The Best Constraint for Creativity

I participated in two meetings today; a strategy session with an existing client and touched base with a potential new client.  Both were incredibly powerful experiences due to open feedback and a mutual interest in finding truth.

In the first, we reflected upon recent successes and few recent challenges, yet to be solved.  As we interrogated reality, we began to see a new vision forming and a new sense of urgency.  We owned our successes, we owned a few failures, and now we own a new vision.

In the second meeting, a vision for solving some pain points is still a bit distant.  It’s not clear that I can offer a solid “fit” and solution for this client.  Nevertheless, the open and faithful pursuit of what’s best for this organization was evident in our conversation…its stakeholders are truth-seeking pros, so refreshing.

Today (and all days), truth was the best constraint for creativity.

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Change Mavens

Do you find yourself managing up in your organization?  If you’re pushing for a change and feeling stuck, try to identify other culture change advocates.  Find fellow advocates for change who can introduce you to their spheres of influence within the company.

By creating a network that includes various subject matter/department experts, you’ll assemble a powerful combination and diversity of change mavens.  You’ll appreciate how the SMEs can translate the net effect of desired change into benefits that are relevant and tangible to a diverse group of stakeholders.

It can be an adventure to be on the vanguard of change, but don’t insist on going it alone.

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Commitment, Then Mastery

Seth Godin’s blog post today is spot on with huge application for learning and development.  His post ends with the statement, “Great teacher’s teach commitment” (Godin, 2015).  (As opposed to focusing exclusively on a particular skill like coding or sports).

Seth’s point, within the context of the post, is that some individuals show up and attempt to discern if a lesson or skill is going to be something they can become good in (and only then commit to learning) instead of making the commitment to develop mastery and setting about a more self-directed pursuit of skill acquisition.

Much of traditional education and sometimes by extension, professional learning and development, tends to be about an audience crowding around a troupe of intellectuals/trainers and deciding if the content is something that warrants the attention to learn.

Today’s global market for talent has already made this model obsolete.  Commitment is the currency to moving the needle for one’s skill set, personal growth, and advancement.

Instructional design needs to continually innovate by incorporating opportunities for self-directed learning paths.

At some point, the troupe stops providing the content and structure (the student graduates, the employee moves on).  Will you have the commitment to discover the next steps on your own…perhaps build your own troupe?

Godin, S. (2015). The difference between commitment and technique. Retrieved on March 19, 2015 from this website

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Who Will Be The Next “You”?

What is the very next thing you need to do to advance your mission, idea, project, task?  What do you need to implement and execute today?  Figuring this out can be a straightforward sketch of the critical path of tasks that make up the next goal (answering the email, procuring equipment, developing the pitch/presentation, breaking ground), whatever they are.

Now look back at this plan to accomplish your goal and ask, Who am I taking with me?

Here’s what I’m really asking.  When you finish this goal, you will start another.  Maybe it will be the next sale and then the next and the next.  Or perhaps you are building a company: First you assemble a tribe, then the product for your following, then the sale, more sales, scale the growth…

Fast forward a decade or two.

At some point or many points along the way, you will want the next “you”.  Succession planning is often thought about when the empire is built.  Whether the empire is your newly minted, super efficient project work flow or a large enterprise, the time to start looking for the new you is sooner than you think.

Remember this chestnut (anonymous as far as I can tell; its not mine)? The best time to plant the oak tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now.

I wrap up with this thought: Conversations and relationship building are at the heart of implementing this deliberate process.  In her book, Fierce Conversations, author Susan Scott states, “…our work, our relationships, and, in fact, our very lives [I might add, companies] succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time” (Scott, 2004, p. 1)

Scott, S. (2004). Fierce conversations: achieving success at work & in life, one conversation at a time. The Berkley Publishing Group:  New York, NY

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The Business Of Trust

“Everyone working at your organization is a volunteer.”  That is what Paul Zak states based on his groundbreaking research studying the chemical (Oxytocin) which controls trust within the brain. His point is that people decide to work for a particular company or endeavor for a host of reasons…only one of which is money, and money is proven to be a weak, long-term motivator.

