, new ideas taking root in the organization
Bottom line, people who participate in an IDEATION JUMP START webinar have their "creative floodgates" opened and make a meaningful commitment to generating powerful, new ideas that will help their company grow.March 02, 2012
A Crash Course On How to Be a Great Consultant March 01, 2012
Reframing Company Politics
Here is a very refreshing take on a topic most of us are not very clear about -- company politics. If you want to be more influential in your organization, this a good place to start.