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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. 


  • Taking Creative Leadership Lessons From My Baby Girl

    “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm,” noted the British novelist Aldous Huxley. Unfortunately, most of us have no recollections of our early childhood. Hence, we don’t have any remembrance of our own innate spirit of genius in us. According to Albert Einstein, “There is a genius in all of us,” and we showed it as a young child.

    Infants and the very young children are still closest to their true selves. So, observe their behaviors to get a better grasp of the concept of genius. Becoming a Dad somewhat later in life, I have the privilege now to study the ingenious ways of a very young child: Zoë, our 16-month old baby girl. Admittedly, I do it with a hidden agenda: I am curious to find out to what extent Zoë’s ways overlap with the mindsets and routines of geniuses and top creative leaders. I’ve studied these mindsets for over a decade and modeled them in Genius Journey, Thinkergy’s creative leader development method. 

    Today, I share what genius mindsets of Genius Journey I’ve also spotted in Zoë,  (I share my observations solely our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies exhibit the same ways and behaviors. And I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on the ingenious ways of very young children). 

    Lesson 1: Young children take action, and persist until they succeed

    Zoë observes her parents and other grown-ups doing certain things. If it’s exciting, she desires to do this, too. Then, Zoë boldly takes massive action. She persists in the face of —at times painful— temporary failure until she succeeds.

    Take the example of how infants learn to walk. Babies spend most of their early days laying flat on their back or being carried around. All the while, they see their parents and other humans walking on two legs. Babies seem to have an inherent belief that they too can master the art of walking. So, they take action one step at a time: First, they learn to sit. Then, crawl. Next, they pull themselves up. At some point, they stand. Finally, they begin to walk their first steps.

    In the process, they fall many times. According to some books, babies fail a couple of thousand times while learning how to walk. Like Zoë, they persist until they succeed. Nowadays, Zoë confidently walks —and often runs— around her little world. Why? Because she’s a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Are you?

    Very young children tend to exhibit the foundational success mindset of genius. Here’s what we teach at Destination Stop 1 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.”

    Lesson 2: Young children are simply themselves

    Zoë naturally expresses her true self and her unique personality. She is original and insists upon herself. Unlike most adults, she has no desire to hide her true essence behind a mask. She has no intention to play a role that pleases the expectations of others. She confidently shows her talents, ideas, feelings, and true colors. She just is.

    No doubt about it, Zoë and other young kids live in harmony with the tenet of Destination Stop 2 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop your ego. Start being yourself.”

    Lessons 3 and 4: Young children have a beginner’s mind

    “Children are the most learning-hungry beings in the world,” said the American anthropologist Ashley Montagu. Why do babies and young children learn so much so fast? They have what Zen Buddhism calls a beginner’s mind. They are open, curious, and playful.

    Zoë is no different. She embraces her world full of curiosity. She openly approaches a person, animal, plant or other new experience with a spirit of wonder and awe. She wants to play with all other young kids without judging them based on their color of skin, nationality or religious belief. She displays an open body language. Often, she is in a “hero’s pose” with widely opened arms and legs. And very soon, she is likely to bombard her parents with lots of questions about this wondrous world. 

    “Play is the work of children“, noted the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Like other young kids, Zoë uses every opportunity to play and often is absorbed by this. She plays with toys and stuffed plush animals, pans and pots, bottles and boxes, in short: everything she spots and deems worthy of playing. She loves to laugh and have fun with her parents, other caretakers, and other kids. She enjoys dancing and humming along with a song (in her baby language, as we expose her to English, German and Thai). She loves to run around and ride on every toy on wheels. In short, she’s immensely playful and radiates pure joy and positive energy.

    How does this curious, playful behavior of Zoë contrast with the ways of many managers? They often critique and lecture others (instead of listening to ideas and asking questions). Many go through their days with closed minds and bodies. Their hands, arms, and legs are crossed when encountering people or a new situation.. After all, many consider life and work to be serious affairs, and tend to see the glass to be half empty. So it isn’t surprising that they often use the words “No”, “don’t and “but”.

    By the way, Zoë only loses her positive mood when her Mom —and admittedly, at times her Dad, too— stop her from doing something by using the words “no”, “don’t” and “stop”.

    All these observations connect to the creative mindsets at Destination Stops 3 and 4 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop being judgmental and closed(-minded). Start being curious and open(-minded).”

    “Stop being negative and serious. Start being positive and playful.”

    Lesson 5: Young children are full of love and passion

    “Passion is the genesis of genius,” noted the American life coach Tony Robbins. Like other very young children, Zoë approaches every new day full of passion, zest, and energy. On most days, she’s the first to wake up and jump out of bed. She immediately runs to her indoor playground, where she enthusiastically greets, kisses and hugs her teddy bear. She radiates joy and love from the word go. It’s part of her essential nature. So, it’s not surprising that she also seems to love everything that she’s doing. Zoë loves playing with her toys or with other kids. She enjoys messing up the room as much as tidying it up again. She takes pleasure in giving a hand to her parents or grandparents. In short, Zoë is passionate about what she does every moment. 

