The rapid transition of new ways of working hasn’t failed put even the global innovation giants into a tailspin. Many are still working through their return to work plans and what the future holds for remote and hybrid working models.

Leading innovative organisations respect that a powerful and healthy workforce can give the business results and competitive advantage they are seeking. In what has been a human problem many organisations are embracing the fact that the solution to the problem lies with reframing our focus from tech and policies to fostering a more human side to work.

In the Forbes article How COVID-19 Transformed the employee experience Meghan Biro describes…

“Working from home can never be considered a trend again, or a privilege. For so many employees it’s become a part of their experience, a crucible moment when everything changed. From now on, it’s going to be a part of our lives. And instead of aiming to shape a better workplace experience for our employees, we’d best let our employees’ experiences do the talking.”

In a time of turmoil wouldn’t it be nice to think that we could regain our ability to reflect on the importance of human connection and collaboration? And then redesign this little thing called work…?

Let’s look at what the plans are for some of the big players when it comes to the future of work.

Hybrid Vs WFH

Dropbox have shunned the idea of Hybrid working model for staff. Instead they’ve adopted the “Virtual First” approach. Once teams are safe to then meet and collaborate face to face, they will offer on demand collaboration spaces called DropBox Studios.

“Hybrid approaches may perpetuate two different employee experiences that could result in barriers to inclusion and inequities with respect to performance or career trajectory. These big-picture problems are non-starters for us,” Dropbox explained in a blog post. 

“We also hope this Virtual First approach will give us the best of remote and in-person work, balancing flexibility with human connection, and creating a more level playing field for everyone. 

Importantly, going Virtual First is an opportunity for us to build an even stronger, more diverse workforce as we hire from increasingly different backgrounds and perspectives. And it’ll set us up to make the right investments in people to grow our business for the future.

While we think Virtual First is the right choice, it’s new for us and we know we may not get it 100% right immediately. So we’re committed to maintaining a learning mindset—to staying open to new information and feedback and iterating over time until we do.”

Earlier in the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg voiced hybrid work to be the future and expected 50% of its staff to work from home over the five to 10 years. The company has 48,000 employees in 70 offices around the world.

More recently, tech giant Microsoft announced a shift to hybrid work for all its global employees.

Almost seven months after testing large-scale remote work experiment Microsoft has issued guidance to allow at least some staff to work from home even after the pandemic abates. The tech behemoth summed up its vision for the future of work in a blog post by Kathleen Hogan, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Microsoft. Here’s an excerpt.

“Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture. For most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard – assuming manager and team alignment,” Hogan says

Speaking at the recently concluded Microsoft Ignite event, CEO Satya Nadella made a case for hybrid work culture and said tech intensity is key to business resilience and digital transformation. Nadella added “there is an urgent need to empower employees and foster a new culture of hybrid work. “

What are some of the other giants planning?

Google and Apple have extended remote work at least until mid-2021, and so have Salesforce and Uber.

Where does workplace culture now exist in a virtual workplace?

Global workplace health and wellbeing consulting firm The Energy Project share their thoughts on workplace culture. “Many people believe culture is intangible and cannot be intentionally altered, but in fact, policies and practices can be deliberately designed, tested, and tweaked. Today some of the most forward-looking companies are engaging employees by designing policies and practices that address four core human needs—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—the same factors used in human-centered product design.”

For many organisations, the transition continues to evolve. In Perth we are lucky enough to be back at the office albeit on rosters or part-time but the fear of close human contact is still very real and many desks and offices remain vacant as a constant reminder that this isn’t yet over.

For leaders to begin designing their modern workplace a human centred focus or employee centric culture is your recipe for success. Here’s some elements to keep in mind.

This article, how the modern workplace is driven by 6 core human needs gives a quick summary of what core human needs exist at work.

  • Security – We desire health, safety, familiarity, and competence.
  • Status – We seek recognition of our contributions.
  • Achievement – We strive for excellence and take pride in our accomplishments.
  • Autonomy – We seek freedom in our actions and decisions.
  • Purpose – We want to make a meaningful difference.
  • Belonging – We want a meaningful connection to others.

Think about how your workplace delivers on these? Where are the opportunities for improvement? What are some simple solutions you can implement quickly?

Global firm Aon who provide risk, retirement and health solutions have taken an employee centric approach to managing the needs of their 50000 employees.

“We have found that our open, employee-centric approach attracts the kind of employees we are looking for — those who are engaged, healthy, and share our values in terms of creating a good work-life balance, and because of this, we have a very good retention rate too. The board is very engaged in how we develop these strategies, and our management team are invested in making them work.”

