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. 

5 Ways You’re Failing as a Leader

Leadership

We all know a bad leader from a good one.  It’s like a superpower.  We just know.  How well a leader leads can sometimes hinder the culture of the organization and or performance of the team. 

How often do we call out what leaders are doing wrong?  How do we know what to look for?  It’s tough to identify every detail leaders do wrong, but there are some more common than others.  

As a leader you have to evaluate how you’re leading.  The more trust the team has the stronger the team is.  If you were to fall, you would want someone there to pick you up, right?  If you reach your hand out, would your team be there to lift you up? A successful team works together and you are a part of that team.  Here are what I feel are five ways you could be failing as a leader.

You devalue your team members.  Every team is diverse to some capacity.  Each person brings a set of skills and experience to the table.  A bad leader overlooks talent and experience and undervalues their team members.  Teams are not things.  They are people.  You can’t see people as objects.  They hold a different value.  They are the life force of any organization.  Never underestimate the power of your team.  Diversity is a great team asset.  Teams work best when they are used to the best of their abilities.  A great leader values  the abilities of their team members.

It’s your way and only your way.  This aligns with the value of the team.  Plain and simple, not every decision has to be made from you nor does every idea have to generate from you.  Part of a leader’s job is to grow others into leading.  You can’t do that when you’re the only person making decisions or providing ideas.  You have to allow others to contribute as well.  If you don’t use your team you will end up losing your team. A great leader provides the opportunity for others to contribute. 

You don’t listen. Communication is a two way street.  Your team members may have great ideas and solutions.  Sometimes the best solutions come from those around you, but you’ve got to listen.  Listening is crucial to interacting with your team.  Someone may be having a bad day and it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them bounce back.  Listening isn’t just an audible action, it’s also a visionary action.  Body language, moods and performance can be seen and interpreted.  You’ve got to listen to what others are saying even when they’re not actually saying it.  Leaders listen. 

You’re looking out for yourself above others.  Nothing disconnects a leader more as to when they’re only looking out for their self.  Being a leader is putting others first.  Leaders give team members the glory and the recognition.  Your team won’t succeed if you only look after yourself.  Leaders look out and help their team rise to success.

You don’t lead by example. One the most powerful ways to lead is to lead by example.  If you enforce a standard for the team, but you’re not following it, then it just shows that you are above the standard and them.  Just like a child mimicking their parent, a team will mimic their leader.  What you do, they will do.  What you tolerate becomes the normal.  If you have bad habits, they will adopt them because that’s the culture you have allowed to take over.  Before you expect others to act the set standards be sure that you are doing so as well.  Leaders lead by example.