Has the innovation in your company come to a halt? Are there no creative individuals left in your organization? Are all your employees stiffs without any imagination?

Whatever you do, don’t hire any creative people!

Did you see an opportunity to hire a colorful person full of new ideas? Please send him/her away. Leave the poor bastard alone.

You can not give your organization a vitamin injection by hiring inspiring people. You’ll only drag them down to your own level and the result will be an organization that’s still in rigor mortis but with another soul added to the tab.

You can not buy innovation, you have to design for innovation. Your organization is already full of creative inspiring people but your processes (or lack thereof) for innovation and creativity are holding them back. You need to design an organization and processes where new ideas are cultivated and appreciated. You need processes where the new ideas are caught, valued, implemented and nurtured in a swift and agile manner. Mistakes must be considered equally valuable as successes, or the full potential of your organization’s creativity will never be unleashed. It’s not enough to give employees some room for experimentation; the entire system needs to be explicitly designed for creativity.

Everyone can be creative under the right circumstances but no creativity will survive a badly designed system.

Question your tools

June 28, 2010

I’ve seen good tools in bad use and bad tools in good use but no matter how you use a tool, it’s the reason for using it that’s the most important factor. You can always learn better ways of doing your work but if your not doing the right work you will not succeed. How do you validate your reasons for bringing a new tool into your work?

10 common reasons for using a tool:

  1. Everyone else is using it
  2. It’s free
  3. We and/or management can get great reports from it
  4. We’ve already paid for it so we might as well use it
  5. The way we do things today doesn’t work
  6. It’s the law
  7. It’s company policy
  8. It’s a customer requirement
  9. It’ll look great on my resumé
  10. It’s platform independent

See anything you recognize up there? A couple of them are valid reasons but none of them are good reasons. All of them can be factored into a decision but there’s really only one GOOD reason; it’ll help us deliver more effectively.

So what tools are you using in your work? Why are you using them? Do all of them help you deliver more effectively or are policy based decisions hindering you from doing a great job? I recommend every person and every organization to inventory their tools and reasons for using them on a regular basis. The tools you are using today might actually be holding you back.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. – Arthur Miller

Decent Exposure

June 20, 2010

Seth Godin wrote an excellent blog post a couple of months ago, entitled “Expose yourself…”. The post discusses how you affect your future by exposing yourself to different phenomena. “Expose yourself to anger and you might get angry too. Expose yourself to people making smart decisions and you’ll probably learn how to do it as well.”

The point is that culture, behaviour, beliefs, language and knowledge are reinforced by exposure to itself. These are self-fulfilling phenomena that can be made to happen by making sure they happen around you … often. A culture doesn’t just become, it becomes a culture after happening repeatedly. Beliefs are made stronger by continous exposure to positive reinforcement. Knowledge comes from experiencing the matter and it becomes deeper by repeated experience. Behaviours will happen when you make them habits, the more you do something today the more likely it is that you’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow as well.

So if you want something to happen you can always better your odds by exposing yourself to it.

  • If you’re a manager who wants to cultivate a culture of success, expose your team to repeated success.
  • If you’re a parent who wants your children to have a rich language, expose your kids to all aspects of your language.
  • If you want a deeper knowledge in a certain subject, expose yourself to the subject.

BUT … don’t forget to expose yourself to the rest of the world as well.

  • Expose yourself to what scares you and you might learn enough about it to not be frightened anymore.
  • Expose yourself to others beliefs and you will understand what makes them tick and that in turn might change your own beliefs.
  • Expose yourself to other cultures, they might reinforce your belief in your own culture, or they might open your eyes up to something entirely new.

In short, expose yourself to the world but make sure that you expose yourself more to the things you WANT. If you believe that you are born with a free will, then this is your chance to make your free will heard even louder over the noise of things that you can’t do anything about. Make sure that you get your daily dose of decent exposure.

I just started reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thanks to my 2 year old daughter I actually think that I understood the concept almost immediately.

Mindfulness is about doing what you’re doing and what you have to do, just for it’s own sake. Mindfulness is about focusing on the now instead of what’s to come. It’s about “washing the dishes to wash the dishes” as the author puts it. When you can wash the dishes without anything else in mind except washing the dishes and enjoying the ride, then you’re being mindful.

About six months ago, my daughter then 18 months old, started forming her first senteces. They where always on the form “me I’m sitting” or “me I’m swinging” or “me I’m eating”. I used to interpret them as naive obvious statements just to show us that she was learning to speak. After reading the first chapters of The Miracle of Mindfulness, I’m starting to believe that she already nows all this stuff about mindfulness and that I’m the one being naive. She is always mindful of what she’s doing. She is always living in the moment. She’s not planning ahead and doing things in order to get to something else. When she’s sitting she is just sitting for the sitting itself. When she’s swinging, she’s swinging just for the sake of swinging. And do you know what? She seems to be a lot more content with life than I am.

I think that I’m getting the concept but I’m certainly not mastering the art like my 2 year old daughter. I probably have years of practice to get even close to where she is. But I’m starting my journey. I want to live in the now and enjoy every moment the same way she is. So to Juni, my Zen master … me I’m writing.

I’ve heard the expression “kill your darlings” on a more or less regular basis for quite some time now and it’s beginning to annoy me. Please don’t kill any darlings. A darling idea should by definition have some good qualities about it. If your idea does not have any good qualities, it usually qualifies as what I tend to call a “Crappy Idea” and should thus not be considered a darling. If you have a “Crappy Idea” you should most definitely kill it (and stop calling it a darling). If on the other hand your darling idea has some good qualities but does not fit into any context at the moment, save it. Put it in a safe place until you find a good context for it.

Jerry Weinberg has written an excellent book on writing called The Fieldstone Method. The general idea is that you collect ideas like fieldstones until you can start building (writing) a fieldstone wall (article/book) out of them. You carefully match stones (ideas) of different shapes and sizes into a stable wall. Any stone that doesn’t fit at the moment is stored for now and brought out again if and when you find a good place for it. This is what I want you to do with your darlings.

“Harsh words will draw them nearer never, never!
But love their hidden hearts will find.
Oh! don’t be cruel to the motherless darlings;
Don’t be unkind!” – Henry Clay Work

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