Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Note by Will Reed

A few weeks ago, Roger sent me an email telling me he was adapting my One-Year Planning MandalaChart, described in Flexible Focus #64: The One-Year Plan, into a writing and marketing tool for authors. I immediately asked Roger to share his ideas as an ActiveGarage guest post, and he agreed. His post appears below. I think you’ll agree it’s a great example of “tinkering” with an idea and putting it to work in new ways.

Why author’s need an Author MandalaChart


I’ve been following, and learning from, William Reed for most of the last decade. I tend to listen when he speaks. He’s introduced me to numerous creativity ideas and resources, including mind mapping.

I’ve been reading, and saving, his Flexible Focus series since it began. But, I knew that Will had really outdone himself when I saw his One-Year Plan MandalaChart.

The One-Year Plan MandalaChart resonated with me because it addressed several of the most important challenges authors face when planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a brand-building book: book, including:

  • There’s more to book publishing success than simply “writing.” It’s not enough to provide a clearly and concisely written advice; the advice has to be relevant, and the book has to be visible to its intended readers.
  • Publishing success involves simultaneously addressing multiple tasks. Publishing is not a linear process. Success requires addressing multiple issues at the same time. For example, how authors intend to profit from their book should influence their choice of publishing options.
  • Success requires goals, priorities, and deadlines. In a time-strapped world, it’s more important than ever that goals and tasks be accompanied with deadlines. Without deadlines, days, weeks, months, and years can go by without progress, resulting in a terrible waste of opportunities..

Modeled on, and inspired by, Will’s One-Year Plan MandalaChart, my Author’s MandalaChart provides a visual way to create goals, prioritize tasks, and measure your progress as you move forward.

Author’s MandalaChart matrix

The starting point was to adapt the 8 topics Will addressed in his original One-Year Plan MandalaChart to the specific needs of authors.

Will’s original matrix was addressed the following spheres, or activities, of an individual’s life:

  1. Personal
  2. Financial
  3. Study
  4. Business
  5. Home
  6. Society
  7. Health
  8. Leisure

When adapting the One-Year Plan to my Author’s MandalaChart, I included the following activity areas that authors must address:


  1. Goals. Goals involves answering questions like, Why are you writing a book? and How do you intend to profit from your book? As publishing has changed during the past few years, it’s become more and more important for authors to view their books as new business ventures. Books have to generate income beyond that which comes from book sales. 
  2. Readers. Reader topics include answering questions like Who are your ideal readers?, Why should they read your book?, What do they need to know?, and How will they benefit from your book? Nonfiction publishing success isn’t about how much you know; success is determined by offering the information that your ideal readers need to know.
  3. Competition. Books are not self-contained islands; new books must offer something better than what’s already available. Success requires identifying existing books and analyzing their pros and cons, so you can answer the question, What’s the “missing book” my ideal readers are waiting for?
  4. Message. From analyzing your goals, readers, and competition, you should be able to position your book and organize your ideas into chapters and subtopics within chapters. Your book proposal and press releases must be able to quickly answer questions like, What’s your book’s big idea? and What will readers take away from your book?  
  5. Format. Information can be communicated in lots of different ways, for example, step-by-step procedurals, case studies, personal experiences, question and answer, etc. You can also publish a big book or a small book. Format questions include, How much of a book do you need to write? and How can you simplify your book so you can get it into your reader’s hands as soon as possible?
  6. Awareness. Books are not magnetic, they don’t attract readers like a magnet attracts steel filings. You have to help your reader find you, answering questions like, How can I get my book reviewed? and How can I share my ideas while writing my book?
  7. Demand. Awareness has to be converted into demand, demand must stimulate purchases. Questions to address include, How can I stimulate pre-orders for my book? How can I sell as many books as possible when it’s available? and Where can I sell my book outside ofnormal bookstore channels?
  8. Profit. Finally, authors must leverage books into back-end information products or coaching, consulting, or paid speaking and presenting events. Questions include, How can I help readers implement my ideas? and What kind of marketing materials are speaker bureaus and event planners looking for?

Setting and attracting goals

The most important part of Will’s original One-Year Plan MandalaChart was the way it encouraged users to address each topic in matrix from four perspectives:

  • Current status. Where are we now? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our current position? What are the forces we have to deal with?
  • By December. What are our goals for the remainder of the calendar year? What do we want to accomplish by the end of the year?
  • Image for the end of a year. How can we visually communicate our accomplishments after 12 months?
  • Steps to reach this. What do we have to do to achieve our December and our One-Year goals?

In my version, I made a few simple changes, as follows:

  • Situation. (the same)
  • 90-days. This addresses the fact that “By December” implied an August starting date.
  • 1-year. Rather than a visual image, I felt a description of accomplishments during the past 12 months would be most helpful.
  • Steps to success. (Simple wording change.)

Author’s MandalaChart benefits

Writing and self-publishing involve a curious blend of creativity and self-discipline. Success requires a flexible perspective that combines long-term vision and consistent action in 8 different activity areas.

Although all projects are a work in progress, I feel the Author’s MandalaChart achieves its primary goal of helping authors avoid the common myopia of focusing entirely on writing and makes it easy to maintain a “big picture” view that encourages action in all 8 areas. The Author’s MandalaChart makes it easy to describe short term and long-goals in each area.

In addition, it creates an engaging visual to display on your wall as well as share with co-authors, agents, editors, and—when appropriate—your blog and social market community.

