Change inputs if you want new (better) outputs

Inspired by the end of this episode of Erik Kruger’s The Expansive podcast I was reflecting on how our mind’s laziness can limit us and our organizations.
We – unconsciously – use habits and mental models to repeat patterns, to save energy from making the effort of trying new things.
Specially when things are going well, we repeat ways of doing things that worked but that keep us reaching better and much needed new outputs.

Being conscious of this pattern is the first step.

The second step is to create new inputs to allow new (better) outputs to arise.
Easy ways to achieve this is to have agenda-less conversations with new insightful people.
To enter spaces where a lot of questions are asked.
To physically be in new places.
To force ourselves to add (at the very least) one new slide and concept every time we present that hugely successful presentation.

… In general creating a new habit:
the habit of always – enjoying – (and not stressing out about) actively looking for new inputs,
to switch on the curious mode,
to be open to what will allow you to create better outputs.

The balance between keeping the focus on what is most important whilst having that curious mind mode ON, is that magic sweet spot where the best new outputs will allow you to successfully innovate.

Three of the questions I get asked most frequently by innovators

These are the three broad types of questions I get asked most frequently by innovators and that you might wish to dedicate time to researching:

  1. TRENDS – What is happening? What new trends are emerging? What could the next big thing be?
  2. PROCESSES – How can I make the most of that trend? How can I implement it? How can I make the transition that is needed?
  3. ATTITUDE – What is the best attitude to manage the uncertainty, opportunities, new interactive structures?

Specially as “there is no time” it is vital to create the time (a weekly moment? the Monday meeting? …) when you stop to research all three areas.
Interestingly it is the third area (attitude) that is most important to either success or failure of innovation. It is also one of the least addressed.
Understanding how to substitute fear, stress, anxiety, uncertainty … in your team, with curiosity, open exploration, trust in each other, positive feedback, developing adaptability … just some of the fundamental traits that CAN be added / developed in the people of your team and in yourself.

Without these, your best processes and innovation will never work at its full potential.

Why millennials and Genz don’t want to lead? Leading takes energy, co-creating gives energy.

A recent survey of +10,000 18 to 35 year olds showed that leading is not their priority. Whilst older generations always aimed to reach the top of the ladder, become the boss, younger generations have other priorities.
So how can you understand and manage and allow your entire team to thrive knowing this?

First of all why don’t younger generations aim to become the leaders of their team?
Four elements stand out:
– They lack the psychological safety to take risks or make mistakes
– Too much to worry about taking on leadership responsibilities
– Leadership brings higher levels of stress
– Need to give up too much to take on a leadership role

So you can decide to address head-on all four of these points (and many more that you can only find out once you build a strong, listening, open relationship with all members of your team)

OR

You can shift to a more collaborative, co-creation, diffused leadership mode.
Where responsibility and worries about making mistakes is shared with a wider (united and supportive) team and there will be more likelihood for many to stand up and take ownership, without having to lead the entire pack forward. Instead co-creating the project and moving it forward to its highest level of innovation and success.

Always remember that leading takes energy, whilst well structured co-creation mode gives energy.

Why is GENZ talent going to leave you and what to do about it?

This article by Jason Wingard “The Great Resignation: Why Gen Z Is Leaving The Workforce In Droves…And What To Do About It” sparked in my three more ideas on how you can both motivate AND retain (*) the most innovative and interesting younger talent to your organization:

1. SPEED OF PROGRESS
reducing bureaucracy, decision levels, to get that (almost) instant satisfaction that these generations are so used to with. Long testing processes from idea to action are a sure way to lose interest, engagement and talent. 

2. WILLINGNESS TO WORK IN BETA MODE
experimenting, trying things out, being comfortable with beta mode is what creates the agility and ability to try, pivot, progress and continuously move forward to get to the best solution. Ideal for any company, essential for younger generations.

