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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.

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The unbearable weight of doing

One of the things you gain from going on vacation (as I did recently) is that you are liberated, if only temporarily, from the pressure of doing anything. At least in theory. Sometimes the habit of “busyness” we often pick up at work permeates into our holidays. We struggle to relax. Hopefully we are soon over this and into our stride of being on holiday.

My post title is somewhat of a play on the title from the famous novel by Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness on Being. From the Wikipedia article are some other points of interest that I would like to bring to [bear] – the philosophical underpinnings of the novel:

Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche‘s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again – thus the “lightness” of being. Moreover, this lightness also signifies freedom. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on life and the decisions that are made – to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor, it gives them “weight”. Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.

My views are firmly on the “light” side although I find nothing unbearable about this view at all, i.e. that we have only one life. If anything, for me it is liberating.

The parallels to work

When your work mimics a treadmill then you are in the same position of being in an eternal recurrence.

Every day is the same, boring, monotonous Groundhog Day.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable. We have tedious tasks that are repetitive but they have to be done. No job is devoid of them and sometimes they are just plain necessary.

Sometimes we make our own busyness. We equate it mistakenly with importance (i.e. it makes us feel important) and productivity when there is absolutely no correlation.

This adds a crushing weight to our work lives that in many cases, is avoidable.

For one, take frequent vacations. It’s amazing, if you really have let go of work and taken the time to disconnect, how light your perspective becomes.

The art of being

When we go about our work in a natural state of being rather than being pressured to do increasingly more, there is a freedom that impacts our creativity and productivity.

I totally get it all depends on your job, your economic circumstances and sometimes the inevitably pressured times that any job entails.

Most of the time, you can master the art of being. Just some pointers to consider:

  1. Don’t feel you have to join every meeting just because you were invited. FOMO is not real! Think carefully about whether you really need to join or could be more productive staying out of it and focusing on some other more valuable task, or just being for a while. If you really need to do something, meditate 🧘🏽‍♂️
  2. Aside from vacations, step outside every now and then and smell the roses, in every way. Make like famed philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau who built some of his most profound observations around them, and many others who knew the secrets of walking, and take a stroll.
  3. Detach yourself from the notion that busyness equates to importance or productivity. Sometimes less is more and the more time out you get, the more creative and ultimately productive you conversely are.
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Stages of consciousness and the immaturity of tyrants

It’s difficult to stand by and observe the terrible events happening in Ukraine and not say something. Or to write about inconsequential things while people are suffering. At the very least, offer solidarity. Or light a candle rather than curse the darkness. I wanted to try do all of that in this post.

What do I mean by stages of consciousness and what does that have to do with Ukraine and the events there? My first thoughts are that the tyrant in question, Putin, belongs to a lower level of consciousness than do other human beings.

He may be sick, there is reference to his increasing isolation through the Pandemic and mental instability. But I think it is more deep seated than that.

The best reference for this thinking that immediately sprang to mind is Ken Wilbur’s integral model. This is based on his consolidation of many other peoples thinking:

Generally, in the Integral Model, we work with around 8 to 10 stages or levels of consciousness development. We have found, after years of field work, that more stages than that are too cumbersome, and less than that, too vague. One stage conception we often use is that of Spiral Dynamics Integral, founded by Don Beck based on the research of Clare Graves. We also use stages of self development pioneered by Jane Loevinger and Susann Cook-Greuter; and orders of consciousness, researched by Robert Kegan. But there are many other useful stage conceptions available with the Integral Approach, and you can adopt any of them that are appropriate to your situation.

From the Integral Life site

The stages of consciousness

Click the arrow to expand and see full explanation:

1. Crimson (Archaic) The Crimson Altitude (formerly “infrared”) signifies a degree of development that is in many ways embedded in nature, body, and the gross realm in general. The Crimson altitude exhibits an archaic worldview, physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), a self-sense that is minimally differentiated from its environment, and is in nearly all ways oriented toward physical survival. Although present in infants, Crimson is rarely seen in adults except in cases of famine, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. Crimson is also used as a kind of catch-all term for earlier evolutionary stages and drives.
2. Magenta (Magic) The Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or “square one” for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.
3. Red (Egoic) The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where “might makes right,” where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an “other.” Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.
4. Amber (Mythic) The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of “might makes right,” amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to “my” group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to “fit in.” Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red.
5. Orange (Rational) The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one’s religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that “truth is not delivered; it is discovered,” spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.
6. Green (Pluralistic) The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths (“All men are created equal”), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class….” Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism. The green worldview’s multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today’s intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters… not to mention another “lost” generation of students.
7. Teal (Integral) The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions. Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.
8. Turquoise (Mature Integral) Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).