    How does this contrast with how the average working adult approaches a new day? Many businesspeople drag themselves out of bed in the morning, especially on Mondays. It’s the day of the week that many adults say they dislike most because it’s the beginning of a full new week of work. These people hardly can wait for the weekend to begin. What does this tell us about their attitude towards their work? 

    The genius mindset at Destination Stop 5 of the Genius Journey captures this notion:

    “Stop being indifferent or working only for the money. Start being passionate and love what you do.” 

    Like other young kids, Zoë lives by this motto. She’s full of love and loves what she’s doing. Are you?

    Over the past months, I have observed the behaviors of Zoë, my 16-month-old baby girl.  I found that her natural ways go in line  with the foundational genius mindsets and routines of Genius Journey: 1) Be a courageous, action-oriented believer. 2) Be yourself. 3) Be open and curious. 4) Be positive and playful. 5) Love what you do. 

    Now let’s continue exploring if and to what extent the itsy-bitsy ways of our little ones correspond with the success mindsets of genius. (I share my observations solely on our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies behave and do things in the same way. I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on whether the very young children carry the spirit of genius inside).

    Lessons 6 and 7: Young children possess a broadly interested creative mind

    Zoë is still too young to express her thoughts verbally. But observing her gives hints of what may be going on in her mind, and what interests her. So what have I noticed? 

    Young kids take an interest in almost everything. They enjoy learning broadly about the world, instead of profoundly focusing on one subject as most experts do. In their early years, young kids engage in a broad range of activities: playing alone and with other kids; running and riding wheeled toys; dancing and singing; and drawing and building things, among many others. To sum-up, Zoë and other young kids enjoy developing a broad range of skills and talents. They naturally follow Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences.

    Our little daughter Zoë has a highly-developed intuitive mind, too. In many situations, I can spot how she uses her innate creativity to have fun and get her way. When watching her playing with her doll and plush pets, I am positive that she imagines them to be real. 

    Zoë also frequently does things that surprise me — another sign of her high innate creativity. For example, one morning, she carried my mobile phone to our bed in an affectionate attempt to wake me up. After I got out of bed and —still tired— sat down on the sofa, Zoë brought me all my clothes. Then, she fetched the backpack we carry along when taking her out. Suddenly, I realized what’s going on. Zoë communicated that she wanted me to bring her to the nursery now. (Then, she can still play with her friends there before they all go for their morning nap.) So, I complied, got dressed and walked to the door, and she followed me all smiles and bright-eyed. 

    How does this all compare to the world of business? Over the past two centuries, our western education system has emphasized the development of logical-mathematical intelligence (IQ) and a predominantly rational, analytical mind. This focus equipped workers and managers with functional knowledge and skills needed to function well in the industrial and knowledge economies. 

    Moreover, the modern western education system encourages and celebrates domain expertise. Many experts are so specialized that they know everything about their tiny niche — and almost nothing about the world. In contrast, a classical education used to favor a polymath or homo universalis.

    Stops 6 and 7 of Genius Journey advocate to live and learn both deeply and broadly, and to cultivate a balanced, integrated mind: 

    “Stop being myopic and thinking with only half of your mind. Start thinking integrated with your whole mind.”

    “Stop being stuck in the expert tunnel. Start collecting and connecting the dots both deeply and broadly.”

    Lessons 8: Young children are living change

    Most parents try to establish daily routines for their little ones (e.g., when to eat; take a nap, go to bed). Why is it advisable to create such an orderly framework? Regularity counter-balances the innate drive and high energy of young kids. Infants tend to move, play and do something continually. Such sustained activity allows them to practice and learn new things. Young kids are very flexible in their body and minds, enabling them to evolve so rapidly. Babies personify continuous change. They embody the creativity-empowering mindset at Destination Stop 8 of Genius Journey: 

    “Start to move, change and flex yourself.” 

    How does this compare with a typical businessperson? Many not only do not adhere to healthy routines but rather are slaves to their daily habits. They do the same things over and over again without embracing the variety of life. While habits can simplify life, they also tend to make our bodies and minds inflexible and inert. They prevent us from trying something new in an ever-changing world. So, avoid the creativity-inhibiting, limiting mindset at Stop 8: 

    “Stop being so rigid, inflexible and inert.”

    Lessons 9: Young children are present with all their senses

    “No Columbus, no Marco Polo has ever seen stranger and more fascinating and thoroughly absorbing sights than the child that learns to perceive, to taste, to smell, to touch, to hear and to see, and to use his body, his senses, and his mind. No wonder that the child shows an insatiable curiosity. He has the whole world to discover,” noted the American psychoanalyst Ernest Schachtel.

