Category Archives: learning

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The Art of Creativity

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BIV Boardroom Strategy: Creativity: Are you building it or crushing it?

When it comes to creativity, fear of criticism, judgment, of taking risks and putting your reputation on the line is a huge obstacle.

We’re born creative and continually experience the excitement of that creativity as we grow. Over time, our environment and experiences can cause us to fall into thinking patterns that get in the way of our creativity.

Your job as a leader is to help shift thinking and remove these obstacles:

Play is frivolous. We’re told that children play and adults are meant to be serious. This creates the self-limiting belief that if something starts to feel too much like fun then it can’t possibly be productive work. Start by changing your thought patterns around creativity. The more you let go of the existing beliefs and thoughts that limit you in thinking of new possibilities, the more you can explore creativity. Find small ways to be creative everyday while encouraging the same in others. If you’re interested in watching a truly outstanding creative process in action, search “IDEO Shopping Cart” on youtube.com and watch their process. (Thanks to Cactus Club CEO Richard Jaffray for recommending this video.)

Creativity comes from creative people. When people think that creativity is the job of marketing or PR, they disable their own creativity. Once they understand that creativity is a choice for all of us, not part of a select few people’s job descriptions, the realms of possibility open up substantially. As a leader, consider where you might be categorizing others as “creative” or “not creative.” Work on altering that thought pattern to embrace the idea that we all have that capacity by asking people for ideas on projects when you normally wouldn’t seek their input.

Deciding before you start. If you think you know the answer before you start the creative process, then you may be limiting yourself to a smaller set of possibilities. Instead, view your idea as only one possible solution and look at it from new perspectives. Curiosity creates leverage in brainstorming so ask a lot of questions, considering as many different view points as you can.

Believing there is a “right” answer. When we focus our problem solving on trying to find the “right” answer there’s a tendency to have a narrow focus. This prevents us from exploring the problem or opportunity in favour of trying to “fix it” as soon as possible. Try “reverse brainstorming,” where you reverse the problem or challenge by brainstorming answers to the question “How could we possibly cause this problem.” Once you have a number of ideas to solve the reverse problem, reverse them into solutions for the original problem or challenge.

Stinking thinking. The easiest way to kill a brainstorming session is with killer statements: “We’ve tried that before,” “That won’t work in this market,” “We don’t have the resources/budget” (this one’s my personal favourite). Next time you’re in a brainstorming session with your team, take a positive approach by first getting all the ideas out on the table before debating or discussing any of them.

Fear of failure. When it comes to creativity, fear of criticism, judgment, of taking risks and putting your reputation on the line is a huge obstacle. After all, your ideas may be a complete flop, so it just feels safer to stick to the status quo. As a leader, it’s your job to create the space for people to take the risk. Consider failure as feedback; focus on and celebrate learning, how to move forward, and what to do differently next time.

BIV Boardroom Strategy – Creativity are you building it or crushing it – Sept 2012

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Focusing on past corporate success to build future success

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Candid realities about business’ dirty little secret

In an effort to avoid conflict, leaders and team members often conceal their true feelings, withhold their opinions or outwardly agree and go along with the crowd while inside they are vehemently opposed.

For some, this lack of candour also extends to hoarding information or avoiding communicating with others entirely, in an effort to save face or get and stay ahead of the pack.

Strength of the strategic plan and the ability for executives to collaborate cross-silo with their teams depends considerably on trust and respect within and between teams. The willingness to come forward with authenticity and transparency is key to building up that trust and respect.

In Jack Welch’s book Winning, he describes a lack of candour as businesses’ “dirty little secret.” Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: star power: how to tackle first things first on your company’s strategic objectives list

When you start working on the action plans for your strategic objectives for the year, one of the most important steps is to understand the order of priority of your objectives.

You might think you know what needs to happen first, but your team might not agree with you. The key is to spend time together as a team to rank the order of your objectives using a technique called the Hoshin Star (a variation of matched-pair analysis).

