Category Archives: Communities

Are you ready to Dare Greatly?

Daring greatly leadership poster
I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, ever since I watched Brené’s TED talk (link). I’ve been experimenting with vulnerability, something I have always found difficult, for a couple of years now (Time to get personal – 2016). This book is the gospel on vulnerability, shame and courage. It is really easy to read and is structured with checklists and summaries throughout.
I thought it would be helpful to summarise some of my big takeaways – though I encourage you to read this book and apply its lessons yourself.
Vulnerability is:
  • asking for help
  • saying no
  • starting a business
  • encouraging my kids to try (even if they might fail)
  • calling someone who lost a loved one
  • publishing your work, sending it out, etc
  • falling in love
  • trying something new
  • admitting I don’t know
  • admitting I’m afraid
  • trying again after failing
  • standing up to peer pressure
She has 10 questions she asks to understand the culture of any group or organisation:
  1. What behaviours are rewarded and punished?
  2. Where and how do people spend time, money and attention?
  3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced and ignored?
  4. Do people feel safe and supported taking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
  5. What are the sacred cows?
  6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
  7. What happens when someone fails, disappoints or makes a mistake?
  8. How is vulnerability perceived?
  9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how do they show up?
  10. What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning,  trying new things, giving and receiving feedback normalised or is there a premium on comfort?
The space between our practiced values and our aspirational values is the values gap. This is where we can lose people.
In an organisational culture where respect and dignity of individuals are held as the highest values, shame and blame don’t work as management styles. We can’t control the behaviour of individuals, we can only create cultures where certain behaviours are not tolerated and people are held accountable for protecting what matters most – human beings. There is no leading by fear, if we are looking for creativity, innovation and engaged learning.
A daring greatly culture is one of honest, constructive and engaged feedback. However, in most teams and organisations effective feedback is rare. There are two main reasons:
  1. we are not comfortable with hard conversations
  2. we don’t know how to give feedback in a way that moves people forward.
There’s a big difference between mean spirited criticism and constructive feedback: When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection, but when we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss criticism we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to hatefulness, our spirits get crushed.
Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process. She has a great checklist for preparing to give feedback.
I know I am ready to give feedback when:
  • I’m ready to sit next to you rather than opposite you, and put the problem in front of us rather than between us.
  • I’m ready to listen, ask questions and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
  • I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
  • I recognise your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
  • I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
  • I’m willing to own my part.
  • I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticise you for your failings.
  • I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
  • I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.

We can tell a lot about how we are engaging with Vulnerability by observing how often we say:

  • I don’t know
  • I need help
  • I’d like to give it a shot
  • I disagree – can we talk about it
  • I did it
  • Here’s how I feel
  • I’d like some feedback
  • Can I get your take on this?
  • What can I do better next time?
  • Can you teach me how to do this?
  • I take responsibility for that
  • I’m here for you
  • I want to help
  • Let’s move on
  • I’m sorry
  • This means a lot to me
  • Thank you
My commitment as a leader:
  1. I want you to show up, to be yourself, to be open to learning.
  2. I want you to take risks, embrace your vulnerabilities and be courageous.
  3. I commit to engaging with you, standing beside you and learning from you.
  4. I commit to be vulnerable, to be courageous and to dare greatly.
“The key to our transformation as leaders is in realising that getting people to engage or take ownership isn’t about the telling but about letting them come to their own idea in a purpose-led way, and our job is to create the space for others to perform. This is a shift from “having the best idea” or “solving all the problems” to “being the best leader of people”.
This is a shift from controlling to engaging with vulnerability – taking risks and cultivating trust.”
– Christine Day, CEO Lululemon
Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and trust. If you want your employees that take responsibility, take risks and have an entrepreneurial spirit, you have to encourage people to try and to make mistakes (and be willing to stand by them when they do).
Go read it and apply her lessons for yourself!
(Brené has a great chapter on “wholehearted parenting” that is builds on these ideas powerfully.)

Can I help you to make change happen?