Starting your journey to designing new ways of working can be daunting. Even the giants are still managing their way through it. One thing they all have in common however is a human centred approach. By focusing and uncovering the needs of your employee’s new ways of working will reveal themselves.

Organisations that listen and design solutions for their employees will reap the benefit of a more stable, engaged, and productive workforce.

Need more information? If you’re thinking about how to create new ways of working for your team with a human centred approach contact Liv for a coffee and a chat.

This article was written by Olivia O’Connor founder of Liv By Design a human centred research and design thinking consultancy. If you’d like to look at ways to improve your organisations focus on the human side of work reach out today.

This blog features excerpts from today’s Australian Financial Review article “Leading tech firms are democratising employee innovation”.

Wow, talk about formal. I much prefer the title “everyone has innovation in them” which is a direct quote from Dominic Price, work futurist at Atlassian. Much catchier, thanks Dominic!

The real strength of this article is the quotes from some of Australia’s most innovative leaders. These are powerful insights from people who are using a modern sense of leadership.

The article begins with a reference to COVID and it’s affects on workplaces. Must we continue giving everything a COVID spin.

In reality the body of this article is as relevant to 5 years ago as much as it is relevant today. So that’s why I’ve summarised the best key quotes for you. You’re welcome ;o)

The most common mistake… The amount of investment.

Dominic Price, work futurist at Atlassian

“A lot of businesses decide, ‘Let’s be innovative,’ and whip-up a PowerPoint deck, share it with their board, design some posters and put them around the office, and this generally means they’re being innovative. The reality is, real innovation is an investment.”

The Atlassian philosophy is that everyone has innovation in them – but it can be suppressed by poor leadership, says Price.

My thoughts: Until our structures are loosened unleashing the leadership skills of executive and middle managers is hard. However, smalls shifts can make big differences. Structures, roles and responsibilities through the organisation need to be examined as one of these steps.

Innovation can start from anywhere, Price says. “It’s an organisation-wide effort, not something you can just stir up amongst certain teams. Innovation comes from cognitive diversity, respectful dissent and then experimentation with what’s possible, not probable.”

Next up is Georgia Vidler

Georgia Vidler, director of product at global user-driven graphic design platform Canva, says innovation takes “the encouragement, the support, and a shared vision from across all levels of an organisation to bring new thinking to life.”

A business can’t just declare that it is innovative; Vidler says, it has to be “embedded in your values”.

The business culture is the true driver of innovation, she says.

“Everyone at Canva has the opportunity to have a tangible impact on the direction of the product, whether it’s your first week or you’ve been here since the start.

“Building a culture where everyone is empowered to do the best work of their lives has been a core focus for us since day one, and we’ve retained that as the business has scaled – we’re just as committed to maintaining a culture of camaraderie, innovation, and ambitious ideas.”

Ok and if you’ve made it this far you’re awaiting a mic drop moment. Far be it from me not to deliver. Let’s end on a note that beautifully summarises the how of innovation.

Richard Mathews, chief executive officer at mining software developer RPMGlobal, finally comes to our innovation soiree.

RPMGlobal sells its products in 125 countries and uses the process of (wait for it) Design Thinking. Quoted from the article “This involves understanding the people who will use the products, and the experience the product will give them”.

At its core, innovation is about “solving a problem that a customer has now.”

“This approach helps create a collaborative environment where people don’t take themselves too seriously, and therefore don’t get offended when they put new ideas forward and they are shot down in flames. So long as the customer’s needs are at the centre of our problem-solving effort, then everyone is actually on the same page.”

In many organisations innovation still proves to be extremely illusive and overwhelmingly unattainable. This largely comes down to the fact that innovation is only publicised and analysed by the biggest the most powerful organisations around the globe. All whom are equipped with a bottomless investment pocket.

In reality even the smallest organisations CAN innovate and do. They are tomorrows big kids.

Creating an innovative organisation starts with loosening up your structures, empowering your people and giving mangers the opportunity to become leaders. By working together in new ways we end up working together in fun, positive environments and delivering some kick ass results.

So re-read the title. If you’re human you can innovate. It’s all within us. We just hinder ourselves by over complicating it and we end up with stuffy regimes called work. If you enjoyed this summary let me know!

To read the full article in the Australian Financial Review written by James Dunn click here

Cheers, Liv

Can your employees perform together a team? Every organisation is facing increasing competition, and it has never been more important to encourage creativity in the office, to improve productivity and promote strong, supportive employee relationships.

