Creative Leadership

How to use experimentation to become more creative and collaborative

Mount Etna Erupting July 2011

Creative Leadership – From Joining the Dots to Creating a Masterpiece

Creativity, innovation, collaboration. Three essential ingredients for most businesses that have come to mean almost nothing. Buzzwords at best.

If you took everything written about creativity, innovation and collaboration and stacked it all up you could climb the pile of paper to the moon, maybe. Yet if you took all the real work, the real action around creativity, innovation and collaboration and stacked all that up, you could slide it under your average CEO’s office door, possibly.

A key challenge for modern organisations is this: we desire these attributes of creativity, innovation and collaboration to help us create new opportunities, solve problems, and deliver better service, yet we leapfrog most of the basic skills needed to accomplish these purposeful behaviours. Basic skills like conversation, experimentation, practice and persistence. In business we tend to punish mistakes and in so doing, we blunt our creative potential. We are reluctant to acknowledge that time is needed to develop the art of leadership, so we try and rush toward a finished product, and we miss so much as things blur past us.

So how do we get to a more creative, collaborative place? For years we have admired work produced by artists from all across the world. Whether it is your favourite grand masterpiece, an ancient cave painting, or that wonderfully impossible daubed finger painting your child just made for you. And what about the simple poetry of a powerful conversation? Some of the best work we do emanates from something as simple as the right conversation at the right time, with the right people. I think we are missing out on some simple and powerful methods that can help us achieve much better results at work.

You can gain huge value from practicing creative leadership, and What Goes Around launches a new service on February 28th designed to help you do just that. We’ll provide a safe environment for you to take risks, try new things, and make mistakes. It will be experimental, artistic, practical, conversational and powerful. Perhaps more importantly, it will be bold, fun and useful.

More to follow.

photo credit

Liveable Lives – Humanising the Workplace

Conversation and the human element are at the heart and mind of great work. We need to stop trying to force the vagaries of humanity into a four box model and think more about how we adapt the models, processes and restrictions of work to fit us humans better.

In March 2010 Ziona Strelitz of ZZA published a paper called Liveable Lives. In the words of the author, this paper seeks to:

alert Human Resources and Corporate Real Estate professionals to the tensions employees face in managing their commitments to work and the rest of life, challenges that are magnified when long travel time is involved.

It’s a powerful and easy read. The paper talks about a range of subjects which circle the dreaded ‘work-life balance’ and you can grab a copy here.

In the Autumn of 2011 Neil Usher took Liveable Lives, turned it into a set of lyrics and kindly gave it to me to play with. I gave the song an airing at Stop Doing Dumb Things 2011 and left it, hanging in the air. The truth is I wasn’t too happy with the arrangement I’d concocted.

The song has bounced around inside my head ever since. Yesterday I found myself with a few minutes between tasks and the mood took me to have another go. I made this tune up on the fly and I think it suits Ziona’s and Neil’s work much better than the first attempt. I hope you enjoy the paper and the song – I’ll be revisiting some of these humanising concepts throughout 2012 and beyond. And if this subject interests you I recommend you buy a copy of Humanize by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant it’s a fabulous invigorating read about putting people at the centre of organisations in this social world of ours.

Liveable lives

Well they shut my office and consolidated
me, all the way to the city
Now I spend three hours incarcerated
In vacuum-packed self-pity
They said it helps collaboration
And competitive position
But I only leave my workstation
For coffee – and micturition….

We’re masters of our destiny
But no-one wants our opinion
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century minion

Well, they declared me an agile drone
Took away my rolodex and chair
then sent me home to work alone
in a bedroom only ten feet square
I bought this condominium
To avoid the grim commute
Now I’m stuck with the barest minimum
Can’t work – and I’m skint to boot

We’re masters of our destiny
But it still feels most unpleasant
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century peasant

Well, they can’t see me panicking
The departmental bedrock
And they can’t hear the faint ticking
of my biological clock
I still feel fairly saleable
When perfumed, buffed and lacquered
I’m lonely and available but
But overworked, stressed – and knackered

We’re masters of our destiny
But lost in hopeless wondering
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century underling

Well, we’ve all agreed I’m flexible
Work when, where and how I choose
And as childcare costs are miserable
Its homework, and nothing to lose
But there’s marmite on my laptop
And my iPhone’s in the toilet
Its a perfect life if you can stop
The little ones’ will to spoil it

We’re masters of our destiny
But we’re overcome by hassle
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century vassal

Well, I declared myself a professional
Dad, a five-year blue-collar sentence
Its the hardest job that I’ve ever had
No leisure time for repentance
I never thought I’d miss the life
Where I wasn’t consumed by intrigue
Or the ice cold thrust of a corporate knife
From an underachieving colleague

We’re masters of our destiny
But don’t recognise our werf
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century serf

Well, I got my cherished promotion
To a Senior Vice President
And the office buzzes like a bee
on heat, I so long to be a resident
But my parents need me to be around
As they play out their encores
and my absence only brings the sound
of a corridor – of closing doors

We’re masters of our destiny
But fast-tracked to the grave
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century slave

We’d be masters of our destiny
If we could only see what’s wrong
Our lives need not be the fantasy
Of a 21st century song
Our lives need not be the fantasy
Of a 21st century song.

The ups and downs of engagement

Why is engagement going down in the UK and up in the USA?

There is an interesting report in HR Magazine this week that engagement in the UK is going down. What I find even more interesting is that in the USA it is going up and globally, it is staying the same. A rise in the USA seems at odds with the growing “99 percent” and “Occupy Wall Street” movements.

And what is happening in the UK? What specific things are people doing or not doing here that are leading to the problems?

I don’t know, but I think it is worth trying to find out. That’s why I’m helping with the Stop Doing Dumb Things Unconference. The Unconference is part of a journey to explore opportunities for collaboration and engagement, with better service as a goal.

Genuinely engaging business involves employees, customers, suppliers, communities and other groups too. That’s important and it goes far beyond good business too. It touches deep needs for sense of connectedness and purpose: intrinsic motivations.

If you would like to be part of a growing group of interesting people coming together in London on November 23rd to learn, share and challenge for better ways of working, simply grab a ticket. We’ll then send you details of some useful ways to engage and we look forward to meeting you and to sharing a useful and enjoyable day together.