Stepping Off The Hamster Wheel
IBM’s survey of global CEOs gives us a rare insight into where leaders heads are at right now. Asked to name the most important leadership quality they need (but are hard-pressed to find), 1541 CEOs, general managers and senior public sector leaders in 60 countries cited “creativity” more than any other trait, including management discipline, rigor or operational acumen.
This is significant, folks! The question is: Why the sudden shift? What’s happening that’s causing top executives to yearn for creativity? And what can you do to anticipate this unmet need for creative innovators where you work?
My own conversations and observations lead me to conclude that firms are crying out for innovation-adept managers for two reasons.
First, they are now focused on driving organic growth, according to a McKinsey survey of 2,240 executives, rather than pursuing growth through M&A or even new markets. You don’t rack up growth by doing the same old same old. You attain it by thinking new thoughts, assaulting industry and organizational assumptions, and mobilizing the collective imagination.
The second reason CEOs are focused on finding creative managers is the debilitating impact of mass distraction. At precisely the time when it is so urgently needed, most of us are frazzled and frantic and driven by deadlines. The managers I meet are over-scheduled, over-stimulated, over-connected and overwhelmed, most of the time. “I don’t have time to think” is the common refrain.
We can’t focus on anything for long enough to have an original thought because we feel we must check our email 30 to 40 times an hour, according to one survey. A study at University of California, Irvine shows that “knowledge workers” (innovation workers?) are interrupted every three minutes. And don’t get me started on multitasking.
All this at the same time when you and I need perhaps three to four times as many ideas daily to meet the many challenges we face. Unless you’ve bothered to write out your own personal best practices (something I recommend), you mental “idea factory” is churning out fewer and fewer original, compelling ideas and trying to get by with knee-jerk solutions.
So my question is: What are you doing to counteract the forces of mass distraction and cultivate your creativity?
[Tucker offer two suggestions that may help. Here’s the first.]
1. Inspect your idea factory regularly
The quickest, simplest way to check up on your idea factory is to look at your “to do” list. It’s a snapshot of the ideas you’re working on right now. What does your list reveal? Are the ideas mostly related to your basic functional duties, or are there also ideas related to larger projects and opportunities and goals?
Everybody must execute routine details. But if you go for days and days running like the proverbial hamster on the wheel, your idea factory is greatly in need of retooling. It’s not that you aren’t generating ideas; you almost certainly are. The problem is that you aren’t moving on them in systematic fashion; you’re reactive rather than proactive. You are slighting your big ideas while allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the tactical details. You’ll never get ahead this way; at most you’ll only get by.
To thoroughly inspect your idea factory, try this for a week: Wherever you go, use your smart phone, post-it notes, or another tool you prefer, to jot down ideas as they occur. Examples might be:
Look into attending social networking seminar sponsored by the marketing department.
Build the buy in with your boss for holding an “All Things Considered” Meeting to discuss work-flow process improvements
Meet with sales department about starting promotional campaign for the new product line.
Checking up on your ideas
will make you more aware of the lifters, and some will be poppers. The lifters are those you “borrow” from other industries or people—or even from competitors. The poppers are those that come out of your own conjuring process. If you’re in the defeatist mode or sustainer-mode when you conjure an idea, you might tune it out. You might reject it the minute it occurs no matter how promising it might be. Your idea factory requires frequent inspection and constant retooling.
I’m sure you have read the statistics. Most blogs are born with hope and die from inaction. People who start out wanting to blog/intending to blog, simply quit.
When we first started our blog, Karl Krayer and I were the only two on the team. I came up with the idea to expand our blogging team, and invited Cheryl Jensen and Sara Smith, and Bob Morris, to blog along with us.
Over the weekend, Bob Morris posted our 2,000th blog post. So – our blog definitely did not die from inaction. We have steadily increased our blog post total.
Our first month for our blogging team was April, 2009. To put it in perspective, in all of March, 2009, we had one blog post. One. Now, we are hitting four to six to eight posts a day.
Here’s what happened. Though we absolutely appreciate and gain much from the blog posts of Karl Krayer, and Cheryl and Sara, for Bob and me, it has been quite a ride.
We always try to offer genuine and practical wisdom, counsel, and help to those who want to succeed, especially in their business lives.
I now average slightly more than one post a day (when I am on a roll, I can churn out two to four in a day). I have started thinking, time and again, “I’ve got to blog about that.” And I have so much more I want to say – so much more to write about. To put it simply, I like to blog.
But Bob Morris is the education factory. He writes multiple posts a day. And they are all valuable. If you were to read Bob Morris’ blog posts, all of them, you would know more about the wisdom found in business (and other) books, the key content of the best offerings… If you want to keep up, and keep learning, Bob Morris is your resource! It is amazing what this one man’s output can teach us all!
