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Rogier Noort just published a post on his site, for a great part based on an interview he did with me during the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris in February of this year. Rogier’s original title of the post was “Collaboration:  Salvation or Myth”. It’s a great post, and Rogier clearly took the pain to reflect on our conversation. I would label it as “The Myth of Collaboration”. Some people call my point of view blasphemy in a period where everything has to be “social”, “working together” and “collaboration and hacking spaces”. So be it. I just felt there was something deep wrong about it, and Rogier did an awesome job of articulating my thoughts. I have copied the text in it’s entirety, and just added the usual colour emphasis.

+++ Start Rogier’s post +++

Collaboration is an important part of productivity. It’s a highly desired commodity, but seemingly more elusive that you’d might think.., and it cannot be forced.

The other day my wife saw a message from an old colleague.., they’re moving her to a flex desk. “Now, I’m no longer allowed to place a photo of my grand children on my desk”, is what she said.

Her work is routine, she’s not allowed to work from home, needs no collaboration, won’t hop from desk to desk, and nobody will wander in looking for a place to work.., in other words.., that particular department does not need flexible workspaces. What they need is a working environment where an employee feels comfortable, secure and relaxed. A place where it’s okay to have a picture of your grand children on your desk.

This message reminded me of a conversation I had with Peter Vander Auwera about this very topic. I didn’t know quite how to put this in a post, until now.

The Key to Success

There is a wide variety of approaches to SocBiz, or Enterprise 2.0, some say the business goals have to be aligned to social, or we need to measure everything first, or we have to have a Digital Village first… others take a more tangible approach. A more non-virtual one. They reshuffle the physical space people work in.., the office floor.

Collaboration is the key to success.., so.., we create a (physical) working environment where collaboration is as easy as raising your hand and ask a question. Serendipity is guaranteed because people have no fixed desk, so you never know who you’re going to sit next to.

The Myth

According to Peter “[the office space] has been designed to enhance collaboration… working with each other across departments.”

The myth is, you have to collaborate all the time.

But, not everybody operates that way. As far as I’m concerned, I like my work area quiet. I need focus to concentrate, and more often than not, my work needs to be accurate and creative. Two things I can (or need to) do alone, no collaboration is needed.

For Peter it’s the same; “I don’t function that way… I need time on my own to think.”

Collaboration is Not Happening

Peter explains his view further; “When you sit with other colleagues around a “collaboration” table.., I hardly see any collaboration. Everybody still works in their own zone, because they have work to do. It just doesn’t happen.”

This happens when culture and progressive ideas clash. You can’t force people into a collaborative state of mind. Reshuffling desks, open up the floor, and taking away personal offices does not guarantee collaboration.., it just doesn’t.

I’m sure at some companies, for some departments this approach can do wonders. But, we should judge the merit of such huge changes on any specific floor/office/department/company.

You could simply ask employees their stand on such a high impact change.

Personal Space

“The other aspect has to do with physical space and emotional space. When working in a collaborative space I have the feeling my privacy is disturbed. At any time somebody can come up behind you and look over your shoulder.., it feels like a sort of surveillance.”, Peter says.

“It’s difficult to articulate, because I have nothing to hide, in fact, I have a lot of things to share. The idea of collaboration has the opposite effect, it doesn’t invite me to collaborate with the people who look over my shoulder. Because I feel they are intruding in my privacy zone, my creativity zone.”

The idea that anybody can criticise your work at any time can be a great hinder. This is not just in the physical space, but can also occur in a collaborative on-line space. When I’m working on something, a blogpost for instance, I like to write a great deal, preferably all the way to the end with a revision or two, before I let anybody read it.

This is my process, the way I want to work.., I do not want any input, suggestions or comments until I’m good and well ready for them.

More about working in peace can be read in “Silence, I’m Painting“, an article by Peter on his personal blog.

Inspiration

… or lack thereof. Most people in the office have nothing or very little to do with your work. The chance of having exactly that person that you need come sit next to you in an open floor space is quite slim.

The odds of serendipity (fortuitous happenstance or pleasant surprise) are against you, against us. Even if you plan and scheme everything to enhance those chances.

Inspiration therefore is one of those things we seek out. We connect with those people who can help us move beyond a certain point.., everything else is just noise.

Controversial

Peter worries about this attitude sounding arrogant. Knowing Peter.., this is far from what is happening.

What’s really happening is that, at times, we should stop and think, reflect on the changes we’re trying to make, and the goals we want to achieve. Despite the fact there are a lot of talented people out there with a great number of good ideas, we cannot, and should not, just apply them. This goes for collaboration, but also hierarchy, job titles, software.., you name it.

Social business, The New Way of Working.., or whatever you want to call it.., is NOT generic. There is no One-Size-Fits-All. Not only does this apply to every company, but also to each department and each individual. To generalise, automate, or standardise this idea works as good as trying to fit every person in exactly the same suit.

Balance

Like any other undertaking, regardless of what it is, for it to have long term success, there has to be balance.

An office should provide spaces for all sorts of productivity styles. Employees should be involved in the design, their opinions should drive the change. After all, it is they who do the work.

 Thank you Peter for the insights and challenging us to think.

Peter is a creative thinker, creator and sensemaker. Co-initiator of Corporate Rebels United, a movement to unite corporate rebels worldwide to ensure that true change happens virally. Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide.


Edit: Richard Martin (@IndaleGenesis) pointed me to this wonderful video made by Dave Coplin (@DCoplin). It really adds to the points made in the post. It’s only 9 minutes, I encourage you to watch it.

+++ end Rogier’s post

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We have all been reading the books and hearing the innovation experts and gurus speak and preach about the need for experimentation and failing wisely in innovation environments. All that is good in theory. What about the real life? What happens in your organization when you fail? How does your leadership assist you in this transition? What happens in the team dynamics? What happens with you?

FALLING_0014

I failed big time recently. And it traumatizes and immobilizes me. It gets me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s difficult to deal with the abrupt changes between being celebrated the one day, and being the pariah the other day. Or should I find solace in the fact that at least, I still have highs (and lows) in corporate life?  Some friends and colleagues don’t even have that luxury: they are being beaten up all the time.

It’s not the first time this happens to me: failing big time. Being awarded and congratulated for stellar performance in one fiscal year and then being dropped a couple of days later due to changed priorities in the new fiscal year. So where is the pattern? What can I learn from it? How don’t I get “trapped” in the same mechanism of self-defense over and over again?

When the failing hits, I indeed tend to “protect” my vulnerability and myself by avoiding contact, by being silent, not expressing myself, while at the same time feeling deep anger inside. I am turning in circles, can’t concentrate nor focus, and become cynical. It damages my performance. How can I voice my soul, my emotional state and psychology of failing, the human emotions, and the intimate collateral damage that go with all this? How can I resurrect from failure?

It happens that Adam Dachis (@adachis) just wrote a post about this, titled “The Psychology Behind the Importance of Failure”, and quotes Heidi Grant Halvorson (@hghalvorson), shared with me by Jennifer Sertl (@jennifersertl).

The problem with the Be-Good mindset is that it tends to cause problems when we are faced with something unfamiliar or difficult. We start worrying about making mistakes, because mistakes mean that we lack ability, and this creates a lot of anxiety and frustration. Anxiety and frustration, in turn, undermine performance by compromising our working memory, disrupting the many cognitive processes we rely on for creative and analytical thinking. Also, when we focus too much on doing things perfectly (i.e., being good), we don’t engage in the kind of exploratory thinking and behavior that creates new knowledge and innovation.

So here you are: you have read all the books, seen all the greatest speakers, got the best personal coaches, followed all the personal development journeys you can imagine, you even preached yourself to others the benefits and adrenaline effects of going for your true self. And then you get hit. And you don’t know what to do, how to react, how to stand-up, how to reboot, how to get alive again.

Here are a couple of questions for all you innovators out there. Some areas where I would like to know how YOU coped with that situation, and what we all can learn from it.

