Posted on Leave a comment

Microsoft 365 customer questions – Teams chat pop out for improved collaboration

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Q – How can I chat and collaborate on a file at the same time

I was having a chat with a customer on Microsoft Teams and we were discussing the content of a PowerPoint file. The file was open for both of us in the desktop version of the PowerPoint App. I was referencing the content and the customer started complaining that every time I did that, she would have to switch out of chat and go the PowerPoint App to view the content referenced. Then come back to the chat to carry on the discussion. This context switching was fraying her nerves and is a classic example of bad collaboration productivity when a perfectly good solution will do, which is what she asked for 👇

A – Teams chat pop out

First just to say that if you want to work on an App like PowerPoint and chat alongside it at the same time, you can do that perfectly well when you are viewing the App in Teams – see screenshot below. Here you can see I have opened a Word file from the chat where I shared it. When you open the file from the chat, the conversation is not automatically displayed alongside the file, but you just have to click the Conversation icon to do that (see yellow circle). This functionality also works in a Channel conversation by the way.

Chat alongside App in Teams desktop – click to enlarge

This first option definitely does the job but sometimes you want to go beyond the App within Teams for richer functionality and use the desktop version of the App. Or collaborate alongside Apps not integrated into Teams like the Office Apps are. Thats when you use the Chat pop out function. Here are instructions for how to pop out a chat. Below is a screenshot of what it looks like. You can resize both windows to suit side by side work and chat better this way if you wish.

Chat alongside App outside Teams desktop – click to enlarge

And finally, here is an example of the popped-out chat alongside a browser window, just to show you how it’s possible to chat in this way alongside any other application.

Chat alongside non-Teams embedded App – click to enlarge
Posted on Leave a comment

Sense Making from the web

This post is an aggregation of recent posts that I have collected over at Flipboard on my magazine there. I’ve automated the collection of these posts around specific topics and intend to share the best here in this blog from time to time. Here is the latest batch and I have been using Feedzy, an RSS Aggregator Plugin for the job but this post is a test run. I am pretty discerning in my selection of what gets added to the magazine, I hope you agree.


INNERVENTURES Adventures inside organisations and of the mind, curated on Flipboard.

Posted on 1 Comment

Microsoft Viva goes vertical – sales productivity module announced

I have been writing a lot on Microsoft Viva lately since I work with customers on it (disclosure) and since it is an employee experience platform (EXP), I am working on a new trend report that is related: Employee Customer Experience Connection. More specifically, I have been saying in relation to my work and the trend report, that sales is a sweet spot for an EXP. Some of my recent posts on this below.

Microsoft Teams and CRM for Sales Productivity

Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity

What do I mean by vertical?

Just last week I announce two other modules that had recently been launched: Employee Experience platform offering grows with new Microsoft Viva modules. These modules along with all the original four are modules that can touch all parts of the organisation – hence horizontal. They are not specific to any one department, in other words vertical. In the case of Viva Sales, the focus is squarely on the sales department and function and on supporting revenue growth.

Here is an official post from Microsoft on the latest addition: Introducing Viva Sales, a modern way of selling that brings together any CRM, Microsoft 365 and Teams – The Official Microsoft Blog

And a video with some good demos:

Why sales is the sweet spot for the employee customer connection?

  1. Sales is the front line. It is where the interaction between employees and customers is most tangible and critical and where great experiences matter. To improve the customer experience, you should start with the employee experience. It doesn’t matter if most of your sales are online now, and customers don’t need to interact much during the actual selling process. At some point, customers will interact with your company, post purchase or in the lead up to it, direct or indirect. Everyone is always selling, whether it is in their title or not and every interaction with your company is a reflection of an experience with it and influences sales. The retail industry is where employee customer interaction is keenest and most critical as I wrote about here: 3 reasons retailers are leading at the intersection of employee and customer experience.
  2. Sales and growing revenue is number one. It is always a high priority for companies – maybe the highest, especially in tough times. So getting sales performance right is a top priority. Understanding it is a first step. Viva Insights is a great module for this specifically as I recounted in both of the articles I referenced earlier; through the work I am doing with customers. Second and ongoing is to conduct thoughtful experiments that will improve sales performance and productivity and measuring that impact of those through Viva Insights. Viva Sales will make the delivery of improved sales performance and productivity easier in Teams, through the flow of work. This point is stressed in an interview with Microsoft’s Chief Commercial Officer: Judson Althoff discusses the companies’ newest expansion, Viva Sales (cnbc.com)
Posted on Leave a comment

Features that Delight – Outlook Calendar Board

The new Calendar Board view is only available in Outlook Web App at the moment but coming to the client soon. It is a delightful tool that still lets you work in calendar view but add a whole host of Applets and integrations alongside it in a zoomable canvas – very productive indeed.

