Innovation is actually category leadership

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

A lot of people talk about innovation. Many professionals also think they are actively innovating within their organisations. However, much of what is called innovation might be better understood as iterative improvement that builds on what already exists, rather than breaking the status quo down and reinventing its successor.

Of course, iterative improvement is incredibly important, as well as being financially and culturally impactful. It also enlists many of the same tools and processes of innovation. Additionally, it feeds on and profits from our bias towards the familiar and the already understood. That being said, iterative improvement alone can become a risky strategy in an environment that is ripe for commercial and cultural transformation, what many of us think of as ‘true innovation.’

True innovation involves more than just new product development or service design and should, in fact, be thought of as category leadership. 

In other words, not only are you tweaking around the edges of current thinking, systems, processes and output, you’re actively transforming your industry and charting a new course for your field into the future. 

To be a true innovator requires more than expertise and more than creative problem solving. To drive innovation, you also need to be a ‘thought leader.’ So, what does this require?

1. Ideation - Add to the canon of your field 

Perhaps the best distinction to be made between being an expert or an authority, and true thought leadership, lies in your capacity to develop your own unique intellectual property. 

Experts and authorities know how things have been done and even how things should be done, but unless they can also imagine, inspire and implement new ways that things might be done, they stop short of thought leadership.

Consider what change is needed in your industry, and of these changes, decide which do you want to be known for leading. Then, be aware that whether you are fighting for a positive new possibility or against a current negative, you will be in for a fight either way.

2. Inspiration - Build engagement around your ideas

Great ideas are a dime a dozen. More importantly, great ideas often fail while inferior products and services dominate their categories. The truth is, as much as we would like to believe in meritocracy in the commercial, political and organisational worlds, a more realistic expectation might be populist democracy.

This means that our success in transforming our category has less to do with the quality of our product or service (assuming of course that an ‘acceptable’ level of quality and efficacy has been achieved) and significantly more to do with the quality of our engagement around our ideas.

Rather than leaving ‘our babies’ to fend for themselves out in the open marketplace, we need to nurture them, advocate for them and provide them with a supportive and influential network.

3. Implementation - Build it, then better it

Finally, to be a true innovator, we must be willing to go to market and test, learn from feedback and continually improve our thinking and our offering.

If a great idea is nothing without inspiration, then inspiration is of little value without implementation.

Too many great ideas die on the vine, but not because of a lack of quality. Nor is it due to too little excitement in the early stages. Far more determinant of your innovation success or failure, is a lack of will and too little action. 

If our ideas are important enough to us personally, and will be positively transformative for those we seek to serve, shouldn’t we also be willing to back ourselves and to lead the change we seek to make in the world?

So, by all means improve, iterate and increase the relevance and salience of what you do already. But while you’re doing that, make time to consider how you might lead your category and drive true innovation.

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and thought leader. She speaks on Transformational Leadership, Creative Problem Solving and Critical thinking. Kieran helps leaders, teams and organisations to be more commercially creative and to make positive change & “make change positive” by developing the following Forever Skills: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Find out how Kieran can help you and your team develop commercial creativity and “make change positive” through her Keynote Presentations & Training Workshops. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com



Why I swapped running innovation workshops for “risk prototyping”

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

People talk about innovation a lot. In fact, it’s one of the things I’m also asked to speak about most often at conferences, away days, off-defenssites and training workshops. And I will happily continue to do so. 

However, as much as people talk about innovation, I’ve also noticed a reticence in the teams I work with to actually execute, implement and get behind true innovation, and I have a sneaking suspicion as to why this may be the case.

One of the challenges of true innovation is that it requires a willingness to challenge the status quo, to be willing to abandon existing processes and competencies and even to (gasp!) learn to do things differently.

This is rather more simple that it sounds. Particularly for our best and most experienced staff.

Often times, they know so much about the way things have been done, or how they should be done, that they can struggle with how things might be done. Something that newer hires and more “disruptive” staff don’t find quite so difficult.

This means, they will often unconsciously fight any innovation initiative if it makes them feel vulnerable, less competent or confident or perhaps a little exposed. In other words, their survival instinct kicks in and does precisely what it was designed to do.

Rather than trying to fight the human survival instinct (which is an exercise in futility), I simply enlist this same survival instinct and use it by reframing innovation as “risk prototyping.” It might sound like semantics, but believe me, the psychology involved is completely different.

While many team members and employees are reluctant to engineer themselves out of a good job, they can much more easily identify and prototype external threats to those jobs if they are asked to. 

Put simply, I get them to engage in a design process where they generate the kinds of innovations that would undermine, destroy or force them to reinvent their current business model and, once we’ve explored the threats, we can then establish whether we should invest in these ideas before competitors do.

This re-frame gives them permission to fully explore what they should do and not be limited by what they could do. It also allows teams to marshal their full creativity and to exercise both sides of their competitive natures - both defence and offence.

Ultimately, your people may be better innovators, more entrepreneurial spirits and better creative problem solvers than they are demonstrating, you may just need a similar re-frame to unleash their collective genius.

To begin, keep it simple, ask them what they would hate their competitors to bring to the marketplace. They, more than your competitors, will be acutely aware of where your inherent weaknesses lie. Then, make innovation a defensive strategy against the best (or worst) case scenarios they can imagine.

Instead of pushing against their human nature to drive a result, enlist it to push them further than they ever imagined possible.

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and thought leader. She speaks on Transformational Leadership, Creative Problem Solving and Critical thinking. Kieran helps leaders, teams and organisations to be more commercially creative and to make positive change & “make change positive” by developing the following Forever Skills: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Find out how Kieran can help you and your team develop commercial creativity and “make change positive” through her Keynote Presentations & Training Workshops. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com

The 6 R’s of resilience

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

In an age of unprecedented change, reports of change fatigue, burn out and increasing disengagement are rife in the organisational world. Add to this a shift in generation values that have left us all feeling more “fragile,” to borrow an observation from Nicholas Taleb, and you have the environmental elements of a perfect storm with the potential to undermine productivity, performance and commercial agility.

In this environment, it’s hardly surprising that one of the corporate buzzwords of the moment is, “Resilience.” 

Interestingly, in the research for my latest book “Forever Skills” with my business partner Dan Gregory, we discovered that the concept of resilience is not quite as straight forward as it initially appears. Among the many leaders and industries we interviewed across different continents. definitions of resilience ranged from grit, to determination, to mental agility, to behavioural flexibility and, of course, a desire to instruct team members to, “Suck it up precious!”

Unfortunately, many of these definitions are neither reassuring nor particularly useful. So, I’d like to propose a new definition of resilience that is far more useful and practical in the context of change and transformational leadership”

Resilience is ultimately a “creative mindset.” It is the ability to create new possibilities as existing opportunities or options close down.

