Be fluid to be successful! Why should I develop fluidity in my team?

Was inspired by this phrase that John Sanei shared during one of his The Expansive Podcasts with Erik Kruger “When you live a fluid life, you are naturally elegant.
When you are living a fluid life you are naturally living a life that is long term and focused.
You are not taking any brash or reactive decisions.
Fluidity is the stream you can tap into.”

The phrase made me think of what fluidity really means in our working lives and in our teams.
Fluidity I see as different and better than flexibility.
It reminds me of a stream that flows, that moves, that overcomes obstacles but that moves in a certain direction. It does have a purpose at the end that it will, almost inevitably reach.
Adaptability is continuous change which is of course most welcome nowadays but it has the weakness of not having a direction, a flow towards an end. That will definitely make you more successful than “just” adapting.

It is also so beautiful to think of the elegance of fluidity. Water flows beautifully, you don’t see its struggle as it overcomes obstacles and stones and deviations in the stream. Or as it just flows down your sink.
Having a fluid mindset means you are less clogged up, you are flowing and it is then a pleasure to work with fluid people.

Fluidity also connects to the idea of not being stuck.
A fluid mindset will always be looking for new ways forward, will be open to explore new ways to progress.

As John mentions in his quote, there is a lack of brash / reactive approach. Often the enemy of good decisions is a rush to take short term decisions, patching things up, putting out fires. This fluid mindset takes that out and allows a beautiful flow of decision making, much nicer to be working in and with such a team.

I see so much more coming from that quote but for now I’ll share just one more thought.
Fluidity ensure movement, progress, going forward. Something that is fluid has the energy and flow to become unstoppable and therefore very welcome in a team of innovators.

“Beginners mindset” how it will make you the best innovator

You were at the centre of attention. You were a guru in your topic, a real expert, whenever someone had an issue with that speciality you were the go-to person that came first to their mind to talk to, until … that expertise became obsolete.

A new App, a new approach, a new version meant that you lost all of your front-runner top innovator expertise and now need to go back to being … a beginner.

This situation is going to happen every day more often in our working lives.

That “beginners mindset” is what will save you from becoming obsolete. But it is not an easy way of adapting. It is a very humbling experience.

A beginners mindset means being totally comfortable with not knowing, with wanting to learn and with the best attitude to learning fast, well and often.

Ego comes in the way of letting go and accepting that “hey you know what? I need to #reskill / #upskill / train / retrain / learn” (and keep learning).

But a beginner mindset can make your life so easy: “you know what I don’t know and guess what many other people don’t know either.” What will make you different and better is that you will be open to, eager to, ready to begin and learn.

You can be (and should be) the fastest and best at learning.

It is actually easier than you think, but you first have to let go of your reputation, actually you just need to transition your reputation:
from being an expert at a few things
to becoming an expert at learning.

Are you open to becoming a beginner and starting from the beginning again?
(and again)?

Building or planning things?

I was reading in a recent innovation article “like with most tech accelerators, the emphasis is more on building things than planning things” and this sparked in me a conundrum that I’d be curious to read your ideas about.

What should be the ratio in a truly innovative company between building many MVPs or not so minimum, viable products and planning the best way forward?

It seems instinctive to keep trying and failing fast, yet you would think that a “little” planning might go a long way in reducing the liabilities and increasing the likelihood of success.

It seems to me that how you define success might push you to act in one or the other way:
if your organization’s success is measured in the amount of sales, the amount of clients, the amount of profit then clearly a more focused, planned, path forward makes more sense.

What if you define success as the amount of learning?
In that case clearly the balance shifts towards more new frontier-pushing trial and error.

That is why I feel that a missing connection could be the solution: the connection between academia and enterprises. People in academia have a different time sensitivity and are very complementary with the speed of innovation in enterprises (big and small).
So finding your source of learning and experimenting whilst balancing with enough time for planning might be one way forward for the best innovation and learning and overall success to emerge.

WE NEED TO CHANGE! NO, we don’t. We need to PAUSE

Contrary to all the headlines telling us to change fast, what we really is to pause and re-connect.

We don’t need to change 
We need to pause

Pause, reflect, understand what is happening around us.
Allow what is really important to emerge in our team and then make that new focus and awareness central to who we are,
to what we do,
and to how we do it.