One way street

As many of you know I’m coming to the end of my one month course – Seth Godin’s AltMBA – which is all about “making change happen”:

  • It’s been a part time, one month long, online course run by Seth Godin and has taken up all my evenings and weekends.
  • It has been an intense, stretching and eye-opening experience (one more week to go).
  • It takes a very different approach of working, learning and collaborating. I think it offers a glimpse into the future of education. I have loved it and have learnt so much.
  • I’ve completed 11 projects over 3 weeks with 25 other people based in France, Ireland, South Africa, Nigeria, Singapore, Boston, New York, California, and India. (It’s taken up every morning, evening and weekend since 15th June).
  • I’m now into my final week with 2 final projects to go.
  • Here’s the application form for anyone interested in applying for a future cohort (you can give my name as a reference): http://goo.gl/forms/RR470HLG9q

For my final challenge (Project 13) I need to organize and run a live event to teach others what you’ve learned in altMBA. Seth’s brief is –

“Not everyone is able to do the course themselves. Sharing is a generous act, a gift. 10 people (minimum) must attend. It can be at work, at a group you’re part of, or for strangers. It can be offered free or with paid admission. But at least 10 people have to come, and you have to be in charge. It needs to take place no more than four weeks after the end of the altMBA. This is the culmination of everything we’ve learnt so far…”

I would really appreciate your input on this. I haven’t yet figured out whether to do this at work, at home or an independent venue; whether to do a 1 hour summary, a half day interactive workshop ora one week series of mini altMBA experience.

My question for you is –

Are you interested in attending? What would like like to get out of it? Who else do you think might benefit?
How much time do you want to give to it?
How deep would you like to go?

Please reply to this message or email me on ‘[email protected] with your thoughts.

For those of you who wanted to read one or two of my AltMBA posts they are all public; but to make it easier I have listed them below (and tried to categorise them):

General Business:

Project 12 – Launching the ‘Future Leaders’ program (3 minute video on helping others to make change): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/launching-our-inaugural-future-leaders-program/

Project 11 – Death is not the end it is just a shedding of skin (What if Apple did Savings & Investments): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/death-is-not-the-end/

Project 7 – I have a problem with Hierarchy (Organisational Change): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/i-have-a-problem-with-hierarchy/

Business Development/Sales:

Project 8 – We are all in Sales and we haven’t got a clue (Closing the Sale when decisions are irrational): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/we-are-all-in-sales/

Project 5 – Be the change you want to see in your clients (Inspiring change): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/be-the-change/

Project 4 – You were right to choose the competition (Understanding worldviews and empathy): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/right-to-choose-the-competition/

Redington/Pensions & Investments:

Project 12 – Launching the ‘Future Leaders’ program (3 minute video on helping others to make change): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/launching-our-inaugural-future-leaders-program/

Project 5 – Be the change you want to see in your clients (Inspiring change): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/be-the-change/

Project 4 – You were right to choose the competition (Understanding worldviews and empathy): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/right-to-choose-the-competition/

Project 2 – What is the difference between a dream and a goal (7 steps to Goal Setting): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/dreams-vs-goals/

Project 1 – Make better decisions in 5 minutes (using decision trees to decide what to do if a star manager leaves): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/make-better-decisions-in-5-minutes/

RedSTART/Saving/Financial Education:

Project 10 – If you don’t stretch your limits you set your limits (How do our Assets, Boundaries & Narratives limit us?) https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/stretch-your-limits/

Project 5 – Be the change you want to see in your clients (Inspiring change): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/be-the-change/

Project 2 – What is the difference between a dream and a goal (7 steps to Goal Setting): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/dreams-vs-goals/

Personal/Spiritual:

Project 9 – He didn’t belong and that made him sad (How self-imposed constraints kill our dreams/How can we scale/leverage them)?: https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/he-didnt-belong/

Project 6 – Are you a guardian of the future? (Creating a campaign for change – Global Warming): https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/guardian-of-the-future/

Project 3 – 4 strangers, 48 hours and 101 ideas (Using Business Canvas to brainstorm 101 new business ideas) https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/101-ideas/

Hope you enjoy them. It’s hard to believe but each of these was written within 24 hours. I welcome your feedback; it’s a gift!

