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01.14.19

Unlocking Creativity: Are These Creativity-Inhibiting Mindsets Holding You Back?

Unlocking Creativity

IN AN IBM global survey of CEOs, the overwhelming consensus was that more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision, successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity. In a world where we must adapt or die, we need creative solutions.

In struggling to generate a sufficient number of creative ideas, we typically blame the number of creative individuals in our organization or hierarchy and bureaucracy. But in Unlocking Creativity, Michael Roberto takes a different perspective. He believes that we are getting in our own way by the way we think, decide, and act with regard to the development of original ideas.

We find that while we talk about the need for creativity and innovation, employees don’t feel supported or inspired by their leaders and were not given the time or resources to develop new ideas. And there seems to be a stigma surrounding creative types. There often viewed as quirky, unfocused, strange, and nonconformist. As a result, they are viewed as having less leadership potential.

Isaac Asimov once said, “The world, in general, disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome.”

The question is, do we have a people problem or do we have a situation problem? Roberto looks at six organizational mindsets or belief systems that stifle creativity.

The Linear Mindset

“Many organizations fail to understand and embrace the discontinuous nature of the creative process.” They expect disciplined execution—on time and under budget. But realistically, creativity is not like that. The creative problem-solving process involves a healthy dose of trial and error. We must learn by doing.
Many companies have failed to make the shift from the traditional planning mindset to a learning-by-doing approach. Strategy formulation and implementation remain largely disconnected from one another. Firms continue to engage in annual strategic-planning rituals, pretending that they can predict the future from the confirms of the corner office. Even worse, they have treated design thinking as just another linear process that they can deploy. Step two always follows step one. They march through the phases robotically, as if they have discovered a magic formula for innovation.

But the five stages of design thinking are not always sequential as Roberto explains. “Trying to turn any creative process—design thinking or otherwise—into a highly structured, linear system turns out to be a colossal mistake.”

The Benchmarking Mindset

“Firms study their competitors closely, but in so doing, they experience fixation. Consequently, they adopt copycat approaches rather than creating distinctive strategies.”
Firms should recognize that differentiation comes from becoming more lopsided rather than well rounded. You establish a distinctive competitive position by amplifying your strengths, rather than engaging in knee-jerk efforts to imitate your competition.

We often fixate on what we know. “We become attached to a specific mental set, a way of thinking about a problem based on solutions that have worked in the past. Mental sets can facilitate problem-solving at times, but becoming fixated on an inappropriate solution from past experience can inhibit creativity.”

One way to avoid this fixation is to learn from people outside of our industry. “Rather than simply benchmarking direct rivals, companies need to think broadly about the full range of substitutes against which they compete. American Airlines competes against Skype and WebEx, not just Delta and United.”

Avoiding this mindset takes courage. “When you chose not to imitate, you often make bold bets that may lead to failure.” And “In many instances, people do not recognize the merits of the distinctive, creative strategy at first.” It’s easy to just go back to what you know and are comfortable with.

The Prediction Mindset

“Managers have a desperate desire to see what’s next and they exhibit overconfidence in the ability of experts to forecast the future. The insatiable need to predict just how big ideas will become actually impedes creativity.”

We crave certainty. When it comes to forecasting “How people think matters more than what they already know.” The best forecasters are intellectually curious gathering information from a wide variety of sources and updating their conclusions as the facts change.

The prediction mindset impedes creativity because of the way new ideas are treating in most organizations. We support and fund ideas that we think are going to be the next big thing—move the needle. The problem is we don’t really know. And some great ideas need time to ripen and be modified as they are tested in the marketplace. Focus not on the short-term return but on delighting customers.

The Structural Mindset

“Managers often resort to changes in organizational structure as a means of stimulating creativity and improving performance.”