Conclusion

In addition to building on Will Reed’s already strong framework and adapting it for a specific vertical market, the Author’s MandalaChart shows the importance of constantly being on the lookout for ideas and tools that you can put to use in new ways.

The power of idea-sharing venues like the ActiveGarage is that it creates a community of achievers, constantly looking for ways to do a better job to address the challenges we all face, including the need to get more done in less time.

Editor’s NoteRoger C. Parker 37-part ActiveGarage Author’s Journey series offers practical advice for writing a book. He invites you to visit Published & Profitable and download a free proof of his do-it-yourself guide to developmental editing, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write or Self-Publlish a Brand-building Book

Flexible Focus #70: The Carp of Creativity

by William Reed on September 22, 2011

If you have ever been in Japan in early May then you will remember how the landscape is covered with carp streamer kites (koinobori), suspended on high poles and streaming in the wind. These are to celebrate Children’s Day (Boy’s Day) on May 5th, and are flown in hopes that boys will grow up strong and healthy. This national holiday follows the Girl’s Day Japanese Doll Festival on March 3rd. The symbolism of the koinobori is based on the legend that the carp swims against the stream, climbs a waterfall, and becomes a dragon. It is a powerful picture of the power of swimming against the stream, the very opposite of going with the flow.

Author Steven Pressfield wrote a book called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which describes a process by which writers, artists, musicians, and anyone engaged in a creative endeavor can overcome the internal and external resistance which comes of swimming upstream to create something new. In some ways, the stream acts and filters out all of those who lack the resolve to press through and create something new. After all, it is much easier to simply allow yourself to be swept along with whatever else goes downstream. As Pressfield says, it takes a special mindset to overcome resistance and achieve the unlived life within.

You need something other than sheer will power to help you navigate against the stream. You need fins and a strong tail to weave your way against the current and overcome gravity. When it comes to publishing and presenting, the Mandala Chart can give you an added advantage in this process. There are 8 key words that can help you see it through.

  • Passion. This is the driving force, the tail of the carp. Without passion your project hasn’t any hope of meeting or overcoming resistance. People without passion are mentally and physically set adrift in the stream, and subject to its whimsical nature. However, if you know what you want and are driven to achieve it, you have what is called a “fighting chance”. If you don’t yet know what you want, look deeper to see what drives you.
  • Perspective. This is the eye of the carp, which provides a sense of direction and helps stay the course. Any creative person must have a vision, a point of view, a perspective. The creative task of the artists is to give shape to what he or she has seen, and thereby transport others to it. The witnessing precedes the rendering. If you lack a clear perspective, you can deepen what you have by exploring the perspectives which other artists have rendered, and then search for your own.
  • Preparation. These are the muscle fibers of the carp which strengthen from use. It is the daily search and struggle which builds creative staying power. Because creativity rarely proceeds in straight lines, it is the muscular zig zag which finesses the current and allows the carp to swim against it. It is like this in the creative process, which is constantly in search of ways to weave its way back to the source. If you lack ideas and inspiration, you can more easily find it by keeping a daily log of your ideas of insights, which will develop your creative muscles and keep your thoughts in flow.
  • Pressure. This the current of resistance against which creative people must swim to create anything new. It comes in all kinds of forms physical and mental, and is the undoing of all who give into its subtle force. The current is actually not strong enough to stop you, if you manage to master the creative process. But if you yield to it and surrender your creative spirit, it can cause you to procrastinate, compromise, or even give up. If you feel you are weakening to the pressure, think of the resistance as your ally and don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Think of it instead as the rope ladder which will help you to climb higher.
  • Platform. This is the riverbed, which supports the stream and provides all kinds of interesting shapes and variations in the current. It is in these that you can find opportunities to express your ideas and develop your creativity. It is also the media through which you publish and present. Today there are many options and formats for a personal platform, either in print or online. You may start with a blog or Facebook account, or you may wish to create works in tangible form that you can share with others. A platform is a place where people can find you, experience and enjoy your work, as well as comment on it. Using such platforms to talk about what you had for lunch will only interest a very small audience. Why not use it as a means of practicing and improving the way you express ideas, the way you capture them in titles, the way you express them in visual or auditory form?
  • Productivity. These are your writing tools and techniques, the fins of the carp that steer and shape your path. Every artist, every writer, every musician, and every creative person has discovered ways to be productive, to give more fidelity to their message, to express the finer nuances. If you follow or befriend a creative person, you will find that they are often more than happy to share their secrets, as others have done for them. To be productive is to produce, to continuously create and give shape to your ideas and insights. It is an essential part of the process, and that which gives you momentum for the big leaps ahead.
  • Presentation. This is the carp climbing the waterfall, the thrilling leap that transcends the limits thought impossible. It is the goal of swimming upstream, and represents the performance, the big stage, the formation that precedes the transformation. It is not a single event, because truly creative people continue this process as long as they live, and leave behind a creative legacy that in some cases is treasured for generations to come. Not everyone can be a Picasso, but each person can achieve something of creative value, if you overcome resistance and bring to life that which is inside struggling to come out.
  • Payoff. The character for Carp 鯉 consists of two radicals, that of fish 魚 and that meaning home or place of origin 里. In a sense the payoff for the Carp is returning to its original form, freedom achieved after persistent creative efforts to overcome resistance, to climb the waterfall, and to transform into a Dragon. For many artists, this is enough, although they may and should also be able to earn a living, gain recognition, and help spark the creative spirit in others through their work.