    Very young children perceive and interact with the world using all their senses. They not only see and hear but also want to touch, smell and taste everything. (Ask any parent how often babies put things in their mouths). Young kids are also fully present in the now. Neither do they reminisce of what they did yesterday nor do they worry about, or look ahead to, tomorrow.

    In contrast, many adults often miss out on what’s going on now. At times, their minds look back into the past full of nostalgia (“These were the days…”) or with regret (“I should have …”). At other times, they look forward to the future, either full of worries whether they will still have enough money or good health, or in hopeful anticipation of what they will do when reaching a certain point in future (such as, when the kids flee the nest, or when they retire). In any case, they miss out on the present moment, on what’s happening right now. So, it’s not surprising that their sensory acuity has atrophied, too. Most adults overemphasize their visual and auditory senses, while neglecting the others.

    So, young kids like Zoë live by the motto of Destination Stop 9 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop living in the past or future. Start focusing on the now with all your senses. Be mindful.

    Lesson 10: Young children apply and then relax themselves

    Zoë is action pure and simple. She plays, runs, climbs, and carries things around until she’s completely exhausted and tired. Later, Zoë falls asleep in an instant. In downtime, she recharges and processes everything she’s encountered and learned anew. When she reawakens, she goes back to active mode right away. She applies herself to the activity of the moment until her battery runs down. Then, it’s time again to relax and recharge. 

    Our little ones seem to intuitively balance periods of intensive action and total relaxation (sleep). Thereby, complete application and relaxation alternate in a harmonious rhythm. This pattern likely helps kids to get absorbed in an activity and experience states of flow (or be in the “zone,” or find their “Mojo”).

    In comparison, modern businesspeople are busy almost all the time. They engage in countless activities at a frantic pace. Nowadays, even if they get a moment to take a breath, they glance at their smartphones. Busy-ness and overload lead to what Marshall Goldsmith calls “No-jo”: no relaxation, no rhythm, no flow, and no breakthroughs. 

    Like other young kids, Zoë enjoys the ebb and flow of total action and relaxation that produces flow. So, she naturally embraces the lesson of Destination Stop 10 of Genius Journey:  

    “Stop your busy-ness. Stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Start balancing doing and being in a harmonious rhythm to induce states of flow.”

    Conclusion: Learn the ways of genius from our little ones

    “Grown men may learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure and, therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people may miss.” Take in these words of wisdom from the Native American Medicine Man Black Elk. 

    “If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses,” noted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Being a genius himself, Goethe recognized genius in the eyes of very young kids. So, I invite you to do as the German playwright and philosopher. Openly and curiously observe the ways of babies and young kids. Sooner or later, you’re likely to spot the genius in their eyes, too. And by recognizing and appreciating the ingenuity of very young kids, you take the first step to acknowledge your genius that you exhibited as a very young child, too.  

    Are you interested in reconnecting to your inner genius?  Contact us to learn more about Genius Journey and our creative leader development programs

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019


  • 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


  • What Consciousness Level Do You Operate On?

    Nowadays, most companies embrace personality tests and cognitive profiling methods as a tool to learn more about their people. Clearly, there is no shortage of such profiling tests that range from classic typologies (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the DISC concept) over more cognitively-inclined tools (such as Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument [HBDI] or Alan Black’s MIND Design Concept) to more recent additions such as Insights Discovery or TIPS (Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System). But have you ever encountered a person with the same cognitive profile as you who nevertheless approached life in very different ways? While some of these differences may go back to a different social, cultural, educational, professional and/or generational background, they are frequently due to a factor that is greatly overlooked by business: consciousness.

    What does consciousness mean?

    Consciousness can be defined as the state of being aware of one’s surroundings, or one’s perception of something or a person, or the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world. In other words, to be conscious means to operate at a certain level of observing awareness and a certain degree of freedom of choice when thinking, feeling, sensing and interacting with people and the environment. 

    Highly conscious people have greater levels of observing awareness. This allows them to be less automatic in their response to situations they encounter, and to rather make an intentional choice how to think about and act upon what’s going on around them and within them. As such, they are able to observe both their outer and inner worlds with detachment, and to “simply be” (as opposed to always having to do something).

    Conceptualising the levels of consciousness (1): Hawkins' Map of Consciousness

    In 1995, the US philosopher and consciousness researcher David R. Hawkins published his book Power vs. Force: An Anatomy of Consciousness. In his book, Hawkins introduced a scale of expanding levels of consciousness that he calibrated using the methods of muscle testing and kinesiology. These consciousness levels are positioned on an exponential scale ranging from zero to one thousand. On his resulting Consciousness Map, Hawkins differentiates eight life-suppressing and nine life-supporting levels of consciousness characterized by the related emotional state or mindset that predominantly underlies a person’s behavior:

    • Presented in accelerating order, the life-suppressing emotional states are shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, and pride. All of these negative states calibrate below 200, which is the threshold to the positive consciousness levels.
    • Courage is the first of the live-supporting mindsets at the entry level of 200, followed by neutrality (250), willingness (310), acceptance (350), reason (400), love (500), joy (540), peace (600), and enlightenment (700-1000). 

