Top Read Posts Today
Blog Large Image Whole Post Wide | the blog of dan pontefract
18959
page-template,page-template-blog-large-image-whole-post-wide,page-template-blog-large-image-whole-post-wide-php,page,page-id-18959,page-child,parent-pageid-19834,do-etfw,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.4.4,vc_responsive

Blog Large Image Whole Post Wide

“Fail Fast, Fail Often” Often Fails, Fast

The head of human resources said to me, “We need to become more agile. We’re not lean enough. I want to see our culture shift to ‘fail fast, fail often.’”It was a great moment. For me at least.

In my head, I was playing buzzword bingo, and with the use of “Agile,” “Lean,” and “fail fast, fail often,” I had just scored a perfect game. But it’s a game I was not looking to win.

When leaders do not fully understand or appreciate a term, the result can have the opposite effect of what they wish to achieve.

Worse, when we muddy the waters with language such as “fail fast, fail often” with what we intend, it can cause irreparable damage, particularly to organizational culture.

The first issue to tackle: stop lumping together “Lean” and “Agile.” They are drastically different concepts.

Lean is a term normally associated with the removal of waste and inefficient processes to improve an outcome. In other words, it’s a methodology in which to streamline. A relatively well-known historical example of “Lean” is the Toyota Way, a pioneering manufacturing process in the production of cars. The Toyota Way involves—among other components—a continuous improvement mindset (known as kaizen) alongside a “respect for people” behavioral attribute.

It is a focus on the system as a whole, particularly people and their respective roles and responsibilities. To gain efficiencies in the organization, good “Lean” companies will involve all employees—particularly front-line team members—to assuage problems, reduce costs, and so on. In essence, “Lean” is a very healthy way to operate an entire organization if senior leaders wish to truly involve everyone.

But Lean is not Agile. The terms are not synonymous.

Agile got its roots in the software development space, specifically via the introduction of Manifesto for Software Development in 2001. Put together by a cadre of founders, there are 12 principles to Agile Development including such gems as “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software,” and “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Agile also includes frequent checkpoints with the customer—where the customer is an integral part of the development team—which allows there to be frequent and timely changes to the software service or product that is in development. Often there are self-organizing teams in a true Agile environment, too.

When I was a kid, I watched cartoons, and I watched the Muppets. But cartoons are not Muppets—and vice-versa—yet I would never suggest they were the same thing. Sure, they entertained me, but Jim Henson would be rolling in his grave if you confused the Muppets (or Sesame Street) for a cartoon.

The same can be said for “Lean” and “Agile.” While they may both serve an organization well, they are not the same thing.

Which brings us to the real point of this column.

When senior executives of an organization do not properly arm themselves with adequate depth of understanding to terms such as “Lean” and “Agile,” they end up not only lumping them together, they urge the organization to then “fail fast, fail often.” If we’re “Lean” we must “fail fast, fail often.” Or, if we’re “Agile” we must “fail fast, fail often.”

Either way, it then defeats their real intention. The unintended consequence is employee chaos.

“Fail fast, fail often,” is not only being used incorrectly as a cousin to “Lean” and “Agile,” it is creating a culture of people aiming for the short-term, living in a world of frenetic bedlam. Instead of calmly and intelligently iterating, employees race to complete something (failing) while racing to the next objective as quickly as possible. (failing, but quicker.)

Originating from Silicon Valley and its ocean of start-ups, the real aim of “fail fast, fail often,” is not to fail, but to be iterative. To succeed, we must be open to failure—sure—but the intention is to ensure we are learning from our mistakes as we tweak, reset, and then redo if necessary.

When executives institute a “fail fast, fail often” mantra, they must ensure it is not at the expense of creative or critical thinking. Time is our most precious resource. When “fail fast, fail often” is invoked, it cannot become a culture where speed trumps the time we need to spend on creativity. Furthermore, we must not become preoccupied to “fail” by preceding the requirement to make judicious, thoughtful decisions.

“Fail fast, fail often,” as a mantra has seen some success. SpaceX comes to mind. But “fail fast, fail often” has been around for years. Thomas Edison, by example, “failed” 9,000 times before he was successful with his light bulb invention.

But Edison (and Elon Musk et al. at SpaceX) was not stressed by time. He did not suffer fools from the confusion of “Lean” and “Agile.”

