Innovative ~ in·no·va·tive [ˈinəˌvādiv]
Adjective (of a product, idea, etc.) featuring new methods; advanced and original: innovative designs
Innovation requires white space
When your mind is quiet, the best ideas will come to the surface. “when we quiet the mind through contemplative practices such as meditation, we eventually discover that awareness or consciousness exists beyond it.” (Jan Birchfield, 2013)
While this doesn’t necessarily mean, you have sit in a corner and contemplate your navel (although that also works) it suggests that, through common practices that allow our minds a break from the daily cacophony our subconscious to open and allow new thoughts forward.
Innovation requires energy
When you think of people who are innovative, lack of exuberance is generally not associated with them. People like Richard Branson or Tony Robbins are powerhouses of energy. Going to the gym is not enough, it requires a commitment to self that includes, basically, taking care of yourself; “The corporate athlete doesn’t build a strong physical foundation by exercise alone, of course. Good sleeping and eating rituals are integral to effective energy management.” (Jim Loehr, 2001)
Energy doesn’t dissipate, it only becomes something else. So, with this in mind, it only makes sense to produce positive energy, starting with yourself, and put it out there.
Innovation requires learning
Warren Buffet’s partner, Charlie Munger said of his partner, “If you watched Warren Buffett with a time clock, I would say half of all the time he spends is just sitting on his ass and reading. And a big chunk of the rest of the time is spent talking on the phone or personally with people he trusts.” (Wu, 2014) It is said Buffet read over 500 pages per week and, to this end, he has credited his success to that voracious reading.
With today’s technology ‘reading’ can be sought via many ways. Whether through podcasts or newspapers that have an .mp3 function to audiobooks, there is not excuse to not have a bias-to-learn attitude.
Jan Birchfield, P. (2013, Jan 29). The Huffington Post: Blog. Retrieved from huffingtonpost.com: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jan-birchfield-phd/business-innovation_b_2563774.html
Jim Loehr, T. S. (2001, Jan). The Making of a Corporate Athlete. Harvard Business Review.
Wu, G. (2014, Oct 16). Gary Wu Personal Development. Retrieved from garywu.next: http://www.garywu.net/influential-people-importance-reading/
— AFTER THE CREDIT SCENE —
Innovation requires listening
True connection comes from real connections and thankfulness. No room here for false platitudes, take time and actively listen to what’s going on around you. Whether in meetings or at home, listen to learn…
Just over a year ago I wrote about having that Your End Of The Year Coffee With… Yourself. Basically, my thoughts were about putting some time aside to reflect, review and renew what you have just gone through, how it aligned with your goals and what changes (if anything) over the next year you want to make.
Now’s the time
This time of year is good to mull over those thoughts and take stock in your activities. I still believe in taking out a piece of paper and writing headlines along the top in order to help guide yourself. Along with this, it’s also time to be disruptive to yourself. No, I don’t mean, “wind-sprints- ‘till-you-drop.” Ask some additional questions to help pull out some constructively disruptive ideas as they could lead to both creative and innovative pathways.
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
Disorderly for Goodness’ Sake
I’m a fan of #TimFerriss and while I don’t subscribe to everything he does, I follow most of his stuff. Ferriss believes in taking time for self-reflection and openly thinking about ways to mix things up. If you want some additional motivation, listen to this recent podcast from the polymath on being a better version of you.
While you are at it, brainstorm about how to mix up your own environment (work or personal) by jotting down the first ten things that come into your mind if asked, “How could I positively disrupt my pattern over the next three months?” or (as Ferriss suggests), “If I needed to accomplish [all] my goals in the next six months, what would I need to focus on?” If you stop and think about the last bit there for a second… it’s kind of powerful and worth repeating; If you had to get it all done in six months…. what do you need to focus on, right now, to set up the win?
The Forest and the Trees
Why should someone do this? Because looking over the master plan and ensuring you’re still on course helps you see your goals and take stock in those things you are doing right. When reflecting upon conducting warfare President Dwight B. Eisenhower once mused, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” By planning, we make it easier to stay of course when random acts of the universe come to mix things up…and you know they will.
“Every time I find myself stressed out, it’s because I do things primarily driven by growth.”
As for me, this year I was fortunate enough to get away and discover some white space this last week. With no electronics (except for the ever-present smart phone for emergencies) or distractions, I had a few days of reading, reflecting and note taking. And yes, I also found some quiet time for my own cup of coffee with myself…and a friend.
Note: Last year several people wrote back to me and shared their own thoughts after having that cup o’ joe with themselves and (more importantly) what they discovered. Let me know how yours goes too.
Keep your head down.
Show up. Chat with co-workers. Perform tasks. Respond to emails. Work on a Project X, Y or Z. Make Phone calls. Attend to tasks. Have a cup of coffee. Scan internet. Put it to bed…wake up, rinse and repeat.
Every day, people everywhere perform and repeat this pattern, or something similar to this. It’s not a bad thing. Come in, do work, socialize a bit, eat, do more things and then call it a day. Every once-in-a-while things get taken home or the occasional early/late meeting is attended to account for an international colleague. Generally, we know this as work… and it is, for most. – It is a requirement.
You…you, however, are a leader. Those tactical things I just referred to as “requirements,” they are items we are expected to perform and they make up the reason that we were brought on in the first place. Ensuring mission planning is done, making sure we have met our weekly plans, attending meetings and reporting out on activity, etc. etc. These are activities that, while a major motion for a lot of our team, make up one part of what we as managers (or leaders) must execute on.
Mentoring, thinking, tasking, tracking, advising, spending time and strategizing…these are activities which drive us as leaders. They are the things we need to get done in order to move our organization forward.
