Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Leadership Redefined for the Open Source Era!

We live in interesting times. From Brexit to Trump we see the democratization of anger, frustration, and bigotry, while at the same time we are witnessing the democratization of technology, ideas, and capital. Change is inevitably paradoxical, and we are living  through a history of bright, shiny possibilities and dark, dystopian currents in equal measure. How should we prepare future leaders?

There might have been a time when we relied on our political, business, and community leaders to interpret the world for us and give us reliable institutions of civic and commercial order. But now we live in the open source era where information is ubiquitous, ideas represent currency and where entrepreneurship is the dominant platform for business success.

Airbnb, Tesla, Apple, Alibaba, Google, Zappos, Uber, are  good examples of "exponential organizations", where output is disproportionally large because of new organizational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies. And while technologies such as artificial intelligence, nanothechnology, robotics, and digital biology are rapidly redefining the work environment, the practice of developing leaders for these organizations is lagging. What is the new model of leadership for 2020-2050?

Here are four ways we might better prepare our future leaders:

1. Unleash Innovation
Create the environment for anyone to propose new ideas with a net benefit for society, and allocate resources for test cases and pilot programs. Develop a start-up mindset. Be prepared for transformation and metamorphosis. New leaders will need to create a delicate balance between disruption and containment.

2. Leadership Being
Successful leaders in the open source era are "autocratic" or single-minded about their vision, mission, and purpose. But they also display an unshakeable adherence to their core values, a deep awareness of themselves, and a generally compassionate treatment of others. Leaders will need to be resilient, revolutionary, and remarkable in their purpose, yet considerate and empathetic in building collaboration.

3. Systems Architecting
Historians in the late Twenty-First Century will almost certainly judge us for dithering on climate change and on our collective failure to perceive the interconnectedness of all our actions. successful leaders of the open source era are able to conceive radically different systems of engagement of people and resources, of which Uber and Airbnb are classic examples. Systems thinking, imagining, and architecting will be essential skills for new leaders.

4. Leadership Coaching
Coaching has emerged as a highly specialized field of leadership development which is able to respond flexibly to changing operational environments and individual learning needs. Now, more than ever, we need capable and wise leaders who will make decisions for our common good, not just the good of shareholders. New leaders will need leadership coaches who can act like Sherpas, shouldering some of the load as they guide their clients towards their individual and organizational summits. They may also need leadership coaches who can behave like Shamans, wisely perceiving patterns and divining the future.

Does your leadership development curriculum consider these four approaches? If not, then you are most likely briefing your leaders for the past, not the future.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How to Boost Your Creativity!

Why do we get our most creative ideas in the shower?

OK, it might depend on when and how you have your shower (and who with). But that's beside the point. Our minds never stop working, chattering away incessantly. Which is why the shower works. It's a relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental environment that allows your mind to wander freely, connecting with your inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.

But how do you get creative in the first place? Here are 5 ways to boost your creativity:

A recent study of musical improvisation in rap artists showed a marked shift in brain  activity while subjects were creating lyrics. Brain patterns associated with motor activity arose in the absence of conscious monitoring and volitional control.

In other words, to get creative you need to relax the 'executive functions' of the brain, allowing more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processing. Here are 5 ways to do it:

1. Go for a walk
Our best 'divergent thinking' comes from walking. A Stanford University study found a person's creative output increased by an average 60% when walking compared with just sitting. And it doesn't matter where you walk - around the office, around the block, or on a treadmill.

2. Be bored
We are so tethered to our devices. They demand attention from us like needy children. They sap us of independent thought. Shut down the deluge of emails, tweets, Facebook and Instagram updates and simply let your brain "space out" for a while. Boredom is a lost art. And there seems to be an intersection between boredom and creativity.

3. Colour
There's a reason colouring books for adults have taken off. When you focus purely on the task of colouring you're being mindful. And when you move rhythmically for an extended period of time it becomes a kind of meditation. It's also an exercise in exploring your own artistry. So when you need to boost your creative juices, break out the colouring pencils!

4. Brainstorm when you're tired
Just when you're about to fall asleep at night or when you feel the 3pm siesta beginning to take over is actually a good time to brainstorm. Keep a pen and paper beside your bed for when an idea hits. When you're tired and less-focused you're not able to filter weird thoughts so easily, so let go and let loose!

5. Reminisce
In a 2015 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology report, subjects who engaged in nostalgia relative to control subjects showed a boost in creativity in a writing task. This occurred above and beyond personality factors. The mere act of reverie for the past turns out to be an effective mediator of creative endeavours. So take a look through old photos or simply reminisce about interesting events in your life.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What's the Secret of High Performing Project Teams!

The team is dead, long live the team!

In a rapidly changing and competitive environment, companies must innovate to survive. The future of work is the project team - knowledge workers who come together to deliver on a project before breaking up and moving on to the next one.

