So Your Culture is Hospitable to Innovation? Here’s One Simple Test to Be Sure.

the joker

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

Before his deforming encounter with acid, Batman’s Joker (the Jack Nicholson flavor) was preening in front of the mirror and his girlfriend (the Jerry Hall version) says, “You look fine.” He turns, raises an already famously arched eyebrow and says, “I didn’t ask.”

This honest approach would serve many organizations who claim to have a culture that supports innovation, but really don’t. They ask, but don’t change anything. This is frustrating and discouraging to those souls who can’t help themselves and must look for new, fresh ways to grow. And, failure to innovate may lead to a protracted organizational illness (see John Wooden).

There are many moving parts to a creativity engine such as: championing leaders, outside the box listeners, seed time and money, obstacle steamroller, and bureaucracy flattener. These and other parts should be recognized and measured.

But there is one simple test you and I can use to see if we truly are working to bring positive change.

List below the last five intelligent failures you have celebrated.

  1. __________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________
  4. __________________________________________________
  5. __________________________________________________

Trouble completing the test? Then your organization is probably stuck in some important and potentially disastrous ways.

Here are a few quotes to inspire us to get on with the failures so we can succeed.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – John Wooden

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill



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Unleashing Diverse Talent while Working in Glorious Harmony: Key Elements


In the hopes of inspiring further study of a complex topic, here are some keys to engaging and motivating creative people to produce their best work—in unity:

  1. See the future. Build a grand vision and work tirelessly until it is shared.
  2. Get bold. Set crazy-hard-to-reach goals and allow for groundbreaking initiatives.
  3. Paint targets. Negotiate and agree on outcomes and how to measure results.
  4. Share the wealth. Construct and publicize reward systems (it’s not always money) that are based on personal accountability and team success.
  5. Be Radar O’Reilly. Embrace the role of supplying resources and being a resource-on-call.
  6. Party on, Wayne! Celebrate the freedom to fail and try again. If people aren’t making mistakes they’re not trying hard enough.
  7. Sit on the bench. Let the players play the game, but capitalize on the occasional teachable moment by coaching.


Learning to lead effectively is a lifelong commitment. I hope this helps you want to learn and practice more.

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7 Keys Peak Leaders Use to Get Feedback


I just returned from a very positive two-and-a-half day session designed to elicit feedback and generate new ideas. Here are some keys you can use to lead for peak performance:


1. Sharpen your razor before you shave.


If there aren’t some sparks flying your blade is going to remain dull. Purposefully invite people you know have differing opinions, personalities, and perspectives.


2. Location, location, location.


As much as is possible, get people away from the weight of their daily responsibilities. Trying to create and produce at the same time is like trying to bathe a cat. Schedule time to socialize informally. We all love to eat.


3.    Begin with the end.


Manage expectations. Clearly define the purpose and result. Set the ground rules, even when there are none. And remind people that not every idea can be used, but all are welcome.


4.    A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.


Start by asking, “What are we doing well?” The answers are the easiest, create a healthy vibe, and set the positive stage for being able to really listen to the negs. Then buck-up and assume the position.


5.    Laughter is the best medicine.


You’ll know you’re building a closely-knit team when heavy discussions are seasoned with chuckles and the occasional belly laugh. Friends who share mirth aren’t disagreeable—even when they disagree. There will be a wit or two in the group—let them go even if they’re sometimes dim. (I think that describes me.)


6.    Major in the majors.


You’ll get way more input than you can use. If you get one or two big takeaways that can be implemented you have a grand slam.


7.    Celebrate success so you can rinse and repeat.


It is important to thank everyone, but the effect is nothing compared to putting an idea to work. Publicize the effort, connect the dots, and set the stage for future success.


Outstanding leaders seek and use feedback.

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Inertia Stinks

There is a law: a body at rest tends to stay at rest until it drops the flicker. The corollary: inertia stinks impacts all of us. We are perfectly aligned to achieve the results we are getting said thought-leader Stephen Covey. What if we are not satisfied with our results?

Perhaps we should first be brutally honest about whether or not we really want big results. Are we willing to pay the price? The word inertia­—which describes the resistance to change in motion or direction—comes from a Latin word that means ”lazy-butt” (loosely translated).

If you and I really want much better results, we’re going to have to change the way we do things. It may mean working harder, but if we are already working our butt off it means changing our approach. This is not about incremental improvements wrought by gnawing on details. I am talking about game-changers; raising trajectories.

A McMaxim precept states: Change is hard because it means doing something—different. Brilliant!

The first step toward significant improvement is to change the way we think and that means:

  • Admitting that we may have been seduced by the mediocre witch’s incantation: activity equals accomplishment;
  • Taking down our defensive shields and becoming completely vulnerable to the pain of new ideas;
  • Surrounding ourselves with and listening to rebels with a cause (if they are passionate, prepared, and respectful);
  • Actively seeking to read about those who found a new way to skin the cat;
  • Judiciously empowering someone to take something into uncharted waters—preferably 180 degrees from our current path;
  • Realizing that if we are comfortable—we ain’t changing!

Part of the magic of being human is the ability to continually learn, grow, overcome, improve, and change. We shouldn’t buy into the paralyzing notion that age diminishes these gifts.

We can overcome inertia! We can earn huge results. It starts with an uncomfortable mental journey to form new pathways in our grey matter.

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4 Cs Define Trust

What is trust? First, think of someone you do not trust. How do you feel when you think about him or her? What do you believe to be true about this person? Is it someone who lied to you, tricked you, or took advantage of you? Or is it someone who just comes across in a way that sets off your radar—something feels wrong, out of place, or too good to be true?

Slick, high-pressure, manipulative sales people set my teeth on edge and make me sprint for the exit like I just spotted a raptor in aisle nine. Four hundred glistening teeth in a put-on smile, pats on the back like we went to grade school together, and easing up into my personal space until we become conjoined twins are clues to me that the guy I met five seconds ago may not have my best interests at heart.

Trust has to do with belief. It is what you and I believe to be true about another person. It is what others believe to be true about us. Beliefs have to do with perceptions, which may or may not have anything to do with reality, but carry the weight of conviction. What does it mean to trust? What do we say about a trustworthy person?

  • I trust you to be reliable—that you will keep your word.
  • I know you will not deceive me—that you will always tell me the truth, even if it hurts me to hear it.
  • I believe you can do what you promise—that you have the strength to deliver.
  • I have confidence in you—that you have cared enough to prepare and are able.
  • I know you will keep me safe—that you would never intentionally hurt me.
  • Most importantly, I am convinced that you have my best interests at heart—that you will never use me for your own, selfish purposes.

How do people feel about you and me? Are we trustworthy?

Trust is easiest to define in terms of things. My Honda is reliable and starts every time I turn the key. These bathroom scales have, unfortunately, never been wrong. This rocking chair is strong enough to hold me and my sweetie. Water will always turn to ice in our freezer. My underground shelter will keep us safe in this storm. But things have no heart. With people, trust gets to the heart of the matter.

In short, we are confident a trustworthy person is caring, consistent, competent, and candid.

Outstanding business owners and leaders focus on building trust with everyone: employees, customers, lenders, investors, vendors and suppliers, strategic partners, and even competitors. Why? Because trust is the lubricant that enables smooth, positive, friction-free human interaction. Trust is a requirement for sustained high productivity.

You and I must work hard to be caring, consistent, competent, and candid.

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