Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Outsider Thinking Drives Creativity

If you've ever used a cross functional team to solve a thorny problem, you'll be nodding your head in agreement as you watch this video.  The idea of bringing people in from different disciplines to "think outside of the box” isn't a new one, but the idea of posting R&D problems to the Internet for any person, group, or company to solve takes it to a whole new level - a global, virtual level. 

In this video from Big Think, Jonah Lehrer, author of  Imagine: How Creativity Works, shares a crowd sourcing site developed by Eli Lilly called InnoCentive designed to tap into the world market of innovators.  And it's been successful with 30-50 percent of posted problems being solved within six months.  

Not surprising that an expert from outside the company might have the missing piece since it's hard for us to see the assumptions that hold us back until someone with a different perspective challenges them. 

More surprising is what Karim Lakhani from Harvard Business School found in a study on who solved the problems.  "Most problems on InnoCentive are solved by experts outside of the field – chemistry problems solved by physicists. Engineering problems solved by chemists. And so on." 
Meaning that real progress can be made when you bring people to the table that aren't bound by your team's culture, assumptions, restrictions, and function.  Creativity and innovation will thrive in an environment with multiple disciplines, varied experiences, encouraged curiosity, and proper incentives. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Music To Energize The Team For Change

Major change initiatives are often kicked off by taking the leadership team off site to get everyone on the same page, to create action plans, and to get energized.  Music can be a great tool to bring focus to your theme while raising the energy in the room.  It's best used either in the background while people are entering the room to find their seats or in conjunction with a visual presentation or video.

If you go to Amazon's MP3 section and type in "change", you'll get over 50,000 options to pick from.  And yet, the vast majority aren't what you're looking for. 

To create the right vibe, you need songs with a fast tempo (energizing) and with the right content (change is for the better, not regrets about change). 

Here's a short list of music I'd recommend to energize a team for change:

Roll With The Changes, REO Speedwagon
     Well known, well used, yet it never grows old.

A Change Would Do You Good, Sheryl Crow
     A little more contemporary, and a song that'll get your foot tapping.
     {a personal favorite back when my daughter was in diapers, but I digress...}

Be The Change, Kat Edmonson
      Follows the theme of "be the change you wish to see in the world", always inspiring.

Changes, Santana
     A more spiritual message, with that infectious Latin rhythm.

Change, Tiffany Alvord
     Comes from the younger set, very positive message - "look at change like a brand new day".
Change The World, Taylor Dayne
     Wonderful message in the chorus - "change your thoughts and you change the world"

Rock on, change leaders.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Leaders and Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the U.S.  I did a little research about  the history of this annual observation, and discovered that its origins go back to our country's founding fathers.  In 1775, the Continental Congress asked that the colonies pray for wisdom in forming a nation. 

Our founding fathers asked that their names be lifted up in prayer, such that they might have the wisdom to act in the best interest of the people they represented. 

This got me thinking about how business leaders make decisions and take actions every day that affect their "colonies" of employees, customers, and investors.           

I did an online search for leadership prayers and found many sites offering up some variation of what our founding fathers requested - prayers that political leaders have the wisdom they need to make the right decisions.  Of course, the definition of the "right" decision varies, but that's what you'd expect when the topic is politics in a country founded on rights such as freedom of speech. 

What was harder to find were examples of what a leader might offer up - prayers of gratitude for the blessings received, prayers for strength and patience and compassion, prayers for guidance in turbulent times.  Where were the prayers of the leaders, political or otherwise?  

That's when I found an inspiring prayer written Julie Poland, coach, author, and founder of Summit.  With Julie's permission, I share it here for your reflection.  

A Leader's Prayer

Let me stand
Supported firmly by the foundation of my values
And in the greater purpose that calls me forth
Let me stand for the uncompromising truth
That compels me to stretch beyond
My prior expectations for myself and my contribution

Let me see
The distant hills that are my destination, our destination
The lessons of the tall old pines that grow fruitful even after fire
Let me see the effect of the river that, over time,
Can cut and mold a landscape
Even while flowing softly and serenely through a verdant valley.

Let me speak
In words that cascade like diamonds
Onto someone's shoulders, enriching them
Let me speak in tones that wrap
Like fur, warming and soothing
On skin that has been scarred and roughened by conflict.

Let me serve
With head bowed in humility
Because I know my gifts are truly not my own
Let me serve especially in times
When I am not yet ready
And in places that call for skills I have yet to discover.

Let me shake hands
With brothers and sisters everywhere
Knowing that we share our humanity if not our opinions
Let me shake hands
And look the other directly in the eye
And see the dignity and the noble intent within them.

Let me celebrate
The abundance that is already before me
That I did not create, but that has been given to me
Let me celebrate
The glimmers that light the next steps on the path
And show me that the impossible just might not be so.

Let me step out, step up
And shake the clots of mud off of my shoes
To respond to the call of the world
Let me step out, step up
And in my own way, by whatever means I can
To make a mark, a signpost for the ones who come after me.

 On this day when our national leaders encourage us to "turn to God in prayer and meditation", I offer up my prayer that you have the wisdom, the courage, and the integrity to be the leader your Higher Power calls you to be.