Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

“Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it…”

Clayton M Christiansen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in the mid-1990s, defining it as:

“a process by which a product or service starts with simple applications at the bottom of a market – often servicing an need that is not currently being met by the current incumbents of that field – and, from this foothold, relentlessly moves up-market, changing the environment, and, sometimes, displacing the established competition.”

It’s come to mean more. It’s become a zeitgeist word, bandied about as a new, exciting successor to creativity and innovation, and people seem to think they want it.

Or do they?

Whether people want to disrupt at industry, company, or team level. The first step is to question the currently accepted position… take the music industry as an example…

Where it was… What happened when the established belief was questioned…
Music is a physical product, sold in albums and singles on vinyl and cassette. Music is rented when you need it through Spotify, Amazon and iTunes. People create their own albums as they want to.
Sharing music is terrible. “Home taping is killing music!” Sharing music is to be encouraged as it builds interest, momentum and profile for artists. By turning music into a subscription service, Spotify has made the record collection of the whole world available to everyone.
Artists have to have a recording contract to get their music distributed. Artists control their own output, using the power of their fanbase to produce what they want to make, and what the fans want to consume. Companies like Apple do exclusive deals with artists to make their product available to consumers.
Recording live concerts damages the artists’ product and reputation. Live concerts are an experience that can be added to. Recordings of the gig you have just been to are available – at a price above the price of a live album – on the night of the gig, so the experience lives on for the people who were there.
And when digital is everything… People want vinyl. They want the physical experience of music. They want everything that digital no longer gives them!

“Something’s going on, a change is taking place…”

Things have to fall into place. The environment, timing and technology does have to support it, but disruption often comes from understanding the commercial outcomes and then reverse engineering from that outcome. Consider customer experience. Would people like their bills generated immediately? Enter Tonik Energy…

Disruption can be on a very simple scale but can have huge impact by really focusing on specifics that can meet customer needs better than the current offers. Patanjalimanaged to beat well established household good brands such as P&G and Unilever by focusing on an unserved customer group (natural products) and not adopting market established paradigms (such as having a large advertising spend).

The key is keeping close to the customer problem you are trying to solve.

New technology can open up obvious new markets, but can also create whole new markets. Everyone – or just about everyone – has access to the video capabilities of a smartphone. Why not offer them training, so they can make professional quality videos, without engaging a professional company, or purchasing expensive kit? Customer trends can drive whole industries and the best disruptors are those that can exploit those trends, especially if they can offer it in bitesize content.

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow. -Ovid

The fear of failure, however, can stop people taking action. Ideas can die very quickly if not supported, so how do you respond to the ideas people come to you with? Do they get killed with a sneer or a yawn, or do you take a default “yes” approach?

Not seeing the world how it has been but being open to new trends as they develop is a key skill for people who want to work with, rather than against disruptive influences. Look at the rejuvenation of what was once considered an “elderly” market. People who would once have moved into a grey netherworld are becoming more aspirational and better connected – and new trends and new markets are opening up for older people who want to travel the world.

The instant gratification, and always-on solution that is driven by our increasingly app-based culture is providing impetus to rapid disruption, both on the demand side, and, through widespread social media, instant connectivity and high levels of visibility across industries. Disruption in one industry can be inspired by a completely different industry.

This calls for a laser sharp focus on what you are trying to achieve, and most importantly, what your customer is demanding from you… for example Chiltern Railways overcoming a traditional obstacle of lack of station facilities and simply building their own station.

 

“When problems come along, you must whip it…”

To adopt a disrupter’s mindset you have to see the barriers or obstacles that currently exist – or the threats to your current model that are manifested in the “desire paths” that your customers are taking to meet needs that you are not currently serving – as opportunities to be exploited, even if they appear to defy conventional wisdom for your industry. Sometimes it helps to consider what your overall product or service offering feels like for customers. Do you have an attention to detail over and above your competitors? Is something being missed that people would value?

 

F.E.A.R… Freeing Excellence Affects Reality

If you want to encourage disruptive innovation at a team level, it has to be obvious that support and permission is granted from the top down, even though the reality of taking on challenges and looking for new approaches will inevitably result in failure. The established culture – in life, society and business – can often mean that experimentation and failure is not celebrated and indeed, is often punished.

