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    How Creative Leaders Epitomize Their Genius Journey

    Last week, I presented new research on creative leadership development at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) XXX! Innovation Conference 2020. Originally supposed to take place in Berlin, the conference for the first time unfolded as a virtual event following the COVID-19 outbreak. In our study titled “Developing Creative Leaders: Learner’s Reflections on Methodology and Pedagogy,” my colleagues Brian Hunt, Xavier Parisot (IKI-SEA, Bangkok University) and I investigated how learners qualitatively describe the methodology and pedagogy used by Genius Journey, Thinkergy’s creative leadership development program.

    Theoretical foundation of the study

    Creative leadership is an evolving field within management studies at the intersection of the domains of leadership, individual creativity, and innovation. The niche domain of creative leadership development combines the literature on creative leadership with educational theories (such as Kolb’s experiential learning cycle or action learning). 

    Our latest paper is part of an ongoing research program on creative leader development and builds on five earlier research papers: 

    • In two earlier conceptual papers, I introduced Genius Journey as a new creative leadership method (Reis, 2015) and described the chosen pedagogy used to animate the program’s contents (Reis & Hunt, 2017).
    • In our first empirical paper (Reis et al., 2018), we asked learners to rate the methodology and pedagogy of the Genius Journey program in quantitative terms, thereby confirming the efficacy and creativity of the chosen approach in general terms. 
    • In a second empirical paper (Reis et al., 2020), we investigated how learners experience their inner heroes’ journeys while undergoing the program. The results offered deeper level insights on what excursions, exercises, and activities of the Genius Journey program resonate and add value to individual learners on a personal level. 

    With our new empirical study that builds upon our quantitative empirical paper, we aim to provide more qualitative insights and context to our earlier quantitative findings. To achieve our objective, we formulated our research-guiding question as follows:

    How did creative leader candidates describe and exemplify ex-post their perceptions of those particular methodological and pedagogical elements that make the Genius Journey program both effective and genuinely creative? 

    Research methodology

    Our new empirical study follows a qualitative research design. Between 2012 and 2015, we collected data in the form of reflective essays written by creative leader candidates at the end of a twelve-week long development program in creative leadership based on Thinkergy’s Genius Journey. The learners were business professionals in the age range 25-35 from Thailand (55%) and a variety of ten other, mostly European, countries (45%). We collected qualitative data from 35 participants who shared their thoughts on their personal experience of undergoing the Genius Journey program of creative leadership development. We reported these findings in our previous research paper (Reis et al., 2020). 

    Interestingly, and unprompted, many creative leader candidates chose to also comment on the methodology and pedagogy used in the Genius Journey program, and commented on the value of different pedagogical tools used to cultivate creativity in learners. Due to the richness of these data, we felt compelled to report this feedback because it exemplifies the learners’ responses (to the methodological and pedagogical value of the program) in more personal terms. 

    Creative leader candidates’ definitions of the Genius Journey program

    Intriguingly, we observed that many prospective creative leaders chose not to merely repeat the given definition of the creative leadership course program. Instead, they developed their own interpretative —and even metaphorical— interpretations of what the Genius Journey program aspires to do. These informal, personal descriptions of the learners recast an abstract, theoretical definition into a more profound, more practical, and more applied format. 

    One example of how one learner personalized and “translated” the given definition of the course methodology for herself is shown in the chart above. Another prospective creative leader created the following definition:

    “According to its formal definition, the genius journey is ‘an experiential, action-oriented individual creativity training program that enables you to reconnect with your creativity and your inner genius by providing you with creative mindsets and cognitive skills of genius thinkers and creative business leaders in order to transform into an authentic, creative leader in the innovation economy.’ In my personal opinion, the Genius Journey has been much more than that. It has been an on-going challenge with myself, an introspective itinerary where I had the possibility to face both my strong points and my limits, and of course, a path during which I learned a significant amount of new concepts and gained many relevant insights.”
    —Italian Female 2 


    Feedback on the methodology of the Genius Journey program

    The Genius Journey program aims to develop creative leaders by focusing on cultivating creative success mindsets. The program’s methodology employs a journey metaphor as a creative learning device. In more concrete terms, we figuratively send learners on a journey to acquire the desired success mindsets of outstanding creative leaders. At each of the ten destination stops of the Genius Journey, candidates learn about one creativity-limiting mindset that keeps them thinking inside the box, and they learn about the corresponding empowering mindset that gradually expands their creativity and consciousness. The ten genius mindsets unfold in a particular sequence and order. First, candidates learn how to reconnect to their creative identity (BE), then how to cultivate creative practices and routines (DO), next how to produce creative outputs (HAVE), and finally how to activate states of flow that may evoke Eureka moments of breakthrough creativity (WOW).

    How do learners describe the effectiveness and creativity of this methodological approach? One learner commented:

    “Overall, I think the Genius Journey Method is great. The concept of Stops/Starts clearly explains the growth of creative leadership in everyone and shortcuts the learning process.”
    —Thai Female 3  

    Another learner confirmed the effectiveness of the gradually building up one’s creativity and moving to higher levels of creative consciousness: 

    “The Genius Journey Stops are well structured to teach us the fundamental concept and bring us to the advanced levels with the help of the Genius Journey Formula BE > DO > HAVE > WOW.”
    —Thai Male 6 

    Some creative leader candidates even noticed the interconnectedness and imminent sequence and hierarchy of the Genius Journey model’s ten destination stops: 

    “The fact that reflecting on one stop just made me jump back to another stop reveals the —in my eyes— most important thing about the journey to fully understand its meaning: It is not just a journey during which you pass through the first stop, then the second, then the third and so on until you reach your last and final destination where the journey is over. In my eyes, the opposite is the case. All stops interact with each other. Some are prerequisites of others. Starting with stop number 1 doesn’t mean that you will never come back to it at a later point in time. It is therefore not a journey that is traveled within 12 weeks; it is a life-long journey which has just started.”
    —German Male 3

    Feedback on the pedagogy used to animate the Genius Journey program

    The creative leader candidates also shared their opinions on the overall effectiveness and creativity of the pedagogy used in the Genius Journey program that aligns with Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. One learner commented on how this pedagogical approach supports gradual creative mindset transformation: 

    “A big reason is the experiential approach. We focused more on cognitive thinking and mindsets of proven creative leaders (books and articles about them, their inventions, quotes), complemented by scientific material from Creative Leadership research. This mixture didn’t only increase my knowledge, but it changed my way of thinking. The Genius Journey content not only touched my surface but also drilled through it. Plain material only from scientific books may vanish pretty fast after the exam. But my learning outcomes from the Genius Journey will stay with me longer. If I follow my goal, seeing the Genius Journey as a long life voyage that has just started, they may accompany me through my whole life.”
    —German Male 3

    Other creative leader candidates emphasized experiential learning’s importance, which is a cornerstone of the Genius Journey pedagogy. Learners’ comments exemplified how the Genius Journey pedagogy supports creative mindset acquisition using the four phases of the experiential learning cycle (do and experience; reflect on the experience; conceptualize the learnings; apply the learnings). 

    For example, one learner noted: “You have practice how to learn. Learn how to fail, learn how to win, learn how to pause, learn how to start, learn how to be a success. Everything evolves with the learning.” (Thai Male 9) Another learner commented that “During all the weeks I enjoyed most to reflect myself and to learn more about me. I really appreciate these kinds of training because they help me become a more reflecting, open-minded, and creative person.” (German Female 1)

    Many learners also highlighted the importance of experiencing this pedagogy both individually and as a member of a learning cohort:

    “Therefore, the journey had two perspectives: the internal and individual one and the collective one. The former concerned the exercises in the Genius Journey notebook and the practice in my everyday life of what I learned during the class: it was sort of the interior dimension of the itinerary. The latter concerned the classes and the trips outside that we have done together and also the fact of sharing personal experiences and thoughts.”
    —Italian Female 1 


    Feedback on the creative pedagogical tools used in the Genius Journey program

    In our new research, we also scanned the data for revealing prospective creative leaders’ views on the usefulness of different pedagogical tools used in the Genius Journey program. This qualitative feedback ties into the corresponding quantitative feedback gathered in an earlier study

    In a previous research project (Reis et al., 2018), we had investigated the effectiveness of different pedagogical tools used by the Genius Journey program in quantitative terms. In our current study, we gained deeper qualitative insights into why certain tools work and how to improve on others:

    • For example, one creative leader candidate highlighted the usefulness of being asked to maintain a notebook during the course: “One key thing I will take from this course is also that I enjoy having a notebook to write down my thoughts. I find the idea of writing down all my thoughts in itself very intriguing and am certain that this will help me grow substantially.” (Syrian Male 1) 
    • Another learner underscored the relevance to ask candidates to study and analyze the life biography of their favorite creative leader: “What has also been extremely helpful to learn the importance of believing is analyzing the journey of my creative leader, Coco Chanel, and listening my classmates’ leaders journeys.” (Italian Female 2) 
    • Yet another learner commented on the significance of exposing creative leader candidates to an open-ended creative puzzle every week, and asking them to creatively solve the challenge by the start of the next session:

    “The creative puzzles are one of the best tools that encourage me to think outside the box. They help me realize that if I keep doing things in the same way or the same as the others, I will get the same result, no improvement. Hence, I need to step outside my comfort zone, my cozy box, and look at things from different perspectives to gain creative solutions.”
     —Thai Female 9

    Feedback on the overall value of the Genius Journey program

    In our earlier paper describing the inner hero’s journey of creative leader candidates (Reis et al., 2020), we cited vivid examples of the “ultimate boon” that prospective creative leaders received while going through the Genius Journey program. Some of the significant takeaways that learners reported included: acquiring knowledge of advanced creative thinking strategies; using the ‘body-mind’ connection to change emotional states; inducing states of flow; and in a few cases, experiencing a Eureka moment of personal creative breakthrough. 

    Our present study extracted more general comments on the impact of the Genius Journey program on prospective creative leaders. One learner commented that the program “has been extremely touching and it had a strong impact on my life” (Italian Female 2), “helped me find out who I really am, what I really want to do and what I want to be in my life which other business courses can’t give me” (Thai Female 10), “helped to fight a few demons and to feel better, stronger, and more open — to feel more creative and self-confident.” (French Female 1), and made them do “many things that I have never thought that I will be able to do it.” (Thai Female 1). 

    One learner described the impact of the Genius Journey program in greater detail as follows: 

    “I thoroughly enjoyed the Genius Journey. Knowledge gained from the Genius Journey was beyond expectation. It is much more than learning something for career growth. It was about being able to live a happy life. The dynamics of the Genius Journey are vast, covering and touching on much at all levels (body, mind & soul).”
     —Thai Male 4

    Another learner relates how the program touched her as follows:

    “In this course, I have learned a lot! During the 12 sessions and the eight weeks of this course,
    I almost constantly think about the Genius Journey Stops, the exercises, and what we discussed in class. Because to me, this course is not only about «course material»; it is about a way of living your life.”
    —Dutch Female 1

    Finally, yet another prospective creative leader candidate realized by traveling the Genius Journey that true treasures and genius resides in herself: 

    “I strongly think that the content of the course is very valuable. It is like a journey that takes me through dreams and treasures I seek elsewhere and then find on my doorstep. I can be a genius, and I can be a creative leader.”
    —Thai Female 3

    Conclusion: Use a creative methodology animated by a creative pedagogy to develop creative leaders

    Our present study confirms the findings of our earlier studies (Reis et al, 2018 and 2020) that creative leaders can be developed effectively and creatively with a training program that blends a literature-based creative methodology with an experiential creative pedagogy. Our findings from our new research:

    1. demonstrate the importance of the different elements of both the course methodology and pedagogy, which integrate into a “Gestalt” that jointly induce a transformational effect on a prospective creative leader as the course program unfolds over a couple of months. 
    2. confirm the effectiveness of many pedagogical tools used by the Genius Journey program to develop creative leaders (creative leader study and portraits, notebook, in-class & homework exercises, open-ended creative puzzles, check-in and -out audits, review toy), and a potential to evolve further others (buddy coaching, open peer-to-peer experience sharing); 
    3. indicate that learners make sense of formal definitions and theoretical constructs by personalizing these into more practical interpretations; and 
    4. suggest that Reis’ (2015) Genius Journey model and Kolb’s (2008) experiential learning cycle pedagogically align both on a macro-level (overall program) and a micro-level (session introducing 1-2 destination stops of the Genius Journey). 

    Would you like to read our full paper on “Developing Creative Leaders: Learner’s Reflections on Methodology and Pedagogy” with more verbatim accounts of candidates traveling the Genius Journey? Download our full conference paper here.

    Are you interested in becoming a creative leader so that you can lead yourself and your team to success in the disruptive 2020s? 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020


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    12 Tips to Stay Productive While Working from Home

    Welcome to our dire new reality. The escalating coronavirus pandemic has massively disrupted our everyday work and lives. COVID-19 has confined millions of people around the world to their homes. How can you stay calm, productive, and optimistic while working from home in the coming weeks, or more likely, months? Consider following these twelve tips. 

    1. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

    The coming months aren’t going to be pretty. The current health crisis will linger on for weeks to come, leading to a global economic crisis that may reset business as we knew it. Some industries will fade away. Many companies will go out of business, including some big, prominent names. Millions of people will have to cope with temporary salary cuts or even lose their jobs. So, brace yourself for a recession. Cut all your spending down to the essential necessities. Ensure you have enough cash flow personally. Do you run a business? Consider embracing one of the government-guaranteed loan programs that many countries are now beginning to offer to keep the backbone of their economies intact. Make tough decisions earlier to gain peace of mind sooner.

    2. Minimize the noise

    In times of crisis, we need to catch up on the news to keep up with and effectively respond to the evolving situation. However, when we dedicate too much time browsing the COVID-19 horror stories in the media, we only increase our stress levels — and reduce the odds of staying productive. Limit your daily news consumption to half an hour. Focus on sources that provide the facts, and stay away from wide-eyed opinions and ballyhoo.

    3. Look for the upside

    The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two symbols — one means ‘danger,’ the other one ‘opportunity.’ What opportunities does the crisis offer to you? Opportunities to develop new skills? Opportunities to explore new business models for a better future? Opportunities to connect more deeply to your partner and children who now all are trapped at home? As Albert Einstein noted, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

    4. Establish a daily routine

    When we’re under pressure, and confined to working from home, it’s more important than ever to bring regularity and order into our lives. A daily rhythm allows us to feel more in control. It increases our productivity and feeling of well-being. So, invest half an hour now to craft a steady daily routine for you to follow. Draw up a plan for when you intend to work, do chores, socialize, and play. Thereby consider adding some of the suggestions that follow below.

    5. Connect to your spirit

    At the start and end of each day, take a few minutes for spiritual practice. If you like, take comfort in saying a prayer. Realize the beauty of the force of creation that outshines and outlasts our present reality. Find peace in the words of the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

    6. Meditate

    Reserve at least 5-10 minutes in your daily schedule to meditating. If you’re a novice, consider using a guided meditation app (such as Headspace.com) to get started. Otherwise, practice the technique you’ve learned to soothe your mind. A few months ago, I took a course in Transcendental Meditation. Ever since I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. I can feel how well this technique helps me to offload stress from my central nervous system. And in times of COVID-19, stress abounds.

    7. Breathe

    Consider adding a few Yoga breathing exercises into your day. Left-right nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama) can help us clear our sinuses and our minds from negative thoughts and anxiety. It also balances the more analytical left side and more creative right side of our neocortex, thus leading to a bright, integrated mind. Kapalabhati is an energizing breathing technique where we alternate forceful exhales with passive inhales. If you own an Apple watch, follow the invitation to breathe for a minute whenever you get a reminder tap.

    8. Exercise daily

    During the past weeks, have you noticed your butt hurting at times, indicating too much sedentary activity? In normal times, we automatically walk thousands of steps each day while undergoing work and life. But in times of COVID-19, most of us are confined to our homes and our desk. So now it’s more important than ever to exercise. What if you’re strictly limited to your home? Do Yoga. Do workouts using your body weight and whatever tools you can find in your apartment (e.g., tables, chairs, door frames, etc.; check out the app from Bodyweight Training by Mark Lauren). If you like aerobics or group workouts, look for online classes on the internet. Whatever sports you like, make sure that you move your body at least for 30 minutes every day. If possible, exercise outdoors in line with the next point.

    9. Spend time in nature

    If your local lockdown regulations permit, get out of your house and into nature. Take a walk or enjoy a relaxing run. Look up to the sky. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot on the grass. Feel the wind, or the rain, or the sun rays, on your skin. Relish these precious outdoor moments and reconnect to nature.

    10. Learn something new

    While you’re under lockdown and working from home, consider enrolling in webinars and online training, especially now that many learning platforms and top universities offer courses for free during the crisis. So, use the time you save from your daily commute to acquire new skills and knowledge that can be useful for you now (e.g., online work skills) and in the future. Also, invest some time to learn more about your true self by finding answers to these questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What are you passionate about? What do you really love doing? What do you really value? What are you really good at? What is easy, effortless, and enjoyable for you that is difficult, demotivating, or drudging for other people?

    11. Focus on work outputs, not work hours

    When you have to work from home with the whole family around during a crisis situation, expect lots of interruptions and disruptions to limit your productivity. In all likelihood, you will have fewer work hours at hand compared to working in the office. So before you start your work in the morning, focus on the one thing that you commit to getting done today. Specify the outcomes of this essential work. Then, consciously plan how to produce your best work by answering these questions:

    • What is the most critical work that I need to focus on today? 
    • What is the outcome I commit to producing today? 
    • Why is this essential? 
    • Who else is involved? 
    • When and where do I work on it? 
    • How can I do this most effectively? 
    • How much time do I need to commit to producing the desired outcome?

    12. Give support to others

    Humanity needs to master the COVID-19 crisis collectively. Yes, we need to practice social distancing physically but not emotionally. So each day, give time to support your loved ones and those who need help or a sympathetic ear. Do one thing every day to ease the life of someone whose life got walloped by the crisis. Give and be of service to others every day. In essence, it will make you feel good and be a small but essential contribution to jointly master the current crisis humanely.

    Conclusion: Stay optimistic and take on the fight

    In all of us, the stimulus “COVID-19” triggers the automatic “fight or flight” response in our autonomous central nervous system and the part of our command center known as the reptilian brain. How do you intend to individually deal with this situation? Do you resign yourself to your fate, and allow the virus and its coverage in the media to take up all your mental energy (flight)? Or are you up for the fight? Will you commit to being productive, regardless? Will you focus on preparing yourself and your business to take off right after the crisis, or maybe even in the midst of it?  

    The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote in his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In the coming months, let’s all respond consciously and wisely.

    • Do you need a sounding board or some fresh inspirations on how to best maneuver the current Covid-19 crisis? Contact us and tell us more about your challenges. We love to give you some ideas on how to turn the crisis into an opportunity for yourself, your team, and your business.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020

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    How Prospective Creative Leaders Experience Their Hero’s Journey

    How do prospective creative leaders experience their inner “hero’s journey” of undergoing a structured and creative training program in creative leadership? In collaboration with my colleagues Brian Hunt and Xavier Parisot (IKI-SEA, Bangkok University), I investigated this research-guiding question in a new research study titled “Creatively Developing Creative Leaders: Revealing the Inner Hero’s Journey.”

