Archive for the ‘ Innovation ’ Category

The Deadliest Sin of Leadership

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein

Excellence Road SignDivine Comedy tells the tale of one man’s journey through a three-phased adventure—Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—in his quest for everlasting life. While stranded in the middle stage of his adventure, Dante has a chilling discovery about life in the everyday world. Stranded in Purgatory, an uncertain state where one’s soul awaits judgment between redemption and retribution, he is enlightened to the wandering ways of the world he has just experienced.

Here, he explains the ills of that world through seven distorted loves, better known as deadly “sins.” These include the excessive loves of Lust, Gluttony, and Greed, the deficient love of Sloth, and the malicious love of Wrath, Envy, and Pride. The abuse of the most pure forms of human interaction, Love, lead to a path of destruction and chaos in the state of Purgatory where Dante finds himself.

My work as a Leadership Consultant has led me through the mind-set of many organizations on a quest to find perpetual success and prosperity. While in this wandering state, I have discovered the most distorted perversion of leadership—the toleration of mediocrity.

Mediocrity is a cunning and crafty creature, the slinks and slides it’s way through a community of people intended for a greater good. It is sometimes guised in charm and humor, winning over fans with its good-natured country attitude. “Mañana! Tomorrow!” is the mantra sung at the end of the day, while rushing down the path toward the comforts of home. Sometimes, it no longer strives, begs, or craves for excellence, but is content with results that are, “good enough.”

When leaders turn a blind eye to, or minimize such attitudes within organizations, it can be a destructive habit-forming virus that slowly erodes the higher vision and values of the community. Far too often, leaders excuse a lack of desire for excellent work because of long-standing relationships with the individuals who consistently host such average behaviors. Some leaders do not know how, or may not have the will to address such subtle behaviors that beg, barrow, and steal from others’ great work, just to cover for their own lack of effort, dedication, or deferred experience to crafting their personal skills at a higher level. Some leaders are, themselves, guilty of the sin of mediocrity.

Millions of individuals throughout the workforce, from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups to non-profits, have pockets of people who, “Quit and Stay” at work. Others are lost or mislead by leaders within the organization, stuck in the rut of performing daily activities without a clear purpose or understanding of how their role contributes to the organization. Even worse, leaders allow average performers to cultivate the poisonous fruit of bitterness and gossip about other high achievers within the organization.

Organizations are only as great as they challenge or permit their contributors to be. If leaders within organizations do not take high performance and effort sincerely, they run the risk of creating a corporate Purgatory by breading a contempt and dismissal of individuals who do value excellence, effort, and efficiency. The deadliest sin of leadership is the aiding and abetting of mediocrity, at work, home, or in life.

About the Author:

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

Imagination as a Tool for Leadership

With this knowledge of the power of thought, you can become a better leader and, as well, motivate your employees to become better workers. Imagine successfully navigating through a difficult conversation. Imagine making your employees feel cared for. Imagine implementing positive change. The more you imagine, the more successful you can be when it comes time to act.

The same holds true for your employees. Let them know that visualizing success can have a huge impact on actual success. Share this video with them. Encourage them to use imagination as a tool for practicing on a new task when hands-on time is limited.

About the author: Hart is an HR Data Analyst at The Ken Blanchard Companies, finishing his Ph.D. in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at hart.lee@kenblanchard.com.

Can You Get the Delicious Cake?

Several years ago, someone posed the following challenge on a popular internet image board:

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The goal was “get the delicious cake” and you had to draw your solution. No other rules were given.

One response showed the figure crawling through the spikes, while others used elements from pop culture to get the cake. For instance, Harry Potter magic spells, Star Wars lightsabers, and Super Mario warp pipes were all presented as solutions to this challenge. The following are a few of the more original and creative ways people attained the cake:

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Use the door!

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When you want to get rid of something in an image, the eraser tool is handy

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Thinking outside of the box

The lesson I took from this was that people can get very creative when presented with a problem and given the freedom to devise a solution.