Then we will put the ladder on the right wall,
Take the path in the right direction
And THEN we can go and move fast.

But never forgetting to stop and pause from time to time and enjoy just thinking and having / savouring those meaningful dialogues that give focus, direction, energy and team unity.

What we need from a team member vs what they can perform vs what they want to do: a gap that can break your company.

Typical situation, you are expecting a person in your team to do something, to take an action, to perform a task.
Yet they don’t. Or they deliver way less than what you expected.

They do not meet your / your team’s expectations of what that person should be doing or should have done.

There is a gap between expectation and reality that often creates sub-optimal at best, or more likely terrible outcomes. Preventing the need for great innovation and best possible outcomes to come from your team.

That is because we all too often assign tasks to people, because they always did it, because that is what the title on their desk says, but not necessarily because they are the best person for the job. They might be great at something BUT, they do not have the tools, the information, the processes, the resources … any of a number of elements that are necessary for them to succeed.

And second but most important: do they want to do that task?

They might be great at it, have all they need to excel, but guess what, because they don’t feel in the mood, not motivated, had a bad day, going through complex personal times, they might not want to do it. They might be missing one of my favourite words in the dictionary – the volition – to perform at their usual best.

So next time you ask a team member to make some magic innovation happen, also ask yourself:
can they make it happen? Are they able to do it and have I created the best possible environment for them to thrive?
AND
Do they want to do it?

Thinking of the actions you need to take to create good answers to both questions, will greatly increase the mood and success at your organisation.

We live in fortunate phoenix-like times: keep daring, trying and learning

We live in fortunate phoenix-like times!

One reason why we are very fortunate to live in these times is that we can re-start try-again with our enterprises a practically infinite amount of times, it’s like an ideal time to phoenix-ourselves.

IN THE PAST:

if you stood out from a crowd, if you dared too much, you were likely not just to be left out cold, fail, be made a fool of and forever have to go back to your dark hole of conformity.

You were also highly unlikely to be given a second chance by your bank, by your clients, by your peers.

TODAY:

You can try and try again, stand out, dare, even fail a few times, learn each time but start again with new insights and vigour until you really get it right.

Just like we used to have ONE career and the first choice in your life decided the rest of your life, now you can (and should) try out many careers, often in parallel and not sequentially.

In the same way, today, in these phoenix-like times, the time is ideal to restart and reshape and rebirth your ideas and company until you really get it right.

But even then, don’t just stop and keep re-phoenixing yourself, every time better, learning each and every time, refining and improving.

Can exponential innovation arise from a step by step linear approach?

Addressing the uncertainty that surrounds your team, might be the starting point to allow a linear step by step approach ending up creating exponential innovation. Or should I say the innovation that can be most useful to make you and your organisation successful.

Uncertainty is both what we are surrounded by and what our human brain is trained to avoid as much as possible. Lack of controlnot knowing, being uncertain about the future is not a positive but a negative status that people instinctively resist.

So how do we move from uncertainty to some degree of control and a better place from which to take decisions and act towards the best possible outcomes and innovations?

In the only way you can go from the place where you are sitting or standing right now physically, to the other point you wish to go to, in the room where you are or the place where you aim to go to: taking steps to get there.

Contrary to popular belief: you cannot be teleported to that next place, you need to move, step by step to where you want to be. Whilst the mind is undoubtedly much more able to take much wider steps and strides than our body can physically take, the best way forward is step by step. The mindset, attitude in which you operate and create is that will make you and your team make those linear steps, tiny or important ones.

Each step can be shorter and more risk-management change-averse limited. Or it can be a bigger more ambitious step but still it will be a path that you are walking, together with others.

As a leader you need to create the conditions for your team (people internal or external to your organisation, whoever you are working with, it is still a team) to take the best decisions and creating the best state of mind to take those great decisions.

So what are the conditions that will allow people in your team to take the best next steps that will make them feel more comfortable and serene and able to make relaxed mindful decisions as opposed to panicked fear-driven ones? 

Do keep in mind that the concept of “what is possible” in people’s mind is based on their history, their experience and the assumptions that they built over the years of what will happen next, of how others behave, of how things around them will evolve.

