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 office bully, how to retort

29 12 2008

How to kill a coworker and get away with it. Part II.

I’ve had my days when just after awakening I wanted to scream at top of my lungs: “I am sick, I do not want to go to school today!” But why in heavens sake will I do that? Well, it happens I used this phrase on my early teenage years; whenever I passed part of the night replaying the occurrences of the day and fantasizing about the many ways I could have snapped back at the young man who either routinely stole my lunch money or made a loud remark about anything I was wearing or doing and left me amidst piercing general laughter. The positive thing about this, is that I learned how to recoup bad experiences, learn about what went wrong in order to not misstep again in the future, the bad aspect is that it took me some years to act upon the acquired knowledge.

Don’t think I am once again wandering, truth is most of the environments we live by have their own bully; whether this archenemy uses physical force or psychological punishment what matters is that everywhere you find people fighting for the alpha dog coup and think that by intimidating others they would achieve it. Bullies at the office wear several masks, and I would love to share my own categorization and what are the ways I’ve found out work to retort their actions.

Superman Superboy Super trouble by hyperscholar

Superman Superboy Super trouble by hyperscholar

The Devil’s Advocate

Who hasn’t heard the phrase “let me be the devil’s advocate for a minute”? If you have ever been in an organization; someone, if not yourself, has without doubt used this invocation to play this horny little role in the past while in an all hands meeting. This phrase is the bullies’ war cry. Think about it for a minute and you will see these seemingly benevolent words are a polite introduction to an unabashed critic without the least intent of adding value to your idea or project.

What most do is take a defensive stance and eventually start attacking the devil’s advocate using the very same techniques: long-winded descriptions accompanied by superficial argumentation. It is easy to see that this kind of reply ends resting value to the parts involved and might eventually escalate to a domestic brawl.

What I’ve decided to do when confronting this mighty warrior is to get the most value as possible from the situation. Negative criticism is not necessarily something bad if gathered carefully it might even shade some light into unattended problems and its possible solutions. How to do this? Simply adopt a quizzical role with two intentions: gather background information around what you are being told and try to find a way of bringing the contender to your side.

Set of questions to gather background information: How is that a problem? To what type of costumers will that be an inconvenience? How our competitors faced this trouble?

Examples of questions to build rapport and eventually befriend the devil: How do you think we can work this out? Is there something in your area of expertise we might have overlooked?

The Ninja

Have you ever came back home thinking you might have just delivered the best ever pitch or that you have killed the Goliath of turn? And then waked up and arrived at the office to find people glancing at you just like you were a zombie. Fired up your station to find a single message which, far from being the pompous praise you was expecting, was a single courteous line asking you to get to your manager box first thing in the morning?

What have I done? What happened from 6 pm to 9 am, Armageddon? Chances are you did nothing to change the waters while something extraneous did. It might be that your manager found out a major fallacy in your estimations, but that won’t explain the weird looks you keep getting from others, would it? Besides, this time you doubled and tripled checked the deliverable, reviewed the plan with your manager on an almost daily basis, pitched it against your peers; so, if there was something bluntly wrong you would have found out earlier. Then what? Don’t wind up it might be that there is a ninja in your organization. Someone who surreptitiously works lurking in anxiety for the time in which someone makes a mistake and no one else notices it. Ninjas are people with enough knowledge and intelligence to find slip-ups no one else identified have direct access to powers that be and have faith that if they point to others flaws they will gain recognition and power.

Cosplay - AWA14 - Ninja stalking by mikemol

Cosplay - AWA14 - Ninja stalking by mikemol

In a balanced world managers who receive notice of a mistake thru a ninja should aim to eradicate the practice and then correct the mistake. Why? Because, this kind of practices do not build value. If the intention was to help, the ninja should have gone to you and tell you about the problem once it was spotted, creating the opportunity to correct it before delivery.

Nevertheless a mistake was committed and it most be corrected. Don’t invest time on trying to find out who was or the intentions behind the attack. This turn time is not on your side buddy. If you wander off road you’ll be not only helping the ninja but will also hamper any value created by work done up to this instant. Instead of falling into espionage mode, bravely gather your shredded feelings, face the crowd and approach your manager. Hear what he has to say, asses if an oversight did exist and if so acknowledge it and find a resolution as soon as possible.

If by chance you gather up who was behind, my advice will be to confront show her up how much more value for all will have been created if the mistake was uprooted when sighted instead of waiting to creep into the project and go bombastic after delivery. Explain to your ninja coworker how much better he will have looked if instead of waiting,  you were told about this from the start and that now that the bully waited it just looks less like a team player.

The eternal bully

Some people  cannot grow out the character they once played as little boys and they keep at it their whole life. Ever heard the phrase “you’ll do it because I said so?” on a corporate environment? There is a bully in the wild, someone who has neither tools nor methods to face debate, explain to others why a certain path must be followed or recognize an erroneous position and correct.