How can leaders or teams help to celebrate failure? “Failure cake” that is handed out at Tonik is one way of making light of people making genuine mistakes in their attempt to make improvements. Sometimes, you just have to stand up and celebrate with the “failure bow”. Don’t be ashamed of failure. The person who never made a mistake, never made anything.

It requires some personal reflection too. How comfortable are you as the leader or your leadership team with failure and risk? And what structures will you, as a leader, need to establish so that creativity and innovation can flourish without creating chaos and efforts being focused in the wrong area?

 

Tips for encouraging creative thinking and therefore more disruptive ideas are:

  • Hire well – don’t just hire on technical skills but hire for cultural fit and individual desire to keep developing and their ability to challenge in a constructive way.
  • Ensure that principles for decision making are clear from the top and provide guidelines for how people should act. This will give people a compass when they need to make decisions.
  • Look external for inspiration – don’t just look at your own industry.
  • Consider what you are measuring and how that is driving decisions and activity – if you change what you measure you are likely to change what people focus on.
  • Find a way to celebrate failure, so the word “failure” is not seen as a bad thing, but as a necessary step to refine thinking, remove doubt, and tighten the focus on what needs to be done.
  • Could Improv skills help you and your team be more confident with uncertainly and building skills in building on ideas? Would they benefit from learning to embrace ambiguity and change, operate from a “yes, and” position, provide mutual support and hold multiple thoughts while moving towards a common goal?
  • Where are the clichés in your business, and what would happen if you reversed them? What established practices are you simply sticking to but are restricting your ability to innovate and disrupt? What benefits could result from Re-inventing Organisations?

 

We do business differently, experimenting with the idea that there are other ways to do business, connect with people and get results. Different ways to learn and share outside of the normal taught approach, common in workshops, business schools and L&D environments across the globe. If you want to become involved, please sign up here to learn more.

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Building an organisational climate that encourages creative and innovative outcomes

Building an organisational climate that encourages creative and innovative outcomes

At Purple Monster, we recognise the importance of creativity and innovative thinking in all organisations, regardless of size, sector or culture. Recently we have been working with Kate from Freestyle Innovation to fully understand how this can be developed.

There are plenty of “innovation processes” around- even though applying a process to innovation sounds counter-intuitive- but things that can help in this area (like Design Thinking, Lean Start Up and Customer Development) need a culture where creative and innovative thinking can be supported to thrive.

If you are unclear on the difference between Creativity and Innovation, or you are in an organisation that you feel could never ‘be creative’, this post explains these concepts a bit further. The fact is, that the potential to find creative solutions and apply innovative thought exists everywhere, and it doesn’t have to be revolutionary or ground-breaking– or even particularly large– to make a difference.

In our experience, there are three levels where the necessary climate can be encouraged: Individual, Team and Leadership. In this post, we’re going to share with you some practical ways of how you can encourage a higher degree of creativity and innovation at an individual and team level.

Improving individual creative thinking skills. 

Everyone can be more creative. That may seem unlikely to some of you, and it’s true that some people are naturally more creative than others, but organisations can provide opportunities for anyone to enhance and increase their ability to think in a more creative way. Here are a few…

1. Help employees to develop ‘T’ shaped experience.

Some individuals know their specialist domain really well, but also have a wide range of knowledge in other areas such as hobbies, interests, studies or experience from previous roles. Opportunities to increase their specialised knowledge and also their appreciation of a wider selection of topics will boost their creativity.

  • Encourage them to use the resources available via TED talks and MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) …
  • Support them to do work experience in other business areas or organisations….
  • Develop cross functional collaboration by holding teambuilding sessions with other business areas…
  • Give them the opportunity to attend industry or local networking events or seminars….
  • …all of these things increase an individual’s ‘T’ shaped knowledge providing enhanced knowledge across a diverse range of subjects.

2. Develop key creative problem-solving skills.

These aren’t necessarily tangible, measurable attributes, but qualities such as resilience, perseverance and a willingness to take risks and experiment. Innovation and creativity rely on the ability to bounce back after setbacks, so by building these skills, individuals will be more comfortable and therefore more proficient at creative problem solving.

3. Truly engage people in order to increase levels of intrinsic motivation.

Research has demonstrated conclusively that offering extrinsic rewards, such as bonuses, do not improve the level of creativity in individuals. By contrast, intrinsic motivation – the desire to solve a problem or solving a challenge because it is personally interesting – does increase levels of creativity. If you look to understand what motivates employees at an individual level, and provide opportunities for them to get involved with challenges they feel most drawn to, you will see an upsurge in innovative thinking. Don’t let it wither on the vine though. Always remember to reward people with praise, and offer opportunities for further development.