Both of these individuals were iterative. Edison and Musk balanced their creative and critical thinking with the need to apply their learnings iteratively.

And this is precisely how senior leaders need to start thinking.

Stop the madness of buzzword bingo. You are becoming dangerous.

Animal from the Muppets will be unleashed on you at some point in the near term.

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

And why not watch the TED Talk?

 

 

The Link Between Creative Thinking And Your Time

One of the reasons you might suffer from a lack of creativity boils down to time.

You have become so busy, there is no time to be creative. At least that’s what you say to yourself.

And because you have become so busy, you ignore the warning signs of remaining in the murky depths of the status quo.

“Creative Thinking is important in any organization, but it’s often overlooked in one of the most important places: at the top,” said Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media management platform HootSuite.

“It’s easy to get consumed with the demands of the day and the relentless cycles of business planning. This can leave little time for truly creative thinking and also sap energy from your work. Often, you don’t even realize this is happening unless you happen to be pulled away from the daily grind and given a fresh chance to flex your creative and entrepreneurial muscles.”

Not only should you be consciously earmarking time in which to personally employ creative thinking, your organization’s culture should be one that promotes it.

If CEOs and senior leaders cannot act as creative thinking role models—succumbing to operational minutiae and constantly coming across as stressed out and too busy to dream—how is the rest of the organization going to behave? As with most aspects of an organization, the habits at the top are often mimicked by those below.

If our minds are constantly distracted and exploited by time and task pressures, none of us will be willing to employ creative thinking. We are far too consumed by competitors and organizational inanities. We become preoccupied with other things, not with what creativity may bring. It matters not if you are the CEO, team leader, or an individual contributor. In fact, our minds will be so engrossed and full we will not even pay attention to the possibility of fresh new ideas.

Bill Gates, former chairman and CEO of Microsoft, recognized the need to spend time away from the pressures of operational tasks and running a business during the height of his leadership at the Seattle-based high-tech firm. He introduced something known as “Think Week.” Twice a year, he would sequester himself for a week of reading, thinking, listening, and letting the art of the possible permeate his brain. It was his planned time to think creatively.

Mike Desjardins, CEO of ViRTUS, employs a similar tactic. Instead of “Think Week,” Mike sets out twice a year for what he calls “Reading Week,” during which he devours books and articles to replenish and further his knowledge base. You will not be able to reach Mike on his phone because he immerses himself and blocks out any distractions from his Creative Thinking time.

Discussing the importance of pausing to dream, Bill McDermott, CEO of enterprise software company SAP, said in a Skillsoft interview, “Most people today are so driven by the short term and the pressures of the day-to-day that they never take the time to put their feet up on the desk and look out the window and dream. They are constantly in meetings, many of them internal, burdened by PowerPoint. My recommendation is free up some time on your calendar.”

On a personal note, ever since 2002, I have refused to hold or take a meeting on Friday afternoons. Rarely do I answer the phone, texts, or email either. It is my time. In my calendar, I block it off so others cannot access me. I title it, rather appropriately, “DP Think Time.”

It is my weekly dream time where I’m connecting dots and conjuring up new possibilities. I may read, write, whiteboard, sketch, or stare out the window. After 20 years of employing such a practice, I can assure you I will never relinquish it.

You would have to fire me first.

Further, I head outside on my bicycle or strap into my indoor spinner at least four times a week, normally during lunch if I am working from home. If I am traveling, I visit the hotel gym daily after work. Not only is this good for my heart and health, the 100+ miles that I cycle each week provides another opportunity to dream, reflect, and ponder. Indeed, it is more Creative Thinking time.

Every day, each of us is equipped with 1,440 minutes. We all possess 168 hours a week and 8,736 hours a year to use to our advantage. If we do not earmark a significant portion of time to be creative we have little chance of erasing the indifferent, indecisive, or inflexible thinking mindsets. To be more like Bill McDermott or Bill Gates, Creative Thinking begs you to be more of an explorer—not an exploiter—of time.

Setting aside time to be creative will pay dividends in the long term, both for your career as well as your organization’s success.

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

And why not watch the TED Talk?

 

 

Everything Is Urgent! Everything Is Urgent! Everything Is Urgent!

