How and why winning in today’s competitive markets requires unlocking genius within us and in the world around us
I deeply appreciated all that I learned in Alan Gregerman’s most recent book, The Necessity of Strangers: The Intriguing Truth About Insight, Innovation, and Success, that I then obtained copies of two others, Lessons from the Sandbox: Using the 13 Gifts of Childhood to Rediscover the Keys to Business Success and this one. In my opinion, he is among the most thoughtful and thought-provoking among contemporary writers and I hope that many more volumes will be forthcoming in years to come.
What we have in this one is a combination of information, insights, and counsel that will help those who read the book to “unlock the brilliance within them” that has been held hostage, to date, by a lack of self-confidence and probably suppression by the defenders of what James O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”
Early on, Gregerman observes that his book on two ideas that have powerful implications for his readers and their organizations: “The first idea is that we all have the potential to be geniuses…The second idea is that we live in a world where we are surrounded by genius and knowledge that can be used to transform practically any company or organization…The only problem with these two idea is the reality that they run counter to the way most of us — and most of our organizations — prefer to view each other and the world around us.”
In his recently published book, The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, David Burkus suggests that there are ten primary dimensions of creative mythology that comprise a “system of heuristics, of speculative formulations, on how creativity works…and they have become well-entrenched myths. They include the Eureka Myth (insight from an epiphany), the Expert Myth (only those who know the most come up with valuable insights), and the Constraints Myth (order, structure, and limits hinder creativity). He repudiates all of them while noting that they remain remarkably durable and widespread. Gregerman agrees, suggesting that in order to lead innovation efforts, “we must have a better understanding of where creativity comes from and how to enhance the creativity of the people we lead. We must rewrite the myths.”
Here is Dallas there is a Farmer’s Market near the downtown area at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as sample of their wares. In the same spirit, I now offer a representative selection of Gregerman’s observations to suggest the thrust and flavor of his extended explanation of how and why winning in today’s competitive markets requires unlocking genius within us and in the world around us.
o “What is there are more brilliant way to do things? And what if those more brilliant ways are all around us simply waiting for us to discover them?” (Page 7)
o “So the real genius [in each breakthrough innovation] was an ability to see things differently than others and to put things together in a different way.” (29)
o “The challenge is to figure put in our own journeys [of discovery] what is worthy of our curiosity and attention” (46)
o “Conversations that matter enable us to find out what is going on in our customer’s world, what concerns them, what excites them, how their needs are evolving, and what they believe [or at least hope] is possible.” (80)
o “Rather than being wildly innovative and coming up with totally new concepts and designs, rocket scientists are constantly pushing the edge of what they already know.”(164)
o “Think about what it would take to create an organization that works together to anticipate customer needs before they arise.”(197)
o “Having a clear, compelling, and shared sense of purpose — a reason to exist that really matters — is the minimum daily requirement for unlocking the genius in your organization.” (214)
o “Leaders are the ones who capture everyone’s attention and spark a sense of curiosity by opening a book to a world where ideas, questions, and possibilities can take flight.” (230)
When concluding his brilliant book, Gregerman wishes each of those who read it “a safe and successful journey” while unlocking the genius within themselves and also, hopefully, while helping others to do the same. While reading this book, I was again reminded of the fact that all great leaders seem to have a “green thumb” for growing” other leaders within a workplace viewed as a “garden” that requires constant and caring nourishment as well as, yes, protection. Only in such a workplace are creativity and innovation most likely to thrive. I especially like Alan Gregorian final thought and share it now: “Leaders hold the lamp that lights our way on the journey to what we can and must become.” Bon voyage!
In 1969, Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon noted: “Engineering, medicine, business, architecture, and painting are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent — not with how things are, but with they might be — in short, with design. Every one designs to devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. Design, so construed, is the core of all professional training.”
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In her contribution to Rotman on Design, published by University of Toronto Press (2013), Jeanne Liedtka observes, “Despite the avowed plurality that design theorists describe in their attempts to define the field, a set of commonalities does emerge from their work about the attributes of design thinking.”
First, design thinking is synthetic. It seeks internal alignment and understands interdependence.
Second, design thinking is abductive in nature. It is future-focused and inventive, providing the focus that allows individuals within an organization to leverage their energy, to focus attention, and to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal.
Third, design thinking is hypothesis-driven. In an environment of ever-increasing information availability and decreasing time to think, the ability to develop good hypotheses and test them effectively is critical.
Fourth, design thinking is opportunistic. Within this intent-driven focus, there must be room for opportunism that not only furthers intended strategy but that also leaves open the possibility of new strategies emerging.
