Innovation, Inventions & Dreams; How to differentiate & make them come true

What’s the difference between an innovation, an invention & a dream?

Wikipedia describes innovation as the process that renews something that exists.. and not, as is commonly assumed, the introduction of something new. Furthermore this makes clear that innovation is not an economic term by origin, but dates back to the Middle Ages at least, possibly even earlier.

The central meaning of innovation thus relates to renewal, & for this renewal to take place, it is necessary for people to change the way they make decisions. They must choose to do things differently, make choices outside of their norm, i.e. “think-outside-the-box” & explore beyond their comfort zones.

And this in itself presents a whole series of challenges, as well as opportunities that I’d like to briefly explore in this post.

Comfort, Learning & Danger Zones

Far too often, the intricate & very personal nature of these three stages is overlooked by those desiring to push through innovation in an organization, leading to inevitable failure. My friend Conor Neill helped me rediscover the difference in early ’09 when we were executing on a series of Managerial & Effective Communications workshops. The key is not to push individuals too far outside of their comfort zone into a place where they panic & block-up, but rather to find their intermediate Learning Zone whilst coaxing them out of their comfort, and reinforcing their confidence in a progressive & reaffirming manner.

Renew vs. Invent – Evolution vs. Revolution

Another good friend Arnaud Grobet reminded an audience during a Social Media strategy session facilitation in ’08 that what we’re experiencing in this new (Marketing) area inundated by a rush to Twitter, Facebook, Blog & “Social Mediaize”, is not a revolution but an evolution. In creating brand awareness, loyalty & inspiring clients to want to buy from you, at a core you’re doing the same things you’ve always done. You’re simply using a new medium (renewing a process) for outreach & engagement with your audience.

My relationship w/ innovation, inventions & dreams

Long before I was recently hired by a Fortune 100 to help them with an innovation theme for their annual kick-off event, through varying avenues I’d been involved in the creativity process that results in innovations, inventions & even dreams. In addition to the above, yet another example was in working with Marcia Wieder back in ’07 to scale her Dream University®. In order to better understand the affinity between Dream Coaches® & Amazing Dreamers, I first became a Certified Dream Coach® myself, & then we were able to build an online community of over 7.000 members in less than 16 months.

Dream Coaching® is all about helping people get through a 10-stage process in manifesting their dreams. The key components, areas of focus, and greatest challenges people face in this process is;

  1. Finding / discovering their purpose reason for being, which must be at the base of any powerful dream
  2. Overcoming their limiting beliefs and or lack of effective strategy in order to put together the necessary steps en-route to manifesting their dreams
  3. Building a support network (Dream Team) that (a) helps them look out for new opportunities to realize their spoken visualization of their dream, (b) encourages them in pushing through recurring obstacles and (c) holds them accountable to their comitted actions on the road to realizing their dreams.

I have found that whether I’m helping someone learn to dream again, think-outside-the-box to innovate or create a new invention, I’m trying to tap into the 3-year old inside of all of us that we’ve unfortunately locked away too long ago.

Steven Johnson & Where do good ideas come from

The best thing about the space I’m privileged to be in is that through discovery & rediscovery, I’m exposed to a continual learning & development process along with the very people I’m helping.

I relate to Steven’s quick 4:07 introduction as his “hunch collision theory”. The key is to create an environment conducive to the collision (coming together) of smaller hunches (i.e. half baked ideas) so that those pieces of a puzzle can become a great innovation, invention and or dream realized. My 4 key take-aways from this quick clip were the key roles of

  • Time needed to incubate (environment)
  • Hunch collision = breakthrough
  • Idea mingle & swap (Jam Sessions)
  • Connectivity & Idea Exchange (social media based collaborative tools)

A final reflection on innovation, inventions & dreams

Thomas Edison had a dream, and through a series of trial & error, overcoming limiting beliefs, pushing himself out his comfort zone, sharing his hunches with colleagues, he invented the light bulb and innovated light (illumination) itself. I’m struck with the image street light workers (what else do you call them?) that used to walk down the street and light self-enclosed candles to illuminate the city streets of London & colonial America in the 1700’s. When these same individuals traded in their candle stick for light bulbs, they were in essence innovating how streets were lit.

What tips or insights, discoveries or rediscoveries have you found in this article? How will it help you innovate, invent, or dream?

5 Tips to Bullet Proof Your Success; The Engagement Factor

When was the last time your company set out to achieve something and it all happened just as expected?

I thought so! The disconnect between strategy and execution can be HUGE, and what typically fails is what I like to call “The Engagement Factor”. Employee engagement is much more than just teamwork because it’s more about passion than it is about collaboration. Ever notice how the truly successful companies seem to have the most passionate employees? Those are the companies with high “profit per employee” ratios and typically leading the “Best Place to Work” surveys.