Organisations that foster collaboration successfully are not only seen as the most attractive to work for, but you can also place a bet that they are the ones either leading their field or about to. Yes, your team and their ability to work creatively together CAN be your sustainable competitive advantage.

When done right, collaboration is about finding the right and diverse mix of people, collectively defining the problem and goals, and then collectively doing the work. It involves researching, listening, thinking, sharing, testing, doing more research, more thinking, more testing, and more sharing until you get to a strategy that has buy in and relevance.

Here are some of the key issues why organisations attempt to collaborate but are hindered along the way.

Problem 1 – Flies on the wall….

One of the hardest things to overcome can be the wall flower participant. The individual who might be new to the organisation, disengaged or simply does not feel safe enough to voice their ideas or an opinion.

How to fix it

Before the meeting think about the structure. Plan a structure that allow individuals to think and then have one on one discussions and build from there.

Set the session up for success. Open the session by acknowledging new starters or that some team members might be more familiar than others with the topic at hand and that is ok. Help people feel comfortable with the fact that the most important this is the discussion and it’s not about having all the ideas. In fact, it is more important to build on each other’s ideas rather than having one dominant idea creator in the room.

Look at the number of participants in the room. People are more comfortable voicing their opinions amongst a smaller number of people so if you have got a large group present a topic or question for discussion then break people up into smaller group of between 3-5. Any more than this and again you will find there is a place for people to hide and not speak up. In smaller groups its more like having a conversation and there’s time to capture everyone’s ideas.

Another way is the 1-2-4 All. This is when you propose an area for discussion and ask everyone to write down their own thoughts on a post it notes. One idea per post it. Then ask them to discuss this with some next to them (in pairs) then ask the pairs to join into 2 pairs so a group of four. Plan the time to what you want to dedicate. For example, a complex or important topic might look like:

5 mins individually
10 mins in pairs
10 mins in a group of four
Note: there will be a lot of ideas getting thrown around here so ensure you allow extra time for reporting back to the group.

Or for a faster more agile approach it might look like
1 min individually
2 mins in pairs
4 mins in a group of four
Then report back to the group.

Its important to note that if participants do not feel safe then any structure you put in place may only slightly improve the ideas.

Problem 2 – Nay sayers

Being critical to ideas upfront will crush them. Do not underestimate the terrible idea that may seem uncooked.

Most people are not confident in their ideas. It is just the way we are. Most of us have a screaming inner critic who is waiting to jump out of anything that comes out of our mouths so team this with an outer critic and any seedling idea will perish.

If you are not confident in, you alone finding a good idea then come up with some terrible ones first. Do a speed session where you are timed, and the main goal is to get as many ideas as you can rather than the quality.
Quality, well formed ideas come long after an initial collaboration session. Do you think the most innovative ideas in the world were formed from the initial lips to air moment? Hell no. Great ideas are built. They are formed, tested, deconstructed, and then reconstructed again.

How to fix it

Again, set the scene for the session and let everyone know that their main role is to create the ideas not to critic the ideas just yet. That will come later.
If the nay-sayers are still playing the devil’s advocate or taking over the discussions with negative views, then this is the time for the facilitator to interject. (Ensure your facilitator feels empowered enough to respectfully shut down a line of conversation or feedback.) Have a separate section dedicated to ‘parking lot’ where you can make note of the concern or objection and quickly move on.

This needs to be followed up quickly after the session with a repeating individual so they understand that their feedback is not helpful at that stage or you must decide as a working group to include or exclude that individual in early stage collaborations.

Problem 3 – No clear decision-making.

You have got a wealth of ideas and if you have created a safe place for ideas potentially you have had some hearty discussions as well.

The next phase is to then identify the areas for opportunity. You can do this by a dot votes system where everyone gets to select 3-4 of their own favourite ideas and select the most popular. You can then analyse the ideas by the most value to the business and prioritise them this way.

However, at some point a decision must be made on what the next steps look like, who is responsible and by what time does it need to be completed. The next steps might look like seeking feedback from others outside the session, present something to the board, test it with customer feedback or even give the team time to incubate which simply means to continue thinking about the ideas overnight and reconvene. Don’t leave it too long though. Incubating on ideas should not be done any longer than 2-3 days otherwise day to day roles take over and the next time you catch up it will feel like you are starting all over again. (This is the ultimate fail as you team will lose energy about the ideas and it will feel like re-work with no progress or clear outcomes.)

How to fix it

Ensure you have at least 20 mins at the end of the session to be very clear on listing the next steps, timelines, and responsibilities.