 

Building teams which encourage, support and promote creative outcomes.

A supportive climate is vital. People who are actively looking to become more creative thinkers can find their efforts being encouraged or crushed depending on the team environment they work in. There are some aspects of team working which can encourage the former and avoid the latter.  

1. Build trust.

Individuals within a team need to feel that they trust each other. By your actions and attitude, you must exemplify the qualities you need others to show. You need to create an atmosphere where it is easy to trust other team members to support, encourage and nurture ideas.

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” – Ovid

Taking time to develop trust between team members is a critical element of building a creative team. Individuals, no matter how well developed their personal creative thinking skills are, won’t be able to flourish in a team environment where trust isn’t present. Tools such as the Trust Equation, and taking time to develop understanding and how these tools can be applied, will help in this respect.

2. Create teams that are diverse in terms of skills, experience and knowledge.

Diversity in a team encourages different perspectives and ideas. A team with a wide range of experiences, skills and knowledge is more likely to promote unique combinations of thoughts. To maximise the benefits of having such a team, individuals should be skilled in understanding and appreciating different perspectives – and trusting the value that others can bring to a topic. Innovation teams can be a mixture of operational personnel, directors, and people who just like getting things done. Abandon notions of hierarchy or authority, and allow them to bring their own insights to promote the inspiration of novel ideas. Unique combinations of contributions can encourage sharing, and everyone can build on ideas: behaviour that is critical to creativity and innovation.

3. Train people in how to use non-personal conflict.

Teams that encourage and promote creativity should expect to experience some conflict and challenge. This is a critical part of any robust development process, but this conflict needs to be non-personal to avoid damage to the trust and openness a good creative team needs. Developing skills in providing and receiving feedback are a good way of achieving this. Making people feel comfortable in challenging ideas, as well as seeing the feedback on their ideas as a positive, helpful experience, rather than a personal attack, is hugely important.

4. Maintaining team cohesion and spirit.

It will come as no surprise that a team that has high levels of creative thinking is usually found to have a good team dynamic, and features strong connections between individuals within that team. It is this element that leads to well-known ‘creative companies’ having table football and social activities woven into the fabric of their office environment. Opportunities for teams to ‘play’ together creates stronger connections, and helps people to feel comfortable bouncing ideas off each other to jointly develop creative outcomes.

This wouldn’t be much of a post on creativity and innovation if it didn’t call for your input, so… what do you think? Do you agree that all organisations have the capability to increase their proportion of creative and innovative thinkers? How else can the organisational climate support innovation processes and methodologies?

  • Do you want to increase the level of creative and innovative thinking in your team or organisations?
  • Are you looking for advice on how to build a ‘climate for creative outcomes’?
  • Are you interested in how to create a project team that is able to develop creative solutions to business challenges?
  • Get in touch with us below and we can walk you through some ideas and solutions.

If you’re interested in finding out more about getting the culture and processes in place to promote creativity and innovation, then contact either Danielle from Purple Monster at danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or Kate from Freestyle Innovation at kate@freestyleinnovation.co.uk.



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Can you develop a creative and innovative culture without buying any bean bags or post it notes?

Can you develop a creative and innovative culture without buying any bean bags or post it notes?

You are invited to a meeting and you are told that the company you are visiting is ‘wonderfully creative and innovative’. What do you expect to see when you arrive?

An open plan office with a sea of iMacs? Maybe a dedicated ‘chill out’ zone with strategically-placed orange beanbags? Possibly table football or an air hockey next to a fridge full of free smoothies and a fruit bowl? People in jeans, yes, there will be lots of jeans and t-shirts with slogans on.  You can’t be creative in a suit? Can you?

This image is often associated with a ‘creative’ company, but what about cultures, organisations or industries where this isn’t appropriate or indeed, comfortable? Does this mean that these organisations can’t be creative? These organisations can’t innovate? Well, the myths surrounding creative thinking might lead you to think so, but here at Purple Monster, we’ve been working with Freestyle Innovation on debunking that myth. We’ve been exploring elements that might help increase creative and innovative thinking in organisations, and the aspects that are common in companies who are good at both. You might be surprised to know that having a beanbag budget isn’t one of them.

