How to Harness the Creativity of Your Team

Yesterday I participated in a workshop that helped me articulate the following guidelines for removing barriers to innovation and for harnessing the collective intelligence of a team. Thanks to all who participated for sharing your perspective. It was inspiring.

Below is a list of action items that leaders should address early and often when working with a team. These are also things that team members should ask for:

  • Define what success looks like
  • Articulate priorities
  • Figure out what not to do
  • Check in on team member goals
  • Acknowledge and celebrate the diverse points of view of your team
  • Call in an outside facilitator when you have issues that are too hard to navigate internally

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Yesterday’s workshop was lead by a thoughtful, down-to-earth facilitator, Erica Marx

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Search Inside Yourself: Mindfulness at Google

Chade Meng-Tan (Meng) was a software engineer and employee number 107 at Google when he founded the “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness program at the company. 

In this talk above, Meng offers a standard definition of Emotional Intelligence (EI), which can be achieved through mindfulness practice:

Emotional Intelligence: The ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)

Then Meng follows it up with his own, simpler definition:

Emotional Intelligence: a collection of emotional skills

Meng claims that developing EI happens when you practice mindfulness which will change your brain via neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity relies on the assumption that what we think, do, and pay attention to changes the structure and function of our brains. Meng claims we can change our brains in 6-7 weeks, 20 hours of practice. 

WHY change your brain? Meng offers an interesting analogy about the relationship between our emotions and our thoughts.

Think of a horse and rider. The horse is emotions and the rider is the thinking mind. With practice, the rider can steer the horse. Learn to influence where the horse goes. And eventually, master that control.

The first step to achieving emotional intelligence is to practice ATTENTION TRAINING. The goal here is to “bring the mind to a state that is calm and clear and to be able to do that on demand. If you have the power to calm the mind on demand, that space becomes reliably accessible. You get choice, power, and freedom.”

Meng suggests a simple practice for attention training: Focus on the breath for ten minutes. When your mind drifts away, bring it back.

The second step for achieving EI is SELF KNOWLEDGE AND MASTERY. Here, Meng claims that the focus is on clarity. Moving from seeing things in a low-resolution way to a higher resolution. Meng articulates subtle yet important shifts in mindset such as a shift from, “I am angry,” to “I am experiencing anger.” From there is even a more profound shift from, “I am experiencing anger” to “I am experiencing anger in my body.” When you experience pain in your body, Meng argues, then you can do something about it. You hurt your hand, for example, then you have choices: you can ice it, massage it, distract with ice cream (his joke).

The third step in Meng’s schema is to CREATE USEFUL MENTAL HABITS. One he recommends trying out is that whenever you walk into a room, without doing anything, wish for two people in that room to be happy. This is a habit of kindness. “Habit becomes personality. Personality becomes you. You become a kind person.” (again, neuroplasticity at work).

Note that Meng is sometimes critiqued for applying mindfulness to what can be viewed as a corporate leadership program. Do with that whatever you will. But hopefully, you can pull some useful gems from his work.

 

How (and why) to help team members articulate their goals

According to leadership experts, helping your team members articulate their goals is an effective way to build motivation and trust in your organization because it helps your team members feel seen and heard.

However, a lot of leaders don’t take the time or effort to do this. Perhaps it’s an oversight, perhaps they feel it will take away from the organization’s goals, or perhaps they just don’t know how.

If you are interested in helping your team members feel seen and heard, help them articulate their goals. Schedule a team meeting or a series of one-on-ones to create a space for active listening. If your team members need a framework to get started, here  is a framework inspired by Zig Ziglar – goals, benefits, obstacles, and people:

GOALS. Ask your team members to state their goals. Goals should be stated within the context of the project, the organization, or mission of the organization. Why are you working on this project? If it’s just for the paycheck, be honest about that. But if it’s to further a professional or personal goal, then say it loud. This is a great thing for all members of the team to know

BENEFITS. As a leader, ask your team members what benefits will be achieved by striving for and reaching their goals. If you feel like you need to explore alignment between team member goals and the organization, ask your team members to do that exploration and to connect those dots

OBSTACLES. Ask your team members to articulate what’s in their way. This is sometimes a hard conversation, but believe me, you want to know

PEOPLE. Ask your team members who they need buy-in from so that they have advocates for, and not obstacles to, reaching their goals.

If you take the time at the beginning of each project to check in with your team about their goals, then you will help them feel seen and heard, you will build motivation and trust among your team, and you will help individuals and your organization flourish.

 

 

Types of Creative Commons Licenses

As art goes digital, it becomes easy to copy and remix. This is great in many ways. But it’s also important for artists to know that there are tools out there to help them communicate how they would like their work to be used.

Creative Commons (CC) licensing was founded in 2001 by lawyer and academic Laurence Lessig as he and the folks around him saw a need for a new kind of licensing in the digital age.

There are a few flavors of CC. Some give you permission to use and remix work with no boundaries at all while others have some requirements. From the CC web page:

  • Attribution CC BY. This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
  • Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND. This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND. This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

  • To see examples for each kind of CC and to download license tags for your own use, go here
  • LL’s 2007 TedTalk on CC here

 

 

 

 

Technology and Social Systems

A good amount of inventors work on technologies that they claim will solve social challenges. While their intentions are good, their knowledge of the social side of these challenges may not be enough. Founding director of Data&Society danah boyd argues that technology isn’t likely to solve our social challenges, but rather exacerbate them. “We need to think hard and deep about how we want to marry technology… into the broader social challenges that we’re seeing with those systems.”

One way to do that is to figure out how to help the technologists and social scientists communicate and collaborate. Where’s the app for that challenge? jk

TAKE IT FURTHER

This long interview with boyd on Team Human is fantastic

Strip it down to change it up

This one’s just for fun. An oldie but a goodie.

Jimmy Fallon has this segment where he invites a pop star to perform a song of theirs with The Roots playing accompaniment using office supplies as instruments. It’s goofy but also an interesting constraint to hand off to such talented musicians. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, it does. Enjoy.

Better Than You Found It

tees from parksproject.us
tees from parksproject.us

At home, at work, and school we benefit from sharing spaces, tools, and resources. However, sharing resources is challenging because the responsibility for them is distributed. Shared spaces get messy. Shared tools get broken. And no one person is on the line to clean or fix them.

So when you use a shared space, leave the space better than you found it. Do something extra. Change that light bulb that’s been out for too long. Make and hang that sign that needs to be in place. Sweep those stairs that need sweeping. And when you contribute, don’t be a silent contributor. Let the group know what you’ve contributed. Your generosity will inspire others to make their own contributions.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

check out these do-gooders: https://www.parksproject.us/

When we are afraid

When we are afraid we have two choices:

  1. We can try to ignore the fear and hope that it goes away
  2. We can lean into that fear with a friend and try to figure out how to move through it

If we ignore our fear, it doesn’t go away. In fact, it grows.

But if we lean into our fear, yes it will be hard and uncomfortable. But it will yeild better results.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

How to Leverage Failure

There’s a lot of talk about celebrating failure in the innovation process. However, failure alone isn’t really enough. You have to use that failure to help you and those around you grow.

There’s a great little piece in the NYTs today on this: Talking About Failure is Crucial for Growth – here’s how to do it right

Failure can help us grow if we use it to connect with colleagues. It offers a great opportunity to ask for help and share our vulnerability. It also offers an opportunity to learn.

So the next time you fail, instead of burying it and pretending it never happened, push through that shame and use your failure as an opportunity to connect and to learn.