With the current degree of uncertainty all those reassuring (and at least half of the time wrong) assumptions are less and less relevant, less and less useful.

So to get you and your people walking in the right direction, taking the best next steps, with an ideal and not sub-optimal mindset, you need to open the space of possibility without creating a panic mode of too many options that lead to immobility: the absolutely last thing you wish to see in your team.

Four questions you might wish to ask yourself to open the space of possibility and create the right attitude for your team:

  1. Are you creating a safe space, where making mistakes is ok and – truly – learning opportunities?
  2. Are you encouraging the free, useful, not chaotic, exchange of knowledge and of experiences (experiences are often more useful than knowledge) that will allow faster gathering of relevant information to make the steps more secure?
  3. Are you creating an excitement and a creative habit to stretch by using unusual but not uncomfortable situations for your team to experience? (An example from a previous article “Why you should take a painting to work to accelerate innovation“)
  4. Are you encouraging others in your group to make good positive, challenging questions that are able to not break down all the assumptions that block fresh new thinking but always careful not too create too much uncertainty? Questions that stretch people’s imagination and give a great taste of new possibilities?

I’d be very curious to learn from you:

What are you using to open the minds, possibilities and breaking down the limiting assumptions of your team to make the best kind of innovation happen in your organisation?

How are you creating the best attitude and way of being in your company to encourage fresh thinking, create stability and serenity at the same time?

4 reasons why you should stop your team’s daily urgencies and introduce future-dreaming sessions.

Daily urgency and stress is toxic, specially if you want to create the best possible innovation.
4 reasons why you really should create regular pauses from the daily to-do list grind and have your team enjoy dreaming-the-future sessions:

  1. Daily urgencies clutter your team’s mind and do not allow them to think openly. Pausing that and getting them in a future planning session will definitely give a breath of fresh air to their tired and stressed minds and give them fresh energy to go back to that daily grind later.
  2. If your daily tasks and decisions are creating conflict and you want to bring your team together or if you wish to get a wider team to go from polarisation and partisan thinking to finding common ground, coming together to dream the future is definitely the way.
  3. Dreaming is good for you, it has a liberating possibilities-opening effect on your attitude, brain and creativity.
  4. Lifting your head and looking at the future, will allow you see more of what is around you now and of what might be around you next: fundamental to make the best decisions today.

Don’t make your team too productive, give them space/time to innovate instead

Not sure about you, but as I wait for that person to connect on zoom, I use those 30 seconds to send a msg or browse my twitter feed or finish that email. Basically I cram into my (rather long) working day as many tasks as possible.

It is likely that you are observing quite a few more opportunities to also make your team more effective, to fill those slack times with one or two more tasks, to increase the productivity of everyone to make you able to make as much as possible happen.

Don’t do that !

And there are two reasons why you should instead give value more that magic slack time,
one is important, the second one is fundamental The more your work, the less productive you are

1. The graph below is just one of many visible expressions of what we all know:
that pushing you and your team too much actually creates a lower rate of productivity.

2. Even more important to create truly innovative teams is to give them space to do nothing.

When you have time to think, to allow information and inputs to connect, that is when the truly good ideas arise.
Some of the best innovators, when they are stuck, stop. They close all their tech, go for a walk, sleep it over.

But it’s urgent! Even more reason to stop because urgent deadlines never stop, in fact the more productive you aim to be the higher the number of urgent deadlines will appear in your agenda.

Don’t be busy, don’t “be urgent” instead enjoy and let your team enjoy that slack time where the best innovation happens.

Don’t design your ideal product / service, let your clients do it

I was recently reading Evan Henshaw-Plath’s description about how Twitter started “there was an open API … so the users created everything. They created inline images and short links and retweets and the app, actual at and hashtags. And so Twitter’s innovation and social, it’s not like someone designed Twitter as it exists today. The users of Twitter created what it became”

As Kevin Kelly writes in his MUST READ book “The Inevitable”
“When a company opens part of its databases and functionality to users and other startups via a public API … it is encouraging the participation of its users at new levels.

…no longer a company’s customers; they’re the company’s developers, vendors, laboratories, and marketers.

…new ways for customers and audiences to participate”

So why do all the work yourself?
Find ways in which you can “share your API” and let your clients design the best possible solution … for them.