Employers can not necessarily rely on competitive pay to attract and retain talent.

Zak makes his case with proven strategies that businesses can implement to promote trust and inspired purpose which are linked to high performance cultures.

Trust is a big deal; we get that by now.  However, employers and teams might not understand what promoting trust looks like.  What kinds of traditions and conversations actually turn trust from head-nodding allegiance to visible, tangible behaviors proven to form bonds of trust.  Read more of Paul Zak’s work here.  For more background on his work, purchase his book here.

Zak, P. (2015). Desinging a culture of purpose on purpose. Retrieved on March 16, 2015 from this website

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Teaching and Doing

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.”  From a learning and development perspective, I believe the converse is true.  Those who teach, are imminently qualified to do…perhaps more so than the “doer” who would make such a claim.

I’m not implying that you must understand how to unfold a concept and deliver a skill building experience in order to be qualified in a skill.  Rather, if you are able to take your skill, consider another’s point of view while you partner with him/her to get them from non-doer status to doer of your skill, then you have a depth of understanding and expertise that other non-teachers may be lacking.

Therefore, those who can’t teach, might be able to do, but there may be some gaps in comprehension that can be bridged by learning how to do teaching.

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Are you tapping into the power of crowdsourcing wisdom and knowledge resources within your organization?  Implementing solutions to capture employees’ industry knowledge, tips, inventions, and experience is a key to becoming/remaining agile.

It is tempting to begin this pursuit with a search high and low for learning content management systems and digital repositories.  There are myriad choices.

Even before the search for product technology should be a search and implementation of idea technology.  The idea technology will be the conversations, meetups, and various forms of collaboration that constitute how employees will share knowledge with each other.  Crowdsourcing implies multiple origins/inputs from which information is contributed.

Therefore, start with the systems people are already using i.e Dropbox, Yammer, OneNote, etc. Initially, there has to be agreement to share information with equal access to that information for necessary stakeholders.

This beta test of the idea technology doesn’t have to last long, just long enough for a natural order to develop for how people need to access, download, modify, and contribute to the group.  These patterns will determine the nature of team norms for sharing and working with ideas and thus inform features/design for product technology.

Don’t mistake awesome sharing technologies for a working set of collaboration practices in your organization.  Habits of sharing and collaboration should drive the need for ever better products and services that make our shared knowledge valuable and accessible to all necessary stakeholders.

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Do My Ideas Matter?

Most people want their voice to be heard or at least have an impact on the workplace decisions that most affect them.  All ideas have a couple component parts if they are to be expressed in a manner that will connect with diverse teams and personalities.

When you offer input (e.g. a more streamlined process for tracking customer support tickets) make sure your message considers these three components:  Benefit, Method,  and Stakeholders.

If you feel like your ideas are not being heard or possibly misunderstood, ask yourself a few questions about your message.

Am I clearly communicating the benefits of the change?  Depending on your mindset, you may be more inclined to focus on the method and the nuts and bolts of how things will get done.  Make sure the benefits are clear.

Am I communicating these benefits to all the stakeholders that will be affected?  Have I left out anyone with expertise or skin in the game that can add to the conversation?

Am I communicating the benefits and methods in the right order to my stakeholders.  Some individuals, teams, and departments want to hear a thoughtful list of options to verify the research and check facts.   Others want to understand the benefits and impact of ideas first.  Do you know which type of message is appropriate for your stakeholders?

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Training Success

How do you gauge your success as a trainer?  Whether you are a professional learning coach or a manager training another teammate, there are some things to insist be integrated into the experience.

A simple measure of training effectiveness is to define what your training will accomplish and then measure success by meeting that standard.  Design training backward from the expected outcome. In other words, identify what will be the output, artifact, example, product, or prototype which the trainee will produce that proves this person was indeed trained.

This will force you to eliminate words like understand, know, and recall from learning objectives. Instead, when the teammate creates a sample project schedule or demonstrates the audit process or installs the new software, we can observe the results that we are really after.  When application and experience are demonstrated, we are confident the individual has developed some new skills.

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