So, what does that mean specifically and how might it work in practice?

Critical in this definition is a shift from “running at the same obstacle and failing over and over again without losing enthusiasm” to “being hard on objectives but flexible and adaptable on approach.” 

In this context, I’d like to outline 6 R’s of Resilience:

1. Reframe

Reframing is all about getting clear about what is actually going on versus what you are making it mean. Often, we attach a meaning or filter to a problem that is neither accurate, nor helpful - the latter being the more important.

Even the language we use can transform our experience of an event for the better. “Experiment #1” is a far more useful frame than, “Yet another failure.”

2. Regroup

Ask yourself, “Is the situation or challenge you find yourself in something you can actually solve on your own?” Or, is this issue something that might be better solved collaboratively or with a systems rather than an individual approach?

Those of us who suffer from “Superhero Syndrome” (you know who you are), will often leap into action and set ourselves up for failure when a little more strategic thinking, and accessing the wisdom of our networks and teams, might be just what is called for.

3. Rethink

Rather than simply trying again and again or simply increasing your work-rate, it’s worth considering if your approach is actually valid and relevant in the context of the challenge you’re facing.

Instead of thinking, “How many attempts will I try before I quit?” perhaps consider how many different approaches and tools you could throw at your problem.

4. Rework

There’s no way around it, at some point, you need to face down your challenges and do the work.

However, drawing on the Reframe part of the process, consider how you might engineer work as play and gamify the process so that it is intrinsically motivating rather than requiring constant self-discipline.

In other words, how might you change work into play in much the same way exercise is far more enjoyable when it is experienced as sport.

5. Reward

Breaking your challenges into achievable pieces, with relevant milestones and motivating rewards, is a well trodden and oft repeated strategy - this doesn’t make it any less relevant. 

Clearly there is a sense of achievement in overcoming a problem or in achieving a goal, however, given the previous stage’s encouragement to gamify the process, consider how else might you make progress both visible to all involved as well as personally rewarding.

6. Reinforce

Finally, any kind of change or achievement is made all the sweeter if it is sustainable.

This requires a “design mindset” rather than one of discipline only. Consider how the solution to your problem, your new habit or organisational transformation might be systematised with a bias towards success and away from failure.

The truth is, change and challenge are not going anywhere, which means we need to cultivate resilience within ourselves and in our teams, however, the kind of resilience we encourage and the tools and techniques we employ to do so will be a critical factor in just how successful we are.

 

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and thought leader. She speaks on Transformational Leadership & Change, Creative Problem Solving and Critical Thinking. Kieran helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation- Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration- Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration- Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation- Change & Leadership

Find out how Kieran can help you and your team develop commercial creativity and “make change positive” through her Keynote Presentations & Training Workshops. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com

 

 

Complex problems require different kinds of thinking

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

As the problems, issues and opportunities we navigate become more complicated and interconnected, so too must our thinking styles vary if we are to develop more innovative, relevant and salient solutions.

Because the human brain likes economies and efficiency, it tends to act as a heuristic system. In other words, we bias towards solutions and tools that have worked in the past, independent of whether these approaches are relevant to the challenge we are presently facing.

In other words, we tend to apply the same thinking and styles of thinking to any problem we encounter, and even try to avoid new thinking altogether.

Adding to this is our own preferences and biases to particular modes of thinking and means of problem solving. Some of us go straight into brainstorming, other recruit expert opinions, a lot of people look for precedent and approaches that have paid dividends in the past while many of us will go straight into action and try to figure it out on the fly.

Of course, there’s nothing essentially wrong in any of these approaches, however, complex problem solving tends to require a more systematic and disciplined approach to thinking.

So, how might we sequence our thinking to achieve more innovative solutions?

1. Emergent Thinking

Emergent thinking might be best understood as insight gathering. Much of this will be research into contemporary solutions and thinking, but it should not preclude relevant insights taken from historic precedent.

This means that, before we begin generating solutions of our own, it might be worth looking at who has solved or is solving “similar” problems to our own.

An example of this is Tontine Pillows who, faced with customers who didn’t change their bedding as often as was recommended for health and cleanliness, looked to how other categories had solved products that had a limited shelf life.

The result was use by dates printed in feint text on their pillows. Not a new solution certainly, use by dates have been printed on tins of beans since early last century, however it was a truly innovative response and a great example and application of emergent thinking.

2. Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking is what we usually imagine when we try to define creative thinking. It is generative more than reductive. It allows us to explore multiple solutions without judgement - the goal being quantity and diversity rather than efficacy (this will come later).

Early in my career, I worked with Siimon Reynolds, who was a wunderkind of the advertising industry, and he shared with me an extraordinary tool to drive greater divergent thinking. It’s called “The Box Method” and it challenges our perceptions that creativity requires thinking “outside the box,” and suggest that we instead work inside “boxes” plural.

The method is simple. Having defined a challenge or issue or problem, sit with a page with twenty equal-sized boxes on it. Then fill each idea with a box without leaving the table, checking your email or getting up for a coffee. This forces you to stretch (or diverge) your thinking and to lose your attachment to the perfect solution.

When working with clients on complicated problems, I will typically fill in scores of these pages, generating thousands of solutions before I ever move to the next thinking style in this sequence.

3. Convergent Thinking

Convergent thinking is largely critical thinking and judgement. But it should not be dismissed as not being as insightful or creative as its related thinking styles.

In fact, convergent thinking often requires the greatest insight, discipline and even courage. Critical in this phase of thinking is the creation of the appropriate framework for judgement. If we only value what we measure, then it is also true that what we measure profoundly influences what we value.

Of course, all three of these thinking styles are critical to complex problem solving, however, a more systemic approach, one that takes account of our biases and blind spots, can help us not just be more innovative and creative in our problem solving, but also more relevant.

 

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and thought leader. She speaks on Transformational Leadership & Change, Creative Problem Solving and Critical Thinking. Kieran helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation- Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration- Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration- Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation- Change & Leadership

 

Find out how Kieran can help you and your team develop commercial creativity and “make change positive” through her Keynote Presentations & Training Workshops. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com

 

 

Why we should all learn to think in “questions”

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

Typically, on confronting a challenge, an issue or a problem, we’ll come with a pre-conceived notion of a solution. In other words, we try to activate our creative thinking using a statement. Could this be a mistake? (See what I did there?)

So, why might this statement-based approach to creativity, problem-solving and innovation be a problem in itself and how might we work around it?

