Tag Archives: culture

Making Waves: Learning to Innovate in the Flow of Insight

Are we losing insights in the flow?

Insights flow past us, faster than we dare notice; what are we leaving behind?

[Note: This original content has also been posted at http://innochat.com/ with permission of the author, to facilitate a conversation at the #innochat hashtag on THURS 4/17 at 12pm ET.]

CHARLOTTE, NC. April 2014, by .  Classic innovation practice tells us to catalog and rank our ideas. It’s a time tested way to surface newer, more creative means for getting a job done. It’s a sensible approach. The big ideas should, by all rights, float to the top.

But what happens when the currents of change are strong? What if the rules for success become fluid?

At a minimum, we’ll struggle to keep our bearings. At worst, we’ll lose momentum, leave our best ideas stranded, and fail to achieve our innovation targets.

I’ve been reflecting on an alternative approach to learning and innovating that is at once more simplistic and more complex. In a word, it involves “flow” .. and it starts with suspending judgment, refocusing, and listening. This approach allows raw insights, not shrink-wrapped ideas, to flood our thinking spaces, using notions like cross-over and edge-exploration to mix things up. Patterns replace processes. Simple rules replace best practices.

And we change the currency. Insights are the gold standard for innovation and creative learning, not ideas.

The ability of the human mind to perceive and solve problems is vast. Effective collaboration serves as a multiplier. Put some of those strong minds together into small teams. Help those thinkers to focus and frame and communicate and synthesize in real time. Pay attention to roles. Seed the group with an iterative, adaptive framing model. Then stand back. Powerful things begin to happen. 

New ideas emerge; we find we’re innovating in the moment.

Of course, the modern organization provides a host of formiddable barriers to this. These include all those cultures, behaviors and silos that seek to control. We find orgs that are consumed by process or paralyzed by aversion to risk. And at times, we aren’t helpful: our hyper-structured methodologies serve to put our best thinking into boxes. No surprise that our latest innovations seem like breakthrough candidates from the past: we use the past to classify them.

When trapped in structured models, there is limited or no flow of insight. Innovation will consistently struggle. It’s time to let the insights flow. Consider the notions pictured here:

 

FIG 9. Visualizing the Flow of Insights, in "The DNA of Collaboration" (2012)

FIG 9. Visualizing the Flow of Insights, in “The DNA of Collaboration” (2012)

What can we make of this?

I think there are several important questions that could help us suspend our assumptions about innovation practice, as we discuss new ways to approach old problems:

  • Q1. How do ideas differ from insights, and why does it matter?
  • Q2. In terms of innovation process, is flow a better metaphor than structure? 
  • Q3. When does collaborative innovation or OI move of us toward flow, and when does it not?
  • Q4. Can “flow of insight” be viable for driving new thinking re: new capabilities?

Let’s discuss these questions at #INNOCHAT on Thursday 4/17 at 12pm ET. I look forward to exchanging insights with you. Maybe we’ll make some waves.

I hope to see you online!

Chris aka @sourcepov


ADDITIONAL READING

Ideas come from many places, and some of the concepts discussed here had their roots in Twitter conversations. I’m grateful to the many #INNOCHAT, #SMCHAT and #CDNA thought leaders who contributed to these (and related) concepts about collaboration and social learning.  For more reading, here are some references from The DNA of Collaboration :


Cultures of Fear. Is ‘Old School’ still in session?

Staring up the Corporate Ladder. With much at stake, do we dare take a step?

STARING UP THE CORPORATE LADDER. With much at stake, do we dare take a step? Original art by Robert Winkler 2012.

CHARLOTTE, NC. September 2013, by

Seems risk is everywhere in the world these days, and the work place is no exception.  Not long ago we could count on the corporate world to provide a secure income and career track. Today we so often find ourselves vulnerable, unsure of our next steps, with our professional future uncertain.

SEPTEMBER FRAME

I just picked up a copy of Smart Tribes by Christine Comaford, the NYT best seller that does a great job of focusing on this topic anew. She relates traditional views of leadership to ‘old school’ management styles that are based on fear: “Perform, or we’ll remove your ability to pay your mortgage ..” (p.16).

At some time or another, we’ve all witnessed situations where fear has been a factor at work.

To me, the question is how do we escape the destructive gravity of these situations, especially when there is so often critical mass pulling everyone down. Misery, they say, loves company.  Comaford offers solutions that track well with Goleman’s Primal Leadership as well as CollabDNA .. namely .. creating emotional connections, and working to influence the culture.

