On Loss

  On Loss spirituality risk taking learning happiness emotional intelligence creativity change aging 2    

I’ve observed and personally experienced different approaches to loss over the years. Whether it is personal or professional, minor or devastating, it seems that those who consistently “numb” (whatever that might be – working, drinking, dwelling, exercising too much, etc) seem to get stuck, often regress and sometimes even bring about their own death, metaphorically and physically. 

Those who engage in learning reinvent themselves, often creating meaningful legacies around their particular loss or just finding new meaning and energy in their lives.

Some would say that without loss there is no growth or movement, that it’s actually necessary in order to create or bring about something new. As I reflect on my life, I agree. Our challenge it seems is to know when to stop circling the drain and get on with reinventing ourselves.

Where do you find your creativity?

  Where do you find your creativity? creativity

I continue to be inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic. It’s easy to look at someone’s finished creativity (like a brilliant book, song, piece of art, speech, etc. etc.) and think they are just talented and it was easy. 

Having hit the wall many times myself while trying to create, I appreciate her great insight that moving through the chaos, confusion, anxiety and doubt is the real work of creativity. We need to keep plugging away, even when it feels like we’ve lost our creative way.

The 4 Keys to Your Creativity

  The 4 Keys to Your Creativity risk taking learning emotional intelligence creativity  Tom Kelley David Kelley Creative Confidence  
My creativity has developed as I’ve unlearned various lifetime “shoulds” impressed upon me by well meaning people. The Kelleys in their brilliant work on creative confidence talk about the need to overcome 4 fears – being judged, losing control, the messy unknown and taking the first step. I have turned these into positive mantras that I try to practice when I’m doing my work. The most powerful one for me has been to ignore everyone. I was taught to base my decisions and actions on what other people might think – unlearning that has taken most of my life (and is still a work in progress).

For those of you intrigued by these ideas, check out the course Dave and I are teaching online this fall through Royal Roads University. We are thrilled to be able to explore this topic with others!

Will Your Idea Find You?

 Will Your Idea Find You? risk taking creativity  Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic

“I could have done that,” I’ve heard many people say, myself included. Indeed we could but we don’t. Elizabeth Gilbert in her wonderful new book Big Magic suggests that ideas swirl around looking for someone to take notice and bring them to life. The problem is we aren’t paying attention. As she says

The idea will try to wave you down (perhaps for a few moments; perhaps for a few months; perhaps for a few years), but when it finally realizes that you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else. But sometimes – rarely, but magnificently – there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something. Your defenses might slacken and your anxieties might ease, and then magic can slip through.

Will your idea find you or will you be too distracted or anxious to notice?

The One Thing You Need in Order to Innovate

 The One Thing You Need in Order to Innovate risk taking learning leadership emotional intelligence creativity

“But how can I innovate when my boss (or organization) won’t let me?” is a question we ALWAYS get asked when we do our creativity workshop. My standard response to questions like these is to acknowledge the sentiment and invite people to continue learning, instead of letting a perceived barrier stop their learning. What I’ve wanted to say, however, is to have the courage to take a risk, and so it was with excitement that I discovered The Innovator’s DNA by Dyer et al whose rigorous research into innovation has confirmed my own beliefs about creativity and innovation.

I LOVE that they identify the importance of courage as a pre cursor to the more easily learn-able behavioral skills of questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting. It really does capture what separates true innovators from wannabe innovators who innovate … but only when it’s safe. True innovators don’t “wait” for their organizations or bosses to create a warm and cosy place to hatch their idea. They have the courage to go for it and the belief that they can handle whatever happens next.

While I do believe there is a role for leaders to play in creating an innovative corporate culture (and the book does identify processes), at an individual level we need to develop our own courage to innovate regardless of what our bosses and organizations do or do not encourage.  This may mean really testing out assumptions about the existing corporate culture (as quite honestly, sometimes bosses and organizations are waiting for us to innovate!), finding another organization that is a better fit, or striking out on our own.  Ultimately, we shrink our own potential and lose our passion and energy when we stop being courageous and taking risks.

This idea of developing more courage to take risks is a key component of our first course in the Workplace Innovation Graduate Certificate at Royal Roads University. If you’d like to find out more about this great new program, check out the free webinar on December 9, 2014 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm BC time where Dave and I will be answering questions.

Your blind spots are showing

 Your blind spots are showing vision strategy 2 learning leadership engagement creativity

Dave and I just finished teaching our 4 day Strategic Leadership program at Royal Roads University last week and had a wonderful time with an energetic, bright and creative group of people. One of the major concepts in the course is the importance of convening diverse groups of people to plan strategy in our increasingly complex environment.

This can be a tough concept for folks who have been trained to develop strategy from an “expert” mindset. “What could someone not familiar with our business possibly contribute?” is a question often asked.