One of the reasons that statement-based problem solving can actually get in the way of our creativity is that it narrows our mental bandwidth and creates biases and blind spots in how we approach possible solutions. On having to cross a river, for example, there’s a world of difference between, “We need to build a bridge,” and, “How might we cross the river?” Statements presuppose a solution and so tend to close down possibilities, whereas questions open possibilities. For instance, you might decide a zip line or a ferry, a boat or even a tunnel is a better short term or long-term solution to your river conundrum - the point is, you only get there by asking a question. With statement-based ideation… you’re going to get a bridge and nothing but a bridge

1. Learn to think in questions

So how does this process play out in a practical way? Let me share an example from early in my professional life. Many years ago, we launched two bottled water brands into the market for Coca-Cola. The first brand in the market place enjoyed premium ranging with multiple refrigerator facings (in other words, there was a shelf-wide row of Mount Franklin bottles on dominating your eyeline).

The second brand into the market, Pump, was left with only a single bottle width fridge facing. For Pump’s brand team, this was a problem. 

So, they came to us with a fairly typical brief to solve the problem. They wanted us to design a shelf strip, a very thin ad that runs the length of the shelf, in order to draw attention to their lonely bottle’s ranging. Of course, when you ask for a marketing solution and you then stipulate what kind of marketing solution you’d like, you run the risk of getting exactly that and nothing more.

Our approach, however, involved framing the problem as a question not as a statement. The question became, “How might we increase Pump’s refrigerator presence?”

The solution we ultimately presented, and that Coke executed, was in fact an innovation solution, not a marketing one. We created the first “flavoured water” brand by adding three flavours and instantly quadrupled Pump’s fridge presence and also lifted sales significantly.

However, without the initial reframe as a question, we’d never have reached this solution.

2. Seek answers, not “The Answer”

Imagination is easy, but creativity is hard! 

We are all incredibly imaginative given the opportunity, however, creativity requires discipline and a willingness to apply our creativity to a particular task, under defined parameters within a given timeline. Ultimately, it’s a numbers game.

Too often we fall in love with our second idea. Our first idea is usually rubbish. The second is significantly better, but we decide to try a third one (usually also rubbish) just to be sure.

The problem with such a narrow exploration is that we generate default answers using default thinking.

When we work on problems or innovation opportunities at The Impossible Institute, we use Siimon Reynold’s infamous “Box Method”. It is breath-takingly simple but extraordinarily powerful.

The method consists of a single white page with four rows of five boxed drawn on it for a total of twenty boxes. The goal is to jot a simple concept or idea into each box and to not leave your desk till the page is full. When working with my business partner on a problem, we will both fill in 25-30 of these pages, which means, by the time we sit down to assess our answers we are choosing from a pool of over 1000 ideas. There may be smarter people than you trying to solve your problem or challenge, but the key is to outwork them.

For creativity and innovations that extend beyond your default thinking, discipline and numbers beat talent!

3. Seek to question answers

One of the issues you will also face when trying to be more innovative or to create new solutions to problems you and your team or even you customers face is the heavy burden of legacy solutions. The “We tried that in the 1980’s” brigade or the, “But we’ve never done it that way before,” chorus are innovation killers who must be reeled in if you are to achieve anything remotely new.

This requires a willingness to be solution agnostic and to evaluate all solutions, even your own babies, with a cold detachment. In other words, you need to question your answers in order to move beyond existing team biases (as well as your own).

4. Ask an impossible question

One of the reasons we called our business The Impossible Institute is because of a methodology we use called “Impossible Questions.” Often, leaders and organisations will dismiss lines of enquiry too soon by buying into existing frameworks of what’s possible and what is not.

Asking an impossible question allows you to get to the other side of an issue and then to see if you can reverse engineer what seems like an impossible solution into possibility.

Some years ago, we were working with an enormous financial institution that was experiencing a critical customer breakage point because of the number of customers who were put on hold whilst calling the contact centre and also because of the length of time they spent on hold.

Their customers got angry and abused their staff, their staff were stressed out and angry themselves and a downward spiral of experience was significantly affecting both customer and team engagement.

The leadership team had brought us in to run a performance workshop for the contact centre team so they could get customers “on and off the calls more quickly,” all while “delighting and surprising their customers.” You know… but fast!!! You might see the inherent oppositional KPIs they had set in place.

Our approach was again to ask a question, but this time we asked what they believed to be an impossible question, “What would it take for people to want to be put on hold?”

Initially, they’re default thinking kicked in, “They wouldn’t!” they complained. “Yes, but what could make them want to be put on hold?” we persisted.

In the end, we explored many possibilities including gamifying the on-hold experience with time-based rewards as well as exploring the possibility of getting music celebrities to record unplugged versions of their songs that could only be heard on this bank’s on hold music. People who weren’t even customers would call up and ask to be put on hold.

The point is, so much of our thinking, creativity and innovation is default, predictable and not nearly good enough for us to become leaders in our industries and fields.

However, we can move beyond our default thinking by thinking in questions, not statements. Or rather… 

How unlimited might our thinking become if we learned to think in questions?

 

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation- Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration- Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration- Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation- Change & Leadership

 

Find out how Kieran can help you and your team develop commercial creativity and “make change positive” through her Keynote Presentations & Training Workshops. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com

How to help your audience “buy in”

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

When communicating with your customers, community or team, it’s important to move them from awareness to action and from agreement to buy in. Leadership requires far more than being right and entertaining. Lead is a verb - and in every way should be considered a doing word.

If we want to engender trust, to motivate activity and to create buy in, we need to be just as aware of our audience’s default starting position and their concerns as we are of the merits of our argument and the benefits of our vision.

So how do we make our case in such a way that trust and the appropriate action follows?

Understand how they define “justice”

No conversation, whether one to one or one to many, starts in neutral. 

We all bring our intrinsic biases, past experiences and prejudices to the table. Even if we are consciously open to new information, we will unconsciously bias towards justifying our current positions.

So, if you are making a case for change, or a point that might be considered challenging or controversial, it’s critical to understand how they filter justice and define correct behaviour. People are far more open minded to new ideas, however controversial, if they align with their existing filters for moral and just behaviour.

Acknowledge the experience gap

One of the problems thought leaders and experts face when speaking to audiences or trying to inspire their teams is that they have a level of experience and knowledge that far exceeds that of their audience. Often times they will be told to “dumb it down,” which can come across as incredibly judgemental or else as diminishing their work by over-simplifying what might be a nuanced argument.

An alternative filter to dumbing things down is to make your content accessible and useful. Your job as a leader or presenter is not to make your audience as smart as you are on your special subject, but rather to leave them smarter and better resourced than before they heard you speak.

Build a bridge

When seeking to shift an individual's or group's existing beliefs to another position, it’s important to demonstrate how they can get there without personal risk or of losing face.