    Last week, I presented our paper at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Connects Bangkok Innovation Conference in Bangkok. What exactly did we examine in our paper? And what findings did we uncover?

    Research design of our study

    In our explorative empirical research project “Creatively Developing Creative Leaders: Revealing the Inner Hero’s Journey,” we investigated the experiential, emotional journey of creative leader candidates undergoing creative leader development program. The said program is based on the Genius Journey method that I created for Thinkergy.

    Our guiding research question was: “How did prospective creative leaders experience their inner hero’s journey of undergoing a structured and creative training program in creative leadership?” We used a qualitative research design to investigate this question.

    Between 2012 and 2015, we collected data from five cohorts of learners at the end of a 12-week long training program in creative leadership. The program was offered as an elective course as part of a master’s in management program at a university in Bangkok, Thailand. We collected and extracted qualitative data from 35 participants (out of 102, thereby establishing statistical significance) about their personal experience of undergoing the Genius Journey program of creative leadership development. The aforementioned participants were primarily business professionals in their late twenties to mid-thirties from Thailand (55%) and a variety of ten other, mostly European, countries (45%)

    In their essays, the learners answered open-ended guiding questions related to their inner hero’s journey at the end of a 12-week long creative leadership development program. To structure the responses, we adapted Campbell’s Hero’s Journey scheme (more on this below) as a guiding model to extract key themes from the qualitative answers.

    Theoretical foundation of the study

    The present paper is part of an ongoing research program on creative leader development and builds on three earlier research papers: 

    • In the first paper, I conceptually introduced Genius Journey as a new creative leadership method at the ISPIM innovation conference in Budapest in 2015. 
    • In the second paper, Brian Hunt and I outlined the contents and pedagogical design of the related creative leadership development program. I presented the paper at the ISPIM innovation conference in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
    • Finally, in a third paper presented at the ISPIM innovation conference in Stockholm in 2018, we confirmed both the efficacy and creativity of the Genius Journey program from the learners’ perspective using a predominantly quantitative research design.

    Our research program is theoretically founded both in the newly emerging domain of creative leadership development and in educational theories such as David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. For this new research, we also chose Campbell’s monomyth theory (aka the ‘Hero’s journey’) as a framework to guide our investigation, including the formulation of subordinated research questions and a coding scheme to structure our data analysis. 

    Introducing Campbell’s Hero’s Journey model

    In his Hero’s Journey model, the American mythologist Joseph Campbell described the stages of a transformational journey taken by many heroes in the great stories of humanity (such as Odysseus, Moses, and even Lara Croft and Luke Skywalker). 

    In a typical hero’s journey, an Average Joe receives a Call for Adventure to enter a strange new world, where he has to face and overcome challenges on the Road of Trials. Eventually, the hero has to master the Abyss — a defining challenge leading to a profound personal transformation (called the Metamorphosis). Finally, the hero receives the Ultimate Boon (a freshly uncovered, previously hidden talent, a gift, or a significant prize) as a reward before voyaging back home to Return the Boon (i.e., sharing the newfound know-how and skills with others, now as a master. of two worlds).

    Revealing the inner Hero’s Journey of creative leader candidates undergoing the Genius Journey program

    How do participants go through these experiential stages of Campbell’s monomyth model in the Genius Journey method of creative leader development? We present our findings along the key stages of the Hero’s Journey, thereby also quoting candidates’ feedback verbatim.

    1. The Call to Adventure

    We inquired why learners accepted the “call to adventure” and enrolled in a new creative leader development program. 30% were motivated by developing their individual creativity or creative leadership potential. Roughly 20% each either were attracted by the appealing course packaging and title, or wanted to develop themselves, or were “repeat customers” who took courses with me before. The chart below reveals the detailed break-up of the sign-up motivations as well as sample quotations exemplifying each category.

    2. The Road of Trials

    In the Genius Journey, the Road of Trials consists of 10 Destination Stops, at each of which the candidates encounter a disempowering mindset limiting their creativity, and a corresponding empowering mindset that supports the development of their creativity and creative leadership potential. The prospective creative leaders get a more in-depth, experiential understanding of these mindsets through exciting excursions to “special places.” At each stop, they also experience eight Genius Exercises that they then have to internalize, conceptualize, and apply at work and in their lives. 

    Due to the sheer scope and richness of the data, we presented learners’ feedback on the different exercises and excursions as a separate attachment to our paper. The input from creative leader candidates suggests that on the “Road of Trials,” different learners love and loathe specific activities and excursions that lead them to an encounter with their abyss. 

    3. The Abyss

    In the Hero’s Journey, the Abyss is the moment of truth where the hero must overcome his nemesis. All previous steps lead towards this turning point, and all that follow will draw upon the essential empowerment gained from mastering this challenge. 

    In the Genius Journey, the Abyss waits for each learner at one of the ten destination stops. Here, the creative leader candidates must confront the limiting mindset that most holds them back and overcome their limiting power. To probe for the Abyss, we asked each learner to comment on their biggest challenge during their Genius Journey in their essays. 

    In our study, we found that all prospective creative leaders had to deal with their own personal “abyss.” The precise nature of their Abyss differed from learner to learner based on the unique mix of limiting attitudes and routines within each mind. Moreover, and as expected, each learner of the cohort encountered their Abyss at a different stop of the journey. For example, one learner noticed that he has become myopic and lost the power of his intuitive mind:

    “I found stop 6 quite challenging at times. I believe my imagination to be quite good but when we did the exercises of laying down, closing our eyes and going on imagination trips, I simply wasn’t able to do it. I found it very difficult to see anything. I don’t really know why, as I used to be very good at these type of things.
    However I believe that it might be related to watching too much tv & spending too much time on my cell phone or computer instead of reading. I am convinced that these means, as don’t require me to imagine anything while telling me a story, over a long time negatively impact my creative capabilities.”
     —Syrian Male 1 

    Another learner encountered his Abyss at destination stop 2 (and the related stop 3) when confronting his worst enemy (his ego — and connected to it, his inner voice of judgment):

    “Of course, I knew about the ego before and that it is present inside of me. But I didn’t realize to what extent it leads to a closed mind. It is the reason why I am very critical of myself and everything around me. This results in a very judgmental attitude. As soon as we reached stop 3 I started seriously thinking about – and changing – it.
    I somehow realized now that my ego and my judgmental attitude are one of my main obstacles and challenges that prevent me from realizing my inner genius and from unleashing my creative leadership potential.”
    —German Male 3

    Yet another candidate had to overcome his Abyss already at destination stop 1 when visiting the “House of Horror”:

    “My hardest obstacle was the haunted mansion. I lost my voice after joining the activity. This exercise almost resulted in having myself getting the hyperventilation problem in my breathing system. I learned the important thing that my real source of fear is not the ghost but it is the fear of the unknown. I get to learn this lesson in a very hard way. I finally realized that it all begins with the facing of the fear. If we did not start because of the fear, we will not learn or go anywhere since the beginning.”
    —Thai Male 2

    4. The Metamorphosis

    The metamorphosis is the next step in Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, where the traveler transforms into a new, better, more advanced person. We reviewed the essays for evidence of personal transformation, which often happened in connection with overcoming one’s abyss. 

    One creative leader candidate from Italy described her metamorphosis in vivid ways: 

    “Another challenging experience I faced was during Stop 3, when at the beginning of the class, Dr.D made us notice the way we were sitting, focusing on our body language and its meaning.
    I was then facing a very stressful and unhappy moment of my life, I didn’t like the way I was living my exchange experience and I reached the point the only thing I wanted was going back home. My body was showing that too, as I was ‘closing up’ instead of being open and willing to embrace diversity and novelty.
    I was shocked. I have always seen myself as an extremely open-minded girl, however, back then I was being really pessimistic, close-minded and arrogant, by not giving this experience the possibility to change and improve.
    When I realized this I decided it was time to change. I wanted to open up, and I can proudly say that I did. I started being more optimistic and relaxed, not letting any bad or stressful event bring me down. This helped me a lot changing my position toward life during that specific moment, and made it possible for me to live a totally different experience.”
    —Italian Female 2 

    Another prospective creative leader candidate from Germany describes a transformational moment at destination stop 2, when he realized the superficiality of an ego-driven society versus the importance of realizing one’s true self: 

    “Suddenly I even started thinking critically about Facebook (that was somehow a Wow effect for me): Its main purpose for most of the people (including me) kind of became the nonstop seeking for approval from others. This may be a big flaw of our society. It can be related to object-referred power, which relies on external approval. But real power comes from inside.
    Inner power is self-referred and can be seen as true power. Inner power is the power that draws people to you and makes them accept you as a leader. This mindset is very impressing to me and opened a novel insight into my personality. I took it away from stop 2.”
    —German Male 3

    Other candidates also reported transformational changes, such as this learner from Germany: 

    “I think I changed a lot during my stay in Thailand; the Genius Journey helped me taking a huge step forward in my personal development and thus to my career and my overall happiness. I have an overall plan for the coming year and really looking forward to have an exciting year. I feel more self-confident than I can remember in my whole life and am more curious to unconventional methods in thinking outside the box with simplicity.”
    —German Male 2

    5. The Ultimate Boon

    The ultimate boon represents a newly-found gift, reward, and prize that the hero gains after personal transformation. In the case of Thinkergy’s creative leader development program, the boon is represented by crucial learnings and newly acquired know-how, skills, and transformative experiences that learners take away from their Genius Journey. 

    For example, one learner reported how the lessons of the Genius Journey helped her succeed in a tough interview: 

    “I got an interview for a new position in London a few weeks ago. Before starting the Skype meeting with the HR manager, I forced myself to believe that I was able to compete for this position and that I shouldn’t underestimate myself. Besides, I remembered key notions taught in class such as believing in my ideas and dreams, daring to share my opinions, being self-confident and showing my true personality. I really tried to be positive and optimistic and I finally got the job.”
    —French Female 1

    Another learner shared how the course helped her manage her emotions through the active use of the body-mind connection: 

    “By understanding the relation between body and mind, I now have the right tool to overcome my negativity, because by relaxing myself, stretching and exercising my mind and thoughts are now more positive, and I feel more happy and willing to keep working hard, if I get my “playing” time as well.”
    —Italian Female 2

    The ultimate boon of Genius Journey is increasing the likelihood that creative leaders experience a Eureka moment of breakthrough creativity. Interestingly, and despite the short duration of a 12-week long program in creative mindset transformation, a few learners provide credible accounts that suggest they experienced a personal creative breakthrough such as this learner reportedly had: 

    “I had my business idea during my Genius Journey. It appeared, just as we even addressed in class, during a long conversation with a friend while walking from Khao San Road to Victory Monument.”
    —Syrian Male 1 

    6. Returning the Boon

    As we collected the feedback at the very end of their transformational journey, the candidates did not have many opportunities yet to “return the boon” to the benefit of self and others. However, we can present some verbatim accounts on how candidates intended to “return the boon” (or had already done so). Some learners developed concrete plans to become an entrepreneur and start their creative ventures:  

    “I can’t say that only due to this course, however surely through several aspects I’ve learned in this course, I have come to finally pursue my vision and will be launching my own company at the end of this year.”
    —Syrian Male 1

     

    “Genius Journey has made me realize that I really want to be an entrepreneur. I need to be in charge of my own life and this is definitely the way to do it. I have several ideas in my mind. I have decided that all my actions and choices will move towards this goal. I’m possible!”
    —Spanish Male 1

    Other candidates decided to “return the boon” by donating either money or their time or teach their newly found know-how to others:

    “Genius Exercise 2.7 Grateful Moments helped me realize how fortunate I am to have what I had. I realized the basic distinction of human needs & wants and learnt I already have much more than I need. So, I decided to donate clothes, books, and some money to old age home and an orphanage.”
    —Thai Male 4

    Conclusion: Send candidates on a personal Hero’s Journey to develop them into creative leaders

    Candidates undergoing a creative leader development program experience a transformational voyage that goes in line with Campbell’s monomyth model of the Hero’s Journey

    In the following, we summarize the main takeaways from our research. Our findings:

    1. Reconfirm the creative nature of both the Genius Journey methodology and pedagogy. 
    2. Reaffirm the journey metaphor underlying the Genius Journey methodology and pedagogy is indeed transformative and an effective and creative device for developing creative leaders.
    3. Confirm that Campbell’s Hero’s Journey model is a suitable framework to investigate, describe, and map out the experiences of candidates undergoing a creative leadership development program. 
    4. Provide examples of the personal challenges and inner demons that prospective creative leaders need to overcome while gradually metamorphosing their mindsets into those of a creative leader. 
    5. Suggest that the nature of the abyss is individually different. Hence, creative leadership development programs need to offer a wide variety of creativity-enhancing exercises and experiences that allow candidates to identify, confront, and overcome their abyss. 
    6. Support our earlier research findings that the ten stops of the Genius Journey are indeed a suitable framework to help learners acquire the advanced mindsets of creative leaders, and to overcome their abyss. 

    Would you like to read our full paper on “Creatively Developing Creative Leaders: Revealing the Inner Hero’s Journey” with more verbatim accounts of candidates traveling the Genius Journey?

    • Get access to and download our paper by clicking here.

    Have you become interested to learn how to become a creative leader in the innovation economy yourself? 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020

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    How to Learn from the Best Creative Leaders

    Creative leadership is an evolving new domain at the intersection of leadership, individual creativity, and innovation. For more than 7 years, I have run creative leader development programs based on my Genius Journey method that teaches participants about the mindsets of top creative leaders. 

    When creative leader candidates undergo a longer, intensive Genius Journey program, I ask them to find themselves a “genius mentor”. The candidates commit to study the life, ways and achievements of their inspirational creative leader in parallel to the program. At the penultimate session of the course, all candidates give a presentation on their chosen creative leader, thus allowing the cohort to learn about the lives, success strategies and achievements of up-to two dozen creative leaders. Today, let’s understand more about how to best learn from accomplished creative role models — and why it is so beneficial.

    What is role modeling?

    A role model is a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated. Role modeling can be a powerful learning tool for learning about the knowledge, skills, values, and success strategies of top achievers and leaders in a given domain. Thereby, the idea is to adopt and adapt those attitudes and behaviors that are beneficial, while ignoring negative traits and non-conducive activities that many of those top achievers display at times, too.

    How to include role-modeling in creative leader development?

    Nowadays, many business leaders realize the importance of creativity in leading an organization successfully. Twenty-first century leaders need to be creative to effectively respond to rapid changes, mounting complexity, increasing risks, and daily surprises. Moreover, organizations need to develop more creative leaders to seize the opportunities of the fast-paced innovation economy. One way to do this effectively and creatively is to embrace the Genius Journey methodology. 

    The Genius Journey approach sends creative leader candidates on an experiential journey to learn how to adopt and adapt the creative mindsets and action routines of geniuses and outstanding creative leaders in business, the sciences, politics, sports, and the arts. Thereby, studying a role model is one of a dozen pedagogical tools I use to internalize the creative leader mindsets of the Genius Journey method.

    Why is it beneficial to learn from creative role models?

    Studying the ways and lives of outstanding creative leaders allows you to “get into their heads”: It enables you to find out how they tend to think about things (mindsets) and how they usually tend to do regular activities (routines). Equipped with these deeper-level insights into the ways of creative leaders, you may discern their success strategies and then adopt and adapt these. 

    Moreover, studying role models allows you to realize that for most famous creators, the road to success wasn’t an easy cruise on a straight highway. Instead, it was a rather bumpy ride on the path less traveled. It was a journey full of challenges, trials, twists, and turns that eventually led to mastery and outstanding accomplishments. (As such, most success stories follow Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” model that is also a conceptual framework underlying our Genius Journey approach). 

    Finally, getting intimately familiar with your favorite “genius guide” provides an opportunity to do a reality check on the creative mindsets and routines advocated in our Genius Journey model.

    How to study creative role models?

    In an ideal world, you would seek out and meet your favorite creative leaders in person and spend time with them. Unfortunately, in the real world, this isn’t normally a feasible option as most genius leaders are either difficult to reach — or, sadly, already passed on. So, what’s the next best way to study the ways of creative leaders and understand what’s going on in their minds? Reading biographies. And if you’re lucky, your favorite genius even wrote an autobiography that gives you direct access to her mind. 

    Other source materials you can immerse yourself in to learn more about the mindsets of  creative role models include semi-biographical books, videos and interviews, articles, and of course their own creations (such as books, music, movies, art pieces, videos on competitive events, products, and even organizations that they founded or shaped).

    Who are suitable role models of a creative leader?

    Creative leaders are outstanding creative personalities who’ve led an organization or a particular domain and contributed novel, original, and meaningful concepts that created significant value to their environment. What are examples of creative leaders that past candidates of our Genius Journey programs adopted as their “genius mentor”? 

    • Universal geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, or Benjamin Franklin.
    • Creative business leaders such as Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, David Ogilvy, Coco Chanel and Elon Musk.
    • Scientists like Albert Einstein, Steven Hawkins, Richard Feynstein, Charles Darwin, and Marie Curie.
    • Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Steven Spielberg.
    • Political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Thomas Jefferson.
    • Legendary sports icons like Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and Ayrton Senna. 

    How to find the right role model for you?

    Many creative leader candidates already have a “favorite hero” in mind who they admire and know a bit about, and they eagerly embrace the opportunity to study the life of this person in greater detail. However, perhaps an even better way to find a fitting role model is to settle on a creative leader who has a comparable personality like you and prefers similar cognitive styles. How can find a “cognitively fitting” role model? Complete a personality assessment test (such as MBTI) or a cognitive profiling tool (such as our TIPS innovator profiling test) that link famous role models to different profile types.

    For example, in TIPS, Winston Churchill or Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton are suitable role models if you profile as an Organizer, while someone coming out with a Conceptualizer-profile may want to study Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. In the TIPS profiling report, we suggest a list of role models who exemplify each TIPS profile type.

    How do we know that it really works?

    Research projects that we conducted to test the efficacy of the Genius Journey methodology and pedagogy confirmed the value of our Genius Mentor-approach. For example, one study revealed that four out of five creativ eleader candidates (very) strongly agreed that the Creative Leader Studies & Portrait Creations added great value to the program. Although it meant a lot of work for them, still two out of three learners (very) strongly agreed that they also enjoyed creating and presenting their genius mentor portraits.

    When asked for qualitative feedback on this pedagogical tool, one learner commented:

    “I enjoy the creative leader portraits. I think it’s the best way to see and realize that the tools and methods used in the program are practical. Learning through studying the lives of real creative leaders is important.”