It’s the middle of a client meeting. There are six of us. We are discussing the rather dismal results of a team’s level of engagement. The conversation includes long-term measures and changes needed to fix things. It started late because the leader was not exactly punctual. Suddenly her phone rings.

“Just a second,” she quickly states, “this call is important.”

The leader disappears for 20 minutes clenching a mobile phone as if it were the Holy Grail that Indiana Jones was once after. I wonder what could be more important than her team’s level of engagement. Perhaps it was her boss. Maybe it was an irate customer.

Whatever it was, she left in a flash.

The team she leads is the first line of defense. They are the front-line employees tasked to interact with customers every single day. If those employees are not engaged—and demonstrating a sense of purpose in what they do in their roles—customers will continue to be unsatisfied, as they have indicated in recent customer satisfaction surveys.

When the leader returns and sits down in her now lonely chair, the next sentence she utters is telltale.

“I’m sorry about that. My boss needs some data for a meeting next week. Can we reschedule this meeting for another time? He’s in a bit of a panic.”

Being respectful, I nod and say, “Of course, no worries. We can pick this up at a more convenient time.”

But did I ever blow it. I failed.

Not only did I acquiesce and fail to push back, but I also did nothing to warn the client about a disease that is running rampant across corporations everywhere.

Our urgency and importance bias is killing our thinking, as well as our productivity. I find it’s linked to anemic levels of employee engagement, too.

Let’s analyze what happened in this client meeting to better understand.

First, the leader was late for the meeting. What type of example is she setting when a topic as critical as the engagement of her team is the focus, yet she does not possess the capacity to show up on time, let alone arriving early to prepare?

Second, the leader took the call and physically departed from the meeting. Yes, crises occur, and yes phones can be answered. I am not suggesting to toss your phone into the ocean. But instead of asking her boss whether the matter was urgent—which it clearly was not—she employed obsequiousness. The leader caved to the burning and unrealistic demands of her boss instead of focusing on what was critically important to her team, and the fate of her success at the organization. It was clear to me she did not possess the skill to protect her time, or to prioritize what matters most at the moment.

Third, the leader’s boss clearly runs a culture of interruption and systemic exigency. He has no issue making unwieldy demands on his team members even if it is detrimental to the health, wellness, and engagement of the team members under his watch. The leader I was working with could not escape his “everything is a crisis” mannerisms. But the boss had created a culture of urgency instead of one of empathy, respect, and pragmatism.

All of it leads to an extreme case of what researchers call “urgency bias.”

Research conducted by Meng Zhu, Yang Yang, and Christopher K. Hsee found there is an inherent flaw in the human condition; we choose urgent and unimportant tasks over those tasks that are deemed more important, that require more time and effort to complete.

The researchers write, “We people may choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows, instead of important tasks with larger outcomes, because important tasks are more difficult and further away from goal completion, urgent tasks involve more immediate and certain payoffs or people want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later.”

This discovery by the researchers seemed to be at least part of the problem with my client. She fell into the trap of “urgency bias” instead of doing the long, and hard work of finding ways to improve the engagement of her team. Of course, her boss was also mired in a state of “urgency bias.”

The researchers also uncovered the underlying mechanisms through which people make trade-offs between urgent/non-urgent and important/non-important tasks. “The restricted time frame embedded in urgent tasks elicits attention, diverting focus away from the magnitudes of task outcomes, and thereby leads people to exhibit the mere urgency effect.”

In other words, the “urgency effect” arises from the relative difference of attention between time and outcome. If we have to put in too much time and effort, we’re liable to take the urgent and unimportant task that interrupts us.

How did I fail my client? How did I blow it?

In private, I should have taken the opportunity to remind her of the example she was setting. I could have illustrated how she was succumbing to “tyranny of the urgent” syndrome, and of course her “urgency bias.”

I might have helped her see that our most precious assets as a leader are time, presence, and our ability to practice open thinking.

Next time.

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

And why not watch the TED Talk?

 

 

The People That Made OPEN TO THINK Come Alive

Today is “pub day,” one where an author annoys his or her network about the release of a new book.

While I may be proud of releasing OPEN TO THINK—and it’s become a bestseller in a few Amazon categories, so that’s kinda nice—it would never have come to be if it were not for the people I had the fortune of interviewing and corresponding with over a three-year period.

