Have you benched creativity?

Have you ever witnessed a leader lose it?  I did this week.  It wasn't pretty and it put the entire team in a very uncomfortable situation, the loss of self control and screaming will be remembered for decades.

Why the blow up?

The system wasn't working.  It's formulated.  It's planned.  It's step by step.  And yet it wasn't working.  In fact, the system is causing the entire team to lose.  The blow up results from loss of control.  For some leaders, when results don't come from the system they assume a team member is failing or hijacking the system.  Rarely do we have hijackers on our team.  But the team member who presses back against the system will be seen, and treated, as a possible threat.  This is when a blow up occurs.

When the system isn't working creativity is required.

Creativity is an important team member.  Creativity could change the current momentum of your team.  If you put creativity on the bench you subject your team to a waiting game, hoping someone else will come up with a solution.  Or, a leader lives by a stronger conviction about the system than believing in their team members, creating a culture of mistrust and doubt.  Systematic leaders are not poison until they bench their creativity and the creativity of their team.  They leave no room for suggestions, feedback, or alterations to the plan.  The ship will sink before they give up control of the wheel.

What can you do to keep creativity in your team culture?

1.  Create a plan - You're like, "What?"  But yes, planning is required.  The plan is where creativity thrives.  A plan should be married to core values and goals.  Don't let you plan be married to a system.

2.  Evaluate regularly - I like to ask this question to a team, "How are we doing?"  This question provides team members the opportunity to give input and an opportunity for a leader to see new things that could be future obstacles.

3.  Pick your battles - Too often we pick battles over results.  We should pick battles over culture.  Teams that get results have a culture of doing little things, or daily things, consistently right.

4.  Make it okay to poke the box - If your system is more valuable than your people, creativity will be on the bench.  Be a permission giver to your team to try new things.  I think about Seth Godin's equation in his wonderful book Poke the Box: If "poking the box is less than or equal to zero = poke.  Meaning, if the plan, model, or system isn't working make creative changes now because you have nothing to lose.

Today is Friday.  Friday is a great day to stop and reflect on your teams progress.  What do you see?  Have you asked your team if they see anything that's stalling the plan?  Are there conversations focused on creative solutions.  Do you give yourself permission to be a creative leader?  Next week can be different for you and your team, make sure creativity is not sitting on your teams bench.


Five questions to ask if you want an innovative team or organization

Who's the most innovative person you know? What do they do that makes them the most innovative?  How do they view the world?  How do they view their work?  What kind of space do they have in their life to be innovative?

I'm learning that even innovation is beginning to look different in our modern world.  Innovation, for large part, was the act of making something better.  The iPhone might be the best example in the last 10 years.  It's a phone.  It's an iPod.  It's a few other things we already had.  But it was an innovation making all those other things better instead of creating something absolutely new.

How is innovation changing?

The first thing to being innovative is not throwing out the baby with the bath water.  The structure that currently supports everything still needs to be tended to.  However, if you are a leader seeking innovation either you or an assigned team needs get completely outside the walls of the the current model.  Even if your organization was started ten years ago its methods of communication, sharing information, and training are outdated.  It's like putting a new coat of paint on a wall that isn't necessary anymore.  Innovation has changed requiring brand new methods, which are not hindered by the former structure that has held the current model but can also work in places with minimal resources.  Start your thinking towards equipping those cultures and everyone will benefit.

Once you are working outside the "normal or everyday operations" here are some critical questions to ask:

1.  If we never existed, how would we start today?  

2.  Using todays resources how would our infrastructure or sharing of information or methods be different?

3.  How would we enable people less financial resources to be successful at what we do?

4.  How would this require me, or us, as the leader(s) to communicate differently?

5.  What are the lowest cost experiments we can do to test the previous four questions?

Innovation in the future will go beyond simply modifying the model so it's better.  Innovation will be coming up with an entirely new way for the core values to be successful in places where the current model with a twist still won't work.  If you want to lean even further into thought on innovation I highly recommend Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble.  This book will cause your brain to spin in a profound and delightful way.  I'm already excited to hear how you are leading into a whole new way of innovation for your team or organization.












How you win a knife fight

Have a friend with you carrying a gun.  

Photo credit to The Knowles Gallery

Are you facing a fight as a leader?  Is there a challenge that feels too big or too challenging?  In wisdom, hopefully,  you have spent time building a team of talented people who have permission to pull the trigger.  Some leaders will build teams of talent but they delegate actions instead of results.  This leadership mistake creates team members who hesitate to act because they have always been told what to do.

A company like Zappos is killing it with customers because of their level of service.  Zappos gives the green light to their costumer service reps to do the right thing.  I heard on a podcast a new record was set for longest call between a rep and a customer...over eight hours.  Their reps have no script, only the permission to do the right thing and to treat people well.  

The best way to give permission to team members is to seek their input.  Leaders begin to kill it when they say the following: "I am thinking we have __(insert problem or challenge here)___ what do you all think we should do?"  

This simple question is the entry point for team members into the battle.  Before the team members were onlookers but now they are participators.  The scene just changed from "my" battle to "our" battle.  

Please leave a comment and share what else you think gives your team permission to enter the battle?


Can you harvest the wind?

Have you ever driven past one of these?

As impressive as they are from the ground, they are even more so from 30,000 feet in the air.  In the middle of no where, miles and miles of massive wind turbines harvesting the power of the wind and turning it into usable energy.  

As a leader are you aware of your "wind", those things that you can harvest and turn into energy?  How long did it take us to develop the technology to create these massive turbines that capture something so common to us?  Can you imagine if we just decided to stand in the wind and not harvest it's power?  In leadership, we can make the same mistake; we choose not to harvest the power of the common pieces of our organization's mission.  Never before have we had the technology to capture the ordinary and turn into energy among our people and supporters.  Smart phones, blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and of course the internet creating the opportunity for leaders to grab the moment and share it. 

Do you stand in the breeze and never capture it?  Every single entity of your mission or team is working and creating a breeze, that butterfly effect, and our role as the leader is to be like the massive turbines capturing it, sharing that energy with everyone else.  You have to tell the story, not just with words but with video and images.  Harvest the wind in the place you lead and you'll create a new type of energy in your community.  


What are some ways you could be harvesting the wind in what you do?