3. PROTAGONISM
being an influencer, is something that many younger people aspire to, it is achieved by many of their peers, they want it too. They want to be protagonist, of meaningful impact, they want to make change happen and be seen to make it happen. Again the (almost) instant reward is something they are accustomed to.

So definitely not an easy bunch to please and motivate, but an essential one too.




(*) because you really don’t want to retain at all costs an unmotivated and unproductive person.

Risk Management or Future Proofing – What’s the difference?

The future is most uncertain yet I need to prepare my organization and myself for that unknown future.
So where do I put my priority?
Risk Management or Future Proofing?

Whilst the two concept are very similar they highlight one of two attitudes:

Risk Management = I want to limit my risks

Future Proofing = I want to prepare for the future

Whilst the first one is usually most prevalent in more traditional companies who, fearful of their vulnerability go for the human instinct of creating some kind of certainty by “locking down the hatches”. Making sure there are no holes or gaps in the vessel that needs to navigate a future we don’t know. Limiting potential threats.
The frequent question asked in these kinds of cultures is “where can the next crisis come from?”.

Future Proofing has a stronger emphasis on the future (rather than on maintaining the past status) and on actively preparing for what (might) come next.
It is more open to explore, more creative yet has the same level of preparedness requirements.
The frequent question asked in these kinds of cultures is a more open “what might happen next and how can I be prepared?”.

So there is a clear emphasis on fear of losing and limiting in the first instance and wanting to prepare to win in the second.

Which of these two cultures are you driving for yourself and for your team? Which of them is most useful to be the most successful possible tomorrow (and the day after) ?

Why transparency is (almost) always good with your team, two key ideas.

Your team loves to be driven with innovation but also knowing what is happening around them, specially if relevant to their work or role.

Transparency is a great asset to create trust but also to reduce agitation, reducing the uncertainty of the “is something going on that I don’t know about?” kind of questions that arise in increasingly decentralised teams and ways of working.

Two key elements to make the most of transparency:

  1. Total transparency is easy but might not be the best solution.
    If what you share creates more questions and doubts and uncertainty than answers, perhaps the time to share it is not now?
  2. Make it normal to share – create regular connection points.
    If you are sharing something out of the blue, at an unexpected time, this can be come as a surprise with destabilising effects. Just like when you see lighting in the sky at night, it grabs all of your attention. In your team a surprise one-off announcement can similarly attract a lot of attention (of the wrong attention) and have people forget everything else that is important around them.
    Instead create a rhythm that is normal and expected and that creates stability.
    It can be a weekly all hands meeting. Or the Friday roundup. Or the Wednesday town hall Q&A.
    Do make sure you create moments when your people know they can all interact with you (and with each other) to get a good vision of what is happening.

Enterprises succeed when they address people’s problems

Ok that’s a pretty obvious fact, but then why do so many innovators create solutions without really understanding and involving the people whose problems they aim to address?

I have seen this so many times: a really cool group of people come together in an amazing ideation, design thinking process, come up with an outstanding solution they are really passionate about, make it happen and then … are perplexed at why no one “buys” it.

If we agree that in essence, the company is and has always been the way to solve other people’s problems (the 1st good news is that people will always have problems and therefore companies and jobs will always exist) and then we first need to be with those people we wish to serve. We have to really understand them, understand what causes those problems they are having, what are the consequences of those problems for those people, what is their perception of the problem (often very different from the reality of what the problems actually is) and – only then – can we think of the idea solutions that will be “bought” most eagerly.

That is the only innovation that will actually work, be useful, and be successful … and make your team proud for having address the problem (or desire) that pained people so much.

Try an AI “feedback box” as a better way to predict outcomes and remain useful.

Some might remember that feedback box filled (hopefully) with pieces of paper where your team or your customers could post anonymous suggestions / feedback to make anything better.

Why don’t you create a business or App to avoid the very ineffective writing on paper, then reading all inputs, then trying to make sense of them, cluster them etc?