In conclusion

So while my sympathies are clearly with the people of Ukraine, I don’t believe most Russians want this and are with them too. At least the ones that see this for what it is – the machinations of a tyrant.

I think the only way to overcome this (other than what sane minded authorities are trying to do to stop the war), is to advance our thinking. From the immature stages (clearly where I place people like Putin who is probably at the red stage) to the higher ones.

To reach higher levels of consciousness where we understand that war does not work and might is not right. That you cannot enforce your will on other people. That we are all in this together. That love conquers all and I send buckets of it, as well as hope, to all the people rising up in defence of these terrible actions by a madman.

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The opportunity for inspiration is infinite

I started my DanelDoodles as a way to capture simple inspiring thoughts visually, for myself. I also use them for visual sensemaking. Some of my early inspirational ones can be found here. They are also a great creative outlet.

I started creating them using the Paper 53 App and their Pencil stylus on an iPhone (now just Paper after being acquired by WeTransfer and their stylus is discontinued). Then I migrated to iPad and Apple’s Pencil. Now I create on both iPhone and iPad – the former for quick idea capturing, the latter for finishing in higher quality. I’ve also moved on to Procreate now – trying to get to even higher quality.

You could say the market for inspiration is infinite. You need only look at the many inspirational cards, mugs or t-shirts out there, etc. Which is one of the reasons I started my little side gig – getting my DanelDoodles onto t-shirts. But this is not for massive commercial success – with all the competition that would be a challenge.

But I do want to try and be different. I’d like my designs to be original, quirky, thought provoking or at the very least, to provoke a smile.

I have created two categories for them – one for personal inspiration (Mind Doodles) and the other for inspiring people at work or in a work context (Work Doodles). This is pretty much in line with the main purpose of this entire site, captured by the strap line: Adventures inside Organisations and of the Mind.

Which leads me to the featured image at the top of this post. This is a kind of showcase image and not just aligned to the title. You can also see it on a t-shirt and buy it if you like too – I’ve embedded the product page at left

I use it to remind myself when things are tough or I am down, that there is beauty everywhere and life is short so I should open my eyes to see that.

As far as I am aware, this is entirely original meaning I did not copy this from anyone or anywhere. I can’t say that’s the case 100% for this or any of my work since nothing is ever original and anyway, great artists steal (said a pretty good artist called Pablo once).

But I’m not saying I’m a great artist. I’m just having some fun, inspiring myself and hoping that perhaps that may rub off on others that might need it.

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Headspace review and other meditative musings

Another story amongst a series, this one based on my experience with Headspace after being given access to a free trial through work. Also a few added thoughts around the role of meditation in mental health and when it will not replace well placed psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment.

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Resilience is an attitude and other things you can control

I’ve just started a new initiative – setting up a store on this site. Its been something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but I’ve been dithering. I was reminded by this quote of the need for action.

If you focus on resultsyou will never changeIf you focus on changeyou will get results.”

Jack Dixon Welsh Rugby Union Player.

In other words, just do the thing or it, as a certain shoe maker also put it. Which I did do for the store, over the festive break.

So one of the things I can control, in reference to this part of the title, is what I change. But for me its not so much about change but the attitude I bring to it – cue a new DanelDoodle for the occasion.

It’s not so much a reactive approach but a proactive one. You have to make your mind up and take the right attitude.

On this last point I have to concede that this approach does not work for all and does not consider the severe debilitating effects that mental health issues have on this approach.

Resilience has a close cousin – perseverance. Perseverance equally requires a commitment to purpose that keeps us moving forward into the attitudes and activities that serve to fulfil it. More on that here: Thought rocket: arc of change and bending reality

This is not just important personally but also at work as Microsoft has discovered by looking closely at resilience: The Resilience Quotient.

For managers across a wider range of organizations, the key consideration isn’t whether an employee comes equipped with resilience as an innate trait. It’s gaining a better understanding of resilience as a state—and helping everyone on their teams develop their own capacity for resilience to the best of their ability.