  • You have a project of a lifetime. You stick out your neck big time and after lots of blood, sweat and tears, corporate priorities change, and your project is stopped from one day to another. How do you cope with that? Do you have examples of how you turned that sort of failure into a success? A crisis into an opportunity? I don’t know yet a good way how to do this, other than sweating out your time and hoping for the better.
  • Igniting change and innovating also means being a corporate rebel. You walk the edges of corporate accepted behaviors  in 95% of the cases, you succeed keeping that balance. But sometimes you go over the edge. How does that behaviour impact the perception others have of you? Does it impact your performance reviews? How can you avoid paying the price?
  • In innovation, the pedestal of success and the bin of the pariah are oh-so-close. On the pedestal of success, you are full of energy, even arrogant at times, sometimes preaching. But always with your heart at the right place and a deep intention for doing good for your company and the folks who work for it. Some people call it “irresistible enthusiasm”, and get energized when they hear your voice and they see the sparks in your eyes. Others – the criticasters – believe you are member of the “ego-tribe”. You sense jealousy from those who don’t have your opportunities, who don’t have a flexible boss like yours, who don’t enjoy executive sponsorship, some call it executive “protection”. When you fail, all that positive juice flows away. You’re empty handed. It’s time for revenge, for presenting the emotional invoices. Nobody comes to sit at your table at lunch; nobody wants to be seen with the one who just failed. You have been burned. What’s your experience with that? How do you cope with that?
  • What is your experience and reaction with abrupt changes of priorities, change of guards, change of budgets? What do you do when your marching orders change from one day to another? What if you don’t feel aligned with the new directions suggested or imposed? Especially when you just failed and are super vulnerable? Should you just brace for a while and hope for the turn of tides, of keep acting based on what your intimate true self tells you about what is right or wrong for yourself or for the organization you work for and deeply care about? Who has ever done and experienced something like that? Please share your wounds and healings.
  • Corporate world has the reputation of being a world of extroverts. But at least half of the workforce is introvert. I am and never was superman. I am not the vocal extrovert; I am more the reflecting introvert. Many of us are sensitive human beings. Many men have more feminine energy than women and the other way around. Where do you go when you fail? Where do you find a shoulder to cry on? When and how do you deal with pretending to be untouchable in formal settings and/or as team leader? Should you dare to show your vulnerability with trusted colleagues or friends?  Can we look through the crack in you and wonder at the light inside?
  • Is there überhaupt something like trust in business, or is it indeed like one of my first managers in my career told me “never trust anybody in business”. Have I become old and cynical? Judgmental? Control freak? In other words have I become all the things I never wanted to become and ended up on the flip sides of my ideals “Open Heart, Open Mind, Open Will” inspired by Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U”?

The bottom line question really is: how do I keep being present and aligned with my true self, when the going gets though in periods of failure? And who is holding a space for me when I long for help in healing my injuries?

“Life of a frontrunner is hard one; he/she will suffer & many of these injuries will not be accidental” ~ Pele

I know that many Corporate Rebels struggle with this. We can support each other by sharing what works and what does not work in these circumstances. Because I have the deep belief that resurrecting from failure is one of the core elements of creating a practice for value creation.

Credit: Fallen picture by Kerry Skarbakka http://www.skarbakka.com/

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We are all – or should be – familiar with Clayton Christensen’s work on The Innovator’s Dilemma, where he articulated the principles of disruptive innovation. It’s a great business book about innovation.

This is a book about “…how market-leading companies have missed game-changing transformations in industry after industry…not because of ‘bad’ management, but because they followed the dictates of ‘good’ management. They listened closely to their customers. They carefully studied market trends. They allocated capital to the innovations that promised the largest returns. And in the process, they missed disruptive innovations that opened up new customers and markets for lower-margin, blockbuster products.”

For innovation to happen in a company, the principles of Christensen’s books are definitely great advice. There are several other innovation business books that are recommended reading. Check out my GoodReads page.

But since a couple of months now, I believe there is something else we need to look into: something else that is the ticking heart of innovation, something about people, about humans, that makes the difference between thin and thick value creation.

I don’t believe anymore in big corporate change programs that are rolled-out top-down in a military drill. Whether those change programs are focused on efficiency (Lean, Six Sigma, …) or on creating new value (Innovation) does not matter for the argument here.

Real change happens from within the organization. Bottom-up. Virally.

What I want to talk about is the other innovator’s dilemma: the human dilemma, the Innovators Personal dilemma.

This personal dilemma post is about joy versus pain, passion versus suffocation, freedom versus slavery, excitement versus illusion. It is part of saying the unsaid. It is a cry for freedom, a cry for unleashing the energy of the hidden pearls in our organizations, a cry for supporting and encouraging those who really want to create positive viral change from within our organizations.

There is so much positive energy in our organizations that we could tap into, but that energy gets blocked by the corporate “machinery”, by best (or worst) practices, by power games, and in some cases by plain sick people or organizations.

With Corporate Rebels United, we gathered a really great cross-industry sample of innovators, instigators and protagonists that work in bigger and smaller organizations worldwide. We came across a number of real-life stories that give a glimpse of what sort of human dramas sometimes happen deep in the fabric of our corporate organizations, and that are a absolute barrier to innovation.

The great advantage of working as a group is that we now can see some patterns cross-industry. They are not specific to one or the other organization. They are universal.  And I want to put them on the table. I want to create awareness.

But most of all, I want to create a soundboard so that we increase our sensitivity and awareness for the symptoms, so that we can prevent human dramas and turn the pain into something positive, an unstoppable wave of change that will transform our corporations from deep within.

Innovation only happens when somebody steps out of the blueprint

And that means taking a risk. That means going for your own beliefs, against the flow, against the current practices of “this is how we do business here”

Ghandi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win”

It takes guts to try to change the corporation. Many people try. They will laugh at you. Many get hurt as well. Sometimes minor scarves. Sometimes it results in deep wounds of self-esteem. I collected some stories to illustration the innovator’s dilemma.

There are some common themes in these stories:

-       I want to jump, but I have a family to feed

-       I am surrounded by sick people

-       The employee as a resource

-       The fear of being punished

-       I want to innovate but my manager does not let me

-       Leading by Being does not get recognized

-       Not good for your career

I want to jump, but I have a family to feed

Some of the reactions to my “The Myth of Innovation Incentives” post made me more aware of the “luxury pedestal” I am preaching from. By being part of an innovation team, I get by definition much more freedom than those who are deep in the trenches. In my personal life, I have reached some level of personal wellbeing and stability. But many of my friends out there are at the beginning of their career.

Here is one reaction I received from Jonathan to our invite to join corporate rebels. Jonathan works in the pharma industry:

I have to say that my current employee is a really, really conservative corporation. Quite frankly speaking, we are in dire need of a lot of corporate rebels – but I strongly believe that joining your “club” would get me into serious trouble – if my boss or our corporate communications department ever found out (and they would never, never ever supply me with any resources in that matter). And since I´m going to be a father for the first time this year, trouble with my employer is something I´d rather avoid if possible.

The personal dilemma: “Stand up for who I am, or give in to the power of the corporation”

My answer is one of empathy. I have been there as well. And I regret not having spoken earlier in my life. I do cannot force a person to jump off the springboard. I can only give a gentle nudge. Encourage you despite everything to go for the unknown. Opting for uncertainty and doing something scary (or not) is a deep innovators dilemma. Because you know: if you are not scared of what you’re doing, it’s probably not innovative enough. It’s not disruptive enough. It’s a deep human dilemma, going back to daring to be great. Daring to live and act from your belly. Liberated from the chains of captivity. Leading by being from your true self.

My answer is also that making the jump does not always have to include dramatic live changing decisions. You can start small. And getting addicted by small doses of adrenaline when you stand for who you are. And then a bit more, and a bit more. Makes me think of “Love is the drug” from Roxy Music.

 

I am surrounded by sick people

I got the following message from Françoise, a 33 year energetic woman, working in an energy utility company:

In our company we have a culture of public humiliation. Mocking publicly about people’s achievements during town hall meetings, that sort of things. For a person who has worked his fingers to the bones, despite all odds, being humiliated publicly was devastating. The way things work in our team is “man eat man”. They put you in an arena, let you fight it out and silently watch. Whoever wins is right. Blame is the name of the game. Everyone dreads that. If you fail, you will be publicly mocked. Whiteboard and town halls are the new place for mocking failures. I remember such treatment in school. For heavens sake, we are adults.  They took me off the project I loved. I was “promoted” to a new project. The new project was boring as hell. I could not motivate myself to do any of the work they assigned. Writing this mail is painful beyond my imagination. They were so manipulative beyond words. The crime they commit has no facts. The torture I have endured has no records.

It makes me think of a recent case in public service in Belgium. A woman working for the city hall in a small village was disturbing because she said the unsaid. She was “promoted” to a new function. Her new office was a dirty back room of a side building. She got a computer, but one without connection. She did not get a phone. She was not allowed to meet people. All this with the excuse that her new job required her to focus. She had the courage to go to court. She won.

The Personal Dilemma: coming up for your rights, or let your company by run by sick people

I have heard many stories like the above from many companies cross-industry. These stories illustrate plain criminal behavior by sick people. There are no excuses for this. That’s why companies have “persons of trust”. Let there be no mistake. Go and find your person of trust and open a case. Whenever you can, put on the table these sorts of practices, so they and the people responsible for them get eradicated from our organizations. To grow healthy plants, you must first sanitize and fertilize the land.