If you want to increase ownership and autonomy in the room, ask those responsible to either report back their findings as an introduction to the next section or even ask if there is someone else who would like to facilitate.

You may decide you need more information to help you prioritise your ideas and that is perfectly ok. Agree to gather the information and bring it into the next session. A great opportunity here is to think about how you can gather information external to the organisation. This is where true innovation is born. Talk to experts, gather market data, talk to customers, or end users or even different divisions in your organisation. To assist clear decision making back up any data with a human case study for evidence. As humans we love to get the facts but there is something more persuasive about learning about Joe who had a problem, came to your organisation and you helped in this way and that and he said this.

When we team a specific testimonial, feedback, or case study with data it helps us with emotional decision making as well as rational. Suddenly, the answer will become clearer for everyone involved.

The solutions I’ve outline here are all apart of the design thinking process which is a clear framework to assist collaboration, innovation and clear decision making. If you’d like to know more drop me a line.

In this article from B&T Mykel Dixon puts his case forward of why creativity has never been more important in business.

A New Demand For Creativity

Last year, LinkedIn scraped the data from over 20+ million job listings posted on their site. Creativity came in as the number one soft skill employers will look for in the next decade.

From Soft Skill To Hard Returns

In 2016, Adobe found that creative companies enjoy 1.5 times the market share. And the brands that put creativity (otherwise known as DESIGN THINKING) at the heart of their strategy outperformed the S&P Index by 219 per cent over 10 years.

McKinsey developed a ‘Creativity Index’ whereby they measured the creative capability of a company. Companies that score high on their index outperform their competitors in two key metrics:

  1. an appetite and aptitude for innovation (growth)
  2. shareholder return (profit).

It seems we’ve finally found a way to measure the ROI of our imagination and the best part is, it’s not limited to shareholders.

Company Stock To Your Back Pocket

As part of their global benchmark study, called ‘State of Create’, Adobe found that respondents who identify as ‘someone who creates for a living’ enjoyed 17 per cent higher household income than non-creators. This was backed up by the Foundation for Young Australians in their ‘The New Basics’ report. Over three years, they looked at the data of over 4.2 million job listings and found that any job that listed creativity as an attribute had an average annual salary boost of $3129 pa.

Take a minute now to update your LinkedIn profile. Put ‘creative’ in it. Go on, you deserve some of that extra cash. Humour aside, the affect creativity has on the bottom line, of both a company and an individual, and the urgency with which both entities should be making it a priority are obvious. So why aren’t we hearing more about it?

Set Fire To Outdated Stereotypes

Too fluffy and inconsequential for the boardroom. Missing the credibility most leaders look for in a mindset or skillset to make tough, strategic decisions. Better left to artists, kids, or those wacky types in colourful shirts in the marketing team.

But as the world continues to throw more ‘unprecedented events’ our way (and you can be sure it will), our ability to find and form new value, that is both original and useful is paramount to our success. If we want to stay relevant in the eyes of our customers, colleagues or company, we need to make creativity a priority. And it starts with you.

Mykel Dixon, Author of Everyday Creative: A Dangerous Guide To Making Magic At Work.

You can read the full article: https://www.bandt.com.au/why-creativity-is-the-strongest-economic-currency/

This article has been written by critical thinking expert, Bethan Winn.

Bethan helps people to think clearly and decide confidently, using critical thinking techniques. So, here it is…. enjoy!

Bethan Winn Critical Thinking Expert

When Liv O’Connor and I met with no agenda, no objectives, no pitch, we found so many synergies and connections where we knew we wanted to continue the conversation. The blank page allowed us to build ideas together.

We saw that each of our specialisms require a blank space to be most effective – in Liv’s process, it’s called ideation, a change for ideas to percolate and form. It’s also the first step of my critical thinking compass: Reflection. Creating opportunities to ruminate and wonder, contemplate and consider.

To be their most successful, these slates must be clean – not biased by projections of ‘what the decision maker has already decided is best’. You cut off so many potential avenues if you already know which route you’ll take.

Modern life is all about filling space – more information, maximising space and effective, efficient scheduling. But a moment to ponder without turning to your phone, a space that is allowed to sit empty, or a cancelled meeting, let’s allow it to sit for a while before we rush to fill it.

Thinking time is something we all need more of but our schedules and gadgets often disrupt and distract us.