    According to Hawkins’ observations, 85% of the world’s population lives on the life-suppressing, negative levels of consciousness below 200. Given so much negativity, why hasn’t humanity already destroyed our civilization? Hawkins suggests that the positivity of people operating on higher consciousness levels counterbalances the negativity of thousands or even millions of other people. This explains why Mahatma Gandhi (whom Hawkins calibrated at 760) was able to convince more than a hundred million people to follow his philosophy of non-violent resistance to end the British colonial rule in India.

    Conceptualising the levels of consciousness (2): Spiral Dynamics

    Spiral Dynamics by Don Edward Beck and Chris Cowan is another theoretical concept to explain different human development states (or levels of consciousness). Grounded in the work of Dr. Clare W. Graves, Spiral Dynamics suggests that when forced by life conditions, humans adapt to their environment by constructing new, more complex conceptual models of the world that allow them to better deal with the new problems. Each new model (or “meme”) transcends and includes all previous ones. Spiral Dynamics distinguishes eight “memes” of expanding consciousness; each of which for ease of reference is given a short name and an associated color:

    • “Survival Sense” is the start level of Spiral Dynamics. In this Beige Meme, humans’ sole focus is about staying alive by following ones instincts and innate, automatic sensory responses.
    • The Purple Meme on the next level is animistic and tribal in nature. Popularly described with the name “Kin Spirits”, humans bond here based on blood relationships to jointly master a mystical and scary world.
    • Called “Power Gods”, the Red Meme describes a more egocentric approach to life by enforcing power over self, others, and nature through exploitative independence and dominance.
    • “Truth Force” is the name of the Blue Meme. It is characterized by an authoritarian system of control and order, obedience to authority and an absolute belief in one right way or “truth”.
    • The ambitious, materialistic Orange Meme is named “Strive Drive”. It focuses on making things better for oneself by emphasizing strategy and possibility thinking.
    • “Human Bond” is the popular name of the Green Meme. It focuses on the equality and well-being of a community of people and on building consensus.

    Each of these lower-level memes are linked to states focusing on “having”, while the following memes are on higher levels of “being”:

    • Dubbed “Flex Flow”, the Yellow Meme describes humans who  are able to flexibly adapt to change by synthesizing integrative, interconnected big picture views.
    • Finally, the Turquoise Meme captures the vital few people (0.1%) who want to positively influence whole Earth dynamics and macro-level actions (“Global View”).

    Just like Hawkins’ Anatomy of Consciousness, Beck & Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics can explain why people cooperate and collaborate, or come to conflict with each other over differences in values and the deep-rooted belief systems that form them. One example: In which meme of Spiral Dynamics, and at what level of Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness, would you position the former and current US presidents Obama and Trump? Where would you place the majority of people who voted for them? Can you spot how the political decisions of these two presidents reflect alternative values and beliefs positioned on different levels of consciousness?

    How can you expand your consciousness?

    In order to move to a higher level of consciousness, we need to experience certain situations and/or do certain exercises that allow us to first transform our attitudes and action routines from negative to positive, and then to advance to higher, more integrative and holistic states of conscious being. 

    One way to expand your creativity and consciousness is to travel the Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve developed for Thinkergy. The method employs a journey metaphor to help you acquire ten genius mindsets that are located on gradually expanding levels of consciousness. Genius Journey can transform blue or orange executives into yellow or even turquoise creative leaders. On Hawkins’ scale, Genius Journey can work for businesspeople who are on a level of at least 100, and can show them how to gradually expand their creative consciousness to the 400-540 range that may allow them to experience Eureka moments of subconscious peak creativity. 

    What if you strive even higher and aim for a consciousness level beyond 600 on Hawkins’ scale? Then you need to become a pupil of a spiritual guru who’s familiar with these states. As a creative leadership coach, I can only confidently talk about the levels below 600. 

    Why should you bother to expand your consciousness?

    By 2030, humanity will need a third planet Earth to sustainably reproduce all that we consume (of course, we have only one). By 2050, the world’s population will have shot up from currently 7 to 9 billion people. According to Hawkins, 85% of those run on lower, life-suppressing states of consciousness and mostly focus only on getting more for themselves — and not on the greater good of humanity. Moreover, mastering artificial intelligence and digital transformation will require more members of humanity to evolve to a new level of whole-mind awareness; Beck and Cowan already see a new “Coral Meme” emerging that they characterize as “holonic” (i.e., being or involving something that is simultaneously a self-contained entity and a part of a larger system). To sum-up, humanity needs more creative leaders who operate on higher states of consciousness and make more meaningful decisions for the better of the world, their organizations, their followers and themselves. 