Make it easy to move from one position to another by reducing the personal and reputational risk of doing so. Too often in attempting to change a individual's or group's perception or position, we make in incredibly difficult for them to agree with us.

In other words, be easy to buy, to agree with and to follow.

Place it within their power to act

Often, the marketing and advertising strategies of charities rely on shock and outrage to prompt volunteers into action and inspire donors to write a cheque or reach into their wallets. However, the shock of crisis statistics or the graphic and confronting nature of some visual material can be so great and the issue seem so large that, even though they empathise with the case being made, they feel powerless in the face of the scale of the issue and will choose not to act out of a sense of pointlessness and powerlessness.

This mean, even if you are setting out a bold vision of change with enormous aspirations to transform your industry or community, it’s also important to make small wins available, and more critically, make early steps achieveable.

What this all means, is that we need to consider the nature of our audience, team or community as carefully as we prepare our arguments and presentation style.

Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops & one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Less of the same… please!

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

As someone who works as a professional conference speaker, I spend rather a lot of time travelling to exotic locations and mostly seeing the inside of an airport lounge or the ballroom of a swish hotel - occasionally I’ll sneak off for a quick dip in the pool. 

Luckily, I also get to see some pretty incredible thought leaders and speakers who are exciting, entertaining and thought provoking. Although, I’ll be honest with you, not nearly enough of them.

Mostly what I get to see, are rather predictable presentations by sales managers, department heads and leaders that, if not completely eye-closing are at least a little eye-glazing in their repetitive and monotonous natures. In other words, I see the same presentations day in and day out with a few slightly different data points presented in far too generic a fashion. This, I believe, is a missed opportunity and frankly a waste of people’s time.

Of course, not all of us can be Tony Robbins, and nor should we aspire to be. Again, a full day of one Tony Robbins after another would simply be a different kind of monotony.

To effectively engage your team and your stakeholders when presenting in a ballroom or a boardroom, we need to (without trying to sound all woo woo about it) discover our own voice and then amplify it (with or without a microphone).

Discover your voice

This is easier said than done.

Discovering our voice is really a process of self-awareness, a practice that many of us spend far too little time engaged in. It’s relatively easy to know your job, your role, your product, service or organisational purpose and brand, however, being clear on who you are in that context, what uniqueness and contribution you bring to the party can be rather more difficult.

So, before you speak, it’s worth knowing WHO is speaking.

Different environments and subjects will necessarily demand different tones of voice and styles of delivery, so it’s useful to establish who you need to be in the context you are communicating in. Are you required to be the inspirational leader at the sales conference, the stoic bearer of bad news at a board meeting or the safe hands at the wheel at the AGM in front of shareholders?

It’s often useful to think of yourself in the third person (and no, I don’t mean refer to yourself in the third person). In other words, consider which celebrity actor you would like to play you in the presentation your preparing for and then question what it is about them that makes them appropriate to the message and the situation.

What are the characteristics?

What is it about their voice?

Do they tell personal stories or bring facts to life through case studies?

Are the factual and impactful or humorous and human?

And critically, where do you overlap?

Establishing your “character” for the particular presentation and context can be critical to increasing engagement and commanding attention.

Amplify your voice

Again, this is context dependent. You don’t want to bring “big stage” you to a meeting with two colleagues at a cafe!

However, neither do you want to play small. Speaking powerfully not only creates a sense of confidence and certainty in your audience, it can also have a positive physiological effect on you as well.

Of course, speaking powerfully is not just about volume, you can whisper powerfully if you need to, but it is about turning your personal “volume,” your unique tone of voice, up to 11 - to borrow a phrase from This is Spinal Tap.

What does that mean? It means you need to be yourself plus a little bit more. A little bit more you that typical you.

And because there really only is one you, you will necessarily be “less of the same”. Thank you!

  

Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops & one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com

Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership


Creativity is a discipline not a talent

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

Often, on being asked to speak at a conference about innovation and creative problem solving, I like to start such presentations by asking my audiences if they consider themselves to be creative or not. 

Actually, I wonder if I were to ask you if you consider yourself to be creative, how might would respond?

If you’re like the thousands of people I’ve spoken to about innovation and commercial creativity over the years, you’re likely to be in the majority who consider themselves to not be creative.

When I ask a follow up question such as, “Who believes they were creative as a child?” I’ll typically get to see a few more hands go up. Interesting.

Probing further and querying whether the members of my audience consider their own children to be creative, even more people will affirm that, “Yes, our children are indeed creative.”

This, in part, is due to the rather poor practice of traditional educators who partition intelligence into rarely cross-pollinating silos throughout our childhood, but it is also a function of an outdated and frankly unhelpful definition of creativity.

So, let’s put the latter aright.

Creativity versus Imagination

All of us, to some degree, can admit to being imaginative. Whether it is simply daydreaming while at work or else planning and mentally rehearsing what we would like the future to look like.

This mirrors much of our mental activity during childhood.

What distinguishes creativity from imagination, however, is intent. 

Creativity therefore might be understood as applied imagination. Imagination focused on a particular challenge, in a particular time within particular constraints. In other words, it is deliberate.

Creativity versus Artistry

Creativity is also associated with artistry - the ability to draw, to write poetry, to compose music or dance and the like. 

However, this is a rather narrow view of creativity and can in fact undermine creativity’s commercial application. We tend to think of a creative person as being “struck by a moment of inspiration,” or having been, “inspired by their muse.” This hardly sounds like the practice to be undertaken by a commercially-minded business person.

The truth is, creativity is simply the ability to solve particular problems and create new and desirable possibilities in ways we’ve not seen before. To focus on new solutions rather than simply following historic precedent or managing process. This makes it a critical leadership function.

Commercial creativity, therefore, requires a purposeful application of imagination. It must be congruent.

Talent versus Discipline

This linking of creativity and artistry has also led to the confusion of creativity as a talent rather than as a discipline. We tend to imagine that creativity’s function is limited to the rare few firebrands with entrepreneurial spirits who dress in jeans and t-shirts and have the attention span of a puppy.

However, creativity is a skill that can be learned, nurtured and developed. 

As the problems we face in business and in our communities become more complex, interconnected and impactful, we will all need to upgrade our cognitive software from time to time and to increase our creative capabilities.

This means creativity must also be treated, not as a talent or a flight of fancy, but as a discipline, a practice and something that is commercial and consistent.


Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops on Creativity & Innovation. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com


Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Increase your Collaborative Intelligence (We-Q) through self-awareness

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

There is much academic research to support the fact that groups of diverse people who openly collaborate actually experience an increase in collective IQ. 

This includes a range of experiments that were conducted by MIT in 2014, one of which saw a woman added to a homogenous group of men, resulting in an improvement in the group’s problem solving abilities.