Fifth, design thinking is dialectical. In the process of inventing the image of the future, the strategist must mediate the tension between constraint, contingency, and possibility.
Finally, design thinking is inquiring and value-driven. Because any particular strategy is invented, rather than discovered, it is contestable and reflective of the values of those making the choice.
Source: Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine, co-edited by Roger Martin and Karen Christensen and published by University of Toronto Press (2013)
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Jeanne Liedtka is the United Technologies Corporation Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and author of three books, most recently Solving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, co-authored with Andrew King and Kevin Bennett and published by Columbia Business School Press (2013).
The buffet awaits:
o “The chief danger in life is that you take too many precautions.” Alfred Adler
o “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Aristotle
o “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
o “Enlightened trial and error outperforms the planning of flawless intellects.” David Kelley
o “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” Aldous Huxley
o “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” William James
o “Man plans and then God laughs.” Hebrew proverb
o “Being right keeps you in place, being wrong forces you to explore.” Steven Johnson
o “Art is the only way to travel the world without leaving home.” Twyla Tharp
o “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.” Voltaire
Having read and reviewed several dozen books on creativity, innovation, and design thinking, I think I now understand what could be described as a “secret sauce.” It is the result of a process of connection, combination, and coordination.
Here’s how it works:
After World War Two, Honda Motor Company produced a small generator for limited use in homes until electrical power was restored. Company executives noticed that the generator was being attached to the wheels of a bicycle and they followed the process. The result: the recreational motorcycle.
After taking his dog for a walk in the woods, George de Mestral began to remove burrs and followed the process. The result: Velcro.
A scientist at 3M, Art Fry, sang in a church choir and was frustrated by paper markers that kept dropping out of his hymnal. He heard about a new “weak” adhesive developed by a colleague, Spencer Silver, and followed the process. The result: Post-it Notes.
When Bette Nesmith Graham resumed her career as a secretary, she made many mistakes on the electric typewriter and searched for a way to correct them. She applied quick-drying gesso with a paintbrush, called the fluid Mistake Out, and followed the process. The result: Liquid Paper.
Mary Kay Ash used a leather softener to remove wrinkles on her hands but mildly objected to the odor, and followed the process. The result: a best-selling lotion on which she built a Fortune 100 company.
Almost anyone can think creatively if they can overcome what I call “the invisibility of the obvious” and connect, combine, and coordinate what others ignore.
Jack Godwin, PhD, is a political scientist whose appeal spans the political spectrum. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Clintonomics, his previous book, a “must read,” an assessment seconded by conservative Newsmax.com publisher Christopher Ruddy. Godwin has a doctorate from the University of Hawaii and degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of California- Berkeley. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, West Africa and a five-time Fulbright scholar to Britain, Canada, Germany, Hungary and Japan. He is a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. He has been the Chief International Officer at California State University, Sacramento since 1999. His books include The Arrow and the Olive Branch (2007), Clintonomics (2009), and most recently, The Office Politics Handbook (Career Press, 2013).
Here is an excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing The Office Politics Handbook, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Godwin: My wife Emilia has had the greatest and most positive influence. I started writing seriously at age 45, two months after we got married. I don’t believe this is a coincidence. Our close relationship motivates me and gives me a lot of confidence. I’m 54 now with three books published and another on the way.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Godwin: I’ve had several great college professors, especially Raghavan Iyer, Edwin Duerr, and Richard Chadwick. All three inspired my scholarship but Duerr and Chadwick somehow recognized potential that I didn’t know was there.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Godwin: I joined the Peace Corps in 1982 and got an assignment in Gabon, West Africa supervising construction of a primary school in a small village outside a small town called Akieni. No running water or electricity, we made our bricks by hand and dried them in the sun. I had a crew of five villagers and drove one of those old-style Toyota pickup trucks. And I had a boom box, a gift from another volunteer who had recently completed his service and a few well-used cassette tapes. One morning, I popped the Temptations Greatest Hits into the boom box and played Papa was a Rollin Stone. My workers started dancing, and then I started dancing. It was a moment of cross-cultural exchange. I decided then and there that, whatever else I did with my life, my career, and my education, it would be international. That’s the epiphany. That’s the promise I made to myself. That was—and still is—my idea of a life worth living.
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?
Godwin: When I got home from Africa, I got a job as a salesman in the vacuum cleaner business, which was the same industry my father worked in for many years. Working as a salesman and learning the skills of salesmanship, how to establish a rapport, overcome objections and close the sale are invaluable. I wish everybody else knew these skills.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes the power of political skills? Please explain.
