Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I wish I was that creative

Every year, when my fundraising team for the MS Bike Tour gets out on the road in our costumes, people say, "Oh cool. I wish I was that creative." We dress up as cows, or soldiers, we make up a theme and dress as the Adam West Batman characters. People say, "how did you ever come up with that?" or "I'd never think of that in a million years."

These statements always surprise me. You see, I'm not creative, either.

I just so happened to care about fundraising for MS. I participated in the bike tour and determined that it was too elitist, too competitive and too fashion-conscious for my liking. I determined that new fundraisers were getting turned off by a culture that they didn't fit in. I want new fundraisers. I want the tour to grow. I want more money for MS research. As the title suggests, these are "selfish matters." I decided that I cared enough to try and change it, and I'd do it by example.

So, deconstructing how we make our team costumes, here's how I get creative:
1) I get quite specific about what I want to change and how I might change it
2) I created space to reflect on what would work as a solution
3) I enlisted others to react and contribute to a kernel of an idea
4) We try it. We don't know if it will make sense to others, but we implement.

I guess what I'm saying is that creativity, for me, isn't some other-worldly headspace where stuff just pops in and "becomes." It's deliberate, it's methodical and it takes work. Typically, I think the "I wish" crowd just doesn't get deliberate enough to make it happen.

This is from the SAMBA blog:
After a concert, a woman gushed to Beethoven about how enthralled she was by his music. “Oh, sir, I wish I could play like you! It’s genius the music you create!”
Beethoven: “Well maam. If you want to practice 8 hours a day for 30 years, you could most certainly play that way also.”
She didn’t expect that. To Beethoven, his performance was not a one-off coincidence where talent met opportunity. To him, it was the culmination of effort and sweat put into his practice daily. The woman, only aware of the performance, didn’t give the process the respect it deserved. Honoring the process matters. It’s the thing that matters.

By the way, this year's theme is SuperHeros. It's going to rock.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The sudden realization

I enjoyed this article.

7 Reasons Your Employees Hate You

I had this very experience, the realization that I was being the kind of boss I loathed. This is a funny, point at yourself and laugh kind of bit, but it begs the follow-up question, how do you change?

I know for me, it was extremely scary to do something different than it felt like everyone around me expected me to do... my boss, my colleagues, even my staff. Know what? No-one batted an eye. They won't for you, either.

At worst, some might think you went a little soft. Your employees, on the other hand, will respond and love you for it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Library of Leadership Writing

I found a treasure-trove of valuable leadership materials in the online library at the Banff Leadership Development Centre. It's proof that The Banff Centre is ahead of the game.

Friday, July 17, 2009

This is getting interesting...

On the surface, this doesn't seem all that big, but I'm blown away that from my little corner, I can engage so broadly with people.

First, people scattered all over the world have read my blog:
Additionally, another blogger has reviewed and commented on my manifesto.

People I've never met have taken the time to post my manifesto on Twitter and some of the writing meant enough to be tweeted by others.

Admittedly, these have all been in small numbers, but I find it exhilirating. When I started sharing stuff through online media, I had the hope of adding my voice to the thoughtful things I read by such people as Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Pam Slim and Chris Guillebeau.

This gives me some feedback that I'm contributing to a conversation that's happening worldwide. I'm proud to be a small part of it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two choices - Conditioned or Deliberate

You have two choices in how you react to life. You can be conditioned or deliberate.

Our default is set to conditioned. We have ingrained, emotionally-driven responses for every scenario - guilt, fear, happiness, joy, you name it, it's there and ready, should the need arise. If you choose conditioned, you accept the program that's already installed. Perhaps you're accepting or competitive, optimistic or pessimistic, whatever has been established as your modus operandi is pretty much there to stay. You can thank your childhood, your life experiences and your worldview for the program you've got.

The big selling feature of this choice is that you don't really have to choose, you simply have to keep on course. The downside is that you don't usually get to choose which reaction you're having at any given time. It's hardwired, so it depends on what's happening to you.

As a bonus, nothing is ever your fault. Someone else is always the architect of your misery.

The other choice is to be deliberate in your reactions. You can catch yourself before you react and plot out how you want your actions to play out, you can rewire the hardwired reactions. Declare that you are calm, cool and collected... or thoughtful... or passionate... or honest, and start to be that way in your reactions and interactions.

The positives of this choice are that you get to have the kinds of experiences you want and no-one is doing things unto you. While it sounds great, the downside is that you have to do work between your ears, right now and forever after. It gets easier, but you'll find you can never be complacent.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Flow, Flee or Fight

I've just returned from the Canadian Rockies to learn that I'm published! My ChangeThis manifesto, Flow, Flee or Fight is now up for the world to see.

If you've read it, I'd love to get your feedback. Was it interesting? Did it raise questions? Did it answer any? Was it useful?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Phoning it in

The phrase "phoning it in" used to be how we described someone who wasn't really putting in an effort. Rather than get off the couch, come in and do something, this person was simply just doing the bare minimum.

Now though, I'm not sure phoning it in is a bad thing. In an economy desperate for innovation, we're seeing that effort and hard work for the sake of hard work isn't a good strategy. What you want are people who are willing to see the whole picture and be creative. Nose to the grindstone, sweat on your brow kind of effort likely won't get you there. Instead, if you're just paying attention to the important bits, maybe a phone call is all that's necessary. Perhaps the phone call transfers the single piece of information that's required, or adjusts the project to save a thousand hours of work. I would prefer distributed problem solvers to a room full of people putting in the face time. Face time is the kind of stuff that obfuscates the real issues.

I get my best ideas as I go to sleep, go for a run or read someone else's brilliant writing. If I could spend my whole day in that creative, thoughtful state, I'd be waaay more productive. Maybe a bed in every cublicle isn't right, but walks whenever the mood strikes, a recognition of the power of diverse perspectives, a work environment that is a lot less stuff, a focus on ideas and results instead of appearrances and hours - these start to make a lot of sense.

They just aren't in the typical manager's toolkit... for now.

Just for the record, I spelled obfuscates right but had to spell check it to make sure.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Recommendation

One of my favourite bloggers right now is Chris Guillebeau. He has written a couple of fantastic, free guides that I would recommend, and he writes a brilliant blog. You should check him out. His site is the Art of Non-Conformity.

Right now, Chris is running a competition for essentially a "guest post" on his site. I submitted my entry today. While my chances of being selected feel pretty close to zero, I still appreciate the opportunity.

The terms of the competition are that if I don't get selected, I am free to push out my post wherever I want... you'll see it hear in a while.