A short montage from a day at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, SC.
Creating the culture
What does an innovative culture look like?
I've worked in dull, boring, life-sucking environments that made me question my very existence. Maybe you have too. I remember thinking "is there something wrong with me?" while watching others, who had been there long before me, go through the motions day by day, seemingly content. Meanwhile, I'm dying inside, silently screaming to collaborate, try something new, solve some kind of difficult problem. That kind of setting is death to me!
On the other hand, I've work in collaborative situations where everyone was on the same page or at least headed in a similar direction. We might all hold differing opinions on how to get there exactly and might even argue about the correct path. But, after the discussions have ceased, the diagrams have been drawn, and our brains have stormed, we have a beautiful solution that works! It's something we're proud of and can defend if necessary. We're tired, but satisfied. At least for a moment..
Is it possible to transform a dead culture into a living, more innovative version? Of course it is, but not without a leadership transformation. I've discovered that leaders of innovative cultures possess these key qualities:
- innovative leaders engage their employees regularly
- they support their people by removing obstacles and acquiring the tools they need to be effective
- they're able to unearth and develop the talents of others
- they put the right person in the right role
- they give creative freedom while also providing direction when necessary
- innovative leaders stay positive no matter what the situation
When these key qualities are present in leadership, they'll naturally spread to rest of the team.
People rarely rise above the example of their leaders.
My leader isn't like this.. is there any hope?!
This doesn't mean that if your manager or leader isn't innovative, you're a lost cause. YOU can become that innovative example your team (and leader) needs! You can possess that contagious, innovative spirit and others will recognize that spirit within you and might even catch on!
Let's sum it up.
To be innovative is to do everything you do, small and large, with a passion to do it better than it has previously been done.
Innovation stems from an innovative character, one that is empathetic, insightful, and driven to do the right thing for the right reason.
An innovative culture is one where people are collaboratively doing what they're good at and are given the creative freedom and proper tools to do it.
With the help of my talented friend Patrick Coker, my first music video is now a reality! This video is a live take-away of my latest song, "Sometimes".
You can download the live audio track on NoiseTrade. Enjoy!
UPDATE: This is now a 3 song EP!
I'm crazy excited to release another single (that's 2 in less than a year!). My new song: "Where I'm Going", comes straight from the heart. It's crazy how challenges can bring out messages from the subconscious. I wrote this song while going through some personal struggles and didn't even know what the words meant at the time. Looking back, it seems like it was a forecast of God's leading.
I'm reminded of Andrew Peterson's lyrics from the "Silence of God":
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
Cause we all get lost sometimes
I think we all go through periods in our lives when we at least feel 'lost', when in fact, we're right where we need to be. Those low points are usually the turning points, the places where we figure things out and make choices. The world around us seems to silence itself, we call out to God or sometimes just get quiet, trying to listen.
That's where this song came from. I hope it speaks to you in some way. Enjoy!
Download on NoiseTrade (iTunes coming soon):
This post is part 2 of a series on innovation, culture, and character (read part 1). Let's talk a little more about innovation and how it relates to character.
Innovation and character go hand in hand. What is character exactly? Character consists of a person's mental and moral qualities. Innovative people are folks with a certain type of thinking, or rather, a mentality with particular focus and values. The cool thing is, anyone can develop more of an innovative character.
So what does an innovative disposition look like?
An innovative person tends to have these qualities:
- self starter
- "gets things done" mentality
- an ability to forge great relationships
- singular focus on producing great end results
- is not concerned with rules and processes
- sees the big picture
- an innate ability to simplify
- capable of effectively communicating ideas
Where's your focus?
Game-changers possess a certain focus that allows them to accomplish things that others only dream of. They step out and take chances, not because they consider themselves better or more privileged than anyone else, but because they're opportunists. They can't not take the opportunity before them.
Revolutionaries have a beautiful vision in mind and stop at nothing to accomplish that end goal. They are focused on taking any little (or big) thing they have to work with and doing something amazing with it. If even the slightest hint of an opportunity comes along, it will be taken or sleep will be lost.