Engagement driven by passion

Passion is a healthy & thriving burning in your belly to succeed. It feeds determination and makes people hunger to overcome challenges which present themselves. Engagement driven by passion is when we feel we’re involved in something greater than the sum of ourselves and our colleagues. That’s why it’s important to validate your company’s reason for being, purpose or mission, whilst making sure that it’s relevant to every single person in your organization.

When people feel a sense of purpose in what they do, they’ll move mountains to make something great happen.

Transparency is key

If you don’t trust your people, how can you expect them to trust you? There is no such thing as confidential when it comes to strategy or results in your company as it pertains to your staff. Yes, in order to effectively role out a strategy it has to often be communicated in a staged fashion. But if you adopt an attitude that certain information can’t be divulged for fear that it will leak out to your competition, such as forecasts or expected results.. guess what.. you’ll never gain your team’s trust.. and therefore they will never fully engage in your strategy.

I compare this attitude to telling a pilot to load up his plane with +300 passengers & just take-off without worrying where he’s headed or how much fuel he has. Can you imagine giving destination details only in mid-flight?

So why would you do the same to your team?

Sell the benefits – What’s in it for me?

No one does anything just because they want to! There has to be a driving force, or a motivation to get people to buy-into doing something. And the quicker you can sell the personal benefits to the individual who has to do the work, the faster and more effectively you’ll get your strategy executed.

There’s always a “what’s in it for me” if you have a sound plan. It could be education or a new skill that will lead to a new opportunity, even if only of self-improvement or self-worth. Those are actually the most powerful! It could be a greater sense of peace by just being involved & being part of something that will be great.

Find the “what’s in it for me” for the individuals that need to perform the work & watch your results soar through the roof.

Communication & pulse checks

Back to our pilot & +300 passengers headed for a safe destination. How do you think he would feel as he sees large dark clouds on the horizon and without relevant information from ground control? Communication settles people fears. Unmanaged fears turn into hysterics and unnecessarily increase the sense of danger. OK, you might still get scared, but don’t you prefer to hear a calming voice tell you that we’re about to hit some turbulence that we’re equipped to handle & that we’ll be through it within a few minutes? Ladies & gentlemen for your safety & precaution, we’ve just turned on the fasten your seat-belt sign.

Regular feedback & progress reports will keep people engaged, aligned and motivated. I’ve often held the hand of a nervous passenger next to me, reassuring them that we’ve just got a few more minutes to go.

“Trust me, we’ll get through this together” is the message you’re conveying when you give regular feedback as it relates to the initial objective of your strategic plan.

Celebrate your landing

I know.. I too chuckle to myself when the whole back of the plane breaks into applause at the landing of a plane. But that’s actually what life is all about! Celebrating every win, no matter how small or repetitive. Celebrate your wins, big & small, and watch how eager your team is when the next strategic journey is announced.

Which of these is the most challenging for you or your organization? How can I answer any doubts you still have about “The Engagement Factor”?

How to STOP E-mail from killing your productive day

You wake up with the perfect plan for the perfect day. This is the day you’re going to catch-up & relieve yourself of the terrible stress of coming home each day overwhelmed that you haven’t gotten all of your work done.

Fast-forward to the end of the day; you’re driving home utterly dejected at the thought of yet another day of endless e-mail. Another day in which everything you wanted to get done, everything that was important to YOU, was still left to do as the night sky fell on your day.

Sound familiar? How often do you wish you hadn’t opened up your e-mail? This past Friday, amongst a series of quick tips on productivity, I also wrote about NOT starting your day with e-mail, but rather one significant task that you need to complete.

Let’s face it, after many years of trying, no matter how good you get at providing alternative means for people to communicate, you just can’t seem to get away from the tsunami that e-mail often represents to what should have been a perfectly productive day. What makes it worse, is that you are NOT an innocent bystander. By having consciously chosen to open your e-mail first thing in the morning, you have opened up Pandora’s Box.

And yet again your day will be planned out for you by others, instead of you having minimal control.

The other day I heard a phrase that stated; “you’ll never be promoted for being an excellent e-mail, but you’ll surly be fired for not delivering on required goals”. So why have you become so addicted to e-mail?

Turn push & alerts off – Be purposeful in your activities

If a squeaky wheel is consistently in your ear, you’re going to stop what you’re doing to oil it. Be purposeful & retrieve your e-mails when you’re ready to deal with them, especially until you have built up your new e-mail behavior.