As a reminder of the elements of the creative process, you can download here a Mandala Chart entitled The Carp of Creativity. Whatever your media or message, a wonderful way to ensure your creative growth is to overcome resistance and find ways to publish and present your ideas and insights. When you awaken your creative spirit, you will find all kinds of resources and resourceful people come out to support you on your path. In time the resistance you felt in front of you seems to be replaced by a counter current pushing from behind which drives you forward and keeps you in creative flow.

Leo Messi is the greatest footballer in the world.  His peers say so.

He plays for Football Club Barcelona.  3 of the other world top 5 footballers also play at FC Barcelona.  Leo Messi doesn’t play with his best friends from school.  He doesn’t keep a space on FC Barcelona for a friend who just happens to be available.  He doesn’t, but most business people and entrepreneurs do.

Why do we treat football differently than business?  Is it less important?  Is it more important?

How to run your talent program like FC Barcelona

At a conference at IESE Business School last week, Geoff Smart spoke to the audience about how to source, select and attract top talent to your organization.  He asked “has anyone ever hired someone who looked great on paper, only to find out weeks or months later that it was a terrible decision?”  Many hands were raised in the air.

Hiring for football is easier – we see past performance, in business it is possible to hide the past in paper (CVs).

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, says that the very first step of leaders who create massive success in their businesses is “get the right people on the bus”…  and the corollary…  get the wrong people off the bus.

There are four parts to hiring well.

  1. Know clearly what you want the person to achieve. Go beyond vague descriptions of skills. eg. “Analytical Thought Process” develop further to “Distinguishes key facts from secondary factors; can follow a progressive thought process from idea to idea; makes sound observations.”  Jonathan Davis, founder of HireBetter says that this is a big failing of hiring managers
  2. Go to where the best people are. Where are the best people? They are not looking at job adverts.  They are not spending their weekend reading job websites.  They are passionate about their current role.  It is unlikely that those who are actively searching through non-personal channels are top performers.  The top performers are still doing well in their current jobs. How to find the best people? There is only one way: Network. If you want talent: ask who the best people are, get to industry events, meet people at conferences. Watch people in action, know them through their activity, read their books, their tweets, their Quora profiles, their blogs.
  3. Selecting the A players: focus on the past, not the future. Don’t ever ask “how would you solve the problem?”.  Ask “tell me about a time when you solved a similar problem?” Everyone can tell you a great story about what they would do.  The top performers are not smarter, don’t have better to-do list systems, better technology.  The differentiator is that they have found the way to overcome procrastination.  They actually do the things that they say they will do. Give them a present problem and ask them to solve it. See their creative thinking, not necessarily the solution. Look for performance, don’t ask for opinions.
  4. Selling the opportunity, building the culture. Selling the opportunity to an A player does not mean “be their friend”; it means sell them on the personal growth, the professional growth the opportunity to impact the world on a massive scale.  This is what great people want.  Not more friends. They want to be pushed and demanded and be allowed to change the world for the better. Jonathan Davis says that culture is hard to build and easy to destroy. Jonathan turned down a hiring contract recently with a big company.  He told the CEO “You cannot be client of ours.  I’ll tell you why. Your VP of sales is a !@#$%^!. He won’t waste an opportunity to tell you how awesome he is.  We can help you recruit a great employee, but he will leave.” It is the culture that you build that will really attract and keep the top talent.  If you create a great culture, you don’t need to pay employees to bring people in…  they will bring their ambitious, high performing friends in.  The online shoe retailer Zappos pay $2000 for people to leave.

How do you do this without any effort?  You don’t.  Good talent doesn’t just happen because you are showing up.  One of the hardest things in business life is removing a loyal but mediocre performer from your team.  There may be bonds of friendship, there may be many good shared experiences in the past, feelings of connection.  However, the continued presence of mediocrity in your team is a cancer that will eat away at your ability to achieve important goals.  One way to reduce the pain of having to let go of mediocre performers is to get very good at only hiring star performers into your team.

My father once told me that the greatest service you can do for an unhappy, underperforming employee is to let them go – it frees them to search and find a place where they can contribute and find greater meaning.  They won’t thank you in the moment, but this is the service of a leader – it is not about giving – it is about serving; it is not about the easy answers, it is about the right answers.

Highly Demanding, with Love

How would you get Leo Messi to play for your football team?  It would help if you had 3 of the top 5 footballers in the world already on the team.  How do you attract the top talent to your team?  Build a culture of high performance around you.  This starts with a zero tolerance of mediocrity.

A participant on my course last year began his speech “I have often wondered whether it is better as a parent to be permissive or authoritarian.  Which is better?  At a conference a few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the world guru’s on child development.  I went up to him after his talk.  I congratulated him.  I asked him the question: ‘is it better for a parent to be permissive or authoritarian?’  The guru smiled and said ‘highly demanding with love’.”  It is the same as a leader – can you be highly demanding, with love.  Expect the best from those around you and they rise to the challenge.  Accept the worst, and they will coast in comfort.

A highly creative team can make or break a company and they require special care and feeding (literally).  The complaints coming from creative people we have worked with through the years fall into three buckets of “frustrations”:  mundane, daily frustrations; professional frustrations, and management-induced frustrations.  Let’s look at each one and see how we can prevent it.