    Another creative leader candidate commented the following on the value of the assignment:

    “Asking us to talk about our creative leader was a relevant idea. It made me realize that even the most prominent and most influential leaders went through darker moments before accomplishing outstanding achievements. If I take the example of Yves Saint Laurent, he managed to be one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century despite several faults such as the lack of self-confidence and shyness. That’s why we have to keep dreaming and believe in our future.“ 

    Yet another candidate summed-up both his approach chosen and benefits achieved as follows: 

    “I highly enjoyed preparing the presentation on Salvador Dali. For a long time, I’ve enjoyed his art and have several replicas of his paintings in my home. I also visited his museum and his house in Spain, which both gave me good insights into his person. By doing this project, however, I was able to view him from an entirely different angle than I had viewed him before. I learned several new things about him and now see how he and I can relate to one another. Seeing how he faced different challenges in life, how he harvested his creativity, lived with his ego, etc. gave me a lot of insights into how I can become a better leader and what things I will have to focus on in the future.” 

    Conclusion: Learn from the best, forget about the rest

    Role-modeling is a powerful pedagogical tool that can legitimize the mindsets and routines of geniuses and outstanding creative leaders. Unfortunately, the candidates need to do secondary research on their chosen “genius mentors” in our role model assignment instead of going into a real-life apprenticeship with them. But fortunately, they can observe and question the creative ways of one weird creative leader while undergoing the creative leadership program — and that’s me.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019. 


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    From Effective Managers to Authentic Creative Leaders

    Many of you know that I am not only the creative leader of Thinkergy, but also a professor at various Asian universities. Over the past couple of weeks, I taught both an introductory course in Business Management and Business Innovation in the Master in Business Innovation program of Bangkok University. Interestingly, teaching these two courses back-to-back, I noticed that the former describes the dominant management perspectives of the 20th century, while the latter focuses more on the new paradigms and imperatives needed to succeed in the highly dynamic business environments of the 21st century. Moreover, teaching the said two courses also gave me a chance to reflect on how the emerging new domain of creative leadership relates to —and complements— more traditional management and leadership theories.

    A brief history of management thinking

    Management is a comparatively young knowledge domain within the social sciences:

    • Interest in the domain began around 1880-1890 with the so-called “classical period” of management thinking, which included Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Scientific Management, Max Weber’s Ideal Bureaucracy, and Henri Fayol’s Administrative Principles approach. 
    • Between the 1930s and 1950s, the Human Relations Movement highlighted the importance of also considering human needs and motivations to contribute to performance and productivity; prominent contributions here were Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y
    • In the second half of the 20th century, many other theoretical management perspectives emerged that resonated with management researchers and practitioners for more extended (e.g., Systems Theory, Contingency View) or shorter (e.g., Learning Organization, Total Quality Management, and Benchmarking) periods. 

    From managers to leaders

    “To manage is to forecast and plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate and to control”, noted Henri Fayol. For decades, these so-called managerial functions dominated the view on what managers are supposed to do. Then, in the 1970s, Henry Mintzberg contrasted this “management folklore” with the reality of what managers do in their everyday life. He created a model of ten managerial roles, one of which is the role of a leader. 

    In the 1980s and 1990s, the domain of leadership studies emerged based on the work of the “leadership guru” Warren Bennis and other prominent leadership thinkers such as John Adair, John Kotter, James Kouzes and Barry Posner. During that time period, the “management guru” Peter Drucker also defined the term leader in a simple yet powerful way: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

    Following his studies of 90 leaders from a wide range of professions, Bennis identified four key competencies of a leader – the ability to manage attention, meaning, trust, and self. Bennis emphasized the paramount importance for a leader to first develop an ‘integrated self’ before leadership qualities can emerge. Thereby, he also identifies certain character traits of a leader, such as being persistent, self-aware, courageous, optimistic, and willing to learn in general and to learn from mistakes in particular. As such, Bennis identified certain mindsets that describe how most leaders ARE.

    How leaders differ from managers

    Based on his research, John Adair described how managers and leaders differ in what they DO (action routines):

    • The word “to manage” goes back to the Latin word “manus” (hand), linking it to the handling a weapon, a tool, or a horse. In contrast, “to lead” is rooted in a Nordic word that denotes “road, way, or path of a ship at sea”. The  etymological roots of the two words indicated that leaders give a sense of direction, while managers handle more operational tasks and tools.
    • Managers tend to care more for operational and administrative details. They think more in terms of systems and processes and have a strong sense of directing and controlling the work of other people. Managers tend to delegate and get things done through the efforts of others.
    • In contrast, leaders tend to be visionary big-picture thinkers who can envision possibilities of an exciting, more meaningful future. They have a talent for inspiring people and creating teams and often lead major efforts from the front. They use the words “we”, “our” and “us” rather than “I”, “my” and “me”. Because they often dislike “sweating the small stuff”, they are not necessarily good at administration and managing resources. Leadership also incorporates the neighboring skills such as communication, decision-making, and time management.
    • Last but not least, managers gain authority through an official appointment to a managerial position. On the other hand, to become a leader, you need to be ratified in the hearts and minds of those who work for you (over and above any formal authority).  

    To sum up: leadership sets the direction and motivates people to achieve it, while management contributes to organizational stability and efficiency. Both are needed for successful performance. However, leadership is more important in the context of rapid change and a highly dynamic business environment. Warren Bennis condensed these differences in one neat sentence: “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.” And the American computer scientist Grace Hopper added the following important distinction: “You manage things. You lead people.”

    How exemplary leaders lead a meaningful transformation

    In their book The Leadership Challenge (originally published in 1987) James Kouzes and Barry Posner developed a model that described how to become a transformational leader. Here are the five practices of exemplary leadership that they identified in a book of the same title:

    1. Model the way: Leaders clarify values by finding their inner compass and affirming shared ideals. They talk openly about personal and shared values. Then, they set the example by aligning actions with shared values. In other words, they do what they say they’re going to do, and thus model the way authentically and genuinely. They live by the maxim of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
    2. Inspire a shared vision: Leaders envision the future by imagining exciting, meaningful possibilities while keeping an eye on the ‘big picture’ (emerging future trends and possible discontinuities). They enlist others in a shared vision by appealing to joint values and aspirations.
    3. Challenge the process: Leaders search for and seize opportunities by questioning the old ways of doing things, by fixing bugs that need to be fixed, and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve and being open to new ideas. They pursue meaningful challenges. They courageously take the initiative and experiment to learn from experience by debriefing failures and unexpected successes. Thanks to this process, they continuously generate small wins that reinforce shared values and propel the team forward towards the desired direction.
    4. Enable others to act: Leaders foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating good relationships. They use “we” instead of “I”. They co-create and collaborate to seize opportunities and solve problems. Leaders strengthen others by boosting their self-confidence and developing competences. They teach and coach others by being clear on their strengths and weaknesses. They share power and are open to learning from others.
    5. Encourage the heart: Leaders create a spirit of community and make work enjoyable and productive for everyone on the team. They celebrate the values and victories by giving rewards and recognition. They catch people doing “the right thing” and praise them, thus recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.

    How creative leadership expands on traditional leadership principles

    “Exemplary leaders know that if they want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others,” emphasize James Kouzes and Barry Posner. This means that to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, creative leaders must BE CREATIVE and DO CREATIVE things themselves. Here is where creative leadership comes in: Creative leaders must genuinely possess a creative mindset and consistently practice creative action routines.

    Prominent leadership thinkers such as Warren Bennis, John Adair, and Chris Argyris all insist that leaders can be developed. Based on research I’ve conducted with colleagues, we have evidence that the same holds for creative leaders. However, to develop authentically creative leaders who ARE creative and DO creative things, we need to transcend traditional leadership development programs. The authors of the IBM Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study 2011 put this sine qua non of creative leadership development as follows: 

    “To instill the dexterity and flexibility necessary to seize elusive opportunity, companies must move beyond traditional leadership development methods and find ways to inject within their leadership candidates not only the empirical skills necessary for effective management, but also the cognitive skills to drive creative solutions. The learning initiatives that enable this objective must be at least as creative as the leaders they seek to foster.” 

    To develop authentic creative leaders for the innovation economy, and help solve the significant challenges that humanity faces, I’ve created Genius Journey, the truly creative and effective creative leadership development method of Thinkergy. Genius Journey expands on the character traits identified by Bennis and other leadership thinkers by also including those mindset factors that specifically support individual creativity and breakthrough thinking. (These creativity-specific traits reside outside the traditional leadership theory in the domains of creativity and innovation).

    Genius Journey teaches creative leader candidates the creative success mindsets and action routines of geniuses and creative business leaders. We do this by sending them on the journey to reconnect to their inner creativity and personal ingenuity. In other words, with  Genius Journey, we teach prospective creative leaders on how to genuinely BE creative and consistently DO creative things. Only authentic creative leaders can model the way needed to build truly creative teams and outstanding creative companies that can create these bold new solutions for a more meaningful world. Again, let’s say it in Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

    Conclusion: From management over leadership to creative leadership

    Humanity faces a set of massive challenges that we need to successfully resolve in the coming 2-3 decades, such as digital transformation, climate change, sustainability, labour redistribution, the debt mountain, and the singularity challenge, among others. If we want to rise to the occasion, we need to develop a phalanx of new creative leaders who approach these immense problems from a higher level of consciousness. As Albert Einstein put it: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

    20th-century management thinking has brought us the problems that we’re dealing with right now. I believe that 21st century-style creative leadership needs to create bold new solutions to effectively deal with the mess before it’s too late. Moreover, being an optimist, I believe that together, a sufficiently large group of authentic creative leaders and their teams can innovate us out of the mess again. Do you want to join us in this worthy effort by becoming a creative leader yourself?

    Contact us to tell us more about yourself so that we can jointly explore how we may help you develop creative leaders for your organization.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • Inspiring Quote - Creativity Drug

    Creativity gets the juices flowing and re-energizes organizations better than anything else. Thinkergy's X-IDEA, Genius Journey, TIPS, and COOL, are all designed to increase innovation and creative output.

  • How to Keep Calm During a Heart Attack

    Imagine waking up at five o clock in the morning with a numb feeling of discomfort in your upper body — your chest, shoulders, and arms. What do you do? Almost four weeks ago, I was in such a situation. Here is what I did.

    An early wake-up call

    My first thought upon noticing the strange sensations in my body was: “Probably I have sore muscles. After all, I have just completed an intense working week. I ran a 5-day Business Creativity workshop at Hong Kong Baptist University, followed by a 1-day TIPS innovation training with Thinkergy in Bangkok. Little wonder that I feel tired.”

    But then I listened to my inner self and thought: “My muscles shouldn’t feel sore. I didn’t do much sport in the previous days due to my events. Moreover, even if I did, why do I feel a numb, burning sensation in my armpits where I don’t think we even have muscles?” Intuitively, I felt that something else is going on and that it’s serious. 

    Usually, I try to avoid visiting a doctor for any minor health issue. I prefer to wait until things revert to normal. This morning, however, I felt a strong urge to go to an emergency room of the nearest hospital straightaway. Both my partner and our baby girl were still fast asleep. So, I dressed and left our apartment without waking them up. I felt I needed to act quickly, and filling them into the situation would have taken up precious time.

    At that early time, I couldn’t find a taxi. So, I hopped on a motorbike taxi that brought me straight to the nearby hospital. Five minutes after entering their emergency room (ER), an electrocardiogram (ECG) revealed what was going on with me. 

    A shocking diagnosis

    “You have a heart attack,” said the ER doctor. “You need to get a heart operation right away. If you’re okay with it, we call our heart specialist now, and he should arrive here in roughly 45 minutes.” 

    Upon hearing the diagnosis, I was totally gobsmacked: “A heart attack? How come? I am fit. I do sport almost every day. I eat a healthy diet. I even do regular intermittent fasting. Okay, once in a while, I have a few drinks, but I’ve never smoked in my life. So how can I get a heart attack?”

    Anyway, regardless of how much I complained about the absurdity of me having a heart attack, it was happening. I had to accept the severity of the situation and to deal with it effectively. Hospital staff put forms in front of me to sign. Fortunately, my credit card limits were good to cover the deposit required for the operation. After the paperwork, I had to wait for the heart doctor to arrive. While lying on an ER bed, waiting for my imminent heart operation, my mind was in a whirl. “So, is this it? Am I going to die here and now? What about my family? My baby girl?” 

    I realized that to avoid panicking while waiting for the heart specialist to arrive, I needed to control my fearful thoughts in this life-threatening state. But how?

    Enter Genius Journey

    To quieten and control my anxious mind, I applied a range of Genius Exercises from Genius Journey, my own creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy:

    • I courageously let go and detached of the outcome. I accepted that at this moment, everything was in the hands of God (and of course, a heart surgeon). All I could do was control my mind and keep calm. 
    • I repeated a mantra that connects to the first stop of Genius Journey (Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented believer):

    “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that happens to me.” 

    • I expressed gratitude for my life, even if I had died here and now. I am grateful for having lived a good, happy – if not especially long – life. I was born into a good family in a democratic, developed country at the right time at the right side of the iron curtain. I enjoyed an excellent education and even got the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. I was fortunate to land a scarce job at one of the world’s top banks that allowed me to fund my bachelor, master, and doctoral studies and to gain international experience. I lived in many countries I was lucky to experience two Eureka moments that changed my life to the better (one saved my doctoral studies, and the other gave me the idea and courage to start my own business). I have a lovely family. While feeling gratitude for an eventful life, I also expressed my wish to be able to spend more time with my family, friends, and my teammates. Still, I trusted that all would turn out right and good should God decide to call upon me soon.
    • As good as I could, I tried to entertain the prospects of having to move on to the next stage with curiosity and openness (Genius Journey Stop 3). I believe that while my body will one day die, my soul won’t, and it will move on to a new, better place. The ultimate journey. I don’t know if it will be heaven or an afterlife, and I want to approach this new stage with a curious, open beginner’s mind (albeit not too soon).
    • While waiting for the doctor, I also kept on looking at the bright side of life, and keep on thinking positive (Stop 4 of Genius Journey). One Genius Exercise that I applied is called “My Warm Fuzzies”. It’s a collection of things I can do or draw upon when the going gets tough, and that make me feel good and smile in an instant. So, I played Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”-song in my mind. I hummed the “Manamana” song from the Muppet show. And I imagined chasing my happily screaming one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, among other things.
    • As the pain in my chest started to intensify while waiting for the doctor, and later during the operational procedure on my heart, I focused on my breath and began a short meditation. I also did an imagination exercise (that relates to Stop 6 of Genius Journey): I imagined traveling to and spending time at my sanctuary, which is a sacred place that I’ve created in my imagination where I feel completely safe and at ease and where nothing can hurt or harm me. 

    Roughly an hour and a half after arriving at the hospital, a voice brought me back to the here and now. The heart specialist told me that he had already completed the procedure successfully, and all is well and good for now. He informed me that he had removed a clot that was blocking one artery in my heart, and had placed a stent to open the artery and support the blood flow. A few minutes later, I was in a room at the coronary care unit and  —after I was able to get my partner on the phone— waited for my family to arrive so that I could hug them and tell them what had happened to me.

    An unlucky event with a lucky ending

    Later that afternoon, my doctor told me that I was unlucky and lucky at the same time. I was unlucky because according to my health and fitness status, I shouldn’t have suffered a heart attack in the first place. At the same time, I was lucky that I spotted and interpreted the symptoms so early and acted right away.  So, why did I get lucky? 

    As an active sportsman, I know my body well. More importantly, however, as a creativity master who’s studied and internalized the creative mindsets of genius for more than one and a half decades, I possess a highly developed intuitive mind. My intuition alerted me that in my body, something’s fundamentally not right, and made me take action right away. 

    Living by the mindsets of genius, and practicing the related exercises regularly, helped me to get lucky in another way. It enabled me to stay relaxed, focused, and positive while coming within the Grim Reaper’s grasp.

    In short, I believe that my Genius Journey method helped me to avoid more serious damages from my heart attack and to stay alive.

    So what?

    Why do I share this story with you? One day, we all have an Appointment in Samarra, and probably when we least expect it. I don’t know if I can respond in a similarly cool way the next time around. But one thing I do know from my recent experience: Staying calm and positive, and keeping as much control over one’s thoughts as possible, is the most favorable response to a life-threatening situation. Worrying, lamenting, or even panicking will only worsen an already bad situation. 

    Knowing and applying the creative success mindsets of geniuses and creative leaders helped me survive my recent heart attack. And maybe, some of the creative mindsets and exercises that I described above may also help you one day to keep your calm when confronted with a possibly life-threatening situation.

    To find out more about our Genius Journey training courses, contact us to tell us more about how we may creatively inspire you and your colleagues. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • How to Find Your Perfect Innovation Training

    When Thinkergy started fourteen years ago, we had one training course named “Business Creativity and Innovation”. Over the years, as we’ve evolved into a full-fledged innovation company, our innovation know-how and scope of offerings have expanded. In the process, we have developed a greater variety of innovation training courses that go more in-depth concerning a specific aspect of innovation. 

    Unfortunately, greater variety also means greater choice, which makes it more difficult for prospective clients to select the most suitable innovation training for their people if they browse our website. So today, allow me to share with you what factors we consider while developing a new survey-tool for our website that we hope helps prospective clients find —and settle on— a training course that fits their innovation training needs and constraints. 

    Parameters to consider when planning an innovation training

    Say you’re a Learning & Development Manager in Human Resources or lead a business unit. You strongly believe in the value of continued education, and in the era of the innovation economy, you want to provide more creativity- and innovation-related training programs to your employees. But how to get started in finding suitable training courses.

    Of course, you need to identify suitable vendors from whom to source the training. How? Check the track record of possible innovation training providers. Separate the wheat from the chaff by rating potential training providers on both the methodological underpinning of their courses and their real-life innovation experience. Ask: What innovation methods do they use in training? How many years have they been running creativity and innovation training courses? Do they only talk the talk or also walk their innovation talk themselves?

    More importantly, however, you need to answer a few questions that help you clarify your wants and needs concerning a couple of critical training parameters: number and background of the delegates; innovation focus area; training duration; and budget. Below, let’s discuss each of these parameters (and the related questions to answer) in greater detail:

    (1) Overall number of training delegates: 

    How many people overall do you want to provide with a particular innovation training? Into how many training cohorts would you like to split this total number of delegates? 

    Here, note that if you put too many learners into one cohort, then the quality of learning tends to suffer. Why? Big training cohorts are more challenging to control, especially if you do a lot of practical exercises. To ensure proper learning and avoid the free-rider phenomenon that is common in large cohorts, be prepared to commit more time for the training,  to pay extra for more trainers or co-facilitators, or to reduce the number of practical exercises and case applications. 

    The optimal class size for most innovation training courses is 24 delegates, but for specific training programs, we recommend smaller cohorts of 16 and larger groups of 30 delegates. 

    (2) Background of training delegates: 

    To what organizational function or business unit, as well as what hierarchical level, do the delegates mostly belong? 

    For example, do you want to train more operational people working on a factory floor in creativity and innovation? Do you want to organize a training only for senior executives, or for up-and-coming young management talents? Do you intend to mix different hierarchy levels (e.g., staff and middle managers)? Your answers to these questions tend to inform how much time and budget you can commit for the respective training. 

    (3) Topic focus area of the innovation training: 

    On what major innovation challenge or challenges do you want the training to focus?