The employee as a resource

Doc Searls (@dsearls) describes the relationship between a vendor and a customer as a Client/Server one (at times trending to slavery) where the customer calf is drinking the cookie milk from the vendor cow.

What he describes in buyer/supplier relationships is equally applicable in employer/employee relationships. The proposed solutions for “getting the cattle human” is by proposing them tools to take control of their own abundant information.

Replace vendors by employers in the slide below:

Extract presentation Doc Searls at New Digital Economies 27 Mar 2012

Whether employees are seen as cattle or just resource also quickly becomes apparent in all sorts of employee surveys and result discussions involving “benchmarks”:

Here is Anthony from a Financial Institution, reporting on one of their latest employee surveys on corporate culture:

The results of the survey indicated that we were doing quite well compared to the rest of the industry. I could not match that outcome with the generalized quantified results that less than 40% of the employees felt engaged. What if “the industry in general” was crap and a standard for mediocrity? What if the expectations of the staff set the bar way higher than the benchmark? What if we benchmarked against the wrong standard? These old surveys do not take into account that the environment has fundamentally changed. Due to abundance of information, social media and P2P communication, the employees have a richer and more precise data set available. We laugh at those “official” benchmark cheering results

The fear for being punished

Something very similar pops up, when companies try to define KPI’s for innovation. Check out this great post from Drew Boyd (@drewboyd)

Measure innovation alternatives, not just the current program.  When assessing the impact of an initiative, always ask, “Compared to what?”  Don’t fall into the trap of measuring only what the company is doing today.  Rather, measure it against the next best alternative.  For example, if you are using a ideation methodology like S.I.T., be sure to measure the effectiveness of using S.I.T. versus another ideation method.  Understand why you are using one method over another by forecasting results from the alternative.  This re-frames the question from “does this method work?” to “does this method work better than this alternative?

and:

Measure novelty, not impact.  Senior leaders want to know the “bottom line” impact of innovation.  When they see ideation results, they respond with, “Yes, but how many of these actually made it into the marketplace, and what revenues were generated?”  This is a trap because so much of the impact is dependent internal and external factors.  Holding employees accountable for impact will cause them to avoid the truly novel and game-changing ideas.  They fear being punished for pushing great ideas that fall outside their category.  To manage this dilemma, managers need to think more in terms of finding the “innovation sweet spot,” that place somewhere between disruptive and incremental.  The right balance between risk and reward is more likely to occur here.

I want to innovate but my manager does not let me

I silently helped without getting any credit. Then I saw your post about Corporate Rebels. I sat there and was thinking, here I am really doing a rebel activity and suffering and no one is paying attention. At that point everything started looking fake to me… Pain is deep and buried. It takes lot of time to vent it all out. My point is, don’t lose me. I am of lot of value to my company because I genuinely care about the company and its people. My friends do too. Some of us get fired for stepping out of the blueprint. Don’t let this happen again and again. Please use your power and contacts with powerful people to do something good and to fight against injustice.

Leading by Being does not get recognized

If Chris is rocking, it is because of the way I nudged him to do it. If Laura is jumping up and down with ideas, it is because she got inspired by what I was doing. I have inspired many souls at our company. Inspiration can only happen if someone is speaking from his or her soul. Inspiration is language of soul. I have earned respect from lot of people at in the company because of who I was. I have the attitude to make people take action. But I got fired. Because real change disturbs and challenges the status quo. My death was so silent. They did not even give me a chance to say good-bye. It is fishy and please don’t let this happen to anyone else.

Not good for your career

And also heard the following so many times: being innovative is hampering your career.

Kathleen just joined a telco company:

In our company we have a Young Grads Program. But when postulating for the innovations positions, we are kindly taken aside, and somebody whispers in my ear “being part of the innovation team is bad for your career as a manager”.

That’s a really bad story. It’s the story that lets you immediately recognize corporations where innovation is just window-dressing. Even the young people, full of healthy innovation energy don’t get a chance. What a disaster if you have joined such a company. Getting suffocated in your ambitions and drive from day one!

Any CEO with her innovation heart in the right place should mandate – yes mandate – that all newcomers and GEN-Y’s first get immersed in the innovation team. What people are allowed to do there is not the worst possible scenario; it is the best possible starting point for doing much-much more, to instigate real and viral and tidal change throughout the company.

Conclusion

All the above are REAL circumstances in REAL companies. Yes, innovation in these circumstances is hard. You have to go against the wind. And find the balance between a good/bad rebels. Sometimes you will be seen as subversive. And to be honest, some healthy dose of subversiveness is needed. Sometimes you need to act like McGyver. Sometimes you need to be Jack Bauer. One company told me they were acting like the “agency of subversions”

But I can’t expect everybody to be on that extreme end. I would already be so happy if with our Corporate Rebels United movement we can unleash the change-energy of every individual in our corporations.

That each of you have the courage to stand up, to come up for your ideas, to start small and make little changes, or to be very hungry and go for the big visible changes. One could refer to introvert and extrovert changes. Both are equally important to make true and viral change happen.

But we can’t have subversion or anarchy. This is not the way we as Corporate Rebels United want to go. We do not want to provoke for provocation sake. And we do not like to be like the Cacaphonists. Nor do we plan to start flash mob activities who share some ideas with Cacophony, as well as groups like Improv Everywhere and movements like Discordianism.

What we want is change

Viral change from within the fabric of our corporations

We want to change our corporations, not by complaining and blame-is-the-name-of-the-game, but by showing the right behavior, by encouraging each other, by uncovering the hidden pearls of our organizations. But for sure as well furiously fighting and making visible injustice, sick or plain criminal behavior.

We want to change, not by focusing on the things that make innovation hard and only looking for self-esteem, but by focusing both on our dreams and on other people in our lives.

We want to change by daring to be great.

In small and big things/actions.

It feels like somebody should start writing the first chapter of the human book for innovation. Maybe that somebody can use some testimonials of this post. Maybe Whitney Johnson (@johnsonwhitney) is the one? She is preparing a book titled “Dare, Dream, Do”.  It’s planned to come out in May 2012. Maybe she addresses the human aspects that are not covered in business books.

Daring to dare is the personal dilemma of corporate innovators

If you feel inspired, join Corporate Rebels United, by leaving an “I join” comment on that or this blog post.

Let’s rock!

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Every now and then people ask me what incentives we have in place for encouraging innovative behavior.

The short answer is: there are no incentives other than recognition and self-esteem when your idea happens for real. For people with a specific innovation role – such as our “Megaphones” – we do have their innovation objectives as 10-15% of their NORMAL objectives. But no special deals, bonuses, etc.

From the start of Innotribe, we had this discussion about getting 20% time like Google (Btw, that myth of the 20% has been challenged and discussed already many times on the internet. For example here and here. It even leads to big failures).

Many other ways exist in other environments than SWIFT to incentivize innovation like special bonuses, shares in projects that can be turned in real bucks once the project gets critical mass and generates revenues, and much more.

From very early on in our innovation endeavors, we got a clear “no” from our top management.

We do not want a culture

where working on innovation

lead to some sort of “entitlement”

for x% of time or any other resource

In the beginning, i found this a bit harsh, but with hindsight, i think they were right. Personally, I have done some introspection on all this and have come to the conclusion that:

  • I truly believe that the true innovators manifest themselves, and that any request for incentives to innovate just says a lot about the person requesting.
  • What we need is people daring to stick out there neck, and acting from their true selves.
  • As many of you know, I am deep believer of viral infection of the company. That will not happen through incentives.
  • It will happen when we unleash the deep energy of the many hidden change-makers in this company.

Let me develop that thought a little bit.

It all has to do with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – where self-esteem and self-actualization are on the top of the pyramid.

In our luxury world, most of us already have reached at least some level of self-esteem or self-actualisation.

I believe there is a lot to say to go beyond self-esteem, where the personal transformation fundamentally changes the focus from the “self” to the “others”.

This is where Richard Barrett has evolved the thinking of Maslow. Or where Don Beck did brilliant work with Spiral Dynamics, whose initial thinking was inspired by Clare W Graves who already in sixties/seventies said:

“Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”

There are other thinkers in this space, as pointed out by JP Rangaswami in his comment on my comment on his post about Thinking about the Social Enterprise and Flow

My comment:

“… me too big fan John Hagel, Geoffrey West, Brian Arthur. I love how you squeeze in Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi at the end, as I agree that organization starts more and more looking like an organism in search for flow. If you push the idea, you could add Maslow, as the organization is probably also looking for self-esteem in all its nodes (its people). Even pushing it further and beyond self-esteem, a similar flow “dynamic” is also embedded in Don Becks “Spiral Dynamics”…. the next area of competitive differentiation is in the higher layers of Spiral Dynamics, more or less the space of relationships, the space the Jerry Michalski’s REXpedition is exploring.”