The commercial world has also produced similar results under real world conditions. Diverse executive teams and boards have repeatedly demonstrated that they are better able to navigate crises, economic and otherwise, and recover more quickly and effectively than less diverse teams. 

What these results point to, rather than simply affirming a “diversity agenda” based in social goals such as equality or fairness, is that having access to multiple points of view actually improves our ability to innovate, adapt and demonstrate resilience. 

In other words, it’s at least as much a bottom line issue as a social responsibility one.

However, our views of diversity and collaboration are so influenced by those who seek them for social reasons that we end up losing some of the nuance and practicality in the conversation.

It’s relatively easy to identify and encourage diversity of ethnicity or gender or even sexual orientation within a team, but what is often more difficult to define, is diversity of thinking styles that lead to such benefits as productive conflict and challenge as well as expanding our cognitive bandwidth.

Often, we’ll simply tick the diversity box in a somewhat cynical way only to hear our own opinion offered back to us in differing accents and tonalities.

If we truly want to benefit from diversity and collaboration within our team, and we should, we need to actively and consciouly seek out those who not only look and speak differently to ourselves, but also those who think differently.

This can be challenging as it is an entirely human tendency to find comfort and solace in those who do not challenge us too overtly and to experience those who are less like us in bearing and personality as a little discomforting and even annoying.

An important factor in this process, is to develop an understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses and our own biases and blind spots. In fact, the more we are able to understand and appreciate what we do not know or can not see, as well as where we might be vulnerable or exposed, the more open we will tend to be and the more appreciative we are of those who can fill in the rest of the picture for us.

In this way, team dynamics, performance and collaboration are supported and improved by high self-awareness and an honest appraisal of our own narrowness of focus.

Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops on Team Dynamics. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com


Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Invest in value-based innovation

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

What makes an innovation successful? Why is it that one seemingly good idea that offers social and economic benefit succeeds when another seemingly good idea fails? Is it really just a function of being first to market or of throwing enough cash at the marketing campaign?

Great questions that I am often asked when working with leaders and teams on their innovation strategies, so let’s dig in.

Research published by Oded Shenkar, at Ohio State University, asserted that 98% of an innovations value was captured by the immitators, not the innovators. So, being first to market is clearly no guarantee of innovation success.

However, many big brands that have copied innovations by smaller organisations have also failed, despite having deep pockets and large marketing budgets and sales forces. Clearly, something other than their engagement strategy is also at play here.

In fact, what seems to unite successful innovations, independent of their quickeness to market or the scale and creativity of their engagement is an ability to pursue value-based innovation rather than technology-based.

And yet, that’s not how most organisations focus their innovation efforts. 

Typically, leaders and organisations will invest in what might be best understood as a commercial punt. Gambling on being able to predict the next big trend or else crossing their fingers and hoping their designers, technicians and engineers come up with the next advance in their field.

Luck, of course, is a poor strategy, so how might we best focus our innovation strategy and increase our chances of success.

One of the reasons value-based innovation matters is that it is market tested - you already know whether the value you seek to provide is relevant and salient as it is already being met in the market, albeit in another format.

Consider Kodak as a well understood example of this.

Their innovation, like most organisations, was technically focused. They invested in better film technology and even explored digital photography. But this was all very product focused and took very little account of the value exchange they were engaged in with their customers.

The true value they provided was “memory preservation”. This value has spawned the cloud computing industry, among others, and billions of dollars in revenue. Value that Kodak could have provided had they innovated through a value-based lens. 

So, how might we all engage in value-based innovation? Start with defining the universal value and need that you satisfy. In other words, what service are you really providing and what is it that you are actually selling?

Most importantly, be relentlessly focused on the value you provide.

Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops on Creativity & Innovation. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com


Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Why we need to change how we do change

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

Perhaps the most common response I get when I talk to people about how their organisational cultures are tracking is, “They’re a bit change fatigued.”

You may even be feeling a little of this yourself.

One of the root causes of this fatigue is not necessarily that the change in question isn’t positive, or that the underlying rationale for change isn’t understood or even considered critical to the team’s success. Rather, it has far more to do with how we do change.

What this means is, we need to make the process of positive change itself… positive.

Instead of seeing change as something that we thrust upon people with a little “motivational anaesthetic,” we would do better to design the process of change in a way that is intrinsically motivating.

So how might this be achieved.

  1. Broaden your perspective on change

There are 3 Spheres of Change. Firstly, what is changing. Secondly what needs changing. And lastly, what is unchanging. The problem is, we get caught up in a reactive cycle of simply focusing on the first sphere of change that we feel like it all lies beyond our control.

However, behavioural change is far more effective, long lasting and enjoyable when we also focus on the evergreen and familiar. In other words, it’s critical to also consider what is unchanging!

  1. Link it to the known

Metaphors are powerful precisely because they link the new to what is already known and understood.

In other words, while we may stumble over something that is completely new, we’re far more likely to feel comfortable with change that feels new-ish. It stretches us but also feels more recognisable.

  1. Show them that they’re not alone

Change is easy… you go first! Hardly a phrase that inspires confidence. However, demonstrating that change is also being navigated by our peers and colleagues and that we are not being used as a lone test pilot can make the process of change feel more social and increase our sense of safety.

  1. Create a bias towards success and away from failure

Rather than relying solely on motivation and discipline, a far more reliable and long-lasting approach to change is one of design. In other words, when the system is designed to make success and competence easy, and failure more difficult, success and confidence tend to follow.

The truth is, change isn’t the issue - change is, in fact, a constant. However, to do change well, we need to change how we see change and make the process of change itself… positive.


Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops on Change Strategy. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com


Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Engage the room

Kieran Flanagan   @ThinkKieranF

Often when we’re presenting to a boardroom, to our colleagues or at an AGM or conference, we get so caught up in our facts and figures and in our own prefered methods of communication, that it’s easy to forget that our primary objective in presenting is to engage the room. 

To lead a room with our presentation skills, we need to learn to mix our palette of communication, to combine the visual with the factual and the emotional with the practical.

It’s also important to remember that human communication is multifaceted and multidirectional. The goal is not simply information transmission but to move people to understanding and action.

So how might we ensure that we reach people where they are?

Make it visual

Now, it would be very easy to assume that I’m refering to your Powerpoint deck here, but being visual is as much to do with how you present yourself as it does with technology.

Do you look like you should be in front of the room? Do you carry confidence and convery competence and certainty? Do you make eye contact with different sections of the room and move puposely (as opposed to playing “tennis” crossing the stage from one side to the next)?

Of course, it should go without saying that your presentation slides should add to the impact of your presentation, not serve as presenter notes.