There is more on this feature on the Microsoft Support site here.

I really like this view and since I do everything Outlook related in the browser, I’ve been using this for about 6 months now, which is when it first started making an appearance.

While you can bring in a Calendar or task (To Do) view into your email flow, I prefer to separate it out. Calendar work requires focus in my view. And the ability to add to other Applets and functions with their own capability that support the work you are busy with and is scheduled in your calendar, just makes this focus super effective.

Posted on 1 Comment

The SenseMaking Funnel

I’m pretty keen on SenseMaking as a key 21st century skill and I also use it as a main category I write under. In most posts where I use the category, I am writing or doodling (an integral part of the process) to make sense of things for myself and sharing it in case it helps others. I have written about it as a skill though and initially tried to make sense of SenseMaking. This post does more of the latter as I delve deeper with the help of a DanelDoodle.

First the DanelDoodle then some elaboration.

A funnel and all seeing eye – geddit 👀😜 – you can click to enlarge

Info

On the receiving end at the beginning of the funnel, a necessary step. We have to start with gathering information. But if we stay here too long, we get stuck, confused and lose the plot.

Here most of all we have mostly a jumble of facts. Maybe worthwhile in parts, but as a whole pretty useless.

Most people operate at this level – passing on facts and passing them off as knowledge.

Knowledge

This is where you start with the real process of making sense of facts.

Mostly it’s about organising the facts into some improved order. You structure the information you have received and convert it into some degree of knowledge.

The end result should be a knowing of what all the facts mean, in totality. That is, the collective meaning of all the facts and the impact they might have on actions. This last point, a conversion into something more meaningful that can culminate into improved behaviours, is deeply important.

The knowledge could simply take you to a deeper level of understanding, but this is less useful.

Wisdom

So true SenseMaking is when you convert all the knowledge and meaning into action and ideally a lived experience.

Then you are at the seeing stage, with your own senses you have learned, understood and acted on what you have learned and seen how this works.

I include the practical, experimental elements to this phase because I think it is what really brings knowledge to life. But it doesn’t have to be.

You can just see things better, more clearly. What a pity though don’t you think, if you can’t translate it into some that takes you beyond your starting point?

Posted on Leave a comment

Employee Experience platform offering grows with new Microsoft Viva modules

I’m writing this post because I am working on a new trend report covering the subject: Employee Customer Experience Connection. So I have an interest in new developments in related fields and I also want to use these posts as a way to collate all these new developments so I can add them to the trend report as I go. I also am working with and advising customers in this space through my role at Microsoft (disclosure).

Viva Goals

So the first new concrete addition to the Microsoft Viva platform is Viva Goals, which was announced publicly a few weeks back. But this has been in the pipeline ever since and as a result of the Ally acquisition last year.

At left is the video heralding the announcement and it has a demo to show what it’s all about.

In a nutshell, Viva Goals incorporates OKR functionality into the platform. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results.

This is an extremely important addition that makes concrete sense for a company that wants to manage business outcomes more holistically. OKR’s is a way to set and track company goals and trickle them down into smaller outcomes (key results) and throughout the organisation to those responsible for achieving them.

I have been using Ally in its existing form only as a way to test the functionality. I’m really impressed with how simple it is made and they also provide good, templated solutions to help create your own.

I think when it comes to good use of an OKR tool, the devil is in the details and it is how you word the OKR’s and how you tangibly create goals that are achievable and realistic that matters. This is as much art as science but the good thing is you can track effectiveness and get better over time.

Glint

It’s no secret that Glint, a similar Microsoft acquisition through LinkedIn, and Viva play nice together and there is much value to be gained in its eventual and complete integration.

In this video from a year ago you see how Glint can integrate especially well with Viva Insights.

Glint is more than just a survey tool but essentially it is used to manage qualitative feedback from employees. Marrying the outcomes from this to more quantitative measures like you would get from Viva Insights makes the combination super powerful.

It is going to be excellent to see how this area of the employee experience evolves as it is a key addition to the Viva platform.

What’s next

Obviously, I cannot say all that I know, suffice it to say that key business scenarios are going to play a leading role.