  1. Mundane, daily frustrations – These include heavy traffic lengthening the daily commute, difficulty finding a parking spot, and not having change for the soft drink machine.  So managers, allow people to work from home one day each week.  Also encourage carpooling to ease the parking challenge and reward carpoolers with gas money.  Lastly, put healthy drinks in the machines and let the company pay for them (select the “coinless” setting in the machines or buy your own machines).  One firm we know did this and also keeps a large kitchen fully stocked with instant soups and other fast foods, all free to employees.
  2. Professional frustrations – Engineers never seem to have requirements that they can use.  They always want better requirements.  And your engineers do deserve the most solid requirements you can generate, blessed by the end users of the system.  So make that happen.  Visit multiple users and get the system specification, contract and the requirements aligned.  Also, scientists always seem to need better tools and equipment.  This gets expensive fast but you should meet their needs whenever it makes good business sense.  But do two things here:
    • tie new tools to higher output, faster analyses/studies, etc. and
    • require the scientists to triage their needs so you work on filling the most crucial needs first.
  3. Management-induced frustrations – and here there are several:
    • Mismatched expectations, when management thinks they have asked for one thing and the staff provides something different.  Usually this is caused by management thinking they have hired mind readers.  Managers, be overly thorough in your assignments and get confirmation by asking “Now, what are you going to go do, and why?”  You’ll sometimes be amazed at the answer you get!
    • Great inventions and technologies get embedded in technologies and systems, but the project gets cancelled.  Technical/creative types understandably want to see their ideas take wing and launch!  So have an ‘idea greenhouse” where orphaned ideas can await a new home.  And reward people for planting wild ideas there (a year’s membership in the World Futures Society at www.wfs.org or a trip to a super science symposium or a great museum).  Let people know you value great ideas, even (especially?) those ideas that are ahead of their time!  And to prevent premature death of a project, design your projects as carefully as you design your systems (learn to do this in the Project Dominance course offered at Solid Thinking)
    • Hidden assumptions or unvoiced expectations cause the end user to reject the system.  Usually this is because management failed to get user buy-in during the design and development of the system.  Remember that just meeting the specifications is not enough – – – management must seek out representative users and get their vocal support for the system as it is being conceived, developed, built and fielded.  Anything less is risky.

Lastly, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for leaders managing creative teams:

  • Don’t accept problems brought to you by staffers, unless each problem comes with options and a recommendation.  This is how you build creative thinkers (and a replacement for yourself).
  • Don’t belittle noble failures.  Instead, celebrate them with luncheons and rewards (a half-day off, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc.)  Make it a fun thing.  Build an accepting environment for new ideas, whether they find a home or not.
  • Don’t overlook talent you have within your organization(s).  You may have mission expertise in your organization that you know nothing about.  One of our clients has a “Mission Experience Library” of people with military experience.  If they need someone familiar with aircraft maintenance, for instance, they can query the database and find that ex-sergeant wrench-turner who can provide input on the new automated technical order system being contemplated.

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the jobs.” (source unknown)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

By the time you’ve opened your little peepers in the morning you’ve most likely  set your intentions for the day. This happens automatically for most of us. There are the normal patterns that we engage in to prepare for the day ahead, then follow through until tucked back in bed ready for a good night’s rest. What would shift if we became intentional about creating our day? What would we intend to happen? How would we intend to be that would allow our day to unfold?

People make extraordinary leaps of faith, creating because they were inspired to do so. Inspiration leads to intentions, which leads to acting with integrity. All three are essential yet it is integrity that gets the job done.

You are a rare individual who considers the possibility of creating a paradigm shift in the work place; one that would allow kindness, compassion and true collaboration to inundate the ranks of the stressed, overwhelmed and unfulfilled. What arouses such an undertaking in you? In my mind it has to involve inspiration.

That quality of being inspired – we know all know what it feels like, and we spend thousands of dollars for motivational speakers to come in and inspire us to – to do what? We read books and watch movies with the intention to facilitate the experience of feeling inspired. Too often, though that inspiration doesn’t last more than a couple of hours and we are back to our normal routine. We know the experience and we know how to cultivate it, Integrity is also a quality of being. We all know what it feels like too.

Our somatic or physical response to the world is the tell-all of our reality. If you want to know what’s true for you, go to the source—your body—it never lies. What does inspiration feel like to you? What is it that has that experience move you to take action? We don’t think much about this, though it is a huge factor in our lives.

Inspiration starts with a sensation of giddiness and excitement in my chest. I feel exhilarated and want to do something to support and nourish this feeling of being swept up. It’s different than anxiousness, which generally has a good dose of fear added. I also feel an impulse to move, to do something that fulfills these sensations. It’s like I’m being asked for something I know I can fulfill.

How does an idea become manifested? Action has to be taken and initially this can feel energizing and fun. Slowly though we lose touch with our original inspiration. With time and distractions we forget what we wanted or why we wanted it. Generally speaking, as we move towards what we want, something in us gets threatened and that stops us in our tracks. We need something more – we need to exercise muscles of integrity. Integrity tells us that we have intentions to manifest our vision and it’s critical to our well-being that we follow through to the very end. This all happens within our bodies. These bodily sensations continually influence us, yet rarely do we pay them the attention they deserve.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

The experience of intention can be very uncomfortable for people. For some, anxiety, nervousness and vulnerability ride shotgun. For others, excitement, anticipation and expectancy are present. What creates these different responses to the experience of intention? The vulnerability of wanting is embedded in our bodies, as are the memories of disappointment. The level of significance we give to what we want influences our willingness to set intentions to make it happen. More people than you can imagine have given up being their intention, not because it’s part of their spiritual practice, but because they decided long ago that it wasn’t safe to want, and most likely they weren’t going to get it, so they stopped being intentional. They wake up in the morning, yet remain asleep to their hearts desire.

