Hi Creativity, pleased to meet you.

9 05 2009

Say what creativity? We have been friends all along? Thank God, I was starting to think you were platonic 🙂

It has been a long time since my last post! Regrettably, my new responsibilities not only required but also deserved my full attention, yet thanks to them I have had the chance to acquire new knowledge –mainly air transport industry- and refresh some. Today’s post wanders around creativity, a subject briefly touched upon on our Annual Sales Meeting.

I am sure there has been times when most of you all believed you are not the creative type and had voice some of the following: “I would never come up with something as beautiful as that!”, “I dearly thank you, but what I did here with this work is far from creative I just played around with what we had and what we could do”, “I do not know how to draw, not even sticks figures, how come you say I am creative”.

Hey! I’ve been there too, always tying creativity with and aesthetics and superpowers blend, I always struggled with others opinions regarding my creativity. What they heck do they meant? Do they want me to draw better or do they think I can deliver a Cannes winner? Nowadays I bet lots of you have been hearing the need for being more creative so we all could find ways to cope with the financial storm and safely arrive our destination.

Time and experience had taught me that creativity or the state of being creative is not directly tied to beautifulness, arts or stickiness. When someone is creative it means she has gone through a mental process that delivered an idea or concept that has never existed before or at least not commonly thought about. When the product of creativity is then applied and provides either an answer to an unresolved problem, evolved a product or transformed a given context, you have met innovation. In other words: when you come up with something not thought before you’re being creative; and, when that thought is in turn applied and produces a benefit, innovation occurs.

Lias Colors by laurenatclemsons

Lia's Colors by laurenatclemson's

Our creativity speaker at the annual sale event gave us our fast track tour to what it means to be creative and what kind of habitudes could nurture this trend, and I would love to share my notes with you.

Fluidity: you cannot be creative if every time you think of a new idea you stop dead on your tracks and think of ways that idea cannot be applied. Sit back and think of the times your own Jiminy Cricket has played against you: “Oh God! This is so simple someone else must have thought it before and found out it didn’t work”, “there must be a rule somewhere I am forgetting about”, “plain stupid”, etc. In order to be creative you must hush down your consciousness, demolish your self-imposed restrictions and just play along with whatever idea burst, in the end it might prove the right one.

Flexibility: As the result of a well known human trait (once you’ve found something works or feel like it might stick with it Joe) there have been times when every single idea I come with has common elements with the ones I’ve thought of before. Is this creative? I don’t think so, the storm of ideas might seem alluring but once you end the creative phase and start reviewing which ideas might work you’ll find that you’ve wasted precious time biting your own tail, hence ending with a handful of ideas instead of lots of them.

Or from another point of view: think of how much more chances you’ll have to nail something if the ideas you came up with have origins in different contexts (eg. Think out of the box, oblique strategies, woods vs trees) and how less probable you’ll find an answer if you stick with the same elements.

Goal oriented: to be creative does not gives you license to ramble of your goal. If you are trying to solve airspace travel it won’t help you at all if your ideas are of different ways dogs could take themselves for a walk. You are not being ingenious, you are just being rebellious.

Last, the guy who spoke at our event also mentioned originality as a trait to work upon if you are working on your creativity. In my opinion originality is not a trait to work upon creativity since coming with an idea not thought before is what you are aiming at, hence being original at your context.

In a future post I’ll ramble around the concept of innovation and what guides I believe most be applied through creative process so their product is actionable and could produce innovation. If you squint your eyes and read again what defines and describes creativity processes, you will see a triggered trap there: you could generate unviable new ideas forever and ever.

— Speaker name and bio will be linked during the week as well as some links to books/techniques that might help you with cretivity, fluidity and/or or flexibility

The above mentioned speaker: Mr. Eduardo Kastika (spanish)

Interesting books:
The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelly
Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun
Ignore everybody by Hugh Macleod 

Techniques:
Oblique Strategies





So you want to be a superhero

27 02 2009

How to face your new job part II

Allrighty then, your first X weeks at your new surroundings –be them work, country, family, etc- have come and gone. You have somehow managed to walk thru the valley of anguish and now you proudly display your war marks –hey, they were hard to get in the first place-.

Now that you know there are others that can either help you cope with mammoth quantities of new information and eventual frustration; or that there are even some generous individuals who will take your hand in theirs and walk you by the obstacles while at the same time you learn how to do it, you can almost smell comfort in the air. Having lost the primal fear, due to your childhood’s weekends full with super hero cartoons you begin to think of your coworkers as poor souls in desperate need: naïve beings that have done things ignorant of better ways. Rolling up your sleeves you let your mighty body fall point blank into the chaos….

You fool! Stop before you get yourself into trouble and make your still weak office ties crumble because of your heroism. Grab a seat and listen. Show of hands: how many of you have first pitied and then hated someone who while be new to a job has being heard saying things like “this is not how we did things at XX, let me show you better…”? Get my point?