    Within the domains of creativity and innovation, most companies face challenges in four areas: 


      • Creative process: How to use an effective innovation process and related thinking tools in an innovation project as a member of an innovation team.
      • Creative people: How to find the agile, creative types that drive (digital) innovation initiatives? How to make everyone contribute to corporate innovation in harmony with their cognitive styles?
      • Creative culture: How to develop a more innovation-friendly culture in our corporation? What factors impair or enable organizational creativity?
      • Creative leaders: How to identify and develop more authentic creative leaders to drive innovation teams and lead business units in times of the innovation economy?

    At Thinkergy, we have developed specific innovation methods to address these challenges:  X-IDEA as a systematic yet fun-to-use creative process; TIPS to find creative people; CooL-Creativity UnLimited to build a creative culture; and Genius Journey for developing creative leaders. We offer a range of training courses for each of these key innovation topic areas based on our proprietary innovation methods.

    In addition, we’ve also developed a “land of the lair”-innovation training for busy executives who want to learn about the vital innovation frames to master to produce innovation results. Moreover, we play a creative entrepreneurial game (“in the Year 2100”) with delegates to make them experience how to succeed in a highly dynamic market environment. We also offer a range of innovation keynote talks. Finally, we have designed a range of Business Thinking Skills training courses to equip staff and lower management with critical functional skills (Creative Thinking, Analytical Thinking, Visual Thinking, Entrepreneurial Thinking, and Decision Making). 

    (4) Training duration: 

    How much time are you (and the delegates you target) able and willing to dedicate to an innovation training? 

    Based on our experience, typical time commitments range from short time intervals (1-2 hours, half a day) over medium-term (1-day or 2-days) to more long-term commitments (3 days or more). Know that the more time you make available, the more chances to give your innovation trainer to apply the contents in practical exercises or —even better— on simulated realistic innovation cases.

    Interestingly, within Asia, there are noticeable differences with regards to how much time training can last. While in Hong Kong, you can count yourself lucky if a company is willing to commit a full day for the training (as “everyone is so busy making money”), companies in Thailand or Indonesia typically book 2-day or even 3-day training courses.

    (5) Training budget: 

    What budget do you have available for training your delegates in creativity and innovation? 

    Your budget needs to relate to the overall number of delegates you want to train in innovation in a given period. Moreover, the higher your budget, the more training days overall can you buy, thus allowing you to book longer training courses with more practical exercises and real-life case scenarios. Finally, please bear in mind that high-quality innovation training courses typically charge a premium, which compensates the training providers for the higher cost related to licensing or developing premium contents.

     

    Apart from the aforementioned, other factors you may want to consider are the context of the training (e.g., standalone training; training course as part of a more comprehensive training program with other classes; training as part of a corporate offsite or a conference), the desired format of the training (e.g., keynote, lecture, workshop, learning game, case application, excursion) as well as the composition of the training cohort which takes account of the cultural and country background of the delegates.


    Introducing a new web-tool to help you find your ideal innovation training

    Back to the beginning: While we started with one training course in “Business Creativity” in 2005, Thinkergy currently offers 25 innovation training courses that differ in their topic focus and duration. When a prospective client is interested in learning more about our training courses, we typically meet with them to ask them a series of questions to help us recommend one or a few training courses that cater to the identified training needs.

    We noticed that in the last couple of years, it takes longer to find a time slot for a prospective client meeting as businesspeople and managers face evermore demands on their time and are busier and busier. Hence, we’ve been looking for a way to help a prospective client find a training program aligned to their innovation needs while they browse our website in a quiet minute. How? 

    1. On the training solutions page of our Thinkergy website, we have added a short survey tool that asks you similar questions that we would ask you in a face-to-face meeting. 
    2. Once you’ve answered all of the questions, we recommend you one training course that ideally fits the parameters that you specify. Save or print the description of the suggested training, 
    3. If you like, play the survey again by changing one or more answer options to see what alternative training course we’d recommend you now. 
    4. Finally, contact us to find out more about your preferred training course. Typically, we then call you or meet with you so that you can tell us more about your interests as well as other specific parameters. Then, we’ll compose a tailor-made training proposal for you that uniquely meets your training needs and constraints. 

    Conclusion: Master the paradox of choice with personal and technological support

    Many companies feel compelled to offer a variety of products to their clients to cater to specific wants, needs, and desires; on the other hand, more choice makes it more difficult for customers to settle for one offering, and may even make them walk away and look somewhere else for another offer. The American psychologist Barry Schwartz discusses this dilemma in his book The Paradox of Choice — Why More is Less.

    How to best resolve this dilemma? Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can significantly reduce anxiety for buyers, so offering fewer products and variations is one possible resolution. For example, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he decided to cut down the number of computers that Apple offers from roughly three dozen to just four. 

    An alternative way is to use either personal advice and technology as an aid to guide customers to the best choice for a specific need. And in the coming years, it’s likely that new AI-supported digital sales tools will make finding the ideal choice easier and more precise, customer-immersive and fun.

    Have you already played with our new survey tool? If so, did you find an enticing course within our range of innovation training courses? Then, contact us to so that we can jointly explore how we may best edutain you with our experiential Thinkergy innovation training courses. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019


  • Brainstorming: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    Whenever a business or a work team needs some ideas, someone in the group invariably suggests: “Okay, let’s brainstorm for ideas then.”

    Brainstorming is arguably the most widely used creativity technique ever since Alex Osborn introduced the tool in his classic 1953 book Applied Imagination. Need some evidence? Brainstorming has played a central role in every book on creativity techniques. Some people even use the word brainstorming synonymously with creativity.

    A search on Google delivers about 11.8 million results for the word “brainstorming” as compared to only 1.5 million hits for the term “creativity technique” – although, from a set theory point of view, the subset brainstorming is only a part of the whole “creativity technique” set. Take the simple Google popularity test as a warning sign: It suggests that brainstorming is often used in a context different from its original scope of being an idea generation tool.

    Here we arrive at some of the problems with brainstorming. With reference to the title of the classic western movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, you need to understand the good, bad and ugly side of brainstorming to produce creative results for your company when using this tool.

    The ugly side of Brainstorming

    So let’s get started in gaining a greater understanding by looking at the ugly sides of brainstorming first: My experience as a creativity coach has taught me that in most companies, brainstorming is done incorrectly, thus delivering only comparatively few, rather unoriginal ideas. Most companies start on the correct path by assigning a facilitator to run the session and a recorder to jot down the ideas of the group in an appropriate size (eight plus minus two is a good rule of thumb here). However, they fail when it comes to following through on the all-important four Ground Rules of Brainstorming:

    • First, defer judgment until the end of the session – or in other words: no killing of ideas during the brainstorming. Judgment is like driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. So, take the foot off the brake to accelerate the idea output in a brainstorming session.
    • Second, go for quantity – as quantity breeds quality. Here, remember that the chances that you find one great idea out of an idea generation session will be higher if you get four hundred as compared to only a hundred ideas. As Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling noted: “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.”
    • Third, the wilder the better. Shoot for crazy, wild, absurd ideas — in line with Albert Einstein’s advice: “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
    • Finally, combine ideas and improve on the ideas of others.

    The bad side of Brainstorming

    Moving on to the bad sides of brainstorming: Many research studies confirm that brainstorming is an inferior technique with regards to producing a high idea quantity. In a given time interval, a group of “brainwriters” that individually write down their ideas will generate roughly four-times more ideas then a same-size brainstorming group.

    Researchers attribute this result to three effects that explain the deficiencies of brainstorming:

    1. First, some members of the group don’t participate and let others do all the work (the “free-rider phenomenon”);
    2. Secondly, some group participants avoid expressing wild or original ideas out of fear how other group members might privately judge them (the problem of “evaluation apprehension”);
    3. and third and most important, the “blocking effect” that stems from the fact that only one person can speak at a time and then blocks the thinking of other members who listen to the suggested idea instead of thinking for themselves.

    The good side of Brainstorming

    Finally, let’s talk about the good side: Brainstorming has become such a popular technique because it is a highly enjoyable, energetic activity that people love to do – and having fun and being playful and childlike (as opposed to being childish) are all very beneficial for unleashing creativity.

    Brainstorming is a crucial ingredient in the creative culture of the industrial design powerhouse IDEO, and the innovation results delivered by this company speak for the benefits of this technique if used appropriately.

    So what?

    So how can we cure the bad and ugly sides of brainstorming while continuing to enjoy the benefits of its good side? Here are five recommendations on how you can develop a correct brainstorming culture in your company:

    1. Start the process by sending your employees to a quality creativity training workshop to learn the basics of idea generation.
    2. Have an individual Brainwriting exercise before every brainstorming session.
    3. Review the ground rules before the start of a session.
    4. Set an idea quota for each session — say, at least a hundred ideas in one hour that keeps the group focused on moving forward instead of falling into the judgment trap.
    5. Finally, have an experienced facilitator run the session, who introduces other creativity techniques (such as ‘Metaphors’ or ‘What if” (wishful thinking) into the session once the group starts running dry on ideas.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 


  • Creativity in the Year of the Pig

    Next week, we will celebrate once again Chinese New Year. On February 5, we will start the Year of the Pig, or to be more precise: The Brown Earth Pig (sounds like a perfect fit, doesn’t it?). According to Chinese legend, the pig is the twelfth and last animal of the Chinese Zodiac. This is because according to legend, it finished last in a race of all animals to the Jade Emperor’s palace. 

    As such, the Year of the Pig closes the cycle of animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac. And this year, I close this cycle, too. For the last twelve years, I have written one article each year in the Thinkergy blog (and co-published in my bi-weekly Bangkok Post-column “Creativity Un-Ltd.”) of how to creatively approach each New Chinese Year in harmony with its animal Zodiac. So today, let’s explore what creative inspirations we may derive from the pig — and close the cycle of “Creativity in the Year of [Current Chinese Zodiac]” with this twelfth and final article in the series.

    1. Play to the character traits of the pig

    Chinese astrologists assign the traits and behaviors observed in each animal of the Chinese Zodiac to describe personality characteristics of people born in the corresponding year. How are people born in the Year of the Pig said to be? Action-oriented and diligent, while also enjoying life and indulging in entertainment and occasional treats (‘work hard, play hard’). They are also characterized as being harmonious, empathetic and warm. Because they are generous, empathetically care for others and like to help others, they are at times taken advantage of and are said to be easily tricked and scammed. Finally, they are said to stay comparatively calm when confronted with trouble.

    Creative Inspiration

    In the Year of the Pig, consider emulating the ways and characteristics of a person born in the pig-year. Take action and work hard, but also play hard (which stimulates creativity and gives you fresh dots to connect into ideas for challenges you’re working on). Explore new ways to care for and help your customers, so that they will also help you and think of you when they look for vendors for their future projects. Be generous to your suppliers, but beware of falling for pretenders and tricksters who promise you the earth, and in return give you nothing or worse. Finally, keep your cool when facing troublesome situations in 2019 (such as high volatility in the FX markets, or a sudden slump in the stock market).

    2. Be as useful as a pig

    Almost 1 billion pigs live on our planet, making it the third largest population of livestock in the world (on a par with sheep and behind chicken and cattle). Pigs give utility to humans in many ways: Pork is a major source of meat in many countries; as the American journalist Hunter S Thompson’s noted: “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon!”

    Humans also use pigs for medical experiments and, more recently, as potential donors of living cells, tissues and organs to humans. We make paint brushes from the short, stiff and coarse hair (bristles) of pigs. We enjoy hunting boars and escaped or released feral pigs. Finally, the French use trained pigs to search for truffles.

    Creative Inspiration

    Ponder these questions: How can you be of more value to your clients? How may you serve them in new ways? How could you make one of your core competencies available to your clients to allow the discovery and creation of new value?

    3. Be as smart as a pig

    Probably you’ve already heard that pigs are intelligent. But did you know how smart they really are? According to recent research, pigs often outsmart dogs and have the same cognitive capacities as chimpanzees. Researchers found that pigs have excellent long-term memories; easily maneuver mazes and similar tests requiring spatial orientation; can understand a simple symbolic language; can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects; love to play and tease each other; live in complex social communities where they cooperate with and learn from one another; and show empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual, among others.

    Creative inspirations

    Who do you regularly deal with without really appreciating how smart they are? How to increase the smarts of yourself and your colleagues in times of rapid change?

    4. Get dirty as pig

    Considering how much utility pigs give to humans, and how smart they are (at par with human’s closest relatives, chimps), why do many humans look at pigs with disdain, and often treat them bad? One possible explanation: Pigs are notorious for being dirty animals. As the American anthropologist Marvin Harris explains: “Pigs prefer to wallow in clean mud, but if nothing else is available, they will frequently wallow in their own urine, giving rise to the notion that they are dirty animals.” Interestingly, this connotation is so strong that we even characterize a person who looks dirty or does dirty things as a pig.

    Moreover, being omnivorous scavengers, pigs frenziedly munch on virtually anything while foraging the ground with their snouts (which is why we call a binge eating a pig-out). So, as the saying goes: “If it looks like a pig, sounds like a pig, acts like pig, smells like a pig, make no mistake, it is a pig!”

    Creative Inspiration

    In the Year of the Pig, “get dirty” in a wild creative bout to get ideas. How can you do this?

    1. Suppose you work on a particular creative challenge in 2019 (such as: “How to double your revenues in the next 12 months?”).
    2. Next, let your mind wander off for a couple of minutes and allow your imagination to “wallow” in dirty thoughts.
    3. Then, use these dirty associations as stepping stones for creating wild ideas related to your challenge (e.g., “Send out proposals to clients with coffee splashes on them”).
    4. Finally, transpose each dirty wild idea from negative to positive by keeping its “dirty intrigue”, but making it more meaningful and “clean” (e.g.  “Add colorful art splashes as a design theme of your brand identity to visually enhance your proposals and make them stand out”).

    5. Stop behaving like a pig!

    “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals,” said the British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. He has a point. Not only do some piggy humans emulate the ways of swine as discussed earlier, but interestingly, pigs equal humans in that we have an imminently destructive effect on nature.

    When pigs were brought to countries or environments where they are a non-native species, and then some of them accidentally escaped or were deliberately released as prey for hunting, they have caused extensive environmental damage. Pigs tend to severely transform ecosystems that are new to them because of their omnivorous diet and their feeding method of rooting in the ground. Moreover, because pigs also eat small animals and destroy nests of ground-nesting birds, wild pigs have earned themselves a place on the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

    Creative Inspiration

    In what ways do you and your organization cause excessive damage to the environment? How may you become cleaner, less invasive and destructive in what you’re doing and how you’re doing things? Pondering these questions is well worth your time: In 2020, humanity is due to start the Sixth Wave of technological development — and clean technologies (in a wide range of industries such as energy, transportation, food, etc.) are widely expected to be one of the new lead technologies to drive this next long cycle.

    6. Create taboos to counter pig-like overconsumption

    For Jews and Muslims, eating pork is a taboo and only permissible in emergency situations when no other food is around. Why did these world religions restrict the consumption of pork? The obvious answer draws upon what we’ve discussed earlier: Pigs are considered impure because they are dirty animals; they also carry parasites and viruses harmful to human health.

    However, some anthropologists argue that simple economic-ecological considerations may mainly have led to these religious restrictions on the consumption of pork: Both Judaism and Islam originated in the Middle East, where water and vegetation are scarce. Pigs require water and shady woods with seeds, and a Middle Eastern society keeping large stocks of pigs would destroy their ecosystem (as also discussed in the previous point).

    Creative Inspiration

    Humanity is living beyond our means. Currently, we consume roughly double the resources that planet Earth can sustainably reproduce. So in view of this imminent ecological and economic crisis, how can we effectively create a social taboo for overconsumption?

    • If you’re a politician or social activist, look for creative campaigns and slogans that create a social taboo for overconsumption (similar to the taboo of eating pork in certain religions).
    • If you’re a creative leader of a business, explore how to creatively elevate your business from quantity-driven growth (units sold) to a quality-driven growth (higher margins) in line with former Braun designer Dieter Rams’ “Less but better.”

    7. Metaphor: Farming pigs is like producing a disruptive innovation

    “You can’t fatten the pig on market day,” noted the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. It takes years of hard, dedicated work for a farmer to breed, raise and fatten a pig before being able to sell it at the market for a high price. Likewise, creating a breakthrough innovation doesn’t happen on the day of launch, too. It requires many, many months or even years of sustained creative effort before you can release an innovation that wows the world into the market.

    Creative Inspiration

    In the Year of the Pig, consider beginning an ambitious innovation project that aims for creating a disrupting innovation that can take the market by storm in a few years, and promises you sustainable high margin-revenues. Use a systematic yet fun-to-do innovation method such as X-IDEA to guide your thinking:

    1. Explore possible opportunities (Xploration).
    2. Impregnate the teams with lots of raw ideas (Ideation).
    3. Breed out potential winning concepts (Development).
    4. Raise and fatten the most promising ones (Evaluation).
    5. Finally, bring your fattest pig to the market with a bang (Action).

    Kung Hai Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year 2019 from Thinkergy

    Are you ready to get creative in the Year of the Pig? To think, create and play hard? Then enroll your company or team in one of our Thinkergy training courses, or consider doing an X-IDEA innovation project with us.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019. 

  • What Words Reveal About A Leader's Creative Consciousness Level

    Creative leadership development is all about replacing a someone’s disempowering mindsets and action routines with empowering, creativity-inducing ones. While as a creative leadership coach, I can observe the actions of disciples, I cannot directly intercept their thoughts. Fortunately, however, I can get valuable hints about the thoughts of potential creative leaders by paying close attention to, and intently listening for, the words they regularly use. Why are certain keywords so revealing? 

    “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny,” noted Lao Tzu. Words are verbalized thoughts that have positive or negative energy that sooner or later translate into life-enhancing or -diminishing actions. Today, let’s understand with the help of a little imaginary scenario what certain words can tell us about the creativity and consciousness levels of a leader and ourselves.

    Scenario: The introductory speech of two potential business leaders

    Suppose you work at the head office of a large corporation undergoing a leadership transition phase. Your supervisory board has asked the two shortlisted candidates to introduce themselves as potential new CEO to all head office staff at a town hall meeting. So, listen to each candidate’s introduction, and ask yourself: Who would you like to work for? Who do you think is more of a creative leader? Who’s operating on higher levels of consciousness?

    Candidate A

    I feel privileged of the chance to serve you as your new leader. I believe that we are eternal, egalitarian spiritual beings on a human journey. All of us are created equal, and all of us are significant to our future success. 

    While being patriotic to our home country from where we originate, we’re intentionally choosing to contend in a free, open, global market space full of abundant opportunities. We optimistically envision making meaning by inventing ingenious, beautiful new products that empower our customers and make the world a better place. Thereby, we want to be aware of, and responsible for, the long-term implications of all we’re doing. We optimistically believe that we can invent excellent new value offerings that are natural, essential and timeless.