Make it empathetic

Human communication is all about generating an emotional, and even an irrational, response to our vision, aspirations and ideas. If they don’t feel it, neither will they act (at least not with much enthusiasm).

Facts do matter, but they don’t move people. In fact, an overreliance on facts when making a contentious point or in a high pressure context can actually have the opposite effect. This “Backfire Effect” occurs when people feel so backed into a corner by a fact-based argument that they become defensive and irrational and increasingly closed-minded.

Make it make sense

This is really about doing your due diligence before you speak. Know your topic, know the likely objections and be the person in the room who knows your subject better than anyone else.

Of course, this will not always be possible, however it should still be your goal.

Not only does this make you look more compelling as a speaker, it absolutely lifts your confidence and and your audience’s engagement levels.

Make action achievable

In a commercial or business context, no one is presenting because they like the sound of their own voice (although, I’m sure we can all name a few notable exceptions).

Rather, we are most likely seeking to inspire a positive change, to open minds to new ideas and possibilities and to drive results-centric action.

And yet, this step is often missed. Consider how many times you have heard an inspiring presentation only to walk away with no real concept of what your next steps should be.

So once you have established your WHAT WHY & HOW, make sure your leave them with a what NOW.

Presentation mastery, like all good communication, should leave you feeling inspired and also a little impatient to act!

Find out how Kieran can help you become a powerful presenter through her in-house team workshops & one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery. Contact info@TheImpossibleInstitute.com or visit www.TheImpossibleInstitute.com


Kieran Flanagan is an author, speaker, trainer and social commentator. She helps leaders, teams and organisations “make change positive” through developing Forever Skills including: 

#Innovation - Creativity & Problem Solving

#Collaboration - Teamwork & Team Dynamics

#Inspiration - Engagement & Presentation Mastery

#Transformation - Change & Leadership

Enough sledging can we please see some powerful presenting.

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

There is a state election looming where I live, enormous sigh. That means a sledge fest has begun where each party begins to throw shade at their opposition. Scary voices, dispersion casting, juvenile tit-for-tatting and nothing but what is wrong with the other party and people. It gets old pretty quickly.

What happened to ‘I have a dream?’

When did our leaders stop enrapturing us with what is possible? When did they stop ensnaring us with promises of better and the call to be part of something more? It seems there are no dreams anymore only statements to be read out, controlled deliveries and election by the erosion of the other party. 

I want more from our leaders (in and out of government).

I want to be inspired by their vision, moved by their words and reassured by their behaviour. It doesn’t sound like a hard list and yet it seems like looking for a unicorn. You can’t find one.

We need our leaders to do better and we need to do better as leaders.

Leaders should be able to present

The ability to present isn’t a nice to have as a leader, it is essential. If you don’t want to drag people you need to get them to move willingly. This takes among other things, presentation skills. The skill of sharing with people a way of seeing things that connects with them. After all, it isn’t their job to listen, it is yours to communicate and connect. Ideas, words, personality, gestures, voice control and expression all matter if you want to do this.

Great leaders have always known this, from Churchill to Kennedy, they have used the power of presentation to enrol and drive progress. Too few leaders today are learning this skill. Instead they are learning presenting as an exercise in restraint and objectivity. In essence many are turning off their personalities and humanity. It doesn’t connect, they drone on at us and we tune them out.

We should want to follow

If you are a leader every time you speak in a room or town hall you are asking people to follow and they are asking ‘are you worth following?’. This means you need to show up ready to share every single time. Ready and prepared because you have done the thinking, you have considered their current point of view, you have connected to how you and they feel and you are ready to share (not deliver a speech). 

Slick or controlled isn’t powerful presenting

The most powerful example of presenting powerfully I have seen recently was from New Zealand’s awesome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Raw, emotional and present, not polished or perfect. It wasn’t about her timing or techniques, cleverness with words or emotional control. It was how she showed up that truly mattered. We all saw the moment a true leader waked into the room and it was shared all over the planet. Wow check this out, a real leader! 

You see, presenting isn’t about being perfect or accurate or emotionally in control it’s ultimately about sharing your humanity.Jacinda called the world to rally against hatred and division without sledging. She brought love where there was hate. She makes me want to be a better presenter. She even makes me want to be a Kiwi.

Kieran Flanagan helps executives and leaders (not politicians!) become powerful presenters.

She runs in-house workshops and one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery.

Why Presentation Skills are thinking skills too.

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

When most people think of Presentation Skills they think of the on-stage stuff. The spotlights, the microphone, the hand gestures and the captivated audience. Sure presentation skills include those things but they are much more than that. For most presentations don’t always happen on a stage to a large audience. More often they happen in meeting rooms, boardrooms, stores, job interviews, pitches and team meetings. They happen every day in more ways than you probably realise.

Being good at presenting is a life and work skill, not just a skill for those who are on stage and the skills it takes to be good at presenting might surprise you. Presenting is voice and emotion, movement, engagement, storytelling and making eye contact but before you get to any of that and crucially presenting takes thinking. 

Presenting is a thinking skill first. 

Thinking about what you want to share and why the audience should care. Why your message is worth listening to and paying attention to (just one of the 16 million text messages, 56 million emails or hundreds of marketing messages are created every minute of every day). And that’s just the first question you need to ask yourself!

Presentation Skills will help you and your teams articulate, simplify and order your thinking so you can share it in a way that can be heard, understood and acted upon. Here are a few tips to get you thinking (before you go near an audience of any size).

Think about what you are really saying.

This sounds obvious but you would be amazed how many people walk into a meeting or room without truly knowing what they are saying. Clarity trumps everything. It trumps cleverness and craft. Be clear first. 

Be able to articulate the point you are making in a single sentence. 

I use a technique I call ‘on a post-it’. This means you must be able to write on a regular sized Post-It note your key thought. If you can’t you haven’t simplified it enough. You are in the game of sharing your message, idea, offering and to do that they must take it away with them. The people you are presenting to must be able to leave the room and remember the point of what you were saying. In addition if someone else asks them what it was about they should be able to clearly share on your behalf. Too many presentations that people walk out of saying were good or even great come unstuck when someone else asks what was the key point. If they don’t know, it’s awkward, they mutter in an attempt to escape the conversation, “I don’t know”, or “it’s hard to explain”, “but it was really good” and the worst one of all, “you had to be there!”

Be both easy to explain and really good!

Think about who is listening.

Presenting isn’t all about you. It’s hardly about you at all really. It’s about who is in the room. Getting ready to present means knowing who you are connecting to. To do this you have to know about them. What they care about, worry about, hope for, are afraid of and wish for. Knowing this allows you to make your message salient and relevant. Not a ‘that was nice but it isn’t relevant to me’ response that too many good presenters get because they failed to anchor their point in the world of those who are listening.