It becomes a (good?!?) leadership/management book only when their insights, stories, and lessons learned can be shared with the reader and thus included in the final manuscript. They are the type of people who I look up to as leaders in life. Not only are they generous with their time, but they are also giving of their heart and mind. For that, I am eternally grateful.

My thanks to the following amazing people, each of them with a story or two in the book.

  • Mark Mattson – for his mindful, attentive, ruthless, and humane way of thinking.
  • James Stewart – for indicating how thinking is iterative, not stagnant.
  • James Perry – for demonstrating the passion to adjust, to always continuously improve.
  • Tania Miller – for illustrating the need to be flexible in the moment of conducting.
  • Marc Kielburger – for delivering an anti-BHAG lesson for the ages.
  • Alison Galloway – for proving that listening is a critical element to thinking.
  • Eric Jordan – for introducing the concept of “bets” in our thinking.
  • Greg Moore – for being humble, allowing us to learn from our quick-decision mistakes.
  • Dominic Reid – for providing team members ‘top cover’ to practice their thinking.
  • Dave Gray – for reiterating the need for space and time in our thinking.
  • Lisa Helps – for pitching the need to be empathetic as we make decisions and take action.
  • Tim Hockey – for the humility to show how important it is to treat others with dignity.
  • Kathryn Calder – for not being afraid to highlight the importance of getting stuck.
  • Sameer Patel – for helping us understand the need to listen to the undercurrents.
  • Joel Plaskett – for reminding us to stop staring at our phones all day.
  • Eva Clayton – for demanding we remain holistic, taking into consideration everything.
  • Brian Scudamore – for the importance of making white space in our calendars.
  • Jonathan Becher – for admonishing the ‘bias for action’ in our organizations.
  • Yong Zhao – for pushing educators to contemplate the Open Thinking movement.
  • Peter Gilmore – for the wonderful metaphor of chefs as Open Thinkers.
  • John Dalla Costa – for deep insights into a shift to know why instead of simply what.
  • Adele Diamond – for her work on the importance of executive functions.
  • Rohan Light – for reminding me about “cognitive”
  • Dion Hinchcliffe – for sharing his very successful learning and thinking model.
  • Elango Elangovan – for embedding his work on callings into the importance of Open Thinking.
  • Allen Devine – for pushing the boundaries of being a dreamer.
  • Kyna Leski – for highlighting the critical importance of the ‘passing glance.’
  • Daniel Levitin – for being so generous, and teaching me about automaticity.
  • Brianna Wettläufer – for pinpointing the need to be collaborative as an Open Thinker.
  • Karl Moore – for our coffee chats, and your work ethic as an Open Thinker.
  • Charlene Li – for reminding us of the need to have deadlines if we want to get things done.
  • Mike Desjardins – for the life lesson of checking out and enjoying a reading week.
  • Gord Downie – for the timeless piece of advice to write down the things that pop into your head.
  • Karyn Ruiz – for just being so awesome. Who knew hat milliners were the original open thinkers?

It is my honour to have you associated with OPEN TO THINK.

Furthermore, there were six people who were kind enough to read advance copies of the book and provide an endorsement. They are the shining lights of change in the leadership/management space.

A big thanks to:

  • Roger L. Martin – the Thinkers50 #1 ranked thinker, and author of such classics as THE OPPOSABLE MIND and FIXING THE GAME
  • Daniel H. Pink – world renown author of such books as WHEN, DRIVE, and A WHOLE NEW MIND
  • Whitney Johnson – critically acclaimed author of BUILD AN A-TEAM and DISRUPT YOURSELF, and a Thinkers50 Leading Management Thinker
  • Rita Gunter McGrath – professor at Columbia Business School and author of THE END OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
  • Dorie Clark – author of ENTREPRENEURIAL YOU and STAND OUT, and adjunct professor at Duke University Fuqua School of Business
  • Michael Bungay Stanier – Wall Street Journal best-selling author of THE COACHING HABIT

And finally, while he is listed above, I want to thank Roger L. Martin one more time. He provided invaluable feedback to the draft manuscript. His counsel and suggestions made the book that much better. Thank you, Roger. Canada–and indeed the world–looks up to your incredible thinking talents.

 

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

And why not watch the TED Talk?