Imagine aligning Insights to specific functions like sales as I have already described here based on recent work I did and am still doing: Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity.

The scenarios described in the post above are pretty clear I hope but you should understand they are cobbled together solutions at the moment. Far better will be when they are integrated fully into the Viva suite.

I’ll say no more than that for now, indeed I can’t. But watch this space 👀

Posted on Leave a comment

Managing innovation is a misnomer – better to prepare for serendipity

I’ve been involved in many innovation activities in the past, from participating in and supporting hackathons, corporate ventures to being involved with startups. I’ve observed that often times, best results come not from better management, but from being ready to pounce when serendipity presents its sweet opportunities.

Okay maybe startups are slightly different in that they are not so much an exercise in innovation, even though their outcomes often result in disruptive innovation.

Let’s focus on enterprise innovation efforts.

Whether it’s through formal innovation programs (of the type that I supported and recount here) or hackathons, I have found that in the main, less is more.

And the alarming statistics confirm it: More than 90% of high-potential ventures fail to meet projected targets, while roughly 75% of the products released each year bomb.

Why control is so ingrained and so counter productive

Just as in this doodle (one of my favourites) and with creativity, you cannot force innovation, much less control it.

In a world in constant flux where the rate of change is accelerating and uncertainty is increasing, I get people’s tendencies to exert ever greater control over things they perceive they can.

But I don’t believe this is effective.

To take a leaf out of Buddhist practice, I believe in ‘non-action’, which is an integral part of the Right Way, and a better way to approach things.

Non-action isn’t about holing yourself up in a cave and ignoring everything. It’s more about practicing detachment or letting go, which are also key related tenets. Moreover, it’s about diving in and embracing uncertainty and opportunity in an effortless way.

Preparing for serendipity

So how do you go about preparing for serendipity? For being ready to recognise and then act on good ideas when they land?

1. Learning mindset.

Innovation is about discovery and the more you learn, the more you discover. If you drive a learning mindset and culture in your organisation and allow people time to learn, they will be equipped for discovery. In this state, when new challenges present themselves, they will be ready and able to respond with new solutions and ideas.

2. Cutting bureaucracy.

Not just in the innovation process, everywhere. Bureaucracy is what holds things back, saps energy, presents hurdles and provides excuses for not trying. The blight of bureaucracy is everywhere, in all departments and growing, but it is especially pernicious in frustrating innovation efforts so do all you can to get hurdles out of the way of employees. Whether in formal or informal innovation initiatives, adopt the way of the minimalist and “remove until it breaks”.

3. Experimentation is the new planning.

Use of data in measuring the outcomes of your experiments is crucial in this approach too. But mostly it’s about making time (sometimes funding even) for experimentation and making this the emphasis of any evaluation, not plans that span pages and based on wishful thinking. Far better a small-scale experiment, even if with negative results, but results where learning can move you forward. I’ve alternatively described this as a way of success hacking.

Posted on Leave a comment

Features that delight – mostly – chat to self

No I’m not going mad. As the old adage says, the first sign of madness is talking to yourself. Thankfully, there is this BBC Science Focus magazine’s perfunctory dismissal of that and anyway, that’s not my point. I’m referring to text based chat, be it on mobile or PC and regardless of App, which is booming for both consumers and in the workplace.

I tried ages ago to find out if I could have a conversation with myself on WhatsApp. Turns out you can but it’s a right royal pain to activate. Also, its not persistent between devices, i.e. when I message myself on the phone, I expect to see that same message on my desktop App. That doesn’t work. See below how with the same profile, different messages between PC and iPhone based messages are shown.

Click to enlarge

I tried it on Facebook Messenger and it works – but this is an App I rarely use so no good for me. I need it where I conduct the majority of my personal conversations which is in WhatsApp.

One thing I got excited about concerning my workplace chatting which is predominantly in Microsoft Teams, is that the function is coming to Teams: Announcement by Microsoft Product Manager on LinkedIn. But it is not persistent on mobile yet 😢

I could look at a dedicated App but I don’t want another App like the interesting looking Talk to Myself App. I want to do it all in the Apps I already use heavily for personal or work purposes.

I guess all this begs the question why I want to even do this?