Let’s frame some questions that might help us on this path:

  • Q1. What are the org dynamics or management styles that make fear possible?
  • Q2. What is the difference between ‘commitment’ and ‘compliance’?
  • Q3. When is the notion of ‘accountability’ effective? Is it sometimes misused?
  • Q4. Can you describe actions, behaviors and challenges of leaders you’ve seen who were actively working to dimantle fear-infused culture?

Thanks as always for your time, insights and energy. See you at the chat, the week of 9/16. Watch for timing.

AUGUST FRAME

As I recently turned the pages of Susan Jeffers’ classic “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway” I found both comfort and common sense in the logic of “pushing through.” But in the work context, it seems the risks can so quickly outweigh the benefits. Do we dare raise radical new ideas? Think outside the safety of conventional wisdom?

Can we dare to be different?

Thanks to Scott Smith for his comment in July in the post of leaders who resist change. It caught my attention, and inspired this post.

In our Monday 8/12 edition of #CDNA, let’s ask a few questions about fear in the organizational context, to see if we might bring some new light to a area so often shrouded in the dark inner reaches of corporate politics:

Q1. Argyris (1980) spoke of fear as the unspeakable; has this changed, or is still prevalent?
Q2. Jeffers (1987) spoke of the need to “unlearn negative programming” .. is it safe for us to proceed when others around/above us have not?
Q3. Which is the more difficult fear to unlearn: survival? not knowing? or not fitting in?
Q4. As a leader, what is the first step in elminating fear in the workplace?

The 2nd week of each month at 8pm or 9pm ET, the #CDNA crew seeks to bring open minds to our ongoing conversation on organization change.

Sure, we’ll try to tap industry knowledge and the wisdom of sages along the way. But we favor a common sense approach. Challenging “what we think we know” and suspending our favorite paradigms is, almost always, the first step to new thinking.

Looking forward to seeing you at #CDNA.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Why Do Leaders Resist Change?

Our path to the present has seemed a steady march. Sure, we’ve taken detours and followed many courses. But from our factories to our business schools to Wall Street, the lessons are still loud and clear: a repeatable result, with minimal deviations, is the winning model.

Repeating what's worked, however imperfect

Repeating what’s worked, however imperfect

It’s generally true in manufacturing, when you’re making widgets. And it can work if the past holds all the secrets to our future success. There’s comfort in the formula. Within the long-stable walls of the organizations and brands and empires we’ve erected, we know which bricks need replacing.

But turning away from the familiar introduces new variables. The old rules are often irrelevant. Think about IBM. Microsoft. Kodak. When it comes to our mental models, significant change is the enemy. In our high-stakes, increasingly connected world, the risk of embracing change, or even talking about it, can send shivers down the spine of any executive who is held accountable for results. And that’s pretty much all of them. Risk of gambling on the wrong future looks greater than the risk of taking small steps from a proven though imperfect past.

We talk often on the “how” of change. But so often we assume the “why” is a given .. and go on to assume we have the critical change  mandate from the top.

Usually we don’t.

So amid the familiar chorus of embracing change for a sustainable future, it’s time to look at why that cry often falls on deaf ears.  Let’s look at the brick wall of uncertainty facing the modern executive, and ask:  Why do Leaders Resist Change?

Here are 4 questions to help us unpack the discussion:

  • Q1. Executive psychology typically presumes the need to have all the answers; how can we help leaders rethink that?
  • Q2. ‘Sense of urgency’ tops Kotter’s 8-step change agenda; must we wait for failure or concoct burning bridges to drive action?
  • Q3. ‘Group think’ can be fatal at the board level; how can this be attacked?
  • Q4. Organizational cultures can embrace or resist change, but the latter is most common; what cultural elements can drive adaptive behaviors?

Join us MONDAY 7/8 at 8pET for a discussion, the next in our 2013 series on collaborative leadership in the 21st Century. We’re unpacking the challenges one brick at a time ..

Hope to see you online .. or please, share your thoughts .. we’re hoping to extend the discussion blog-side (via comments, here), our G+ page and via twitter async ..

The @collabdna team


Spiral Thinking: The Next Level

Possibilities of Spiral Thinking: CDNA 2013 (c) 2013 Amberwood Media Group, all rights reserved

(c) 2013 Amberwood Media Group

Since December, we have sought to understand how Linear Thinking and intention traditionally combine to create an organization’s culture.  Now, to get to the next level, let’s look at how Spiral Thinking and alternative approaches to Organizational Learning can help culture evolve in new ways.

You may be asking, what’s Spiral Thinking? Stay tuned for a consolidation post here in the near future, but here’s a 2009 post by Robert Twigger that does a good job of laying out the concept.

Keep in mind, our goal is to fill in the Collaborative Learning framework we started back in December, shown here. We’re continuing to explore ways to get there. We’d love your ideas.

