How to be Innovative – Ask Inciting Questions

This guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Tamara Kleinberg, founder of LaunchStreet on August 1, Translate Success Today To Success Tomorrow Using Innovation. In the interview and the blog, Tamara explores the art and science of innovation – how to create a culture and mindset of innovation.

How to be innovative is found in the questions not the answers. But we have to pick our questions wisely. If we ask the same questions in the same way and even of the same people, it’s no surprise that we get the same answers. And those answers are the usually the incremental ones. Or, maybe it’s slightly better but not enough to make an impact.

If you want more breakthrough thinking, you’ve got to change from usual questions to inciting questions.

What’s the difference? Well, usual questions are the questions you always ask. Yes, they sound smart, even right. But, most likely you’ve been asking the same questions for a while. Or, maybe it’s the same questions everyone in your category is asking. Or, maybe it’s the question that leads you down the same path to the obvious answer. Usual questions become almost a matter of habit at every brainstorm. Here’s the challenge. Yes, those are questions you want answered. But, given their customary nature, you’re not going to get to those innovative ideas you need. You know this because you see it over and over again. Unlike, inciting questions. To incite is to stir, to encourage to stimulate, to prompt.

Inciting questions take you down new paths to those provocative answers you were looking for.

I found that there are two ways to tackle inciting questions. One is to ask questions that shake up your assumptions. Questions like:

  • What would happen if we didn’t solve that challenge?
  • What would it look if we did the opposite of what we usually do?

Or, before we go into solution mode, let’s work backward.

  • What’s the problem that caused the problem?

It’s funny, that last one gets people all stirred up because we want to quickly move into solution mode and assume the first problem we identify is the one we should be solving. I think our clients will tell you that when we start digging in, we find that the first challenge we are solving is not always the right one if we want to get to lasting change and results.

So the second way to ask inciting questions is to challenge the big assumptions in your category.

It’s really challenging the assumptions about how things should be done in your world. Here are a few of my favorite examples from organizations you know and some I think you’ll be excited to get to know. Why do cars have to be either fuel efficient or sexy? Tesla – sustainable and sexy cars. Why do razors need to be on store shelves at the grocery store? Dollar Shave Club – subscription razor service. Who says you have to go to the grocery store for your food? Instacart – grocery delivery. Why do libraries have to be a warehouse of books? Anythink Libraries – the lowest funded library district in Colorado and the outdated come check a book model and turned them into a beacon of discovering their communities and is elevating the entire library world with their innovations.

What are the big hairy assumptions in your world? What would happen if you flip those assumptions on their head and turn them into inciting questions? By the way, if you want to know if your questions are just interesting vs. inciting look for the response from other people. If they look shocked or like you just committed heresy then you are asking the questions that are going to get you to those provocative answers. So, go ask some inciting questions that make people go… what?!!

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

What Questions Help Identify High Quality Leaders For Your Organization?

This article was originally posted in Forbes in August 2016. It is the companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Richard Oliver on July 25 Executive Perspective: Building Vibrancy, Increasing Engagement, Improving Performance. In the interview Richard talks about his experience of dramatically increasing employee engagement at a 60 year old manufacturing company as their President.

As leaders, we are expected to be highly effective at identifying strong leadership, then rewarding it, retaining it, and developing it. Additionally, we are expected to remove bad leadership. Yet leadership is quite subjective. How do we know what “effective” leadership is?

In recent conversations, I realized that how we answer that simple question generates wildly different answers from my respected colleagues. For example, some might say effective leadership is generating strong financial results, while others might measure it based on personal recognition, promotion, social impact or building legacy. It is by asking the right questions that we can clarify what effective leadership is so as to reach the best outcome for our organizations.

I suggest starting with a list of questions from ecosynomics, a framework developed by Jim Ritchie-Dunham, an adjunct researcher at Harvard. Specifically, this framework poses four questions that organizations should consider in order to identify the greatest leadership potential and, consequently, to experience the greatest value from that leadership.

1. What Is Your Potential Leadership Capacity (How Much)?

Sustained value is one measure, but we can’t necessarily predict who will sustain value based on past performance. As we look across the organization’s ecosystem, performance is a starting point but not the final indicator because organizations, and people, run into unavoidable and unpredictable disruptions. As a result, such disruptions may reflect negatively on performance, but may not be an accurate reflection of sustained value of an individual.

Another measure is a set of behaviors or competencies that signal leadership potential. When we move from looking for results to looking for potential, we have moved out of our standard conversation. If we don’t talk about potential, we are missing an important variable when selecting leaders. As we consider potential, we need to also look for employees who are curious and continually learning in a changing environment. It is leaders who continue to “innovate how they lead” who will be able to consistently deliver over the long term.

2. Who Decides Our Leadership Potential?

Often leadership teams “rack and stack” their teams during an annual review process. These are often long and arduous processes. Many companies are revising the performance feedback process in favor of new approaches designed to provide ongoing feedback, but still need a mechanism to determine financial compensation beyond market value, promotion, performance improvement or exit.