Inventive folks hardly notice the things that stop most people from moving forward and instead blow past obstacles, hacking their way to something beautiful.
Relationships are key.
Innovative thinkers know that games can't be changed alone! They are empathetic, they truly care for others and are able to engage in a believable, sincere way. People who accomplish extraordinary things don't usually possess all the talents necessary to create the end product. Instead, they hold the vision and are able to call upon the right people with the right talents at the right time. They're able to take all of the needed parts, make them cohesive, and create the right workflow that produces the desired end result. And this is all done by people, fueled by great relationships.
Note that game changers don't get hung up on everyone's opinion about every detail, but they are concerned with the end goal, good relationships, knowing other's strengths, and when to call on that particular person for advice.
Thinking about the end user.
Again, innovative people are empathetic. They are able to forget all of the feature sheets, business requirements, and legal stipulations and put themselves in the shoes of the end user. They're able to envision the ideal experience and then figure out how to make that experience happen in the real world.
Character is king.
Vision, empathy, engaging relationships, and an unwavering focus on the end result while ignoring all of the things that try to stop you along the way. These are all key to possessing an innovative character. And it's not easy. Things and people will get in your way - your focus will be shifted - it will take a lot of work to keep your vision pure. But it is possible!
In part 3, we'll talk about how what an innovative culture looks like and how to get there.
What does 'innovation' mean to you? Seriously, what comes to mind when you hear that word?
Working for 2 large corporations has opened my eyes to the many definitions people give these 10 letters. A lot of people think innovative companies are filled with robots, touch-screens, mobile apps, and the latest technologies that most folks have never heard of. Even when these things have nothing to do with the company's actual business and provide no real-world enhancement to the organization. I've seen companies form teams around this thinking and throw money at it like it's going out of style. And the poor folks tasked with this misled idea continually search for the latest greatest answer to nobody's problem.
Does being innovative mean "actively seeking out the newest thing since sliced bread"?
Being a User Experience (UX) Designer, I like to simplify things. So let's do that, what is 'innovation' in it's most basic, fundamental explanation? What does it mean to 'innovate' in the real world, in our daily mundane (or not) lives?
My most elementary answer is: to do every little thing with a passion to do it better than it has previously been done.
Is it that simple? I think so. Let's think about companies and people we consider innovative and successful. Does this definition fit? It fits Apple. It's very clear that the employees of Apple aren't concerned with money, critics, or following the crowd. Their singular focus is: making the very best products they possibly can, inside and out. Then, they make them even better.
It fits Amazon. Amazon has made online shopping enjoyable and easy by doing it better than anyone else. By removing the hurdles and displeasures of online shopping, such as: waiting for weeks to receive your order.
It fits Dyson. They take the appliances we use every day, products with limitations and unresolved issues, and they make them better. They remove the issues and limitations and by doing so, create a trust between them and their customers. I'll never even think of buying another brand of vacuum. It's simply because their's works and makes my life easier and more enjoyable. Cleaning the house is now fast and simple. They allow me to spend more time doing meaningful things.
What is the answer?
Companies like Apple, Amazon, & Dyson don't assign teams with discovering innovative ideas to then share with everyone else. No, in contrast, their entire company makeup consists of people who care about doing things better.
Innovation stems from good character. It's about concern for the little things and the large.
When leadership is instilled with this passion, this core value and focus, it trickles down, creating a culture of INNOVATION.
Think about this.
- doesn't need approval and finds ways around red tape
- is fueled by creativity
- never says "it's good enough" or "that's not my job"
- answers the problem at hand
- never thinks 'that can't be done'
- thinks positively
- isn't afraid to do something amazing even if no one else will ever notice
I'm excited, humbled, & proud (all at the same time) to release my new single: Easy. The mp3 will be available for FREE on noise-trade starting today and a higher quality version will be available on iTunes soon. Enjoy!
The most watched TED talk! Sir Ken Robinson hits the nail on the head when it comes to education and creativity.
Every person on the planet needs to take 10 minutes to watch this video. Cleese shares some incredibly enlightening thoughts on fostering creativity and understanding why some people just don't get it.