I have been having so much fun recently! Co-teaching a course in values-based leadership at Royal Roads University with Marilyn Taylor. The students have been amazing and the teaching partnership a joy. We have been discussing the shift needed in business towards a more conscious approach to leadership. Linking passion to purpose in service of an economic driver is a different way of being in the world. Marilyn points out that ‘meeting these challenges requires not only the creation of knowledge but the development of wisdom.’ Its a privilege to work with adult learners – executives and entrepreneurs who are working full-time and yet continuing to explore new ways of learning, new ways of conducting the practice of business and new ways of being. A psychological shift in the realization that change is personal and any corporate change will start from personal change in the leadership. A deep understanding that to change the outside, we must change within. Marilyn’s book has helped my understanding of this difficult process. It is an invitation to use our experiences of disruption and distress in a positive way to change our frames of reference. Emergent learning comes from our practical experience, not from theory. It will be the focus of a keynote I am doing tomorrow night at the Ignite.Empower.Innovate. Women’s Leadership Conference. I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be doing what I love on a daily basis. My wish is that you also have that opportunity to link your passion and purpose. How? This book can help you find your path.
More often than not, corporate culture is appearing on the agenda of organizations. How to capture it, revise it, use it, expand it, change it. Corporate culture of the past emphasized convenience for the organization – treating people as widgets in a factory. Harsh words, perhaps. But the truth of the matter is that most organizations treat creative capital badly. But now that the economy is a concern, attention is being paid to maximizing creative capital. And that means paying attention to your people. Not as lip service. Certainly not as a branding exercise – a sound bite promoting ‘our greatest assets are our people.’ There is no faster way to disengage employees than to make marketing claims that have no basis in reality! The problem with corporate culture is that in order to shift it – it is also likely that your business model will also need an overhaul.
Being at the Copenhagen Business School over the summer was a transformational experience for me. The Danes are serious about corporate culture and I will be designing a course in corporate anthropology for next year. I am back in the classroom at Sheridan starting next week and also gearing up for a tedx talk on corporate culture mid-September. Corporate culture is definitely on the top of my “shift list”. I sometimes define creativity as an act of liberation from habit that brings something new into being. We all are well aware that the old models don’t work – they just don’t provide competitive advantage in tough economic times. So we agree that the shift is necessary – but how? That is always the question.
I’m a big believer in ROWE – results-oriented work environments. Digging through my library for potential sources of inspiration led me to “Change the Culture, Change the Game.” The authors have devised a model of accountability that can be used as a starting point for implementing organizational change. Changing an organization’s culture is both a top-down and a bottom-up process. It involves all the leaders in your organization and should never be left up only to a Human Resources Department. Certainly not in a weekend retreat. How long did it take you to build the culture that no longer works? Its an ‘all hands on deck’ type of effort. Whether you are looking at a slight shift or a corporate overhaul, a need for improved performance or a change in business model – there is some solid information here for use. Too busy to pay attention to corporate culture? Well … survival is optional.
Looking at creativity …. for all of us in 2013!
If you are interested in how to manage creative people to maximize your innovation potential, here is a book to read over the holidays. Or give to you boss as a (hint) gift. Lina Echeverria is a leadership consultant with over 25 years experience in science and technology. At Corning, Lina went from scientist to Vice-President and tended both people and process that resulted in products ranging from faster optic fibre to flat-panel glass used in smart-phones and LCD TVs. Her emphasis is on culture that is defined by beliefs, attitudes, energy, interaction styles and rituals. Her focus is on the values that drive creative engagement. I love her commitment to establishing an oral tradition – the stories told that drive passion and respect individual freedom to create in a space that authentically welcomes innovators. A yummy, yummy book hot off the press!
The title may offend you but the message needs to be heard. Following up on Bill Clinton’s recent speech, the message needs repeating, over and over if necessary. Regardless of your political affiliation, the speech resonates because the main message is true. The only advantage left in North America is our incredible aptitude for creativity and innovation. Innovative organizations come from creative people. Each and every one of us. And working together we can rebuild a broken economy. The key is together – because if not – the title of this book will become a reality.
Peter D. Keirnan has written a manifesto for the radical center and outlines nine catastrophes we currently face and five factors that are freezing our ability to act. It’s a tough read but stick with it. He states “Ask any foreigner what the essence of America is and they will tell you it is our unfettered ability to dream the big dreams. And then make them happen.” Canada and the US have the largest undefended border in the world as we partner in economy. It’s time to reclaim our creative capital and put it back to work.
Presence has become a management concept. Otto Scharmer’s Theory-U, otherwise known as Presencing, has grown into a small and vital industry, training organizational practitioners worldwide. The U can be mapped onto the Hero’s Journey – take a look at Ginger Grant’s book, Finding Your Creative Core, to understand more fully what this means.
The psyche of organizational culture is action-oriented. This means doing. Meeting, talking, getting results, reporting, achieving the objective. Too, we think of the Hero’s Journey as a myth, ultimately, of doing: questing, and reaching the objective of the quest, by whatever expected or unexpected means.
But what does it mean have presence? To, simply, be present?
As part of her recent retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the performance artist Marina Abramović sat, each day for the duration, with any visitor who wished, for as long as they wished. The encounters were silent. They lasted as little as about one minute and as long as twenty or more. Each encounter was documented with a single photograph of the visitor’s face, and occasional photographs of the artist’s. These photographic documents are available to view on MoMa’s flickr page, and on the artist’s page. Please visit them (links below). If you choose to look, the photographs reveal a great deal about presence.
Looking at the photographs closely is a way of being present in itself. There are nearly 2,000 images, showing a moment of presence on the part of individuals of all ages and races. You will recognize a few faces, of Lou Reed, Björk, Viggo Mortensen, and these are rather startlingly free of makeup and revealing of wrinkles and natural flaws. One dark-eyed man shows up, again and again. Nearly all the rest are anonymous. Some are tearful. Some seem impassive. Some heads are tilted backward, some forward. Jaws jut or are drawn inward. Lips are relaxed, or compressed, or upturned slightly into a Mona Lisa smile. Eyes are shining, dull, wide, narrowed, or focused with what seems like perplexity. All mesmerizing. So much information in a collection of moments.
None of these expressions will be unfamiliar. Our brains are exquisitely wired to perceive facial signs. And, these are the kinds of things one can only experience consciously, actually see, when simply looking, closely, for an extended moment. Uninterrupted. Just being there. Just being present.
One may say that the museum is a far safer place for presencing than the workplace. Even sitting in the presence of a recognized master, witnessed by other strangers waiting behind a rope, penetrated by a democratically unforgiving illumination, and risking being revealed in a close-up photograph that will become a public document.
Pause for thought.
MoMa flickr page (selections from the photo documents)
Marina Abramović The Artist is Present (the document in its entirety, showing the length of each sitting)
Feature film, “The Artist is Present,” to be released June 1
Clayton Christensen is well known as the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. In this new offering, he has drawn upon his business experience as a consultant and professor to explain how high achievers can often fall into traps that lead to unhappiness. But how to measure happiness? satisfaction? achievement? How to avoid compromising your integrity in our current economic maelstrom? Christensen provides both wisdom and inspiration for anyone searching for a path to fulfillment. A great summer read!