Main purpose and why

  1. Quick sharing between devices. Yes I could use something like Collections in Edge for links, but that doesn’t work for files so easily – they are getting a new Drop function I need to check out. For files I could use OneDrive and for notes I could use OneNote. This leads me to a second point.
  2. Because I spend so much time in chat, I don’t want to have to leave chat to open another App. Less context switching, which places a burden on ease of use, would be a boon.
  3. Journaling has many known benefits (just do a search for any number of good articles on this) but doing it in chat would be sooooo beneficial for reasons already mentioned. Check out the Talk to Myself App mentioned above on how journaling could work in a chat App. Love the tagging function especially for simple categorisation.
Posted on Leave a comment

The compelling reasons to find and trust your inner voice

Ironically, the basis for this post was formulated after reading the thoughts shared by the author of a book I am currently reading, which in turn is based on the thoughts of someone else.

The essence of the thought is that too often we are swayed and influenced by others rather than finding and trusting our own inner voice.

The book I am reading is The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner.

I am currently reading the chapter on Arthur Schopenhauer. A relevant extract from that chapter below (first paragraph starts with a quote from Schopenhauer):

“No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress.”

We make this mistake every time we click mindlessly, like a lab rat pulling a lever, hoping for a reward. What form this reward will take we don’t know, but that is beside the point. Like Schopenhauer’s hungry readers, we confuse the new with the good, the novel with the valuable.

I am guilty of this. I’m constantly checking and rechecking my digital vital signs. While writing this paragraph, I have checked my email (nothing), opened my Facebook page (Pauline’s birthday, must remember to send her a note), placed a bid for a nice leather backpack on eBay, checked my email again (still nothing), ordered a disturbingly large quantity of coffee, upped my bid for that backpack, and checked my email again (still nothing).

The encyclopaedia was the Internet in Schopenhauer’s day, and nearly as seductive. Why puzzle over a problem when the solution is readily available in a book? Because, answers Schopenhauer, “it’s a hundred times more valuable if you have arrived at it by thinking for yourself.” Too often, he said, people jump to the book rather than stay with their thoughts. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up.’

Substitute “click” for “read” and you have our predicament. We confuse data with information, information with knowledge, and knowledge with wisdom. This tendency worried Schopenhauer. Everywhere he saw people scrambling for information, mistaking it for insight. “It does not occur to them,” he wrote, “that information is merely a means toward insight and possesses little or no value in itself” I’d go a step further. This excess of data – noise, really -has negative value and diminishes the possibility of insight. Distracted by the noise, we don’t hear the music.

I would say that in my writing, such as on this blog, my guilt is that I too often refer to others. I am too quick in finding validation from and through others.

This is unsurprising since this was the foundation of good blogging back when it first started. That is, hyperlinking and the web of connections and ultimately knowledge this builds up.

Fill your head too much with the ideas of others though and they will displace your own.

While I am not suggesting that the habit of referencing others work and building on the ideas of others is not a good one (on the contrary), I do think we should be more mindful about our inner voice.

Sometimes it’s good to shut the world out and home in on that inner voice. Here is how I think we will benefit.

Benefits of developing your inner voice

  1. Evolving intuition. As much as you might believe that data is the better basis for understanding and making decisions, this is not about a choice. Regardless the weight that intuition and gut feeling play in your decisions (in life and at work), it plays a role. You should hone the skill as much as you can and that is best done by listening to your inner voice.
  2. Build your unique differentiation. Especially in personal brand efforts, it pays to have your own voice that stands out. That you have considered deeply what you stand for and believe in and you can speak that truth widely – it will be appreciated.
  3. Focus. Simply put, you will be less distracted by the clicks. When you need to be that is. As mentioned, there is sense in seeking to build evidence, but when you need to focus, it sometimes makes sense to shut out the outside world and focus on what you have learned and putting it all together yourself.
Posted on Leave a comment

OuterVentures and travel Apps

As I wrote in my last post, the importance of getting out into nature cannot be exaggerated. Fresh off a week on the West Highland Way in Scotland I can definitely verify the benefits. Whilst on the walk I made use of several travel Apps. This post covers two of the most useful.

So first a little about the trip.

At left are just a few of the pics I shared on Instagram.

This trip doesn’t have to be covered in the time we took, a 7 day trek covering 160km’s, more or less.

The full journey is generally broken down into 7 stages but you can break the stages down further and you could opt to do just a few of the stages – no need to do the full walk.

We (four men) did it in 7 stages and used a tour company to organise everything.

I am so glad we did 🙌 They were excellent – find out more about them here: https://www.macsadventure.com/

We arranged to have our luggage transported to each days overnight stop (hotels and BnB’s) and we walked every day with just a light daypack.