Here’s the bottom line we can learn from example after example: “Leaders will not find an optimal structure that unleashes creativity. No such perfect solution exists. You cannot find a simple causal path that connects structure to performance.” Instead, “the best leaders pay close attention to team climate (psychological safety), behavioral norms and ground rules (rules of engagement), and the design of the work itself (personal responsibility).” These elements allow creativity to flourish.

The Focus Mindset

“Organizations believe that teams will excel at creative work if they focus intensively, perhaps even secluded from their colleagues. They fail to recognize that the best creative thinkers oscillate between states of focus and unfocus.” Focus and distance.

Srini Pillay wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.” Creating that space can be done by simply walking at times, but with teams consider having team members role-play different roles than they currently occupy. Travel helps to spark creativity as does creating temporal distance.
Jeff Bezos and the people at Amazon use “time travel” frequently to stimulate innovative thinking about new products and services. Andy Jassy, Senior Vice President of Amazon Web Services, explains that developers in his organization do not begin writing software code for a new project until they have drafted a hypothetical release for their new product offering.


The Naysayer Mindset

“Managers encourage people to critique each other’s ideas early and often. Unfortunately, the failure to manage dissent and contrarian perspectives constructively causes many good ideas to wither on the vine.”

The Devil’s Advocate technique can be helpful but with ground rules: the who, when, and how of devil’s advocacy. If the role is always played by one person, they begin to be ignored. So rotate the role. Because of the pressure to conform, Roberto recommends having two devil’s advocates. It must be constructive and respectful. As in with President John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he assigned Theodore Sorensen and Robert Kennedy to “relentlessly pursue every bone of contention in order to prevent errors arising from too superficial an analysis of the issues.” The idea is to provoke dialogue and debate.

Creating an environment that unlocks the creativity inherent in your organization is not easy nor can you expect immediate results. “Remember that the creative capabilities of people throughout your organization may have lain dormant for quite some time.” See the process through their eyes. It is the calling of leaders. “Enabling others to explore, experiment, learn, and create is your duty as a leader, and it’s potentially the most rewarding work you will ever do.”

Unlocking Creativity is well written and engaging as Roberto pulls lessons from numerous studies and a wide variety of people and organizations like Leonardo da Vinci, IDEO, U2, Google, the Beatles, Amazon, Israeli Intelligence, Zappos, Google, NASA, Pixar, Data General, Hollywood, Disney, Trader Joes, Reebok and Planet Fitness. Unlocking Creativity pulls together what we know about creativity and how that knowledge can be applied to our organizations and teams to foster innovation.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation

01.09.19

How to Win in Africa

TITLE

IN THE WESTERN WORLD, we often do not have an accurate picture of Africa as a growing marketplace. We frequently imagine a continent of villages and stories of corruption and violence dominate our perspective.

Authors Acha Leke, Mutsa Chironga and Georges Desvaux of McKinsey and Company, take a different view in Africa’s Business Revolution. They say business leaders tend to “underestimate Africa’s size and potential as a market, and overestimate the challenges of doing business there.”

There are one-hundred companies with annual revenues of a billion dollars or more. In the next 20 years, 80 percent of its population growth will occur in cities. And technology? “This young continent, with a median age of around twenty, is an eager adopter and innovator in all things digital and mobile.” Africa is the next growth market.

The authors believe that companies and investors in every part of the world should take a look at Africa and its place in their long-term growth strategy because Africa is a 1.2-billion-person market in the midst of a historic economic acceleration, it has a huge unfulfilled demand, making it ripe for entrepreneurship and innovation at scale. They compare Africa to China 25 years ago. Would it have made sense for your company to get into China then? Now is the time.