Chances are you are currently on an established business, hence your need to change its wrong ways around, how then, if most of the choices made by its employees were wrong or badly executed, has it managed to survive all this years? If it is an established business most of its choices must have been the correct ones and even though superficially they must seem the wrong ones, with time and hands on experience you will learn to see the context that drove the organization to do things the way it did.

Its not easy to  be a superhero by Esparta

It's not easy to be a superhero by Esparta

Sure, there most be some that are wide of the mark, others where there is a chance of improvement and even some with which the company might be better off. But won’t it be better if you first let your ego at the front door and with humility dive into the context of your new company? You have a choice here: either brawl and step over everyone’s toes and eventually produce little improvement if any, loosing any chance of empathy, rapport and bonding on the way; or, you could just step into your coworkers shoes, deeply understand the context behind the decisions that were done which might have an impact on your responsibilities and then understand what part of your previous experience and skills might help everyone better things around and what things are what the context provided them to be.

It is a matter of balance: first give others the chances of showing you where they come from, where they are and where they heading; and then, step in and pitch how your previous experience and skills could help everyone arrive to the intended destination with less effort and better earnings.

I’ve learned this the hard way on a previous job, and it took me almost 3 years to rebuild my bonds and get an opportunity to help.





Valley of Anguish. The express tour

18 02 2009

How to face your new job part I.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past month, it has been almost two weeks since I started at my new workplace. As it is customary I would like to share some impressions and feelings I’ve struggled with, hoping these can help others while facing a similar situation.

Before we get down to the bare bones, black and white, details of my experience I feel a little background is needed. Having fortune played a major role on my life it didn’t let me down and again touched me: while preparing the road for my personal venue I was reached and asked to participate on an interview process.  Knowing sometimes interesting challenges and professional opportunities knock at your door in unexpected ways I went to the meeting. Four interviews, three psychological tests, one medical check and lots of paper signing later I am now writing this while getting used to my new role: SubManager for LAN Airlines Argentina’s Internet Channel –mouthful-.

So what kind of feelings I have had while entering a whole new unexpected venue? As far as I am concerned I’ve been thru three major phases during my introduction to the new surroundings: Anguish, delusion, serenity. It is about the first phase I would write in this post: the valley of anguish a.k.a. SMOG* I am a recruiting blunder.

 

Una lectura de Edvard Munch by Eneas

Una lectura de Edvard Munch by Eneas

 

Day 1, introduction 1

After filling out the regular paper work required for every new employee, I walked into my first introductory meeting with my new boss. After the expected greetings and still wielding a million dollar smile I opened my moleskin and started writing down what ever information I found was either new to me or sounded as if it was a core issue I must handle in the near future. There was some talk about the hierarchical structure (“you are here”), the matrix relationship with the holding structure, who were the individuals and the roles of my direct team and the service teams I would be working with, etc.

Suddenly, I felt as if I had just opened a submarine hatch while under the deep sea: my moleskin was being scribbled all over the place, I wasn’t able to discern whether the numbers I was being introduced to were positive numbers or were things I needed to fix, and on top of all that I had a starry page covered with acronyms I needed to check later in order to understand +80% of what I was being talked about. And then is when anxiety kicked in: “OMG would I ever be able to match head and tail of all this? Who was the moron who hired me believing I would be able to handle all this? Who am I kidding?”

The other introductory meetings ran more or less by the same script and I ended my first two days with a major headache and a bashed ego.

Day 3, meeting 1

Once I hit 80+% of my introduction to this whole new crazy travel industry, my boss kindly suggested I went to an operational steering committee so I can get a sense of the things I  would be doing on a daily basis. It goes without saying, I had already lost my smile and had instead a Bert look (don’t we all frown when we are concentrating?) with which I entered meeting room number 2028.

Routine introductions made we jumped in into what might be my worst meeting ever. I couldn’t help myself raising my hand every 5 minutes or so to ask something: “Would you please explain to me what PRK stands for?” “Would you kindly remind me the cost structure we use?” and so on. Thankfully instead of being the target for condescending smiles, general sighing and other kinds of boredom and disapproval manifestations, all of my fellow coworkers kindly answered all my questions.

Day 5, meeting 3

Anguish was gone and I was experiencing a Nirvana of sorts, where I started to understand more of what I was being told and even risked offering my opinion. The Nirvana was the calm before the storm, but that will be the subject of a future post: “So you want to be a hero?”.

So, what happened during day 3 and 4 that helped me conquer my anguish? How would my experience help you cope with a similarly scary situation?

 Believe others know what they do

 While reviewing my posts and talking with my friends about my anguishing circumstances I came to realize this: If you were the candidate who was hired it means human resources saw in you the competence to not only match the corporate culture, the industry needs but also the potential to ride your role to new positive places. Hey, human resources is for sure responsible for hiring the other 1k+ employees and the company didn’t disappeared because of them!

Prepare yourself to adaptation

Let’s get real: every place has its own rules and you need to adapt to them if you want to survive. I am not only talking about a whole industry change, as it is my case, organizations are made up by individuals and as such they gather different traits and thus produce different environments. If you think you could survive a whole new culture by sticking to the conducts you might have had at your past job prepare for a mighty struggle.

