Take the Shape Quiz to learn about yourself and colleagues

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Communication, Conflict, Creativity, Effective conversations, Leadership, Self-awareness, Teams | 3 comments

This fun quiz is designed to get you thinking about how different we are.  It’s important to understand that you approach your work with a style and perspective that varies from your colleagues.  Understanding and appreciating the strengths within those differences allows you to become more successful.  You can start to work with the differences rather than against them.  It’s not meant to be a label – people are far too interesting and multi-dimensional for that.   Still, for the purposes of the quiz you’ll pick from four shapes. If it isn’t apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which shape category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren’t so good for other purposes. So here’s the quiz:  pick the figure you like most of these four shapes – a square, a triangle, a circle or a squiggle.  Then you can scroll to the bottom for a description of that type, including tips for your own improvement and tips for others to work better with you.  For a more complete picture you can even pick the figure you like the best and then the figure you like the second best.     The purpose of the quiz is not just self-understanding, but better communication.  You need to orient toward the style of the other person. A square will want specifics or perhaps details in writing. A triangle won’t appreciate indecisiveness. You may have to remove distractions before getting a squiggle’s attention. A circle needs to connect and have a conversation. In handling conflict, circles tend to accommodate or compromise. Triangles tend to compete, or, if they see how they can gain, compromise. Squiggles may not even perceive there’s an issue, but they can be competitive in defense of an idea. Avoidance is characteristic of squares because they don’t like dealing with emotion, or they may dig in until they get more information. Groups tend to take on a personality of their own.   Good teamwork needs all the shapes – triangles to focus on decisions and results, circles for harmony, squiggles for ideas, and squares to create the systems to get the details done. THE SHAPES QUIZ SQUARE:
 Details & Data & Systems People Characteristics: Hardest workers; task oriented Loyal Structured; organized Think sequentially, logically May be stubborn with opinions based on their data Value details and data; analytical Know policies & rules Not fond of change, prefer a stable environment Prefer to working alone to teamwork May see fun as unnecessary or a luxury Trouble saying “I’ve got enough information” Conservative, regular, orderly Meeting behavior:  well prepared, lots of notes, gets right down to work Motto: “Give me a job and a deadline and I’ll get it done” If you are a square it might help help you to: Be less picky with people Create your own routines Allow yourself to make a few mistakes so you...

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2 Questions for Innovative Solutions

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Creativity |

A client had a gnarly problem and there seemed to be only one solution, which he didn’t like.  He felt his hands were tied, so he procrastinated, and then called me.  I suggested he ask his team two questions which I had come upon recently as I worked with the board of a non-profit called the Florida Creativity Alliance.   In what ways might we…? How might we…? What’s the value in these simple questions?  It frees up the mind of preconceived limitations that shut down any possible solutions other than the obvious one. TEXTING THE BRAIN:  The questions signal the brain that there are possibilities and require that we explore them in multiple ways.  They don’t ask for the “right” solution, which limits your thinking – requiring assessment and judgement before creativity. “In what ways might we…?” assumes there are many ways, and we just have to think of them.  Neuroscience research has shown that our brain is highly impacted by the nuances of language, so these differences in how we state our question or problem are far more important than you might think. VALUE OF BAD IDEAS: Asking “What should we do?” implies there is one right answer, which is a closing process rather than an opening process.  Innovative solutions need openness and curiosity, first!  In a blog post several years back I quoted business writer and entreprenuer Seth Godin: “Finding good ideas is surprisingly easy once you deal with the problem of finding bad ideas.  All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you’re unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas….One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas.  The worse the better.  Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through.” So try these questions when you think you’ve run out of possible solutions.  Actually try the questions whenever you encounter a problem.  Hopefully they’ll help you generate some really bad ideas and also some really great ideas  ...

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Lateral Thinking – Steps to New Solutions

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Creativity, Problem Solving | 0 comments

I just read an interesting post from the folks at 99U and Behance about lateral thinking to solve difficult problems. They start us off with this puzzle: Pretend that you’re trapped in a magical room with only two exits. Through the first exit is a room made from a giant magnifying glass, and the blazing hot sun will fry you to death. Through the second door is a room with a fire-breathing dragon. Which do you go through? The first door, of course. Simply wait until the sun goes down. The 99U  post is inspired by Shane Snow’s book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success. So what’s lateral thinking? “It’s the art of reframing questions, attacking problems sideways. They way a computer hacker or, say, MacGyver would think. Breakthroughs, by very definition, only occur when assumptions are broken. In creative fields, this often happens when people break rules that aren’t actually rules at all, but rather simply conventions. Pablo Picasso changed art forever by smashing the “rules” of perspective, color, proportion. His Cubism took hold in Paris faster than Van Gogh’s impressionism—and any other new form, for that matter. Apple turned the tech world on its head by radically simplifying music and mice when everyone else equated more buttons and more megabytes and more jargon with better. When we look at great inventions and solutions to problems throughout history—the kinds that make what came before instantly obsolete—we see this pattern again and again.” So they list five procedures you can try yourself when looking for an innovative solution. 1) List the assumptions – what are all the assumptions that are keeping you stuck?  In the puzzle above it’s that you have to get out, you have to act now, and both choices will kill you (so you assume) 2) Verbalize the convention – pick the obvious solution then think what if you couldn’t  3) Question the question- rethink what you are asking yourself – is it the right question and/or is there a different way to ask it 4) Start backwards – sometimes starting with the solution can give you a clue.  In the example above you could start outside and figure out how to get in the room protected by sun and fire. 5) Change perspective – if you can’t get someone else’s perspective, try thinking about the problem as if you weren’t you – maybe you think what would a track star do?  What would a scientist do?   Sometimes the quickest and best way between two places isn’t a straight line. Want to read their whole blog?  Click here....