The blank space is also crucial between stimulus and response. I help people understand system 1 (automatic, reactive) vs system 2 (considered, proactive) thinking. This is sometimes characterised as primary vs secondary thoughts, or gut vs logic. Our immediate response is often unconsciously biased and dismisses an idea before we ask ourselves “why?”. Letting it sit in that blank space can help us unpack what we really believe, why we believe it and what is truly possible. Often the best ideas challenge our assumptions and can seem crazy when they first appear!

An agenda-less meeting may sound like a waste of time. But lockdown has shown us that we crave connection and many companies have successfully created time in the week for people to connect one-to-one, with no agenda, as a way to foster relationships, leading to greater employee engagement.

Like unstructured play time for children, this “free time” is where the magic happens. It can be interstitial space in architecture; the rest days between heavy loads in marathon training or space to write your notes in the margin, the concept of blank space can be applied as a ‘mental model’ to all parts of life.

How do we create more blank space?

  • Switch off your phone.
  • Pull out a notebook and pen and just write whatever comes to mind.
  • Allow yourself 10 minutes to daydream or doodle (put a timer on and stick to it).
  • Make an appointment with yourself with no fixed agenda.
  • Allocate random pairings for short meetings between colleagues.
  • Plan a tech free hour, afternoon or day in your week.
  • Identify your best thinking time and protect it from interruption: In the shower, while driving, out walking, washing dishes, on the toilet! Ensure podcasts, music and notifications are off and let your thoughts wander.
  • As a leader, allow and encourage your teams to do the same. Trust your people to manage their thoughts and take short walks or create tech-free whiteboard spaces to capture ideas.

To learn more you can catch Bethan Winn at her upcoming event on ‘Decision Making: Fast and Slow’ on August 4th, 8am at the Alex Hotel. https://events.humanitix.com/decision-making-fast-and-slow

In a survey by IBM CEO’s considered creativity to be one of the most important factors to success. Yet turn around and ask anyone in your office if they’re creative (outside of the creative department of course) and ask them are you creative. Yeah you know it. They’ll say no, as most of us do.

I love to say this but we’re all wrong. We all think of the arts when we talk creativity. It either lays in design that is tangible or its something we do when we’re a genius locked away in a room by ourselves, but both couldn’t be further from the truth.

So how do we unlock our creativity? Creativity relies on a depth of understanding of a problem that doesn’t come without a personal connection or experience. This is what evokes inspiration in us. If we are trying to solve the problems of our customers we need to connect with them. We need to experience the problem or connect with them to understand their perspective.

Why do you think startups have the ability to be disruptive over the big conglomerates? Its because their story comes from experiencing the frustration or pain of a problem and they become so focused on fixing it that it becomes a passion and purpose onto itself. They understand the problem intimately.

It doesn’t stop there the creative thinkers of our time experience something, get inspired by an idea and then analyse it from different perspectives to pull it apart to see if their idea is viable.

And here lies the journey to creativity. It doesn’t lie in your ability to pick up a paint brush or design some creative copy. It starts with ideas. That’s right ideas. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I’m betting you have had a few ideas of your own lately right? Then in that case you my friend have the capacity to label yourself as creative so let’s look at 6 reasons why organisations need creativity.

But first let’s hit the gym. ???

1. Increased workplace problem solving

“Creativity is like a muscle”. David Kelley form IDEO and Author of Creative Confidence said it and it’s true.

Imagine the first time you walk into a gym. You’re not sure what some of the equipment does, if you’re dressed right what stretches to do. It’s all feeling a bit foreign.

Then skip forward to when you’ve been going 4 times a week for a year. What is it feeling like now? You go straight to your routine warm up stretch and get to business. Heck you might even have a bit of a swagger as you walk through those doors and flick a few index fingers towards to Tom, Dick and Lucy. And so you should you’ve earnt the right to be there.

Creativity is the same. It feels totally foreign at first. It feels clunky, hard and uncomfortable but the more we look for any opportunity to pause and look at things differently it gets easier. Give yourself permission to suck at brainstorming then reflect and think about how the next session can be done better.

Start small. At the beginning of every meeting bring an idea to work on for 5 mins. Give your team permission to flex their creative muscles.

How many times do we tell ourselves I’m not the creative type? I’ve said it myself, many times. We link it to being able to draw or paint, but creativity isn’t just about tangible design. It’s simply about creation. Business models, customer experiences, processes. I mean we’ve all heard creative accounting. Creativity is within all of us.

Allowing teams, the time to collaborate and think differently helps them to work out how to solve problems. Our minds naturally want to solve problems so give them the time to do it.