As a leader, you may have goals you need to accomplish, but it is left up to you to determine how to accomplish those goals. With a little time and ingenuity, you can come up with many different and often surprising ways to achieve those goals, particularly when you have the help of others.

So how would you get to the delicious cake? Type your solution in the comments, or you can use your favorite image editor or an online one and post a visual of your solution.

What are Your Secrets to Being a Revolutionary Leader?

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How quickly things change in 10 years

Think about this: the first iPhone came out in 2007.

Technology changes so rapidly that it is incredibly difficult to keep up with the rate of change. But looking at leadership, have there been as many revolutionary changes in the last seven years as there have been in technology?

Mobile World Congress was this week in Barcelona. For those who don’t know, it’s a huge annual conference where some of the top smartphone manufacturers introduce their latest products. Though Apple was absent, Samsung announced their latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5. Some advances from the previous version include improved battery life, updated camera, faster processor, a heart-rate monitor, and a new fingerprint scanner (a la iPhone 5s), but despite all of these, its reception has been generally lukewarm because the changes weren’t quite revolutionary.

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The response to the S5

Consumers of technology these days demand constant innovation from products. Why shouldn’t your direct reports, the consumers of your leadership, demand the same? Would you be able to keep up?

Let’s get the ball rolling on change. Are you currently doing something differently from other leaders to improve your leadership skills and/or meet the needs of your direct reports? Perhaps that thing you do is actually the game-changer that will revolutionize leadership as we know it. Share it in the comments.

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Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

What’s a MOOC?

Haven’t heard of a MOOC before? Well, you’re probably not alone. A MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course and its purpose is to give free online education to learners around the world. Although we have had access to free online education for years, the MOOC has forever transformed the quality of courses that are now accessible to anyone with a computer and the desire to learn. MOOC’s really took form in the fall of 2011 after Stanford offered three online courses for free and enrollment reached 260,000 students from over 175 countries. Since, many MOOC’s have popped up from starts-ups to major universities. They all have the same goal in mind and that is to give online education for little to no cost.

Have you ever wanted to take Data Analysis for Genomics at Harvard? Well probably not, but now you can as the class starts in early 2014. If Poetry in America: Whitman is a course that more interests you, sign up now as class begins on January 15th at the edx MOOC.

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Various MOOC offerings

Corporate America is now jumping at these ideas and are giving incentives for their employees to take these course and have incorporated them into their corporate training programs. In a recent survey by Future Workplace, 70% of HR and Learning professionals said they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company’s learning program.

There are many, but here are my favorite.

https://www.coursera.org/

http://www.udacity.com/

https://www.edx.org/

If you enroll in a course, I wouldn’t run out and by a Harvard alumni sweater, but you can still get America’s highest quality education for free. Many questions are still surrounding the MOOC. Will the MOOC transform the way we look at education? Are schools and universities ready to accept these free online courses as transferable credit? What impact will MOOC’s have on the cost of education? Although many of these questions are yet to be fully realized, we know that they are growing and aren’t going away anytime soon.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Gamification and the Future of Work

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Videogames Control

I love videogames. I mean, there’s an addictive quality to them, whether it is character progression, unlocking new content and achievements, or continuing the narrative. And it’s currently a huge trend. The recently released game Grand Theft Auto V broke several Guinness World Records, including “fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion.” To put that in scope, “entertainment property” even includes feature-length films and music.

So what is gamification? It is taking the concepts of game design and applying them to other things. For instance, I wear a device on my wrist called the Fitbit Flex. It is essentially just a pedometer in a wristband, but the web/mobile app is where the magic happens. It displays my goals for steps and calories and my progress for each in a clean and engaging interface. The wristband even shows a series of lights to indicate how close to my goal I am. Gamifying health and fitness… who would have thought?