The other side of this evaluation is the hiring process. Who is deciding your leadership potential? Is it the leader? The leader’s peers? A group of more senior leaders? Do they have the correct criteria and information to make decisions? What does it say about your leaders and to your leaders if they and their peers are not involved directly in the process in a meaningful way? An example is an organization that uses the vibrancy survey or similar tool within work groups to identify leadership impact on employees.

3. By What Criteria Do We Determine Value?

It is easy to measure the financial impact a leader delivers, but measuring results is more complicated. When we look at results and behaviors, we can look at tools like 360-degree feedback along with financials. These can seem like relatively straightforward equations but, again, who gives feedback and who administers the process to ensure it is impartial and that each variable in the equation is weighted properly?

Some companies have specific equations to measure the balance between results and behaviors. A “nine box,” for example, looks at a 3×3 matrix that places results on one axis and behaviors on the other. While I am a proponent of competencies that consider mindset in addition to behaviors, these are still relatively difficult to measure so behaviors may be our closest reliable approximation. If these measures determine and drive your leader’s performance, it might be worthwhile to be as rigorous in determining what to value (part of mindset) as much as how they performed against those values. As an example, leaders who value collaboration will consistently build collaboration into all of their actions vs. someone who collaborates to check a box because they were told this is important.

The difference is that if the idea of collaboration is built into my thoughts and actions, when it comes time to actually collaborate, others will be expecting it and trust my intentions. If I am making judgments on team members through checking a box, they may not trust me and may not be willing to collaborate fully. It is important to consider the question from multiple views: What does the leader, culture and organization value and reward?

4. How Do We Interact To Realize Our Greatest Leadership Potential?

Your organization’s culture sends a clear message as to how leadership is discovered and developed. Do your culture and organizational structure promote leaders working together on shared goals, or are they pitted against one another to maximize their own units?

How much time are leaders actually spending on mentoring, for example? If I came into an organization to evaluate performance against this question, I would spot-check mentor calendars to see if they are meeting regularly with their mentees and find out whether they discussing development goals and working toward employee success. I would be checking for tangible evidence that the organization has a structure that promotes matching high potentials with seasoned leaders and has a budget for regular interactions that could include books and lunches. When selecting leaders, we must define what our organization’s approach is to leadership culture and understand how this drives the results we want.

In summary, as the world changes at an ever-increasing rate, it is important to update our way of evaluating, structuring, measuring and rewarding leaders to ensure they are equipped to meet changes effectively. For organizations, it will be useful to evaluate your current criteria and determine if it will meet your needs going forward.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Organizations Have Personality Types: How Do You Fit?

Belinda Gore EnneagramThis guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Belinda Gore on April 24, Building Leadership Self-Awareness Using Personality Type. In the interview and the blog, Belinda explores how she uses the Enneagram to help leaders build the self-awareness that enables them to perform effectively. It is also the companion to a foundational blog post Leveraging Leadership Type to Improve Leadership Effectiveness

As a reminder from a prior post, when the 65-member Advisory Council for the Stanford Graduate School of Business was polled several years ago on the topic of what is most important to include in the school’s curriculum, there was overwhelming agreement that the most important thing business school graduates needed to learn was self-awareness and the resulting ability to reduce denial in their perceptions of themselves and their actions. Pretty impressive. This speaks to the emerging recognition that we highlight in Innovative Leadership: leaders, through their own personality quirks and biases, can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success.

In my experience using the Enneagram system as a psychologist and a leadership coach over the past twenty-three years, I find the enneagram to be more robust than any other system I have encountered. Many organizations are familiar with DISC, MBTI, Social Styles, and other systems, and training in these models has given employees at every level of the organization a foundation in models for self-awareness. I have found leaders at every level able to readily learn the rich and versatile information the Enneagram offers.

Just as leaders have “personalities,” so do organizations. This is just another way to think about the organizational culture, the mission or role the organization seeks to fulfill, the favored strategies for accomplishing goals, the behaviors that are rewarded and those that are not, and the subtle hiring filters that tend to screen out people who do not fit. The senior leaders of the organization may or may not reflect the culture. It is immensely valuable for leaders to determine their organization’s personality type to be able to harness the natural strengths of that pattern and avoid the imbedded tendencies that create problems. Leaders are likely to have a strong influence on the development of organizational culture, but without clear awareness they may not realize how the leader and the group are aligned and how they sometimes work in opposition.

As an example, a mid-size utility company instituted leadership development training based on the Enneagram. In assessing several hundred people within the company, it became clear that the organization has a Type Six culture, one of loyalty. The Type Six pattern is reflected in the company’s mission to provide reliable and affordable gas and electric energy to their customers and to promote safety for their employees in power plants and in distribution. Loyalty is highly valued within the company and many employees have worked for the company for twenty years or more. Attention is paid to identifying potential problems and working out solutions before they occur; when there is a power outage due to weather conditions, there is an expectation that the entire workforce will be available to provide support until the situation is resolved. In some Enneagram training groups of individual contributors, up to 50% of the employees determined for themselves—using an assessment tool along with classroom training and guided group discussion—to have a Type Six personality. Among mid-level managers, that percentage drops to around 35%, and in the top group of senior leaders less than 10% assess themselves as having a Type Six personality pattern.