2. Spend more time doing the work that matters by prioritising

Creativity allows time for perspective. It helps everyone identify the key elements to our organisation that are going to make a difference whether it’s in the long term or the short term. By having perspective this allow us to understand the bigger picture and where our time is best spent. Is it completing a to-do list, getting your inbox down to zero unread or is it doing something today that will make a difference to someone tomorrow?

3. Better teamwork and team bonding

I always hear this catch cry that everyone loves a brainstorming session. But why? Is it because we walk out thinking we’ve solved the world’s problems or was it feeding our need to collaborate, communicate and connect?

Organisations often believe that in order to improve workplace culture we need a team bonding event or more social club catch ups. These are quick fixes and unsustainable ones. Instead focus on how your team can work together more effectively and connect on a level that allows them to be open and transparent. Teams unite over a common problem. We may have different perspectives but when we work on finding a solution to a problem together, we can have healthy and higher-level discussions that unite us and give us interactive moments of meaning.

4. Increased team engagement and interaction

The next time you play scrabble have someone stand behind you and tell you what each word will be that you can put down. The only way you can play the game is if the individual behind you tells you what to play. Thinking for yourself is not permitted. Sound like a fun game?

Of course not. Why would we ever play a game like that?

Yet in the workplace this happens all the time. Whether it’s a CEO, middle manager or micro manager we think it’s acceptable to hand down the solutions with the focus on a deadline. It’s a do this by then not a we need to do this because……

We become driven by to do lists and tactics with no time to refocus. We’re driven by order for our hands, but not enough time is spent on engaging our minds and our hearts. Our minds are constantly seeking to solve problems and if we link that to our purpose or our hearts then we are more engaged at work. If we are more engaged at work, we are more likely to proactively seek out healthy interactions. As teams we work together more effectively because we are all playing a part towards a bigger picture.

If engagement and interaction are high people will seek more problems to solve. The less problems that exist in an organisation the more productive it is and the better results it can deliver.

5. Improved ability to attract and retain quality employees

I like to call this the happy kids in the playground affect. If you have a bunch of kids playing in one particular section of a playground you can bet that new kids entering are attracted to the area of the playground. There’s more fun, more laughter coming from that section so something great must be happening.

We run to what looks fun ;o) Even as adults!

It’s the same with a flourishing culture. When people are happy at work, word spreads.

6. Drives the desire to learn and be curious

In keeping with the theme of children they have a natural ability to be innovators as opposed to us more conditioned and seasoned adults. It all lies in their ability to ask why? Asking why repeatedly can lead us to a path to the ‘Aha’ moment. They become hard to attain as we get older and there is only one reason for that, and this is because we become programmed to act on assumptions. We become conscious of the judgment of others, so we don’t ask too many questions. If we do, we’re worried we’ll be seen as that co-worker without a clue but true innovation stems from a curious mind.

We spend so much time delivering a knee jerk reaction to problem solving that we end up doing a band aid fix more often and not and that is because we lack the root cause understanding.

Innovation is our driving buzz word, yet we spend more time in the tinkering and polishing phase that all that work is meaningless if we haven’t understood the root cause of the problem.

If you don’t know the root cause to a problem, you are trying to fix a headache with a band aid. Organisations who spend more time in the upfront stages of innovation are the ones more likely to get it right. This involves more time in discovery, more time defining the problem and more time in the creative brainstorming phase.

The best leaders of our time are continuous learners they adapt a beginner’s mindset and allow their creative mind to flow.

There’s a few questionable things that came about in the 80’s but design thinking certainly isn’t one of them. What is design thinking? In short, design thinking is a problem solving framework.

With design thinking you bring your whole-self to the process without restraint or the negative inner voice. You bring a state of mind that empathises with customers but also with your colleagues you’re working with. Once you can do this the solutions are only limited to the participants imagination and the ability to seek, understand and then act on insights.  

So how does this apply to leadership? Great leadership, not unlike design thinking, is dependent on the ability to identify a problem and make progress on a possible solution. Problems or opportunities may be within the organisation or may lie in waiting with a customer need that has not yet been met.  

Design thinking, helping leaders  

In the article ‘Design thinking should also serve as a leadership philosophy‘ Jesse Himsworth from Forbes highlights two key elements that assist leaders.  

  1. The Power of The Collective Brain 
  2. The Value of Human-Centred Design

The power of the collective brain refers to the fact that ideas stemming from a collective of people with different views and insights is strengthened to that of an individuals. When one person (normally one with the highest rank) is coming up with all the ideas no matter how ‘intelligent’ or ‘naturally skilled’ they may be, the idea still stems from one set of skills, abilities, views, biases and experiences, rather than many. Having many points of view in a room, as opposed to one that dictates, is always going to be a more robust and stronger idea that stands a better chance of success.  

“Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results” states the report from Cloverpop titled “Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making”.  

Ideas and innovation are strengthened by collaboration and there’s plenty of stats to prove it.  

The Australian Government report Competition of Collaboration used data from around 7,000 Australian small and medium enterprises and they “found a significant link between collaboration on innovation and productivity growth — the impact of collaboration on innovation increased annual productivity growth by 4.1 per cent.”

 The benefits are irrefutable. The ability to harness ideas and bring together diverse points of view increases the success rate of new ideas (innovation) but is also attributed to improving the overall sustainability of any organisation. I always like to mention the sidenote of empowering individuals and helping them to find moments of joy and purpose in what they do each day. To me this is where the magic lies.   

How diverse is your team?  

Now let’s look at the team you, as a leader, are creating. Yes, I say creating because every hire, every recruit will determine the abilities of your collective brain. Diversity is a key component of collective brain that can break through the limitations of traditional thinking and create more innovative ideas.  

The BGC Report ‘how diverse leadership teams boost innovation’ states that organisations which leverage diversity in developing their solution have an advantage of 19 percent more in their innovation revenue over those that don’t.  

The X Factor  

Now to the value of a human centred approach.  Design thinking firstly relies on empathy. So, in this case leaders who have the ability to put themselves in their teams and their customers shoes. Good to Great, author Jim Collins notes empathy and humility to be the X factor of great leadership.  

If leaders successfully embed empathy into their organisation we then get a more engaged workforce.  

The ‘Empathy Monitor Report’ makes mention of the following benefits of a workplace that embeds empathy:  

1.Retention 

  • 92 percent of employees would be more likely to stay with a company if the organisation empathised with their needs. 

2. Overheads 

  • 60 percent would be willing to take less pay if their employer showed empathy, and 78 percent would leave an employer for equal pay if the other company was empathetic. 

3. Productivity  

  • 77 percent of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer. 

So once leaders have developed a culture of empathy what’s next?  

Constant improvement, regular feedback and individuals who are open minded enough to receive and welcome feedback can be your competitive advantage. Embrace it! An organisation dedicated to innovation realises that it is a continuous pursuit that promotes failure as an opportunity for learning. 

 Let’s talk about what’s in it for them….. and what’s in it for you as a result.  

“They hear me”…. Empowerment  

Empowering teams and instilling confidence to teams can be a momentous move to improving the decision-making abilities of teams. Not to mention improving proactiveness and productivity.  

Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. (Salesforce

“What I do matters, to me!” Sense of Purpose 

If what you do each day is aligned with your own personal cause then there’s no doubt you will be happier at work as well as happier after hours. If you’re fulfilled 9-5 then homelife becomes more enjoyable and let’s face it a happier community could only eventuate. No Sunday blues, no manic Mondays.  

80% of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organization. (IBM

“Trust me I got this!” Decisiveness 

A decisive team means less time for leaders to have to guide direction. Therefore, it allows leaders to dedicate more time to connecting with the wider industry and dedicate time to thinking about the future direction and strategies of the business rather than putting out fires and reacting to day to day challenges.  

70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arose as an important element of their engagement. (SHRM

From here decide what is the biggest challenge to your business. Use empathy in your approach to break down the barriers to that challenge. Whether it be within you company or your customers.  

The design thinking approach will help you to not only address any problem that comes your way but you’ll also reap the benefits of knowing that you are contributing to a happier community and happier workforce.  

Sleep easy in knowing that when your people go home each day, they don’t dread the time they need to be back in the office and instead thrive within their home life and spread the word within their network of the positive influence of your organisation.

Make advocacy and an engaged and empowered workforce your strongest competitive advantage.  

Olivia O’Connor, Liv By Design

Are you being too critical in your meetings? Yes, it’s a time of high stress but when you criticise others ideas too early it has a detrimental effect to the free flow of ideas.

I’ve seen it time and time again. There is absolutely the need to analyse ideas and to consider the risks but if you do it too soon you are restricting the creative process. In fact you are flat out shooting it in the jugular.

A simple way to stay positive is to define your problem ahead of time into a ‘positive action statement’.

It’s a stressful time sure but now more than ever we need to keep stretching our creative legs and seek the opportunities.

Here’s a quick vlog on one of what I consider to be one of the best tips to holding a creative online meeting.