Don’t forget to send me your thoughts on what you’d like to get out a live event covering the ‘top tips for making change happen’?

Thanks,

Mitesh

Dreams, Goals & Better Decisions

It is coming up to the end of week one on Seth Godin’s Inaugural AltMBA. It has been an intense, stretching, exhausting, exciting, terrifying, challenging, anarchic, productive, moving and inspiring experience. The AltMBA is a revolutionary way of working, learning, collaborating and expanding your perspectives. It offers a glimpse of the future.

We are one week in. I’ve been working with a learning group across Singapore, India, Malta and Ireland. I have shipped my first two projects with support from my learning group, guidance from my coach and feedback from dozens more on the course (third assignment in progress):

1. How to make better decisions: https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/make-better-decisions-in-5-minutes/

2. How to achieve your goals:
https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/dreams-vs-goals/

Alt MBA - books

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experiences of this revolutionary way of learning at the end of the first week.

What challenges have I faced?

  • To get to know my learning group of 4 strangers overnight, to understand each other’s stories, ambitions and fears and to be vulnerable so that we can help each other perform and succeed.
  • To produce work at short notice, that feels incomplete, send out publicly for anyone to read, review and criticise.
  • To receive the feedback given openly without getting defensive and to honestly reflect on it in order to learn.
  • To see the incredible work produced by such talented people without feeling insecure or inadequate.
  • To keep on top of the discussions, comments, emotions and inspirations of 100 people across the globe.
  • To manage my work schedule and family commitments with the intense workload of the AltMBA.

What have I learnt

  • That decision trees are a really powerful way to de-emotionalise decision making and shed light on options you may not have considered.
  • That goals need to be specific, with clear identification of obstacles, requirements and a clear plan.
  • That it is far easier to give advice to others on how they should do their assignments than it is do apply that advice yourself.
  • To read, reflect, discuss, share, debate, write and publish at speed (every 48 hours).
  • To not judge others but to work hard to understand their story, background and perspectives so that you can see their best self and identify the value they can offer.
  • To receive constructive feedback as a gift and to invite criticism to learn more and faster.
  • To add a P.S. to my work 24 hours later to capture any lessons learnt, feedback, follow up thoughts and ideas. Doing it this way allows you keep a record. You can also see your progress.
  • To use new online tools for effective communication: DisqusZoom, Slack and Digg.
  • That I am not as good at managing my time as I thought I was.
  • That I am not as good a writer as I thought I was (plenty to learn).

What has been surprising?

  • How quickly you can learn and absorb an idea by prototyping and submitting in a short timeframe.
  • How quickly strangers can come together and collaborate effectively when driven by a common goal.
  • The importance of vulnerability to open up a group to work effectively.
  • How you can work together effectively with different people, with different work situations in different time zones.
  • How valuable it is to ask for and receive constructive feedback.
  • How much time, energy and effort we spend coaching, guiding and helping others on the course
  • How many hours there are in a day.

I can’t believe that it has only been one week. I wonder how I will feel at the end of this process. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this process and network is capable of achieving and illuminating.

I am looking forward to getting to know my new learning group next week, as well as the next three new assignments.

This weekend’s we are studying Business Models to come up micro-business plans for 99 new businesses (let me know if you have any ideas).

Wish me luck!


 

Here’s a link to my first two AltMBA assignments if you’d like to learn more about decision making and goal setting:

1. How to make better decisions:

We make decisions more than we make anything else. We make so many decisions of such importance, with wide-ranging implications everyday. This is true for our person life and in our professional life. The truth is we desperately need a disciplined, systematic and simple process for making decisions, in every aspect of our life.

https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/make-better-decisions-in-5-minutes/

Decision Trees

2. How to achieve your goals:

We know that to make your dreams a reality, you have to be SMART: write down your goal as clearly as you can; put a date on it
list all the obstacles you’ll have to overcome (external & internal)
identify the skills, knowledge, the people and groups that can help you; spell out a detailed plan of action; you need to remember “why” you are doing it and what your purpose is as this will get you through the rough patches.

