Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Are organisations afraid of innovation?

So much talk around about how important it is to be innovative. How will organisations progress or keep up with the rapid pace of change if there is not a culture of innovation? In the IBM Global CEO survey, innovation emerges as a critical skill that leaders need to display - see
So - it seems as though innovation should be top of mind when it comes to establishing a training program for an organisation. You would think that there would be a substantial focus on providing people with the right tools and techniques to be more creative, to use the full extent of their creativity so that they do in fact deliver new ideas that can be readily implemented.
Reality seems to dictate otherwise! Very little budget appears to be allocated to learning programs, formal and informal workshops or any experiences that lead to thinking in a more creative way. And creativity is a skill that can be learnt - we are not born with some mysterious powers that enable us to think in way that leads to creative outputs.
Are we afraid of creating this climate of innovation because of what could happen and we in fact prefer to stick to the same old way of doing things? Are we afraid of what might emerge when people come up with better ways of doing things and we might not have the will or the budget to take these ideas forward? Are we determined to buck the innovation trend and remain happily ensconced in the 20th Century?
Help! I just cannot figure it out.
There is just so much disruption happening in so many industries - no one can afford to be complacent.
Ideal world would be for all team members to be able to follow a process of generating ideas in a structured way so that there are bucket loads of ideas from which practical, useful and amazing actions emerge that make a real difference to the organisation. When it comes to allocating budget, creative thinking techniques should not be placed as a low priority item that we can get to at some distant point in time. I would hope that these tools would be part and parcel of any training delivery program or process.
Enough with simply talking about innovation - take practical steps to make it happen by providing the entire company with the ability to creatively problem solve:
1. Start off meetings in unusual ways to convey the message that all can contribute and no ideas will be blocked. Gather an endless supply of ways of initiating meetings.
2. Be trained as a facilitator who knows the difference between divergence and convergence - follow the YES AND principle and make others in the room look good. Watch how quickly people build on other people's ideas and what emerges from the conversations when 100% of the people in the room are included.
3. Be formally trained as a creative problem solving facilitator so that you can apply the principles of this world renowned process in your own meetings. Ideate more strongly and then select the best ideas by moving towards consensus in a logical way. See how many new ideas emerge that would otherwise have been discarded too quickly - and how much easier it is when there is buy-in to the new way of doing things.
4. Form teams that include a range of participants and leaders with different styles of creative thinking. Do you have people on the team who are clarifiers, idea generators, developers, and implementers? Do you know what the preferred styles are in terms of creativity and have you identified these styles in the team? Undertake a survey to determine who is who in the team - and watch the huge difference this makes.
5. Emphasise the importance of innovation to your learning and development and HR teams - they might not see training in this area as being a top priority agenda item. And it is so easy to integrate innovation techniques in to just about any learning experience whether on-line or face to face.
The best news of all - none of this comes with a huge price tag. Small investment that leads to a huge return. But only if you are not afraid of innovation....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Down with Boring Presentations!

I am just over sitting in a conference room listening to a 'lecturer' telling me what I already know and or what I don't have much interest in knowing more about. Or worse still, what I could read on their website!
I have attended 2 conferences recently, where I felt my eyes closing and it is time for presenters and trainers to take a leap in to interactive learning experiences.
What GREAT presentations are and what they are NOT:
1. Forget those Powerpoints that have so many words on them that I get a headache reading them. Great Powerpoints are filled with images that are memorable and tell a story.
We no longer have restrictions on the amount of information we can store on our computer drives or USB's. So why do I have to squint to read tiny font? Why not insert more slides that enable the telling of the story?
GREAT training has movement and is not static. We don't have to stare at one slide for 20 minutes because we are afraid of 'death by Powerpoint'. Yes, Powerpoint that is a summary of your presentation is dreadful, but in a session of 1 hour, nothing wrong with 40 - 50 great slides that move your key points forward!
If you need to include tables in the presentation and other facts and figures, think about how to do this with the key messages clearly displayed. No, no to excel spreadsheets on the screen. Print them out instead.
2. That podium.... Please, step out from behind the podium. Insist on a lapel mic so that you connect with the group. We can all read the slides, so tell us the stories behind them. Create movement and energy in the room and then the group takes their lead from you.
3. Voice - please, please: a monotonous voice is just a way of induce sleep. Create a different rhythm and get feedback from others so that you improve. Create some energy and step up your pace and slow down on the dramatic points. Find some up and down moments and surprise us.
4. Creating an interactive presentation does not mean that for 2 minutes you ask the group to discuss a point at their table. Then continue your presentation without any debriefing. A few minutes later, asking the group to discuss something for 10 minutes and again no debriefing, does not mean that your session has been interactive.
Interactive means that you use a variety of methods to invite the group to participate in the discussion. How about:
A debate between teams on different viewpoints
A competition between groups
Completion of a quiz
A template to complete at the table
Formulate questions at the table to ask the presenter
Use post-its on a flipchart to sum up the main ideas
Provide handouts for analysis at the table
5. Create a presentation that flows logically and can be completed in the time allocated. Practice and receive honest feedback before stepping up on stage.
6. Provide practical take-outs. We all want to know what we can do with the information and not what the theory is - we can read that. What does it mean to us back in our work environment?

Present as the best presenters do!

At long last! Finally! I have I have just returned from two incredible conferences in the USA and have seen some amazing presentations. What made them so good?
1. Body language was just excellent! They stood properly and moved around with confidence - no-one was stooped over with crossed legs and pens clicking in hands. Their chins were level; their sternums were up; their weight was well distributed on their feet and their eyes were actively engaging with the group.
2. They had done their research and it showed! They knew what was critical information and this was presented in a logical flow. The 'nice to know' material was added in at certain points in the presentation and then energy picked up again so that the audience remained on their toes.
3. They told fabulous stories! You were just spellbound listening to their personal stories or to stories about organisations. The story-telling reinforced the key messages and was never there just for a laugh or a joke. The story had a clear link to the message and gave the practical side of what did or could happen. I commit to never doing a presentation again without a really good story included.
4. The slides were excellent! There were lots of them, but they were not covered in print and you could read them from the back of the room. They had a few definite bullet points and added to what was being said through great choices in images. After all, don't we want our presentations to be memorable and for people to act on what we shared with them??
5. The presenters were not faultless - they stumbled every now and then. A slide came up too quickly or they lost their train of thought for a few moments. But they did it with good humour and self deprecating laughter and no one in the audience minded at all.
6. Their diction was clear! No long pauses and certainly no umm's and ahhs to detract from what was being said. They built credibility as we were able to follow their thought patterns and buy in to their concepts.
7. Some presenters introduced excellent, very short videos in to their presentations and wow, what a difference that made: just livened things up and helped to reinforce a key point. You never forget it. As an example, search for the Panda adverts on Youtube....
8. They had rehearsed and had built their confidence by receiving feedback from colleagues or other audience members or even through self-assessment. This helped push them to the next level and build in further improvements.
So: a big reminder to me to lift my game!!