 

 

Now Available: Paperback Versions of FLAT ARMY and THE PURPOSE EFFECT

Lost in the shuffle of releasing my third book, OPEN TO THINK, is the news my first two books are now available in paperback.

FLAT ARMY was first published in 2013 but I believe the contents of the book have never been more needed. Our organizations remain mired with anemic levels of employee engagement, aided and abetted by hierarchies, fiefdoms, controlling management practices, and ridiculously ineffectual systems and processes.

Author and all-around maverick, Tom Peters, calls the book “superb.” That can’t be a bad thing.

The 2018 paperback version comes not only with an updated–and very sleek–book jacket but a new preface.

My second book, THE PURPOSE EFFECT, published in 2016 and is also now available as a paperback with a new cover as well as a new preface.

Written as a sequel to my first book, THE PURPOSE EFFECT explores the relationship between three types of purpose: personal, role and organizational. To be satisfied in life and at work, we require a positive intersection between all three types. If one (or more) of the purpose categories are missing, ill-defined, or have been negatively affected, we will wind up miserable. But when a positive alignment occurs between all three, we have reached the “sweet spot” and thus the effect of purpose becomes an enlightenment of sorts.

World renown author and academic, Adam Grant, says the book “helps individuals and leaders connect the purpose dots between the personal, professional, and organizational.”

There is a wonderful foreword written by the one and only Nilofer Merchant, too.

The paperback versions of FLAT ARMY and THE PURPOSE EFFECT can be ordered online at any of your favorite spots. Many retailers are carrying the books, too, so call ahead and support your local bookstore.

 

What John Lennon Taught Me About Thinking

Undated file photo of former Beatle John Lennon. (AP Photo)

People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing

Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin

When I say that I’m okay they look at me kind of strange

Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game

The opening stanza from John Lennon’s classic song, “Watching the Wheels,” is a biting introduction into the haves and have-nots of slow thinking.

Recorded the week of August 6 in 1980 and released on the Double Fantasy album that same year, the song might as well be a modern-day assessment of our current state of thinking. We’ve become rather busy, distracted, and many of us are far too stressed to be creative. The effort required for critical thinking is waning as well.

We could learn something from Lennon even after the gaping 38 years since the song’s release.

The “what I’m doing” bit was Lennon’s withdrawal from society’s busyness entrapment. Around the birth of his second son, Sean, Lennon consciously chose to pull back from his somewhat hectic life as a rock star. In 1975 he purposely slowed down, deliberately acknowledging that the way in which he was living his life had to change. The pundits—be them friends or otherwise—were questioning his sanity, asking whether he was happy no longer living the life of a fast-paced, famous musician and former Beatle.

At the time, musicians were expected to release a new album at least once a year. (The Beatles averaged one every nine months.) That’s an incredible amount of energy required to employ both creative and critical thinking in coming up with the songs, let alone recording them and then touring.

However, it reminds me of what is happening today. Far too many of us are taking on too many tasks, and not enough creative or critical thinking time is left. Furthermore, we are spending too much of our precious “spare time” glued to a device, scrolling our way through life. Consequently, we are burning out and becoming increasingly more disengaged.

The next stanza sees Lennon mock his naysayers.

People say I’m lazy dreaming my life away

Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me

When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall

Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball

Lennon wanted nothing to do with their advice or feedback. Granted he had all the money in the world in which to make such a decision, for Lennon to gain meaning and sanity again he made a change. He was perfectly fine to begin “dreaming” and “watching shadows on the wall.”

It’s in the chorus where he subtly encourages us to dream a little more, rather than getting caught up in the merry-go-round of life’s intoxicating quest for constant action.

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go

As the song progresses, Lennon wonders why there are not more people slowing things down. He imagines them exhibiting looks of disgust—indeed a shake of disapproval—as he leaves the freneticism of a rock star’s life for one with more thinking space. Time is now his friend. He answers their objecting looks with a cunning observation:

Well they shake their heads and they look at me

As if I’ve lost my mind

I tell them there’s no hurry

I’m just sitting here doing time

I was in England and a young nine-year-old lad when Lennon was gunned down in New York City. I distinctly remember playing the Double Fantasy album after we heard the news. “Lennon’s last album,” my dad remarked. “How sad is that?”

Of course, it’s still sad some 38 years later, but this past weekend I played the album a few more times. I kept thinking about this song, “Watching the Wheels,” and wondering to myself, “What would John think about today’s incredibly busy and distracted society?”

