Creativity First

Leadership

Good ideas require creative thinking. Creative thinking requires time, the right mindset and usually a problem. We always have problems, but we do not always have the right mindset or the time.

You would not throw a child into a pool of water if they did not know how to swim, but yet, here we are, throwing our teams into a pool of water knowing they can’t swim. The innovation pool that is. To become an innovative culture requires us to challenge and change our current adaptive culture. How are we preparing our members to switch to an innovative mindset? Most people dislike change. A battle of its own. What about mindset? Thinking out of the box requires a change in mindset. How do we change a culture to include mindset? The idea of innovation poses more questions than our plan describes. Why the emphasis on innovation? Is it to save money, time, resources, and manpower? All great areas to ‘save,’ but are we being intentional enough about it or taking a big shot in the dark hoping to hit somewhere on the target of innovation. We must be deliberate about which areas we need change.

Technology is advancing, as is our heavy reliance on it. We have simultaneously hit an era of business with higher demands for saving time, resources, money and manpower. The consistent problem with leveraging technology to our advantage is that as technology advances the cost increases. Another problem begins, but let’s take a look at the precursor to innovation.

“Innovation in the military, as in other sectors, seems an isolated event only when we intentionally separate the culminating breakthrough from the sequence of preceding events.”

“If we view history with this restricted view, then Edison’s light bulb and the Wright brothers’ aircraft appear as dynamic manifestations of inspiration. Conversely, if we view these innovations as products in their full context, then we begin to see innovation as the consequence of creativity and effort applied over time.” 1

Innovation is a result of creative thinking and implementation. It must be looked at as the product we get from how we solve problems. We solve problems by being creative. The path from problem to solution is creativity. If we want to improve our organizations beyond our current state we have to focus on the driving force of innovation which is creativity.

Creativity is process for generating ideas to solve problems. It is also the catalyst for adapting, changing and making our processes better. Innovation is the level of change from creativity. If you reference Kirton’s Adaptive Innovative theory, adaptive thinkers improve the system while innovators change the system, but both begin with creativity.

“We tend to treat innovation with reverence. We have romanticized it, and we are always chasing after it, as if it is some holy grail.” Although this notion may seem counterintuitive, given all of the rampant advocacy for innovation, Quinn argues that a clear, negative side exists to having too much of a push for change: “Innovators, for example, can be creative, but if they push their inclinations too far, their behavior leads to belligerence, chaos, disastrous experimentation, and unprincipled opportunism.” 2

The negative side effects of forcing change can lead to unnecessary risk. In most instances, we are not ready for risk. Risk is challenging. What are we willing to risk for innovation? Since culture is born through actions and we’re giving everyone the green light to “fail forward,” then at what point, if not successful, do we become a culture of failure, not a culture of innovation? Are we willing to bet our culture on it?

“To capitalize on this opportunity, senior leaders must promote a clear understanding of innovation and work to shape the military’s culture of compliance into one of disciplined creativity.” 3

Above all, creativity breeds opportunity for change. Change is required as we move forward to become a better Air Force. To capitalize on the efforts to innovate let’s focus on solving problems with creative minds. If we’re creative enough we may just innovate. If not, then at least we’ve solved a few problems.

Notes

1, 3 Colonel John F. Price Jr., USAF, Fostering Creativity in a Culture of Compliance, Air University, Air and Space Power Journal September-October 2014, Volume 28, Issue 5

2 Robert E. Quinn et al., Becoming a Master Manager: A Competency Framework, 2nd ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1996), 62, 61

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Leaders are not dealers in hope

Leadership

One of my Twitter followers shared a quote the other day by Napoleon Bonaparte that says,  “Leaders are dealers in hope.” It even had a nice picture with it.  I thought quite a bit on that quote and I have to respectfully disagree.  Leaders are actually not dealers in hope at all. 

Hope can be defined as wishful thinking.  A feeling or an expectation of a desired outcome.  Though the idea sounds good, it can be quite dangerous to give someone hope when there is no data to back it up.  It can also be a hinderance when you hope someone gets something done and then they don’t do it. 

Hope involves too many what ifs.  You wouldn’t lead your team with what ifs, would you?  I wouldn’t. 

Risk is similar to hope.  It’s an uncertainty, but risk can typically be measured.  Hope is not measurable. 

As I was reading The Culture Engine by S. Chris Edmonds, I came across a few quotes that I felt are powerful. 

“Hope is not a sustainable strategy.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

We can’t create a strategy with hope as our driving fuel.  We don’t have the time, resources, or manpower to take chances on such outcomes.  Putting your strategy on hope is foolish and a gamble.  Leaders do not gamble outcomes nor do they gamble their team’s future.  People are too valuable for wishful thinking or planning. 