Many we saw and met on the walk were camping and carried full kit – definitely more for the fit, brave and young 😉

Komoot

Not long ago I paid for access to Komoot Maps, a onetime payment option (there are subscription-based offers too) that comes in three flavours: world pack, region bundle and single region. I paid a discounted, special offer price on the world pack which provides reliable navigation where and when you need it – it allows you to access routes offline. More on all offers here: https://www.komoot.com/shop

Komoot App

Here is a little demo from the Komoot App.

You can see that I select from an entire route map that was provided by Komoot and I added to my collection.

It’s broken down in the stages I mentioned earlier.

Every day at the start of a new stage, I would start the navigation for that stage and it guides you in case needed (mostly not as the trail is so well marked). But what is useful are the route progress stats you get like mileage done, still to do, speed, etc.

There are a lot more options in each stage as you can see, I went through the elevation function and you should be able to see the added info you get in each stage to help inform you about the points of interest in that stage. It also covers community input.

I’ve been using Komoot for several months now and loving it. Another nifty feature which I haven’t shown is how you can plan trips and Komoot steers you based on validated paths that are frequently trodden. You can make the trip as far or short as you want. I often plan circular walks close to home.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet App

This is very handy when you want to collect expenses over the entire duration of a trip and especially when you are in a group and sharing costs. More on the App here.

As you can see in the demo video, I have several trips in there already that I used the App for. In the first few trips (family trips I wanted to manage a budget for, since I was paying) I was not sharing costs, just capturing them for myself.

On this trip, we all agreed to take turns paying for group costs as they arose and keep track of them and then make sure they were all equally distributed at the end.

You can see how you get a total to date and then in the bar chart what the distribution of expenses is amongst the group. I tweaked the original categories that are available out of the box (by type of expense), by adding new ones for each member. Thats the way the pie chart works, per category.

You can see that a further breakdown is possible by tag in the All Trip data view, which you see at the end and it’s also possible to filter expenses by tag so you can dive deeper.

Once the trip was complete, I exported a CSV file (done from Settings) with all trip data and then did a simple calculation to see who owed what to whom after first determining what the average cost for the entire trip was.

All in all, a marvellous hike aided by some very nifty technology.

Posted on 1 Comment

Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 4 of 4 – Nature

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers nature and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Did you know creativity is a relatively recent phenomenon? It does seem counterintuitive since humans have been creative from the get-go, one would think. It is what set us apart from other species. But according to this article (which also has other excellent info on creativity) and Google’s Ngram tool, it wasn’t really part of the popular lexicon until midway through the last century: What is creativity? The ultimate guide to understanding today’s most important ability.

And it has come a long way since then.

One could say its meaning needs reassessing.

A recent study by Microsoft and Steelcase came up with some new themes which I have captured below – study article here: The Creative Shift: How Place + Technology + People Can Help Solve 21st Century Problems.

Click to enlarge

Nature

Whether you are for mountains, forest or water (classic icebreaker question) getting out into nature will do the trick for your creativity.

study published in 2012 was one of the first to address the effect of time spent in nature on higher-level tasks of the creative intellect, such as problem-solving. 

In 2013, research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that walking in a city park or any green space for as little as 25 minutes is enough to give your brain a rest and boost cognitive functioning.

I am very lucky to have gorgeous countryside on my doorstep and frequently try to take breaks in my day and especially when I am in the middle of a work challenge that requires creative thinking – which is pretty much always. It helps I need to walk some of my furry keeps 🐶🐶.

When I can I go on longer excursions – here is a video below from a morning hike (18 miles) I went on with a friend. I challenge you to immerse yourself in the audio (turn up the sound for the bird song) and visual and remain unmoved – imagine immersing yourself for longer than the 15 second video snippet allows.

To really make a difference to my creative output I go on longer excursions, or OuterVentures as I like to call them. Mostly these are on vacations where I try to make access to nature at least partly possible or through longer hikes with friends. I’m about to go on one such hike through Scotland on the West Higland Way: West Highland Way – Scotland’s Best Loved Long Distance Walking Route. I’ll do a write up on my return but I know I am going to come back fired up with creative juices as is always the case.

Posted on Leave a comment

Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 3 of 4 – Meditation

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers meditation and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Does creativity still matter in the age of Artificial Intelligence? That is a central question of our times as both “capabilities” are so in demand and prominent. My view is a resounding YES.