No doubt he might chuckle, and sing the chorus to his beautiful song.

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go

Word Cloud: OPEN TO THINK

It is customary for me a week or so before the launch of a new book to publish the manuscript as a word cloud.

My third book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, comes in at just over 80,000 words.

Found below is how those 80,000 or so words look like in a word cloud. (A word cloud is a graphical representation of text where the size of each word indicates its frequency or importance.)

Notice any patterns?

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, available September 11.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

And why not watch the TED Talk?

 

Dan Pontefract August 2018 Playlist

August saw me stand still, for the most part. It was a very reflective month.

The passing of Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain made me pause. Franklin’s joy, her overcoming of various barriers, and her unquestionable talent will be missed. McCain was what we need more of these days; an ethical leader who stands for what’s right, not partisanship.

As Downie once wrote, there is an inevitability of death. It’s too bad we cannot beat the death of inevitability.

Next month in September I’m on the road every week. I’m sure there will be some form of “Open Thinking” playlist that materializes to coincide with the launch of my third book.

The Essential Creative Thinking Questions To Ask Yourself

How can I be more creative?

That’s not the question you should be asking yourself.

Creativity can be stifled by several reasons. The better questions to ask about your creativity is not whether you can be more creative, rather how you (and your organization) might better unleash creative minds, ideas, and opportunities.

Creativity is a key component of becoming an Open Thinker.

To become an Open Thinker, one ought to be continually balancing the need for reflection with the requirement to take action. One cannot dream in perpetuity. Furthermore, one must not jump straight to action.

In the summer of 2018, the world was left wondering whether 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach might make it out alive from the cave they were trapped in. If the Thai government had have been too busy or pig-headed, they might have gone with the first idea that popped into their head for a rescue. That sole idea might have been detrimental to the health of the boys or perhaps even fatal.

The eventual success of their rescue stemmed from various stakeholders working together to balance the need to reflect on all possible scenarios, make thoughtful decisions on those ideas, and then taking action to bring the boys back to safety.

The rescuers and stakeholders did not jump on the first idea. So too, they cleared their minds and schedules and created the right conditions in which positive reflection and action could occur. In the end, all 12 boys and the coach were saved.

Within this balance between reflection and action lies the three components of Open Thinking: Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Applied Thinking.

Creative Thinking is oft overlooked, and certainly underappreciated. The question is not how I might become more creative; it’s what circumstances allow Creative Thinking to surface.

In my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, I define Creative Thinking as follows:

  • The generation of new ideas, unleashed from constraints. Do you reflect?

The questions that both the individual and organization ought to be asking about Creative Thinking are as follows:

Creative Thinking Questions for the Individual

  • When asked to complete a task, do you immediately jump into action or do you take the time to pause, to reflect, to ponder?
  • When a problem presents itself, do you build in time to allow your mind to wander? (i.e., do you brainstorm and ideate before taking action?)
  • Do you have “skills-at-the-ready”-tools, aids, and mechanisms that permit your mind to be free-when embarking on a Creative Thinking opportunity? Or are you so disorganized it becomes a burden, with zero chance of creativity occurring?

 

Creative Thinking Questions for the Organization

  • Is your organizational culture one that promotes reflection and dreaming as a core behavior, or is it a place of disengagement one that tries to discredit ideation?
  • Are the leaders across your organization demonstrating command-and-control management practices, suffocating the chance for Creative Thinking to take place?
  • Are team members permitted the time to think creatively, or do you espouse an organizational culture of constant busyness?

 

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, available September 11.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

PRE-ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

Now, why not watch the TED Talk based on OPEN TO THINK?

 

Sneak Peek Audio Clip of OPEN TO THINK

Going into the studio and narrating my third book, OPEN TO THINK, was an awesome experience. I’ve always wanted to be a DJ. While I didn’t play any music, being behind the soundboards with a large boom microphone in my face over two days was as close as I’ll ever get to it I suppose.

I don’t know why more authors don’t narrate their own books. Yes, it’s long and somewhat tedious, but knowing what word to emphasize, when to pause, and when to get excited is exactly why I devote the time.

Here is a 10-minute sneak peek at the audio version of OPEN TO THINK, set to publish on September 11.