This is not unusual. Why? Because leaders in the C-suites, those who have risen to the top leadership levels, are not equally distributed around the Enneagram circle but tend to cluster in another sub-grouping.

As a leader, there is great value for you to understand your type to build your awareness of your predispositions. It is also important to understand the organization’s type to better understand how you fit within the organization. Understanding your type will lead you to the following questions:

  1. Is your style a natural fit with that of the majority?
  2. What gifts do you bring because of your similarities?
  3. What blind spots are present if too many people share the same personality type?
  4. If you have a different type, how do your predispositions fill gaps?
  5. How do you manage your similarities and differences to both fit and fill gaps?

By answering these questions, you will have a clearer sense of how you, as a leader, may best contribute and some of the inherent struggles if you have a different type than the majority that comprises the culture. While being part of the minority allows you to fill gaps, you may also find yourself excluded or struggling to communicate effectively. It is through self-awareness and skillful interactions that you will be able to navigate any organizations predispositions.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author
Belinda Gore, PhD focuses on designing, developing and delivering leadership, assessments, workshops, and coaching. She is a key thought leader in the development of the Innovative Leadership framework. She is a psychologist, executive coach, and experienced seminar leader who is skilled in supporting her clients in high-level learning. With 30 years’ experience in leadership development and interpersonal skills training, she is known for helping teams discover strength in their diversity to achieve their mutual goals, and works with individual leaders to access their natural talents to maximize effectiveness and personal satisfaction. Her clients have included senior leadership in global companies, senior and middle management in both corporate and nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurs. She will be leading our new service line focused on helping leaders and their organizations build resilience along with offering leadership team development, board development, coaching, and Enneagram assessment.

Maximizing Team Interactions: Moving Beyond the Lowest Common Denominator’s Reign

Building Thriving TeamsThis blog is drawn from a paper published by Jim Ritchie-Dunham & Maureen Metcalf, Co-hosting: Creating Optimal Experience for Team Interactions, Integral Leadership Review, November 2016. Jim and Maureen also recorded a Voice America Interview airing on February 14, 2017.

Christopher, the CEO, walked into a planning session with the intent of getting his full team on the same page for how to move key initiatives forward for the upcoming year. His leaders were all in alignment on the core purpose of the organization and how to accomplish it. During the discussion, everyone gave unbiased input intended to move the organization forward irrespective of personal interest. Christopher was highly skilled at understanding the point of view of all participants and synthesizing the various points of view of his trusted leaders to create solutions everyone could support.

Does this scenario describe your normal business meetings? How is it different?

We would like to explore the idea that groups can leverage the skills of individuals across five key perspectives and create an environment in which each participant operates at his greatest level of contribution. We call this the alchemy of co-hosting, whereby the co-host, in conjunction with the participants, invokes a very different mindset and process for the team to function.

The Challenge

“Less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces [since 2000]. According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Worldwide, only 13% of employees working for an organization are engaged.” – Gallup

Much of our work is done within teams comprised of many highly effective and highly compensated people. We have found that these teams often function at the level of the least common denominator. Many people, especially leaders, move from meeting to meeting all day, every day. They often do this with little awareness of the specific role they play in the meeting and the value they bring. This is the culture of many organizations. When asking a cohort of vibrancy community members what they experienced in these teams, they suggested that while the participants were generally strong employees with good skills, they were often disengaged and some actively disrupted the work or found ways to interfere with the meeting goals. In some cases, the participants did this as passive aggressive response, and in some worse cases, did it just for personal entertainment. So, what is the antidote to this high level of disengagement considering five key factors other than the highest rank present? How do we capture the highest level of input from each person to create a higher level “field” of operation than any individual would have access to by working alone?

The Approach

We look at five different perspectives or measures of intelligence, then explore how the art of co-hosting can leverage all five intelligences of the participants to create an environment that calls forth the greatest possible capacity in the group.

The five perspectives are:

  • Leadership maturity – describes how adults mature throughout their lifespan, attending to ever increasing levels of complexity in their thinking, emotions, and behaviors
  • State development – describes where people focus their attention ranging from what is immediately in front of them to what is abstract and spiritual
  • Years of experience
  • Skill to identify the perspectives in the room
  • Co-hosting skill – the ability to identify the perspectives in the room and create an environment and approach that leverages the maturity, state, and skills of the participants

It is interesting to note that each of these perspectives is important for an organization to create holistic solutions to the many complex challenges they face. For that reason, it is important to recognize each of these perspectives and be able to identify, recruit, and create environments that genuinely leverage the gifts of each.

By integrating the five perspectives individually, an effective co-host can create the “container” or space to leverage each to the participants’ greatest potential rather than the traditional lowest common denominator.

Summary

During this era of increased complexity and accelerated need for change, it is imperative that we identify methods and processes to help us navigate the challenges we face. Optimally, these methods and processes would create the greatest impact for all involved—creating an optimal experience for the individuals and a holistic solution for the organizations or groups involved.

