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Innovation guidelines for managers (HBR)

Great article in the October 2008 edition of Harvard Business Review.

Creativity and the role of the leader by Teresa M. Amabile and Mukti Khaire.

If you're looking to enhance creativity and boost innovation…

1. Remember that you're not the sole fount of ideas.

2. Enable collaboration.

3. Enhance diversity.

4. Map the stages of creativity and tend to their different needs.

5. Accept the inevitability and utility of failure.

6. Motivate with intellectual challenge.

There's a whole lot more in the article, which pulls together the insights of 100 innovation leaders and gurus.

Book review: Be remarkable with the Encore Effect

The Encore Effect: How To Achieve Remarkable Performance In Anything You Do

By Mark Sanborn

Doubleday, $18.95

We spent Thanksgiving at Clevelands House and got a long weekend worth of the Encore Effect.

The end of season pilgrimage to cottage country is a family tradition.

This year may have been the best yet thanks to some remarkable staff.

Lucy, our Aussie server, was always cheerful, never obtrusive and had our kids' names memorized after our first meal.

Gus bent the rules, reopened the resort's boat house Monday afternoon and made sure our family had our first ever canoe trip.

Vera gladly accepted my son's offer to help make the beds while learning all about his school, his friends and teachers, the family cat and his plans to wear his big sister's princess dress on Halloween.

Jenna and the camp counsellors won the affection of my son and held the attention of a posse of smitten boys.

And there was the front desk staffer who slipped us her lighter so we could have a Monday night bonfire on the shore of Lake Rosseau and discover just how fast warm blankets and the snap and crackle of burning firewood can put kids to sleep.

Without fail and for the whole weekend, everyone went out of their way to make us feel welcome in the heart of the Muskokas.

So what about your organization? And how about you? When was the last time you did something remarkable?

We're always performing, whether at work, at home or out in the community.

"All of us are called on to be 'on' all the time — to give our best performance as individuals, spouses, parents, employees or bosses," says author and business speaker Mark Sanborn.

"Whatever stage we find ourselves on, most of us are called on to perform every day. We need to be remarkable, regardless of how we feel." Every day is game day. Every moment is an opportunity to shine.

A remarkable performance moves us to act. Or makes us feel good. Causes us to laugh. Or stimulates us to think. Score on one or more of these counts and you can change lives.

"When people constantly demand more and more of whatever it is you do, this is what I describe as the Encore Effect," says Sanborn. "I believe that a worthy goal in life is to have people shouting for more of whatever it is we do that is really important and matters to us. The world is desperately looking for people who make such a difference, who produce memorable results, who have a positive impact on others."

We have a choice. Be remarkable or be routine. Stand out or settle for being the best of the worst and the worst of the best. Get the job done or get the job done in a show-stopping remarkable way that leaves the impression there's a whole lot more yet to come.

The choice is obvious. "The problem is that average performance doesn't get you noticed. In the work world it doesn't lead to promotions or raises, and it doesn't create strong relationships and bonds. You want to be among the best of the best."

Your encore performance tells the world all about your level of commitment, your professionalism, your skills, values and character.

"Encore performers demonstrate that they know how to do what they do, that they've practised and perfected what they do, and that they still have a commitment to becoming better."

If you're looking to be remarkable, Sanborn has come up with a Performance Development Agenda where passion plus discipline plus action equals remarkable performance.

"I'm not suggesting that the PDA formula is going to change your life, at least overnight. But I do think it can become a useful mental road map that you can use to evaluate your choices and determine the actions and directions you're going to take."

To find your passion, ask yourself what you would love to spend the rest of your life doing? Passion invigorates, inspires, sustains, comforts, initiates, completes and enhances. Passionate people know for whom they're performing, they know how to perform remarkably, they know why they perform and they know what their performance needs to look like. "A result that is off by an inch today will be off by a mile in the future."

While passion is the fuel that drives performance, you also need the consistent and persistent effort that comes from discipline.

"Passionate people who lack discipline will end up in life exactly where they began." Practice won't make you perfect but it will make you better than the rest.

The key is deliberate practice. Hitting a bucket of golf balls isn't deliberate practice. Using your eight-iron 300 times with the goal of leaving the ball within 10 metres of the pin 80 per cent of the time and adjusting after every swing? That's deliberate practice.

Action is where the rubber hits the road. Just don't confuse activity with action. Focus on what you want to achieve and say no to any activity that diverts your efforts. "The difference between a mediocre performance and a remarkable one is usually the difference between what you know and what you do with what you know."

Combine all three elements and you get show-stopping remarkable performance. "The ultimate benefit — indeed, the ultimate purpose – of a remarkable performance is to become a remarkable person — and vice versa."

One last piece of advice from Sanborn courtesy of guitar legend Robert Fripp. Arrange for a few pointed sticks in your day to build your confidence and make you an even more remarkable performer. Early on, Fripp has his students perform in public venues where anything and everything can and invariably does go wrong. Bad acoustics. Lousy audiences. Hecklers and crying babies.

"By finding ways to surmount the difficulties of performing in a place where things are certain to go wrong, students build their confidence. Life is not fair. There are a great many variables in life that are beyond our control. We need to find ways to achieve a memorable performance in spite of them."

So it's best to build your confidence daily with a few pointed sticks before it's ever time to take centre stage and turn in the performance of your life.

(This review was published in the Oct. 18 edition of the Hamilton Spectator)

Media relations summer camp write-up

Caledon1

Anne Makhoul with The Calendon Institute of Social Policy has done a write-up on the media relations summer camp that was put together this past summer by Mohawk College, the Hamilton Spectator and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

Easy to replicate in other communities.

