Tag Archives: Creativity

Universal Innovation

Sometimes, it seems like innovation is all anyone talks about. It’s been a really hot topic for the last five or six years; probably more. In the last two years before I left Rocketdyne — let’s see, that would have been from 2008 to 2010 — I participated in several innovation classes/exercises and, in fact, I setup the SharePoint collaborative spaces that were used by the teams in one of these exercises that were exploring different avenues for the company to invest in. I was also part of a team looking at one of the many technologies we were investigating at the time, and we even brought in a Professor from the USC Marshall School of Business to help us “learn” innovation.

I’m not going to get into my thoughts about what it takes to be innovative, or creative, but I just want to throw out this observation I’ve been mulling over for some time and see what others think about it. One of the things I think I’ve noticed is that almost everyone approaches innovation primarily as a way to come up with new products or services to sell. There seems to be what I think of as a blind spot when it comes to how we got things done, to our processes and procedures that are the backbone of our day-to-day activities. I’m also not confining the daily activities we might look at to businesses or governmental agencies and institutions either. I’m also thinking about things like mass public transportation and local traffic patterns and uses, our use of public facilities like parks and schools, the ways we approach (or choose to ignore) recycling, the value of our food and how we produce, distribute, and consume it – and on and on.

So here’s my big question for now. What if we started looking at enabling – empowering, if you will – everyone who was interested, to be involved in social and cultural innovation; in our continuous social and economic evolution . . . as citizens of our local municipalities, our neighborhoods, our nations, and even as inhabitants of the planet Earth, i.e. as a species? What if we came up with ways to encourage, communicate, evaluate, and pursue ideas that would improve – dramatically or otherwise – the lives of many people, perhaps everyone? Very public ways. What would that look like? How would we do it? What would be the biggest challenges? What infrastructure and social constructs are already in place to support such a thing?


The Right Decision

Recent books

Recent Books on the Creative Economy

Thanks to a respected Facebook friend, I encountered a wonderfully perceptive, entertaining, and enlightening post by Steve Denning on today. Because of my long-time involvement in the knowledge management world, both as a practitioner and somewhat as a thought leader, I also count Steve as one of my Facebook friends. However, I didn’t find the piece through him. Regardless, I’m glad I encountered it and, as a bonus, it really came at a propitious time for me. I’ll link to it at the end of this post. It’s somewhat long, but so full of good information and insight I believe it’s worth every moment it takes to read it.

As I’ve written about numerous times, I took an early retirement from the organization I had pretty happily labored for for over two decades. Actually, five days from now it will be precisely three years since my last day there. It was a bittersweet day for me, as I was both glad to be rid of the constraining shackles of the parent organization and depressed over saying goodbye to so many people I’d come to regard as family.

Adding insult to injury was the seeming invisibility that seems to accompany most everyone who’s put out to pasture. I wrote about that as well here. I have found myself occasionally lamenting my decision, though I always seem to be able to recall there truly was a good reason for it; I couldn’t stand the corporate culture of United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney. I was ready for a change.

Now comes Steve’s wonderful article. To sum it up as briefly as I can – so you can spend your precious time reading what he wrote, which is far better than anything I’m capable of – he breaks down the realities of the three different economies we can see all around us: Traditional, Financial Capitalism, and Creative. I have long been most interested in dealing primarily with the Creative Economy, but spent a large portion of my working life in the Traditional Economy. My experience with Financial Capitalism is much the same as just about everyone else. I’ve lost substantial equity because of their criminal activities and greed.

I’m now more convinced than ever I will spend the rest of my life making a place in the Creative Economy. I want as little a part of the Traditional Economy as possible, though part of what I’ve been working on may require providing creative services to traditional organizations. I will no doubt see how that progresses and am prepared to turn on a dime if necessary. I have no desire at all – never have – to be a part of Finance, save for some of the more creative and worthwhile aspects such as crowdfunding and efforts like Kiva, etc.

Now, to get you to Steve’s article without further ado. The title is “Leadership In The Three-Speed Economy“. If you have the time, I’d love to read what you get out of the piece. Hope you get a lot, regardless.

Obvious to Him . . . Perhaps?

The Obvious?

Euan Semple is a friend of mine; at least in the sense we are “friends” on Facebook and we are “connected” and have engaged in an email conversation on LinkedIn. I also follow him on Twitter and read his blog (somewhat infrequently, I must confess). I know he’s read my blog at least once because he commented on a post of mine. We have not yet met face-to-face, nor have we had an actual conversation where we could hear each other’s voices (each others’ voice?), say . . . over the phone or with Skype.

This morning I came across an item on my Facebook wall from him. It was a link to a video of his Do Lecture, shared through his blog, “The Obvious?”. I don’t see too many things from Euan in Facebook, so it caught my attention. I clicked on it to open a tab with the link so I could view it later. Many times I don’t end up viewing the item I’ve set aside, but this time I did. I’m very glad too. You can listen yourself here.

Euan is probably best known for his introduction of forums, blogs, and wikis to the BBC and now spends his time advising organizations on how to integrate these and other “social” applications into their businesses. You can learn more about Euan from his blog or from his website.

As I’m writing this I see one of his friends has commented on the original Facebook post. She says she finds his talk bitter sweet, because he says what she’s been saying too . . . to no avail. I have to admit to feeling the same way, though I did manage to get some traction in changing the organization I spent nearly a quarter century with.

Euan clearly knows what makes an enterprise tick. He also is keenly aware of the numerous ways in which traditional organizations and management waste time and energy and, actually, hinder progress in most every enterprise that’s built on the traditional, hierarchical business model we’re all so familiar with.