Firstly, creativity and innovation are often used interchangeably, so what do these terms mean…and what’s the difference?

The term ‘creativity’ can be used as a way of describing something rather than a way of being. Especially in the business world, this description can be more helpful. You can develop creative ideas or processes without being a ‘creative person’. Creativity in this context describes ideas, processes or products which are useful, new and understandable. They don’t need to be wacky, world-changing or involve interpretative dance, but by their nature they do need to be a change to existing ideas and ways of doing things. That alone is scary for some people and organisations, but is increasingly critical in this rapidly changing world.

Innovation, on the other hand, is turning those ideas, processes or products into reality. Ideas are worthless on their own, and innovation is a repeatable and scalable process that can turn great ideas into profit. Again, by its nature, innovation is more focused on resources, planning and implementation and requires a level of creative thinking (many challenges need creative solutions to solve) but is often more organised and structured. There are lots of great innovation processes already out there such as Design Thinking, Lean Start Up and Customer Development, which bring structure into this space.

There is little doubt of the importance both these concepts will play in the business and wider world in the future, but whilst the attention is often placed on innovation catalysts like ideation sessions and hackathons, for an organisation to truly be a ‘creative and innovative thinking organisation’, attention also needs to placed on the culture and climate as well as processes and soft furnishings.

The best representation we have seen recently of this phenomenon in action was a visit to the head office of an organisation who had been taking steps to improve their levels of innovation. We saw a group of people in suits sitting in silence rather awkwardly on beanbags, looking at each other and not quite sure how to act. The intent was there, but the execution had woefully missed the point!

A good insight of what it takes to build an innovative culture is explained in this Forbes article. 

If you are interested in finding out more about getting the culture and processes in place to promote creativity and innovation, then contact either Danielle from Purple Monster at danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or Kate from Freestyle Innovation at kate@freestyleinnovation.co.uk.



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How to manage virtual teams effectively

How to manage virtual teams effectively

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Control Freak… Now you say, ‘Control Freak who?’”

By the very fact that your team is a virtual team, you have a problem if your default state is that of a control freak or a micro manager. They aren’t there. You have to trust them, and, if they are not in one specific place, they could be doing anything. Trusting people can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do to keep them focused on the task that you want them to achieve. You just might have to think in a different way.

Colour code your organisational structure.

My colleagues are going to hate me for this, because, to be honest, they’re bored with me banging on about it, but it’s time to mention The Book That Changed My Life. If you want to call it by its proper name you should look for Reinventing Organisations by Frederick Laloux. Buy it, and read it. But, if you are pathologically cheap, or incredibly time-poor, and if you have a misguided faith in my ability to precis a complex book into a few sentences, I’ll give you some of the concepts, and a basic principle here.

Throughout human history there have been different paradigms for how organisations are structured. When a new one comes along it is utterly alien to the one that is the current norm, but over time it gains traction. Frederick Laloux gives these colour codes that define them, and suggests that they have an accompanying behaviour model: Impulsive Red (caveman), Conformist Amber (tribes), Achievement Orange (conventional, structured business with the boss at the top), Pluralist Green (the workers are empowered by a forward-thinking boss), and… and this is the new one that may set your teeth on edge if you’re a control freak… Evolutionary Teal. It’s a real colour. Let it go.

 

Adopt a new way of thinking.

Evolutionary Teal takes away all control from the traditional management structure, and places it completely, and with no formal, outside pressure, in the hands of the team doing the work. A bit like virtual teams, but in the real world. If you want to see how this works, Google Buurtzorg, or FAVI… It was the accepted wisdom about the workplace that the new CEO at power generating company AES observed that made him implement this new philosophy for his business, and that might help with anxieties about trying to manage things that perhaps you should trust to manage themselves.  They are:

  • Workers are lazy; if they are not watched they will not work diligently
  • Workers work primarily for money; they’ll do what it takes to make as much money as possible
  • Workers are selfish; they put their own interests ahead of the organisation
  • Workers perform best if they have one, simple, repeatable task to accomplish
  • Workers can’t make good decisions about the economic performance of the company; only bosses can do that
  • Workers do not want to be responsible for the actions or decisions that affect the performance of the company
  • Workers need care and protection, like children who need their parents
  • Workers should be compensated by the hour, or the number of pieces they produce; bosses get salaries and bonuses
  • Workers are interchangeable; one “good” one is the same as another “good” one
  • Workers need to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it; bosses need to hold them accountable

 

So, the question is, is that what you are worried about with your virtual team? And if it is, why? Perhaps the answer isn’t in managing a virtual team. Perhaps you should outline the task, give them the responsibility, explain that they have autonomy to deliver…trust that they are not necessarily all the things on the list above, and let them find a way to do it.