    How will I strive to lead you? By being an ethical, principled, tolerant and consciously aware leader. By being self-confident and humble, unselfish and modest. By sharing my experience, educating you and being helpful to you. By being thoughtful and considerate. By treating you respectfully, fairly and truthfully. By confronting you kindly, honestly and candidly when your ego takes over, and by patiently and gently healing conflict with humor and harmony.

    By cherishing your work and appreciating and accepting your constructive opinions. By openly and impartially inviting your brilliant ideas, and then being agreeable to them and approving them as much as is possible and feasible. By encouraging you to courageously try something new, and when you fail, by not only forgiving but praising you for taking initiative. By valuing your virtuous efforts and trusting in your intuitive decisions.

    By being determined to our noble, holistic goals while staying flexible to our actions and spontaneous in our responses. By diplomatically defending our peaceful, democratic ideals and emphatically, generously and charitably caring for all of our stakeholders,

    I am grateful to leading our unified efforts.

    Candidate B

    I am proud to be your new superior. I am important and ambitious. After all, I am indebted to being part of a small, arrogant, dogmatic and luxurious elite who is entitled to call the shots and to enjoy the pleasures of life. 

    I forcefully insist on being the boss. I urge and coerce you to follow me. At times, I may be flattering to persuade you. But most of the time, I will be dictatorial, condescending, harassing and belligerent. Take note that I am rigid and hard, rough and punitive. Because I am impulsive and easily irritated, I can be critical, cynical and at times even cruel. Better beware. 

    Once I’ve made up my prejudiced and judgmental mind, I tend to be rigid, inflexible and stubborn. Expect me to reject and attack your ideas, and to resent you if you argue with me. It’s my way or the highway.

    What is my false, calculating scheme? Picture the company promoting the latest fads that persuade unaware consumers to feverishly buy our ordinary, artificial and cheap products. We immediately grab their money and use some of it to seduce nationalistic regulators to legally restrict better competitors. That way, we can recklessly exploit the local market, and I can get an excessive bonus. After all, I am a selfish, lustful and materialistic taker who hoards all I have.

    Fortunately, only a few people know why I am so serious, suspicious, secretive and controlling, and it’s none of your business. (It’s because deep down inside, I am pessimistic, confused, and preoccupied — always worrying that someone eventually sees that I am just pompously and glamorously playing a role.)

    I’m done. Now back to work. 

    So, how did the two candidates’ speeches make you feel? What candidate would you prefer as your new CEO? And who is more of a creative leader? A or B?

    What words reveal about creative consciousness

    Of course, the two speeches are fictional and intentionally exaggerated to make a point. I wrote them by using a list of word pairs from David R. Hawkins’ fascinating book Power vs. Force, which discusses the consequences of operating on different levels of creative consciousness. (I introduced you to the concept of consciousness levels in a previous blog article). 

    As you’ve realized, Candidate A uses largely life-enhancing, positive words that, according to Hawkins, calibrate on high levels of consciousness (which in Hawkins’ anatomy, includes the levels courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, and enlightenment). These powerful words indicate that she qualifies as a genuine, creative leader to successfully spearhead a company in the innovation economy. 

    In contrast, Candidate B relies almost exclusively on forceful, life-diminishing and negative words located on the rudimentary lower consciousness levels, expressing negative emotions such as pride, anger, desire and fear. (And if you couldn’t help thinking of a prominent reality-TV showman turned politician who now sits in an Oval Office while listening to Candidate B’s pitch, take comfort that I too couldn’t help thinking of him while writing this article.)

    Conclusion: Replace negative, destructive thoughts and words with positive, creative ones

    So what can you learn from this? Lao Tzu is right: Watch your thoughts and your words, as your acts, habits and destiny flow from them. Become aware of negative words you regularly tend to use. Then, whenever you catch yourself thinking the negative thought preceding such a negative word, replace it in your mind and communicate the positive equivalent. 

    Becoming aware of the negative, destructive vs. the positive, creative power of words is subject of one of the 88 Genius Exercises that are part of Genius Journey, our creative leadership development program designed towards elevating competitive, scheming business leaders into contending, ingenious creative leaders. Named “The Well is in Your Words”, this Genius Exercise invites you to: 

    • replace disempowering, negative words with empowering, positives ones (in the spirit of Hawkins); 
    • avoid the “Fatal 6” (could, would, should, may, might, must); 
    • refrain from using the most dangerous word (but); and 
    • beware of the most life-suppressing word (no) and it’s variations (don’t, won’t, can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t), among others. 

    (These linguistic communication tips were also featured in an early Thinkergy blog article published in January 2008). 

    When are you ready to develop into a creative leader? Contact us to find out more about Genius Journey and our related creative leadership development programs

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • How TIPS Helps You Boost Your ROI

    Have you ever had a sales meeting where you were pitching a great product that really addressed your client’s need, only to be cast aside by your counterpart with the killer phrase: “Can you demonstrate to me how this improves our ROI (return on investment)?” Today, let me share with you how to deal with the “ROI request” in a productive way using the example of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method. So, how can TIPS help you improve the ROI of your company?

    Background: A frustrating sales meeting

    A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with an executive in charge of human capital development at a well-known corporation in the Food & Beverage industry. Once leading its category, the company nowadays largely milks its last few cash cow products to get by. “You need to start a new creative growth cycle to stop your decline in revenues and products”, I suggested to my counterpart, and added: “And I have the perfect tool to help you find those creative types in your organization to drive your creative renaissance. It’s called TIPS, our new people profiling tool for innovation.”

    I explained to him how TIPS can help him identify who responds how to creative change, and who are those few people in the organization who can actually lead and drive innovative change. In short, TIPS is the right tool at the right time to solve an important problem of the company. 

    Observing the closed body language of this prospect client, however, I realized that he was not open for a new, innovative method, and clearly is not one of those early adopters whom we target in the global roll-out of TIPS. So, it was not too surprising when he suddenly came up with the all-purpose kill-any-initiative statement: “I am willing to consider your product if you can make a very strong case how it helps us improve our ROI.” I nodded, thanked him for his time, and left.

    A few days later, I talked this situation over with a befriended consultant, who as my senior is blessed with 15 more years of professional experience and wisdom. I shared with him my point of view on the “ROI request”: I regard investing hours of time to establish a numeric ROI calculation to prove the bottomline implications of TIPS as a waste of time; this is because such a calculations needs to be based on a set of assumptions that may or not be true, and/or require the company to disclose to me a set of financial and business related data that may be too “confidential” (or in some cases too embarrassing) for them to share. “You’re right,” said my friend, “you cannot win with this approach, as it opens the door for much debate.” Then, he shared with me a better strategy to demonstrate how a product or new project initiative, can help boosting ROI: 

    • First, identify a major problem that the organization faces.
    • Then, demonstrate how your product is able to address and resolve the problem.
    • Finally, establish a logical causal chain that outlines how the benefits of using the product outweigh its costs, and how it improves ROI.

    How does this work in practice? In the following, I will make a case on how TIPS can help organizations boost their ROI by helping them to retain their top talents (through better recruitment, better alignment and better management of their talents), and by improving the innovativeness of the firm.

    How TIPS improves ROI by recruiting the right people

    My last article cited various studies reporting that the majority of companies perform poorly in recruiting the right person for an open position, leading to replacement costs of at least 20% of the salary. Moreover, two in three companies even admitted hiring the wrong person for the right job (i.e., people who cognitively fit the requirements of the position, but are sociopath, bullies or tyrants), leading to declining revenues, client relationships and employee motivation.

    The article also outlined how TIPS can ensure that companies hire the right person for the right job (and don’t hire the wrong person), thus effectively helping them to resolve the problem of a poor recruitment success ratio. How does this impact ROI?

    TIPS helps organizations to hire the right person for an open position. TIPS does this by making sure that the preferred cognitive styles and natural talents of a person fit the requirements of the job. If companies recruit the right people and use them in the right job, then the new recruits tend to perform easily and effortlessly in their role, and their outstanding job performance increases the ROI of the organization. 

    TIPS also prevents organizations from hiring the wrong person for the right job. This helps avoid direct employee replacement costs, and spares organizations from the negative impacts on their bottomline (as described above) and from higher employee turnover (which in four out of five cases is rooted in bad hiring decisions, as we discussed two weeks ago). TIPS makes it likely to identify such “wrong people” ahead of time, helping you to avoid the related decreases in ROI (due to lower sales and higher employee replacement costs).

    How TIPS boosts ROI by retaining more of your top talents

    High employee turnover is another major problem that many companies face. What causes this problem (apart from poor hiring practices as just discussed above)?

    1. High employee turnover may partially be attributed to the generational shifts in the modern workplace. Unlike previous generations, many Gen Y knowledge workers don’t want to labour in a job only for the money; they also want to do meaningful work. If they notice that in their present job they cannot make a positive contribution to the world, they may look for another one that promises them a better chance to make meaning. 
    2. Another reason for high employee turnover may be because companies use too many of their employees in roles that do not perfectly align to their natural strengths. Put in other words, too many companies haven’t put the right person in the right job. This is a waste of talent, because each mismatch prevents a person from performing at their natural best.
    3. Evidence from many studies suggests that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses. For example, a recent Gallup study found that one in two employees left a job and company they otherwise liked because of a bad manager or immediate supervisor who doesn’t care for their needs and cannot relate to their preferred cognitive styles. (Funny enough, my move away from Deutsche Bank (whom I had loyally served for 16 years and owed a lot as they supported my studies) was triggered by a few managers who weren’t able to relate to my personality and cognitive styles).

    Corporate Chief Human Resource Officers, it’s time to face an inconvenient truth: Those people who volunteer to leave your company because of a hollow, misaligned job or a poor manager are typically the strong, dynamic, self-confident types; and among those who stay is a lot of deadwood.

    How can TIPS boost your ROI by helping you retain your top talents?  

    • TIPS enables you to realign your talents to make sure that everyone works in a role that fits their natural talents and strengths, while having other profiles fill in for each other’s weaknesses. As Albert Einstein noted: “If you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Fish perform easily and effortlessly in the water, as do monkeys on trees. So, TIPS allows you to align everyone in a business unit to do those things that naturally come easy to them, and to outperform effortlessly in their role. And if individual and team performance increase, so does ROI.

    • TIPS also allows you to manage each talent in harmony with their preferred cognitive styles. For example, as an Ideator, I hate being micro-managed, working on dull routine tasks and being checked upon on a daily or weekly basis. You manage Ideators like me by agreeing with them at the beginning of the year on a few ambitious growth targets and an intellectually stimulating, creative project initiative. Then, provide them the few resources that they ask for, and finally let them do the job while keeping an open door in case they seek your feedback.

    Putting the right person into the right job, and managing them in line with their preferred cognitive styles, both improves employee satisfaction and empowerment, and reduces the likelihood that your talents listen to other job offers or even openly look around for new opportunities. Hence, employee turnover goes down, employee replacement costs decrease, and your ROI goes up.

    How TIPS boosts ROI by improving your innovation performance

    The modern innovation economy mandates companies to either come up with more meaningful innovations or quickly fall behind in their industry. According to studies cited in an earlier article titled “How innovation affects financial performance”, innovative firms grow faster and enjoy significantly higher profit margins than their non-innovative peers. So if TIPS can help companies to become more innovative, it is likely to boost their ROI. 

    So how does TIPS raise the innovativeness of an organization?

    Combined, all these TPS-powered innovation contributions will boost the innovation performance and outputs of your firm, which according to various studies, raises your ROI by 3-5% each year.

    Conclusion: TIPS — a small investment in human talent, a giant leap in ROI

    At a cost of USD 88.88 per test, TIPS can significantly improve your company’s ROI by helping you to: a) improve your success ratio of recruiting the right talents for open positions, b) increase individual and team performance at work through better talent alignment, c) increase talent retention by managing people in line with their preferred cognitive styles, and d) raising your firm’s innovativeness and innovation performance. 

    And you? When would you like to get TIPS-ed and take our new TIPS online test? Contact us to learn more about TIPS and our related training courses

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • Who Do You Consider To Be A Creative Leader?

    What creative leaders do you know and admire? What makes them special? Why do you admire them? Take a few minutes to think about these questions.

    At Thinkergy, we often set the scene for a session on creative leadership —or a full-fledged Genius Journey training course— with a little warm-up exercise. We break up the learning cohort into small groups and let them work on the above questions. The exercise and ensuing discussions create curiosity for delegates on how they may further their individual creativity and develop their creative leader potential.

    Would you rate these people as a creative leader?

    In a course in creative leadership, the delegates naturally think first of well-known creative business leaders,such as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, David Ogilvy, Edwin Land, Charles Kettering, Nikola Tesla, Jeff Bezos, Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita, Jack Ma, or James Dyson.

    But is the concept of creative leaders limited to business leaders only? How about leaders in other fields, such as science, the arts, in politics and in sports:

    • On almost every list of creative leaders, a few universal geniuses such as Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci feature prominently somewhere close to the top.
    • Other universal and/or scientific geniuses such as Benjamin Franklin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Richard Feynman, Charles Darwin, or Richard Buckminster Fuller are also widely considered to be creative leaders in their field.
    • How about creative leaders, top achievers and geniuses in the creative arts in the widest sense? Would you rate  the painters Pablo Picasso, Salvatore Dali, and Vincent van Gogh as creative leaders? How about the writers William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Ralph Waldo Emerson? Or the musical geniuses Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and John Lennon? How about the movie directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron?
    • How about if we consider spiritual or political leaders, too? Do Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama Buddha, or Lao Tze qualify as creative leaders for you? How about famous political leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela?
    • How would you rate outstanding top achievers and kinesthetic geniuses in sports? Would you consider Mohammad Ali or Bruce Lee to be a creative leader?

    If you asked me, I’d loudly say “yes” to all the creative leaders listed above. You may disagree with me in some cases, and that’s fine. It’s all depends on how we define the concept, and we will come back to this point below. But first allow me to share with you what I take away from the little warm-up exercise.

    So what does this exercise teach us about creative leader?

    In the past years, I’ve asked the above questions to workshop participants from different parts of the world. The exercise has provided me with some interesting insights about the concept of a creative leader:

    1. Creative leaders abound in many fields. When working on this exercise, the groups suggest a similar selection of creative leaders from a wide variety of fields. The concept of a creative leader seems to be universally understood and interpreted in a multifaceted way. It is not limited to business leaders only, but also extends to geniuses, top achievers and extraordinary creative leaders in science, the arts, spirituality, politics and in sports.
    2. Creative leaders can be found on all levels all over the world. Most lists also include a few creative leaders that are known only locally, nationally or regionally — such as founders of innovative start-up ventures or creative agencies, renowned artists and entertainers, and the like. Do those people also qualify as creative leaders? Probably yes. Someone who creates extraordinary outputs or creatively influences others in a field at a local, national or regional level can qualify as a creative leader, too. The concept of a creative leader does not require a person to be world famous.
    3. Creative leaders stand out from the crowds through their deeds and their minds. How do people justify why they rate someone to be a creative leader? Typically, they make their case either by pointing to breakthrough ideas or the extraordinary outputs that the creative leader created, or by citing some unusual, “abnormal” creative mindsets that differ from those of normal people. Because they create standout outputs, and because they think and do things differently, creative leaders influence and inspire others to be more creative, too.
    4. Calling someone a creative leader doesn’t make them a creative leader. Do I agree to every person listed as a creative leader? Nope. In some cases, I have my reservations or even openly disagree. For example, while I admire Mark Zuckerberg’s achievements as leader of Facebook, I also take note that the original concept behind his social networking site is rooted in the ConnectU concept from the Winklevoss twins. Moreover, the assessment of why someone qualifies as an authentic creative leader may change over time. In the end, it all depends on how we argue our case, and how we define the concept of a creative leader.

    What is a creative leader?

    At Thinkergy, we define creativity as an idea, product or other concept that is at the same time novel and original and meaningful. This definition ensures that we exclude concepts that are secondhand, copied, and unethical or meaningless.

    A leader is often defined as “a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country”. However, expanding on this narrow view, some define a leader as a “person that holds a dominant or superior position within their field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.”

    Let’s combine both aspects into one definition and define a creative leader as:

    “a person who creates extraordinarily novel, original and meaningful outputs in a particular field, and/or creatively leads or influences others to create novel, original and meaningful outputs.”

    Conclusion

    In many creative leadership sessions that I ran in recent years, I noticed that there seems to be an universal, almost intuitive understanding of what the concept of an authentic creative leader encompasses. Take a look at the people who you listed as creative leaders. Are some of your favorite geniuses and creative leaders on my list? Chances are that we have a couple of exact matches.

    In any case, creative leaders think and act differently. They are courageous and curious, confident and positive, inspiring and passionate, creative and all-embracing, flexible and present, focused and balanced. And because they work and live their lives creatively, they are able to come up with breakthrough ideas and create extraordinary outputs that delight and influence others to follow them in their creative footsteps.

    Do you want to become an authentic creative leader yourself? Then, check out Genius Journey, our creative leadership development method. And consider booking a Genius Journey training for your organization? Contact us to tell us more about we can help you begin your creative leadership journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • Mastering Digital Transformation- Part 3

    In part 2 of this three article series, we discussed the “innovator’s dilemma” to better understand the challenges that the digitalization of business imposes on both established corporations and start-up ventures. We also explored strategies established firms can employ to successfully master digital transformation. In this third and final part, let’s consider eight game plans that start-up ventures may employ to drive digital transformation.

    1. Start with a niche application

    As we discussed in part 2, start-up entrepreneurs are excellent at recognizing opportunities for digital niche products that make meaning, typically either by righting a wrong or by amplifying the quality of people’s lives. Due to their tech background, most digital products are increasingly complex. Hence, as a digital start-up, begin small by focusing on a simple niche product. Make the basics of this niche application awesome first. Then, at a later stage, add more functionalities and other products. 

    The mobile phone banking start-up N26 successfully followed this game plan, as their CEO Valentin Stalf explains: “We started with a fairly niche product — an account and a card. Now we’ve gone from there to a fintech hub.”

    2. Know your target customers

    You have identified a niche facilitating meaningful digital value creation. Next, identify those  customer segments you predominantly want to target with the question: ”Who will most appreciate and benefit from our meaningful new value offering?” 

    N26 clearly focuses on the younger generations (Millennials and Post-Millennials) who are digital natives and heavy users of their mobile phone. Its CEO Valentin Stalf explains: “Maybe we don’t have to get the non-digital natives. Maybe we start with the digital natives — there are around 60 million in Europe. If we win 6 million out of that, 10%, I think it’s going to be pretty successful.”

    3. Map out the customer journey / user experience (for each user type)

    When considering their customers’ journey, established corporations tend to adopt an inside-out perspective: They think along their internal sales funnel or conversion cycle (e.g., awareness, consideration, test and comparison, purchase, after sales, loyalty, advocacy) rather than putting themselves into their customers’ shoes. As a start-up, do the opposite. Adopt your customers’ viewpoints from the outside-in, and map out the digital customer journey. 