The numbers and research don’t lie, most of our meetings suck. According to research by Gallup senior executives spend two days or more a week in meetings despite the fact that 67% of meetings are considered to be “failures”. I’d dare say that time would have significantly spiked in the last couple of weeks for most execs.

Anything that requires us to turn up and zone out is not just a waste of time but a waste of our creative potential, a waste of an opportunity to truly connect and collaborate.

You can’t write an article on improving meetings without quoting some scary stats. Steven Rolberg’s research states that…

62% of participants said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

Poor meeting structures lead to low engagement and poor culture. If you want a more productive team who creates big ideas and gets stuck into creative problem solving, then you need to dedicate time to connection and heightening collaboration. The way to do that is to ensure you allocate time in your meeting to focus on culture, create an interactive experience and tie the jobs to be done back to the overall higher purpose and vision for the team.

Allocate time

In my experience this works best in the opening of the meeting. Dedicate 15 minutes at the beginning of your next team meeting and use this time to seek input from everyone who attends. This will help you stop your team feeling like passive participants and make them feel more like active contributors and idea makers.

Interactive experience

In a time like this where things are so uncertain, and people are experiencing high levels of change and stress

Some think of focusing on culture and engagement as nice things to do or the icing on the cake. We need to make the cake first sell it then we’ll think about ourselves later. Wrong. Instead, think of engagement and your culture as the cake tin. It’s what enables you to make the cake in the first place. Want a better cake? Then fix the holes in your tin.

So here’s 3 activities to get you started…

Method 1.

BRING YOUR VALUES TO LIFE.

Grab your list of values. Select one each week or each meeting and ask the team to each come prepared with one or two ideas as to how that value can be represented in your next online meeting.

Collate the ideas, discuss and pick some nice easy ways that you all agree as a team you want to uphold over the next few weeks.

Use the next meeting to summarise what was agreed to and at the end of the meetings to a value check in. Take 2 mins to write down how you think it went. Keep experimenting and tweaking as you go.

Benefits: This activity requires everyone to do some pre-work before the meeting so they are already in the mindset that they will be required to contribute.

It helps your team focus on agreed to goals and decision making. There’s not one individual who makes the call but a group who are working together. Essentially you are working out your collaboration and team cohesion muscles.

Method 2.

GET VISUAL.

Get participants to get and A4 piece of paper and a sharpie. Ask them to draw a picture 5 mins before they’re due to dial in that represents how they have been feeling that morning or day. You can have fun with this but just make sure the image is visible to everyone online. (Hence the sharpie instead of a pen). If the kids are at home grab a crayon if you have to. Then ask everyone to show their picture. If there is anyone who wants to share why they drew that picture. You’ll find some people are feeling great and some who might be feeling a little challenged that day could perhaps do with a phone call from someone who has some energy to give that day to support them. We’re all going through a lot so morning you might be on top of the world and afternoon you might need a pick me up.

Benefits: How many emails do you send each day? How many drawings do you do each day? By drawing an image, you are instantly activating new pathways in your brain. By opening new pathways, it allows you to interpret information differently and allow more critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Method 3.

GIVE A SHOUT OUT.

Tell a story that represents someone demonstrating the values either within your organisations or serving a client.

Give recognition to someone who has helped deliver on a project or task. Then go a step further and ask them to explain how they managed to get all the work done or how they prioritised this job with everything else they had going on.

The more you can get other to recognise positive behaviours and not just outcomes the more you help them to realise that they too can deliver on their seemingly endless tasks and major projects.

Benefits: This builds trust within your team and it helps people feel valued for the work they do. Trusting one another is one of the most valuable commodities we possess, and it is vital to cohesive teamwork. By going the one step further and asking the recognised team member to explain ‘how’ they achieved what they did or how they prioritised means that others in the team can then see how they themselves can follow positive behaviours and processes for the same outcomes. This step also fosters transparency and avoids the ‘hold your cards close to your chest’ behaviour which fractures teams. Success breeds success.

Don’t forget that your workplace culture is your own. Develop your own rituals. You can adopt some of the above or go out on your own and create something unique to your organisation that can create a sense of comradery and belonging.

Experiment and improve. Question the outcome, structure, behaviours and necessity of every meeting. Was it necessary to all jump online? Did everyone need to be there. Could the same be achieved by simply heading onto a teams chat or slack. If it’s an important announcement does everyone need to login at that point in time or could you simply send a video Prime Minister style give everyone a chance to digest then come into an online meeting to discuss peoples thoughts and questions.

If you’d like more tips on how to bring your culture online get in touch. No pressure, no pitch.

Stay creative! Cheers, Liv