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

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

We need creativity now more than ever. Creativity helps us deal with the big A word.

Ambiguity.

In a rapidly changing environment knowing the right answer off the bat is near impossible. The whole idea of ambiguity is that often we are not even clear on the problem. We are good at assuming what we think is the problem but until we stop and dedicate time to unlocking our curiosity and unleashing our creative thought, we can’t be sure.

Creativity implies freedom – freedom to think in new ways. However, we are human and as we know NEW ways of doing things can be interpreted as a threat to many of us. The whole theory of change management has been in demand for years simply due to our inability to adapt to change.


“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future”

– John F Kennedy

Here’s the four things you need to get right to help creativity thrive in your organisation:

1. Bring your whole self to work

This isn’t walking into the office (or your home office) in your track pants and stained shirt, but it is the ability to be open and transparent with the people you’re working with. It is forming a foundation of psychological safety. No one will risk potential ridicule or negative reactions from sharing new ideas, especially radical ones. There needs to be encouragement, acceptance and acknowledgement from leaders.

There’s also needs to be an acceptance that the lines of your personal life and your work life are blurred now more than ever before.

With the viral BBC clip in 2017 now certainly seeming like every parents reality we’ve had the opportunity to get a glimpse into our colleagues life like never before. But this is a good thing, right? Well, I think so. I think this crisis we have faced is an opportunity for us all to think about HOW we do this thing called work and how we control its expansiveness into our lives. We all have responsibilities and priorities that lie outside our work. These are the things that drive our purpose and if they are not the things driving us then we need to take a step back and re-asses, what the hell we’re all doing here.

2. Respect each other

This is not a hard one, but old school leadership styles demand a stoic, fear driving figure head who threatens your job all to instil some motivation. Well, I have been in organisations driven by such figure heads and you won’t be surprised when I say it flat out doesn’t work. Fear disables creativity quicker than Superman being disarmed by Kryptonite.

The blame does not all lie with leaders. Perhaps you have someone in your team who lacks a little humbleness and exerts unsubstantiated hubris. You know the type they talk down anyone else ideas because THEY have all the answers and THEY know all there is to know. You leave meetings with them feeling like a hollow tip to the back of the throat might be more enjoyable.

What’s the cure? Well its simple. Turn up when you are supposed to turn up. Let people talk and listen to ideas before shooting them out of the sky. Actually, listen. Don’t just be worried about appearing to be listening when instead you are checking your phone or thinking about if bangs would make you look better on Zoom.

Actively listen, interpret and analyse what others are stating. Respect each other and know that NO-ONE has all the answers. That is right, no-one. There may be one person in the room who makes the final call but developing possible solutions should be done together.

3. Collaborate

We all think that innovative genius comes from some guy (yes I’m using a worn out stereotype) sitting in a room all by himself with his new advancement in technology and goes on to change the world and become a multi billionaire at 24. This is not reality.

Success comes to these individuals after many failures and mockery. Look deep into any stories of creative genius or ingenuity and you’ll find a journey filled with bouncing ideas around with other experts. Building on ideas and/or straight out stealing ideas and tweaking them.

Mark Twain famously once said “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”

Mark Twain

If you’re thinking of your colleagues as simply getting in the way to you doing your job there’s your first clue you need to rethink your mindset on collaboration.

If there is anything that this current crisis has taught us is that we need each other. We need each other in our day to day lives but we also need others to help form our own individual ideas.

Collaboration is not a team building exercise. Collaboration and creative thought need to happen every day. That is why meetings are the perfect playground for you to slide right into creating a creative team.
Collaboration provides people with satisfaction and engagement, and it helps organisations turn around and deliver on new ideas, faster.

4. Follow a Framework

You know where I am going with this. I’m a design thinking consultant so of course I’m going to say this is the framework to success. Let us simplify it though. It’s simply a staged process like walking (one foot in front of the other) that will help your team begin their journey to innovation. It will help them come up with new ideas and deal with ambiguity.

If you are not dabbling in design thinking this can seem all too impossible and irrelevant. You might be saying “we’re no Apple or IBM” or “it’s not applicable to us”. I’d wholehearted disagree on both counts but for the cynics out there I encourage any organisation to find its own framework. In reference to the quote from Mark Twain earlier look at design thinking, or Agile or Lean principles and steal small elements from each one.

Start small and experiment with what suits your organisations biggest challenge. If its reducing waste look at Lean, if it’s defining the difference between what customers say they want and what they really want then start with design thinking, or if its improving efficiencies and getting more done with less then explore Agile.

Follow a framework or steal someone else’s. The steps do not matter. Allow your team to do the work they love by giving them the freedom to play with the way things are done. The main point here is start small but just get started.

