Sunday, August 25, 2013

Creativity - the most important leadership quality

In times of Speed-to-Market & Agility we cannot rely on yesterday’s ideas, products and ways of working. Today’s leaders in order to improve performance need to stimulate creative thinking and unleash the creative potential in themselves and in their teams. Creative leaders are more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise, and revenue models.

“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart”

— Mencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE

The best-known creativity techniques are:
  • Osborn’s brainstorming (1963)
  • Altshuller’s theory of inventive problem solving (TRIZ: 1996, 1998)
  • De Bono’s lateral thinking (1967)

Jill Nemiro, author of "Creativity in Virtual Teams: Key Components for Success", and "The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams", and co-editor of "The Collaborative Work Systems Fieldbook" classifies creative techniques into two categories:

1. Linear approaches (for idea generation; provide a structure to seek and find alternative solutions)

  • Attribute Listening (go beyond what is typical). Attribute Listing focuses on the attributes of an object, seeing how each attribute could be improved. Break the product/process into parts, identify ways of improving each of them, and then bring these modification to create a new product/process.
  • Morphological Synthesis. Morphological Synthesis or Analysis uses the same basic technique as Attribute Listing, but is used to create a new product by mixing components in a new way.
  • Force Fields Analysis (identifying the forces that may drive or resist a proposed change)
  • Mind Mapping
  • Idea checklist
  • Brainstorming

2. Intuitive approaches (help individuals or groups in achieving an inner state of calmness when new ideas might appear)
  • Imagery - symbols, scenes, images, “using all the scenes to recreate or create an experience in the mind” (Vealey & w\Walter, 1993)
  • Analogical Thinking (Ex: Pringles Potato Chips came from analogy of wet leaves, which can be stacked one on the top of the other without being damaged)
  • Drawing
  • Meditation. Some people swim or go for a walk. I like going for a walk on my own to the forest next to my house– usually take a note book and a pen and write down the ideas that come to my mind. 

In the interview Jill answers the questions which of these techniques are her personal favorites, and why?

Jill Nemiro: I'd have to pick three, for different reasons. I really love brainstorming because it is a great way to get a team started on the path of coming up with ideas. It is exciting to be a part of a good brainstorming session, because of the synergy and building of ideas that evolves. If these sessions are run correctly, with deferment of judgment of ideas at the onset, then the "sky's the limit" in terms of the kinds of ideas that can be generated.

Mind mapping is another favorite technique of mine, because I am a very visual person. I like to see ideas, and how they connect and build on other ideas. A mind-map allows you to see this in a graphic format.
And lastly, force-field analysis is a technique that I have used personally to work my way through some difficult challenges. By focusing on a particular challenge, outlining the positive factors pushing you toward the ideal and the negative factors hindering you from that ideal, and then developing actions to strengthen the positive factors and weaken the negative factors, it gives an individual or a team a way to develop concrete action plans to work through challenging situations.

Three Must-Haves for Team Creativity. 3 tips from Teresa Amabile interviewed by Daniel Goleman: 
1. Autonomy
Agile teams take “hack” days to promote learning and innovation. Very often teams are encouraged to spend roughly 10 -20 % of their time on “hack” days. During “hack” days people do whatever they want, typically trying out new ideas.

2. Resources
“…people will be more creative in finding resources but not necessarily in solving the actual problems. It’s important to make sure that people have the necessary information, funding and materials to do their work.”

3. Time
“… people are more creative when they have a little bit of time to explore a problem, reflect on what they're doing, gather new information, and to talk to people who might have different perspectives, which can be enormously useful.”
Weird Things To Boost Your Creativity 

  • Go and work from a coffee shop from time to time
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Switch to dim light mode
  • Fight routine
  • Whatever you think, think the opposite
  • Daydream. Interested in creating your dream map? Read my post on this.
And finally let me share Gdansk’s 10 Ways of Unleashing Creativity:

Gdansk's 10 Ways of Unlashing Creativity

1.     Join Creative Morning meetings to train your brain!
2.     Talk about your ideas – meet inspiring people to change ideas!
3.     Every day eat lunch with different person!
4.     Be sensitive for beauty – meet new artists and buy artistic/well designed stuff!
5.     Stop planning start acting – take part in contests!
6.     Accept failures – learn from them and never give up!
7.     Everyday do something unusual – do you remember Jim Lawless’ rule 7: Do something scary every day!
8.     Create an inspiring environment – for example: decorate one wall in the office with quotations and pictures!
9.     Be there is worth being!
10.  Take a break – go for a walk!

For virtual teams use special designed software programs or interactive whiteboards.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Successful Teams Across Borders – PART 4 – Key Ingredients for Effective Virtual Collaboration.

Having strong relationships, trust, and shared understanding result in a high level of collaboration.
Source: Adapted from "The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams" 

What is collaboration?
According to Wikipedia definition “Collaboration” is working with each other to do a task. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective — for example, an endeavour that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group. In particular, teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognition and reward when facing competition for finite resources

Trust is important for every cooperation, but even more critical when working virtually. Do you know that a small increase in trust of management is similar to receiving a 36% pay increase. And if the same amount of trust is lost, the decline in employee job satisfaction is similar to taking 36% pay cut! (Heliwell &Huang, 2005).

Trust can be divided into the following categories:
Cognitive Based (someone has the skills/competency, so we trust him).
Institution Based (trust in organisation we are a part of - we believe in norms & share the same values).
Personality Based (individual’s disposition to trust. For example I trust until I’m proven wrong)

TRANSACTIONAL TRUST – the foundation for virtual collaboration!

Transactional trust is mutual in nature (you have to give it to get it) and created step by step over time. There are 3 types of transactional trust:
Ø  Contractual. The team members understand what is expected from them, roles and responsibilities are clear, commitments are kept or renegotiated.
Ø  Communication. Trust and communication are closely related. Sharing information, telling the truth, speaking with good purpose.
Ø  Competence. We believe in the team members’ skills and competences and allow to make decisions. Leaders help the team to learn new skills

Contractual trust outlines the directions, determine roles and responsibilities, and helps make expectations clear. Communication trust helps define standards for information flow, sharing information, giving/receiving feedback. Competence trust allows team members develop skills/competences, including the virtual collaboration skills. Communication, particularly meaningful dialogue among members, may be the most effective tool that organisations can rely on to build trust in virtual teams (Holton, 2001).

We become more accountable only when we understand how our work contributes to the end result. Similar to developing trust communication is a key tool in developing a shared understanding.

Challenge: lack of personal interaction, face-to-face time is critical!
Sharing personal information creates a feeling of inclusion. Relationships are based on reputation or familiarity. Working virtually requires trust and to trust we need to know one another, that’s why it’s crucial we spend some time on sharing the information and getting know one another as it does not happen as it does in a face-to-face environment!
  • Create Face- to-face opportunities or face-to face substitute – telepresence /videoconferencing
  • Share personal information – example team members interviews
  • Build/maintain relationships
  • Create a forum for open dialogue – ex: FB-like space for both  task and personal-related communication
  • Educate on virtual collaboration
  • Ensure that you are comfortable raising issues and giving feedback
  • Deal with conflict right away and focus on problem not person
  • Experiment with different ways of staying in contact
  • Make it easy for your team to contact you
  • Spend time learning about team members’ personalities, cultural backgrounds, and work habits
  • Select appropriate technology
  • Understand the cultural differences

For more read Karen Cator’s article where she shares her key strategies how to  “create a culture that enables people to connect individually and emotionally to the organization’s goals while connecting socially and positively with each other as the way to achieve them.”