Imagine an AI algorithm that scans your team’s Slack or even just a specific #feedback channel. Then clustered ideas / suggestions, found the most frequent or most “liked” and then created “why don’t we …” suggestions?

Add to this the opportunity to have your entire army of stakeholders bet on which new product / service is most likely to succeed? You will find that they are right in their prediction more often than the “management team” who had the idea to put to market that product / service. Why? Because there is much more cumulative knowledge of the reality of what surrounds the company in people more close to the action than there is in the few people “at the top”.

These are the kinds of AI solutions that many of the most advanced companies are already implementing.

So what is YOUR way of collecting feedback, predictions to remain agile and relevant and the best possible version of your organization?

Key principles for hybrid or virtual team innovation

Every day fewer teams work from the same physical place, your team members might be spread around the world or all live in the same city but have different preference from where they work from, some from home, some from the office … some from the beach or mountains. What is most useful to create good working time in this new hybrid environment? Here’s four (of many more) ideas.

Creating set Times to “come together”
Because everyone has different time preferences, it is vital to create times when the entire team (of 3 or of 100) comes together. Creating order and certainty that on that day, every week, at that time, for example a co-creation session will take place, or a strategy questioning time for everyone to voice ideas that need to pivot.

Coach, support and encourage
If there is ONE thing you as a leader of a time need to take time to, is not necessarily to coach, support encourage yourself but to create a system of coaching, support and encouragement. Make sure there is a process in place and people dedicated to these three fundamentals to bring virtual / hybrid to a state of being looked after, being heard, being supported. It will pay the investment you make manifold

Train for exponential skill development
You assume that everyone in your team knows how to use the tools they need every day to perform their work. They don’t. No one in your team is able to use that App or that VideoConferencing or that Team CRM at 100% of its potential. Invest in training your team to make sure they are not just comfortable with, but super stars of that tool they use daily. The result will be that they will want to go there, desire to use it, be motivated by the new doors of knowledge that open to them and grateful to this organization for upskilling them: most sought after need of employees.

Have cool, unmissable offsite co-creation huddles happen
Unless your team is really spread across continents, do make some physical huddles happen. Find a really cool place that fits your team (you might love a session in the forest, they might hate it!) and create great coming together co-creation experiences with them at the very least once per month. A good portion of the physical huddle should be about human relationship, getting to know deeply, appreciating, highlighting of cool factors of each of your team members.

PLUS

Make sure the WHY is really clear. Specially when people work far apart (but also when they are all in the same office): be VERY clear and engage fully your team on why are we doing what we are doing, why are we going down this strategy avenue, why is your role, your action, your being here so vital to what we want to achieve.

Path from resistance to innovation: find and use your internal influencers

“Individuals are simultaneously emotional and rational, so how we feel about something often gets in the way of how we think about it. This is particularly the case when human beings are confronted with complexity. When it comes to changing something important about what we do and how we do it, we crave simplicity so we can navigate the fear of the new and unknown—and it really helps when we can look to peers and colleagues for insight, support, and encouragement, if not positive personal experience. When people we trust and admire clearly model and encourage a few key behaviors, those behaviors spread much more quickly, and they stick.”

Extrapolated from this excellent article is a key driver to allow innovation to flow and not be resisted. Not have the “CEO” ignite an innovative culture, instead identify internal influencers at all levels of your company. See who are the people that others look up to, respect. Tap into the people who most need, want, get what you are trying to implement.

“You’ve picked the behaviors you need to change or energize. You understand which facets of your existing culture can help spread the new behaviors you are seeking. Now, focus your efforts on a critical few groups and specific people within the organization who can help bring this transformation about and make it last.”

But those internal influencers should not be the ones to use to be ambassadors of your new culture.
Instead you should learn from them “what they do differently that appeals to their co-workers on an emotional level, what works, what doesn’t—and then work with them to codesign a specific set of tools that will encourage others to follow their lead.”