Video 3min watch

How? was the question I was asked last week after posting a video on ‘bringing your culture online’.

Here’s a quick exercise anyone can implement to refocus on your culture as well as encouraging your team turn up to your online meeting with a mindset of active contribution rather than passive attendance. Heighten your teams engagement and leverage their creativity.

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

With more and more offices clearing out by the day using online tools is not just proving a ‘nice to have’ or a plan b but the only way in which teams can continue to effectively hold meetings and communicate.  

It’s challenging times with many organisations grappling with the pace of change and putting in place new policies and procedures around the COVID-19. Those encouraging or enforcing team members work from home means they are now working with increasingly dispersed teams. We are looking at some quiet offices around town. (Que the tumbleweed).  

The need for dispersed teams to maintain high levels of communication is nothing new. This need has been around long before COVID-19 and let’s face it anyone here in WA has at some time worked for an organisation that is dispersed across our 10,194 km coastline but the need to connect online has never been higher than right now.  

IBM conducted a survey which stated about 60% of CEOs cited creativity as the most important leadership quality yet when we look at our meeting structures there often dedicated to sifting through tasks and tick lists. How much time are you dedicating to improving your team’s creativity to solve problems? Are you using tools to help them be more visual and collaborative. Creativity is a business asset. 

We’ve got to get stuff done, why invest time in creative thought?   

By promoting creativity, you heighten the engagement of your team. More engaged team members deliver better productivity and better outcomes for your customers, resulting in increases in revenue. All of this is supported in Gallup’s article on Fostering Creativity at Work.  

Keep your team connected and collaborating with these online tools. Make your meetings more visual and engaging.

  1. IdeaFlip https://ideaflip.com/ 

If you’re just getting started with an online tool Idea Flip has an incredibly simple user interface that allows you to display brainstorming ideas and move them around quickly and easily. You can upload PDF’s and images and if your working on developing a website or making changes to your site you can take screen shots to communicate what you want with your creative team. You can export all your work from the session and there’s an option for feedback. It’s a simple web app but does come with a small subscription cost. 

  1. Miro https://miro.com/ 

Has a range of templates to help you with everything from strategic planning to collaborative brainstorming. There’s a huge range of templates in here that you can pick and choose from and you can see your colleagues commenting and adding their notes live. The work is then exportable.  

Some of the templates like the customer journey mapping templates are a little simplistic so you’ll need to explore the templates and see if it meets the requirements of what you’re working on.  

  1. Creatlr https://www.creatlr.com/ 

Again, there’s a bunch of templates to search through from empathy mapping, customer journey templates to business model templates and even change management templates. However, for free users you’ll find some templates are locked which requires a subscription.

  1. StormBoard https://stormboard.com/ 

Stormboard is free for up to 5 users (with free trials for more users) and available across all devices. There is a range of templates to select from depending on your needs. If you’re an Agile team you’ve got your daily stand up available and a Kanban board. You can also any export of the templates to PDF, PowerPoint or word so you can take a snapshot in time then continue working on your project.  

Tips for getting started 

  1. Select someone from your team with a knack for facilitation and bringing people together. They can get familiar with your new online tool and oversee getting the team set up. Once set up they can then run the meeting and guide everyone through it.  
  1. Set up a test run first to ensure when the CEO comes online that you’ve got any nuances worked out. 
  1. After the meeting reflect and ask for feedback on what went well and what needs to be improved for next time. These online tools are simply tools that you should look to customise and work in with your organisations systems and process.  
  1. Once you’re familiar with one tool or template see where you can trial others.  

Stay calm and stay connected!  

Cheers, Liv 

Now is the perfect time to start speaking to your customers and refine what and how you are offering your products or services. With people’s routines in upheaval and new needs evolving everyday its more important than ever to find out what your customers are thinking, feeling and doing.

The needs of society are being transformed right before our eyes. The elderly and disabled are being given their own shopping hours, baking has seemed to make an all-time come back with flour being raided from shelves and of course the major need that kicked everything off and signalled the beginning of the apocalypse, the need for toilet paper.

If your chasing sustainability and growth for your business in this rapidly changing environment, then focusing on the needs of your customers is the most certain way to get there.

Add 60% on to your bottom line. Is that a better figure to what you’re pulling in now? Or perhaps the future is so uncertain you’re not sure what the rest of the financial year has is store. Research by Deloitte and Touche, states customer centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies without such a focus.

With a customer focus you’ll be in good company. This little gem is from Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder.

The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.”

It’s hard to argue that there isn’t value in being customer focused. Especially when you are quoting a guy that makes variably $11.5 million per hour. That’s right per hour, it’s not a typo.