 

While You’re Here…

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, available September 11.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

PRE-ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

While you’re here, why not watch the TED Talk?

 

Three Strategies To Improve Your Creative Thinking

Discussing the importance of pausing and taking the time to dream, Bill McDermott, CEO of high-tech company SAP, once said in an interview, “Most people today are so driven by the short-term and the pressures of the day-to-day that they never take the time to put their feet up on the desk and look out the window and dream. They are constantly in meetings, many of them internal, burdened by PowerPoint.”

McDermott is swiftly cutting a knife wound on three critical issues that plague our organizations.

First, we are refusing to give ourselves the time to dream, to ideate, and to allow creative sparks to permeate our “always on” workplace habits. With no time to give our minds the chance to wander, the likelihood of original thinking wanes. With no time to look out the window, busyness wins.

Second, McDermott alludes to a general crisis in for-profit organizations that is known as short-termism. There is a pressure to meet unwieldy quarterly revenue and profit targets—often to appease market analysts. Thus a quest for short-term bumps on stock pricing causes employees of all stripes to make bizarre and often negatively impacting decisions. The story of Wells Fargo is one to consider. Theranos is another. When short-termism is the goal, creative thinking is sure to be shelved in favor of misbehavior.

Thirdly, we’re addicted to meetings. (And PowerPoint, too.) Being in meetings all the time can negatively affect our creative thinking. The term “soul-sucking” comes to mind. Research conducted by the National Statistics Council indicated 37% of total employee time is spent in meetings. High-tech firm Atlassian found employees attend 62 meetings every month. If you like irony, 71% of leaders believe meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

What to do? There are numerous strategies to improve our creative thinking—individually and organizationally—but in this column, I’ll focus on three in particular for individuals.

Block Time Off In Your Calendar

SAP CEO McDermott provided a simple suggestion to combat the busyness and lack of creative thinking that plagues too many of us. “My recommendation is, free up some time on your calendar.”

Every day, each of us is equipped with 1,440 minutes. We all possess 168 hours a week and 8,736 hours a year to use to our advantage. If we do not earmark a significant portion of time to be creative—by blocking time out in our calendars—we have little chance of inventing that next great idea. Setting aside time to be creative can potentially pay dividends in the long-term be it with your career, or life in general.

The most straightforward suggestion is to carve out one hour a day that is yours. Call it “me time” if you have to. It may have to move around based on your schedule and deliverables, but a little “dreaming” will go a long way to unleashing those pent-up ideas of yours.

Start Saying No To Meetings

Stop over-programming your every minute with meetings. Creative thinking requires space and time. When you accept every single request for a meeting, you are cutting into your creative thinking time. Help your mind to wander by just saying no to the incessant and obtrusive number of meetings that come your way. At a minimum, be more selective in saying yes.

Devise a system that sees you only attending “X” number of meetings a week. If you are responsible for setting and leading meetings, perhaps ask yourself if a 60-minute meeting might be accomplished in 45- or 30-minutes instead. Does the frequency have to be weekly (if it’s a review meeting), or could the cadence stretch to bi-weekly or even monthly?

Meetings are the enemy of your time, and a lack of time is the enemy of creative thinking.

Add A Little Purpose To Your Views

The leading individual on the Thinkers50 list is Roger L. Martin, noted author, academic, and strategist. On the subject of short-termism he wrote, “Outcomes produced by businesses will be a function of the decisions made by executives, and if those decisions are made with little regard for the long-term, it is fair to expect that long-term performance of business will suffer.”

If you were to inject a little purpose into your views, there is no question your creative thinking will also prosper. How does one insert purpose into their beliefs?

When the sole motive is to make money—operating for the short-term only—creative thinking is hampered. There is not much creativity when the single goal is to make money.

However, instead of focusing solely on profit, how about viewing the world as a series of stakeholders. When we aim to serve more than the need to make a profit and aim to help the customer, employee, community, and the environment—society in general one might suggest—then we view the world differently.

When we serve all stakeholders and indeed view the world differently, our creative thinking begins operating in far more imaginative and inspiring ways.

What More Can You Do?

I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, set to publish on September 11.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

PRE-ORDER

Click Below

amazon-com-logo    indigo

indiebound      barnes-and-noble-logo-png-10  

Kobo_logo

While you’re here, why not watch the TED Talk?