Karl Krayer, the Head of Creative Communication Network, made all of this possible. And our monthly event, the First Friday Book Synopsis (now in our 13th year), takes a little deeper look into two books every month.
And I am deeply grateful for the insights shared by Karl, Cheryl & Sara on this blog.
But, today, I just wanted to share our progress. We’ve gone from a handful of readers in the months before we expanded our blogging team, to our current readership with nearly 400 page views a day. And that number is going up practically every month.
To you, our readers, I am especially grateful. Please spread the word. (You can follow me on twitter here, and find links to most new blog posts on our blog – along with a few other items).
You got it, Kimosabe. Today’s your day.
Here are ten more snappy more quotations that caught my eye. You can use each of them in a variety of different situations (e.g. emails, proposals, formal presentations, reviews, blog posts). If you have others to share, I hope you will do so.
And again, I highly recommend The Yale Book of Quotations, brilliantly edited by Fred R. Shapiro and published by Yale University Press.
1. “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde
2. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
3. “A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.” David Brinkley
4. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin
5. “Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.” Mary Kay Ash
6. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” Philip K. Dick
7. “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Albert Einstein
8. “Reality is a collective hunch.” Lilly Tomlin
9. ”Few people have the imagination for reality.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
10. “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.” Groucho Marx
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Steve Tobak for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To read the complete article
and/or obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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Tell the truth: how many times have you read a business or self-help book, then said, “Wow, that was cool,” and then, well, nothing changed? Well, you’re not alone. That’s the whole problem with that genre; it’s always someone’s idea of what works for him or what he thinks will work for others. It really doesn’t account for the billions of variations on the theme of human intelligence.
Still, Stephen R. Covey’s got millions of fans who swear by his seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not one of them, but that’s because I’m different. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know – and I know lots of them – just don’t fit the mold of folks who can actually benefit from a cookie-cutter set of habits. Instead, they tend to carve their own paths through life … and they do it their own way.
So, with all due respect to Covey, here’s an adaptation of his seven habits that I think fits innovators and entrepreneurs (You’ll find Covey’s in parenthesis at the end of each habit):
The 7 Habits of Highly Innovative People
[Here are the first three.]
Habit 1: Be Passionate. Finding your passion is not only the key to happiness, but also the key to business success. As Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” (Be Proactive)
Habit 2: Do Something. You don’t always know where it’s going to lead, but it’s always better to do something than to suffer analysis paralysis. Legendary oil-man and entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens has a way of quickly sizing up a situation, coming up with a plan, and acting. There’s no sitting around or endless analysis and debate. It seems to have worked for him. (Begin with the End in Mind)
Habit 3: Put First Things First, Second, and Third. Covey says prioritize, but I’ll take it one step further. Whoever said, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” was right, and I’ll add, “don’t do or even think about the small stuff.” Every successful innovative person I know jumps on hot opportunities and critical issues like they’re the only things that matter on god’s green Earth. (Put First Things First)
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Steve Tobak is a consultant, writer, and former senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He’s the managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based firm that provides strategic consulting, executive coaching, and speaking services to CEOs and management teams of small-to-mid-sized companies.
Maybe it seems too mind-blowing to even consider slowing down enough to institute a daily and weekly meeting structure, but gazelles that have done it are thrilled with the result… This rhythmic pulsing of daily and weekly meetings constitutes the real heartbeat of a growing company.
Verne Harnish: Mastering The Rockefeller Habits.
Meetings have gotten a bad rap. People complain about them, don’t want them, despise them.
But, the problem is not “meetings” – it is “bad meetings.” And what are bad meetings?
A meeting with no purpose is a bad meeting.
A meeting for the sake of having a meeting is a bad meeting.
A meeting that drags on too long is a bad meeting.
But, not having meetings at all can be much, much worse. Because, after all is said and done, business is done by
The operative word is together. And without together time, together work does not get done.
I thought of all of this as I read about Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, in this article from the New York Times: Mark Zuckerberg’s Most Valuable Friend by Miguel Helft. Ms. Sandberg has two meetings a week with Mark Zuckerberg. One is on Monday morning, for one hour. The other is on Friday afternoon. Ms. Sandberg plays quite a role in the company, and is something akin to a personal coach for Mark Zuckerberg.
Here are some excerpts of the article:
EVERY Monday a bit before 10 a.m., Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, dashes off a quick e-mail to her boss, Mark Zuckerberg. “We have a routine,” Ms. Sandberg says. “I e-mail, ‘Coming in?’ He replies, ‘On my way.’ ”
A few minutes later, Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, walks into the company’s headquarters here, says a few hellos and heads to a conference room where he and Ms. Sandberg huddle for an hour. The two executives end the week the same way, with a closed-door meeting on Friday afternoon. They discuss products, strategy, deals, personnel — and each other.