Business Insider Australia states “Amazon has 14 leadership principles that guide its employees’ business decisions, but founder Jeff Bezos said just one is the “secret sauce” to the trillion-dollar company’s success. Focusing on what customers want or need has driven many of Amazon’s most profitable business moves.

“The No. 1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor,”

Bezos said in a talk at the Economic Club of Washington on September 13.

Using your data to analyse customer needs?

The problem with using data to analyse customer demand is the lag. By the time you’ve got the data to make a decision the needs may have changed . That’s how quickly things are moving. It’s also tricky to predict where customer behaviour will go.

If you have an in depth understanding to what is in the heart and minds of your customers, then you will beat any algorithm.

How to get started.

It’s simple. For an organisation to become customer centric we need to connect to the customer. The simplest way to do this is by talking to them.

I embark on customer empathy interviews regularly and I have a 100% hit rate on uncovering invaluable insights about customers and their needs. It helps organisations validate their ideas or their gut feel for the right solution and it erodes the uncertainty in making tough business decisions.

Once you have the key insights it’s about refining how you can better improve your service, your customers experience or you may uncover a huge slap in the face opportunity that helps you design a whole new service. Put simply, it helps you meet the needs of customers. The “secret sauce” as Bezos terms it, to success.

Ex-President Barack Obama making calls himself to voters from a local campaign field office in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Get customer centric in 4 days

Here’s how I can help.

Day 1-2 – I Start interviewing your customers

Day 3 – Write up a complete customer insights report to help you understand your customers and their motivations

Day 4 – We hold an on online workshop with your team to get creative and find new solutions and new ways of doing things

It’s time to get human. Organisations need to understand their customers and jump in their shoes. If you’d like to chat more about how to design solutions for your customers send me a message. I’m here to help.

I’m about to embark on another series of empathy interviews and I’ve found myself in the same place I do every time before I pick up that phone and reach out to my client’s customers. Nervous!

I’m nervous about the reception I get on the other end of the phone. I hate to think of the fact that I’m imposing on people’s day, perhaps I’m interrupting them. Sometimes people aren’t receptive to being asked their opinions. We are so used to getting surveys from organisations that when we receive a phone call from a human asking us questions we are surprised.  “Wow, you actually are asking me real questions?” is what one of my interviewees said.

Here’s where I’m going to be honest 98% of my interviews are amazing and I’ve never gone without gaining incredible results. NEVER. It’s why I do what I do. I love bringing new insights to organisations and helping them learn more about their customers. BUT I have stumbled on 1 or 2 individuals who were let’s say not so receptive. Wait, I said I was going to be honest…. OK they were pretty nasty and of course these very short conversations are the ones that always stick out in my mind. Not the other 100’s of conversations that I’ve had. You know all those ones that were hugely valuable and insightful for my clients and entirely fascinating for me.

This is why I understand why organisations find it hard to reach out to their customers.

Despite the fact that asking your team to talk to your customers could be the cheapest and most valuable thing your organisation can do, it’s not being done.

It’s not my job….

It becomes even trickier when you get into debates of who’s job is it to talk to the customers. If you have a customer’s service team it’s them. If you have a service delivery team it’s could also be their job or a sales team… yep they’re right, there it’s up to them.

Here’s the problem with that. In a situation where you are delivering the service people find it hard to be upfront. They want the service to remain up to scratch so they’re not going to bite the hand delivering the service. Then there’s re-pour. Anyone in sales are good at creating re-pour it’s how to make a sale step.1 in sales 101. The customer wants a good deal, so I’ll keep my mate onside.

Whilst we all find it hard to ask for feedback it tends to go up a notch when its from a customer. No body wants to be reported as doing a bad job so let’s navigate this idea quicker than an F1 car at a round roundabout.  

3 tips for getting customer insights FAST!

1. Put yourself in their shoes

Empathy is the starting point to success. Think abut what your customers are faced with and how your product or service is either helping them or potentially hindering them.

2. Have a plan

I said a plan. Not a script. Think about the key challenges your business is facing and how that relates to your customer.

Don’t get skewed feedback. Look at the relationship between the person asking the questions and the person answering. Here’s where a third party from outside your organisation is ideal.

3. Make it a focus

Think about the importance of the information you’re after. Remember the most innovative companies in the world all have one thing in common. Being connected to their customers and gaining insights on their needs.

Want to fast track the process of getting customers insights? Shortcut all the accountability issues, crush the lead time it takes to get insights and ensure you get open honest (not skewed) feedback that you can take right into your strategic planning. Here’s where I can help. Contact me for more details.

Let’s chat about how I can help your organisation become more connected to your customers.

Put the customer’s needs first and you’ll thrive.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.”

Kevin Stirtz