    For example, a young customer interested in opening a bank account searches the web for banks offering accounts either for free or at a low monthly fee. Then, she reads online reviews the banks she has shortlisted. Next, she may chat online with friends to seek their views on different banks. Once she’s settled on her favorite, she consults the website of the selected bank; ideally, it has a button that she can click to begin the account opening process online. She submits all required personal information. Then, a bank clerk initiates a video call to verify her ID documentation online. By mapping out the customer experience in a similar way, new N26 customers are able to open a bank account anywhere in the world in around 8 minutes only and without that they have to physically visit a bank branch.

    4. Focus on creating frictionless user experiences

    As we discussed in part 2, disruptive product technologies are simpler, more convenient, more reliable and cheaper than existing alternatives. So, when designing your digital user experience with your start-up, look for ways to remove all these frictions that typically impede many traditional analog user experiences. 

    For example, N26 automatically classifies customers’ purchases paid with their credit card into different categories such as “groceries”, “bars & restaurants”, “travel & holidays” (simplification); it facilities opening new accounts from home in about 8 minutes (increased convenience); it offers instant adjustment of account limits and security settings with the shift of a screen buttons (higher reliability); and its basic account and card comes for free (price reduction).

    5. Rapidly prototype and iterate

    As a start-up venture, apply rapid prototyping while creating a new digital value proposition. Soft-launch a beta-version early and invite test users to tell you “what’s wrong with it.” Then, apply all useful suggestions in an updated version, and through a series of iterations, arrive at a minimum viable digital product that you can fully launch. As such, plan to fail earlier to succeed sooner and be faster and better than incumbents.

    6. Think platforms, not just products

    As a start-up, try to avoid simply creating a meaningful digital product. Consider how you might align your offering with an existing dominant platform, or possibly even on how to create a platform of your own. In The Digital Transformation Playbook, David Roger explains that: 

    “A platform is a business that creates value by facilitating direct interactions between two or more distinct types of customers.” 

    For example, Airbnb created a platform to connect renters (travelers looking for affordable accommodation) with hosts (locals interested to rent out their property to visitors). Similarly, Uber’s platform allows freelance drivers to connect to riders interested in a cheaper, yet more convenient transportation alternative to a taxi. Paypal allows even three parties to process payments over its platform: account holders, merchants, and banks. With our new TIPS innovator profiling test platform that we’re currently building, Thinkergy will also enable individual users, coaches & trainers, and HR & Innovation Departments to independently purchase and allocate online test coupons without our direct involvement. 

    7. Think mobile first, always

    Next year, the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark, meaning that two in three persons will own a mobile phone. So, when you create digital value propositions, preferably design it for use on a mobile phone, or at least ensure that the user experience is as good on a mobile phone as on any other electronic device. 

    N26 didn’t just create a disruptive digital bank account. They intentionally choose to focus on the mobile phone as the device of choice for client interactions.

    8. Digitally interact two-way with your wider customer network

    In the 20th century, industrial corporations mass-produced products to realize economies of scale. Then, they persuaded consumers to purchase those products using mass broadcast marketing strategies. In his Digital Playbook, David Rogers introduces a new model to drive purchasing decisions in the 21st century. Dynamic customer networks are characterized by two-way communications between companies, consumers and influencers to inspire purchases; thereby, many of these communications will take place digitally involving social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram), e-sales platforms (such as Amazon, eBay, Craigslist), online forums, and blogs, among others. 

    The shift to this new model also means that digital advertising will continue to rise in importance. By 2020, media experts expect that half of all advertising will be spent online, and will equal all offline advertising spend. 

    Conclusion

    The American inventor Douglas Engelbert noted: “The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.”

    The more I read and think about digitalization, the more I believe he’s right.

    Do you lead, manage or work in an established organization or a start-up? How will the digital wave affect your business? How do you plan to master the challenges of digital transformation with your business? Contact us if you want us to help you with our innovation expertise.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018



  • Creativity in the Year of the Dog

    Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! Tomorrow marks the start of the Year of the Dog, or to be more precise, the Brown Earth Dog. The dog was the first species that humans domesticated, and thanks to this long bond with humans. dogs are uniquely accustomed to our behaviors. What creative inspirations can we obtain from “man’s best friend” to help us flourish in the coming 12 months?

    Being of value

    Compared to other animals, dogs have developed a strong influence on human society because of both their practical usefulness and the emotional companionship they offer. Dogs serve a wide range of practical roles: hunting, herding, guarding and protection, pulling loads, assisting the police and military, rescuing people in emergencies, aiding the disabled individuals and in other therapeutic roles.

    Moreover, dogs are loyal companions who can light up the day with their playful enthusiasm, sincere affection and emotional sensitivity towards their two-legged friends. As the humorist Josh Billings noted: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

    Creative inspirations

    Wouldn’t you enjoy doing business with someone who is helpful and at the same time fun to be with? So, ask yourself: How close are we with our customers? How intimately do we know their true wants and needs? How can we become more useful for our core customers? What other roles may we perform for them to make ourselves more useful? How can we design better emotional experiences for the users of our products and services? How can we better satisfy both the functional and emotional wants and needs of our customers?

    “Breeding out” meaningful new ideas

    Humans have selected certain dogs to breed with each other, due to particular physical and behavioral characteristics that support desired functional roles. This selective breeding has led to the hundreds of modern breeds that are classified into certain dog types (such as companion dogs, guard dogs, or herding dogs). These types vary greatly in size, character and behavior and functional roles — from the tiny Chihuahua to the tall Great Dane, or from the stubbornly-dopey Bulldog to the energetically intelligent Border Collie. By the way, did you know that most dog breeds are only a few hundred years old?

    Creative inspiration

    The breeding process is similar to the approach taken by a classic creativity technique, Morphological Matrix. So in the Year of the Dog, how can you engage in morphological thinking? First, create a matrix listing all the morphologies covered by your value offerings. Such categories might be: product features (functional and emotional benefits), service types, customers types, related promotional activities, etc.). Then, list elements under each category (B2B, B2C, NGOs in the customer category, for example), and add as many new elements as possible into each (don’t forget that we’re in the digital age). Finally, ask yourself: How to create meaningful new product and service “breeds” by connecting certain desired features and elements?

    Being a smart dog

    Are dogs intelligent creatures? If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’re likely to nod affirmatively. While breeds vary in intelligence, dogs can perceive information, retain this as knowledge, and later apply it to solve certain problems. They can also learn to respond to different body postures and voice commands. But how do dogs fare when compared to other canines?

    Although dogs and wolves share a lineage, there are noticeable differences between the two species. Free-roaming wolves have longer teeth, bigger skulls and also bigger brains than their domesticated fellow canines. Moreover, experiments have shown that Australian dingos outperform domestic modern dogs in non-social problem-solving.

    Likewise, researchers have found that when presented with an unsolvable variation of an original problem solving task, socialized wolves tried to find a solution themselves, while dogs looked to a human for help. Domestic dogs seem to have “outsourced” more advanced problem-solving to humans, which is convenient but makes them highly dependent.

    Creative inspiration

    Many multinational and large corporations today outsource internal competencies and certain functional roles to outside suppliers. While outsourcing has reduced headcount and —to some extent— overhead costs, it has also led to an organizational brain drain. The situation is comparable to a dog turning to humans to “do the thinking for us”, “solve our problems on our behalf” and “tell us what to do”. But just as a dog is dependent on the smarts of others, so do companies depend on the intelligence of their outsourcing partner. So, ask yourself: “What problem areas and functional roles are so important for our business that we should “insource” the ability again? What topics do we want to resolve by ourselves to control our fate?”

    Staying healthy

    Dogs are often plagued by parasites such as fleas, ticks, mites, and worms. Parasites live in or on another organism and obtain nutrients at the host’s expense. While they typically don’t cause severe harm, they steadily impair health, energy and performance levels.

    Creative inspiration

    Just as you want to keep your dog parasite-free, you may use the Year of the Dog to rid your business of parasitic elements. Ask yourself: Who has benefited from us and derived monetary nutrients at our expense without returning an adequate benefit? Such freeloaders may be suppliers and service providers, advisors and lobbyists, and maybe even certain managers and staff. Investigate how much benefit each derived from you, and what you really got in return. If you notice a gross mismatch, clean out the parasite.

    Rewarding loyalty

    Chinese astrology tends to ascribe characteristics and behaviors observed in an animal of the Chinese Zodiac to sum-up personality traits of people born in the corresponding year. People born in the Year of the Dog are said to be loyal and honest, amiable and kind, responsible and prudent, lively and courageous. Due to having a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity, dogs will do everything for a person —or business— who cares for them.

    Creative inspiration

    Who are key members of your company or team who have loyally and responsibly worked for you for a long time, and contributed to the success of your business? Who are your long-term customers who loyally continue buying from you? Who are other loyalists who have served your cause as loyal suppliers, advisors, advocates, opportunists and cheerleaders? In the Year of the Dog, think about ways to say “Thank you” to these loyal, dependable and sensible companions.

    Learning from Abraham Lincoln’s dog

    Let’s end with a little riddle relating to dogs. Here’s a question of the famous US president Abraham Lincoln: “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?” Think about this question for a moment, then settle on a number.

    Got it? Say it out loud. Now here is “Honest” Abe’s answer: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

    Creative inspiration

    Nowadays, people are very quick at attaching labels to people or things (this even happened before Donald Trump popularized “fake news”). But notice that, for example, calling something going on that affects your business a problem doesn’t mean that it’s really a problem, or that it is the real problem your business faces. So in the Year of the Dog, ponder these questions: What things are we labeling or framing in ways that prevent us from noticing what’s really going on? What uncomfortable realities do we shy away from —or label as “fake news”— so that we can continue staying in our comfort zone? What are the real problems we’re facing and should tackle in the next 12 months? And aren’t these real problems rather opportunities to make a giant leap into a better future?

    Are you ready to get creative in the Year of the Dog? Why don’t you enroll your team in of our Thinkergy training courses?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018. 

  • Is your mind set on a genius mindset?

    In September 2018, Motivational Press will publish the first part of my book trilogy “Genius Journey. Developing Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy.” At the moment, I update and refresh the copy that I originally drafted in 2013-14, and I see this also as an opportunity to simplify how I present key concepts of the Genius Journey method in my creativity and leadership book. So in simple terms, what is the Genius Journey Method? How does it work in general terms, and how can it help you to transform your mindset into the genius that you are?

    What is Genius Journey?

    Genius Journey is a highly effective, experiential and enjoyable creative leadership development method that I created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method is based on three key insights that I uncovered by reading biographies of geniuses and creative leaders in business and other domains, by studying psychological accounts on traits of highly creative individuals, and by comparing these findings with my experiences during my own personal genius discovery journey. What are these three insights?

    • First insight: Geniuses produce extraordinary ideas and results because they think and work and behave differently than ordinary people. We can also say: They deliver abnormal results because they are not normal, they are abnormal.
    • Second insight: Most geniuses share a similar set of abnormal action routines and mindsets that vary noticeably from those of normal people.
    • Third insight: Normal people can reconnect to their genius if they adopt and practice these abnormal creative success mindsets of geniuses.

    In short, ordinary people share a set of common, normal, usual, expected and conventional attitudes and action routines that disconnect them from their creative source. In contrast, extraordinary creative leaders have acquired and automatically practice a set of uncommon, abnormal, unusual, unexpected and unconventional attitudes and routines that allow them to reconnect to their inner genius and to produce extraordinary ideas and results.

    So Genius Journey is all about transforming your mindset and routines to elevate you to higher levels of consciousness and reconnect you to your creative source, to your inner genius. This leads us to another important question that we discuss in the following.

    What are mindsets and routines?

    A mindset is made of “the established sets of attitudes held by someone”. So what then is an attitude? The word attitude can be defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”, or “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state”. Interestingly, attitude is also an informal way to express “individuality and self-confidence as manifested by appearance or style”. Think of your favorite genius or creative leader — does this person have an individual, self-confident attitude? I bet.

    Likewise, the word routine can be defined as “a set of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. We routinely undergo certain daily activities, and often routinely respond to a particular situation we experience.

    Note that the unified set of attitudes that forms a certain mindset relates to mental states (cognitive activities taking place in your mind, such as thoughts, beliefs, emotions), while routines are more linked to things we do with our bodies (physical actions or activities such as working, moving, exercising, etc.). Of course, body and mind are interconnected. Your body (posture, facial expressions, pitch of voice, etc.) reflects what’s going on in your mind, and vice versa: Your body can influence through certain actions what the mind thinks and feels.

    In her excellent book titled “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”, Amy Cuddy explains how power posing can positively charge your mind: the simple action of assuming an outgoing, empowering pose with your body raises the levels of the dominance hormone testosterone in the body while at the same time lowering those of the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to make you think, act and perform in more empowered ways. (Amy Cuddy also shares key concepts of the book in a highly inspirational TED talk that I recommend you to watch.)

    To sum up, people’s set attitudes and action routines that are connecting mind and body characterize their settled way of thinking and feeling about particular people, things, situations and circumstances they encounter, what thoughts they repeatedly tend to entertain, and what actions they routinely practice while going through a typical day or responding to a particular stimulus.

    How about your mindset and routines?

    Are your attitudes and routines normal or abnormal? Common or uncommon? Do you follow the usual layperson’s way or the unusual genius way? To get your mind primed and curious to partake in this journey, allow me to ask you a few questions related to your mindset:

    How do you typically think and/or feel about:

    • having to encounter an unknown challenge, event, or situation?
    • yourself?
    • making a mistake? Or failing in a project you undertake?
    • life in general? And your life in particular?
    • your work?
    • your domain of expertise?
    • your levels of rationality and responsibility — and of creativity and empathy?
    • change?
    • events in your past?Or about the future?
    • how many hours you must work to be a successful person?

    If you were to travel the Genius Journey, you would encounter questions like these — and your answers determine your current level of genius and how common or uncommon you are. Fortunately, we’re not stuck on a certain level for good. We can always choose to upgrade our mindsets to genius level by working on transforming our minds.

    So how does Genius Journey work?

    The Genius Journey method takes you on an imaginary journey were you visit 10 destinations. At each of the ten destination stops, you learn about one mindset or routine that stops you, limits you, confines you, keeps you small, keeps you thinking inside this tiny little box, keeps you producing normal ideas and normal results. And at each stop of the journey, you will also discover the corresponding mindset that sets you free, unboxes your thinking, expands your consciousness, empowers you to become outstandingly creative and successful, and reconnects you with your inner genius. As such, traveling the Genius Journey gives you the chance to become aware of your typical attitudes and routines, and if they serve or limit you. As you progress in your Genius Journey, you gradually adopt the empowering abnormal attitudes and routines of genius that build upon each other and reinforce themselves in a virtuous cycle that expands your consciousness, thus opening your mind to reconnect to your inner genius.

    Are you ready to become and be abnormal? If yes, consider preordering a copy of Part 1 of the Genius Journey book trilogy, which is titled “The Journey to Your Self”. Or would you be more interested in booking one of our Genius Journey training courses to experience how to think like a genius and develop a creative genius mindset? Or do you rather prefer to stay a normal person, continue thinking and doing the same normal things that everyone else is thinking and doing? The choices are yours.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.


  • How to Deal Better with Conflicts at Work

    Picture all the people at work with whom you regularly come into contact. If you’re like most people, your colleagues fall into one of four categories: Cool, okay, at times irritating, or really annoying. Now, what if you had a tool to better understand the dynamics behind conflicts at work, learn ways to handle them, and discover why the people who trouble you most should be your best friends?

    Background: How TIPS links to conflict at work

    TIPS is a new cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method uses four home bases (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four styles (thinking, working, interacting, and living) to profile people into 11 innovator types.

    I created TIPS to point individuals and companies towards how everyone can contribute to a firm’s innovation efforts. However, the method has also many business applications, such as: pointing people towards a career environment that suits their talents; composing and aligning effective work teams; managing people according to their preferred styles; and others.

    TIPS can also help explain why some people clash at work. Such conflicts are grounded in different fundamental value orientations and cognitive styles. TIPS’ four bases and four styles can help us understand the situational dynamics that trigger work conflicts.

    How TIPS helps understand the conflict dynamics at work

    Let’s explore the conflict dynamics at work between the four TIPS bases, and how they relate to each of the four TIPS styles. Visualize a grid containing two rows and two squares each. Clockwise from top left, they read T-I-P-S:

    • Your “cool” colleagues tend to belong to the same TIPS base, as they share your core values: theories, theses and truth at the T-base; ideas, inspiration and innovation at the I-base; people, partnership and party at the P-base; or systems, structure and status at the S-base. They also prefer the same styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. So when people are essentially alike, they tend to like and respect each other, and the conflict potential here is “no” to “very low”.
    • Your “okay” colleagues belong to the base that vertically connects to yours (T vs. S and I vs. P). They occasionally disagree with you because they prefer a different work style (brain vs. brawn), which influences what kind of work we enjoy and how we prefer to schedule a work day. “Brainy” T- and I-workers love to think their way through conceptual projects that they work on in longer time blocks of 3-4 hours. In contrast, “brawny” S and P-workers enjoy laboring through a To Do list full of short-term tasks scheduled in much shorter intervals of 15-30 minutes. In roughly one in four work situations (often related to scheduling meetings or agreeing on completion times), these work style differences lead to frictions with people who are otherwise “okay”.
    • Your “irritating” colleagues belong to the TIPS bases that are horizontally opposite of yours (T vs. I and S vs. P). Here, arguments occur because your preferred thinking styles differ (figure vs. fantasy). For example, T-people logically deduce the one right solution by following a sequential flow, while I-people synthesize many solutions by connecting the dots between concepts in a more freewheeling style. When looking at each other’s solution, T-thinkers say I-thinkers have no proof to substantiate their solution logically; I-thinkers counter that the scientific approach of the T-thinkers is too slow, linear, and narrow in possible solutions. Such cognitive differences between Figure and Fantasy thinkers lead to disputes in every other work situation.
    • Your “really annoying” colleagues belong to a home base that is diagonally across your own one (T vs. P and S vs. I). Here, we can expect clashes in ca. three out of four work situations, as both thinking and work styles differ. Moreover, they also differ from you in either preferred interaction style or lifestyle:
      • Because of substantial differences in interaction styles (fact vs. feeling), expect frequent annoyances or hurt feelings when T- and P-people cross paths. Why? T-people make a case and decide based on facts and hard evidence. They argue in a direct, logical and often blunt way that offends sensitive P-people, who consider the feelings of others and are more emotional. On the other hand, “touchy-feely” P-people may annoy more aloof T people by invading their space and —heaven help— even engaging in physical contact.
      • A second major conflict zone runs across the S- and I-bases, given the differences in preferred lifestyle (form vs. flow). Highly dynamic I-people love to take risks, drive change and shake things up. This infuriates S-people, who greatly dislike anyone upsetting the status quote by “rocking the boat”, proposing to “fix something that ain’t broke”, or even proposing a crazy idea of a revolutionary new product. S-people want to preserve the status quo and cherish trusted rituals and past traditions, while I people love to create a better future and radical progress. Because they prefer living in different worlds, S- and I-people are prone to clash often at work.