They present five trends that are not without their challenges which they explore in detail:
  1. A fast-growing, rapidly urbanizing population with rising spending power—but with average incomes still low by Western standards and high levels of economic inequality
  2. A trillion-dollar opportunity to industrialize Africa, both to meet rising domestic demand and to create a bridgehead in global export markets—provided manufacturers can overcome a myriad of barriers ranging from power outages to trade barriers to productivity challenges
  3. A big push by governments and the private sector to close Africa’s infrastructure gaps, including those in electricity, transport, and water—although it will be a huge challenge to resolve the massive backlog
  4. Continued resource abundance in agriculture, mining, and oil and gas, with the prospect of rising innovation and investment in these sectors unlocking new food production, energy, and wealth for Africa—but, just like manufacturers, companies in these sectors must overcome steep barriers to realize that potential
  5. Rapid adoption of mobile and digital technologies that could leapfrog Africa past many obstacles to growth—provided companies can marshal the investment funding and technical talent needed to overcome historic underdevelopment and achieve scale
Determining a strategy is the real trick. To win in Africa, your strategy needs to factor four key considerations:

Map an Africa Strategy: Africa is huge. It will be important to pinpoint those areas where you can create an ecosystem to thrive in. Part of that ecosystem should include local partners who understand the lay of the land. “You will have to dispense with generalizations, and truly understand the differences in countries’ wealth, growth, and risk profiles.”

Create Innovative Business Models: “To profitable serve African customers in meaningful numbers companies need to build high efficiency and low cost into their business models.” High volumes—low margins—cost-effective—technology driven.

Building Resilience for the Long Term: A long-term view will be necessary to ride out short-term volatility. It will be essential too, to diversify by building a balanced portfolio across countries or sectors. They also recommend integrating up and down your value chain to ensure reliable access to inputs (including what would usually be outsourced). Build relationships with relevant governments to be sure your voice is heard.

Unleash Africa’s Talent: Invest in people. Skill shortages are a major concern for a number of reasons but primarily Africa’s underperformance in education. Subway has found that most applicants “don’t know what it means to have a full-time job and don’t understand the standards we demand here.” Turnover is high. Training for entry-level and frontline employees is essential. Develop programs to grow talent from within and make gender diversity a priority.

Africa’s successful business leaders are driven by a deeper purpose. “They look at Africa’s high levels of poverty; its gaps in infrastructure, education, and health care; and its governance problems, and they don’t just see barriers to business, but human issues they feel responsible for solving.” But then that’s what real leaders do. They have empathy, and they take responsibility. “To be successful, you need to be more than a businessman—you need to be a responsible citizen.”

Importantly, the solutions companies find to succeed in Africa, could also be hugely beneficial in terms of efficient products, services, and business models for the rest of the world.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:50 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business

01.07.19

What’s Your Story?

Whats Your Story

WHAT GREAT LEADERS have in common is their ability to communicate and create meaning from their words. Much of that ability speaks to the ability to listen and read between the lines to develop an understanding with those you lead. Great stories begin with great listening. From there you can learn how to connect your perspective to theirs.

This is especially important today when ironically our ability to communicate in a meaningful way is deteriorating. The structures we used to have to develop that skill are diminished. Bursts of thought do not help to create the empathy we need to function effectively as a civilization. We don’t connect in bursts of thought but in shared stories. A good story can set the tone for a deeper connection and empathy for another’s perspective.

In a September 2018 interview with Fast Company magazine, Doris Kearns Goodwin talks about her book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, and the ability of the four presidents she delved into to communicate through stories. Each of the presidents she portrays could help their audience see themselves in the future they were describing. A well-crafted story has the power to give the audience ownership of the idea that is woven into the story.

Goodwin is asked, “What’s the most important lesson that business leaders can take from these presidents?”
If I were to pick one, it would be the ability to speak to audiences with stories. [Take] Abraham Lincoln: While we celebrate his beautiful language, his speeches really worked because they were filled with stories and illustration. He believed people remembered anecdotes better than facts and figures. When he was young, he would listen as his father and the people who would come by his little log cabin told stories. He’d go to bed at night and try to translate those stories into [his] words, so he could then go out on the field the next day, stand on a tree stump—he’s like eight, nine years old—and entertain his friends.