    Are you interested to become one of them? Then take the first step today. Contact us to learn more about our Genius Journey creative leader training courses — and maybe even about our Genius Journey creative leadership coach licensing program.

    © 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.


  • Learning from the daily routines of creative top achievers

    Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve created, invites candidates to go on an imaginary journey where they travel to ten destinations to rediscover their inner creativity. At each destination stop, they learn about one disempowering mindset or action routine that limits their creativity, and they also get introduced to a corresponding empowering mindset that reconnects them to their inner creativity. 

    At the 10th stop of Genius Journey, you need to stop being busy, busy, busy all the time; instead, start cultivating daily routines that balance focused doing with relaxed being. If you find a harmonious rhythm between focused work and relaxed play, you can more easily get into flow, a state of optimal experience where you perform at your peak and creative sparks fly. But in our hectic and busy times, how to get into a harmonious rhythm between focused doing and relaxed being? Today, let’s find out by studying the daily routines of creative top achievers.

    Investigating the daily routines of creative top achievers

    In his book Daily Rituals. How Artists Work, Mason Currey shares the daily routines and habits of 161 creative top achievers: Currey studied the schedules of a collection of top achievers from a wide range of creative domains: composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Richard Strauss; painters such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh or Joan Miró; philosophers like René Descartes, Søren Kierkegaard, or Jean Paul Sartre, scientists (in the widest sense of the word) such as Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, or Carl Jung; inventors, designers and entrepreneurs such as Le Corbusier, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Nikola Tesla or Benjamin Franklin; and many, many writers such as Mark Twain, Earnest Hemingway, Friedrich Schiller, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

    While almost all creative top achievers had their unique daily schedule and peculiar preferences, they surprisingly share many commonalities in the way they approach a typical work day. Like the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who preferred “a certain uniformity in the way of living and in the matters about which I employ my mind,” many creative top achievers are creatures of habit in the way they approached a typical workday. Why do they do it?

    Apparently, most creative top achievers noticed at some point in time that maintaining certain work routines and daily habits increases the likelihood of getting into the state of flow and creative kisses by their muse and inner genius. The French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it this way: “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may violent and original in your work.”

    Uncovering patterns in the daily routines of creative top achievers

    RJ Andrews at Infowetrust.com visualized some of the more detailed schedules presented in Currey’s book in an infographic mapping out the hourly schedules of 16 creative top achievers. Other contributors (such as podio.com) added visual schedules of further creatives. In order to identify patterns in the work schedules and daily routines of creative top achievers, I visualized these data in an aggregated chart that shows six activity areas grouped in three main categories:

    • WORK (separated in main creative work; secondary creative work;  and drudgery)
    • PLAY (separated as time for exercising and leisure (e.g., meals, socializing, and spiritual activities)
    • SLEEP

    Please note that in the chart, the time displayed on the horizontal axis depicts time total hours committed to an activity irrespective of the precise time of the day on a clock, which are shown in infographics of the other sources listed above; moreover, for the main creative work activities, the chart shows a split of the work time into 1-3 creative phases.

    Looking at the chart above, I was able to spot the following common threats running through the schedules and daily routines of the featured creative top achievers:

    • Counterintuitive to what most laypeople expect of creatives, most creative top achievers stayed true to a precise daily work schedule, believing the routine helps them to get more easily into a creative flow. For example, the British-American writer W. H. Auden explained why he followed a strict daily time schedule: “A modern stoic knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”
    • Creative top achievers invested on average 6.5 hours per day in their main creative work activity. Thereby, the span is very wide ranging from two to 13.5 hours. Most writers seem to prefer one long creative phase per day (of 3-7 hours in length), while the featured artists worked in two creative time blocks and some scientists even had a third creative work phase.
    • Often, creative top achievers either commit to undergo their main creative work for a fixed number of hours each day (normally anywhere from 3 to 8 hours) or until they hit a certain output target (such as the two thousand words quota that Stephen King commits writing on every day of the year).
    • Most creative top achievers get to their main creative activity within 2 hours of rising at the start of their work day. Thereby, roughly seven in ten prefer to complete their main creative daywork in the morning; however, many of the late-rising creatives also began work as one of their first activities of the day in the afternoon or at night.
    • Apart from their main creative work, roughly four in ten also invested time in secondary work activities that supported their primary creative work (often in reading that can provide more “dots” to connect to a creative work project).
    • Three in ten of the featured artists (and here most prominently Mozart) had to invest time in other day jobs (typically teaching, but in some cases also administrative work)  that helped them make ends meet. However, most creative top achievers managed to avoid spending precious time for drudgery.
    • Interestingly, two in three creative top achievers regularly exercised (often walking, but also running, swimming, horse-riding or even chopping wood). Those engaging in exercise invested on average 1.5 hours a day for this activity. Why? It seems that exercise not only it helped them to stay productive and to deal with occasional frustrations and blockages, but is also a proven way to get creative inspirations and ideas — and to collect more and fresh dots to connect to one’s creative work. For example, for more than a quarter century, Huraki Murakami has kept up his daily routine to go for an hourly run around noon. Charles Dickens left his desk at 2 p.m. every day for a brisk 3-hour walk through the streets of London or countryside, a strategy intended to “searching for some pictures I wanted to build upon” in his novels.
    • The featured creative top achievers also invested 6.5 hours in average for leisure activities including meals, personal grooming, socializing and spiritual practice (once again, the range here varies widely from 1.5 to 12 hours).
    • More than nine out of ten creative leaders slept around 7-8 hours per day, highlighting the importance of sleep to reinvigorate their bodies and minds.

