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Five Secrets to Creative Adaptability

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer
Monday, May 15, 2017

In the face of continuing economic challenges, a roller coaster marketplace, Congressional stalemates, and unrelenting change, leaders in every part of an organization must develop a capacity for resiliency. A cornerstone of resiliency is adaptability. Mind you, this is not the ordinary find-another-answer but rather find MANY answers.

Remember: the organizations with the greatest number of responses to any given situation is the one that survives. The good news: a leader does not and cannot have all the answers. Engaging every part of the organization breathes unknown potential into life.

Leaders in every part of an organization must develop a capacity for resiliency.

Here is how:

1. Bring unlike minds together.

The secret is to mix up people. Example: A secretary produced a brilliant idea as to how to remove snow from phone wires. A security guard sat around a product development table for Timberland and gave input that turned into a best-selling work boot. 3M rotates its engineers from division to division as a spur for innovation. Wisdom comes from not-knowing instead of repeating the obvious.

2. Put people face-to-face. Direct dialogue produces more results of higher quality than digital chatter.

Visit Pixar Animation Studios and you will discover why, since 1995, every Pixar film has averaged an international gross of more than $550 million per film plus netted award after award. It's their process. The free-flow of ideas is made possible by the very design of the physical plant. Everything from restrooms to coffee shops, to watering holes radiate within an atrium forcing people to run into each other and to talk! This is why physical meetings, when handled wisely, produce better, faster results than web conferences.

3. Forget the rules of brainstorming.

Brainstorming just doesn't work. And I have been guilty, many years past, of teaching its very practice. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University summarizes it by stating, "Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas." So much for freewheeling to jumpstart a group.

The other tenant of brainstorming is the absence of criticism. Unfortunately, that also can net poor results. Using Pixar as an example, it is the very use of candid conversation about mistakes and downsides allows for a richness of results. The emphasis is thus not on "my idea" but rather on what serves all of us as a team.

4. Make play time as important as work time.

"Creativity is the residue of time wasted." Einstein. Or as Anacharsis put it, "Play so you may be serious." Laughter build bridges and breaks barriers. When one creativity session came up with the very funny notion that a product could be made that sent "feelies and smellies by wire," the result was a detector that could sense smoke as well as toxic gas. What play does is to take the mind away from a "problem" and give it a breather. Often in that break, play becomes a brilliant metaphor that can serve up a potential solution. Walking in nature, running along the beach, playing ball-anything that is considered "non-work" allows the brain to return refreshed and ready.

5. Take risks and make messes.

I actually owe this to my nephew who, when he was six and newly adopted from Russia, wanted to explore the low-tide dregs found around pilings on the Cape. My brother, a responsible parent, told him that it could be dangerous.

"Sasha," John logically began, "there could be glass in the mud, who knows what kind of trash and maybe even dead things."

"Poppa," squealed Sasha as he twirled, jumped up and down, and waved his hands in huge circles. "To discover, you must take risks and make messes."

Brilliant advice from an unlike mind. Ask the 3M researcher who discovered glue that refused to stick. Ask the Wright Brothers who drove many battered plane models into the ground. Just know how much risk is acceptable and then forge ahead.

Take courage form the words of Alvin Toffler: "Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life." Now go be creative. L'Chaim.

First published at Switch and Shift.

 



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Motivational Speaker Eileen McDargh

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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As a Resiliency Motivational Speaker Eileen loves working with all groups. She has found great synergy with health care audiences and long term care (from personal experience), educators ( As an award-winning educator, she went from teaching kids to grown-ups—who are still like kids), and women’s leadership groups(because she is one!).