They map to larger ideals like:
- Culture Change
- Reinforce a climate of communications, collaboration and innovation that creates a “bias-for-action”
- Knowledge Management
- Establish an environment to capture/refine/share organizational knowledge
- Strategic Business Planning
- Thoughtful, deliberate, timely and cost-effective decisions
- Cross-Functional Alignment
- Improve overall efficiency through coordination and synchronization
It’s daunting. When we were hired to be an agent or analyst it was fairly simple to show up, do the list, move on to the next item and check that block…MAKE A DOUGHNUT. Now we have to do that and more… MANAGE AN EXPERIENCE. It’s because we have a higher sense of responsibility to feed, manage and take care of this beast that we own. – It is our priority.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once said, “If you’re going to do a job… do a job.” Simply put, he was explaining to be a part of something, you need to be all in. You need to give of and beyond yourself by… doing the deep work.
That’s the thing, though. What is my j-o-b? Your job is to help conceive strategy, be thoughtful and deliberate, to understand your line of effort, listen and, above all else, take care of your people. After all, they are the ones fulfilling the requirements as we work on our organization’s main priorities.
Intelligence Analyst – Five things your boss is thinking but may not tell you: TWO is surprising and FIVE is vital
1 – I’m also a critical thinker, I just may not use the same vocabulary as you
Hey, I may not use the same language, but I’m also analytical (I may just not realize it). By doing operational analysis, I’m developing courses of action (COAs) and making mission assumptions based on the facts in front of me. When on an operation or in an emergency, I’ll be using what I have gathered and developing COAs based on pre-thought scenarios and trends that are manifesting. Just like you, I’m a critical thinker; please, remind me of that from time-to-time.
2 – I need you to help me, help you, to help me
Your request for information (RFI) process may not be the same one that I am familiar with. I also may not fully understand how to ask for what I need or am unsure of what you can do. Therefore, I need you to take the lead in this dance . Show me what you’ve got and suggest we walk through the operations plan (OPLAN) together. When we do that, listen and ask questions. As an operator, I may not care about the form you need filled out, I do need your insight and keen eye towards pattern analysis to see something I don’t. Honestly, I need you to be my partner and educate to develop me.
3 – Sometimes, I need you to slow down
You can get excited, I get it (and I like that about you). But, if I’m excited and your excited and we are all excited….well, I need you to be the one to slow down and make sure we are paying attention to detail and managing the little things which always come up in the form of Mr. Murphy – and his damnable law. Offer up some advice, ensure you stuff is double-checked before you hit send and be that calming voice . I’ve got a lot going on and sometimes I may just need to see someone being outwardly steadfast.
4 – You don’t have a crystal ball, I know that… let me know what you think anyway
I get it, you’re not 100%. Guess what, neither am I. I don’t need you to be all knowing (although, secretly I wish you were). I just need you to give me the best understanding you have and say the same. If it doesn’t go down the way you describe, I may get cranky…but I don’t blame you (I’m probably blaming myself). No one expects the black swan’s arrival, but I need you to tell me when you think conditions may be right for impending issues.
Finally, and most important…
5 – I trust you
From the mundane to the insane, you’re my go-to! I may always not say it, but you are. I have a healthy trust in your abilities. This is why I ask you to brief first, set the tone and put a ‘realistic’ filter on what’s happening. The interwebs opened up a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘breaking news ‘and I can’t always be sure they affect our situation. I know you have my back, you understand my needs, and will tell me what’s important in the din. Because you’re intelligent, professional, curious and thoughtful… I trust you.
this is dedicated to the my favorite analysts…
“Educate To Develop” and “Delegate To Develop“- two principals to embrace in your efforts to be more strategic.
Give guidance, direction and intent. Fight the urge to do it all. Remember, empowering five people to do five things is just as important (if not more) as one person who tries to micro-manage everything.
Here are four quick thoughts to help you, Oh Leader, think and set your course…after all, leaders need to L-E-A-D!
L – Light the Path
Set the course. Stop and think about where your organization is going. What does your group/team look like in 12 months, 18 months or 24 months? As much as you want and like to be in the trenches with the troops (c’mon… I know you do) your job is to set tone and expectation. Be honest with yourself, are you doing this? If not…. Right now write down…”In 12 months, my group will be [fill in your vision here]!” Make a few notes on what projects or things might be needed to get you there and you have mini strategy session going down…well done!
E – Educate to Develop
Guess what leader… people know you have what it takes. Teach someone else and watch them figure it out. Building your leaders, builds your bench and builds resiliency. Sometimes it sucks…you want to be that tactical person who is seen as “checking all those blocks.” Leaders however, should be thinking three dimensionally. Teach your crew to cook, don’t just hand them a lunchable.
A – Accept Your Place
Being in charge…it “aint so easy.” While fulfilling, it can be lonely and tough. Not everything you do will be understood, initially accepted or liked; do it anyway. Sometimes your folks may not appreciate you; care anyway. Be the person you want them to be. As the boss, you need to know when to back away and let the team be the team. You’re needed, but your presence may not always be required. Get over yourself and get on with it. Being the leader is best judged in those moments when honor, candor and hard decisions need to happen. Be the person you envision.
D – Delegate to Develop
Once you have you have sorted some of the above, it’s time to pass out some work. Give your team some assignments. Make sure they understand the task condition, standards and intent. Encourage them to ask clarifying questions; be patient and thoughtful in this. Once you have done this “GET OUT OF THEIR WAY” and give them a chance to sort it out. Trust me….if you have picked the right folks and empowered them… they will come to you if they need some help. Guide your group in their quest. Likely, you’re finding yourself in this journey, too.