JP responded:

“I am more of a fan of Nohria and Lawrence than I am of Maslow. Parallel not serial, networked not hierarchical”

I wrote about JP and Nohria, when trying to do a transcript of in my post “JP on Gamification, Lipstick and Pigs”. So I won’t repeat myself on that topic, and summarize JP as: The 4 drivers of motivation: the drive to acquirethe drive to defendthe drive to bondand the drive to learn

In my opinion, it is about discovering your true self in the full context of all its relationships (family, work, company, country, culture, world, cosmos). As Marti Spiegelman recently said during a REXpedition call:

Awareness of the context creates meaning

And meaning creates value

Do you really believe that people will start innovating more if they get an extra bonus of 2% ? Only when people act from the power of their true self and experience meaning in what they do, only then real motivation kicks in.

I am deeply convinced that innovation and culture change will NOT happen through rolling out huge top-down innovation programs. On the contrary, I am a strong believer in “viral” innovation, where you seed the people that act from their true self throughout the company.

They will act as they believe they should act, and because their environment will feel inspired by this real motivation, they will inspire and infect others, form natural tribes with their own team dynamics and influence, become self-organizing teams that create their own meaning and value, and change the company from within.

Forever. Unstoppable. That is how real change happens.

Discovering and nurturing the hidden pearls in your organization that have the mindset to do this is the real challenge. It’s about finding the people who want to move, to challenge the status quo, dare to stick out their neck, etc and do so not because the incentive program has framed them that way, but because their true self boosts them towards the others with unlimited and eternal energy.

In the end it is about creating meaning in YOUR life.

Am I dreaming? Maybe. Am I ambitious? Maybe. Will it work? Maybe. But at least this way you know that’s where I have put the bar. So next time you see me, don’t ask for incentives, but tell we about what you want to achieve, and let’s see how I can help you.

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And here is another fantastic talk by JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist Salesforce.com (twitter @jobsworth) on the gamification of companies and why this can’t be something superficial like putting lipstick on a pig.

Was looking for a transcript, did not find it, so decided to do it myself. Below a summary of JP’s talk. Hope I captured the essential, and you appreciate my style of curating/highlighting.

Have asked JP to deliver something similar at Innotribe at Sibos 2011 in Toronto when we will discuss Corporate Cultures. Hope he will accept the invitation.

 

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http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/readwriteweb?layout=4&clip=pla_07224833-fd06-42c0-b38f-fc03955fb5a9&autoplay=false

Watch live streaming video from readwriteweb at livestream.com

 

Some highlights:

  • We have always tried to take a material shift of paradigm by attaching some labels of the past
  • The inflection point is about significant changes in work, rather than significant changes in technology
  • This is not about putting something superficial on tasks that your really don’t want to do
  • Extrinsic rewards have significant risks,
  • Referring to the works of Kathy Sierra.

 

Have a look at Kathy Sierra’s latest guest-post on Hugh McLeod’s blog about “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity”

  • Find rewards inside yourselves
  • “badges” of excellence should be about reaching levels of mastery

 

I have no intent or wish

to put

the lipstick of gamification

on the pig of work

 

  • The control paradigms of the past are being challenged
  • Some assumptions on why the firm exists: Firms exist primarily in order to reduce transaction costs
  • As a result of vertical integration, a number of things used to be possible: easier access to capital,
    • Today, most people in this room have a better credit rating that the bank they use
  • Global reach and scope
    • That with the digital world is again available to everybody in this room
  • The firm was designed against the background of the industrial revolution
  • Knowledge work is in essence “lumpy”

We have such fear

if at work it is not possible to doing nothing,

we take the gaps at work,

and we fill this

with this 20st century mechanism,

called “meetings”

  • If you could fill your days with meetings, then you look busy
  • For real work, you have to stay late, as you filled your white-space
  • You have used up your time for cognitive surplus that Clay Shirky talks about
  • The kind of choices we have today are fundamentally different from the past
  • Everything on the assembly line was predicated by the division of labour

Having 1 person doing

the same thing 16,000 times a day

was felt to be acceptable in those days,

to me it feels inhuman

  • The most expensive thing was the equipment, the switching cost of equipment was very high and the collateral damage done to workers was trivial
  • Now the most expensive asset are the people in this room
  • Because we are able to switch, we are capable of doing non-linear work

 

It not about an inability to concentrate,

its about the inability

to hold a tension

on the garbage

that is being spewed at them

  • You never have a steady stream of work as a knowledge worker
  • The principles of the assembly line are deeply in our ethos, our very being, we get conditioned to that from our schooling system onwards
  • An ability to switch away from that is not trivial
  • The first thing that you notice about Heroku offices is that there are no desks

–> now think about

what it means

to have

a “desktop” computer

 

  • That’s change is possible because choice of the edge devices is with the individuals
  • Processes are king only where there are repeatable tasks and the repetition is of value
  • Part of the big shift from the static to the flow is we start spending more time dealing with the exceptions rather than with the core flow
  • The choices today are far to vast to believe in a linear progression
  • Much richer knowledge worker environment in which we must be able to recognize patterns
  • Given enough eye-balls, all bugs are shallow
  • The value of inspection when something is shared in a large group comes to the foreground
  • Wikipedia exists because of cognitive surplus: people are prepared to donate or contribute their time, and their brain, and their knowledge and their effort in order to collaborate for some common good

It strikes me

when I am typing this,

that this is exactly

what I am doing right now:

investing my cognitive surplus

for the common good

  • This truth is a valid in enterprises as it is at home
  • The use of gamification is to help generation that are already at work, because the generations coming in know this already
  • This is the generation born since 1982
  • But we live in a hybrid world
  • Genres are values
  • Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds
  • Hearts are people that like bonding and teamwork
  • Spades are people who really like to go to the bottom of things and complete their analysis
  • Diamonds are people who after surprises, wealth, aggregation and collection
  • Clubs are people who like beating up on others
  • It is a metaphor for serious thinking on what motivates people in the book “Driven” by Nitin Nohria (Amazon Affiliates link)

 

The 4 drivers of motivation:

the drive to acquire,

the drive to defend,

the drive to bond,

and the drive to learn

 

  • When you are looking for a company to work for, then you have to do this sort of “genre matching”
  • The genre of games is in fact the values and ethics of companies
  • When you join, they put you through some form of induction, and the induction is what in a gaming context you would call a sandbox, because you want to minimize damage to the person and environment, while you teach people and allow people to learn more effectively on how the firm operates
  • The discovery process of “how to”, the discovery of how the game works, in a safe sandbox environment
  • We have to think about induction in a deeper way and say “it is a sandbox”

Work has morphed

over the last hundred years,

from hierarchies of products and customers,

to

businesses becoming

networks of capabilities and relationships

 

  • There is a lot of work to be done on how to value this, how do you value relationships
  • Things like Klout,, influence, reputation, capability to create and maintain a group of followers, a weighted understanding of the value of your network
  • A whole new science of beginning to genuinely measuring relationships
  • Let’s put all this now in context of team selection, and missions and quests
  • Hierarchies existed because the cost of coordination was very high

In today’s world

those coordination costs are trivial,

we are moving from a world

where everybody has to go

through an MBTI or similar

and then somebody

decides about team composition,

to

a world

where the team selection

is carried out

by the individual

 

  • The tools have to be in place to discover who you would like to work with and what you would like to work on
  • A certificate or badge indicating that that person has the skills and the mastery to perform that task
  • Mastery at work gets meaningful
  • Most video games don’t allow you to go to level-X unless you have acquires the skills for level X-1
  • The reason to keep you at that lower level is to get you to that master level
  • Next: a reasonable understanding of where you are at
  • The idea of “save and replay” when at work

I always wanted to live

in a zero-blame culture

 

  • And work never has been such a zero-blame culture because of these structural weaknesses
  • Now I can get to the point where I can say “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that do not work”
  • You save that which has not worked, together with the conditions within it did not work, and you can analyze and replay and deeper understand
  • Because – when the conditions change – what did not work may work this time
  • So never say “we won’t do that, we tried it before and it did not work”
  • The value of being able to aggregate any life-stream partially lies in the ability to inspect and make analysis of it
  • Conserving seeds so that they do NOT get naturally selected out
  • What did not work today may work in different conditions tomorrow
  • Somebody smart did not throw away that code of that stupid idea
  • Gamification of the enterprise is not a fad
  • It is not about providing extrinsic rewards for crap work
  • If work is crap, let’s fix that problem

 

From hierarchical,

linear,

top-down work

to

non-linear,

networked,

personally selected teams,

tasks

and outcomes

 

  • We are nearly there, but this change is going to require use to learn a lot of new things,
  • And what games can teach us is a smarter way of being able to extract those learning and bring them into the enterprise
  • Thank you

Read Full Post »

Awesome “Must-see” video by Gary Hamel. Contains a lot of the wisdom of Vineet Nayar of HCL, who wrote the book “Employees First, Customers Second”.