What to do? Well, this is something I do and applies to every other bully type: don’t take it personal. If you take it personal the bully will know a button has been pushed and will keep at it until its goal is reached; besides, since you actually acted berserk everyone else at the scene might think he could have a point and you are covering something.

If everything else fails, don’t take it personal ignore the wise remark, the gesture, the attack, at least your bully won’t know what buttons to push. Be more like batman.





Just call me salmon: from bystander to actor.

11 12 2008

As far as I know, we all live in the same planet, the very same that went berserk about a month ago and started experiencing what some cal the worst financial crisis of the past 60 years. It comes to my mind, that since I was born I’ve been living from time to time several events with “worst” as their top adjective.  Well, hear me you all: enough is enough! I will not accept as truths what others tell me will be the future; I am now, willing to harness my skills and charisma and walk the road, face the monsters and define my own adjectives for the events I live. How about this for starters: lively?

Waiting by conorwithonen

Waiting by conorwithonen

As most of you might already know, last week I ended my 8+ year relationship with my former employer (Dridco). When told or asked for advice, some of you thought I was suffering from a malady, I sounded nutty, anxious.  In the past 6 months several events occurred*, some of them by accident and others by my own will, which ended adding to the same effect: freeing me up from my comfortable witness position and throwing me into the arms of endeavor. 

You can match my decision to that of millions of teenagers worldwide (and not so teen) daily take: even though they find themselves quite happy and sumptuously living at their parents “hotel”, they have a car, their parents ask them for advice, they have a 24×7 all you can eat and no direct expense;  yet, they feel something is amiss, they have the hunger to eat the whole world, the need to walk the roads, make mistakes and learn more: the need to learn who they are as individual and be themselves from the on.

Spot on with my personal believes –yes I am evangelizing here- regarding idea sharing and value creation I would like to share with you my endeavor, you are welcome to rip, add, criticize, laugh and even: I defy you to start this going somewhere else. Ideas are free. What differentiates you from the competitor: YOU (who you are, the way you build, act and learn). 

Enough rumble, this is the project: develop a consultancy, a boutique of sorts, by which companies can asses their current and future online products against industries, revenue models, technological platforms and users goals. Sounds common? Well, it has a glint on it. Are you curious enough Alice? I plan to share under a Creative Commons By Attribution License part of my knowledge and research base. Caveat: project my change due to externalities,  I am not a stubborn donkey, if opportunity knocks at my door and is in line with my passions and needs, I’ll go for it. 

As yesterday, I’ll like share with you one of the sources of my inspiration. Hörtjur Smárason, an acquaintance of mine built via twitter, was one of the people who I consulted before jumping into action pointed me to his ebook and politely suggested me to read it. What could I say? He is behind IfThe WorldCouldVote.com blockbuster, is a well known personality regarding online marketing and user engagement, and after all a U$ 25 price tag for something he authored is a rip off. If you feel tremulous and don’t want to jump into the water before tasting its temperature, read his blog and you will acknowledge that any advice coming from his side will be a good one.

The book is a swift, empathic review of the decisions most companies will now take based on the current financial crisis, how many of those decisions will run against common sense, and what tools you can use (hence the Marketer’s Magic Chest title) to exploit the opportunities exposed by a crisis. After all, Hörtjur is from Iceland; if someone knows about how to survive adverse conditions the icelandics kick ass.

Pd.  If you want to further talk about my project or are interested in reaching me out, feel free to contact me via linkedin or drop me a comment and I would get back to you.

*Brief account of the events that might have caused my recent flare-up:

  • Dario Manoukian introduced me to twitter.
  • Guy Kawasaki invited me to review his now published book “Reality Check” and acknowledged my grain of sand.
  • Started working with Digbang as a software development provider, and confirmed corporations can also have goodness as their mantra.
  • Answered a question on “Linkedin Answers” and ended up with a new pen pal, marketing director of a huge corporation.
  • World went nuts in terms of financial environment.
  • Met Kathy Sierra, Joesys, Patricia nd several other interesting people who openly provide advice if asked for. 




Why you should be more like Batman in the office

3 12 2008
Photo by bmente

"Bruce Wayne has nothing on this kid" photo by bmente

First of all, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dario Manoukian and I will be sharing some insight with all of you in the form of a guest post. I sincerely hope my humble input results useful and it’s put to good use, since otherwise it could cause world havoc.

This week I’ve been reading a book that Mario gave me. It is, of course, a Batman book. “No Man’s Land” by Greg Rucka to be precise. The thing about Batman novels is that you can get deeper into a character’s thoughts than you ever could by reading the comic book. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking about the thought bubbles comic characters often have placed above their heads in which one can read their thoughts as if doing so were an everyday act. Never the less, a novel has more insight on a characters quirks and tics than a comic book drawn by the most experienced artist could ever have. This is of course my opinion as a comic book artist. If I’ve offended you, my deepest apologies. Please continue reading…

One of the things I’ve picked up reading Batman novels is the way Batman’s self image is one of solemnity and authority. Sure, he’s got the muscles to throw any party to a shrieking halt and he’s draped as a nightmare. But still, there’s another factor that if omitted would strip the Batman of that magnificence: HE IS SILENT.