 

https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/dreams-vs-goals/

Goals

AltMBA: Reinventing the MBA

It all began just 4  weeks ago when I received this email from Seth Godin’s blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/05/a-different-way-to-move-forward.html).

Seth has been often quoted saying:

The traditional top-tier MBA takes two years, you usually need to move and it costs more than $125,000. The best business school experience is transformative. It exposes students to a new way of thinking as well as a cohort of fellow travelers, motivated, smart people in a hurry to change things. What’s changed is that access to information is no longer the reason to go to business school. The information is everywhere. Our goal with the altMBA is to assemble leaders (corporate executives, non-profit linchpins, founders, managers and people in a hurry) and to connect them and amplify their work. Without leaving home. In just a month of intense effort. Instead, we’re organized around action, around publishing, around sharing your work and learning from it.

Alt MBA 2

In his blog on 12th May 2015 he announced that he is finally launching the inaugural class of altMBA. It was going to be a real-time, month-long intensive program. This was going to be a small-group process that works online as well as through hands-on projects. The focus of the program was going to be on group work, leveraging the power of collaboration, both by learning from and teaching others.

As soon as I read it I knew I had to apply. I consulted my wife, my friends, my team and my bosses to check I wasn’t being impulsive; but all were supportive. Redington encouraged me to use my current strategic projects for the assignments (as appropriate) and to do the course at work and around my work.

So I applied. It was a very different type of application form and there was a video bio to record too (my first!). 100 people were chosen for the inaugural group beginning in June. I got in. I felt excited, daunted and terrified all at the same time.

Now that it’s really happening, there is a lot of planning and scheduling to do:

  • I will find out tomorrow (on Sunday) from my coach Paul Jun who my learning group of 4 is for the first week.
  • On Monday at 11am (6am EST) I get a prompt with the first 3 projects for week 1.
  • On Tuesday and Thursday I have online study meetings with my learning team from 6pm – 9pm. Sunday we are booked for the all day.
  • We need to submit each project by midnight on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. These are all online and public.
  • We review other people’s projects and give feedback by 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Saturday appears to be the only day off.
  • That repeats again next week and the week after … Until the 13th assignment is handed in on 15th July.

Last week I got a box in the post at work, filled with books. I also received a reading list by email with over 70 books/blogs/articles on it … I am in heaven!

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These are the commitments we have all signed up to:

  • I will do the hard part first.
  • I will embrace emotional labor.
  • I will think of myself as the type of person who can and does.
  • And I will act that way.
  • I will have a posture of generosity. Giving without hope of getting.
  • I will care about people and the world around me…
  • And I will act that way.
  • I will dance with fear.
  • I promise I will continue to keep making change (‘ruckus’).
  • And then I’ll teach someone else to do so, too.

This is a course of the future, for the future. We are using a whole bunch of online tools, many of which I have never used before – Disqus, Zoom, Slack, Feedly, Digg, etc. Other than what I’ve described above we have no idea what to expect, what the assignments are, how exactly we will work together, how exactly we will do them …

This is not for everyone. These first 100 appear to be a diverse and interesting group of people. As it gets closer many people on the course are feeling anxious, frustrated and stressed at the sheer uncertainty. I also feel like that at some level though the experience has made me realise that I am ok with uncertainty, I can handle change and I quite like being thrown in the deep end. This process is about feeling your fears, acknowledging them and facing them. It’s early days though, I’ll keep you posted on our adventures.

Here we go: 4 weeks, 5 coaches, 13 projects, 100 people, 175 concepts.

All our work is public and will be available for review and comment here – https://altmba.com/blog/

My work will be shared here – https://altmba.com/student/miteshsheth/

Wish me luck! See you in a month.

The Inaugural Class of AltMBA 2015 runs till 15th July.

We can all be more creative

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The BBC’s Kate Dart has written and directed an excellent Horizon documentary on creativity, insight, the brain and how we can all be more creative.

If you’re interested in understanding or developing your creativity I would highly recommend it.

It is available on BBC iPlayer till 18th April. http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01rbynt/

Here’s a summary of the main ideas:

The advancement of humanity depends on creative insight and innovation and always has – from the wheel, to mobile phones, medicine and the internet. Our ability to think in novel ways is a defining characteristic of humanity.