Word Cloud "Gamification"

Word Cloud “Gamification”

It’s even popped up in the workplace. I recently spearheaded the construction of a new intranet site for my department using WordPress, and by taking advantage of its customizability and vast number of plugins, we developed an onboarding system that uses a mix of content to take new hires on a 12-month journey, with badges rewarded at each step. I believe that learning should be fun, exciting, and engaging, and gamifying the process is one way of achieving that.

But there is something I haven’t seen discussed within the realm of gamification. There are games, such as World of Warcraft, where players willingly perform mundane tasks. They click on the same things over and over again until a cool item appears or an objective is completed. And they love to do it. They are absolutely engrossed in these activities and will happily lose sleep to continue to perform these seemingly boring tasks. Now imagine taking those clicks and placing real work beneath them so that instead of those clicks only translating into currency and experience points that are limited to the game, the clicks also produce work for the organization. Work that the employees absolutely love doing.

I want this to be the future of gamification, where work is gamified to such an extent that it stops being work and becomes an actual game. Perhaps then, there would be no need for employee engagement initiatives or training to boost productivity, because employees would be naturally driven to continue playing, and become skilled at, the game.

I Don't Have Birthdays, I Level Up

I Don’t Have Birthdays, I Level Up

When I was younger, I dreamed of playing games for a living. Perhaps when gamification reaches its full potential, this dream will come true.

From now on, if someone says I’m gaming too much, I’ll just say, “it’s informal training for future work!”

 

Sources: Guinness World Records | Gamification.org

Images: 1 | 2 | 3

Enjoy Your Work!

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” —The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 

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Tomy Sawyer Whitewasing A Fence by Norman Rockwell

There are high-minded folks who are prone to speak confidently, and perhaps somewhat knowingly, about the challenges of today’s  “workplace,” as some distant plot of time and space that is in desperate need of inspiration. These gurus and generals of thought and attitude speak of a place that somewhere along the way has gotten separated from the rest of our lives.

What we have come to call “work” now seems to consist of only duties and tasks that our minds and bodies are obliged to do nearly three out of every four days of our lives, rather than a grand stage where our hearts and souls lead the dance. The mere mention of the word “work” has become synonymous with labor and toil, with survival and disengagement, with quiet desperation and the worship of weekends.

Today’s deepest leadership challenge is not finding a way to influence people and ourselves to work harder or more efficiently; rather it is to inspire and encourage meaning and joy in the tasks we set out to achieve in the service of others.

“The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all,” Mark Twain noted in A Humorist’s Confession. “Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world, we really mean the great players of the world.”

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Enjoy Your Work

The poorest paid receptionist to the highest paid executive should be challenged to cultivate the eternal, to store up treasure in others, and to ultimately rename work as pleasure—a dispensation that rewards our highest calling as human beings through the consumption of meaning, purpose, and happiness. The teacher, architect, salesperson, accountant, mechanic, engineer, copy editor, software developer, legislator, actor, pastor, poet, prince, homemaker, painter, speaker, writer, software developer, or singer, should seek the higher rewards of their daily endeavors through the enjoyment and adventure of completing what they have learned to do, have trained to do, were born to do at work.

But the ones who have subtly and silently slipped into the chorus of groans and now tread in the mental pool of toil, have in fact resigned themselves to no longer hope to do something great in their work.

“How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great,” Twain concluded in his sober confession.

It is time to rename work as pleasure and seek to master it with as much passion and persistence as we do a good meal, a child’s laughter, or the deep and intimate connection with a friend or family member who reminds us of how precious this life is. It’s time to renew our spirits during the three out of every four days of which our minds and bodies are not obliged to “work,” but inspired to work with joy.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual learning experience that empowers individuals with the skills to achieve excellence at work.

Inspired vs. Required

It’s back to school time! While the memories of summer fade into our conscious, to be called upon in future years of eternal youth, young minds reluctantly transition into formal education mode. The thought of spending the next nine months sitting in a classroom cramming information into their brains is far from the glorious lessons learned on rope swings down by the river, swimming pools, and lemonade stands of summertime.

