Tag Archives: IBM

Creative awareness: Hidden innovation obstacle for organizations

This is a guest post by Chris Grivas, principal of Chris Grivas Consulting (www.chrisgrivas.com) an organizational and leadership development consultancy focused on increasing the creative capacity of individuals, teams, and organizations. He is co-author of THE INNOVATIVE TEAM: Unleashing Creative Potential For Breakthrough Results.

A recent IBM study of more than 1500 executives around the world showed that an overwhelming majority of these seasoned leaders were not fully confident that they were prepared to respond effectively to rapid change and dealing with change was one of their biggest challenges. Their number one suggestion? Adopt creativity as a core leadership skill. As Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler observed, “Leadership is all about managing change – whether you are leading a company or a country. Things change, and you get creative.”

The faster things change, many experts say, the stronger your creative thinking and problem solving skills need to be. To successfully compete in the 21st Century, leaders are calling for increased training in creative thinking everywhere from boardrooms to elementary classrooms.

Can mastery and innovation coexist?

Jonathan Fields posted this question in a Psychology Today article last week. Here is my answer and would love to hear yours.

It’s a great question and not at all difficult to answer, though it’s better said than done. First of all, mastery is never achieved. It’s a goal, but a goal we’ll never reach. As much as you think that somebody is  ‘the master’ of something, it’s just a psychological illusion. It’s your human biases at work. It’s an illusion because you’re already thinking that it can’t be improved in some way. And that my friend, is your endgame.

In the world of sports this phenomenon is more obvious, and even the people who are considered the best at what they do will tell you they’re always improving because they know they’ll never fully master their craft.

In the business world it’s not all different. Companies have evolved since forever, some started as a completely different business than what they are today. You may master some process but that process will eventually become irrelevant. It will be replaced by either another process (incremental) or by an unforeseen evolutionary paradigm (disruptive).

Be gone with categorization

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/jorgebarba/status/72767066175848448″]

This was in response to @marihuertas, who also thinks there’s no such thing as social media experts.

Recently I fell into the categorization trap…

We are doing some branding work for a publicist. Specifically coming up with an identity that’s uniquer to her. When doing this type of work, an anything for that matter, you start off asking the client about them. You want to find out what makes them unique, sometimes this is easy but most of the time this is hard. Ultimately you want this process to result in creating an identity that the client will get excited about but also people will remember and love.

But sometimes you let old habits take control. You let the client direct what they ‘supposedly’ want. It’s a balancing act letting the client ‘direct’ and then proposing alternatives. We fell into the trap of letting the client direct and not get any traction because our client is ‘not sure’ of what she wants. Our client can tell us she wants X, Y and Z; we have to transform this into a look and feel.

We were frustrated because we haven’t hit the nail.

It then occurred to me that we might be trying to do this taking a practical approach, and as result we’re not getting excited about this process. We are not directing the scene but getting directed. And as a result our enthusiasm is sapped.

I had to remind ourselves that there are two types of work: the visionary and audacious and the practical and predictable. The first leads you to inspire others to adopt a vision. It’s all about excitement. The other leads to ‘me-too-ism’, predictability.

It’s that simple.

Defy categorization

Practical steps come into play when we want to fit into a category, in our case our client is a publicist. We take steps that worked for us before or that worked for someone else. And when letting our client direct the scene, she’s going to follow what’s in her head about what a publicist looks and sounds like because that’s the way she sees the world.

Our job is to short circuit this and propose alternatives. To stretch their minds. Our job is to excite and inspire as much as it is about executing.

After exchanging emails with my team for about half an hour, I continued pondering our mistake. I quickly glanced at Tweetdeck and saw this tweet by @lindegaard (which brought a smile to my face):

Innovation posts of the week: Can imagination be taught?

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Innovation posts of the week: Values, bias and innovation

IBM: Early failure is a necessary investment in innovation

I’m reading Switch: How to change things when change is hard by the Heath brothers and in one of the middle chapters called Grow your people there’s a very important lesson on the topic of the fear of failure when provoking change. Here are some thoughts:

Since everything is hard before it is easy, in order to create change we have to be able to move people to a different set of behaviors and most of the time this is where the problem exists because people fear situations that are unknown. To keep people motivated in the long road to change, you need to create the expectation of failure.

According to the Heath brothers learning from failure begins with having the right mindset. A person with a is more likely to view failure as learning as opposed to one who has a fixed mindset and prefers routine tasks, therefore we must work to cultivate a growth mindset in your organization.

I think this where it all starts because as humans we’ve been programmed to think that ‘failure is wrong’ when really and so we’re taught to ignore the middle part of the process where all the learning takes place. The middle is the journey, where the ups and downs happen and you need the will to break through.

As the Economist recently mentioned, the key to the success to any change initiative is that first:


Leaders of organizations should allow their innovators to be scientists and tell our teams we don’t expect 100 percent success in early experiments. The important thing is to learn from failed experiments early in the process and use those lessons to map out a path to success.


For the purpose of credibility here’s a story from the book that I think is worth highlighting:

*Failing is often the best way to learn and because of that early failure is a kind of necessary investment. A famous story about IBM makes the point well. In the 1960’s, an executive at IBM made a decision that ended up losing the company $10 million. The CEO of IBM, Tom Watson, summoned the offending executive to his office at corporate headquarters. The journalist Paul B. Carroll described what happened next:


As the executive cowered, Watson asked, “Do you know why I’ve asked you here?”

The man replied, “I assume I’m here so you can fire me.”

Watson looked surprised.

“Fire you?” he asked. “Of course not. I just spent $10 million educating you.”


I’m almost finished reading the book and will post any other thoughts I think are worth mentioning.

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Must read innovation stories of the week: A culture of innovation starts with us

Any change we want to see in ANY domain starts with the man in the mirror:


I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change


Guess who said that…