Check your ego at the door

Some might have an uncalled need to expose themselves as an expert on every single subject. Why play as if you were not in a team if you could tap into others to obtain knowledge? Everyone else have been in your same situation before and if they are not un interestingly offering their help it is still in their best interests to help you get up and operational as fast as possible. Forget about how you would look and keep asking until you feel you can understand what others are talking about. Ignorance is not a bad trait if you are working to correct it.  





The trip so far.

17 12 2008

It has been two weeks since I resigned and started working on my own venture, two very high geared weeks I might say; yet, at the same time, I’ve come to realize that the most amazing part of riding to your own vantage point is that you can, from time to time, roll down the window and gorge at the view as it gets more and more interesting. 

My view has twisted from very common to remarkable. People who were weeks ago not more than coworkers, turned out to be stepping stones on my journey (continuously asking how I am doing and giving help when needed). Acquaintances I’ve made via a virtual interaction –yes, twitter and linkedin again- have made some quite interesting critics about my project and have kept encouraging me all over. And finally and most surprisingly, things that I thought were a given on the Internet industry, turned out to be more part of a fiction most companies think they live than the reality, thus amplifying the opportunities of my venture.

Tornado! by askin

Summer holiday, day 27: Tornado! by askin

Naïve was I to think this would be a bumpy ride: the journey has proven to be a blend of a rollercoaster, a vacation and a rodeo. I’ve found myself missing the office ambient, the water cooler chats as well as the professional discussions (even though they some times resembled kinder garden encounters) with people outside my area of expertise, while at the same I have found out solitude is a good companion, the copilot you need to point at the good and bad things you were barely passing by while day dreaming at the office. 

The one thing no one who I talked with before jumping into the water and while giving my first laps anticipated and warned me about is this: the worst enemy while following your own quest is your anxiety.

It turns out, as an employee one unwarily gets used to getting a quick feedback and results of your work. Why is that? Your work, even and R&D role, is part of a whole that lies within a strategy, you are expected to turn something out at the end of the day, week or month and as an employee you’ll never be really alone there is always someone overseeing, managing or expecting you to pass your homework to start theirs.  

Things are quite different to someone who is at the same time designing his journey and traveling: results and feedback get a lot longer to get to. Whether it is a return call from a client prospect, a document review from a probable partner or a critic of your idea from a friend, the timing of things are no longer dictated by established machinery, they have a live of their own for real. One has to get accustomed to it, learn how to control part of the timing and keep reviewing the plan, while at the wheel, since from time to time you’ll need to get the occasional detour.





The inflection point: social networks and the impact on B2C relationships

10 12 2008

Some days ago, while reviewing my upcoming endeavor blue print, I found my self diving into a plethora of information regarding crowd sourcing, social networks and community engagement. Oddly enough out of the blue someone with an enigmatic nickname started following me on twitter: memeticbrand.

After asserting there was a human behind the nick (bots are becoming a daily nuisance) and some @ and dm’s between Michael Cayley and me, I was politely asked by him to read his book “The Wizard of Oz is a carny. Follow the yellow brick road” a.k.a the Social Capital Value Add (SCVA) book. Oblivious of what lied behind I read it and found lots of points that resonated either with my beliefs or with my project cornerstone: produce and publish content related to product development usually distributed commercially under something close to a GPL license.

In a big stretch, I will summarize the book as follows: a fast, rabid and objective review of the changes that occurred on the online ecosystem due to the explosion of social networking that ends with an academic approach by which companies can evaluate social capital tools to boost their brand reach.

The smile of a man with a wild fan base by notsogoodphotography

The smile of a man with a wild fan base by notsogoodphotography

From start to finish, Cayleya proofs to be an inspiring source to anyone interested in understanding the aspects surrounding the outburst of social networking tools and how those said tools can help companies build new and stronger bonds with current and future stake holders. From the intro and up until page 40, you are bombarded with facts, metrics and numbers that support three aspects: broadband increased  share as the origin of a more engaged online consumer, how social networks are shaping a new medium: the individual; and, finally an assessment of how the changes that occurred online are defining  new ways by which a brand can reach and connect with individuals.

From then on, Michael elaborately builds the means and ends of a valuation method (SCVA) to be used to establish a dollar value on the most promising social capital available to a company. SCVA, mainly provides a new indicator by which any organization can establish how different network structures, methods and tools impact their goals.

Although complex, if read carefully and with previous knowledge of the “Wizard of Oz”, SCVA book is unquestionably a must have for anyone either already on the coliseum arena or planning to enter it.

As for me this book has opened several new lines to explore: how could social capital evaluation impact businesses with a huge footprint –if not all of their assets- on the media arena? Will SCVA proof to be a useful tool that could help amplify the reach and effectiveness of actions outside the profit world (e.g. government policies, community engaging, social responsibility)?