The flash of Insight

Insight is a critical aspect of creativity. We all know the moment when we experience a flash of insight, when we figure out a problem or when the penny drops. However, for years creativity has been considered too elusive for scientists to study. Now with better technology and tools scientists are finally able to study creativity more objectively, as it occurs in the brain. They are concluding that we can all be more creative.

Observing the inner workings of the brain shows that we really are thinking differently when we have an insight. During a flash of insight it is the right side of our brain that erupts with gamma waves. Flashes of insight don’t just subjectively feel different, but they are objectively different in the brain.

The creative side of the brain

There is a structural difference between each side of the brain. The left side of the brain is primarily involved with reason, logic and language. The right hemisphere of the brain is more likely to make the connections that lead to insights. The neurons on the left have shorter dendrites while neurons on the right have broader/longer dendrites pulling together more distant unrelated information, finding connections that might not otherwise be made.

Check out this fantastic video on “Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain” pioneered by Betty Edwards, where she shows that anyone can draw if you can turn the left side of the brain off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctkRwRDdajo

Developing divergent thinking

Creativity and intelligence are related but are not the same thing. Whilst intelligence is primarily linked to quicker thinking, creativity is not. Creativity is not fast and efficient but slow and meandering. Creativity is fostered when we allow our brain to slow down and to try different neural paths, rather than the shortest and quickest pathway from A to B. Partially formed ideas from different fields of experience need to collide with each other to being them into our consciousness.

Top tips for kick-starting your creativity

Creativity exists in everybody. Each second of our day and life is not scripted. We make most of it up. We improvise. We just need to understand our brain better and exercise our creativity regularly.

New, unusual and unexpected experiences boost your creativity because they open up your mind, help you see things differently and make new associations between concepts.

To think differently we need to disrupt our normal patterns of thought, routine or behavior. Just switching the steps of a well travelled routine, or doing something we don’t normally do boosts our creative abilities. When we break well trodden neural pathways, we open new possibilities.

We have our best ideas when we least expect, because ‘mind-wandering’ has always had a strong connection with creativity. When our mind wanders the front part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex) switches off. This is the part that is responsible for conscious self monitoring. When people improvise the same part of their brain switches off – our inhibitions reduce, we are less self conscious, any mental handcuffs come off and ideas flow more freely.

If you’ve been doing mentally demanding work your creative ability crashes. When you allow your mind to wander you become more creative, but that doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact, the best thing you can do is to engage in a non mentally demanding task (for example, arranging Lego bricks by colour, watering the garden, washing the dishes, yoga, meditating, etc.), which allows your mind to wander and fosters creativity.

The best thing to do if you’re stuck on a problem, is to take a break, go for a walk or shower and then return to the problem. If you’re still stuck – disrupt your routine or try out a new experience. This allows the creative process to kick in.

So we can all be more creative, if we can slow down, let our minds wander, allow different ideas to collide, experience something new or do something differently. 

 

Further reading and videos:

  • Steve Johnson, Where good ideas come from – RSAnimate Video
  • Dr Mark Beeman (Northwest University, Cognitive Neuroscience) – Website
  • Dr Charles Limb, John Hopkins University – see his TEDxMidatlantic talk 
  • Dan Pink, A whole new mind, 2005
  • Dr Simone Ritter, Creativity: the role of unconscious processes in idea generation and idea selection, 2012
  • Robert Ornstien, The Right Mind: Making Sense of the Hemspheres, 1997

Mercedes Benz have captured the difference between the right and left hand side of the brain beautifully in these pictures:

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How to avoid drowning in a sea of rejection

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When you’re starting out, building a new business or searching for a new job you have to deal with rejection all the time. Even when you are launching a new concept or trying to change direction within an existing business you usually have a string of failures before any glimmer of success. In this blog I discuss how do we can avoid drowning in a sea of rejection?