The practice of setting intentions to create action and follow through in support of our intentions, while at the same time not being attached to the wanting or the outcome, is essential and challenging. Living in the moment and practicing these steps strengthens character and gives us courage to live into the unknown. It cultivates wisdom and confidence to be with whatever shows up. This too seems very challenging at first. But like everything else, practice brings about the expansion of capability and ease of being with what use to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and impossible. Either it is enough to take us over the edge of our hopes and fears, into the life we imagine, or it’s not. The only way to do this is by investigating this territory. We have to take the leap.

Inspiration, Intention and Integrity as Tools

On all levels of being, from the current circumstances to the domain of Universal Oneness, we have specific intentions. Without these we would not survive for we would lack even the desire to hope or want life itself. To see inspiration, intention and integrity as tools we can effectively change our relationship to that which generates the unfolding of life itself. As the paradigm shifts, each of us will willingly participate in the expansion of consciousness, thrilled to witness the fulfillment of potential far more magnificent than imaginable. It is definitely worth the price of admission.

We are rarely 100% committed to what we say we want.

I’m assuming that because you are reading this that to some degree you are committed to the concept of bringing spirituality into business. On a scale of 1-100, where would you put yourself in relation to the degree to which you are committed? If you were 100% committed there would be nothing to stop you and you’d be fulfilled in having reached your desired outcome. However, generally speaking, there are underlying or conflicting commitments that create obstacles to us moving forward towards our stated desires.

These conflicting commitments are in alignment to a desire to remain invulnerable and avoid what we consider undesirable. In essence we want to remain secure and stable within our comfort zones. The degree to which we are committed to our conflicting commitment is the degree to which we use avoidance, distraction, procrastination and denial as strategies; this keeps us doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. What occurs is a dilemma, the consequence of which is a feeling of being stuck, confused, doubtful and lost. The bottom line is that we are confounded by the dilemma with which we find ourselves.

Dilemma

I’m prematurely slipping in a D word here, because this is where life gets sticky. How one chooses to be with dilemmas will contribute to the inevitable outcome.

When we distinguish what we are committed to from our conflicting commitment we can see that we are at a choice-point. So, on the one hand we want change; on the other hand we want to avoid the undesirable consequences that accompany change. Hence, we have a dilemma. How do we choose? How do we choose to choose what we choose?

What most of us do, because we are unaware of our choice-making process that has brought about this dilemma, is to compromise our stand for what we say we want, at the same time compromising our stand for what we don’t want. We become professional fence-sitters. If you are interested in creating transformation or a paradigm shift within yourself or your organization it won’t happen by using compromise as a strategy.

What becomes clear as you sit with this dilemma, at this choice-point, perhaps with a thinking partner who can see the bigger picture for you, is a couple of things:

  • First, either choice will require surrendering or relinquishing your attachment to the outcome.
  • Second, the consequence of either choice will mean being confronted by vulnerability and loss of whatever you are attempting to hold onto. This is the nature of cultivating spiritual practices within the workplace. It is an allowing of the unfolding of the natural course of things to occur in service to what you say you want. This is also when the practice of faith kicks in, as you begin to consider the possibility of crossing the threshold, anticipating that first step required of you in order to begin this journey.

What’s at Stake?

What I like about working in corporations is that there is far more at stake for individuals, departments and the organization itself to actually walk its talk. The risk is greater and so is the reward. Not unlike any other institution and group of individuals, there is a culture and that culture has rules – some are spoken and some are not. Always – always we are walking the line between cultivating an environment that supports us and one that protects us. Again, if we are looking for a paradigm shift we have to surrender our attachment to this walking-on-a-fence approach to change and really challenge ourselves to practice acting in alignment with our speaking. What’s at stake will be different for each individual and organization. Generally though, we are afraid of losing what we have.

The distinction between business coaching and transformational coaching is that transformational coaching requires you to step into your commitments; to expand your comfort zone; to confront beliefs, interpretations, expectations and assumption that may not serve you or your organization; and to create a practice within which you exercise muscles that support cultivating consciousness and compassion for yourself and all beings impacted by the current paradigm shift. Transformational coaching requires you to be with the BIG-FAT-BE-WITHS that challenge current interpretations regarding personal gain and loss, as well as death of a way of being that no longer serves the highest good of all. It also requires a different way of choice-making in support of your commitment.

To choose to shift the degree to which you are committed by even one degree is enough to allow even baby steps to be taken towards your desired outcome; it’s enough to empower you to be with the anxiety and discomfort that comes with letting go and letting a higher power provide support, the consequence being that the process unfolds effortlessly. This is where the spiritual rubber meets the three dimensional world.

If Nothing Else

If nothing else, cultivating awareness through the practice of noticing will inevitably create profound shifts. Consciousness generates a greater capacity to change, to create and to generate from an empowered stand. This stand is grounded in a conviction to follow through with intent. It is far more powerful than just wishing and hoping for change to occur. A fascinating phenomenon that is challenging to grasp from a logical/rational perspective is that by intentionally increasing your awareness of what you are wanting, and bringing yourself – your being into alignment with your intention creates a vibrational modification in yourself and your environment. This in itself generates profound shifts beyond your wildest imagination. What isn’t in alignment with that vibrational state will either shift or it will disappear. Transformation at its finest!