Once you know who is listening you can begin to build a flow and order that will make sense to their view of the world. No one likes being told they are wrong, in fact most people shut down when they are, dig their heels in and do anything they can to prove you wrong. Creating an order of logic and emotion that leads them to reach the conclusion you wanted them to come to, is far easier when you know their current view of the world.

Think about making it actionable.

Why are you taking up people’s precious time and focus? What do you want them to do differently? What do you want them to act upon? What are you trying to change for the better? 

Talking is one thing but moving people to take some sort of action is entirely another. Great presenters provoke, evoke and importantly invoke. They give their audience something to do. If you want to be a great presenter get great at turning ideas and messages into actionable steps and takeaways. 

Kieran Flanagan helps executives and leaders become powerful presenters.

She runs in-house workshops and one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery.

Stop presenting. Start connecting

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Something strange seems to happen when the word ‘presentation’ is uttered. Normal, rational, clever people who can hold a conversation, engage a group in a discussion and lead a team or company change. They go on stage at a roadshow, town hall or company gathering and suddenly we don’t know them. It’s a bit like someone standing next to an overly retouched photograph of themselves, it’s terribly awkward because we don’t recognise them. Who are you? 

It seems using the word presentation triggers a peculiar response in many of us, one that isn’t good.

People become someone else and often not a better version. They replace their individuality with their idea of a speaker. It doesn’t work and it leaves us all uncomfortable.

The trick is to be you, amplified.

Be you (on a good day).

Your job when you take the stage is you dialled up a little. Not you playing someone else. Not you trying to follow an eighties formulaic, ‘here’s how to do a speech program’. There are a myriad of speaker types that are effective and powerful. The trick is to know your natural style and amplify its assets.

Perfection is suspicious.

Human beings have exquisite inbuilt BS detectors. Beep, beep, beep! We can tell when someone isn’t being themselves and we unconsciously do not believe them. Robot like renditions of speeches are awkward for everyone. Overly nice, warm, enthusiastic, dramatic or emotional speeches make us mistrust you. It’s ok (and often better) to be charmingly imperfect on stage. 

Own your ‘flaws’.

I was once giving some advice to an amazing woman who was a little concerned about presenting to a corporate audience because she swore a lot, as in every sentence or two! I said to her that you need to let the audience know about it and gain their permission rather than launch into a verbal assault. She was perfect. She stood up and said “Hi, I’m Maz and I have to warn you. I ‘f word’ swear all the f word’ time, but I think it is ok because I have an ‘f word’ posh accent and it sounds rather ‘f word’ ok. The room laughed and loved her immediately. There was not one complaint about her ‘colourful’ language. She owned her ‘flaw’ and shared it with her audience and so should you.

Stick to a structure, not just a script.

The key to a powerful presentation is structure, not necessarily a script. Some people do script things word perfectly and have the time and energy to rehearse enough to learn it that way. But for most people a script is debilitating. They spend too much time and energy trying to be word perfect and it costs them performance and engagement. If your audience can see you thinking and trying to remember you will lose connection. 

It is better to create a good logical structure that allow both you and the audience to follow along easily. Knowing what you are saying, why you are sharing it, why it matters to the audience, how it is going to happen and what you are ultimately asking them to do allows you to plan out your speech and still maintain enough freedom to be in the moment too. Which is ultimately what is important. A presentation is not a one way thing, the audience is part of it and having some room to respond and connect with them is important.

Kieran Flanagan helps leaders become powerful presenters. 

She runs in-house workshops and one on one mentoring on Presentation Mastery.

Why you should forget work life balance and have cocktails instead

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Work life balance makes me vomit in my mouth a little. It’s one of those phrases used constantly but in truth it sets all of us up to fail. I prefer the notion of work life blending. Here’s why.

Work life balance is an oppositional concept. 

On one side we  have life and the other work. ‘In the red corner we have life… love, family, fun stuff and in the blue we have work… hours, money, stress’. Not necessarily the truth, because if we are honest, family can be stressful at times and work can be meaningful and a source of joy. But the game makes it one or the other. It’s a battle that makes the Hunger Games look friendly.

That’s right, the game we have somehow found ourselves playing is to attempt to have them as equals. It is a fantasy state of perfect equilibrium, a nirvana where everyone and everything is in perfect harmony. Then real life happens and we rarely have anything remotely resembling balance and we feel like enormous failures.

Balance is hard to maintain

Balance is something that is ridiculously difficult to maintain. It’s like a seesaw (or teeter totter for my American readers). Easily out of balance. Do you remember as kids trying to get a see saw to maintain equilibrium? You shuffled up and down, you added kids and took them away and it was nearly impossible to do. Sometimes, almost by magic you managed to get the weight to distance ratio correct, for a perfect moment you hung in the air. It was beautiful, but it was fleeting. The slightest shift from one of the kids sent it back out of balance. So too with work life balance. It is precarious and too easy to upset.

What we are balancing is a ridiculously long list

Thirdly we have made the list of things that go towards ‘balance’ stupidly long. To have balance today and be deemed successful apparently we need to: be a rockstar at work, solve problems like a ninja, find an outlet for our creative expression, have a huge social following, be working on our legacy, have a 5 year plan, a life plan and a plan to give something back, we should be crazily in love, make time for date nights and other random romantic gestures, read bedtime stories to our kids, attend every assembly, performance and swimming carnival, share our feelings, get present to what we are grateful for, meditate, light candles, take time for ourselves, have lots of baths, see old friends, make new friends, call our mums every week, have the flexibility of plasticine, breathe regularly, eat whole foods, blend our own smoothies, serve food in cute jars, have a house that belongs in a magazine, throw away things that don’t bring us happiness, know more than one language, travel the world, climb mountains, collect memories, try the karma sutra, try something that frightens us,have a signature dish, a signature move and a surprise move or two so we don’t get predictable. Arghhhhhhhhhh!! I can’t take it, the list never stops.

It is exhausting just reading the list of things we are trying to balance, let alone attempting to balance them. Then we have to review them, get honest with ourselves and sometimes even give ourselves scores in each category. Sigh.

You can see why the very idea of work life balance makes me feel rather nauseous.

I say forget balance, try work life blending.

As technology blends our work lives and our personal lives together so should we. Trying to have them separate is onerous. We need to re-think the model and allow them to co-exist. To take a broader look than simply are they in balance? If the traditional model of balance is like a set of scales where you attempt to balance things by adding and removing things from each side, work life blending is rather like cocktails.

Work life blending is like mixing cocktails.

Everybody likes cocktails! Cocktails are made with a cocktail shaker and a whole lot of ingredients. You chuck in your ingredients, shake it up and voila!