Each of these leaders was fortunate to live in a time when his particular kind of storytelling fit the age. Lincoln’s speeches were printed in full in newspapers; they could be read aloud all over the country. Teddy Roosevelt had this punchy way of speaking—“square deal,” “speak softly and carry a big stick”—that was perfect for the new newspaper age. FDR had the ideal voice for the radio age and a conversational, intimate style. People felt they were listening to him one-on-one. After he died, they felt they had lost a friend. Clarity, simplicity, humor—these people were experts.

Goodwin adds this about Theodore Roosevelt’s ability to relate—even today:
What really interests me is thinking about which of these [presidents] would give a speech that would be relevant today. It would probably be Teddy Roosevelt. Think about where we were at the turn of the 20th century: The industrial revolution had shaken up the economy, immigrants were pouring in, cities were replacing towns. A gap was developing between the rich and the poor, and the social landscape was changing because of all these new inventions: the automobile, the telegraph, and the telephone. You had populist movements that called for restrictions on immigration, and the establishment worried about [giving] power to ordinary people.

Teddy was able to channel those emotions into positive, moderate reforms. Even his slogan would work today: “A square deal for the rich and the poor.” He was a fighter, but he understood that democracy would founder if people began to see each other as the other. He’d also be great at Twitter, with all his phrases: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” He’d be perfect at that.

Ryan Matthews and Watts Wacker begin their book, What’s Your Story? with this observation: “Long before the first formal business was established, before the first deal, the six most powerful words in any language were Let me tell you a story.

What’s your story?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Communication

01.03.19

Newton’s First Law and Your Life

Newton’s First Law New Year

IN 1686, Sir Isaac Newton presented three laws of motion. The first law is often referred to as the Law of Inertia. The law states that every object will remain at rest or continue in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. In other words, things stay the way they are unless something comes along to disrupt them. This law has the power to make us or break us. And it is at work in our lives all day, every day whether we are conscious of it or not.

When we kick a soccer ball, it heads in a specific direction until it is acted upon by a force greater than the force that is currently propelling it downfield. Like that soccer ball, our life is moving along a path that is taking us to a particular future intentionally or not. And we will continue along that path to its destination until we do something different. It’s not about what we want. It’s about what we are doing. Our intentions mean nothing. It’s a law, and as such, it is objective and indifferent to our intentions.

In other words, our 2019 will be just like our 2018 unless we exert a force to change our direction that is greater than comfort we enjoy by continuing to do what we have always done producing the same results again and again. No force, no change. 2019 will be 2018 all over again.

If you’re not where you want to be, change your direction. Get on a new path. New actions will produce different results.

We can use Newton’s law to our advantage. For every cause, there is an effect. Today is connected to tomorrow. Every action we take and everything we say is taking us somewhere. We just need to be sure we are on the path that is taking us where we want to go; a path that is taking us to the person we want to become.

If we work harder than we did last year, then we will do better.
If we sacrifice now, then we are investing in our future.
If we reflect, then we will grow.
If we improve our leadership, then people will follow us.
If we are courageous, then we will inspire.
If we are curious, then we will learn.
If we avoid the trappings of power, then we will stay connected with those we serve.
If we surround ourselves with the right people, then we will be enriched and will lift others up.
If we are authentic and humble, then we will build trust.
If we work this law to our advantage, then we will eradicate regret.

If we don't improve, then our circumstances won't improve either. We can’t tell ourselves that it’s not going to be alright if we are headed in the wrong direction. Life naturally pushes us off-course and takes us on tangents. Anything meaningful in life is produced by moving upstream – against the current. When we find ourselves where we don’t want to be, we must acknowledge the fact that we have drifted; we have gone with the flow. We need to make some course corrections. We all do from time to time.

Of course, this implies getting uncomfortable. It’s helpful to have a mentor, a coach, or a program that will keep us accountable, because we tend to say, “I pushed hard enough” when we’ve barely touched our potential.