Helps nonprofits tell people-based and community-focused stories instead of the usual big cheque grip and grins, ribbon cuttings and shovel in the ground pitches.

Book review: Why work sucks (and fixing it with a ROWE)

Why Work Sucks And How To Fix It

By Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson

The Penguin Group

$26.50

Meet Bachelor Bob and Single Mom Sally.

Bob's always the first to arrive and the last to leave the office. And in between, Bob does pretty much nothing at all. Bob's made a career out of going to meetings, sending e-mails and sitting for hours at his desk to get five minutes of face time with his boss.

Sally's always the last to arrive and the first to leave work. Sitting in her office for hours on end makes Sally squirrelly. Once her kids are asleep for the night, Sally fires up her laptop, camps out on the living room couch and does more work in four hours than Bob manages in a whole week.

So if Bob and Sally worked for you, who'd get the recognition and rewards? And who'd get the reprimand?

If Bob gets promoted and Sally gets sent to HR, your organization's bought the myth that time plus physical presence equals results. You believe that people who work long hours get more done than people who work fewer hours. People who are in their cubicles and offices are doing real work and people who aren't physically available all the time aren't really working. And people who get their work done in less time should get more work to fill out their eight-hour days.

None of this makes any sense to authors, CultureRx founders and former Best Buy employees Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson.

"In an information and service economy it doesn't make sense to use time as a measurement for a job well-done," say the authors, who argue that knowledge work requires fluidity, concentration and creativity.

"What does 40 hours even mean? And what does 40 hours get you? If you are adding value to the company, if you are performing, then who cares if it takes you 40 hours or 40 seconds to do it?"

Organizations that subscribe to the time plus physical presence equals results myth sling a lot of sludge at employees. Everyone's judging each other on how they use time. Show up 15 minutes late and the boss points out the work day starts at 8:30 a.m. so the day will end at 5:15 p.m. Join a meeting halfway through and folks say "nice of you to join us". Take a vacation and a colleague says "must be nice, I haven't taken a holiday all year". Leave early to watch your daughter's track meet and coworkers say "Boy, I wish I had your hours."

Ressler and Thompson call this negative commentary sludge. "When we judge people — when we sludge them — we are expressing outdated attitudes about time and about what work looks like and how it gets done. We judge to make a point that someone else is different. We judge to make ourselves look better, to show other people (and ourselves) that we're the hardest working, we're the most dedicated. Most of all, we judge them to reinforce those unspoken beliefs about work. It's a vicious cycle."

The trouble with sludge is that it kills productivity and wrecks employee engagement. That 10-second quip about 8:30 a.m. start times and attendance policies leave employees worried or fuming all day. And if they're running late in the future, will they risk showing up with a made-up excuse or just call in sick? "Nothing stifles creativity and innovation like resentment," say the authors.

While working at Best Buy, Ressler was tapped to join the company's employer of choice committee and Thompson joined Ressler on an alternative work program. Together, they created the sludge-free Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). It's an approach to work that's built on a few assumptions. We're adults and not children. We're trustworthy. We flourish with freedom and choke up when controlled. And we're smart enough to figure out to get the job done.

In a ROWE, everyone's free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. People get paid for doing a chunk of value-added work instead of a chunk of time that may add little or nothing to the bottom line.

"We're not advocating that people do less work," say the authors. "If you have five projects, you're still going to have five projects. What we're advocating is that all of us, both employer and employee, acknowledge that people's demands are getting higher and higher, and since you can't make those demands go away, then we absolutely must give everyone more control over how they meet those demands."

In rolling out a ROWE at Best Buy's corporate headquarters, Ressler and Thompson came up with 13 culture-changing guideposts. They challenged coworkers to imagine what life would be like if people at all levels stopped doing anything that wasted their time, the customer's time or the company's time. If everyone had the freedom to work any way and anytime they wanted. If every day felt like Saturday in terms of control over their schedules. If people had an unlimited amount of paid time off so long as the work got done. If work wasn't a place you went to but rather something you did. If arriving at work at 2 p.m. was not considered coming in late. And leaving the workplace at 2 p.m. was not considered leaving early. If nobody talked about how many hours they worked. If every meeting was optional and everyone had the power to question the value of getting together. If there were no work schedules or shared calendars. If nobody felt guilty, overworked or stressed out. If there weren't any last-minute fire drills, drive-bys, fake crises and false urgencies demanding immediate attention. And if there were no judgments about how you spent your time.

So what happened at Best Buy? Productivity went up, voluntary turnover went down and involuntary turnover went up as poor performers who didn't deliver results left to pursue other opportunities. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, University of Minnesota sociologists are now tracking the long-term effects of a ROWE on employee health, well-being, engagement and productivity.

"A ROWE can turn a business's world upside down," say the authors who do a convincing job of responding to the "yeah, but" arguments against giving employees total control over how they do their work and get results. "But mostly it's the bad stuff that gets turned upside down.

The good aspects of work — that people want to make an impact, that they want to grow personally and professionally, that they want to make money and be passionate about what they do — none of that changes."

Creating a ROWE takes time and it's sure to elevate the blood pressure of command and control managers and strike fear in staff who haven't done any real work for years. But rethinking the outdated equation that time plus physical presence equals results is a good place to start if you want to unlock and unleash the productivity, creativity and innovation of your top performers.

(Published Oct. 4 in the Hamilton Spectator).