“Make the goal expectations specific, measurable and trackable.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

Leaders do, however deal with goal expectations that are specific, measurable and trackable for the positive growth of their team, organization and culture.  Don’t give your team a false sense of outcomes.  We need to give them clear visions(goals).  If you gave someone hope and that hope didn’t play out like you expected, what would that do to the trust they have in you?  Give people visions(goals) that are reachable and realistic in order to help them be better, do better and know better.  At least that way, if things fail, the path is trackable to know where things went wrong. 

Leading Millennials

Leadership

I’m a millennial and all of the stereotypes you hear about us being entitled, selfish, lazy, uninspired is quite well, I guess you could say “doesn’t apply to all.” Maybe it does apply to some millennials.  Maybe even most, but could it apply to other generations?  Yes, it could. 

I believe millennials want to see purpose in what they’re being told to do.  They want to remove the “do more with less” mentality.  Why is it always more with less?  Why can’t it be do what’s possible with what you have?

Do millennials question what they do?  I believe so.  I certainly do, but it’s not to avoid doing it.  It’s to question why it’s done this way when perhaps another way could be better.  Easier.  More resourceful.  I mean, isn’t that what innovation is about?  After all, didn’t that mentality birth the technology boom?  

My work ethic is found on the same values of many previous generations.  I believe in working hard for the things I want and deserve.  I believe in contributing.  The world doesn’t owe me anything.  I owe it.  Why?  Because we were never born to work individually.  We were born to thrive as a team and with that, my attitude, my purpose is to help others be better, do better and know better.  Life isn’t about me.  It happens because of me and selfishness is not a normal operation of our hearts.  It’s created and cultured from people who think of only themselves first.  A toxic way to live.  My children will learn to put others first even when others’ desire is to take, take, take.  When my eulogy is read I will not be known as the dude that only thought about himself above others.  What a horrible way to be remembered, but yet, there are those who choose to live that way. 

What does this have to do with millennials?  Perhaps we’ve been trying to contain them into a society that doesn’t want change.  A culture content with how things are.  Perhaps the millennials have it right and the rest of the world has it wrong.  We’ve evolved this far.  Why stop here?  Millennials are the future leaders.  Regardless if you think they feel entitled, you have to lead them.  YOU have to be selfless and help develop them to be successful when they do transition into leading.  When they question things, educate them.  When they have ideas, listen to them.  When they challenge the status quo, learn from a viewpoint that isn’t yours.  Use their perspective and strengths to mold them into leaders.

So we have some, maybe most, that really do want bean bags in the office and free stuff, but their capability is no different than any other generation.  I’m not trying to justify those that really do act selfishly and feel entitled, but there are some us that don’t act in ‘that’ way. 

Leadership is universal.  It applies to every generation and no matter what a generation is like, leadership could be the answer to moving them forward.  So lead well. 

12 Things to Remember as a Leader

Leadership

Let’s face it, everyone will need to be led differently.  There isn’t a one size fits all approach to leadership.  At least, that’s what I believe.  I do believe that effective leaders will find ways that help them be more effective for the benefit of the team and their followers.  Will it always work?  It depends how much care, effort and work you put into it.  Some followers may be susceptible to the approach of their leader, some may not.  It’s okay, that’s why it’s important for leaders to improve a variety of skills and abilities.

Whatever you can do to make people, your team, do better, know better and be better then that is your job.  To inspire, to motivate, to coach, to mentor, whatever it takes.  It’s not just about evaluating their performance to progress the team, it’s also about seeking out their potential.  You’ve got to challenge them and grow them.  Don’t leave them where they are, take them to the next level of where they need to be.  Leadership is also a two way street.  There will be times when you step back and listen.  Receive the feedback. Listen to what your team needs to progress and how they feel.  Yes, emotions matter.  People have emotions and it’s important you understand them and not just know them. Understanding something and knowing something is two different things.  The better you understand their emotions the better you can lead them.

Use your team’s abilities and learn from them.  Learning is important for a leader.  A leader isn’t a leader because they know every answer.  It’s okay to not have the answer.  When your team sees that you’re honest about it, they’ll trust you.  They’ll see you as approachable.  Leaders must be approachable.  When you’re approachable, your team will come to you when they need help.  This in a way removes fear.  This is good.  This will assist you in accomplishing the goals of the team.  Every team needs a destination.  If there is no destination then there is no need to progress and the work you do would seem meaningless. Leadership implies we’re going somewhere.  It’s important that leaders know where to take the team.  

Lastly, leadership isn’t always focused on what seems to be the good stuff.  Leaders have to make the tough decisions. You have to hold people accountable.  People will make mistakes and that’s okay, it happens, but don’t let mistakes become the normal.  If you don’t hold people accountable, the work culture can be jeopardized and can work backwards from where you’re going.  Don’t forget, leadership is about people not processes.  Processes need to be managed.  People need to be lead.  Ret Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “You manage things, you lead people.”

Remember these things and that it won’t be easy.  Those who care to put the effort in to help people be better, know better and do better are often the leaders we need. Fill the need…