As we look at our life, we all have directions that need to be changed. It helps to begin this process by asking ourselves questions and giving serious and honest thought to the answers.

The big general questions are: What worked for me last year and what didn’t? What habits are holding me back? What three things do I want to accomplish by 2020? What is that one thing I need to accomplish in 2019—your BHAG—my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal? What does a good day look like? What routines keep me on track? Why do I do what I do?

And most importantly, what am I grateful for? Then drill down into specific areas of your life:

Do I make time to study and grow spiritually?

What habits are draining my time and attention?
What activities replenish me?
Am I taking time to relax and grow in other areas of interest?

Am I sleep deprived?
Am I eating healthy and avoiding processed foods?
What do I need to change in my diet in 2019?
Am I exercising regularly?
Am I drinking enough water? Is my morning and evening routine setting me up for my best day?

Am I living within my means?
How much do I want to make in 2019?
What do I have to do to reach that amount?

What weaknesses do I need to minimize?
Am I where I would like to be in my work or career?
How can I increase the value I bring to work?

What relationships are building me up?
Are any relationships taking me off-track?
Who do I take for granted?
Do I support those around me?
Do I support and encourage others?
Do I focus on building others up?
Do I make time for others?

Where do I need to grow?
What strengths do I need to improve on?
What do I need to learn?
What books do I need to read?
What seminars do I need to attend?
What can I learn from the mistakes I made in 2018?

The key to moving forward is the first step. Every destination needs to be broken down into incremental markers or indicators on the way to the destination. What is the first thing you need to do to get you moving in the right direction? As you begin, focus on the actions required and not the end result. A small step is easier than a leap. Once the first step is made, it is easier to continue down the right path to your desired destination.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:34 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

01.01.19

First Look: Leadership Books for January 2019

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in January 2019. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

9781119545798Unlocking Creativity: How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions
Michael A. Roberto

Leaders do not have to conceive innovative ideas, but rather open the path for curious and creative employees within their organization. Unlocking Creativity aids organizations in removing obstacles to the creative process and helps to form an atmosphere of imagination and innovation.



9781501196348Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose
Jean Case

When National Geographic Chairman Jean Case set out to investigate the core qualities of great change makers, past and present, from inventors to revolutionaries, she found five surprising traits all had in common. They weren’t wealth, privilege, or even genius. It was that all of these exceptional men and women chose to make a “big bet,” take bold risks, learn from their failures, reach beyond their bubbles, and let urgency conquer fear.



9781610398770Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation
Gary P. Pisano

The conventional wisdom is that only disruptive, nimble startups can innovate; once a business gets bigger and more complex corporate arteriosclerosis sets in. Big organizations require a different set of management practices and approaches—a discipline focused on the strategies, systems and culture for taking their companies to the next level.



9781119538257Scaling Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most
Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams

Is your leadership built for scale as you advance in today’s volatile and disruptive business environment? This context puts a premium on a very particular kind of leadership—High-Creative leadership capable of rapidly growing the organization while simultaneously transforming it into more agile, innovative, adaptive and engaging workplace.



9781626346154Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change
Ryan Berman

Return on Courage is the go-to courage instructional manual that helps readers attack and shrink business fears head-on. They will learn how to relentlessly play offense, drive change, and transform into a Courage Brand®. ROC can be the secret weapon to innovating new products and services, maximizing ROI, and revolutionizing their industry.



9781523097500Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want
Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni

Study after study confirms that career development is the single most powerful tool managers have for driving retention, engagement, productivity, and results. But most managers feel they just don't have time for it. This new edition offers a better way: frequent, short conversations with employees about themselves, their goals, and the business that can be integrated seamlessly into the normal course of business.



For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024
discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“Books, because of the power they possess to exert intellectual influence, more so than any other form of serious communication, change the way readers — and even leaders — see the world and set the stage for them to change it.”
— Peter J. Dougherty, editor-at-large at Princeton University Press


Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:05 AM
| Comments (0) | Books



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