“We agreed that we would give each other feedback every Friday,” Ms. Sandberg says. “We are constantly flagging things. Nothing ever builds up.” At a recent meeting, for instance, they ironed out a disagreement between them over the details of Mr. Zuckerberg’s pledge to give $100 million to schools in Newark.
If all of that sounds a bit touchy-feely, well, it is. Ms. Sandberg, a well-regarded Internet executive, is known for her interpersonal skills as much as for her sharp intellect. And her regular meetings with the famously introverted Mr. Zuckerberg have helped to keep one of Silicon Valley’s most unusual business partnerships working wonders for Facebook.
And here’s a paragraph to warm Cheryl Jensen’s heart. (Cheryl is our blogging colleague, and she and I have had a few words about coaching. We’re working on an article together. This quote supports Cheryl’s view). Ms. Sandberg clearly focuses on the “bright spots” in her coaching of Mr. Zuckerberg:
At a technology conference this summer, for instance, Mr. Zuckerberg flopped during an onstage interview. He gave rambling answers to questions about Facebook’s privacy policies, became visibly nervous and started sweating profusely. After the interview, Ms. Sandberg encouraged him not to beat himself up over it, but to focus on parts of the interview that went well so he could do better next time…
Back to the lesson. Have meetings. Make them good. Make them count. Make sure the right persons are in the meeting.
And don’t skip them! Did you catch this phrase from the article: Nothing ever builds up. Quite a good piece of advice for us all!
Meetings. You need them. Your company needs them. Be sure to have them — and make them count.
Perhaps you have already read Hall’s previous book, Jump Start Your Brain (1996) to which David Wecker was a contributor. Most of the core concepts introduced in that book are developed in much greater depth in this sequel. However, Hall makes a much greater effort to explain their direct relevance to achieving business success. He shares “good news” in the Introduction: “Business success is not random. There are patterns in the universe of business. There are reproducible scientific lessons and laws that, when applied with diligence, can help you win more, lose less, and make more money with your new products, services, sales, and advertising efforts.”
Note: Sam Carpenter has a great deal of value to say about what Hall characterizes as “patterns in the universe of business” in his recently published book, Work the System.
Contrary to Darwinists, Hall rejects the term survival, replacing it with “thriving” through the effective use of data-validated scientific laws. Although he states that small business owners are the “focal point” of his book, I believe that literally anyone can benefit from this book who needs to formulate better ideas within a competitive marketplace.
These new ideas need not be limited to “new products, services, sales, and advertising efforts.” On the contrary, they could also help substantially to improve the cycle time and first-pass yield of a process to produce new products and services, to increase both sales and profits, and to maximize the impact of marketing (i.e. creating demand for) whatever is offered for sale. In addition, effective application of “reproducible scientific lessons and laws” can generate new ideas which help a company to strengthen its relationships with customers, vendors, and strategic allies as well as with its own employees or “associates,” as they are called at companies such as Wal-Mart and JCPenney.
Hall introduces and then explains what he calls “The Three Laws of Marketing Physics” in Part I (Overt Benefit, Real Reason to Believe, and Dramatic Difference) in Part II and then what he calls “The Three Laws of Capitalist Creativity” in Part II (Explore Stimuli, Leverage Diversity, and Face Fears). If I understand Hall correctly (and I may not in some instances), he works with a rather inclusive definition of “scientific” which bears greater resemblance to the thought processes of a Benjamin Franklin and Eli Whitney than those of, lets say, Frederick W. Taylor and W. Edwards Deming.
Moreover, writing with what I characterize as a “Batman Style” (i.e. Pow! Bam! Gadzooks!), he seems to attach much greater value to enthusiasm, indeed PASSION! than he does to highly structured deductive and inductive reasoning. Hall asserts that ideas “are the only true fuel for winning customers and growing profits.” How they are generated is determined by both attitude and process. With regard to scientific laws (however derived), they “provide a foundation for making decisions and taking action in the face of chaos.”
Throughout this book, Hall includes all manner of exercises by which to “jump start” a brain. (FYI, each brain has about 12-trillion cells and is capable of 10,000 connections — neurons forming synapses — with other cells. To jump start is to expedite as well as increase such connections.) In Chapter 10, “How to Fuel Your Brain for Maximum Productivity,” Hall includes several “Practical Tactics” such as those which can help anyone to break “mental constipation,” “walk the talk,” and complete a “mind dump.” The extent to which a brain can make connections is determined almost entirely by the quantity and quality of what is available to connect. Hall recommends various specific strategies and tactics by which to increase, constantly, the number of one’s “connectibles.”