AI is becoming capable of creating music, art, code, etc. It is even driving outcomes in customer engagement. What then for the role of human originality. In my view, it is in combination that we can expand the infinite possibilities and solutions – technology, data and the human touch blended to achieve scalable solutions that meet unique human needs or spark unique human engagements.

Take customer engagement. Though AI is being used to driver greater customer engagement outcomes, humans are creative thinkers, seeing connections between things that might not seem at all related. Humans often see obscure links to find solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Humans also bring emotional intelligence and empathy, interpreting emotions and meaning from nuances in body language, voice, and even silence and adjusting as needed.

Empathy is critical too and showing that you understand a customer’s dilemma is the first step to helping them solve their problem. 

Human cognition is also innately intuitive, using life experiences to make rapid decisions. We don’t just use the facts in front of us to make judgments and draw conclusions. We draw on experience and knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. 

These are the things that make us creative powerhouses but together with machines we can stretch possibilities and performance as this HBR study confirms: Collaborative Intelligence: Humans and AI Are Joining Forces.

Click to enlarge

Meditation

I have written an eBook on Mindfulness practice and how it can lead to better outcomes at work including how it can improve your creativity. Improved mindfulness is an outcome of meditation BUT that is not the point of meditation.

As Alan Watts conveys in this video:

Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment and therefore if you meditate for an ulterior motive, that is to say, to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life, you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating.

Meditating to improve your creativity is the same thing. Having said that, done well and for the right purpose, meditation definitely does improve a vast number of things as a result, including your creativity – or so I find.

And whether it’s through meditation or an increased level of mindfulness, there are also things you can do to increase your flow state and inspiration potential or just get you back on the right path. Here are a few pointers:

  • Activities you can do to influence an “aha moment” brain state:
    • Reduce distractions (sensory deprivation), e.g. meditation session with eyes closed, go into a dark space, etc.
    • Think positive (it activates the anterior cingulate which expands your scope of thought)
    • Widen horizons (imagine yourself in a vast environment like space, or a different one, like another country)
  • Notice when you have the urge to “push through” or “think harder” and try stepping away instead. Stepping away is part of the creative process. Giving your unconscious mind time to reorganize the information and clarify it for you. 
  • Setting aside time for creative play provides the space the mind needs to work out how to bring ideas to life.  Everyone has the capability of creativity.  Think of it as forming patterns in unique ways. Here is a sample of some activities for creative play.  The key to play is to detach from the outcome and release yourself from the rules and structure.  In other words, just see what comes up without judgement!
    • Sketching – I swear by it with my DanelDoodles.
    • Brainstorming
    • Free-writing
    • Non-dominant hand exercises
    • Fantasy/Day Dreaming
    • Dance/Free movement
    • Decorating your workspace or home – just rearranging things can sometimes help, even clearing things up (especially clutter)
    • Tinkering
Posted on Leave a comment

Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 2 of 4 – Coffee

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers coffee and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Half of us will need to reskill in the next five years, as the “double-disruption” of the economic impacts of the pandemic and increasing automation transforming jobs takes hold.

That’s according to the third edition of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Reportwhich maps the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change and direction of travel.

The World Economic Forum has taken data from LinkedIn and online learning platform Coursera with which to track with unprecedented granularity, the types of specialized skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow, which are in demand across multiple emerging professions. Here are the top 10 skills needed with Creativity clearly amongst them.

Coffee

It is probably no coincidence that the London coffeehouses of the 17th & 18th centuries were the engines of creation that helped drive the Enlightenment – the European intellectual movement that emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition.

Yes a recent study showed that caffeine boosts problem-solving ability and not creativity, but that is not what we expect from coffee. If creativity takes hard work (which it does), then coffee is how you prime the pump. The study also showed that caffeine increases focus, alertness and motor skills. The rest is still up to you, but at least you will be ready for the creative juices to flow or the creative muse to visit.

Here is how I focus on the best coffee. My go to is the Bialetti Moka Pot and with my Italian background that is probably no surprise, I grew up with it. I often use Illy or Lavazza blended coffee beans and from time to time, I grind my own beans when I find good ones. I don’t only use it for Espresso’s which it is typically associated with. I have a slightly larger pot and I make one entire pot for myself first thing in the morning, often with just a little bit of warm milk. Or if I want to spoil myself on occasion, I froth some hot milk (I have a Lavazza milk frother for that).

Thats how I start my day and also the time I put aside for serious creative work, the earlier the better. If needed, I add a second pot and then that’s it, no more creative work, or coffee.