Godwin: The Godfather (Part 1) best dramatizes power and politics, as well as strategy. Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) and Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duval) are archetypal characters. In particular, I recommend studying the scenes with the consigliore Tom Hagen and Hollywood mogul Jack Woltz (played by John Marley). No special effects, just two actors playing their parts — being the characters — under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola.
Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?
Godwin: This is an interesting point. In Ronald Reagan’s 1989 Farewell Address, he said “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.” I beg to differ. Reagan was a great communicator and a storyteller, and in some ways a prophet. Bill Clinton is also a great communicator but more of a policy wonk than a storyteller. There’s room for both because as our problems become increasingly complex, our ability to explain solutions must increase in equal proportion.
Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”
Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?
Godwin: This is a question about managing change, which requires persistence. By that, I mean asserting your power in a way that is humble, gentle, and inconspicuous. The most natural example of this is the gentle breeze that blows along the coast in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The wind doesn’t blow very hard, but it blows consistently in the same direction. And this gentle breeze twists and turns the trees into the most fascinating forms. This is how you overcome resistance, through influence that never lapses.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Office Politics Handbook. When and why did you decide to write it?
Godwin: I started writing Office Politics in October 2008. I completed the manuscript for Clintonomics and went on vacation. When I got back home a month later, I asked myself “what’s next”? I’m a political scientist with an MBA, so it was natural to write something about politics for people who work for a living. First, I wanted to demystify politics. Second, I wanted to teach people how to develop their political skills, how to acquire power, overcome the bureaucracy, and work with friends and adversaries alike. My goal is to make the world a better place, one cubicle at a time.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.
Godwin: At the beginning of the book, I worried if there was enough material for a whole book. I didn’t have to worry, but I did have to go beyond political science into other academic fields such as anthropology, sociology and especially psychology. This led me to Carl Jung, which of course led me to archetypes. Why are archetypes important? Archetypes are symbols in concentrated form, reflections and expressions of our culture and human nature. They are common to the human race and present in all of us, which partly explains why office politics takes on familiar, recurring patterns regardless of culture, location or era. If you work in an organization of any size, for any duration of time, you may notice how people emulate archetypes and inhabit pre-packaged roles, and how the archetypes migrate from one individual to another.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Godwin: The working title was Micropolitics. The publisher said nobody would buy it, quote unquote. And my literary agent agreed! Even though I made a conscious effort to write for a general audience—to write for the market—I overlooked (for a nanosecond) two important market segments: my literary agent and my publisher. This reminds me that book publishing is a collaborative business, which is something I enjoy very much.
Morris: To what extent (if any) are office politics significantly different from politics anywhere else? Please explain.
Godwin: I don’t think office politics (or micropolitics) is any different from politics anywhere else. The laws of politics are rooted in human nature. These laws have not changed in thousands of years, since the ancient philosophers of China, India, and Greece first attempted to discover and articulate them.
Morris: Although Harry Truman is often credited with observing, “Politics is the art of the possible,” it was first expressed by Otto von Bismarck during an interview in 1867. What is your opinion of that statement? Please explain
Godwin: The point is that politics is not the art of the perfect, but the art of the possible; the art of the next best. It’s the art of recognizing all the conditions and constraints that make your first choice unavailable without losing sight of your second choice. Once you have eliminated the false ideal, then you can concentrate on the next best solution. This now becomes the true ideal, the new organizing principle upon which you will formulate and execute your strategy.
Morris: How do you explain the fact that, today, the public approval rating of members in the U.S. Congress is lower than ever before?
Godwin: Incumbents have a home court advantage in terms of name recognition and fund raising. The reelection rate for incumbents is very high, which indicates high public approval for individual members. However, public approval for the current (113th) Congress is indeed lower than ever, according to the Washington Post, 12% approval and 85% disapproval. I wonder why it isn’t lower. I mean, why isn’t it 100% disapproval?
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Jack cordially invites you to check out the resources at this website.
Here is a brief article by Nina Bahadur for The Huffington Post. To check out an abundance of other superb articles, please click here.
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Success can mean anything from securing a corner office at a major corporation to making a small, positive impact on another person’s life, to spending a significant amount of meaningful time with your children. The word’s definition varies depending on who you ask — but a new survey suggests that men and women may think about the concept differently.
Citi and LinkedIn polled 1,023 LinkedIn members (512 women and 511 men) about their views on work, success and balance. The results of the online survey dispel a number of gender stereotypes, most notably the idea that women value marriage and children more highly than men. They also suggest that professionals are less likely to consider success merely a matter of status or income.