    What can we learn from the daily routines of creative top achievers?

    “We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something amazing.” In line with the German playwright Friedrich Schiller, please find ten recommendations (that I personally also follow every day whenever possible) on how you may produce more and better creative outputs by harmoniously balancing time for focused work with relaxed play:

    1. Take your time to develop your unique schedule and daily routines that works for you and allows you to get your creativity flowing. None of the creative top achievers featured above copied the schedule of other people, so neither should you. “Be original. Insist upon yourself”, as Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended.
    2. Pay attention to your natural energy rhythm. If you’re a lark, consider starting work in the wee hours of a new day. However, as an owl, don’t feel shy in beginning your work day in the afternoon or evening when your energy levels start to come into full swing.
    3. Emulate the work-play pattern of creative top achievers to ensure a long creatively productive and happy life: Dedicate 8 hours (plus minus 30 minutes) each for work, play and sleep.
    4. Block at least 3-4 hours of time at the beginning of your work day to focus on your main creative work (e.g., writing). During this time, focus on one creative project and output that you want to produce by the end of that time. The English writer and social critic Charles Dickens noted in this context: “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”
    5. If your schedule permits, consider adding a second creative phase of 2-3 hours in the second half of your work day (either for adding more creative outputs, or for editing and improving on the outputs from phase 1).
    6. Consider adopting a firm routine of either committing a certain number of hours for creative work each day, or committing to achieve a certain creative output target (e.g., hitting a certain word count).  Complete any administrative work or drudgery towards the end of the workday (after you have completed your creative work for the day).
    7. Consider exercising for one hour each day as part of your daily routines to refresh your body and creative mind. Expect to get new creative inspirations and ideas while you sweat it out.
    8. Apart from exercising, commit quality time for leisure activities (dining, socializing and meeting with friends, meditation, reading, etc.). If creative top achievers can play in average for 6.5 hours, so can you.
    9. Don’t skimp on your sleep if you want to be healthy, productive and creative in the long run. If you travel a lot or temporarily need to do with less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, experiment with cat naps (just like Thomas Edison or Richard Buckminster Fuller did) or doing mindfulness meditation to compensate for the lost hours of sleep.
    10. Finally, find your own work-play rhythm. Experiment with different ways to schedule the day to find a rhythm that works for you and helps you to be both creative and productive. Once you’ve noticed that a schedule works and induces creative flow, stick with this trusted routine it like the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami: “I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

    This article will be an addition to the third part of my upcoming new book Genius Journey. Developing Authentic Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy (targeted for publication in 1Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 1)

    In the coming decade, major generational shifts will take place in the workplace. Today and in two weeks, let’s understand more about the concept of social generations, how the socialization of different generational cohorts impacts the way they think, work, decide, communicate, manage and lead, and how generational shifts will affect the ways we do business and innovate.

    Background: Training a group of global nomads

    In April 2017, I had the pleasure of training a fascinating group of highly successful businesspeople in our creative leadership method Genius Journey. Led by an impressive young Briton, the training group entirely consisted of an accumulation of global nomads, who flew in from all-around-the world to Phuket, Thailand, for a joint gig and team holiday. Together, the group operates an online platform for business coaches to host an annual international online coaching conference and to disseminate quality contents for a global coaching community.

    All Millennials in their late 20s or early 30s, the fourteen delegates came from eight diverse nationalities (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Croatia, Romania and India); with one exception, none of them actually lived in their home country. Moreover, while the group has a hub connecting all spokes, both are “moving targets”: the hub (= “head office” where the core team has pitched tents for the time being) only recently shifted from Costa Rica to Croatia, and most of the “spokes” (= individual team members) are frequently traveling between countries. Nevertheless, all collaborate together seamlessly and successfully across different time zones using the Internet and modern communication solutions.

    Why do I tell you this story? Training this group of international global nomads —and witnessing them working in the evening after our training with other colleagues who couldn’t make the offsite — made me realize the huge differences in work styles, work-life aspirations and educational backgrounds of Millennials (also known as Generation Y) compared to those generations who still tend to run or influence most businesses today.

    For the first time, I fully understood the importance of appreciating the style differences between social generations, and I began investigating and pondering how the impending generational shifts in the workplace will affect business and innovation.