We believe that the solution integrates a solid process that integrates five key perspectives and a presence of being within the co-host to create the desired outcome. Both elements are critical.

We have an opportunity to enhance the experience and the impact we have in trying to solve problems. By building the capacity to co-host and using this process, we increase the probability of solving our most complex problems and enjoying the process. Knowing that this is possible helps us regain hope that we as a society can resolve the mounting list of intractable problems we hear of every day on the news.

Authors

Jim Ritchie-Dunham is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a global research nonprofit, president of Vibrancy Ins., LLC, a global consultancy and publisher, president of the private operating foundation the Academy for Self-Discovery Leadership, an adjunct faculty member in Harvard’s program in sustainability leadership, and Adjunct Professor of Business Economics in the ITAM Business School in Mexico City.

Jim authored Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance (2014), co-authored Managing from Clarity: Identifying, Aligning and Leveraging Strategic Resources (2001), has written many articles on systemic strategy for academic and practitioner journals, and blogs regularly at jlrd.me.

As a student of human agreements, Jim Ritchie-Dunham brings over 25 years of research and insights gleaned from working with groups of all make-ups.  Jim named Ecosynomics, the emerging social science of the agreements that guide human interactions. Ecosynomics provides a framework rooted in economics and the sciences of human agreements that begins with an initial assumption of abundance, not scarcity, and a wider view of the human being.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute

, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach, whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

 

Star Trek & Leadership – What Do They Have in Common?

metcalf-uniqueness-nimoy-quote

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, my co-author Dan Mushalko and I wanted to explore answers to this question: What traits from this iconic series apply to current leadership? That question probably seems particularly odd coming from me—the person who continually talks about the future of leadership.

Some background. In an interview with Dan Mushalko, General Manager of public radio station WCBE and a former NASA geek, and Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Harvard researcher and CEO of the Institute for Strategic Clarity vibrancy became a topic. And an interesting correlation emerged—the connection between the vibrancy theory, the vibrant performance of the radio station, and Star Trek. I wasn’t surprised given what I know about my colleagues, but I was delighted to share this in an interview. I have the good fortune of having these conversations regularly and find them quite fun.

As a foundation for this discussion, let’s start with what I think about innovating ourselves as leaders.

There are a few different tactics for effective leaders, but all include these:

  • Build on your past successes (should be about 80 percent of your development energy)
  • Identify what to change because it is getting in your way (should be about 20 percent of your development energy)
  • Identify what to stop doing even if it got you where you are—because the question is, will it get you to the next step on your journey(what you save here will add to your available energy)?

So, this blog post started based on a conversation about the similarity between the transporters on the starship Enterprise and transforming organizations. When the captain and crew use a transporter, their molecules are momentarily disassembled, beamed away as particles (hence the phrase, “Beam me up, Scotty!”), then rearranged whole again at their destination.

Implementing major organizational transformation feels much the same way, as though our molecules have been rearranged. For many of us, we find that we need to fundamentally change how we see ourselves as leaders; we rearrange our thinking, self-image, and mind-set. There are times I would truly prefer to have my molecules rearranged than spend time changing who I am as a leader. Yet this is the foundation of innovating how we lead: We innovate ourselves!

The parallels with Star Trek go even further. For example, there are enormous similarities between highly-effective leaders and the leadership modeled “on the bridge.” As we think about what we build on during our own pasts, looking at what has been true and effective for fifty years of Star Trek’s captains is a good place to start:

  • be aware of the new environment, and welcome changes as opportunities
  • there is infinite diversity through infinite combinations—everyone and everything creates opportunity
  • the more uniqueness you find, the higher potential you have
  • the Federation of Planets leverages collaboration; teams and departments do the same
  • everyone is seen and appreciated for their contribution—there is infinite potential in the world.

As you look at this list, how would you rate yourself on each item. If you used a 1-5 scale where 1 is low and 5 is high, where would you score over a 4? Does this list inspire you to ask questions about your mindset?

During the interview, we also talked with Jim Ritchie-Dunham about the idea of organizational vibrancy. One of the core principles is that our world is abundant. This is far from a wishful statement that evokes the image of wishful thinking or worse, it is based on the concept that there is infinite possibility in the universe to innovate out of our current challenges. It is through our diversity and uniqueness that we, as people, can welcome change and create opportunities to change our circumstances to improve our trajectory along with improving the trajectory of others. We create a vibrant world when we join together to create innovative solutions rather than when we discount people and their thinking and consequently forego opportunities.

As a leader, it is important to continually update mindset, skills, and behaviors. It is also important to recognize the foundational truths about how we work with other people that remain as effective today as they did in our past. What are your personal foundations which hold true for you? If you are a Trekker, what did you learn from Star Trek that you have taken into your own leadership roles?

