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. 

Don’t Wait to feel Motivated

Leadership

I started this blog in August 2016 and forgot I was writing it.  It was in my draft folder pretty much written, I just never scheduled a post.  I don’t pretend to know everything about this topic, but this is my perspective on motivation.  I believe we’re putting too much emphasis on the feeling of motivation that we forgot that it’s beyond a feeling. 

One thing is certain.  No matter if we want to do it or not, the job has to be done.  If you’re waiting to feel motivated to do it are you delaying the mission?  In that, what’s the point of feeling motivation when tasks need to be complete?  Do we need to feel motivated to do our jobs? If you don’t have the desire(the feeling of wanting to do something) to do something that needs to be done that’s not called being unmotivated.  It’s called procrastinating. 

Most people perceive motivation as a feeling.  A desire to do something.  There are days you may wake up and “don’t feel like it,” but you get up and do things because they need to be done.  If you’re waiting to feel ready, that feeling may never come. 

I believe in excellence.  It’s an important value to live by.  I believe my focus on doing things with the upmost quality is my motivation.  Do I need it to provide a high quality result?  Yes, I do!  Why? Because excellence is a part of my personal values and the thought of feeling motivated just won’t cut it.  Motivation is also a reason someone acts.  Reasons are tangible.  They’re not feelings.  I like to think of it as purpose.  It is a purpose!  When I have purpose, I have a goal.  I have a target.  Do I feel like waking up every day at 0500?  No, but I have a sense of ‘why’ I need to get out of bed and it gets me out of bed every morning.  Feelings have nothing to do with it.  If people took action based off the feeling of motivation, they may be in bed all day.  Our culture is groomed to think motivation is specifically a feeling.  It’s not necessarily correct. 

There will always be purpose, though.  There will always be a reason for the things we do.  A mission.  A task.  A goal.  This is the bigger picture.  Feelings may never come, but purpose always exists.  Purpose is the light in darkness that provides a direction to the finish line.  If you don’t know the purpose, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  It means you have to find it. 

For those of you who will remain waiting for that feeling I challenge you to take action anyway because the work still needs to be done regardless of our desire(feeling).  Sometimes the mission doesn’t allow a delay.  The mission still requires you to do your job regardless if you want to or not.  The next time your team needs you, be there for them.  Provide your experience and knowledge not because you ‘feel’ like it or not, but because it’s the right thing to do.  Forget about feeling motivated.  Be motivated because of the role(the purpose) you play on your team.  You are important and people need you.