Post by Frank Connolly 2nd November, 2012
Given that everything we do starts with some form of thought, I wonder why we don’t pay any real attention to this when we seek to develop our people?
When discussing “thinking” I like to use the metaphor of a river, that has it’s source in the mountains and then travels to a downstream plain and then out to sea.
Using this, we spend way too much time operating downstream, when the real need is for us to move our thinking back upstream to the river’s source. We find without fail, that when people have the learning and capacity to move their thinking back upstream to start off with, the downstream results are greatly improved. Suddenly, that $1,000,000 issue ceases to exist or at least becomes a $1000 issue because we improved our thinking in the first instance.
In your organisation, do your people have learned and specific thinking methods at their disposal to:
1) Design new ways forward when the old ways are failing?
2) Systematically produce genuinely new, value-adding ideas?
3) Strategically navigate ways forward through unclear territory?
4) Explore multiple options with open minds and avoid being solution oriented?
5) Collaborate in meetings with focus, action and outcome orientation?
6) Integrate your diverse views rather than have them divide?
7) Safely move past using the “fear of failure” to avoid moving to action?
Avoid simplistic categorisations and formulaic approaches to complex issues?
9) Question static beliefs and move beyond default responses?
10) See opportunities through multiple lenses, not just that of risk?
The ability to routinely address these questions will build your organisational capacity and result in significant performance increases.
At Think Quick we have proven methods and track-record in assisting with all 10 of these needs, so if you need to fill your organisational thinking tank and subsequent performance, call us and we’ll have a no obligation chat to see just where we can add the most value for you.
Call Frank on 0400 109727 or contact us via email here.
Post by Frank Connolly 15th October, 2012
Compounding this, there is the expectation from above that whatever they deliver must be certain and unable to fail. The irony of this is that because of the expectation of certainty, structured and linear interventions are being placed into shifting and changing environments. As a result many fail given they are designed primarily for ordered and static environments.
The challenging spaces Government works in are changing rapidly and there is less certainty now than there has ever been. If we are therefore unable to see and understand exactly what is happening out there because of this rapid change, how can develop services with any degree of certainty and know how they might impact?
We do much of our thinking and design the bulk of our services with the assumption of an ordered world around us. The reality is that we are confronted with complex and uncertain world which requires very different thinking and action.
This session is designed to provide insight enabling this to occur.
Think Quick is pleased to collaborate with ACIG in providing this unique seminar that will showcase theory, real life case studies and the opportunity to practice the thinking and methods in experiential afternoon workshops.
To download the Action Focused Innovation in Govt brochure.
All participants are eligible for a complementary consulting hour with one of our course directors. This unique offer allows you to follow up the seminar with a private discussion of your own circumstances and challenges.
Post by Frank Connolly 1st October, 2012
I’ll put my cards on the table up front for this one: I have an equal disregard for both sides of politics here in Australia and I view the next election as the ultimate vote between a rock and a hard place. So much so in fact, that I’ll consider an informal protest vote. Now, many people throw their hands in the air at such a notion saying “but what if everybody did that?” to which I provide an honest response mirroring Catch 22′s Yossarian saying “Well if they did, I’d certainly be foolish to do otherwise.”
The old Aussie adage of “Not voting for them because it only encourages them” as cynical as it is, has a depth of hard-earned wisdom beneath it.
An experience last week highlights my cynicism in these matters.
In my pursuit of getting a new conservation project off the ground I recently attended a function where Opposition Communications Spokesperson, Malcolm Turnbull spoke about the current roll-out of the National Broadband Network. Now I would not normally have bothered attending such a function in the knowledge that I have grass at home I can watch grow, but I was keen to touch base with the Opposition Spokesperson for the Environment who was in attendance. (In addition, Turnbull is perhaps one of the few politicians we have with the nous to understand that different contexts demand different political approaches and that any serious response to issues should be determined by pragmatism, and not solely by a political ideology.)
During his address the Opposition Spokesperson made a number of very salient points that seem to have been overlooked or glossed over by the current Government. The nature of these is not relevant here, but having been one of the very few people to have rolled out a large cable network during my days in Papua New Guinea, I can say with great certainty he made a lot of sense. At the very least, the points he raised deserved serious contemplation by those in attendance.