Square Peg, Round Hole

Square Peg, Round Hole

So why is it such a haunting proposition to return to the classroom this time every year? Why are our children not as excited about learning—the core purpose education—as they are about the freedoms of summer?

Today’s formal education conditions young people to jump through hoops, rather than train them to think for themselves.

Core curriculum and Standardized Testing provides checklists and incentives/consequences for the fulfillment or lack of fulfillment of the duties outlined. Today, we require rather than inspire a healthy and effective learning process. We worry about skills, test scores, grade point averages and assignments rather than focusing on the process and the development of the whole person into a critical thinker and unique individual contributor with valuable ideas and a mission to fulfill in life.

These children grow up to work for organizations and continue the program they learned in childhood…. hoop jumping, get by, do your duty until their eyes glaze over from the combination of boredom and stress of today’s formal education process.

We applaud those who successfully jump through the hoops and we shake our heads at those who don’t. We forget that some of the greatest minds and contributors to our culture and civilization were children that we would have shaken our heads at in their youth because they couldn’t “hack” it. Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, as well as many of today’s movers and shakers come to mind.

What would happen if we took time to have great discussions with children? What would happen if we inspired them to learn all they could and then turn around and fulfill their life mission and inspire others in the process? What would happen if we stopped focusing on the outcome (scores, grades) and focused on how effective the process is? What would happen if we adults stopped being “the sage on the stage”, but rather the “guide by the side” and became fellow learners with children showing them how to effectively learn, lead, and apply during the process? What if we mentored them as a whole person and took delight in them and in drawing out their thoughts on various subjects?

When the inspired children grow up, how would that change the way they approached their careers? How would they lead others differently? How would that affect entire organizations as they started to hire employees that had the quiet confidence and desire to serve a higher cause that inevitably stems from having been treated with interest, and respect and given time and attention and encouragement to naturally grow in areas of weakness and strengths, rather than be criticized and measured by the results of cookie cutter tests?

The way we raise and teach our children conditions them to accept mediocrity and boredom and a state of disempowerment as the norm for their adult lives to the detriment of us all. There is a better way, but it is time-consuming, messy, harder, less measurable, but for sure more fulfilling. It’s time to rethink the way we teach our children to becoming healthy, happy, adults through the learning process.

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and is CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual learning experience for Individuals in the workplace. He also a Master Trainer of Student Self Leadership, a leadership program designed for youth to be more effective collaborators and problems solvers in their schools and communities.

Stop the Stalling – Ideas for Spreading Innovation

Why is it that certain innovations spread faster than others?  After all, everyone should rush to a game-changer, right?

lightbulbThat’s the topic of an article on The New Yorker from Dr. Atul Gawande.  In the article, Dr. Gawande dissects (excuse the pun) two very important medical innovations that began during the 1800s, each having very different adoption rates.

The first innovation examined was surgical anesthesia, which went from being used in a couple of test cases to a surgical tool used in various regions around the globe in less than a year.  The second innovation was antiseptics, which took decades to be widely used.

Why is it that both innovations, while both very important, spread at radically different rates?

Dr. Gawande identifies some of the following characteristics:

1. Pain – Both medical advancements solved pain in one form or another for patients.  However, only anesthesia solved an immediate pain for the surgeons, as well.  Before anesthesia, surgeons would have to fight and hold down screaming patients who simply had to deal with the pain.

The early composition of antiseptics, while beneficial to patients, actually caused additional pain in the form of chemical burns for surgeons who handled them.

2. Visibility – I can see an individual in pain caused by a fresh wound.  What I don’t see are the germs that might be crawling into that wound to later cause infection.  The visibility of a problem plays a key role in how quickly we prioritize a resolution.surgical team working

3. Speed – Anesthesia solved a pain that could be immediately felt.  Antiseptics solved a pain that would come much later.