Btw: have invited Vaneet to Innotribe at Sibos Toronto on Corporate Culture. Hope he accepts.

I’d love to get to a stage where

Innotribe is the place

where you discover

what futures emerge

on the fringe

 

 

"Modern” management is one of humanity’s most important inventions, Gary Hamel argues. But it was developed more than a century ago to maximize standardization, specialization, hierarchy, control, and shareholder interests.

While that model delivered an immense contribution to global prosperity, the values driving our most powerful institutions are fundamentally at odds with those of this age—zero-sum thinking, profit-obsession, power, conformance, control, hierarchy, and obedience

don’t stand a chance against community, interdependence, freedom, flexibility, transparency, meritocracy, and self-determination.

It’s time

to radically rethink

how we mobilize people

and organize resources

to productive ends

It’s one one-line after the other, this talk is so inspirational. Check-out:

  • Fit for future, but also fit for human beings
  • We have to re-invent management
  • Management legacies
  • Change has changed
  • Hyper-competition
  • You have to earn your place in the market every single day
  • Knowledge itself is becoming a commodity
  • How fast am I creating new knowledge
  • An organization where people are willing to bring the gifts of their creativity and passion
  • Real reverse accountability
  • Holding your managers accountable for you succeeding in your job
  • Challenge management dogma
  • What problem is management trying to solve?
  • How do you turn human beings into semi-programmable robots?
  • You have to have aspiration, you have to be contrarian, you have to be willing learning from the fringe
  • The future happens on the fringe
  • Management is a feudalistic system
  • The web is sort of the global operating system of innovation

 

We have to bake

into our management values

the deep web values of

Openness,

Meritocracy,

Flexibility,

and Collaboration

  • We have been told that we can’t change our organization: that’s nonsense
  • Being resilient as human beings

We hope

that you become

a champion

for the future

Read Full Post »

I would like to start with one of the slides of the innovation framework presented in “How to make babies?”.

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The graphic and model is of course based on – but adapted to the specific SWIFT environment – the work of on Henry Chesbrough, the godfather of the concept of “Open Innovation”, and author of the 2003 book “Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology” (Amazon Affiliates Link)

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Chesbrough says:

Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”. The boundaries between a firm and its environment have become more permeable; innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (i.e. patents) from other companies. In addition, internal inventions not being used in a firm’s business should be taken outside the company (e.g., through licensing, joint ventures, spin-offs)

Innovation Framework

The graph above illustrates an innovation framework:

  • With lots of idea generation tools on the left side of the graph
  • An innovation funnel, progressing the ideas from left to right, and making healthy adults from incubated babies
  • A north and a south side, where “north” stands for a traditional gating process product evolution for the core activities of a company, and where “south” stands for any innovation that basically does not fit the blueprint of the core.

In my blog post “How to create deep sustainable change”, I discussed the “Why” and the “expected outcome” of deep change and innovation.

  • The “why” has to do with creating a more agile organization, waking up the entrepreneurial spirit, in other words to “un-trap” the creative juices. And to do so, work is needed at the foundations: the roots of a tree. It’s about making the organization healthy, fit and un-trapped. This has nothing to do with six-sigma, lean, or other way to improve the efficiency of the organization, the efficiency of the organizational “body”. What we are talking about here is the fitness of the organizational “mind”.
  • The expected outcome of pumping up the volume and the fitness of the organizational mind is a connected organization, connected teams, connected people, connected values, operating in a connected economy.

Pump up the Volume

What follows is a personal interpretation of a team brainstorm we did in February 2011. So, it’s collective wisdom that I happen to be able to put in a format that’s more or less readable. Thank you team !

In this blog post, I will talk about the “How”, the set of tools that an organization can use to achieve the why and the desired outcome.

“Tools” can be actual tools such as an idea generation portal, but it can be other techniques at the front-end of innovation (the ideation), as well as processes and governance for moving ideas from ideation, via proof-of-concept, incubation, acceleration, and scale to full fruition.

What follows is also a model that can be used to underpin a strategy of “shake the tree” or – what I prefer – to “Pump up the (innovation) Volume”.

The volume knob is another metaphor to help us gauge our innovation focus, efforts and investments. What is important? What is nice to have?

 

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Turning the knob to the max is what I would call being serious about innovation. But you have to start somewhere.

The Rose of Innovation

So, let me introduce you to the “Rose of Innovation”. Somebody has to give the romantic spin in all of this.

And let me mix it with the epicenter of an earthquake.

 

clip_image008clip_image010

 

Indeed, “Shaking the Tree” is like starting a quake from the middle, and the seismic innovation waves swarm to the edges of the system, where in the end they cause “Fault Lines”. You “feel” the move.

 

You know that inertia has been broken

You know you have crossed the chasm

 

clip_image012

 

And let’s segment the rose or the epicenter in different slices. Each slice is a cluster of innovation tools. You can have as many slices as you want, but I suggest to limit it to six in this case, merely to keep the overview and the focus.

For each slice, one has to decide how far to the right you want to turn the volume knob. Do you want to move from 2 this year to 8 next year? Probably, you want a multi-year perspective on this: from 2 to 4 next year, 4 to 6 in two years, towards 8 in 2015 ?

Let me walk you through the different slices.

Challenges

We already do internal and sometimes external – with customers – innovation challenges. It’s a call for teams and ideas around a pre-defined topic. What could be our ambition level if we pump up the volume to 8 by 2015?

  • Our ambition should be to be seen as one of the Top-10 innovation companies in financial industry. Long way to go, but possible with focus and will.
  • Build a real “Exchange” of ideas, competences, teams,…
  • Make a real competition of if. Like Cisco’s X-Prize. And with real money, I mean indeed a 250K EUR price for the champ of the year to help her incubate the idea of the challenge.
  • Open up the Incubation Centre, not only for incubation projects, but also for challenges. The cocktail of innovators in Building 8 will be irresistible.
  • Start-up something like frequent flyer pass. A frequent innovator pass. Points gathered this way add to your annual appraisal points, and reward repetitive innovators.
  • We should become so good we are being “called”: by other companies, at conferences, etc So good that people see the value and want to pay us for this.
  • Launch internal SWIFT “bucks”. Innovators can invest “bucks” in their projects. Later, when the project incubates these “bucks” get converted in actual shares in the project-company. These ideas are not new: ideation tools like Spigit and Brightidea already implement this. We just have to turn on the feature.

Events

This is more or less my shop today: let’s call it “Petervan Productions” Our events even more become “immersive experiences”. This unique mix of high-quality matter experts and speakers, together with our facilitation techniques. We could do much much more in this space. What about:

  • 8 Innovation events per year like Innotribe Mumbai ?
  • 1 Partner innovation event of 3 days
  • 1 Customer innovation event of 3 days
  • Deep conversations with: 3 days off-site with a guru on a topic and a select group of top-15 Heads of Innovations of banks
  • 4 hackatons per year where we ask developers to code/hack together an application in 2 days
  • More study tours, not only for the executive or L1/L2 level but accessible for all staff
  • The frequent innovator pass should help us identity who can go on such a tour
    • More gamification of our events: work with game experts such as Jane McGonical from Reality is Broken (latest book), Dave Gray from XPLANE and Gamestorming, and Verna Allee from Value Networks

Dave Gray author headshotVerna Allee

From left to right: Jane McGonical, Dave Gray, Verna Allee

  • Have a 3 day SWIFT employee festival? Like AMPlify.
  • Do sort of Woodstock at Sibos. Like Pirate Ship. With concerts
  • Sponsor other innovation events
  • Embed and sell our techniques to third-party event organizers

The overall objective is to create serendipity. To reach other audiences, bring other content, start exploring the edges, create brand recognition. For SWIFT. For Innotribe.

clip_image014

We also should more and more look at our events as something that is the middle of the process, not the end-game. Usually we come out of an event, exhausted, as we build up all the energy towards that one day, one week. But then it only starts: the event is only the place where the connected community meets for the first time, gets initially built.

Proof-of-Concept

Again, we already do this. We have a yearly budget that lets us invest moderate amounts of money in proof-of-concepts: these can be prototypes, animations, whitepapers, etc

  • Turning up the volume in this space is merely doing more: more prototypes, hence more budget and resources

Incubation

We just started this year. See also the “Babies” presentation. Initiated by Matteo, and now with the help from Cathal as program manager, this is our “Mathal Productions”. Their projects are located in Building 8.