There was a former sitting member in the audience that was compelled to question and make accusations during the time allocated for questions (Perhaps old habits from our cringe-worthy Parliamentary Question Time die hard?) The thing that struck me was the person’s compulsion to take an oppositional and adversarial approach to many of the points raised. Not only was it very apparent to many in attendance that he had not actually listened to the speech, but it was clear that he was so intent on “opposing” everything that was said, he automatically dismissed the potential benefit contained therein.
The nature of the response and it’s adversarial intent had other unintended consequences across the assembled group. A substantial amount of time was taken up that would have been better served allowing the local community to ask their own questions of the Minister. From my vantage point I could see a great deal of frustration at a political agenda being played out, and in doing so denying the opportunity for others to interact with the speaker.
The interaction was merely one that we see played out daily in our political arenas from all sides of politics. Politicians have developed a dominant paradigm of opposition, and in fervently opposing everything their colleagues across the floor do and say, they lose sight of the very reason they are elected. The perceived importance of the political process itself has out-stripped that of the intended outcomes of that same process.
When we default to solely adversarial interaction we deny ourselves the opportunity of fully exploring the subject-mater at hand. If the argument becomes about winning, any fact unrelated to the winning of the argument becomes irrelevant and is ignored. We often see this in the judiciary where the Prosecution will be in possession of facts that would in fact aid the Defence if shared and vice versa. All of the facts will not emerge as the “winning” of the case outweighs the importance of a full exploration of the matter at hand.
Language is one of the methods through which we make sense of the world and direct our behaviour. If the language is couched in the negative it’s little wonder the resultant interactions tend toward the negative. The word Opposition readily springs to mind here. Dictionary.com defines opposition as follows:
If this is the name, language and purpose ascribed to almost half of our sitting members of Parliament, we have a system named, couched and directed toward adversarial interaction. There is of course always a place for robust, opposing views via debate, however when one side rules by majority any real debate is easily subverted.
From hard earned experience with bureaucrats I know the system will not be overhauled to make it a more co-operative and beneficial one, the status-quo good, bad or indifferent will always be defended. We might however, make a start with some simple adjustments and see what happens from there.
The first thing would be to change some language. I would suggest the removal of the “opposition” word altogether. I would instead select a word that takes the adversarial nature out of the descriptor of “those who currently do not form Government” (The Opposition). Perhaps we could use words like Alternate Spokesperson, Alternate Leader or Alternative Govt? Our language shapes a lot of our thinking, so who knows how a subtle change in language might impact thinking over time?
I wonder also what might happen if we did attempt to overhaul the system to make the Parliament a more collaborative and more productive forum? What would happen if opposition was not the automatic default position of all concerned? What would happen if we forced our politicians to think more broadly and view topics from multiple perspectives before making decisions? What might happen if they started working in unison rather than in opposition? More important still … What would happen if they actually started to make better decisions?
It is actually possible to have a more productive and beneficial Parliament despite what supporters of the status-quo say, it simply needs to be co-designed in a collaborative and cooperative manner.
Imagine our elected representatives collaborating and cooperating in the National interest? Maybe that is a bit too much of a stretch.
As a side note, within a week of writing this, the Parliament has descended into a vitriolic-circus once again with our leaders (and I use the leaders term very loosely) attempting to use the Speaker’s indiscretions to political advantage and attacking one another with little regard to their own self-respect or the job they are being paid handsomely to do.
Post by Frank Connolly 5th September, 2012
Think Quick has just released its new A3 brochure.
Organisations that would like to receive copies of the brochure can contact us here and leave your contact details and postal address and we will send them out to you.
For more information contact Frank on 0400 109727
Post by Frank Connolly 5th September, 2012
Much has been made of the need for more innovative and sustainable approaches in recent times. Despite understanding the absolute need for such, many struggle to break free from those day to day procedures and habits that inhibit us moving forward with innovative and strategic intent.
We all intuitively understand that to deal with intractable problems or to gain that competitive advantage, we can only achieve so much by doing the same things, the same way, over and over.
We know too that many of our traditional approaches are no longer adequate for dealing with an increasingly complex world. Coupled with this challenge is the need to not only reduce debt, but address our issues and opportunities in a sustainable manner. It can be tough going!
Over the journey I’ve come across many different tools, techniques & frameworks from diverse disciplines and trialed them in the workplace. Focused Innovation represents the methods amongst them that have the greatest impact at the coal-face. The selection of methods used in this course are based upon the following criteria.
Focused Innovation has been designed to assist participants address current and pressing organisational needs and help identify new and emergent opportunities. Participants will be exposed to, and experience practical techniques that will enable them to think and design actions in a more innovative, yet focused and strategic manner.