Consciousness results in self-realization that we hope will translate into self-actualization. Without acting in alignment with our realization – well, all things will remain the same except for the fact that we know more then we use to. As I said above, if you shift how you are being to be more in alignment with your highest knowing, this in itself is transformational. You don’t have to overtly attempt to change your world or your organization. Just notice, shift and allow. This in itself is bringing spirituality into business.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Rosie Kuhn will be speaking on the topic of “Spiritual Wounding in the Workplace” at the San Francisco New Living Expo, Concourse Exhibition Center, Room #7, San Francisco, April 29th, 2011 at 7:00PM.

Before I talk you into shelling out $1,000 for this e-book (just kidding – it is Free to download!), a little bit on what this book is about:

  • Creative Success and
  • More Freedom, Money and Time for you.

Being Creative

Are you a creative person? Well, before you answer that question, it stands to reason we first define what being a “creative person” means. In the author’s (Mark McGuinness) own words:

“By creative people, I mean people who take creative approach to work and life. People who work hard, but because they love what they do, it doesn’t feel like work.

They may be artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, coaches, scientists, cooks, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals – or tackling complex, meaningful, inspiring challenges in other fields.

If this sounds like you, read on.

Why do creative people need Freedom, Money and time?

Creative people need three things to be happy.

  1. Freedom – to do what you want, when you want and how you want it. Not just in holidays and spare time – but also doing meaningful work, in your own way.
  2. Money – to maintain your independence and fund your creative projects. Of course you want a nice place to live, but you’re not so worried about a bigger car than the guy next door. You’d rather spend money on experiences than status symbols.
  3. Time – to spend as you please, exploring the world and allowing your mind to wander in search of new ideas.

Usually, you’re lucky if you get two out of the three. But if one of them is missing, it compromises the other two.

Without money, you don’t have much freedom, because you have to spend your time chasing cash.

Without time off, money doesn’t buy you a lot of freedom.

And if you’re doing something you hate for a living, it doesn’t matter how big your salary is, or how much holiday you get. You still feel trapped.

Surely there must be a more creative solution?

If this still sounds like you and you’d like a little more freedom, money and time in your life, read on.

What I got from this book?

In one word, Plenty! Here’s a list of the top 10 things I learned:

  1. Am I creative?: Creativity is not just a fancy label that only artists with long hair and thoughtful expressions carry – even though you might think you are not creative (or not creative enough), after reading the book, you might change your mind.
  2. It’s about Quality of Life: I want Freedom, Money and Time. Why? Simply to improve my quality of life.
  3. Don’t Compromise: It is OK to be Unreasonable about having all three – Freedom, Money and Time. Just one or two out of the three will just not do!
  4. Being skillful does not guarantee you money – Yes, you need to be skillful to make money, but, as Mark found out in his 2nd business, it’s not guaranteed.
  5. Your first love and the Market: In Mark’s own words – “Your market may be next door to your first love”. With poetry being his true love, he found “market-love” when he looked next door!
  6. Sharing adds; not subtracts: In today’s “knowledge based” marketplace, the more you share, the more you increase your chances of success. Why? Because it depicts your knowledge and people trust knowledge sources.
  7. Sales without Marketing is like surgery without an anesthetic:  Mark’s suggestion. Don’t try either. It’s way too painful.
  8. Your biggest enemy. Is sometimes (ok, most of the times), Ready?… YOU! Let go of your prejudices that limit your capacity. These usually start with thoughts like “I don’t think I can do that” OR thoughts that contain sentences that have the words “never” or “always”, in them.
  9. The wrong business model can crush you. Yeah, I know you knew this already. But, it’s these simple things that we neglect and overlook… until it’s too late. Mark shares his story about how this one got him!
  10. Never Give Up! – Well, before you take this too literally and rush to make some 2011 resolutions (you’re 17 days late!), there are some things that you should give up (like smoking?) … and then there are some that you should Never give up. I am talking about the latter – like pursuing your dreams. Persistence does pay! Keep creating and innovating!

About the e-Book

A few quick points about the e-book:

  • It’s FREE!
  • It’s a light read – 34 pages in all.
  • Describes Mark’s unconventional career journey, as a poet and creative coach, and the lessons he’s learned the hard way about finding the right combination of freedom, money and time.
  • It’s full of practical advice you can apply to your own situation, if you want to earn a living from your creative talent, or if you’re a freelancer or small business owner and want to make your business less stressful and more profitable.
  • Mark and his partners have also prepared an in-depth training program to accompany the e-book, and I’m pleased to be an affiliate partner for the launch. But the e-book itself is free to download, with no need to even give your email address.

Get your copy of Freedom, Money, Time and the Key to Creative Success by clicking here OR by going directly to the download page.

Also, please feel free to share the e-book with anyone who you think would find it helpful.

Flexible Focus #32: Folding the Square

by William Reed on December 16, 2010

Outside of the Box, or Inside the Square?

What you see in the illustration are two entirely different ways of approaching a square.

The problem of how to connect the nine dots with only four lines, without taking pen from the paper, can only be solved as shown here by going out of the square. The dots only appear to create a box, and if you see it that way, you cannot solve the problem.

The nine dots problem is commonly used to illustrate the process of lateral thinking, or thinking outside the box, and is a common approach to creativity. It involves changing your perspective and freeing yourself from self-imposed or apparent limitations. The problem is, once you know the solution to the problem, there is not much more that you can do with it. The nine dots problem has become a cliché of creativity.