To listen to the full Voice America interview with Dan Mushalko and Jim Ritchie-Dunham, click the following link, Creating Vibrant Departments in Large Complex Organizations.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute., is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Dan Mushalko, General Manager, Operations & Program Director at WCBE-FM and Owner, Mushalko’s Radiophonic Lab. A bizarre, convoluted professional life has taken Dan everywhere from a short stint at NASA to a long ride in radio…with experiences often overlapping. The thread through it all? A mix of creativity and leadership. So call the culmination of the cyber-man you read before you a Creative Leader. That’s his current incarnation.  Specialties: Station management, creative concepts in audio (ads, news, and drama), implementing new communications technology, listener analytics, creativity fostering and consulting, “teaching” writing and science.

Can Organizational Departments Be More Vibrant Than The Overall Organization?

Vibrancy Light Contract

I am writing this post in conjunction with the Voice America interview to be aired on June 28 because I have worked with many leaders who are discouraged because they see their organizations as challenging and believe as leaders that they as leaders are stuck. This piece is intended to demonstrate that in some cases, departments within large organizations can be much more vibrant than the overall organization.

I have been working as a consultant with WCBE, a unit of Columbus City Schools, since 2012. I am now the board president of the “Our WCBE” a nonprofit organization that supports the station financially. This small department (WCBE) within a large government organization strikes me as highly vibrant and nimble even though the school district is not. I make this observation not as a criticism of the schools—obviously, a radio station runs differently than a school district and has far fewer concerns for safety and other factors that require the district to be much more cautious in fulfilling their obligations than does a radio station.

I wanted to understand if departments could be vibrant (a positive deviant) when the parent organization is more “statistically normal.” To prove our hypothesis that this is possible, WCBE employees took the Harmonic Vibrancy assessment twice. First as employees of the radio station, and again as employees of the school district. The scores varied significantly.

The next question I sought an answer for was: What is happening at the station that is different from what is happening with the district? The following points explain part of the difference between the organizations:

  1. Vibrancy starts with the leader, Dan Mushalko, who sees everyone on his team as competent people who fill important roles. This seems like a no-brainer and something that should be part of any workgroup, but working with Dan is different. He is always positive and supports people when they face challenges. This level of positivity is contagious. How it impacts vibrancy in a very resource-constrained organization is that people find creative ways to solve problems they wouldn’t even have in an organization that had sufficient resources. To say that it is not well funded is an understatement—some of their equipment is over 30 years old, not like the 2-year-old laptop we complain about. Imagine always trying to stay current with a 30-year-old piece of technology.
  2. Everyone pitches in and helps…because Dan pitches in and helps. The culture this team has created is one of a family. I know this sounds cliché and many people dislike the term. When I say family, I don’t mean everyone is always in a group hug, but like a healthy family, they have differences and they find constructive ways to accomplish the mission and work through the differences because they respect one another and need one another to accomplish the work they all value
  3. They value the mission. They are a community-based public radio station. They conduct community events regularly. They record local bands, they participate in local conferences, they support local restaurants and performers. They promote them and give them opportunities that are not available on commercial radio. When the weather is bad, they sleep at the station to ensure listeners get the latest news.
  4. They innovate. In many cases this is out of necessity, but innovate they do. Dan is a trained physicist so there is an environment of experimentation that is accepted and even expected. His office looks like a hybrid of a science convention and a sci-fi conference where he monitors satellite signals and repairs equipment along with managing shows and curating his own show, The Amazing Science Emporium.

Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Adjunct Harvard researcher and creator of the vibrancy framework has studied many vibrant organizations and departments within organizations that are vibrant. During the interview, he shares his experience with using the vibrancy framework and his learnings from other organizations who also created vibrant departments within large organizations. . The list above is specific to WCBE and, yet, I imagine if you think of organizations that stand out as highly vibrant from your own experience, you will find similar qualities and stories.

We hope you are able to listen to this interview. It is both informative and fun. Dan and Jim weave references to Star Trek into the conversation as they explore organizational dynamics.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

CEO Perspectives: Changes in Primary Care

Changes in Primary Care1This blog was written as a collaboration between Maureen Metcalf and Jim Svagerko. It is a companion to the VoiceAmerica interview featuring Bill Wulf, MD and Jim Svagerko MA, PCC, talking about the leading work Central Ohio Primary Care with 300 physicians is doing and preparing for health care reform and new innovations in medical care over the next five years, and how it became a leader in their field and what they are doing to shape how the field of medicine and how it is practiced.

According to the Community Action Network, “A healthy community reflects a sense of mental and physical wellbeing and is the foundation for achieving all other goals. Good health is often taken for granted but is essential for a productive society. For example, every community needs a healthy workforce upon which to build its economy and healthier students are more equipped to learn and be successful academically.”

While the business of healthcare is run by physicians and administrators, health impacts every one of us. It is our responsibility to own our individual health because it effects our ability to enjoy life. Many of the challenges we face are a direct result multiple factors within the economy, and some health issues are a consequence of socio-economic disparity. Insurance plays a role when sometimes it is difficult to get access to the highest quality healthcare with the limitations on coverage. Additionally, factors in families and schools can play a role when adverse childhood events leave a lifelong impact on overall health. Injurious childhood events often contribute to mental health and drug and alcohol issues later in life. Often, the cycle continues. Many of these factors are interrelated and solving them requires cross-sector focus on community health. Communities like Franklin County in Columbus, Ohio, have strong collaborative processes to address these complex issues.