Of course there is a finite volume and you have to be honest about how much you can fit in. You cannot have everything. But you get to choose the ingredients you like, how much of each you want and how they blend together.

I like to make mine a long cool drink, meaning I take a longer view of my mix. Often over an entire year. I ask myself did I have a blend that I loved this year? Did  I get school holidays off to hang with Darcy, did I kick the big work goals I have, have an adventure, learn something that made me better and did my extended family and friends not feel completely abandoned?

My mix won’t be yours and yours won’t be mine. But that’s the great thing about cocktails, there is no one right way.

Just your way.

Cheers!

Reframe time: You don't have all year

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

I am pretty sure  Xmas just happened and somehow it’s April. Hilarious. IT IS APRIL! Just 263 sleeps until Xmas again. Perhaps it's time to "reframe time".

Not that I am a Griswald kind of girl who counts down the days in eager anticipation, (although I am partial to a fairylight or two thousand). But because I think most of us are constantly surprised at how fast time passes. We sport shocked, but trying not to be, expressions, (think Michelle Obama accepting Melania’s gift), and utter inane things like; 'It can'tbe Xmas again already!', 'Didn'tI just have a birthday?’ and'What on earth happened to summer?' 

Unless of course we are kids, then it seems to take for-evvv-errrr for it to be your birthday, holidays or Xmas again.

When you grow up it seems you enter a time warp and time speeds up right?

Scientists have been trying to figure out this phenomena and whilst there are a number of theories from relative experience, to amount of stuff you need to fit in to life, there is no real agreement. We just know that it certainly feels that way.

So until these scientists figure out how to extend time or bend time, we'd do well to learn how to reframe time.

Perhaps because in reality a year isn'tlong at all. It is a meagre 52 weekends. That's not even one and a half lined A4 pages of ideas (I counted 38 lines on mine) of things you want to do or books you want to read or extreme haikus to write, the last one’s just me right? Do you feel my panicpeople?Breathe in... breathe out.

I like to reframe time when I am working with businesses and people.

52 weekends or 4 quarters of thirteen.

52 Mondays to make those calls. 52 weeks to try that experiment, learn that skill or ask for that business. 52 chances.

I like to remember I will only have my daughter Darcy as an eight year old with all her eight year old curiosity, creativity and cleverness for 52 precious weeks (particularly when she is having one of her I am a teenager in a child’s body moments)…  52 weekends for eight year old adventures.

A year isn’tlong. Yet most of us are stuck in our childhood perspectives of time thinking we have all year. Our thinking needs changing.

We need to think differently about time.

You see folks, this year we are a quarter done. This is the first month of the second quarter of 2017. Which means we are almost down to just one A4 page of stuff to achieve if you do just one thing a week.

Not one year… just one page left this year.

(Or 37 Wednesdays until Xmas for you festively minded.)

Make sure the stuff on your list is meaningful.
Go.

Future Leadership: How do we lead when they no longer work FOR us?

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

Ah the good old days when leadership resembled a tidy, symmetrical pyramid of hierarchical control. Leaders at the top with layers of obedient minions, ready to do your bidding... or suffer the inevitable consequences. But what does future leadership look like?

Things were far from equitable but nonetheless the way leadership worked was relatively simple, almost parental, "Just do as you're told!"

Future leadership looks far less geometrical, and far more complicated. And if anything, it is going to become even less orderly and controlled.

Workplace trends like off-shoring, out-sourcing, the rise of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship and the rise of the freelance economy mean that fewer employees work forus and more and more must be encouraged to work withus.

By 2020 it is estimated that 40% of the workforce will be self employed (Source: The Intuit 2020 report).

This means employees, your team, your staff, will no longer work for you.

They will work with other businesses as well as you.

They will work on projects.

But most critically, they will work for themselves.

This will fundamentally shift the kind of leadership we require. Leaders will be required to rely less on positional authority and more on a capacity to rally followers to their cause.

Leaders will have to really stand up for something that inspires others to want to get involved, not just pay lip service to a vision that sounds like it was spat out of a Dilbert Mission Statement Generator.

Tomorrow's leaders will need to understand who people are and just as importantly, who they aspire to be.

This kind of leadership will be defined by those we chooseto follow, not those we a coerced into following.

Don't ignore what is unchanging

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

In a world of relentless change, most leaders and organizations understand the importance of keeping up to date, but often forget the importance of looking to what will endure.

What is unchanging is just as important a consideration when it comes to inventing our futures as what will. The legendary adman Bill Bernbach (one of New York's real Madmen) wisely spoke about unchanging man (of course he would has added "unchanging woman" had the MadMen era not so entirely biased towards the masculine.

He observed, “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

No matter how our business or technology or trends may change the way we deliver value for our customers, Mr Bernbach is of course, correct. Core human drivers will not dissipate.

We will still want to feel important, to matter, to connect to feel like us showing up to work made a difference.

We will buy emotionally, feel fear, worry for our loved ones (and their futures) and want to love.

We will be driven by ego, to prefer to do more of the things we are good at, that make us feel good, that trigger dopamine releases deep into our cerebellums.

None of these things will change because they are core to who people are.

When we understand this we can look to the heart of our businesses and consider how we serve the deepest motivators of humanity. If and when we do we can rest assured that no matter what technological or other changes occur (often beyond our control) what we offer will still be fundamentally relevant.

The howwe deliver might be different but the core of whatwe deliver may not change at all.

Loyalty might just be an old-fashioned ideal

Kieran Flanagan @ThinkKieranF

"Surely not," you say! Well, hear me out.

Staff loyalty was once the ultimate measure of a leader. When a leader was great people stuck around. They progressed through the company. They grew old there. They got a gold watch.

Today staff tenure is in decline. The average length of time millennials stay in a job for  is now sitting at around 3 years. And it's predicted to decrease further.

The paradigm has changed, broad experience now trumps long experience.

People come and people go. They get a lunch, or a cake, a silly leaving card or perhaps an emotionally stunted "all-staff" email with a "thank you - its been great" kind of vibe.

In this world staff turnover measures may not be the right ones to obsess over and in the future, tenure itself may be viewed as an archaic measure. Loyalty, once telling of the type of leader you were, might become irrelevant.

Instead leaders will be judged on their ability to rally people to their vision and cause. How they stand up, what they stand for, who they stand with and what they stand against will matter far more than how well they stand in line.

The workplace of the future will be driven by oneness of purpose. People will unite to drive change, to do something extraordinary and then dissipate as the need does. In this workplace we don't want loyal people we want skilful, knowledgeable, driven people who have bought into what they are here to do.

In short, Workplaces characterized by loyalty and tenure will soon be replaced with cultures of the willing, of the voluntary, of the enthusiastic.