By contrast, the Japanese art of paper folding, know as Origami, is the art of folding the square into an astonishing variety of distinct shapes, animals, geometric figures, and objects of all sorts. All done by folding and refolding a single square sheet of paper, without any scissor cuts. It is far more challenging than the nine dot problem, because it involves manual dexterity as well as visualization. On the other hand, although someone creates the original origami shapes, for the most part people practice the art by following instructions. What is remarkable is the degree of flexible focus that was needed to come up with idea of folding paper in this way in the first place.

The Art of Folding

The art of folding is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, and is an essential aspect of the Japanese sense of creativity and aesthetics. Japanese have refined the art of folding not only paper and clothing, but furniture, bicycles, eyeglasses, even joints of the human body in the martial arts. You can see numerous examples of folding the square in Japanese culture in a video slide show I produced with Prezi software.

I recently made a blog post on my presentation in October for the international conference of the Japan Creativity Society, at which I presented a paper which you can download, Folding the Square: The Geometry of Japanese Creativity. To accompany this, you can also download a Mandala Chart called GEOMETRY OF JAPANESE CREATIVITY for taking notes on key words and ideas in the thesis.

Why is folding the square significant for creativity? The reason is that, not only does it result in a host of useful and practical solutions to problems and products, but it also illustrates how many possibilities open up when we work within a certain set of limitations. The discipline of working within a set of rules and restrictions can sometimes set you free to discover new levels of flexibility and finesse.

This is not always the case, or every person working in a cubicle would be flexible and creative. More often than not, restrictions can bind and tether your imagination, particularly when imposed from the outside. It is when you seek to work out solutions inside the square of your own initiative through self-discipline, that creativity comes into play.

The unity of discipline and spontaneity

The artist who casts all rules aside in search of freedom of expression may find that he is still trapped in the limited range of his own experience and habit. One of the things that is consistent and intriguing about the traditional Japanese arts is that they are exceedingly difficult in the beginning. The brush in calligraphy is soft and disobedient, defying your efforts to control it. In the beginning it is difficult to even produce a sound on the Shakuhachi, or bamboo flute. Aikido is challenging to the beginner, who finds finesse frustrating, and force useless.

Each of the traditional arts follows a process know as Shu-Ha-Ri (守破離), roughly translated as follow, breakaway, depart. It is this process which connects discipline and spontaneity. Students are expected to begin by repeating copying standard master patterns until they become second nature. These are difficult to master, and much of the discipline is in recovering a beginners mind which allows you to engage with the materials and artistic challenges in a fresh and curious manner.

However, simply making skillful copies is not considered to be anywhere near the level of mastery. This is why in the martial arts, the first level of black belt (shodan) is considered to be merely the first step. Real development in the art starts after you learn the basic vocabulary and steps.

First you learn to follow skillfully, then you learn to breakaway, that is deal with variations and adaptations of the basic forms. Eventually you depart from all forms and learn how to be spontaneous in your expression. Though this process is formalized in the Japanese approach, in fact it is how all artists and musicians progress. Picasso did not start out creating free and original shapes, but rather in making remarkably realistic drawings. Many art students want to skip this stage of disciplined learning, and become an overnight Picasso. It cannot be done.

The Mandala Chart can facilitate the process of connecting discipline and spontaneity through flexible focus. It takes you away from polarity thinking, and helps you see one in terms of the other. Study the Japanese approach to creativity in folding the square, and it will open new horizons for you in the creative process!

Stop.  Take a look around you.  Take a look at the people you work with, the people you meet at parties, even the people you just casually pass in the street.

How do they spend their days?

Most of them work.  They do some other activities as well. They sleep, eat, cook, hang out with friends, watch TV, play sport and some might play an instrument.  Nothing, however, comes close to the hours that they dedicate to work.

Now, honestly, how well do they do it?  Well enough to keep the job?  Maybe well enough to get a promotion every couple of years?  But are any of them great at what they do?  Truly world class?  Excellent?

Why?  How can they spend so much time at it, going through school, through university, maybe even an MBA, executive seminars, coaching, mentors, high-flyer programs…  but they are not great at what they do.

Why?  Some people have been working for 30, even 40 years.  After all these thousands of hours most people are no more than mediocre at what they do. This is sad.

Only two routes to get more done

There are two routes to double the output.  One is to work double the hours.  Instead of 4 hours, I give 8 hours.  I may get double the output.  It is unlikely.  The marginal utility reduces for each additional hour as tiredness and loss of focus become stronger.  There is also a physical limit to this approach.  I only have a limited number of hours in a day, in a week…  in a life.  So, I might increase today’s output by 20% or even 30% by adding hours, but this is not a healthy route.

Route two is to double the effectiveness of my hours.  How can I begin a process that continually increases the value of output of the hours that I give to a task or a job or a cause?

People who improve their effectiveness daily have two things in common:  they care about the outcome and they remain humble.

Care about the outcome

There is a Spanish saying that there is no good wind for a boat with no rudder.  Alice, when she reaches Wonderland asks White Rabbit “Which path should I take?”  White Rabbit replies “where are you going?”  Alice: “I don’t know.”  White Rabbit: “Then it doesn’t matter which path you take.”  Posts 1 and 2 in this series talked of Imagination and Ambition – about deciding and committing to a course of action, about clarity in what you seek to achieve.  If you don’t care where you are going, then effective learning is not going to happen.

Arrogance stifles growth, Humility enables growth

Learning requires change.  Change requires humility.  Humility does not come easily to successful people.  It did not come easy to me.