    Introducing the concepts of social generations

    In social science, the concept of social generations describes cohorts of people born within a specific time period (ranging between 15 to 30 years) who jointly experience significant historical landmark events and witness the emergence of certain iconic technologies and trendy cultural phenomena during their formative years and while coming of age.

    Because the shared social marker experiences within a single generation differ from those of previous or later cohorts, generations tend to vary from each other in their values, aspirations and motivations, the ways they work, communicate, make decisions, interact with certain technologies, etc. As a result, when one generation starts to retire, other generations take over, and a new generation enters the work place, these generational shifts tend to have major impacts on the economies and businesses.

    Introducing the present generations and their sociological background

    Let’s gain an overview of what generations are presently still alive, and gain an impression of the landmark events, technologies and cultural phenomena that shaped them (here note that the time spans between different generations is indicative only and varies in the literature, and the terminology follows the most common one developed in the USA):

    • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) describes the cohort who grew up in the culturally and scientifically rich period of the late imperialistic era and fought in World War I, a traumatic experience that led to their name coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Earnest Hemingway. At the point of writing, there is a sole survivor of this generation.
    • The G.I. Generation (1901-1924) includes those who lived through WWI in their younger years. Because they had to master the Great Depression and fought in World War II, they are also called the “Greatest Generation” in the USA.
    • The Traditionalists (1925-1945) includes most of those who were born or growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, and who fought the Korean War and in some cases during the Vietnam War. Also called the Silent Generation (or “Silents” because they were socialized at a time of conformity to authority), they grew up with Jazz and Swing (Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra), flocked to “Gone with the Wind” in the cinema, and saw the advent of TV.
    • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) got their name from the baby-boom following World War II. They are a large demographic cohort and due to the long time-span, they are sometimes distinguished in early boomers (1946-1955) and late boomers (1956-1964). They grew up during the early Cold War era with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and witnessed the moon landing and the civil and women’s rights movements that challenged the established order. Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock) and the Boomtown Disco period, the movies “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate”, and the arrival of Color TV were important cultural phenomena shaping the boomers.
    • I am a member of Generation X (Gen X, 1965-1980), the “baby bust” generation characterized by a drop in birth rates following the invention of the birth control pill. We experienced a series of negative landmark events and social markers, such as the AIDS crisis, a renewed nuclear arms race in the late Cold War era, the Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but also the sensational fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Sometimes called the “MTV generation”, we enjoyed watching pop videos (Madonna, Michael Jackson) and listening to new wave and house music. Movies such as E.T., Star Wars or Alien made an impact on us, too, and the Walkman, VCR and in particular Personal Computers (IBM PC, Macintosh) were iconic technologies for us.
    • The Millennials (Generation Y, 1981-1994) grew up during the Dot-com boom, enjoyed the turn of the Millennium and suffered from the 9/11 terror attacks. Being mostly the offspring of the demographically large baby-boomers. they are also a huge cohort that has just surpassed the number of the Baby Boomers in the US. Millennials witnessed in their youth a series of major technological shifts such as the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, email, SMS, and the DVD. Cultural phenomena that shaped Millennials were hip hop (Eminem, Puff Daddy) and singers like Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, the movie “Titanic”, the emergence of Reality TV and Pay TV, and fancy gaming playing consoles (Playstation, XBox).
    • The Post-Millennials (1995-2010) witnessed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Asian tsunami and the global financial crisis as landmark events. Also known as Generation Z or Gen 2020, they grew up with the iPad (and other tablets), social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat) and mobile apps. Culturally, Post-Millennials often have a thing with musical interpreters such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift, and got greatly influenced by the movie “Avatar” and other 3D movies.

    Interim Conclusion: Generational shifts and developments —hopefully— never stop. Some sociologists suggest the next generation has already emerged: Generation Alpha (people born from 2011 onwards — and my newborn daughter Zoë is a recent addition to Gen α). After introducing the different generations in today’s article, come back in two weeks time to learn more about the generational differences in the workplace (work aspirations, behaviors and styles), and how the generational shifts in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change business in general and innovation in special.

    This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 1)

    In the coming decade, major generational shifts will take place in the workplace. Today and in two weeks, let’s understand more about the concept of social generations, how the socialization of different generational cohorts impacts the way they think, work, decide, communicate, manage and lead, and how generational shifts will affect the ways we do business and innovate.

    Background: Training a group of global nomads

    In April 2017, I had the pleasure of training a fascinating group of highly successful businesspeople in our creative leadership method Genius Journey. Led by an impressive young Briton, the training group entirely consisted of an accumulation of global nomads, who flew in from all-around-the world to Phuket, Thailand, for a joint gig and team holiday. Together, the group operates an online platform for business coaches to host an annual international online coaching conference and to disseminate quality contents for a global coaching community.