The Batman does not reveal emotion. The face beneath his cowl portrays a stone cold image chiseled with a back-of-the-neck-hair-tingling gaze. Some times a foe (or friend) yells at him, demands something, asks him why he is being so unfair, etc. The Batman remains silent. If standing in a room with a blazing fireplace, the only thing that will move of his face would be the dancing light shining off it and nothing more.

If one were to give Bats a good news they’d receive the same response: none. This is why I think that one can put this way of reacting (or not reacting, if you will) to good use in the office space or anywhere else for that matter.

Let us say that an annoying workmate is blasting loud music while you’re trying to program a complicated computer code (been there). The most efficient thing would be asking one self the following question: W.W.B.D.? (What Would Batman Do?).

If you’re thinking of a round house kick to the nape, then you’re wrong my friend. The Dark Knight would never harm an innocent person. Solid staking-a-victim-during-a-winter-storm-from-a-rooftop patience should be put to good use.

Let’s say that one is bucking for a raise and in return gets nothing but brownie points. Apply your stone cold face and do not let the adoration get in the way of your goal.

There are hundreds if not thousands of examples of experiences one has to put up with in the office, at home, school, etc. But I believe that the gist has been understood.

Bon chance in applying this technique and remember, if it works for the Batman, it could work for you.

Dario Manoukian





Worrying solves nothing

2 12 2008

Life is but a continuous flow of seemingly unconnected situations that unexpectedly end up being tightly coupled. Today I was able to connect several of those dots and would love to share.

Ready,
Amidst current country of residence crisis (Argentina) amplified by the current world financial crisis, my wife and I discussed during several nights and days about the worrisome situation and how scary it is to have our 10mo dwarf riding with us this turbid waves.

Set,
Last Thursday I went to an offline event organized by the Buenos Aires city government: Buenos Aires 2.0 (spanish). There, I had the chance of not only chatting with one of the most amazing and delightful dudes, Mariano Wechsler, but also had the chance to listen to a talk by Alec Oxenford (Spanish), my former manager. Uncalled for, yet so commonly Alec, the subject of his presentation was: how to face a crisis while endeavoring. 

Go!
By randomly following links that seemed interesting, I landed on a book by Stefan Sagmeister: “Things I have learned in my life so far” and ended up visiting the project site.

How does all this connect? Mainly they link on this post title, a quote by Stefan: “Worrying solves nothing”. Worrying is like sitting around contemplating the mayhem, it is inaction and it is more condemnable if you not only sit and see but also either jump in and break havoc or criticize on what others are trying to do to fix the situation. Why do most of us just sit idle instead of act? 

For starters, Malcom Gladwell has written about two theories, which apply to lots of situations ranging form criminal behavior to corporate injustices, which might explain this:

The bystander problem: when witnessing something being done the wrong way and we find our selves in the middle of a group or crowd, we tend to think someone else is going to strip her survival instinct, jump in and save the day.

The broken glass theory (Philip Zimbardo brain child): some of us don’t act upon correcting the causes of the chaos and instead just jump to help chaos unleash throughout the community. “..disorder invites even more disorder-that a small deviation from the norm can set into motion a cascade of vandalism and criminality.”

A tribute (for the times that fun runs out of hand)

A tribute (for the times that fun runs out of hand) by notsogood

 Likewise, some of us just stay idle because we have an irrational fear of failing at something, at trying to reach a goal and end up muddled and being laughed at because we cried wolf to early. Paraphrasing Alec: failure is over priced, to fail is not all that bad if you learn from the mistakes you committed and use that said knowledge in the future.

He also happened to bravely mention something commonly known on the internet industry but otherwise not spoken: it is almost impossible to understand the ins and outs of every metric that can generate a change in your product performance, but what is not unattainable is the knowledge of the things that make you fail so you can at least try not to fail so many more times in the future.

What is in for you in this story? I hope I’ve got you meditating upon your current state, wondering if you are just inoperative, idle and inactive or are doing something to try better your surroundings better for you and others.

Am I diving into the action? Definitely, these new frames on my life flick gave me new energy to keep giving my advice to those who ask for it and pursuing my goal: own product development consultancy shop. I end the post with the peace of mind that I am acting to change my surroundings.

Further reading

Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone (Seth Godin) 

Sacrificing the sacred cows (Neil Perkin)

Web meets World. Web 2.0 expo presentation by a favorite of mine Tim O’reilly  

Ps. If any of you is located @ Buenos Aires and is interesting in reading some of the books or authors I’ve mentioned on the blog but do not have the chance to purchase them just drop me a twit and I will gladly lend some.