But forming a project team based on the expertise of the team members doesn't always work. Egos are often at stake, and more often than not team dynamics swamps the technical potential of the team. So, what's the secret of getting project teams to perform at their best?

A 2012 Harvard University study found the way teams shared knowledge significantly determined how well they performed. They coined the term knowledge integration capability to refer to a reliable pattern of team communication that helps the team to understand complex problems and get better outcomes. They looked at 79 client-facing teams in a professional services firm, and here's what they found:
  • Knowledge integration capability was positively correlated with team performance.
  • Under conditions of high uncertainty, relational resources (team members who knew each other and knew what knowledge each possessed) and the structure of those resources (high dispersal or sharing of knowledge) were strongly related to knowledge integration capability.
  • Under conditions of uncertainty, experiential resources (team members with the right type and level of task knowledge) and the structure of those resources (low dispersal of knowledge, closely guarded by team members) detracted from knowledge integration capability.
What does this mean? To get high performing project teams, you need to ensure:
  1. A high level of knowledge integration capability, and this seems particularly relevant under conditions of high uncertainty where the expected outcomes may be unclear and support for the project may be ambivalent.
  2. That at least some of the team members have worked together before and have an appreciation of each others' knowledge. 
  3. That knowledge is widely dispersed and accessible to all team members, not retained by one or two individuals.
  4. While the right type and level of task-related knowledge that team members possess is important, it might lead to rigidities that inhibit the efficiency and collaborativeness of communication.
How well is your team tracking? Get the KIC (Knowledge Integration Capability) assessment here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Change Social Systems!

If you've had anything to do with bringing about change in groups, teams or organisations you know how much intensive effort it can take. It requires a shift in perspective, much like the Apollo 17 photo of the Earth. We saw for the first time how fragile our planet is, and how interconnected we all are.

I'm presently in a small village an hour's drive west of Berlin where I'm attending the Presencing Foundation Program with Otto Scharmer from MIT. There are 80 delegates from 20 different countries. The program is all about the frameworks, methodology, and experiential learning for bringing about change in social systems.

How do you change social systems? According to Otto there are just two things which bring about the shift:
  1. Courage: Having the courage to try something new, to sense and learn from the emerging future, not just the past.
  2. Loving Attention: The quality of our attention is shaping the world around us. Energy follows attention. And when we pay attention with love the social system is more likely to respond.
The essence of changing social systems is to help people in the system sense and see themselves - to view the system from within. If you want to change social systems, first change the quality of your own thinking and the quality of your own attention. 

"The quality of results produced by any system depends on the quality of awareness from which people in the system operate"

It turns out the formula for successful change processes is not "form follows function", but "form follows consciousness". It's the structure of our awareness and attention that determines the pathway along which a situation unfolds.

Here are four questions to ask yourself to begin the process of change:
  1. What in your life and work is dying or ending, and what wants to be born?
  2. What do you need to let go of?
  3. Where, right now, do you feel the opening to a future possibility?
  4. What are your most important sources of energy? What do you love?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

How to Make Wiser Decisions!

Why do we have such a hard time making good choices?

When it comes to making decisions, we're naturally biased to think that we are all good decision makers. Just as most people in hospital after a vehicle accident they caused still maintain they are good drivers. There's ample evidence that our brain's are flawed. And in business that costs money.

But how can we do better?

Researchers, Dan Lovallo, and Oliver Sibony, investigated 1,048 important business decisions over 5 years, tracking both the ways the decisions were made and the subsequent outcomes. They found that in making most of the decisions, the teams had conducted rigorous analysis. They also asked the teams about their decision process - the softer, less analytical side of the decision. Had the team explicitly discussed what was still uncertain about the decisions? Did they include perspectives that contradicted the senior executive's point of view? Did they elicit participation from a range of people who had different views of the decision?

Lovallo and Sibony found that our decision process - how we structure our thinking about the decision, is more important than the analysis - the technical assessment of the relevant information. Good decisions - those that increase revenue, profits, and market share, were predicted by process more than analysis - by a factor of six! Read more here 

Here are four ways to counter bias and make better - even wiser - decisions:

Widen Your Frame

Teenagers get trapped in a narrow frame. They are blind to their choices. Unfortunately, most organisations tend to make decisions like teenagers. Often our options are far more plentiful than we think. Focusing on our current options means that other things are out of our spotlight. To escape a narrow frame and widen your options think about opportunity cost, or try the vanishing options test: What if your current options disappeared?

It's easier to spot a narrow frame from the outside. "Whether or not" decisions should set off alarm bells!

Consider the Opposite

To overcome confirmation bias - hunting for information that confirms our initial assumptions (which are often self-serving) - we need to spark a constructive disagreement within our organisations. We can ask disconfirming questions - questions which probe for potential problems, and even consider the opposite of our instincts. It might be possible to test our assumptions with a deliberate mistake.