Turning up the volume would mean:

  • Team with Silicon Valley incubators
  • Team with Incubators in Eastern Europe, APAC, South America. The example of Solkovo in Russia comes to mind
  • We could do much much more in bringing young entrepreneurs and start-ups together. You can create a marketplace of start-ups, accessible by the SWIFT community.
  • You could create – together with the 9,000+ banks on SWIFT – an alternative start-up funding and loan model. With better rates for those who have a good standardize Innotribe quality score.

Facilitation

This is what Mariela and team already do. For fun, let’s call it “Mela Productions”. Why for fun? Or “Innotribe Facilitation Studios”

  • Mela should make a business out of it. Think big. A worldwide team of 50-60 facilitators. Why not. If we were able to deploy similar numbers of lean navigators for cost reduction and efficiency, why can’t we do something like this for value creation?
  • This is also something we could start selling. This is an area where we are being “called”. Internal business units, but also banks from our ecosystem already now ask Mela to run facilitated workshops. Even from outside or our industry. We should charge for it.

Office Space

This is about having a critical look at our office space and the – communication – tools we have. On one hand we are spoiled. If you have ever been to the SWIFT HQ, you will for sure have been impressed by the main building and campus surroundings.

But the main building inside sometimes feels like a temple or a castle, with long corridors and closed doors that not really incentivize for cross-collaboration and sharing. I know there is a big project started to look deeply into this.

But also office-tools should be looked at. Today we have something called “Internet on the desktop”. It is a Citrix implementation of your browser.

  • We should turn it 100% upside down. Internet should be the default, and we should have a “SWIFT on the desktop” for the couple of apps that require tighter security or access control. It’s inevitable. It’s part of the movement towards cloud.
  • Skype, Drop-Box, Google Docs, etc should be our standard tools. Complemented by Salesforce, Chatter, Twitter, Quora. We should all be equipped with iPADs, Androids, etc. We never should have to use a PC anymore.
  • This modernization will also have a major impact in image and brand.

Culture

I have been quite deeply involved in an effort to look at company culture, and those who follow my blog know that I have something to say in this space.

  • Lately, the culture team was re-organized, and volunteers from GEN-Y and GEN-X were called upon. I applied for GEN-X (those born in 1961 and beyond)
  • Great was my astonishment that I was considered “too old to innovate”. I am born in 1957 so indeed, strictly to the letter, I am not GEN-X anymore. But I am lucky, I still get “copied” on the stuff (sic)

Any pump-up-the-volume in his space

will be worthless

as long as we do not

apply a strategy of “seed and infect”

  • If not, what we will end-up with are loads of powerpoint slides, processes etc. It will show great in an annual report or so, and it’s a bit the same as “how real is your innovation?”. Ask yourself the question “How real is your culture change”.

What we need is

a viral infection of the company

 

  • 40 people in 2011 should get the chance to follow a personal discovery journey like Leading by Being, so that they lead from their open mind, open heart, and open will.
  • In 2012 another 100 people. And in 2013 another 100.
  • That’s 240 folks. Deeply passionate about changing the company. That’s more than 10% of the workforce. That will change the culture for sure.

And have a look what companies like J&J do. They have in a couple of years a group of more than 750 change agents. They can be flown-in or video-conferenced at any moment to form tiger teams.

Banks for a better world

This is a big bad new idea. It must be possible to have a deep merge between Innovation, Talent Management and CSR.

Think big, really big

I think it must be possible to create

a 1 Billion $ Fund

that invests in financial inclusion

  • I know that some of our banks have invested big time in some of the above examples.

Why can’t we pool together

funds and resources as an industry?

Would that not be

immensely more powerful?

  • That would be quite a different story than what you hear/read these days about “too big to fail”, greed, lack of trust, etc

It would also lead and propel the community into a modern thinking about capitalism, rethinking value, and waste that we produce for the next one in the value chain (for ex bail outs) or even pushing debt towards future generations.

Studios and Production Houses

I am getting convinced that for each of these slices, we have to start thinking in terms of independent and complementary “Studios”. Like the studios of Pixar, Dreamworks, etc

 

clip_image015

 

Or in terms of <name> “productions”. For example for facilitation, you could pitch the “SWIFT Facilitation Studios” or “Mela Productions”. Events could be “Petervan Productions”, etc.

I like somehow the personalization aspect of this, as usually these teams are geared around a particular person with specific strengths.

If you like it or not, organizations are – or should be – built around people.

 

It’s indeed some sort of

strengths-based

studio or production environment

 

The Studio or Production metaphor also works well: you could consider the Head of Innovation as the “impresario”, and the studios the teams that collectively deliver a streamlined total experience. Or you could – like in big Hollywood studios – talk about “Building 123”, or like “Building 20” which is the innovation building of MIT.

At SWIFT, the incubation building is referred to as “Building 8”.

Budget

  • What does it take in monetary investment
  • Additional resources
  • This is reality check. Where the CEO mantra “I want you guys to shake the tree” is tested with reality. This is where people get scared. This is where you hear: “I know him/her (the CEO), and we can’t go with such an ambitious plan and attached budget”.

 

This is the real test

  • Here you will find out how real is your innovation. Or is it just a window-dress because innovation is fashionable and always works well in front of a board of directors or in an annual report.

You will probably end up somewhere between the window-dress and the edge-nirvana. And that is fine. The important thing is that you gauge it. Use it as a baseline. And don’t accept less when entering the next budget round.

Step by Step vs. not knowing what end result is

The challenge with all this is that

 

innovation

can not managed like the core

 

The core is – and should be – managed as the optimization engine. In this space you know where you want to end-up over a given period of time. You make a phased project plan, allocate the budgets and resources, put a project manager on it, and you execute as planned. It’s Failure is not an Option. It’s highly predictable, with yearly budget cycles, than in essence most of the time built upon last year budget models. It’s a stepped approach.

 

clip_image017

 

The challenge with innovations is that they are not planned. You usually know the “direction”, but you’re not sure where you land. It’s like Christopher Columbus heading West to discover India, but he found America. It’s like a (pirate?) ship meandering. It’s Failure IS an option. It’s unpredictable. It’s a meander approach.

Conclusion

That’s what I wanted to say today. It’s a blog post that was cooking for several weeks. Happy it’s done. It’s a long post, I know. And maybe next, I should put all these blog piece together in a book. Who knows, maybe I’ll do that one day.

But one thing is sure: The combination of “How to create deep sustainable change”, “Pirates, Rebels, Mercenaries and Innovators”, and this post “Pump up the Volume” will form the basis of a brand new Innotribe presentation, the follow-up of “How to make babies”. I will let you know when it is ready.

All for the same purpose: the fitness of the organizational “mind”. And a deeply changed organization, connected and full of energy!

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Let’s Pump-of-the-Volume!

Let’s take those innovation energy pills!

Let’s shake the tree!

Read Full Post »

iStock_000011991468Medium

In my job, I hear many executives asking “to shake the tree”. What does that mean ? The temptation to just “Pump-up-the-volume” or let the innovation engine run “red hot” is just around the corner. “Let’s come up with a list of hundreds of initiatives and “tricks”, and we’re done.”

Tick ? Don’t think so.

Before discussing the “how”, any organization should first have a look at the “why”.

Usually, the why has to do with creating a more agile organization, waking up the entrepreneurial spirit, in other words to “un-trap” the creative juices.

And to do so, work is needed at the foundations. It’s about making the organization healthy, fit and un-trapped. This has nothing to do with six-sigma, lean, or other way to improve the efficiency of the organization, the efficiency of the organizational “body”.

What we are talking about here is

 

the fitness

of the organizational “mind”

 

iStock_000007248761Medium

 

The expected outcome of pumping up the volume and the fitness of the organizational mind is a

 

connected organization,

connected teams,

connected people,

connected values.

 

With connected healthy internal and external primary and secondary circuits.

In between the “why” and the “outcome” is the “how”: the set of tricks, tools, and processes that enable a connected and innovative organization.

As mentioned above, I can easily produce a list of hundreds of new or enhanced innovation initiatives and that set of “hows” will be the subject of one of my next blog posts called “Pump up the (innovation) volume”.

But first, we must focus on the “why”.

We must make sure

that the roots

of the mind-tree to be shaken

are healthy

 

Make sure that the “connections” between the people of the organization are open and healthy. That the rotten apples – both people and processes and cultural dysfunctions – are eradicated. That the connections are such that they encourage acceptance.

 

Acceptance at several levels

 

Let’s look at a framework for these connections, the circle of acceptance.

image

All credits for this framework go to André Pelgrims, who is our team coach for team-dynamics. You can read more about André here. Every organization should hire one or more “André’s” to make their culture programs real. (Disclosure: I have no shares or business relation with André, but he was one of the coaches of the Leading  by Being (LBB) program I already mentioned so many times on my blog; stronger, LBB was the reason to start this blog)

The first level of acceptance is being accepted as a person. In our full authenticity. Watch carefully yourself when you meet a person for the first time. What is your screening mechanism: is it respect, space, trust, or something else ? And how much are you trapped in this specific mechanism ? A person that “passes” this initial 15 sec check will be accepted by you as a person. The effect is that person will give you energy.