You may have heard of a term called “hyperbolic discounting” or “delay discounting”.  Various studies have shown that in many cases, when presented with an immediate reward with a smaller payoff, compared to a reward that will come later with a larger payoff, the greater reward is discounted in our minds.

As an example, I could give you a choice to receive $10 now, or $20 in a month.  If you wait a month, the reward is greater, but the downside is that you have to be patient to receive it.  We know $20 is greater than $10, but the perceived wait to receive that money causes us to discount the overall value of that $20 bill.  We love immediate gratification, and in many cases, tend to lean towards choices that fulfill that need.

4. Sacrifice – Related the number 1 above, the perceived hassle of dealing with chemical burns from antiseptics likely caused most surgeons to simple say “It’s not worth it.”

These same characteristics can be applied to the spread of other ideas and innovations, as well. Keeping all of these questions in mind can increase the spread at which they are adopted:

  • How painful is it to implement?  Is there a way to minimize the potential impact?
  • Does it solve a problem perceived by many?  If not, is there a way to increase awareness of the issue?
  • How fast does it solve the problem?  Is there a way the move up the time table?
  • Does it require individuals to give up something they cherish as a trade-off?  How can you limit the trade-off?

There is a lot more to Dr. Gawande’s article about the spread of new ideas, so I highly recommend it for a fascinating read.

Leave your comments!

Speakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a cultural rebellion against classic traditions, inspiring social revolutions around the world. Everything seemed to be possible through the modern technology of automobiles, motion pictures, and radio, which all promoted ‘modernity’ to the world.

One of the most mysterious trends that came out of the Roaring Twenties was the establishment of Speakeasies—hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages and feature new artistic expressions of music, dance, and risqué behavior. To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorman, indicating that the person-seeking entrance was welcome by the owner or other members of the “business within the business.”

In many ways, today’s workplace resembles the spirit of the twenties, with a rapidly evolving workplace, cutting edge technology changing and shaping the culture norms of organizations around the world.

Unfortunately, one of the dangers of today’s workplace is Speakeasy Leadership—the hidden sections of an organization where only a few people in positions of power make decisions that affect the rest of the organization. The practice of exclusive leadership, rather than inclusive leadership practice is alive and well in today’s organizations. But the reality is that the old school leadership hierarchy is an ineffective novelty in a knowledge-based economy.

Outside Looking In

Outside Looking In

Today secret societies and “good ole’ boy networks” only work at your local grocery store or coffee shop as a special promotion tool. In a Knowledge base economy, where individuals are empowered through the Internet, smart phones, and social networking that empowers a variety of information and connections that naturally drive higher levels of collaboration and success.

One new workforce member expressed it this way, “I am used to being so connected to my colleagues and playing off each other in the office, via social media, and creating ideas together with high levels of synergy everyday…” The open organization, without the Speakeasy executive office on the second floor, is a robust place where individuals create new best friends instantly and in days create a strong network with everyone on the team, as well as the friends made at their last organization.

Speakeasy Leadership promotes the opposite atmosphere at work where a few gatekeepers of ideas, formulate a plan from the top of the organizational pyramid, then pass it down to the people on the frontline to try and implement—void of passion and intimacy. 
 “I feel like there is a secret group of people running the organization,” says another frustrated employee. “It’s like were sitting in a meeting, and there are two or three people sitting at the table, speaking their own language, giving each other a wink and a nod to each other when I present our teams creative solutions to our organizational challenges.”

Collaborate for Success

Collaborate for Success

Speakeasy Leadership will kill today’s knowledge based company, because today’s leadership model and workplace formula for success is one based in wide-open communication, effective collaboration, social networking, and truly empowering individuals that are encouraged take ownership in the vision—not just contribute to it. Touch the untouchable by bringing energy and productivity to work, breaking down the interior walls of Speakeasy Leadership, creating a community where people work and play together, stimulating innovation, connection, and wild success.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and New Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a non-linear learning program that promotes individual empowerment and collaboration.

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