The training comes with an additional work-based assessment to ensure the methods are embedded into practice and that there is a number of improvement initiatives immediately seeded into the work environment.
In tight economic times its no longer adequate to simply default to austerity based approaches. We all intuitively know we are going backwards unless we think and act in news ways. Focused Innovation can provide the skills to do just that.
“Frank has thus far undertaken 11 Focused Innovation sessions with us, this originally started out as one pilot session but due to popular demand, more training is being delivered. The positive feedback has been overwhelming with one senior manager quoting ‘It was the best training opportunity in a decade’. Not only are our people now learning new ways of thinking and solving problems, many are now successfully putting the practical methods into practice – I am regularly coming across new success stories of people taking initiative and applying the methods on an ongoing basis – I call it the ‘sprouting mushroom effect!” (Carol Jadraque, Innovation Manager Melbourne Water)
“That was the most useful training I have done in years and I can’t wait to implement the learnings.” (Session participant)
“The training was excellent! Well presented and engaging. The presenter was very practical and we are going to use the methods on a session next week.” (Session participant)
To book your sessions or discuss how your organisation will benefit from Focused Innovation, contact Frank on 0400 109727 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Post by Frank Connolly 4th September, 2012
As another AFL season nears completion I wanted to comment on a few of the old chestnuts that seem to be trotted out every year but never questioned.
The first is expressed by a number of clubs not wishing to be nailed down to measures of success lest they be judged harshly when failing to achieve them. “We just want to improve on our performance from last year.” A quite pragmatic approach in my view, but of course based upon the assumption that your improvement will out-strip that of those you compete against. It’s an inadequate measure because if you improve 20% and those around you improve by 21% – you are going backwards! It is claimed both Richmond and Essendon “improved” this year but they now occupy lower ladder positions than they did at the end of 2011. WTH?
For the purpose of clarity it might be best to say “We aim to improve more than all of those below, and some of those slightly above us on the ladder.” (I use the ladder position given that is a universally accepted yardstick of success.)
The second was a more specific target aiming at a certain ladder position or better by years end. Football being a highly emotive medium does not allow many fans to be objective enough to understand that this is aspirational and therefore the failure to achieve such a position is an automatic failure. Unfortunately club administrations (too often stacked with football people and not broader thinkers) have their thinking impacted far too much by the emotional outbursts of members and react in ways that can be ultimately detrimental to the longer term success of the club. In a competition of many sides, improvement rarely takes the form of a linear progression. Often we need to go backward or stall before going forward – if in fact we go forward at all. (If you think I have enjoyed the Carlton turmoil resulting from their failure to make their nominated top 4 spot … you might just be right.)
The assumption of linear progression also comes into play when a side is unexpectedly beaten by a new franchise side. There is a naive assumption that if a newly formed side beats yours, the fault must be solely your own because a newly formed side can only improve at a pre-determined rate. There seems to be a serious expectation that these sides should not be allowed to beat yours until such a time you acknowledge they are ready to do so. As a case in point, the catalysts for the sackings of both Carlton’s and Port Adelaide’s coaches this season were losses to new franchise sides, Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast. They can argue their “long-term strategic intent” but their timing is a dead give-away to their short-sighted, reactive thinking.
Another common thinking issue many commentators have is the constant referral to poor recruitment and draft choices of the past. Those who look back and claim a club was negligent in its recruiting by claiming player X should have been taken ahead of player Y, usually never actually said so at the time of the draft! What they have done is examined the outcomes through lenses of hindsight and made a judgement call. If those doing the initial selection had those same hindsight lenses (in effect being able to predict the future) things might be different. Critics and recruiters also need to understand that hindsight will not necessarily lead to foresight. So if a similar choice re-occurs Y might still in fact, be the best option!
I’m also fascinated to hear clubs speak of the “premiership window being open” or expected to open within a pre-determined time-frame! I sometimes wonder if they truly believe this or it is a ruse to keep the fans engaged? Of course in a competition of 18 sides there is no guarantee that any windows will be open at any time. In fact, I believe we have a number of sides in the AFL that may not ever win another flag. The competition itself is a highly complex system with so many variables and interacting elements that you can do the right things, to the best of your ability 100% of the time, and still not “claim the flag.”
Despite our protestations and demands for our teams to succeed asap, I think we all intuitively appreciate this complexity and lack of certainty (even Collingwood supporters at some base level) but still, hope springs eternal in the hearts of footy fans and there is always next year …