However, if that person pumps-up its space, trust etc, then that person will start being an energy drain for her colleagues. It happens when people bring into the team the baggage that is not related to work. They don’t even have to talk about it, they bring it unconsciously with them. The art is to be aware of it, in the present moment. And not let it develop as the personal drama. Then it becomes an energy drain. Personally, I need space and silence. If not, I get drained.

“Energy Drains”

The second level of acceptance is being accepted in your role. Only then you can create impact. When people make themselves (ie. their role) look bigger than they are, then we enter the space of

“Power Games”

The third level of acceptance is being accepted as a change agent. Only then you can create a new type of dynamics, only then you have the right to shake the tree. It’s the moment where you don’t have to sell yourself anymore, you are being called. Again, when one tries to show bigger than one is, one ends up with

“Illusion Building”

 

The awareness of these circles of acceptance are particularly important for innovation teams, who are supposed to keep the fire of innovation burning throughout the organization. Not only the innovation team must maintain healthy connections within the team, but especially in all its relations with its stakeholders. You can shout “change” as much as you want in an organization, if you are not accepted as a person, in your role as innovator, and genuinely being called, you can forget about all the “tricks” you have in your pocket. They remain what they are. Tricks.

Therefore, I prefer to being called as-a-person. The tricks are a bonus. Some people think they have no tricks. I don’t believe that. But even in the hypothetical case that you don’t have tricks, you can still give energy, have impact and being called as a change agent IF you are accepted as a person.

 

I want to be called as a person

I want to be loved

 

Recognition is not good enough. Recognition is like a compromise: if I am not capable of receiving love, I compromise on recognition. That’s why a tap on a shoulder, a holding arm, a hug are only relevant if they are real. The animal in us just senses when these are un-real.

 

So, what does it take to be real ?

 

In addition of having acceptance at all levels, what else is required ? For me what makes the real difference is the way a person approaches me with a healthy mix of love and courage, combined with an equally healthy balance of guilt, shame, and vulnerability. With respect for primary and secondary circuits.

 

The Love/Courage mix:

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  • I may have a lot of courage when giving feedback to a colleague, a partner, a business partner, etc. But if this courage is not rooted in a feeling of love for that other person, then I end up with “active destruction”, the effect of a dirty forward tackle in football. Many companies have unfortunately a culture of forward tackle.
  • On the other hand, when I approach the person with love but without courage, then the effect of my intervention is one of “passive destruction”, unaware of the emotion

The Guilt/Shame mix

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In a very similar way, guilt and shame go together. Guilt without shame is inwards focus. It leads to depression, in a slow and creepy way. Leading to aggression against yourself. On the other hand, shame without guilt is again like the forward-tackle. Not creepy, but blow in the face, active aggression against yourself.

Vulnerability. I have already very often mentioned vulnerability in my blog posts. Suffice to say here that showing vulnerability in the safe primary circuit should be ok. Only works of course if the connections in that primary circuit are healthy.

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Illustration by Hugh MacLeod

Secondary circuits. Last but not least, let’s pay some attention to secondary circuits. There is nothing wrong with secondary circuits. On the contrary, they need to exists to feed a healthy primary circuit, to be supportive of the primary circuit. The problem starts with secondary circuits that are NOT supportive to the primary, and even are counter-productive. Those are the rotten apples. But the secondary circuits need to be made explicit. And for a really healthy system, it would be better that many of the secondary circuits’ discussions are held in the primary circuit for the benefit of the whole team.

 

Our goal should be

to make the primary circuit stronger

than the secondary circuits

 

and not the other way around in many organizations.

What happens a lot in “shake the tree” experiments, is that one or more levels of acceptance are skipped. Or that awareness about the effects of energy drains, power games, and illusion building are being denied. Or that we don’t expose the right mix of love/courage, of guilt/shame, of vulnerability in our day to day connections. That we start jumping into the “how” before questioning the “why” and the desired outcome.

Therefore, let’s first check if our connections are pure, healthy and real. This is the only possible foundation for a deep change that is sustainable on the long term.

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Have you also noticed ? How many people you see dragging themselves through the office, through their lives ? They seem to have lost sense of engagement.

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It makes me so sad. Such a shame not to enjoy life.

Sad in the sense of empathy, and the feeling there is little I can do about it. Maybe just write a blog and hope that some of my readers will get inspired and re-find that spark that makes yourself worthy.

We all know what caused this feeling of uncompleted, not being worthy, being imperfect.

It’s caused by the disconnect between the soft/hardware of your company and the world outside there.

  • The software is what is between your ears. But  even more so about the fine sensors you have in your whole body. This is not about “mind”, this is about “heart” and “feeling”. Deep feeling.
  • The hardware is about how your company is structured. The hierarchies. The power games. The team dynamics. The motivational models. The focus on the optimization engine with efficiency programs like Lean and SixSigma that such the soul out of great companies. At the end there is only efficiency and no soul.

That’s why people are “dragging” their feet. They just FEEL its not right. And they have lost the energy to fight. The hope to regain their souls.

But of course there is something you, we, all of us can do about it.

 

We can start a movement

 

From within. Find the peers who care about people, about life, about soul.

And of course we can ask help. Outside help if needed.

Check out the site of TeamPelgrims:

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The NEW ECONOMY demands speed, creativity, dynamism, perseverance, courage, knowledge and the ability to work with others on a multicultural basis.

The NEW SOCIETY, prompted by the Human Interest movement, demands respect for individuality, freedom, mobility and quality of life

The last thing a fish can see is the water he is in… It’s very difficult to understand the “cultural mechanisms” in which we live and breath. Leaders should be made aware that they are “trapped” in cultural viruses. We see in too many occasions that cultural viruses are multiplying and contaminating substantial parts of the organization or company. Be accountable to manage and master this non-transparent but very present dimension in the engine of the organization.

It brings me to the topic of team dynamics.

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I am very lucky to be part of a great team.

But due to the stress of the last months, we seem to regress a bit as a team. Just a little bit. In the sense that we start to grow more individualistic.

Luckily some of us have good “consciousness” antennas, and the team is strong enough to 1) bring this to the table and 2) openly discuss them.

My alarm-bell went off when a new team member joined, and I witnessed myself not 100% caring for the newcomer. I said something like “Throw him in the water, and he will learn to swim”. That’s not fair. Because there are so many new things to learn, so many unwritten conventions, rules, habits, cultures.

 

The problem was

that I did not have any time left

to give quality time to each other

 

  • Luckily our team is great, and we are working on great inspirational topics.
  • Luckily the newcomer is outspoken and has the courage to send invitations for feedback.

But I can imagine if you are not in such a team, if your have not this courage, if you have lost some of your closest colleagues is the latest restructuring, and you can’t work with your new boss and the new efficiency rules, that you get dragged.

We should not let this happen. We have to redefine, revive the company culture from within. Push it to the next level. Be viral. Infect he company, as it will not work by a top down approach or rolling out a big program.

Live the spark, the energy, the enthusiasm. And hope – be sure – that it will have a rippling effect – no, an unstoppable wave – within your team, spreading out to other teams, to other departments, to other regions, to other companies, to everybody you meet everyday.

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Enthusiasm is contagious.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help. And to offer help. Probably one of the best ways I can offer help is by transferring authority to others. To hold the bike saddle and then let go. But WITH transfer of authority.

Be not afraid to show vulnerability. Create safe harbors for vulnerability. These harbors become like the womb for the fetus.

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Your team could be a womb.

And especially:

be nice to yourself

 

It’s ok to be imperfect.

I am excelling in being imperfect by NOT being nice to myself. It has to do with the word “mildness”. Be “mild” for yourself. For yourself first. I used to say to others: “apply mildness to the 3rd degree”. But it did not come across as authentic. As I was not able to be nice for myself. People, human beings just “feel” when you’re not authentic.

Brené Brown has written a whole book about this.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness.

Ordinary Courage

Have a look at the “look” of her website. The illustrations have something “round”. The site creates some feeling of safety. Of roundness. Of “womb”-ness. It has a feminine softness/roundness that we seem to have lost in our company hard- and software.

I was very touched and moved by her TEDxHouston talk of June 2010.