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Old Dogs, New Tricks

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Anyone that knows us knows that we love to approach engagement challenges in new and creative ways.

One thing we are often asked about is “Behavioural Change”. This is no easy task to achieve in any circumstance, so we decided to see what we could find out about this challenge in true Purple Monster style…by doing a day of dog training with all the Purple Monster dogs!

The result? An exploration of Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect, which in its simplest terms, rewards good behaviour and ignores unwanted behaviour.

This video is the outcome of that crazy idea.  As you’ll see, none of us started off with particularly well-behaved dogs (apart from Alana, whose dog Murphy is actually a human), but by using a simple behavioural theory we were able to influence a change in a matter of hours.  It worked with our dogs, but we’d love to hear what you think and whether this theory is practised in your organisation!

“It’s so simple, even a dog can understand it”.

 

If you are interested in behavioural change, you might also find this article useful.



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What to consider when leading behavioural change

What to consider when leading behavioural change

After having a few years away from any sort of work other than family life, George is back!  Tasked with putting together an article about something to do with changing our behaviour?  Righto…

Trying to get employees to change their ways hasn’t gone away while she was off changing nappies. Reassuring to know when you’ve been “out of it” for some time.

At Purple Monster we’re often asked to help with “behavioural change”. So what is that? Well, behavioural change is changing our behaviour, right? And to do that, we’ll just stop doing things that way and do it the new way instead? Great! That’s it then. If only it was that easy…

Despite what some people may think, you can’t change your behaviour without first changing your mindset. Whilst pondering on how to write an article about this subject, we stumbled across this four-box model below (published by Jesse Jacoby here).

It’s basically what we do at Purple Monster in a neat and tidy box.

Using this model, what can we learn about mindset and behavioural change?

Role Modelling

When an organisation is going through change, it is easy to forget that the leaders may well be required to change as well. It can often be assumed that the leaders of the organisation are already modelling the desired behaviours…but that may or may not be the case.

Leaders should be expected to take an active role and not take the easier option of letting HR, Communications or external agencies front up the change. Firstly, they must  understand the change and the reasons for it (this part is often overlooked as it assumed as a leader they already know what is happening and why). Secondly, they should implement the changes they desire in themselves first, before leading others

They must demonstrate this new behaviour for the organisation to see- if they make it known that this is how things are done, others will begin to demonstrate the same behaviour.

Fostering Understanding and Conviction


We’ve always found that the best way of increasing understanding comes from telling a story. By creating a compelling narrative, the reasoning behind the new way is easier for people to understand quickly and helps to avoid corporate speak, which can often loose meaning to the people who need to understand and adopt it.

By thinking this through carefully, it will allow people to understand why the changes are happening, to personalise them and to gain their commitment to these changes.

When this story is compelling and told in an accessible way, people are more likely to have the conviction and commitment they need to undertake the shift in behaviours.

 

Developing Talent and Skills

Imagine you were expected one day to drive a double decker bus. You have a driving licence, so you know roughly what to do, but how confident would you be to undertake that task immediately? Taking people through behavioural change is no different. You can’t expect people to have the skills, knowledge or confidence straight away. They might need training or soft skills development; they might simply need time to figure it out for themselves.

Change, especially changing behaviours which are so embedded and personal, isn’t easy, so make sure to give them all the support they need – both professionally and personally – to progress through it successfully. Coaching, training, skills development, clear communication: all of these will help you to get the best possible results.

Reinforcing with formal mechanisms

“Doing things differently” isn’t all about mindset and behaviours. Whilst the behavioural changes are ultimately important, clear structures and processes will provide a frame around which the new behaviours can be shaped. They help to reinforce what is expected and help keep people on track when they are unsure or uncertain. Reward and Performance mechanisms which still reflect the old expectations will only slow down your change process, if not rail road it completely. Those areas out of scope? Reconsider.

 

Have you got a requirement to drive behavioural change in your organisation? Here are some other resources which might help:

Creating a narrative for your vision and strategy

How to help a new leader make an impact

How to engage disparate teams

 



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