The article goes on to explain that resilience has characteristics of both a trait and a state. “A trait is something that you presuppose cannot be changed,” he says. “A state is something you can change about a person.” In other words, some aspects of resilience seem to be with you for life. But some are fluid.

This fluidity is what I am referring to when it comes to attitude and being able to lean into it and choose the attitude you will bring to something or take in response to something.

So for me attitude is key, resilience and persevere is borne out of attitude.

Attitude is everything and in our control

What is not in our control are things I have positioned outside the circle in the Doodle:

  • Timing: Right attitude with right timing is an invincible combination. But how do we know if the timing is right? Rarely can you, unless in hindsight. So always veer on the side of having the right attitude, because our attitude is in our control, while right timing is pure chance.
  • Events: ‘Events, dear boy, events’, as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said, or to put it a little more pithily, shit happens 💩 When it does, find some lemonade or put on some rose tinted glasses and see things with new eyes.
  • Other peoples responses: You cannot control how other people respond to you but you can control your response to them. So if someone treats you badly or responds badly to something you have done, don’t take it personally and that applies to life.
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Making your personal goals stick in 2022

I’m about to share how I do what is described in the headline. That’s not to say it’s guaranteed to work for you. But I’ve been doing this for at least the last 5 years and its starting to stick and work better and better for me. Maybe it helps you too or you get some ideas.

First some screenshots of my phone screens and then some explanation.

The first thing to explain is that I manage this all on my iPhone because that is probably the thing that gets most of my attention day in and day out. The first screenshot above is of my Lock Screen and the other two are alternative views of my home screen. This nails my first approach on effective goal setting – visibility – but let me handle that and others separately.

Visible

So I’ve mostly covered this point in the last paragraph above. The only thing to add is that I cover different aspects in the different views. The Lock Screen is where I have tangible goals around my creative output. Of the other two, one is intended to change every month and guide that month’s intentions and the other every quarter for similar reasons.

Written

There are a ton of articles (many based on good research) that describe why writing things down makes it more likely for what you wrote down to stick. This applies to goals. I use an app called Scribblet which allows you to add written notes to widgets – the second two screenshots above. For the Lock Screen I just used the Paper app.

Attainable

Not all my goals, aspirations or intentions are as quantifiable and tangible as the ones you see on my Lock Screen but all are attainable. And you may argue my Q1 aspirations are too vague but I do have ideas behind each of them – I just didn’t want to take up screen space by writing them down in detail and also I’d prefer not to have them be seen.

That’s it, in essence.

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OuterVentures and the importance of diversity in experiences

This site and the focus of my writing is on InnerVentures which focus on adventures inside organisations and of the mind. But the latter in particular is enriched when it is combined with adventures outside. Outside of our usual circumstances and experiences and our usual habitat. This is especially the case considering the protracted limitations imposed on us through the pandemic.

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The tyranny of personality and the overcoming of it

I have just finished reading Don’t Take Your Life Personally by Ajahn Sumedho who is an American Buddhist monk. This is a review of sorts but mostly it’s an observation on the tyranny of personality that pervades modern society and how we can overcome it. The book and its views form the backdrop to this observation and cements long held and similar views I already had. I highlight passages from the book and meld my observations amongst them. What has become a scourge of epic proportion that blights our mental wellness does have remedies though, which I found in the pages of this book.

Continue reading The tyranny of personality and the overcoming of it
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In an age of machines human organisations matter – an ode to joy

There is an explosion of automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning with many fearing job losses. In the attention economy we have proliferation of social media, questionable content, digital addiction, etc. Freedom of expression knows no bounds yet sensitivities are tested like never before. There are many benefits to adopting these tools and approaches and there are those that countervail – some stand out, either as out of touch dinosaurs or innovators. In all this there are many reasons to be joyful.

Continue reading In an age of machines human organisations matter – an ode to joy
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Thought Rocket: I tweet therefore I am

I tweet therefore I am is a gloss on Descartes I’ve reinterpreted this last year. Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. A philosophical statement that was first made in Latin by René Descartes. My take is a modern twist on that because I don’t believe in it.

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InnerVentures in a doodle

I’ve taken a short break from work and as you do when you have time, I’ve been thinking. For one, about this site, it’s activities and it’s purpose. I thought I would try and capture it in this doodle (DanelDoodle actually), which is in itself a function of many aspects of this site and my activities. This is a good representation for now and this post contains all the categories I write about for that reason. A good baseline for future progression and supplement to my welcome post.