Plan your e-mail breaks

Just like any other part of the day that you want to be in control of, get used to planning your e-mail breaks. That’s right, let’s call them e-mail “breaks”. When you first wake-up, instead of opening your e-mail or checking your Blackberry, kiss the wife, go have a cup of coffee, breakfast, spend time with the kids, & make sure they’re set for their new day.

If you took my previous tip, you reviewed your past day last night & structured the respective new day to be a better one. When you first walk into the office get right down to business & knock-out that first significant task. Today, just for today, schedule yourself no more than 2 x 1 hour breaks to read e-mail.. somewhere around 10am & 4pm.

E-mail as a file folder

And guess what, if in order to access that work-file you need to access your e-mail, then approach your e-mail like a file folder on your hard drive. Go in & extract ONLY what you need, instead of giving-in to the temptation of reading your e-mails.

Filter your e-mail

Apply filters so that e-mail from important people, your boss, clients, etc.. automatically goes into separate folders for you to address when you’re ready. Avoid going into an unstructured general “Inbox”.

Hunt & peck your e-mail

Don’t read your e-mail from top/bottom. Be purposeful & scan the “from” & “subject”. Open ONLY those e-mails that are relevant to the work you’re performing at-the-moment, or things you know you need to address now.

Leave casual reading & other distractions that will take you off in a tangent for the coffee, lunch or evening break.

Action your e-mail

Even if that means re-marking it as “unread” and assigning a task for yourself to complete something more significant. If you can address an e-mail within 1-2 minutes, do it immediately, otherwise trash-it, schedule it for later casual reading or action.

Just try it

I can hear all of the reasons why none of this will work.. I’ve heard them all before.

Can I just ask you to try it for one day? If it seems to work, try it a 2nd day? And if someone gets upset that you took too long to answer their urgent e-mail, was really that urgent? Was it really urgent to YOUR job & deliverables that you had to complete? If so, teach your colleagues to come see you, or ring you when they’ve got something REALLY urgent.

Instant Productivity & Success; How to change your life in 15 minutes

“If an organization could teach only one thing to its employees, what single thing would have the most impact? My answer was immediate and clear: teach people how to learn. How to look at their past behavior, figure out what worked, and repeat it while admitting honestly what didn’t and change it.” This is the catch phrase that caught my attention & inspired this blog article when I read HBR’s leadership article The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day by Peter Bergman.

15 Minute Magical Success Sessions

10h15 & 17h45, could possibly be the two 15 minute increments that will have the most significant impact on improving your quality of life. Are you familiar with thLao Tzu (Chinese Philosopher) quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”? Well, two 15 minute segments of your day can give you greater control over your own destiny, both personal & professional.

Having a Master Plan

How do you start out each day? If you’re like most people, you’ve got anywhere from a vague idea to a rock-solid plan, which in itself is a wide spectrum. Unfortunately, to add to this challenge, most of us have these in our head. The more advanced of you have written things down on a task or to-do list. How’s that working for you? Overwhelmed with the amount of tasks building up from day to day that you can’t seem to clear?

Here’s your 1st tip(s); no more than 3 significant tasks per day!

And this is where your FIRST magical 15 minutes success session comes into play. Just like Peter Bergman’s article suggests, before you pack it in for the day, take a moment to reflect on the day just past. What worked? What didn’t work? What’s within your control to improve your situation? What are you going to do differently tomorrow? OK, now write that down, and more importantly, block out time in your calendar for doing the things you need to get done. I like to call this “making an appointment with myself”. Ever heard the phrase “if you don’t have your own plan you’re destined to be part of someone else’s?” If you miss this step, I’ll guarantee you that each day will end with you having worked on everyone else’s plan instead of your own.

Finding Your Rhythm

Just like our biological clocks, and the rest of the universe, everything around us works in cycles & rhythms, so why should you be any different. If you respect your required sleep patterns, then your mind & body will be ready for the challenges of each new day. Finding your rhythm also means discovering your strengths & weaknesses, and applying a continual learning process that helps you move from theoretical education to applied practical behavioral change.

Here’s your 2nd tip(s); you can only effectively focus & execute tasks at optimal performance in 60 to 120 minute concentrated periods.

This means that it’s key to eliminate or avoid disruptions when you’re doing “knowledge work” that requires concentration & focus. And if you think about a typical day, plan it out properly, and hold yourself accountable to being disciplined, I’ll bet you can find three 60-90 windows of time where you can dedicate your focus to 3 significant tasks.

Here’s your 3rd tip (s); even if you don’t want to listen to music, put your headphones on anyway. And if you have noise canceling headphones, better yet! The fact is, people are less likely to interrupt you if they see you concentrated on a task & with head phones on, as they will assume you are listening to music, a tutorial video or something else that’s important. If your colleagues don’t happen to be this “cluey”, then by all means stand-up and share with those immediately around you that you’re about to start very important work that requires extreme concentration and that you’d appreciate not being interrupted for the next 60 minutes.  Try it, it works!