Because we naturally seek self-confirming information, we need discipline to consider the opposite.

Overcome Short-Term Emotion

Fleeting emotions tempt us to make decisions that are bad in the long term. To overcome distracting short-term emotions, we need to attain some distance. Our decisions are often altered by two subtle short-term emotions: (1) mere exposure: we like what's familiar to us; and (2) loss aversion: losses are more painful than gains are pleasant. Loss aversion + mere exposure = status-quo bias.

We can attain distance by looking at our situation from an observer's perspective. Perhaps the most powerful question for resolving personal decisions is "What would I tell my best friend in this situation?"

Bookend the Future

The future is not a "point" - a single scenario that we must predict. It is a range. We should bookend the future, considering a range of outcomes from very bad to very good. To prepare for the lower bookend, we need a pre-mortem: "It's a year from now. Our decision has failed utterly. Why?" To be ready for the upper bookend, we need a pre-parade: "It's a year from now. We're heroes. Will we be ready for success?"

Anticipating problems helps us cope with them. By bookending - anticipating and preparing for both adversity and success - we stack the deck in favour of our decisions.

Test Your Decision-Making Process

To find out about your decision-making process, we invite you to take the DPS (Decision Processing Survey), the first instrument to reliably identify and measure three orthogonal information processing modes which contribute to good decisions - Deliberative, Intuitive, and Considerative.

For a limited time, we are offering the DPS for FREE!

When you complete the 10 minute survey your report will be generated and will sit on our server. Contact us to get your report and a personal debrief from either, Dr Barry Partridge or myself, Peter Webb.

Take the DPS for FREE here!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Staying in the Loop!

So, you think you're pretty good at making decisions, and you naturally assume most everything you do is under your conscious control - right?

Wrong! It turns out most of what you do and think and feel isn't under your conscious control at all. Your brain is in the business of gathering information and steering behaviour quickly and automatically and outside of your consciousness. It doesn't need you to stop and think. You operate day-to-day on multiple feedback loops - habits, that are hidden from view. As Pink Floyd put it, "There's someone in my head, but it's not me."

What happens when you want to change one of these feedback loops? How do you take back conscious control of your own brain?

First, you need to know something about the machinery of the brain. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. The process of habit-formation is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. This allows it to stop working so hard, and divert focus to other tasks. Habits never really disappear. They're encoded into the structures of your brain. The problem is, your brain can't tell the difference between good habits and bad habits.

Creating a Habit
Habits are powerful, but delicate. They often occur without your permission, but they can be reshaped. You can create a habit by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop. Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark craving makes creating a new habit easier.

Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, or about the endorphin rush you'll feel after the gym session. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward, and eventually that craving will get you out of bed and down to the gym every day.

Changing a Habit
The golden rule of habit change is you can't extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it. Here's how it works: use the same cue, provide the reward, but change the routine. To modify a habit you must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits' routines, and find alternatives. You can choose your habits once you know how they function.

If you believe you can change - if you make it a habit - the change becomes real. Your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs - and becomes automatic - it starts to seem inevitable. Your habits have a central role in creating your happiness and success.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How to Influence People to do What you Want Them to Do!

Managing a business, government agency, or community organisation would be so much easier if wasn't for people! They just seem to pull this way and that with no rhyme or reason. How do you figure out what motivates them and how do you get them to point in the same direction?

It might seem like a tug-of-war sometimes, but it's actually quite simple. There are just two things you can do to compel people to do what you want them to do.

The first is strength. This is the capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will. People who project strength command our attention. Strength consists of two elements: Ability, or competence; and will, or determination, perseverance and resilience.

You can influence people to do what you want them to do through assertiveness and dominance. The very act of asserting yourself boosts your standing as someone who matters. But strength alone will only take you so far. To move beyond respect to admiration, you also need to be liked.

So the second is warmth. This is the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests, and view of the world. When someone projects warmth, we like and support them. Warmth encompasses empathy, familiarity, and love.

You can influence people to do what you want them to do by displaying empathy, which means putting yourself in their shoes. You can also create familiarity through acting consistently and predictably. This helps to put people at ease. And above all, acting with a sense of compassion, even love, can deeply influence others.

A funny thing happens when you use too much strength. You might get your way, but you never know who to trust. On the other hand if you use too much warmth, people may like you but they might not follow you when the chips are down.

The trick is to use just the right amount of both strength and warmth. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anaemic."
  1. To emphasize your strength, do some stretches to make yourself feel taller and bigger before you talk to the team. use the "power pose". Speak with calm determination, not aggressive or arrogant.
  2. To emphasize your warmth, generate a calm abiding compassion for people. If you want to be liked, you have to like people. Move your face into a genuine smile until it starts to make you happy. Find a reason to be happy where you are with the people you are with. Others will find your happiness contagious.