I was having drinks with a group of professors at IESE two weeks ago after playing football.  The conversation came around to “which program do you prefer to teach?”.  An MBA student at the table said “The MBA must be the best program to teach on.  Young, ambitious, successful people.  The senior director programs must be the hardest.  They must be so demanding.”

Alex said “No.  Years ago I preferred the MBA, but now I definitely prefer teaching the executive programs.  MBAs are typically 27, have done well in school, got to a top university, got a great job, done well, got into IESE MBA…  and believe they know everything.  The senior directors of 55 have learnt how little they really know.  They come humble.  They are aware of the value of education.  They come prepared and ready to apply the material into their lives.  The senior director programs are the most rewarding to teach.  MBAs are hard work”.

“Tinkering” and The Need for Deliberate Practice

The motto of the ActiveGarage is “Always tinkering”.  This is a great motto for this post on learning.  What is tinkering?  Playing with something.  Testing.  Changing inputs and looking to see what happens.

In school we do “book learning”.  We learn to memorize facts and to store those facts long enough to recall them during exams.

In life we do experiential learning.  We try, we fail, we reflect and we try again.  Tom Peters says that “the only source of good knowledge is bad experience.”  He is right.  The knowledge that a leader needs is not written in the textbooks.  It is not available from professors.  Textbooks, professors and gurus have there place.  They can help me make sense of my experience. Mentors, peers and coaches can play a crucial role in the process of experiential learning.  The can help me understand their experience.  However, there is no substitute for personal experience, for our own practice.

A science has been developing around the field of developing exceptional performance.  What leads to world class performance?  “Deliberate Practice.”

The 5 ingredients of Deliberate Practice and the 3 models of mastery is explored on The Rhetorical Journey blog.

Most problems we face in life are not solvable through thinking alone.  You have to try a few things and see how they work.  In business, you often have to try in a way that is visible to others.  Some of those others cannot wait to see you mess up and laugh at your attempt.  However you need the real world test in order to be able to reflect and refine your approach.  The person making 1% incremental improvements day after day will always beat the person looking to make a 40% improvement in one big step.  The humility of asking for help and sharing experience magnifies the value of the learning.

What do you think? Are you a “tinkerer?” How do you test and attempt incremental changes?

The next post in the series will combine Imagination, Ambition and Learning and look at what can only come from within a person.

One of the most sought after answers in our society is perhaps to the question “Where do leaders come from?” We depend greatly on them, but what do we do to ensure that the future has the people with the leadership capability that we will need.  If they are born, there is not much to do. If they can be developed, then we have a responsibility to systematize the process by which great leaders can be created.

Recent research in talent, in leadership, in accomplishment and human development is leaning further and further towards the development through experience path.  Malcolm Gladwell has made famous the concept of “10,000” hours in his book Outliers.  If you practice for 10,000 hours you will become world class.

If you practice for 10,000 hours…

…What should you practice?

This leads to the question: What is at the core of leadership?  What are the habits of successful leaders?  The Origin of Leaders is a journey through these traits and a reflection on how previously successful leaders have been able to develop these skills.

Welcome to the journey.  I look forward to your comments.

Imagination: the nucleus.

Sir Ken Robinson, the creativity expert you may know from TED, gives a great speech about what it is that has brought humanity from living in caves to living in skyscrapers, speaking on mobile phones, reading on kindles, traveling in jets and building rocket ships.

I watched the film “Inception” last week with my family.  What is the most enduring parasite?  “An idea”.

Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses.  It is seeing something that is not yet here.  It is seeing a different future.  It is seeing a combination of existing products that has not yet been tried.

Why is imagination so important?

Imagination defines humanity

Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. It is not our genes that have us living in penthouses and connecting on facebook.  Our difference is The human cortex, the layer of brain that is most highly developed in humans, is very young in evolutionary terms – but crucial in every other respect.   The cortex is where we begin to live intentionally.  We don’t just respond to the world, but can begin to see a new world and thus plan and act accordingly.

The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind, to imagine.

2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?”  Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.  A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.  A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose. The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind, to imagine.

Aristotle concludes the Ethics with a discussion of the highest form of happiness: a life of intellectual contemplation.   Reasoned imagination is the highest virtue.

The second reason is driven by the requirements of a leader. A leader must see a future that is not yet here.  The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others.

How can you develop your imagination? Here are some ways:

  • Spend time bored.  Read fiction.  Write a new ending to a classic book.  Make a hero into a villain, and a hero into a villain. Write yourself into the book.
  • Throw photos on the floor and then explain the connection between them
  • Watch TV in another language and explain to a friend what is happening
  • Visualize a horse with sheep’s coat and a dolphin’s head.  Imagine a rubber car.
  • List 10 small improvements you could make to the seat you are sitting on
  • Tell bedtime stories
  • Develop 2×2 matrix on an area of interest…  and develop scenarios for changing positions
  • Write a new ending for Seinfeld, CSI, M*A*S*H, Desperate Housewives, SITC…  or your favorite show
  • Go to an ethnic restaurant and order something you have never had before
  • Go to a railroad station or airport and take the first train or plane to depart
  • Imagine a world without oil, cars, telephones, internet…  fill in the blank…

Develop the courage to share.  Leadership is emotional labor, when you are doing it right; it puts you on the edge.  In the words of Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen, you must “break the stigma of self-marketing”.  Learn the difference between the skeptics (good) and the cynics (get away from them).  Please share your results here.

The next post in this series looks at another vital component of leaders.  It is a characteristic that is required to achieve success.  No company has ever achieved market leadership when this characteristic has not been part of its CEO.

Stay tuned!