Back to Your Master Plan

I said there were two 15 minute magical success sessions. Well your next most important 15 minute increment is your early to mid morning pulse check. Just like a doctor’s visit when your pulse is measured to see how you’re general health is, it’s key to take a pulse of how your day has started in comparison to your plan from the previous afternoon / evening, and to make any necessary adjustments before the new day flies by.

If you really want to be on the ball & gain extra bonus points for a satisfying & highly productive life, plan a pulse check just after lunch as well.

Here’s your 4th tip(s); I like to call these early to mid morning pulse checks Daily Huddles. And typically I have my team leads or direct reports join me on this huddle. We cover 3 simple things…

  1. What’s up; How did I perform since our last daily huddle & what did I accomplish based on what I set out to do? How am I feeling about that? What am I going to do differently?
  2. My Metrics for Today; What are the three most significant things I want to get done today, and what are the results (quantifiable) that I expect to witness by the end of the day in order for me to declare it a success?
  3. What are My Stucks; What’s holding me back from succeeding on my plan? What are the interdependencies where I need help?

This exercise is not only a great activity to make sure that your focused on the things that need to get done each day, and week, in order to reach daily, weekly & monthly objectives, but likewise it gives you an opportunity to align & (if necessary) adjust individual team members focus. It gives everyone a snap-shot of what’s going on in their department & how it relates or contributes toward success. And most importantly, it gives us all an opportunity to address the things that are keeping us from succeeding (stucks), addressing them before we miss our deadlines (otherwise known as failure).

Bonus Tip; Never start out your day with e-mail, but rather with your first significant task. No one was ever promoted because they were the best “emailer” in the company, but many have been fired for not delivering on expected milestones. I’ll cover this topic in more detail in my next post this coming weekend.

Closing Challenge

Has anything in this article struck a nerve with you? Upon reflection of these simple steps, is there anything new that you could apply to your daily routine that would put you back in control of your life? Both personal  professional?

4 Steps to Boost Productivity & Employee Retention

How would you like to boost the productivity in your organization whilst addressing employee retention? How would that impact your bottom line & overall company culture?

Whilst reading a McKinsey Quarterly document recently, I decided to add some more practical thoughts to the four barriers workers face in their daily interactions.

Their analysis focuses specifically on Knowledge Workers, which make up more than 40% of the US work force. I was quite surprised to find that they didn’t list as a key barrier “distraction”, which is the #1 enemy of productivity in any workplace.

In addressing these 4 barriers, you will bring about greater alignment & cohesion amongst your employees, increasing retention & strengthening company culture.

Step 1; Physical and technical barriers

In addition to social media tools, company intranets, yammer, etc., create Communities of Practice made up of people who could benefit from one another’s advice. Encourage your staff, and allocate time, to communicate their experiences and benefits gained through such practice communities. Encourage you team to have virtual & non-virtual lunch breaks with colleagues across disciplines with your organization by getting them outside of the comfort zones.

Bridge any physical distances through the usage of electronic tools with viedo-conferencing and occasional in-person meetings.

Step 2; Social or cultural barriers

Engagement is key to success, so start with your new hire orientation, and then rehire your existing employees all over again. Create a series of case studies by having your team share practical examples that shine on your company Values, Mission, Vision, and how your processes & norms contribute to their integrity. Encourage a culture of knowledge sharing and collaborative problem solving, including these items within your periodic performance reviews and ensure team leaders clearly communicate what’s expected, whilst setting an example. Foster & leverage communities of practice which will help your staff be more engaging.

Communicate & keep all of these successes highly visible! In addition to technology tools like an intranet, hang signs, post bulletin boards, white boards, flip charts, etc. Make it visual!

Step 3; Contextual barriers

Rotate employees across teams and or divisions so that they get a wider understanding for what’s going on outside of their own silos, and a better comprehension as to what activities they can influence with this added clarity. Create company forums, online through your intranet, or off-line where your staff can share knowledge & experiences across disciplines. Encourage your team to have lunch with  a colleague from a new area of your organization on a bi-weekly basis & watch the contextual barriers come down like a house of bricks.

Step 4; The barrier of time

Perform an analysis of where people are spending their time. Ensure that job roles & responsibilities are updated, understood & appropriate for the results you expect from your staff (teams & individuals). Then quantify the gap between expected activity / results vs. actual activity / results. Take the respective learnings & transition them into new habits.

How are these barriers impacting your current environment? What steps can you take to start addressing them immediately? Remember, the longest journey starts with a first single step.

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