I strongly suggest you listen to his lecture yourself. It’s only about a half-hour and it’s quite enlightening and entertaining. He’s a wonderful storyteller. I actually took some notes while I was listening – which is not like me at all – and here are some thoughts that stood out. I’d sure be interested in hearing any of yours.

Euan points out that fear of messiness is troubling. I forget his exact word, but I wrote down the thought it triggered for me, and that was fear of messiness stifles creativity and, therefore, innovation. In addressing the fear that using social media would get out of control, he reasonably points out we still need middlemen to make sense of all the data and information out there. I have heard the people I believe he’s talking about referred to as curators or gardeners. He goes on to point out what we don’t need are gate-keeping middlemen who add no value at all.

He makes quite a few points about culture and how best to deal with the inevitable resistance and fear one encounters when even talking about social media. One of them is a reference to the concept of Trojan mice, i.e. unobtrusive, small things that generate change through their adoption and use. Another comes from one of the few slides he used with words – “Easier to build a tool for the community than a community for the tool” – though he expresses a bit of distaste for the way many view communities. Here he points to the difference between conscripts and volunteers and, for me, invokes the value of emergence, that communities spring up from recognized, shared needs and desires, not from the dictate of management.

I think my favorite thing he talks about is the dreaded ROI argument; one I was beaten about the head and shoulders with for many years, both in terms of knowledge management and later regarding the use of social media (which I have argued elsewhere is what KM is really about; surely the kind of KM I’m most interested in!) to connect people. In a sense, it’s what the entire lecture is about, but he offers up what he calls a Scotsman’s tip about ROI – “Keep the I really small and no one will give you shit about the R”. I got a kick out of that.

So, please take a half hour of your time (plus however long it took you to read this far) and check his lecture out. It’s quite good. It helped me get to know Euan a little better, as well as reinforced my thoughts about so many things I don’t know where to begin. It is, indeed, bitter sweet for me as well.

Are We Failing to Fail?

Today I attended an hour and a half, lively, funny presentation by a man I had never heard of before, but who I intend on paying at least a little more attention to in the future. His name is Terry Paulson. He’s been described as the Will Rogers of Management Consultants and he pretty much lives up to that description. He was invited as part of a series of ongoing events put on at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne called Passport to Leadership. This series is always open to anyone who wants to attend. Due to space limitations there is online registration available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most of the time, unfortunately, the room (generally it’s held in an auditorium that can seat about 150 people) isn’t quite full. Sometimes it’s overflowing; depends on the speaker, the time of year, and what’s going on in the company at the time.

I chose to attend this particular event not because I had any idea who Terry Paulson was, but because of the title of the event – “The Innovative Leader’s Challenge: Inventing the Future in a Cost-Containment World”. Intriguing. Surely, anyone paying attention nowadays knows just about everyone is paying attention to costs more so than usual. What I really liked about his approach was its level of (in the words of his website) optimism, resilience, and hope – not to mention a good dose of animated humor. He made it clear he wasn’t talking about being a Pollyanna,  full of false promise and glittering visions of the future, but of being a realist; of looking at things and seeing them for what they are and being willing to face them head on. Interestingly, though he didn’t say it, his home page talks about something I heard many years ago from a radio psychologist by the name of Dr. Toni Grant. I used to listen to her on KABC radio here in Los Angeles when I was driving a truck in my family’s wholesale food business back in the late 70’s. She talked about the propensity many people have to be perfectionists, and she said perfectionism was the beginning of what she called “The Three Ps” – Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis. Many people who read this recognize how frequently this is the case. I know I’ve experienced it at times in my life.

Here’s a quote from his website that kind of sums up the presentation he gave: “Most get an ‘F’ where it counts the most. They fail to fail! Too many get stuck in the Three P’s: Perfection, Procrastination, and Paralysis. They are so worried about making a mistake that they end up doing nothing at all. Most mistakes are not terminal; they become stepping stones to success. Get moving!”

At any rate, here are some of the takeaways I have from this presentation:

  • Frequently ask people questions like “What are you doing differently” or “What have you learned lately?” or “What’s working for you?”
  • When you attend a conference or a presentation don’t sit with people you know (they’re “used”)
  • Don’t wait for direction; get busy inventing the future by capitalizing on emerging opportunities
  • Continually use your quality processes and innovation as a strategic advantage to create the new “good old days”

Here are a few other concepts he discussed . . . and passed out in a nice handout I can easily copy them from 🙂

  • Claim the optimism advantage by using setbacks as stepping stones to progress
  • Build a learning organization in support of strategic innovation
  • Use bridge building strategies to make collaborative innovation work

One of the things I found most amazing about his presentation was every slide he showed was a quote by someone else. Normally I would find this abhorrent but, in his case, he supplemented every one of them with his own stories and anecdotes and his spin on what the message of the quote was. Even the way he read them was entertaining. He was very animated, very funny, very entertaining, and pretty damn enlightening. Like many presentations I’ve attended, he didn’t necessarily tell me anything I didn’t already know. Nevertheless, his style – and his substance – reinforced many of these things, either reminding anew of those things I perhaps needed to strengthen my skill at or providing some positive reinforcement that I’m heading in the right direction.

One of my favorite quotes (at least a portion of one) comes from Barbara Waugh, a personnel manager and change agent at Hewlett-Packard. She has talked about “amplifying the positive deviants”. I like to think she was talking about me when she used that term.

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