In our MON 3/11 #CDNA chat, Astrid Kowlessar will guide a discussion that takes us to the next level of dialog, as we explore:

  • Q1. Does culture or intention change when we apply  Spiral Thinking?
  • Q2. How is creating a Culture of Learning different with Spiral Thinking?

A big #CDNA thanks to Astrid for offering to facilitate this session.  She’s our first guest moderator, and we’re hoping the first of many.

Will see you guys online.

Chris & Astrid


Many Dimensions of Collaborative Learning: Where Are the Synergies?

Even on our worst days, we’re learning.  It’s a skill hard-coded within the human DNA for survival.  But in the context of education and business learning agendas, perhaps we can raise the stakes a bit, if ask this non-rhetorical question:  how could we get better at learning how to learn?

As we attack this in the early months of 2013, I thought it might be useful to look at how learning is approached in a variety of different disciplines, to see where we might find common themes.  This graphic was designed to get us thinking … and talking ..

I’ve attacked many of these topics in The DNA of Collaboration, especially as they pertain to Culture.  Over in the #K12 #ECOSYS chat community, we’re about to do a deeper dive on the K12 Advanced Learning Models.

In the meantime, lets keep the #CDNA conversation at a higher level for now, to explore the broadest synergies.  As we look across disciplines, what might we gain?  Here’s the chat format for the next several weeks at #CDNA, starting MON JAN 7 8pET.

To get started, we’ll walk down the chart, one row at a time, with these questions:

  • Q1.  What are the most common, fundamental, intrinsic drivers of human learning?
  • Q2. Who or what are the most important catalysts and motivators for this learning, over time?
  • Q3. What can we learn from traditional classroom methods across K12, HigherED & Business?
  • Q4. What advanced learning methods may be most interesting in this analysis?

I hope you find the frame as intriguing as I did, when we started talking about it on Twitter in December.  Interesting comments sprang from both my own sourcepov blog and our own new CDNA G+C Community “Collaboration DNA”.

I hope you’ll share your feedback with us, as we explore each impact vector (row) and discipline (column) in turn.

Our goal?  To rigorously explore the possibilities of Learning How to Learn.  You might say we’re using critical thinking to better understand and raise the bar on .. okay, you guessed it .. our capacity for critical thinking.

See you online.

Chris


How KM opens doors to Learning About Learning (reflections on KM World 2012)

With such a great turnout and set of discussions at KM World 2012, I wanted to spend a few minutes touching on some of the key takeaways. These need to be expanded .. but let’s start the conversation here ..

  • Q1. KM is becoming more about how knowledge moves through organizations and generates value. Does this happen where you work?
  • Q2. KM helps us learn about learning. How relevant is this in your org today?
  • Q3. A key message in KM is moving from structure to flow as prevailing metaphor, reflecting how we learn. Agree?

We’ll discuss this SAT 10/20 at 11aET.

Excited that our book debuted at the conference, with a deep dive at workshop W5 on Tuesday.

Intrigued?  Reach out, let me know your thoughts.

Chris


Collaboration DNA: The Dilemma of Culture (Ch.10)

CHARLOTTE, NC. By CDNA author

For organizations that seek change, few factors are more important than creating the right culture. Lou Gerstner said it was the main issue in the transformation of IBM from hardware to services.

The challenge is that few understand what it is, or how it works.

It can be hard to define, because it works in subtle ways. It shapes the behaviors of people in an organization, but it is also shaped by them, in a two-directional flow of influence. It reflects how people in the organization have come to view success, over time. Executives can try to shape it, but without significant investment in the effort, surface attempts to force change routinely fail.

I’ve covered these dynamics in Chapter 10 of The DNA of Collaboration, based on research I started in 2010 on this fascinating topic, recounted in my original 8-part blog series.

Today, let’s attack 5 of the main dynamics that the most important to understand:

  • Q1. How can we navigate the complex layers of Org Culture, eg. professional, hierarchy, generational, demographic?
  • Q2. Which Org Culture model do you see most: Control, Silo, or Network? Can they coexist?
  • Q3. What happens in Cultures where contrarians rule? 
  • Q4. Can Organizations have a Culture of trust? If so, how?
  • Q5. Can employees make a difference  and influence change?

We could go on for days on these topics, and perhaps we need to. These are the complex problems that motivated my research, that over time turned into the book. I kept seeing dysfunctional behaviors in organizations large and small, and set out to discover what what happening.

It’s not just about culture, of course. But culture is where so many of the issues surface, on a scale that’s maddeningly difficult to influence. Ask Lou Gerstner. Ask your CEO. Ask yourself. Is the culture of your organization empowering it’s employees for success?  Is there something employees can do about it?

Looking forward to our chat.


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