Originally developed for total quality management, the Hoshin Star helps leaders understand the cause and effect connection between objectives to determine the underlying order of importance.

Using this tool to prioritize strategic objectives can serve two purposes: Continue reading

BIV Boardroom Strategy: effective organizational strategies and other Harvard insights

In the past month, I have had two unique opportunities: the first was to spend a few days in Boston with one of my clients and Frances Frei from Harvard; the second was a fireside chat with some fellow CEOs and author Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw). There were some great strategic nuggets interwoven into both conversations, and I want to share with you what I learned.

Frei is a professor in Harvard Business School’s technology and operations management unit and the chairwoman of the MBA required curriculum. Because Frei’s work focuses on how organizations can more effectively design service excellence, I was eager to hear her thoughts on organizational strategy. I was not disappointed.

Here are some key points I took away from the conversation.

Choose great over average. When you’re considering your points of differentiation as an organization the key is not to try to become five out of five on all aspects of your client value proposition; by diffusing your efforts as an organization among so many things you end up becoming three out of five (average) on everything.

Really great, standout companies figure out what they can sacrifice (areas where they are at about a one out of five), so they can truly be five out of five on the areas that count most to their customers.

Choose differentiation versus “me-too.” For true differentiation you need to do something that the competition can’t properly replicate. Consider the example of the Heavenly Bed Wars. Once Westin hotels rolled

out its heavenly beds campaign, all their competitors had to do was provide a similar quality of bed – a simple yet costly undertaking, the net result being that consumers now get better beds from all competing hotels. But each is still in the same price-competitive space: higher cost, lower margin and no differentiation. The trick is to focus on providing something to your customer that is difficult for your competitors to replicate. Continue reading

Learning 2.0

Sign-up for a course, read the textbook, attend some lectures, study your notes, write an exam, and repeat. That’s the mantra that most of us used to build up our academic knowledge. Until now…

The tide has changed to move from learning in the classroom, focused on the institution, a fixed schedule, and a series of courses that “I have to take,” to a new way of learning that allows me to design a set of learning opportunities that fit what I’m passionate about. The web has given us the ability to live something called learning 2.0: a learner focused, always-on, just-in-time, designed by me for me type approach.

I thought I would share some fantastic resources for creating your own learning 2.0 path:

iTunes U – this is a free learning library built into iTunes that allows you to access video and audio of the world’s thought leaders from some of the most prestigious universities in the world. My current favourite is the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series from Stanford.

Harvard Business Review – HBR is the go-to place for business people wanting bite-sized columns and articles on the most current topics facing leaders today. Recently they put their monthly magazine on Zinio.com as well so now you can receive HBR Magazine direct to your iPad, PC, or Mac.

TED.com – if you haven’t heard about TED.com chances are you are just waking up from a coma (I hope you’re feeling better – the world has changed a bit while you were out).

Cisco Webex Recorded Webinars – Webex is a fantastic virtual meeting space that allows you and your team to collaborate online. It’s always a great tool for presenting to an audience that is remote. They’ve brought together thought leaders from around the world to create a series of business webinars using the platform.

wikipedia.org – you might be thinking “why would I go to wikipedia to learn, that’s where my kids go to research school projects?” but the reality is that wikipedia has become an amazing resource on any topic, including links to research and articles that provide even deeper context and learning on almost any topic.

Peer Groups – Napoleon Hill first came up with the idea of a Mastermind Group in his book, Think and Grow Rich, back in 1937. Today there are multiple ways to experience the benefit of a peer group:

  • build your own
  • attend a Meetup on a topic you’re passionate about
  • join organizations like YPO, EO, TEC, or a ViRTUS Exchange [shameless product plug]

If you have been thinking about doing an MBA or Masters in your field and are struggling with the time, money, and energy required for the two-three year commitment, consider the resources above as a way of creating a learning path that’s built by you, for you, and takes into account the realities of your busy life.

What resources are you using to create a personalized learning plan?