While each of us plays a role in our own care, the linchpin of health care delivery has been determined to be the primary care physician. Dr. Wulf is the CEO of Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC), a group of 300 doctors at 50 offices in four counties. His clinical interests are preventive care, population management, and maintaining a continuum of care for COPC patients. As the CEO of an organization that is nationally known for its exceptional care and innovative business model, he continues to look at what COPC will do next to meet patient needs in the context of a dynamic health care environment. Here are a few of the changes COPC is talking about:

  1. Move from pay for service to pay for outcomes: COPC is beginning to be paid for creating value for patients as they move from strictly fee-for-service payments. This shift completely changes how medicine is delivered and how doctors and all professionals associated with care delivery focus their efforts. COPC has taken a comprehensive approach to change that considers the overall system and how practices operate, the culture that encourages procedures as the foundation to manage risk, and physician scheduling and daily activities.
  2. Move to a culture of vibrancy and collaboration: Significant change is enabled by a culture of mutual respect and collaboration where all team members are encouraged to voice opinions.
  3. Leadership development: COPC has invested in physician leadership development through a variety of methods. Metcalf & Associate’s Maureen Metcalf and Jim Svagerko were engaged to support COPC, and assist them in their development. They guided the leadership team through their own personal development as well as a deep dive into the workings of COPC. Maureen and Jim will continue their work with COPC this summer and fall. In addition, COPC sends their physician leaders for education through a local professional association and their leadership team is using the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Physician Leaders, supported by Metcalf & Associates, as a team activity along with peer coaching to support growth and development, as well as promote a culture of growth and mutual support during its transition.

One of the key trends we see in health care is a shift in focus from the “all-knowing” physician to patient owning health outcomes. We are seeing a dramatic increase in “wearables”, everything to medical devices like an insulin pump to the standard Fitbit® and calorie counting apps. Many of us are using these devices to manage our own behaviors. Primary care physicians and other healthcare professional are also using these apps and the data they provide to manage the chronically ill.

It is crucial that leaders in health care arm themselves with resources to assist them as they move through these undefined areas. It will be necessary for leaders to first gain an understanding of their leadership style and abilities before they can hope to lead others. One way is through careful discernment with an executive coach/advisor to explore and present opportunities for the leader to move into a space that will allow them to create a climate and atmosphere that will serve future health care needs.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

If Your Change Effort Failed to Deliver the Results You Wanted – Your Change Model May be Overly Simplistic


Impact Resilience

This guest post is provided by collaborator Jim Ritchie-Dunham  as a companion for the Voice America interview with Christoph Hinske focusing on How Big Change Happens in his keynote presentation to the World Green Building Council. Jim is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a trustee of THORLO, and an adjunct faculty member at the EGADE Business School and at Harvard. In this post Jim talks about his  “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact. This information is for leaders who have struggled to successfully implement complex change using linear models and want to better understand alternative approaches that will increase the probability to success for much needed and highly visible change projects.

More and more people are looking to large-scale social change processes to leverage their impact around very complex issues. From poverty, health, education, epidemics, and inequity to water, air, green building, and renewable energy. Scaling collective impact is everywhere. I have been looking at, and engaging with many of these efforts, for two decades now. In trying to figure out how to support large-scale change, many groups are trying to become evermore strategic. As a big proponent of strategic clarity, I encourage the strategic dialog, and I encourage pathways that will support a group in getting to greater clarity about what they can do together and what will work.

In their strategic development processes, many groups now focus on developing a “theory of change.” I agree that it is far easier to learn and refine a strategy when you have a theory of what you are going to do. And, I see some inherent difficulties in the way many groups currently frame their theory of change. Hopefully a brief picture will clarify what I see as the intention and a better answer.

To start with, I see that most social-change efforts grow up around an effort that initially worked. There was an intervention and there was an impact. While not quite sure how it worked, the impact is there. We created a kitchen, and more people were fed tonight. In this experience, there is typically an implicit theory of “it just works.” We do this, and we see the impact. Usually the distance in time and space between the intervention and the impact is very low or immediate. We can see it directly. I see this as the lower-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix below, low clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.

This success often leads to the desire to scale the work, to get much greater impact.  To scale up the intervention often requires investment of greater capital.  Investors of this greater capital usually want to see a greater understanding of how the intervention will lead to the means that will drive the impact.  Greater investment wants to lower the risk of not understanding.  They want to see a theory of “change,” a “comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.”  As far as I can tell, from what I see in foundation, nonprofit, and network reports and in my own conversations, most of these theories of change provide linear descriptions of how an intervention will lead to some specific means of change in a specific context that will lead to the desired social impact.  A to B to C.  I see this as the lower-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.  While this greater clarity of causality makes it much easier for the intervention leaders and the funders to test whether the intervention leads to the expected means and impacts, this linear approach to complex social issues leaves out a critical reality–feedback.