Redefining success may be especially beneficial to working women. At the Huffington Post’s June 2013 Third Metric conference, Padmasree Warrior noted that, when hiring and promoting employees, bosses are more likely to look for candidates with stereotypically “male” attributes. “We never say we want people who are empathetic, who are creative, who are good listeners,” she said. “And I think we need to change that.”
The Citi/LinkedIn survey sheds light on how men and women are thinking about success now. Here are six important things we learned:
1. Fewer women are including relationships, children or marriage in their definitions of success. Nine percent of women did not link being married or coupled up to success — up from 5 percent in 2012. This certainly defies the myth that all women are biologically wired to want to stay home and have babies.
2. On the flip side, men are more likely to equate kids with success. Eighty-six percent of men factored having children into their definition of success, compared to 73 percent of women.
3. Very few people actually unplug from work during time off. Fifty-eight percent of men and women work over the weekend at least once or twice a month, and 62 percent work on vacation. (It’s hard to do, but we all know that detoxing from your gadgets is good for productivity and a solid night’s sleep.)
4. Women and men describe themselves differently. Men were more likely than women to refer to themselves as confident, ambitious and family-oriented. Women were more likely to describe themselves as good listeners, loyal, collaborative, detail-oriented and happy.
5. Women are more stressed about money than men. Women reported being consistently more concerned than men about paying off student loans, getting a raise and paying off credit card debt. As more women become the primary breadwinners in their households, it seems unlikely that these anxieties will go away any time soon.
6. Millennial women are more likely to describe themselves as “ambitious” than women of any other generation. This flies in the face of the idea that Millennials are entitled and lazy. In reality, they’re anything but.
Did these results surprise you? Comment below, or join the conversation on Twitter@HuffPostWomen by clicking here.
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Nina Bahadur is a recent Princeton graduate and would-be poet. To check out her other articles, please click here.
Here is a brief excerpt from an excellent article by Toni Bernhard for Psychology Today in which she explains how and why, when we get stuck in convergent thinking, we miss possibilities open to us. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
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“Convergent” and “divergent” thinking represent two different ways of looking at the world. A convergent thinker sees a limited, predetermined number of options. By contrast, a divergent thinker is always looking for more options. Many of us get stuck in convergent thinking and, as a result, don’t see the many possibilities available to us. Let’s have a look at both types of thinking.
Convergent is a form of the word “converging” and so it means “coming together.” Convergent thinking is what you engage in when you answer a multiple choice question (although, in real life, we often only see two choices). In convergent thinking, you begin by focusing on a limited number of choices as possibilities. Then you choose the “right” answer or course of action from among those choices. The figure on the left side of the diagram illustrates convergent thinking.
Here’s an example: “People are sick or people are healthy.” For many years after becoming chronically ill, those were the only two possibilities I saw: I was sick or I was healthy. Each night I’d go to bed, hoping to wake up healthy. When I didn’t, I considered myself to be sick. It was one or the other.
Along with that, I thought I only had two possible courses of action: I could be a law professor or I could do nothing with my life. That may sound extreme, but that’s how I saw it at the time. Not wanting to do the latter, I forced myself to keep working, even though I was too sick to do so. It didn’t occur to me that I could be in poor health and lead a productive life.
I’m not dismissing the value of convergent thinking. It’s an important cognitive tool, particularly in math and science. Unless I’m missing something, it would be silly to be open to other options than “4” when asked, “What’s 2+2?”. But convergent thinking has at times been a great source of suffering for me during my illness, because it’s kept me from seeing beyond my limited vision of what is possible in this new and unexpected life.
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By contrast, divergent means “developing in different directions” and so divergent thinking opens your mind in all directions. This opens possibilities in your life because it leads you to look for options that aren’t necessarily apparent at first. The figure on the right side of the above diagram illustrates divergent thinking.
A divergent thinker is looking for options as opposed to choosing among predetermined ones. So instead of deciding that the two choices for me are “sick” or “healthy,” I would ask myself if there are other options, like the possibility that I could be sick and healthy at the same time. It took me many years to see that this was indeed an option (and it became the major theme of my book, How to Be Sick).
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To read the complete article, please click here.
“Until forced to retire due to illness, I was a law professor for 22 years at the University of California — Davis, serving six years as the law school’s dean of students. I had a longstanding Buddhist practice and co-led a weekly meditation group with my husband. Faced with learning to live a new life, I wrote How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. The book is Buddhist-inspired but is non-parochial. The tools and practices in it are intended to help everyone. How to Be Sick has won two 2011 Nautilus Book Awards: A Gold Medal in Self-Help/Psychology and a Silver Medal in Memoir. It was also named one of the best books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice.” To check out her blog, Turning Straw Into Gold, please click here.
To learn more about Toni and her work, please click here.