As it turns out, they contribute a lot, namely in the area of helping to surface our own blind spots and bringing random, creative ideas to the forefront. Novel strategic approaches and newfound energy is unleashed when one is open to feedback and insight.

Is this easy? Absolutely not. I think it’s the human condition to assume that we know and understand our own blind spots (ironic though that sounds!). Incorporating feedback that points out how flawed our thinking and strategies have been is a blow to our identity. And that’s what makes it so hard. Just who have we been continuing to pursue a course of action despite its ineffectiveness?

And that’s what great leaders can do – develop the humility to admit they have been off course or better yet, assume they may have been and bring a “non expert” in to provide a different perspective.

Are purple or yellow flowers more beautiful?

I’ve gone on several hikes in the past few weeks and have been inspired by the sheer beauty and energy of spring. On one occasion I came across a clearing of vibrant yellow and purple flowers. Eager to share, I pulled out my iPhone, fired up Facebook and was about to update my status with the photo when I read a few updates from others and before I knew it my upbeat, happy mood had started to dissipate.

What happened? I had robbed myself of the enjoyment of the moment by comparing myself to others. How crazy is that? It would be like comparing the vibrancy of the purple flowers to the yellow and determining a winner.

Comparison has been a thief of happiness in my life and it’s something that I realize may never go away completely. Asking why that is so for me is a fruitless search. Rather, I need to accept it and manage it through a regular practice, in the same way that exercise and eating right need to be regular practices.

I have found that doing some sort of journaling or, more recently, expressing myself visually, help me. And thus today’s visual 🙂

And what does this have to do with leadership? Barsh, Cranston and Lewis would suggest that understanding what gives meaning and happiness to our lives is a central tenet to being a centered leader.

 Are purple or yellow flowers more beautiful? vision spirituality learning happiness emotional intelligence creativity

What’s your story?

As an ex-English teacher, I am a huge fan of stories and storytelling. In fact, the name of our company, Calliope Learning, comes from Greek mythology. Callope was the muse of epic poetry, those big grand sweeping, usually tragic stories 🙂

And so combining my love of stories with my recent love of visuals produces something exciting for me. I was very pleased to sit in on Deborah LeFrank’s Visual Life Stories session held at the Victoria Executive Centre last Thursday. Deborah’s talk and actual examples of visual life stories was inspiring and energizing.  I love how she is using this process not only to help individuals capture their life story, but also to help organizations tell their story. To me, this is a powerful way of capturing your culture and brand, and helping your customers connect to it. Can you imagine how we would engage people if our annual reports were a visual story?

 Whats your story? vision uncategorized learning leadership creativity communication

40 years later, he returned to …

 40 years later, he returned to ... learning leadership engagement creativity

What can I say? What follows is a very powerful observation about learning by my brilliant husband, Dave. Enjoy!

I remember when I was growing up, I had my fingers in everything. I couldn’t help myself. I always had to pick things up, and if I could, I’d take them apart. I remember my Mum pleading with me, “Look with your eyes and not with your fingers”. I was fortunate that I grew up with Lego, Meccano, the most amazing chemistry set, at least two soldering irons, etc. I built my own Scalextric cars, which were pretty good, but were never quite as fast as the best you could buy off the shelf, but that wasn’t the point.

I was also fortunate that I went to a “technical” school after passing the now infamous “11 plus” exam. The school had great labs and workshops, and I was further encouraged to think with my hands, but in a much less creative way. There was no crossover between the subjects. I even remember that “Art Metalwork” and “Engineering Metalwork” were taught by different staff in different workshops. At age 14 I wanted to study car maintenance (remember the Scalextric) … but it wasn’t an option for me as I was on the “academic track”. Slowly but surely I was encouraged to think less and less with my hands.

Now in my early 50s, I’m rediscovering how much fun it is to build stuff. There’s so much going on right now. I’m not sure who’s leading the charge, but the folks at IDEO have been enormously influential, as has Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk of 2006, which now has over 25 million views. Prototyping, playing and building are key concepts in the plethora of frameworks for innovation and creativity that are being published just now. It’s as if we’re coming out of the dark ages of creativity with a whole bunch of new tools to play with. It’s very exciting.

At a personal level, I have a Raspberry Pi that has opened up a whole new world of stuff to build. I once again own a soldering iron and I have more hand tools than will fit in their box. I’m making stuff again, and my brain is energized. At a professional level, I’m doing some really interesting work with IDEO’s Human Centered Design (HCD) toolkit, and I’m finding inspiration in the increasing interest in workplace innovation. As a society, I’m hoping that we’re entering a renaissance for thinking with your hands. Sorry Mum, I just can’t help myself.