    In conclusion, we may sum up that the conflict potential between the TIPS bases in the following likelihoods: 0% within a base; 25% between bases on the same vertical axis; 50% between bases on the same horizontal axis; and 75% between bases who are vertically across. However, please note that in all cases, the conflict potential can rise by another 25% due to occasional “clashes of egos” or “cat fights” that may break out between two individuals for reasons other than differences in their core values or preferred cognitive styles.

    What can we do to moderate and mitigate conflicts at work?

    So, now that you know why you get along so well with some colleagues and regularly have issues with others, how can we use these insights to reduce, moderate and mitigate conflicts? Here are four tips:

    1. Differences divide, diversity enriches. Every TIPS base and profile has it’s value and place in business. Good work performance and harmony arise from finding the right mix of talents and styles at the right time.
    2. I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone is okay. Many conflicts at work aren’t personal, but rather related to different value orientations and variations in the preferred styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. Make an effort to appreciate other points of view. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice: “First seek to understand, then to be understood.”
    3. Find moderators to bridge conflicts. Colleagues who express both TIPS bases or styles in their profile can help moderating conflicts. For example, Conceptualizers are ideal to cool an intellectual dispute between a Theorist and an Ideator because of their thinking style (figure and fantasy). Or use a Coach (located on the diagonal axis connecting the T and P bases) to moderate a conflict between a Theorist and Partner.
    4. Opposites complement. Who are your “new best friends at work” — or who should they be? Those colleagues who most annoy you. Why? Because they are strong in all those areas where you are weak; because they enjoy doing those things that you dislike doing; and because they value those aspects of business that you prefer to ignore. They cover your shadow-side, just like you light up their shadow. You balance each other’s energy to provide a Yin-Yang harmony, and like night complements day, and female complements male, so your colleagues located opposite your position on the TIPS profiling map complement you.

    How does TIPS extend to all the profiles?

    So far, we have only discussed the conflict potential between the four TIPS bases. How does the conflict potential break down when we look at each of the 11 TIPS profiles?

    • For the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner and Systematizer), we simply can adopt the indicative conflict potential likelihoods mentioned before to see how well they get along with each. For example, I am an Ideator, and I have hardly any issues with other Ideators (0%), occasional issues with Partners (25%), regular arguments with Theorists (50%), and frequent clashes with Systematizers (75%). With regards to how a pure profile relates to the other profiles, we can estimate an indicative conflict potential based on the averages of the conflict potentials between two bases.
    • For the dual TIPS profiles, the biggest conflict potential (75%) is with the profile on the opposite end of the TIPS map: Technocrats vs. Promoters, Conceptualizers vs. Organizers, and Coaches vs. Experimenters. We can also predict the conflict likelihood with other profiles by considering the differences in style and values between each profile combination.
    • But what if you profile as an All-Rounder in TIPS? Well, All-Rounders feel home on all four TIPS bases, so they get along great with each other and well with everyone else (no issues with other All-Rounders, and 25% conflict potential with all other profiles).

    Would you like to learn more about TIPS? Are you interested in determining your personal TIPS innovator profile? Would you like to profile your team with our online personality test? Or maybe even learn about TIPS in an experiential 1-day training course, The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop? Contact us and let us know more about your needs and how we may support you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

    Acknowledgement: Robert “Alan” Black, Ph.D., a well-known US creativity coach for over four decades, was the person who brought to my attention how conflicts at work may relate to differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. My estimates on the likelihoods of conflicts between certain bases and profiles align with Dr. Alan’s numbers, which he based on research findings in his Ph.D. thesis and observations in the field while facilitating workshops on creativity and his own cognitive profiling method (M.I.N.D. Design).


  • Harnessing the Yin Yang flow of innovation

    Two weeks ago, we discussed how to embrace the Yin Yang concept of Chinese philosophy as a simple but effective way to talk about creativity and innovation. We learned that to build a creative company, we need to focus on boosting its creative Yin energy: hire and promote more creative Yin people; have a leader with a creative Yin mindset; and gradually build a creative Yin culture. Today, let’s talk about the fourth and final aspect: the creative process — and how you may use the Yin Yang flow of innovation to guide your thinking while working on a creative project.

    Master creative projects using a Yin Yang flow in the creative process

    When you want to pursue a creative project with an innovation project team, you can use the dynamic interplay of Yin Yang to guide you in a simple way through the various phases of the creative process. Why? Almost all creative processes unfold in a harmonious rhythm of divergent thinking alternating with convergent thinking:

    • Yang energy represents convergent thinking, meaning we “narrow down” our thinking by employing more left brain-directed cognitive processes like analysis, critical evaluation and rational decision-making.
    • In contrast, Yin energy aligns with divergent thinking, broadening our horizons by using more right brain-directed cognitive activities such as empathizing, ideating and imagining.

    How does the Yin Yang flow of innovation unfold?

    I designed a simple creative process flow that unfolds in seven Yin Yang-cycles. Each starts convergent thinking (Yang) that is followed by a phase of divergent thinking (Yin). An innovation project team can apply these seven cycles over seven time intervals (e.g., half-days, days or weeks). How exactly do these seven cycles of the Yin Yang flow work?

    Yang 1: State your case. Specify what the innovation project is all about: the creative challenge, and what you know about the case. We converge our thinking to what we initially perceive to be the essential facets of the case.

    Yin 1: Explore your challenge. Next, diverge the thinking by examining the case more broadly, based on the four cardinal points of the compass:

    • Check for “True North” by examining facts, assumptions, beliefs and rules.
    • Go West to curiously ask and answer many questions related to the case, especially those that make people feel uncomfortable.
    • Head South to look at your case from new viewpoints, especially those of your customers and other key stakeholders.
    • Look East to map and sketch what you know about your case.

    Yang 2: Frame your real challenge. Condense all your learnings from phase 1 by framing what you uncovered as your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from what you initially perceived.

    Yin 2: Generate hundreds of ideas. Have fun and enjoy brainstorming and ideating many, many ideas for your challenge with the help of creativity tools. Make an effort to generate at least 250 ideas with your innovation team. Follow the ground rules of brainstorming and ideation, especially Rule No. 1: “No killing of ideas.”

    Yang 3: Discover intriguing ideas. Review what you’ve generated to find roughly fifty ideas that are more interesting — or maybe even a bit wild. When you narrow down your idea pool, and throw away all conventional and obvious ideas, you engage in Yang-style convergent thinking.

    Yin 3: Design realistic, meaningful concepts. Use the three creative principles of elaboration, combination and transmutation:

    • Detail out and enlarge interesting ideas that already carry enough value potential by themselves (elaboration).
    • Find ideas that seem to connect, then combine those into more valuable concepts (combination).
    • Take a wild idea and creatively look for ways to tame its wild nature while preserving its intriguing aspects (transmutation).

    Shoot for at least a dozen idea concept with your innovation team in this phase.

    Yang 4: Evaluate your idea concepts. Now it’s time for some critical convergent thinking. Evaluate and critique each concept in your idea concept portfolio to better understand its pros and cons.

    Yin 4: Enhance and rapidly prototype promising concepts. Take a look at the cons of each concept and ask: “How can we creatively fix these bugs?” Then, do rapid prototyping on the most promising concepts to quickly learn more about their value potential and feasibility through iterative rounds of trial and error coupled with feedback.

    Yang 5: Select your top idea concept. Select at least one top idea for real life activation. Use simple voting techniques to reach a team consensus, or employ more advanced decision-making tools to settle diverging views.

    Yin 5: Design a winning pitch. Every top idea needs support from superiors, sponsors and suppliers to secure the resources to bring it to life. Create an impactful idea pitch that animates the benefits of your idea by addressing both the functional and emotional needs of those whose support is critical.

    Yang 6: Pitch your top idea. Use Yang energy to pitch and convincingly respond to any questions raised. If your pitch succeeds, move to the next Yin phase, otherwise lick your wounds and go back to the previous one.

    Yin 6: Party. You’ve succeeded and earned the funding and approval needed for activating your top idea. Celebrate the moment. You’ve thought and worked hard to create a winning idea, and you will have to put in lots more effort to bring it to life.

    Yang 7: Plan for idea activation, then activate your top idea. Specify key parameters, and begin with the activation of your funded idea, reviewing your progress at every critical milestone and adjusting your plan if needed.

    Yin 7: Release the idea into the market. Create a momentum-building launch event. Then, start shipping and continue creatively promoting your “wow” innovation. Finally, begin the Yin Yang flow anew by starting a new innovation project.

    Nota bene: The Yin Yang flow of innovation is a simplification of Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation process method X-IDEA. If you like to learn more about the Yin-Yang nature of innovation, check out an earlier article that was published in this blog titled "The Yin of Creativity".

    Contact us if you want to learn more about our innovation trainings, or become a Thinkergy certified trainer.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • The Yin of Creativity

    “How can we make our organization more creative? And please, keep it simple,” a client interested in a creativity training for a group of senior executives asked me. Infusing more creativity into an organization comes down to four basic challenges. 

    They are:
    (1) Find out who your creative people are, and how many of them you have.
    (2) Ensure most of your leaders have a creative mindset, especially those at the top.
    (3) Use your creative leaders as change catalysts to build a creative culture.
    (4) Pursue meaningful creative projects with the help of a well-structured creative process.

    The client sighs: “Is there a way to explain this to them in an even easier way?”
    “Yes”, I said. “Think Yin and Yang — and simply use the Yin of creativity.”

    How the Yin Yang concept relates to business and creativity

    The ancient Chinese concept of Yin Yang highlights the interplay of polar opposites in nature. It postulates that dual opposites both dynamically challenge and harmoniously balance each other. Common examples of such interdependent and interconnected opposites (listed in the order Yang before Yin) are male and female, day and night, sun and moon, among others.

    How can you employ Yin Yang to make your organization more creative? How to use the Yin of creativity?

    • Think of creativity (and related concepts of customer care and change) as Yin, and opposite business concepts such as financial performance, facts and efficiency are Yang.
    • Next, look at the the organization from a Yin Yang perspective: the personality of people working in it; the prevailing mindset of executives leading it; the culture driving people’s behaviors; and the thinking tools and process used while working on projects.
    • Finally, if you notice Yang energy dominates the organization, address the four factors — employee personality, leader mindset, corporate culture and thinking process — and gradually shift them one by one from Yang to Yin.

    Creative people have a Yin personality

    How do you identify the creative people in your organization? Use an effective cognitive profiling method (personality test) that clearly identifies those people who prefer creative thinking.

    In Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS, we mainly identify creative people by probing for a person’s preferred thinking style. Thereby, “fantasy thinkers” are Yin, while “figure thinkers” are Yang. TIPS also checks on two related styles preferred by creative people: creative Yin thinkers tend to interact with others using Yin-style empathy, emotion and feeling; and they tend to prefer a Yin-lifestyle (i.e. flexibly going with the flow of life).

    Question: Are the people in your team more Yin (creative, empathic, flexible) or Yang (analytical, factual, formal)? Do some express both elements?

    Creative leaders have a Yin mindset

    Mindset describes the way you routinely do things and think about things and people (including yourself). Typically, a creative mindset aligns with a creative personality.  People with a Yin personality have an easier path to develop into a creative leader. However, they still need to change a few limiting habitual thought patterns to a creative Yin mindset.

    A Yin mindset indicates that you enjoy creative thinking, and also have many interests apart from having expertise in a domain that excites you. You insist on your own personality and original creativity rather than copying the thoughts, ways and ideas of others. You dare to act and take initiative. As a positive, playful optimist, you’re open to other viewpoints and ideas. Yin leaders love what they do, so they passionately work hard in a focused way. But they also know when to let go of work and relax to invite fresh inspirations.

    How can you develop authentic creative leaders to creatively lead your organization in line with the Yin of creativity? Employ an effective creative leadership method (such as Genius Journey) that can show them how to adopt and adapt the Yin mindsets of a creative leader.

    Questions: Do you possess more of a Yin mindset or are you more Yang — a critical, analytical expert who stays in the safe confines of established doctrines and action routines, who mainly works for the pay, perks and prestige linked to your job, and who’s always busy keeping up with all the demands of the job without being overly productive? And how about your superiors — are they more of a Yin or Yang leader?

    Creative organizations have a Yin culture

    Culture is the way things are typically done in an organization. Many well-established corporations have a Yang culture embedded in the organizational DNA by generations of Yang leaders who succeeded the original Yin founder of the venture long ago. So, put a Yin leader in charge to switch the corporate culture back.

    A creative Yin culture encourages everyone to express individuality, and embraces diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and interests. Such openness fosters a playful, friendly climate that encourages people to share, nurture and act on ideas by rapidly prototyping them (in line with the maxim “Fail earlier to succeed sooner”).

    In a Yin culture, employees and teams largely manage themselves and work in a disciplined, focused way; high degrees of freedom blend with a pursuit of excellence. Employees enjoy coming to work because they are intrinsically motivated by interesting projects; they empathically care to resolve creative challenges that make meaning for customers.

    In contrast, a Yang culture prefers a uniform set of people conforming to expected norms and behaviors that are monitored and controlled by superiors, leading to a tense, serious work climate where everyone is  working busily (often on internal matters), ideas are quickly dismissed and people are reactive because they’re afraid of failure — and where mediocre, “it’s good enough” results are the norm because people essentially are in their job only for the money.

    Questions: Do you work in a Yin or Yang culture? And if you long for a cool change to the Yin of creativity, do you have an effective culture transformation method (such as CooL – Creativity UnLimited) to help you switch?

    Outlook: Today, you learned that if you want to make your organization more creative, you need to focus on strengthen its creative Yin energy: Hire and promote more creative Yin people; and put a leader with a creative Yin mindset in charge to gradually build a creative Yin culture. Finally, use the dynamic interplay between Yin and Yang to pursue a concrete creative project. Come back to this column in two weeks to find out how exactly this creative process unfolds.

    Want to learn more about how the Yin of creativity, or the Yin Yang of innovation? Or do you want to dig deeper and delve into one of our four proprietary innovation methods? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Why so afraid? Human up! (Part 2)


    In the first part of this article, I pointed out that we are all descendants of brave, action-oriented and creative primal humans who boldly acted, created and collaborated to make humanity rise to the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid. I was moved to explore this subject because I’d been encountering so many businesspeople who seem paralyzed by doubts, worries and fears. Why so scared, I wondered?

    In order to remain the dominant species (in light of the onset of robots and artificially intelligent machines), we had better learn how to rein in all those doubts, worries and fears, and reconnect to our essential core of being courageous, action-oriented and creative humans. But how exactly can we “human up”? Here are ten tips.

    1. Let go of the illusion of total control of your destiny. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans,” said Woody Allen. We’re living in a highly dynamic world with too many variables beyond our control. So, while I endorse making plans, I recommend executing them in a flexible way to respond to changes and surprises.

    2. Believe all will work out well in the end. Have you ever experienced a negative incident that in hindsight turned out to be a blessing in disguise? Start seeing setbacks and temporary failures as what they really are: feedback to stir you forward towards personal happiness and success. Don’t be afraid. Honestly confront the facts of your present reality, do what’s needed to survive now and increase the odds of future success, and believe that in the end, everything will turn out well. Consider living by the following mantra: “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that can happen to me.”

    3. Realize most doubts, worries and fears aren’t real. They are just disempowering, limiting thoughts going on in your head. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

    So, instead of entertaining fearful thoughts about a distant future, focus on what you need to do now. Practice mindfulness to gain more awareness of your inner dialogue, let anxious thoughts pass without attaching energy to them, and to pay attention to the present moment.

    4. Just do it. “Always do what you fear”, recommends the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. So, human up. Proactively facing a fear is the fastest way to overcome it, and to turn the unknown into a new experience. So, why not human up and finally ask your boss for the raise you both know you deserve?

    5. Be bold but don’t be stupid. The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered courage  “the mean between fear and recklessness.” For example, if you’re afraid of snakes, consider visiting a snake farm to encounter and learn about their ways, and maybe touch a non-poisonous one — but don’t be reckless and step in front of a cobra.
 In business, courageously take action on new projects, but don’t engage in activities that may bring you into serious trouble, such as: doing things that are illegal, highly speculative or unethical.

    6. Shape up. Getting and staying fit will not only make your body stronger, leaner and more flexible; thanks to the body-mind connection, it will have the same effects on your mind. Physical exercise positively changes the neurochemical balance in your brain to make you more confident, courageous and happy. As the ancient Romans already knew, “Mens sana in corpore sano” (A sound mind in a sound body).

    7. Open up. Anxiety is a sign of a closed, judgmental mind. It’s the opposite of the curious, open and flexible mindset of primal humans who explored the world and learned how to seize its opportunities. So, open your mind to new trends, ideas, viewpoints and ways of doing things to keep from falling behind in a fast-changing world. As the American social philosopher Eric Hoffer said: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

    8. Relax, recharge and sleep. Sleep is crucially important to ensure optimum physical and cognitive performance. Consider taking a power nap once you notice your energy levels are down, and plan for enough downtime in your day to recharge and relax. But most importantly, ensure you get 7-8 hours of reenergizing sleep every night.

    9. Reconnect to the hunter in you. Nowadays, too many businesspeople have become “farmers”: they passively sit back, hoping to perpetually reap the rewards of the seeds sown long ago, and to squeeze the last drops of milk out of ragged cash cows. Recall that primal humans were hunters. It’s in our essential primal nature to move and actively hunt for —and bring down— prey that often is much bigger than us. Become a hunter again, too: life is full of new opportunities once you venture out.

    10. Move on when too much is wrong. When you work in an  environment that regularly fills your mind with doubtful, worrisome and fearful thoughts, it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong. Whether you feel afraid of a venomous colleague or drained by constant political manoeuvring, acknowledge persistent feelings of anxiety, stress and unhappiness for what they really are: a signal to make a change.

    Leave that poisonous, energy-sapping or stagnant environment behind for a new hunting ground. Join another firm, found or join a start-up, or dedicate your talents to a meaningful non-profit organization. Life is too short to waste on a cause that doesn’t feel right for you. So if its time for you to move on, human up!

    Want to learn more about how to human up? Enroll in one of our Genius Journey training courses.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • 10 Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business in 2017

    In his recent article outline the "10 Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business and Culture in 2017", author Alex Goryachev shared some alarming revelations for companies that don't have an innovation strategy in place. 

    According to Goryachev, the pace of change will force companies to look at new ways to adapt or create disruptive solutions - not only to the products and services they market, but in how they are developed internally. 

    His predictions are:

    1. Companies will disrupt themselves to survive the digital age
    2. The pace of change will force businesses to create game-changing solutions rather than incremental improvements
    3. Smart companies will recognize that innovation can come from anywhere
    4. Silicon Valley startup traits will be infused into corporate workforces
    5. Successful companies will adapt the best of both worlds by balancing the tension between startup and big-enterprise cultures
    6. Coaches and mentors will become more important than traditional managers
    7. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
    8. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
    9. The rise of innovation ecosystem and co-innovation
    10. Internal and external innovation will converge

    For companies that want to embrace these changes, Thinkergy's methods for ideation, talent development, leadership development and culture are a great solution. 