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Workplaces, Meetings, & People Dry Up Without Play

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Creativity, Innovation, Meetings, Sales | 1 comment

When is play appropriate at work or at meetings?  When dealing with challenges, encouraging innovation, wanting to celebrate success, or looking for ways to practice new skills, that’s when play is appropriate.  Instead, all too often we ignore the playful approaches listed below and instead get even more serious.  Right now I can imagine the hard-nosed executive with the long to-do list and metrics-to-meet reading this with disdain.  That’s too bad because play could be just what he and his organization needs.  What do I mean by play at work?  Stuart Brown, M.D. wrote a book on play based on his research and his seven characteristics of play are below.  But here are some examples of how I’ve seen play contributing to work success both directly and indirectly:  Directly:  Playing with possibilities:  One important characteristic of play is that it doesn’t contribute to our survival – it is purposeless in that sense – so it’s okay to fail.  Taking a playful attitude toward new improvements allows you to try and fail – first in conversation with wild ideas, then in reality with more prudent ideas.  It’s the rapid cycle change idea – try an idea in a small and quick experiment, see if it works, then ditch it if it doesn’t and move on to another idea.  I use play in meetings where I ask people to come up with a great quantity of ideas for something odd like used refrigerators and make it a game with prizes (usually candy) pitting one team against another.  It gets them thinking of what’s possible, instead of evaluating what’s not.  One scientist/inventor was asked for the secret to all his great ideas.  “A great big wastebasket,” was his answer.  Imaginative play for new perspectives:  When the founders of Intel, Andrew Grove and Gordon Moore had achieved early success manufacturing memory chips and the Japanese started undercutting them, they were stuck with an organization oriented around a failing product.  They knew if they didn’t solve the problem they’d be fired and replaced by the board of directors.  Apparently Grove looked at Moore and said “Why don’t we do it ourselves?”  They imagined themselves as fired, walked out the door, and then walked back in as the new and smarter executives hired to replace them and imagined what they’d do.  It gave them the visionary breakthrough they needed to change the direction of the company and make it the success it is today.  Playful environment to encourage creativity in meetings:  Recently I facilitated a meeting that needed to result in rapid creative output of new marketing and operational ideas.   We rolled newsprint out on the tables and scattered crayons across it for doodling and note taking.  Helium balloons decorated the breakout tables.  Poppers were available for punctuating great ideas.  Small groups were formed by the type of candy they picked from the candy jar.  Physical movement was encouraged by moving from the large group table to small group work tables and back.  And of...

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Walking Meetings – For Health & Innovation

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Creativity, Effective conversations, Meetings | 1 comment

We now spend 9.3 hours a day sitting, on average.  More than sleeping.  Bad for our health – it’s hard to find time to exercise when you are sitting at your desk all day.  Bad for our creativity – it’s hard to be innovative when you are always “in the box.”  Why not experiment with a BOTH/AND rather than an EITHER/OR? There’s a new fad called treadmill desks.  They showed up on a recent NCIS-LA episode.  Standing desks or convertible workstations that go up and down have been around for a few years.  But there’s a new trend toward walking meetings.  Why? EXERCISE:  Apparently, Sally Jewell the current Secretary of the Interior and former chief executive of REI recently had a walking meeting around the Rose Garden with the president’s chief of staff.  Think about it.  You don’t have to choose whether to meet with someone or get fresh air and exercise, you can do both! COLLEGIALITY: And there’s something about walking side by side, rather than sitting opposite one another that lends a different sort of collegiality to a meeting.  Maybe the ability to see more than one perspective, or to be more open.  In The Awareness Paradigm, it’s only when Fletcher walks out to the parking lot with Julia after a meeting that he starts to reveal some of the personal motivation behind his advocacy. CREATIVITY: Once you are out of the office and into a different environment, you stimulate different parts of your brain.  You are literally “out of the box,” and are more likely to think that way. Why not try scheduling several walking meetings a week?  I even had a colleague that even scheduled running meetings.  Now that will take a bit of practice! Here’s a 3 minute TED talk by business innovator Nilofer Merchant with more on her experiences with walking meetings:...

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Innovation Ideas from Pumpkin Use by Toddler

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in Creativity, Innovation | 1 comment

While walking my dog, I watched a mother yell at her toddler rolling a small pumpkin across  the lawn.  He had disturbed her graduated pumpkin display on the front steps.   How often do we shut down someone exploring or innovating because it conflicts with our ideas about how things should be done? I watched the delighted expression on the toddler’s face as the pumpkin rolled along.  Then his disappointed face as Mom grabbed him and put the pumpkin back in its designated spot.  I felt disappointment myself. How different it would have looked if she’d come out and joined his spirited exploration.    “That’s interesting.  What else can you think of to do with it?”  she could have asked.  She could have asked questions to engage his imagination, encouraging spontaneity and creativity. It was such a quick shut down. I thought about how often we make people play by the rules and shut down spontaneity without asking questions.  We lose in so many ways. For one thing, we lose the opportunity to collect information.  Perhaps the rules, or the process we’ve put in place doesn’t really work all that well for the user and there are better ways to make it work. We create a culture that shuts down rather than celebrates innovation.   Each time we criticize exploration, we decrease the likelihood that anyone will take risks trying something new in the future.  Curiosity isn’t worth it. And it’s also possible we create a widening gulf between ourselves and those who are trying to do something better, or something new.    We get seen as a threat, rather than as a mentor or a supporter. Look around this week and see if you’re shutting anyone down, for whatever the reason.  Think about asking questions, and more questions, not criticizing.  And think about a toddler trying to see how far a pumpkin would roll.  If left to his own devices, maybe one day he’d invent something that would save the world.  And in the meantime, he’d have a lot more...

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