Although I’ve heard a hundred times before that “it takes time to build a business” and “you have to fail your way to success“, I have found it tough to maintain my motivation in these past couple of months.  When dealing with disappointment I try to remind myself of why I am doing this, tell myself that this is just the beginning and I try to keep my goal in mind. I also tend to meet up with other people in a similar situation to get comfort and encouragement from them. Sometimes that works. Other times you start to feel like a bit of a failure. You start to question your own ability, relevance and even existence.

When I’m in a dark self-pitying place, telling me to “stay positive” doesn’t help much.  It’s usually my wife or good friends that succesfully pick me up with a strongly worded pep talk.  Having been in this place a few times and having heard this a few more, I decided to give myself the same talk, repeating some of their most piercing words, wanting to be able to pick myself up.

I say something like – “You have so much to be grateful for. You cannot control what happens to you in life, only how you react to it.  You choose how you respond to what life throws at you. Life is a battle – fight it.  Moreover start to enjoy the battle. Only the test of fire makes the finest steel”.  It’s early days but this seems to be working.

Last week I was fortunate to meet Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, A whole New Mind and Drive, the timing could not have been more perfect.  What he had to say helped me made sense of how I deal with disappointment.  Here are 3 of his ideas for staying buoyant in the face of failure and rejection.  Some of these are intuitive but others fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

1. Talk to yourself

Before we go into any important encounter or presentation we often give ourselves a mental pep talk.  You say “You can do this!” and get yourself pumped up for the occasion. Recent social psychology research suggests this does not work. Surprisingly we are better off asking ourselves “Can I do this?”.

Questions by their nature illicit an active response, even if you are ask yourself questions. Your mind starts to answer the question subconsciously and prepares you for the situation ahead. Try it!

2, Be more positive and friendly than feels natural

In sales and negotiations we are often taught to be poker faced. In business meetings we are coached to be professional. During any important encounter or act of persuading, influencing and convincing we should be positive. We are far more likely to succeed if we smile and are friendly. Positive emotions open us up and make us explore possibilities, while negative emotions narrow us and make us focus.

“Positive emotions broaden our ideas out to possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and making us more receptive and creative.”

How positive? How friendly? Research suggests that our positive emotions should outnumber negative emotions by a factor of 3.

One way of making yourself more positive is by making time for ‘awe’ – to stop, observe and appreciate nature, human endeavor and the world around us. Try it. Take a moment  to pause and feel a sense of awe for the magnificence of a building, a garden, a view and achievement.

Another approach is to practice ‘gratitude’. Regular reflection on what you have to be grateful for improves your quality of life and well being. Try it. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for each night for a week.

3. Remember that it’s not the end of the world 

The key to surviving and thriving from failure is in how we explain our failure to ourselves (and others). We need to ask ourselves – “Is it really the end of the world? Am I really a complete failure? Is everything really ruined?”.

Following any failure or rejection ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  • Is this permanent? Have I lost all my skills or could I just be having a bad day? Could the client be having a bad day?
  • Is this pervasive? Will everyone always react in the same way? Could everyone miss the point and be uninterested or is there a chance that its just this person that didn’t get it.
  • Is it personal? It’s rarely personal. Maybe he just wasn’t ready. Maybe he’d agree on another day.

We hate rejection so much. We often over-react and start telling ourselves “this always happens”, “it’s all my fault” and “its going to ruin everything”. We need to be less dramatic and de-catastophise things.

If you’re applying for a job try writing yourself a rejection letter before you apply for the job. By thinking about valid objections and rejections you can mentally start to prepare for and respond to them.

What do you do? How do you avoid drowning in a sea of rejection? How do you keep positive in the face of failure and rejection?

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Rethinking Innovation in Healthcare

I was invited by a leading global Pharmaceutical company to talk to around 500 of their UK & Irish employees about innovation today. I am blown away by the parallels between healthcare and investment management, in particular the shift from pushing products to delivering outcomes/solutions for customers (and ultimately patients). Here’s the Prezi and a summary of my key points. 

Background and context

Since leaving Henderson, I have made it my mission to help organisations in different industries enable their people to do the best work of their lives, whilst adding meaningful value to their customers, companies and society. I am convinced this is the future of work and I want to play my part in rebuilding organisations to fully utilise and honour the gifts of every single person who comes to work every day.