    All Millennials in their late 20s or early 30s, the fourteen delegates came from eight diverse nationalities (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Croatia, Romania and India); with one exception, none of them actually lived in their home country. Moreover, while the group has a hub connecting all spokes, both are “moving targets”: the hub (= “head office” where the core team has pitched tents for the time being) only recently shifted from Costa Rica to Croatia, and most of the “spokes” (= individual team members) are frequently traveling between countries. Nevertheless, all collaborate together seamlessly and successfully across different time zones using the Internet and modern communication solutions.

    Why do I tell you this story? Training this group of international global nomads —and witnessing them working in the evening after our training with other colleagues who couldn’t make the offsite — made me realize the huge differences in work styles, work-life aspirations and educational backgrounds of Millennials (also known as Generation Y) compared to those generations who still tend to run or influence most businesses today.

    For the first time, I fully understood the importance of appreciating the style differences between social generations, and I began investigating and pondering how the impending generational shifts in the workplace will affect business and innovation.

    Introducing the concepts of social generations

    In social science, the concept of social generations describes cohorts of people born within a specific time period (ranging between 15 to 30 years) who jointly experience significant historical landmark events and witness the emergence of certain iconic technologies and trendy cultural phenomena during their formative years and while coming of age.

    Because the shared social marker experiences within a single generation differ from those of previous or later cohorts, generations tend to vary from each other in their values, aspirations and motivations, the ways they work, communicate, make decisions, interact with certain technologies, etc. As a result, when one generation starts to retire, other generations take over, and a new generation enters the work place, these generational shifts tend to have major impacts on the economies and businesses.

    Introducing the present generations and their sociological background

    Let’s gain an overview of what generations are presently still alive, and gain an impression of the landmark events, technologies and cultural phenomena that shaped them (here note that the time spans between different generations is indicative only and varies in the literature, and the terminology follows the most common one developed in the USA):

    • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) describes the cohort who grew up in the culturally and scientifically rich period of the late imperialistic era and fought in World War I, a traumatic experience that led to their name coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Earnest Hemingway. At the point of writing, there is a sole survivor of this generation.
    • The G.I. Generation (1901-1924) includes those who lived through WWI in their younger years. Because they had to master the Great Depression and fought in World War II, they are also called the “Greatest Generation” in the USA.
    • The Traditionalists (1925-1945) includes most of those who were born or growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, and who fought the Korean War and in some cases during the Vietnam War. Also called the Silent Generation (or “Silents” because they were socialized at a time of conformity to authority), they grew up with Jazz and Swing (Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra), flocked to “Gone with the Wind” in the cinema, and saw the advent of TV.
    • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) got their name from the baby-boom following World War II. They are a large demographic cohort and due to the long time-span, they are sometimes distinguished in early boomers (1946-1955) and late boomers (1956-1964). They grew up during the early Cold War era with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and witnessed the moon landing and the civil and women’s rights movements that challenged the established order. Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock) and the Boomtown Disco period, the movies “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate”, and the arrival of Color TV were important cultural phenomena shaping the boomers.
    • I am a member of Generation X (Gen X, 1965-1980), the “baby bust” generation characterized by a drop in birth rates following the invention of the birth control pill. We experienced a series of negative landmark events and social markers, such as the AIDS crisis, a renewed nuclear arms race in the late Cold War era, the Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but also the sensational fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Sometimes called the “MTV generation”, we enjoyed watching pop videos (Madonna, Michael Jackson) and listening to new wave and house music. Movies such as E.T., Star Wars or Alien made an impact on us, too, and the Walkman, VCR and in particular Personal Computers (IBM PC, Macintosh) were iconic technologies for us.
    • The Millennials (Generation Y, 1981-1994) grew up during the Dot-com boom, enjoyed the turn of the Millennium and suffered from the 9/11 terror attacks. Being mostly the offspring of the demographically large baby-boomers. they are also a huge cohort that has just surpassed the number of the Baby Boomers in the US. Millennials witnessed in their youth a series of major technological shifts such as the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, email, SMS, and the DVD. Cultural phenomena that shaped Millennials were hip hop (Eminem, Puff Daddy) and singers like Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, the movie “Titanic”, the emergence of Reality TV and Pay TV, and fancy gaming playing consoles (Playstation, XBox).
    • The Post-Millennials (1995-2010) witnessed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Asian tsunami and the global financial crisis as landmark events. Also known as Generation Z or Gen 2020, they grew up with the iPad (and other tablets), social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat) and mobile apps. Culturally, Post-Millennials often have a thing with musical interpreters such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift, and got greatly influenced by the movie “Avatar” and other 3D movies.

    Interim Conclusion: Generational shifts and developments —hopefully— never stop. Some sociologists suggest the next generation has already emerged: Generation Alpha (people born from 2011 onwards — and my newborn daughter Zoë is a recent addition to Gen α). After introducing the different generations in today’s article, come back in two weeks time to learn more about the generational differences in the workplace (work aspirations, behaviors and styles), and how the generational shifts in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change business in general and innovation in special.

    This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • 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.