The video is a 20 min summary of her book: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

The video has subtitles, so the words have more impact. Without trying to make a transcript of her talk, here are some lines that resonated very strong with me:

  • Shame as the fear of disconnection
  • Don’t try to outsmart vulnerability
  • Do you believe YOU are worthy of love and belonging ?
  • Courage, compassion, connection.. who you are with all your heart
  • The courage to be imperfect
  • Be kind to yourself first
  • Connection as the result of authenticity
  • Let go who you think you should be
  • What makes me vulnerable makes me beautiful
  • Do something where there are no guarantees
  • Research is about control and predict
  • You know who you are when you think you need help
  • See a therapist who sees therapists: no family, no childhood shit, I just need some strategies
  • Vulnerability is the care of shame and fear and your struggle for worthiness
  • But also source and birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love
  • Vulnerability and tenderness are important
  • We “numb” the vulnerability. We “numb” everything
  • Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort
  • But then there is no conversation, discourse
  • We try to perfect our children, but babies are hardwired for struggle
  • We pretend that what we do does not have an effect on people
  • Let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen
  • “I am enough”

Suddenly it became clear to me:

The difference is in

the (lack of) indifference

It’s about the capability

to be able

to relate to this

 

I am playing with the idea of building into Innotribe at Sibos 2011 in Toronto a topic on “New Corporate Culture” or “Towards a new corporate culture of difference”. Where we would invite people like Brené Brown, Vineet Nayar, Andre Pelgrims, Keith Yamashita, Marc Dowds and others ?

Something else than technology. Something else than payments. Something that touches our lives everyday. Probably more hours at work than at home. To feel happy, fulfilled, and worthy should resonate with all of us, no ? Or are you not afraid of becoming one of these “dragging” people ?

Let’s put back the “juice” in our companies.

What do you think ? Sibos ? About new corporate culture ? You really don’t have to suffer alone !

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Here is your deejay with the brainwave helmet again: look at the wide open eyes of Sam from Sam The Sham and the Pharaos with their 60’ies monster hit “Wooly Bully”. His eyes wide open. Uno, Duo, Très, Quatro ! Let’s have some fun here. And be a bit crazy !

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I recently got somewhat involved in the People & Culture thinking of our company. Already at our first attempt during our fantastic off-site in April, we identified excitement as one of the components that need to be part of our culture.

We should all re-read that blog post titled “Get a Life and Get Alive”, as we seem to loose lots of the sharpness of our ideas when we start putting them through committees, and the whole thing seems to get watered down.

So, for 4 months+, we kept ongoing and had a good solid understream of ideas, depicted by different people in different ways, depending on their left or right brain orientations.

After a couple of weeks, this was my best effort:

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It was a combination of keeping the best, improving drastically the mediocre, and getting rid of the worst. The most important in this slide were the

 

“quality lenses”

 

They reflect the deeper purpose that guides our transformation process and choices, and these lenses can be used as a compass to be sure we still navigate in the right direction.

The direction was an ambitious one, a radical one.

But most executives do not like the words “radical” or “disruptive”.

  • Does that mean we should adapt our packaging, our wording or worse our meaning and purpose to please our audience ?
  • What happens with ambition when filtered through endless reviews ?

By the end of last week, we had our seventh or so iteration of the slide deck to be presented to the executive committee.

I though we had quite an “acceptable” outcome in a culture of consensus.

As I write this, I notice how polluted I have become myself by the consensus-virus. In the end, one compromises so much that all you end up with is a grey mouse. 

Herman Van Rompuy arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday evening.   Photo AP

So, to hell with outcomes that are “acceptable”. We don’t want grey mouse. They don’t inspire.

Nevertheless, I was surprised that version seven still included our famous words “Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will”. You had to search for them (see the big fat arrow above), but they were there.

Too optimistic though.

Throughout the week, folks kept on saying this was “too wooly”

So we tried to put different words. In version eight, we ended up with some things like “Intrinsically motivated people” and “Co-creation with Customers”, etc. Not bad, but “acceptable” in my opinion.

What made me write this post was the following comment on exactly this part of that version:

This part is a bit too vague

and b-school jargonistic

for my taste

Can we turn that into our

company terminology ?

(the other parts already were in company-speak)

 

My answer: NO, absolutely NO !

 

As I wrote in back in April, the real root cause (to use some Lean terminology) was about the openness of our minds, hearts, and minds.

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Some indeed call this “wooly” or “b-school”. I don’t know what is meant here.

There seems to be some negative connotation here:

  • “b-school” could mean several things. In the most optimistic case is stands for Business School, and then the wording may be perceived as too academic. In the worst case, it means b-grade school or even worst kindergarten or naivety. But I believe that many of our corporations would thrive well if they would resource themselves with some naivety of better

freshness and purity

like a young child

discover with eyes wide open

and without prejudices

  • “wooly” has something to do with a certain form of “softness”. I sense all sorts of touch points with New-Agism, or the Hippies 2.0 movementExecutives seem to have e a natural aversion to topics related to softness, philosophy, emotion, feeling, sensing, or anything that has to do with mind, heart, and will. It is probably exactly this that needs to change in many company cultures if we want to make our companies more “human”. Or as Jeff Bezos so eloquently said: “It’s harder to be kind than to be clever” Read every word and sentence of his Princeton speech here. Listen to the emotion in his voice. You sense here stands a man who embodies and believes what he says. You want to follow him. Maybe he is Hippies 2.0 ? Maybe. But he’s inspiring.

Leaders will be followed, not because they have dictated so or by hierarchical power, but because they are authentic in everything they do, because they are inspirational, because they are charismatic, because they are truly “at service” and not “in command”.

The new game is about new hierarchies, not based on ranks and power but based on true service value.

 

The hierarchical PYRAMID changes

into a collaboration and service SPHERE

where there is no upper or lower level

where the value comes

from the strong interdependency and

100% service mind to make the OTHER win

What we need is a culture based on a fundamental shift from Old Game thinking to New Game thinking. We will not succeed if we stay “acceptable”.

Our ambition level in this should be nothing but an extreme makeover, respecting our company’s financial, operational and reputational integrity.

You can use whatever words for it, but the messages and its wording must be fresh, inspiring, ambitious, rejuvenating. Not only on its messaging surface but especially in its deep culture core.

I don’t believe that you can capture your “culture” in one word. Culture is a complex thing. It’s a combination of tacit, implicit and explicit values, attitudes, and knowledge. Is combines the good positive heritage of the past with the vibrant youth-ness of the future. So, here are some words that “capture” that culture.

image

 

That’s also why Talent and Culture are so closely interwoven. Because culture is the result of the people you have on board. If you want to change the culture, there are basically two things you can do:

  • Try to change the people you have on board. Although this is very difficult, I believe we have enough cultural creatives to at least inspire more than 50% of the company to change gears. For the others, we’ll have to wait till the Hippie 1.0 generation is retired and made room for the new generation.
  • Bring on board new young people with fresh insights. We should be extremely aggressive about this. Hire “en-masse” young people. If possible younger than 20 years, as even some 25+ “don’t get it”

Both generations where shaped by different time and historical contexts:

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With courtesy: NASA Generation-Y Perspectives. Full slidedeck here.

Of course, when implementing such aggressive plans, we need to make sure that these programs do not become the exclusivity labs for personal and professional development for the young only, and that everybody gets her chance to fully realize their potential, so that they don’t have to ask us

 

“and where do I play ?”

 

Like many things, I think you recognize an inspiring culture when you see it. When you see the people of that culture. They have sparkles in their eyes. When you interact with them. They go the extra mile.

We need word and spirit that reflects:

  • Excitement
  • Intrinsically motivated people, as mean by Daniel Pink in “Drive”
  • Extreme Management Make-Over and Employees First, as meant and intended by Vineet Nayar in his latest book, considered now as THE reference for modern HR

I was lucky to see Vineet deliver his message in person to the audience at Techonomy last week. The story goes like this:

  • The goal of our company is to deliver value to our customers
  • Where is that value created ? At the interfaces of our company.
  • Who is at those interfaces ? Our employees
  • Therefore the whole company should be organized to be “at the service” of the employees.

This is about a management extreme make-over.

  • From managers giving instructions to employees and measuring their efficiency
  • To managers at the service of employees

When I spoke to HR, my contact said: “Oh, that is what is called Service Management, I know about that”. When I asked whether he already proposed this as a management culture to the executives, he said

 

“Oh no !

That would be too radical

that’s a revolution !”

 

But I am afraid many of our corporations need nothing less than such a revolution, a fundamental make-over.

In the end

Culture = Company = People

 

People with a Life and Alive. Not wooly sheep following the dress code and complacent in being “acceptable”. People who share the “wooliness” of “kindness” vs. “cleverness”.

Our culture has to be provoking and inspiring. You should be able to rally your troops behind it. As soon as it becomes “acceptable” that won’t work.

In the song Sam sings about a “wooly saw”. What we need now is a very sharp saw.

To give the sharpness back to the Wooly Bully !

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