I believe real value is created in the gap between the employee and the customer, between manufacturing and distribution, between head office and the field. That is where innovation happens and is needed. I am talking about employee led, customer centric innovation. That’s what I mean when I say Rethink Innovation.

The need for innovation

There is a desperate need for innovation today as many companies, in many industries are facing accelerated change and disruption:

  • Historical products are being commoditized & we are facing intense competition putting pressure on margins and making it difficult to differentiate.
  • Technology is developing exponentially bringing huge advances in science, genetics, healthcare, communication, etc. dramatically changing the landscape.
  • Information itself is commoditized and customers have much more information at their fingertips making them more demanding.
  • The general public and customers are disillusioned with corporate self interest.
  • In a world of austerity and low growth customers want more for less!

These are major forces of change on their own let alone when considered together. We cannot do things the way they have always been done. We need to adapt, innovate and engage to survive. We need to redesign our companies, industries and economies for a changing world.

When I talk about employee-led or grassroots innovation, I don’t mean it in the sense you might know it. You don’t need to sign off a big budget, it doesn’t need to come from the top, it is not just about product – launching the next big blockbuster, it is not just the concern of specialists/creatives/scientists and definitely does not need to take years in development.

Innovation comes from the latin word ‘innovare’ – meaning to change. Innovation is the development of real value for customers by developing solutions to their unarticulated needs – through different products, processes, services, ideas, technologies or business models.

Employee-led innovation

Counter-intuitively innovation thrives under constraints, some of the most innovative companies are emerging in developing countries – like India. A leader in this fieldVineet NayaCEO of HCL Technologies India, has built his whole company around employee-led innovation with ‘reverse accountability’, where all employees rate their boss and their bossboss and can hold their management accountable because he believes that all value is created between the employee and the customer. It should not be surprising that technology companies lead the way in this given the internet itself is incredible adaptable, innovative and engaging.

I believe anyone can be creative and I believe that innovation is everyone’s business if our companies are going to adapt, innovate and engage. When all employees have permission to innovate with customers at the centre of everything they do – that’s where the magic happens!

Fostering innovation communities

The key to engaging staff in innovation is to bring together different people, with different perspectives in small groups to vent frustrations, share problems, challenge dogma and channel ideas. This must be supported by leaders, must be recognised and be fun/inspiring in order for people to volunteer their time, creativity and energy.

You will need to draw on different perspectives, really listen to customers and others internally and externally. It is by encouraging and empowering lots of people to deliver lots of small ideas with minimal cost/risk that momentum is created. It is critical that the leadership team continually encourage participation, remove barriers and celebrate successes.

To set up an innovation community you need to:

  • set a strategic context around critical business problems
  • educate how this new way of working will fit into/around existing work & how it will differ (with both management and employees)
  • support members with light touch coaching and adequate infrastructure
  • get going with a pilot to experiment, learn, review and deliver some quick wins
  • ensure your leadership team continuously encourage participation, celebrate successes and build legitimacy in the organisation by removing barriers
  • build alignment by integrating innovation into the organisational habits and culture

Making innovation everyone’s business

It is human nature to be myopic and to look at things from our own narrow viewpoints. However, when we look at the bigger picture, when we look beyond our boundaries, and consider different perspectives we start to see things differently. Perspective is a powerful thing. Innovation comes from changing your perspective, drawing on different perspectives and thereby thinking differently.

It is all too easy to stick to what you know and who you know, but if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got. If you want to adapt, innovate and engage, you need to intentionally include people with different perspectives, with different experiences & expertise; intentionally draw on customer insights and other industry perspectives. Only then can you start to see what others have missed.

Fostering innovation communities gives all employees permission to do things differently, to challenge dogma, to vent frustrations, to get different perspectives, to share best practices, to have a safe space to experiment, to take risks and to fail fast, learn and adapt. Employee-led innovation is energising, refreshing, engaging and you will be blown away by how many people volunteer the gift of their time, ideas and enthusiasm to further corporate goals and complex industry challenges. If you can get it right, your employees will thank you for investing in them and for helping them to do the best work of their lives.

To read more about ‘innovation communities’ – click here.