  • A Creepy Creative Story

    Have you ever wondered what it feels like to check-in at Bates Motel? Or to wander the dark corridors of Dracula’s castle on a stormy night? Earlier this year, I got a taste of it. Allow me to share with you a strange, creepy, and maybe even slightly embarrassing personal creative story, and explain how it connects to one of our innovation methods.

    Last September, we launched Thinkergy US, a network of licensed Thinkergy innovation trainers to help spread our innovation methods across North America. It was my last day in Minneapolis after eight days of highly intensive —and successful— train-the-trainer workshops. All I longed for was a drink and a comfy bed for the night before flying on to New York the next morning.

    Unfortunately, the hotel I had stayed at all week was fully booked on my final day. I needed a five-star hotel close to the airport. Kevin Ehlinger Wilde, my host and local business partner, hadn’t booked a hotel yet, but with over 200 four- and five-star hotels in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we foresaw no problem.

    We checked out all the four and five-star hotels near the airport. All were fully booked. We widened our search online and no luck. The only place with a vacancy was a country club close to Kevin’s home at Lake Minnetonka. “I know the place,” he told me. “Let’s bring you there for the night.”

    As we drove towards Lake Minnetonka, the sky darkened. Night was falling fast. Thunder rolled in the distance. A tremendous thunderstorm was about to break lose. Five miles later, a torrential rain set in. We had to maneuvre around large puddles and storm-tossed trees. “It seems I’m doomed”, I remarked. Finally, the outline of a large mansion emerged. “Here we are. This is the country club you’re staying tonight”, said Kevin. The building lay in complete darkness. A line from the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” entered my mind: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

    We parked the car under the roof terrace and entered a dark hotel lobby. “Sorry, we have a brownout,” was the receptionist’s welcome message: “Probably some trees crashed on the electric cables.”

    “How long does it take to bring the power back,” I asked.

    “Maybe an hour or two. Maybe the whole night. But we have a flashlight for each guest to take to their rooms.”

    Kevin comes in: “We’ll take one room for my guest. Here is my credit card.”

    “Sorry, Sir, we can’t do a check-in now as the computers are down. Here’s the key to the room on the third floor. Sorry the elevators don’t work, so please take the stairs.”

    Like the thunder, my gut rumbled: “This all feels bad.” But Kevin had already taken one of my bags. I grabbed the other one and followed him upstairs. Reaching the third floor, we pushed open a heavy wooden door. A loud, creaking noise reverberated. My room was right opposite. I entered the pitch dark room and dropped my bags. In the glow of the flashlight the room looked luxurious, but my gut was now rebelling and yelling: “Don’t stay here.”

    I followed Kevin back to the lobby. I had a really uneasy feeling. We had a quick chat on our pick-up arrangement for the next morning. Suddenly, four firemen, drenched from the storm and armed with heavy axes, entered the lobby. Without a word, they walked upstairs. I commented on the absurdity of the situation: “The Ghostbusters have arrived. Finally!”

    Kevin started laughing, but now my gut told me: “Walk away.”

    I mastered all my courage and went to the receptionist: “Sorry, Ma’am, may I ask you a stupid question: Is this place haunted?”

    She looked at me in surprise: “How did you know?” Then, looking down, she said: “We occasionally have sightings on the third floor, but down here it’s safe.”

    “Thanks for your honesty,” I replied. “I can feel it. Sorry, I won’t stay.”

    We went back to the room, grabbed my bags, and drove off to Kevin’s apartment. He put out an air mattress on the floor for me. It felt simple, humble and good. Opening my phone to check for messages, I noticed that, by accident, I seemed to have recorded a short video at the time I was in the room at the country club. It showed a door handle repeatedly moving up and down. I deleted it to put the incident out of my mind. Finally, feeling safe and sound, I drifted off into a deep sleep.

    So why do I tell you this creepy creative story?

    It relates to Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy and will publish as a book mid of next year. Genius Journey teaches how to identify and discard disempowering mindsets and action routines and replace them with corresponding empowering mindsets that set you and your creativity free.

    On the foundational level, Genius Journey asks you first to stop your doubts, worries and fears. Instead, become a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Now guess how I train candidates on the Genius Journey to fight their fears? I take them through a fake haunted house. Now you’re asking: Why did I chicken out at the country club at Lake Minnetonka?

    Creative leaders trained in the Genius Journey method are integrated whole-mind thinkers. They’ve built-up a highly attuned intuitive, creative mind that complements their well-developed rational, scientific mind:

    • My rational mind knew that statistically, it’s highly improbable for so many unlikely events occur all at once: my hotel is fully booked on my last day; my host forgot to book another room; all but one of more than 200 hotels are fully booked; a heavy storm knocked out the power to my last-chance hotel; and so on.
    • But more importantly, my intuitive mind signaled me that something felt wrong all along. It took real courage to ask if the hotel was haunted. I felt stupid, but it would have been more stupid, even reckless, to ignore my gut feeling.

    What would you have done? Stayed the night with a flashlight in a dark room? It all comes back to our beliefs, the starting point of Genius Journey. 

    Personally, I believe in the existence of a higher spiritual force for good that guides and protects me on my path. I also believe in the Yin-Yang principle: Where there is good, there are also dark, evil forces somewhere at work. And I have learned that if trust my inner sense of self and listen to my gut, all things turn out well in the end — and even a strange, creepy creative story will have a happy end.

    Happy Holidays to all of you!

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 22 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 2)

    Two weeks ago, we discussed in this column how Muhammad Ali epitomized the genius mindsets of creative leaders that I identified while studying the biographies of geniuses, creative business leaders and top achievers. These genius mindsets help form my creative leadership development method Genius Journey that features 10 destination stops were you learn more about how to reconnect with your inner genius.

    In part 1 we discussed how Ali, “The Greatest of all times”, truly exemplified the four foundational mindsets that we encounter on destination stops 1-4 of the Genius Journey. Today, let’s continue honoring the legend of Muhammad Ali as we learn more about the remaining six genius mindsets of creative leaders.

    Stop 5: Intrinsic Motivation, Passion and Purpose

    The fifth destination stop on the Genius Journey reminds you to stop working only for the money, and to start loving what you do — and knowing why you do it.

    Ali wasn’t fighting for the money only, but because he loved boxing. It was his natural talent, which he jokingly expressed as follows: “Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” But he became a legend not because he was a world champion. He transcended his passion of boxing by also having a purpose of why he did it: “I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”

    In and out of the boxing ring, he fought what he believed was the good fight, the just fight, the right fight. For example, fighting for more civil rights for Afro-American citizens was a good fight, while fighting an unjust war in Vietnam was not.

    Ali was doing what he did because he wanted to help and inspire ordinary people. In a tribute, a reporter recalled how on a joint tour through South America, he saw Ali giving away 100 dollar each to beggars lining up outside his hotel in the morning. “Champ, why are you doing it?” Ali responded: “For me, it’s just a 100 dollar, but for them, it’s worth here as much as ten thousand dollars for me at home.”

    Stop 6: Integrated Whole Mind

    Stop 6 of the Genius Journey invites you to start becoming an integrated whole-brain thinker and stop using only half of your mind.

    Muhammad Ali was an ingenious boxer who employed his creativity not only to come up with witty entertaining sayings and one of the shortest and most impactful poems of all times (“I shook up the world. Me! We!”), but also to devise creative tactics that won fights everyone expected him to lose.

    Before the epic “rumble in the jungle” with George Foreman, Ali announced that to win the fight, “I’m going to dance”. But to the surprise of everyone, he switched in round 2 to a new creative tactic, the “rope-a-dope”, leaning back against the rope for three rounds and absorbing punches while protecting his head. Soon Foreman was tired and Ali went on the offensive, ending the fight in round 8 with a knockout to regain his World Championship title. “The man who has no imagination, has no wings”, he said, and elaborated further: “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”

    Stop 7: Expert & Generalist (T-Shaped Leader)

    Stop 7 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop getting trapped in the expert tunnel and start living, working and learning as a modern renaissance man or woman with many talents and interests.

    Muhammad Ali exemplifies the concept of a T-shaped person who combines expertise in one focus domain (boxing) with a broad repertoire of knowledge, skills and experience. Outside the ring, Ali was a civil rights fighter and political activist, a religious disciple and preacher, an entertainer and joker, a magician and poet, a promoter and businessman. Ali sought to experience life in all it’s dimensions: “Live every day as if it were your last because some day you’re going to right.”

    Stop 8: Movement, Flexibility & Change

    Stop 8 of the Genius Journey reminds you to stop being habitual, rigid and fixated; instead, start to change, move and flex yourself.

    Ali had a very unorthodox boxing style he described as: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. You can’t hit what your eyes don’t see.” In his fights, Ali was constantly moving, dancing through the ring and doing the “Ali shuffle” (a famous series of boxing footwork he created as a taunting mechanism), making it difficult for his opponents to strike and pin him down.

    Stop 9: Mindfulness & Present Moment Awareness

    Stop 9 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop acting mindlessly, and instead start taking focused actions now.

    Clearly, as one of world Champion in boxing, Ali tuned into the moment and pay attention with all of his senses to what’s happening right now.

    In a famous footage showing him training for the “rumble in the jungle”, he boxed against a camera to demonstrate from an unusual perspective what it would mean every moment for George Foreman to fight against Ali: “Now you see me, now you don’t”, Ali joked as he appeared and disappeared out of the camera’s field of sight.

    Stop 10: Focused Doing, Relaxed Being (Balance, Rhythm & Flow)

    At the tenth stop of the Genius Journey, you’re prompted to stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Instead, start harmoniously balancing focused doing with relaxed being to develop a rhythm that brings you into flow, the state of optimal experience were everything flows easily and you perform at your very peak.

    A box bout follows an inherent rhythm of focused action (the fighting in each round), alternating with breaks for the fighters to recharge and get advice. Interestingly, Ali used the breaks for being with himself and reconnecting to his inner core, his inner self, his beliefs and willpower — and not for strategizing: “My trainer don’t tell me nothing between rounds. I don’t allow him to. I fight the fight. All I want to know is did I win the round. It’s too late for advice,” he said.

    Stop 11: Subconscious Creativity (Preparation- Incubation-Illumination- Verification)

    For some people, the Genius Journey may reveal a secret eleventh stop. When all genius mindsets are in sync, you may experience a moment of breakthrough creativity, where you receive a breakthrough idea in an instant moment of flash illumination, which typically happens in a moment of flow. While there is no account of Ali sharing a Eureka experiences, he probably had moments of sparks in those split seconds when he intuitively unleashed his Championship-winning knockout punches.

    Conclusion: Muhammad Ali was not only an iconic boxer, he was a true genius who exemplified all genius mindsets and action routines of outstanding creative leaders. “I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.” You have touched the lives of millions of people and inspired them to the better. R.I.P. you legendary genius, you were truly The Greatest.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Creative cultural change is like striving to live a healthier life

    This week, I attended the ISPIM (International Society of Professional Innovation Management) 2016 Innovation Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from presenting an academic conference paper on the innovation learner’s experience and running a workshop on our innovation people profiling method TIPS, I also was asked to moderate a panel discussion on “Creating a Culture for Innovation”. While preparing for the session, I noticed an interesting similarity: Creating an innovation-friendly, creative culture in an organization is like striving to live a healthier life.

    All change starts with a major impetus

    When do people begin to long for a healthier lifestyle? Only when they realize that something is seriously wrong. It might be burnout, weight gain, a performance drop at work, or even a heart attack that sends an unmistakable signal: you must change your lifestyle NOW.

    Likewise, every established corporation occasionally receives an urgent wake-up call that now is the time for building a creative culture: a sharp drop in sales or profits; a fast-growing, agile new player that is eating up your market share; or a new technology that threatens to make your business obsolete.

    Get a check-up

    What do you do when you notice something’s wrong with your health? You see a doctor, who will examine you and perform tests to identify the causes for your declining well-being, and then recommends effective treatments.

    When a corporation expresses a desire to evolve into a more creative culture, an innovation consultant prescribes a comprehensive innovation capacity audit. This “health check” identifies the presence or, more typically, absence of certain organizational factors that support creativity and innovation.

    For example, in the innovation audit that is a key feature of Thinkergy’s innovation transformation method CooL – Creativity UnLimited, we check for 64 bipolar factors that relate to five bases: leadership, commitment, collaboration, culture and structure. A good “innovation health check” creates a clear profiles of the organizational innovation capacity, and identifies problem areas that need fixing to perform a “cool change” towards a more creative culture.

    Adopt an open, curious mindset

    After a health checkup, you know in theory what things you need to do to start living better. Does this awareness alone help you succeed? Nope. First take a look at your existing mindset: What habitual thoughts and action routines led to your decline in the first place? Become aware of your unhealthy ways and the disempowering thoughts and situations that trigger them. Then you can replace them with new, empowering healthy action strategies, and reframe your health challenge as an opportunity to discover a new, exciting side of life.

    Similarly, an innovation consultant needs to determine if the “brains” of the organization are willing —and able— to change. Leading change towards a more creative culture requires top executives to stop talking the innovation talk, and start walking it. Ask: Are they willing to revisit the strategic core of the organization (vision, mission, values, core value propositions)? Are they eager to conduct a strategy innovation project to discover new fields of sustained, profitable future growth? And on a personal level, are they open to undergo a creative leadership development program such as Thinkergy’s Genius Journey method?

    Commit to the achieve the desired changes

    Once you’ve begun cultivating an open, curious mindset for healthy change, you need commit the necessary resources: enough time to exercise, meditate and sleep; additional money to purchase healthier meals, and so on.

    Likewise, corporate leaders need to make serious commitments of resources for the creative culture change initiative: committing their own time to create momentum; setting budgets for new projects and innovation initiatives; and forming an innovation team to support the creative change effort. Commitment is the acid test to find out how serious the leadership really is towards creating a creative culture.

    Collaborate to jointly change

    Now you have a motivated mindset to pursue a healthy lifestyle and have earmarked sufficient time and money to achieve success. But how can you be sure you won’t fall back to your old, unhealthy habits? You could team-up with “buddies” who have similar health goals, or hire a coach. Your collaborators will check on your progress and hold you accountable if you stray from the path.

    In an organization, you can introduce collaborative creative projects and innovation initiatives that break down boundaries and silos, unite like-minded, progressive creative minds, and build momentum and enthusiasm for creativity and innovation.

    Work on the cultural factors

    Finally, everything is in place to create a healthier you. Now you just need to do it, which is easier said then done. So, develop new routines and actions that make health and wellness a core part of the way you live: mediate first thing in the morning; eat a healthy breakfast; take supplements; go running, or do a gym or Yoga session on your lunch break; replace unhealthy snacks and drinks with healthy alternatives; go to bed in time to for allow for sufficient sleep.

    Likewise, organizations need to get busy changing their routines and cultural habits to foster a more innovation-friendly climate: practice rapid prototyping; praise people who take initiative even if they sometimes fail; be more flexible about how, when and where people work — while at the same time raising standards and output expectations from “good enough” to the pursuit of excellence.

    Measure your progress

    Shifting to a healthier lifestyle isn’t easy and takes time — and the same holds true for organisations craving a creative culture. Avoid sliding back to your old ways by measuring your progress. The data tell you which strategies and regimens work and which you need adjusting. And seeing progress creates momentum to intensify and sustain the change.

    On a personal level, you regularly track vital signs (resting pulse rate, blood pressure, weight) and annually check how your lifestyle changes are reflected in key health indicators on a cellular level.

    In just the same way, organizations should work together with innovation experts to develop their individualized set of innovation-related key performance indicators on three levels (inputs, throughputs, outputs) that get tracked on a quarterly and annual basis.

    Contact us if you want to find out how we can jointly co-create a innovative change in your organization and help you cultivate a creative culture.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 8 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 1)


    I was half-way in an exercise set at the gym when my eye spotted the breaking news on CNN: “Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dead at 74″. I feel great sadness that one of my heroes has moved on to a higher place. Muhammad Ali was one of the creative role models I studied when I was devising Genius Journey, my creative leadership development method. “The Greatest” exemplified all genius mindsets that most great creative leaders share.

    The Genius Journey sends people in search of their creativity on a journey to visit 10 destination stops. At each stop, they learn about one mindset that stops them, limits them, keeps them small, keeps them thinking inside the box. And they learn about 10 corresponding mindsets that allow them to unbox their thinking, expand their consciousness, and rediscover their creative selfs.

    To honor the life of Muhammad Ali, and to inspire more businesspeople to build-up their genius mindsets and reconnect with their inner genius, let’s tour the 10 destinations stops of the Genius Journey together with Ali today and in two weeks from now.

    Journey Stop 1: Belief, courage, action-orientation and persistence

    Muhammad Ali is a role-model for the foundational first stop of the Genius Journey: Stop your doubts, worries and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

    “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others,” he once said, and he also noted: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

    Ali knew: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Hence, he used affirmations as a tactic to convince himself and others that he is the greatest indeed: “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” And the greatest he became, true to his belief that, “What you are thinking about, you are becoming.”

    Ali was also aware that belief powers courage: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges.” His faith gave Ali the courage to go into the ring against towering champions like Sonny Liston and George Foreman, and to win fights most experts considered impossible for him. But Ali looked at an impossible as a motivating challenge: “Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

    His faith also gave Ali the courage to refuse to be drafted to fight in what he saw as  an unjust war in Vietnam. That conviction would cost him his title, his money and his freedom: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? … I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But … I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

    “He who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life,” noted Ali. His courage gave him the willpower to act and persist in the face of hardship and pain that every champion and genius leader needs to master: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” He admitted he hated every minute of training, but told himself: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

    Journey Stop 2: Self-confidence and individuality

    Stop 2 of the Genius Journey is where you learn to stop your ego — your false self, the role you’re playing to please others — and start being yourself.

    “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want,” said Ali. Instead of copying the thoughts, values and opinions of others, he insisted upon himself: “My principles are more important than the money or my title.” His insistence on his individuality even made him change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali (which means ‘beloved of God’). When people continued calling him with his old name, he responded confidently: “I’m not your slave. I’m Muhammad Ali.”

    While extremely self-confident, Ali was also humble and respectful to ordinary fellow humans. He admitted once: “At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”

    Stop 3: Curiosity and open-mindedness


    Stop 4: Playfulness, positivity & optimism

    The genius mindsets at the stops 3 and 4 of the Genius Journey are located at the same consciousness level. Here you’re asked to stop being judgmental and closed, a negative, serious pessimist. Instead, start being open and curious, a positive playful optimist.

    Muhammad Ali was open and curious to meet people and learn: “I sought the advice and cooperation from all of those around me – but not permission.” He became popular because he loved people and entertained them with funny rants against  opponents (“I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won”) and witty poems (“I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, And throw thunder in jail.”).

    Clearly, throughout his life, Ali maintained a curious, open, positive and playful beginner’s mind of a child, which explains while disease ravaged his body in his last decades, it “couldn’t take the spark from his eyes”, as US President Obama said it his tribute.

    In two weeks, we will continue the remaining stops of the Genius Journey to see how “The Greatest of all times”also epitomized the other genius mindsets. Contact us if you want to learn more about how you can become a genius and discover your genius mindsets with our creative leadership method Genius Journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016.