If the decisions you make today affect the decisions you can make tomorrow, then there is feedback.  A to C to A.  If the decisions you make influence others who then influence you, there is feedback.  All complex social issues contain impacts of any intervention on other stakeholders and on resources that influence the ability to continue to intervene in the future.  They all have feedback.

As the complexity of an intervention increases, like trying to feed a whole city through a large network of kitchens, most efforts seem to try to continue what they were doing before with just a lot more resources.  They use the same logic, on a bigger scale.  Lots of intervention, mixed with lots of magic, leads to lots of impact; so goes the “theory of I think.”  I think that if we just …  I see this as the upper-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, low clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.  While the situation might be much more complex, with many more stakeholders and resources involved, I think if we just do a lot more, we will get much more impact.  It rarely works, often because of the unseen feedback effects, which is why social impact investors have moved more and more towards wanting to see something that demonstrates a greater clarity of causality.  Right now the best-in-class practice seems to be the “theory of change” I mentioned earlier.

To complete the high-level overview a theory of change provides of preconditions, pathways, and interventions to achieve the desired impact, many groups develop a complementary logic model and evaluation plan.  The logic model lays out a linear model of how the planned work with resource inputs and activities leads to the suggested outputs, outcomes, and eventual impact.  A very clean and relatively simple way to explain how to implement the theory of change.  The evaluation plan then provides measures to test the hypotheses for the different elements: the resource inputs; the activities; the outputs; the outcomes; and the impacts.  The strategy process then pulls together the theory of change, the logic model, and the evaluation plan, in a crisp, linear mapping.

Now, if (1) the social issues we face require much greater investment, influencing a greater number of stakeholders, in contexts of much greater feedback, and (2) a linear strategy based on a theory of change, logic model, and evaluation plan falls short of dealing with the feedback complexity, what do I suggest?  A “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact.  I see this as the upper-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.

Over the past twenty years, with many colleagues around the globe, we have developed systems-based strategic approaches to engaging multiple stakeholders around complex social issues.  There is now a whole industry of such approaches.  It turns out that it is not hard to bring together many people who are passionate about any specific social issue, find out how they each contribute different elements of the solution, and how they can work together to change the behavior of the whole system.  In the past decade alone, people have applied this kind of approach successfully on six continents to hundreds of important, complex social issues.  It only takes the will to do it, a little know-how and a few elapsed months of work.  Not decades.

So, while I applaud the desire of social impact investors to dramatically increase the clarity of causality between an intervention and a social impact, it is time that we move beyond “keep it simple,” linear models of causality to incorporate multi-stakeholder, feedback models of causality.  A theory of impact resilience, based on systems-based strategic approaches suggests how.  It provides a systemic theory, it lays out the systemic logic of how the interventions lead to shifts in the system of stakeholder responses and subsequent systemic impacts, and it provides an impact resilience scorecard of the systemic measures that indicate how the interventions are leading to systemic shifts, to greater resilience, and to scaling of the impacts.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Vibrancy: Case Study for Global Company Transformation

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkOrganizational Vibrancy is important topics. It is the topic of our interview this week (1/12/16) on the Voice America Business series. This body of work is making a great impact in pockets of organizations around the world and yet relatively unknown in others. I have personally found this model to have a great impact on several of my clients. It has helped them identify where they excel and what gets in the way of their teams bringing about the innovative solutions they say they want and need to have a thriving organization. The interview is with Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Annabel Membrillo, and  Ana Claudia Goncalves.

Discussion includes the following topics:
1. What is vibrancy?
2. How do agreements fit into this equation?
3. As the CEO of an international organization – what question were you looking to answer when you starting considering assessments?
4. Why the vibrancy assessment?
5. What value did you get?
6. What were the leadership qualities required to successfully implement the changes recommended to create a highly vibrant organization?

To accompany the interview, the participants provide an in depth case study for the project they discuss.

In this case study, English version or Spanish version, Annabel and Ana Claudia describe the experience of taking a group in a global financial services company on the journey to the experience of a higher level of harmonic vibrancy, through the development of new, more collaborative practices.  These practices led to demonstrable improvements in performance and outcomes.  As Annabel shares, “I am very grateful to have had a living lab that, despite the scarcity agreements and rules in its organizational structure, implemented initiatives that I had not seen in all my years of working with organizations. This was possible because the company incorporated the transformation process into the day-to-day activities of the corporate world.”

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Creating Vibrant Organizations to Drive Performance

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkToday’s topic is Ecosynomics and the science of abundance, a quantitative framework developed by Jim Ritchie-Dunham and team based on extensive data collected across 93 countries identifying the factors that make an organization vibrant. This post highlights a key element of the Ecosynomics framework and how it drives organizational abundance by improving an organization’s ability to innovate out of key problems and create strategic advantage. You can learn more on the radio show, where he appears with Christoph Hinske, a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and James Drinkwater, a senior policy advisor at the World Green Building Council.

How often have you worked in a situation where you withheld recommendations because it was easier to keep them to yourself than risk implementing something difficult? Does your organization unconsciously support the status quo rather than continually update what it does and how it performs work? The unconscious “agreements” we make with one another and with the company often drive behaviors that sub-optimize performance.

Here is an example of why Ecosynomics matters. When working for a technology company, Bill proposed several IT cost saving ideas. He was part of HR at this company, but had a strong technical background, which made the recommendations solid. Though they would have cut the licensing cost of HR software by $1 million per year, his suggestions were not implemented because the organization lacked a mechanism to make the suggested changes – it was less risky for all involved to continue with a higher-cost vendor than take on the personal risk of making a change that could be difficult to implement.

Enter Ecosynomics: a highly validated framework, set of assessment tools and transformation process that helps organizations address this type of endemic challenge.

The Institute for Strategic Clarity developed Ecosynomics based on observations of thousands of “positive economic deviants” (AKA, the “rock stars” of their categories) in 93 countries and 12 languages. The framework names the phenomena and supports all forms of social systems in making the shift from being stuck in the scarcity-driven structures proposed by contemporary economics to abundance-based structures offered by scientific insights. This well-tested framework quantifies the cost of scarcity and benefits of abundance, providing both a starting point and guiding frame for organizations to shift in ways that seemed impossible before now.

Ecosynomics looks at what people around the globe are doing to move from perceived realities of scarcity – characterized by ingratitude, “stuckness,” anxiety, apathy, mistrust, antisocial competitiveness, active disengagement and a high level of organizational failure – to perceived realities of abundance characterized by enthusiasm, flow, creative capacities, effectiveness, efficiency, trust, social solidarity and wellbeing. The research shows this is a basic, universal experience every human being knows: worldwide, tens of thousands of groups and teams in business, government, civil society, networks and communities are in the process of experimenting with and reinventing their fundamental agreements. They are discovering that they can generate higher levels of economic growth and business health, and lead the way to more productivity and job creation.

A key foundation of Ecosynomics is that (often unconscious) agreements among members of a group are the differentiator between organizations that consistently transcend the constraints of daily organizational lives and those that don’t. By creating conscious agreements that enable participants to identify creative solutions, they can more intentionally determine how to implement innovation and execute for results. Organizations that can’t do this will be outpaced by those that can.

The problem with most organizational agreements is that we don’t see them. They just are. Most often, we are unaware that what is happening around us is based on an agreement that one could potentially change. It seems that life is just that way. In our day-to-day interactions – at work and at home – we engage in a set of agreements and relationships whether we realize it or not. Sometimes they work, resulting in vibrant experiences and great outcomes, and sometimes they do not, leaving us feeling depleted, fatigued and disappointed about lousy outcomes. These agreements are a key foundation of organizational culture; as the agreements change, they drive culture change.

Ecosynomics makes it possible to see the often hidden, underlying agreements that most affect the human experience, enabling people to choose which fundamental assumptions they accept, the structures and processes that result from those assumptions, and the behaviors they want to experience in their daily interactions with others. It provides a unified framework for describing what tens of thousands of groups identified by ISC are learning.

Jim and his team discovered that these groups start from a different initial assumption than economic scarcity. They start with abundance. Ecosynomics, the social science of abundance, explains what they are learning and how it changes all the rules of the game.

Vibrant groups also achieve higher levels of social integration and governmental/administrative efficiency and effectiveness. They are demonstrating new ways of relating that are more sustainable and lead to higher performance and innovation than the currently accepted norm. What people in those groups are doing cannot be achieved by applying present-day economic agreements of scarcity (defined as state of lack, or not having enough, restricted in quantity).

The emerging science of Ecosynomics provides a model to begin to name the field that observers and practitioners are discovering associated with creating vibrant organizations. Vibrancy (the move away from scarcity) is required to drive the foundational changes needed to navigate the challenges we face as a society today. Unless we take an abundance mindset (a view that we can solve the problems we face using innovative thinking), we are destined to leave our children a world that is worse than the one we inherited.

The Ecosynomics framework is a model of health that describes what people are learning about how to move from lower to higher vibrancy and economic prosperity. Vibrancy is what social systems experience when they are identified with and acting out of their greatest potential. It implies the concordance of diverse perspectives in a shared, meaningful whole, resulting in the emergence of a new, larger possibility.

To act out of our greatest potential, we found five key relationships that must be in alignment. When I am with a group/organization:

  • Self: I feel good about who I am and what I am learning (I can share my aspirations and contribute my greatest potential, and trust that others support my success – including allowing me to make mistakes and learn).
  • Other: I believe others in the group support my success, and I support them (we don’t actively undermine one another).
  • Group: I support and contribute to the organization’s mission and culture. The organization’s leadership acts ethically and works for the good of its people and clients.
  • Source of Creativity/Spirit: We create an environment where creative ideas are solicited from everyone. We actively seek ways to continually improve our organization.
  • Process of Innovation/Nature: We pilot creative solutions and continually improve what we do and how we do it to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

If any of these relationships are out of balance, we will perform in a sub-optimal manner.

To learn about your organization’s vibrancy, take the free Ecosynomics vibrancy assessment. To learn more about the Institute for Strategic Clarity and the frameworks, follow this link or subscribe to Jim’s blog.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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