Tag Archives: leadership

Can organizations be creative too?

Have you ever been at a corporate off-site or other workshop/offering where the result of the initiative fell flat? The intent was good; but there were no new meaningful insights. It was scheduled rather than organic. Our brains had time to predict the future, and the potential for novelty disappeared. Transplanting the same mix of people to a different location, even an exotic one, then dropping them into a “new” conference room usually doesn’t work. No, new insights usually only come from new people, new environments, and new incubations; any circumstance where the brain can’t predict what will happen next. In short, by creating paradigm shifts in our three centers of intelligence: our heads, hearts and guts.

It is possible for employees, supervisors and managers to “wire” creativity into their organizations by drawing upon the three centers of intelligence. But do organizations have heads, hearts and guts? Resoundingly– yes they do! Organizational cultures reflect back the top people driving them. You can learn more in my new book. I include diverse case studies such as, Apple Corp, Exxon/Mobil Corp, Saddleback Church and more.

“Create fun and a little weirdness”

Zappos, the online merchant best known for shoes, is following a radical self-management system called Holacracy. The goal of Holacracy is to create a dynamic workplaceZAPPOS-JP3-blog427 where everyone has a voice and bureaucracy doesn’t stifle innovation. So, the traditional corporate hierarchy is gone. Managers no longer exist!  “The company’s 1,500 employees define their own jobs. Anyone can set the agenda for a meeting. To prevent anarchy, processes are strictly enforced” (NYT, 7-17-15).

Tony Hsieh, 41, runs Zappos and is insisting that the company adopt Holacracy. His youthful work force displays tattoos and a casual dress code. Stuffed animals and sound-emitting sculptures (designed by the Blue Man Group) line the walls. The corporate charter motto is “Create fun and a little weirdness.” Many companies have adopted “fun” work environments. But NO MANAGERS– this is more than “a little weird”– this is a super bold move!

Will it work?

These days, Mr. Hsieh has an even bigger job, to quell the doubters. Needless to say this paradigm-changing project has not proceeded smoothly. “Two years into Holacracy, Zappos is no workplace utopia.” In place of a traditional organizational chart Holocracy uses concentric circles of responsibility. “Employees get to choose which circles they belong to and what projects they work on… At meetings, “tensions” are resolved. People don’t have one job; they have multiple “roles.” “Lead links” are designated to communicate between circles. The lowest-paid workers have a voice. “A person who just takes phone calls can propose something for the entire company… It’s empowering everybody to have the same voice.”

However, others say the ever-expanding number of circles and the endless meetings are a drain on productivity. “Priorities are shifting, and no one, not even Mr. Hsieh, is sure how to pay people at a company with no job titles and fluid roles.” Still Mr Hsieh is adamant about trying this approach; he is antithetical. He works for just $36,000 a year and forgoes stock options “in exchange for the autonomy to run Zappos however he sees fit.” He gave his employees a radical choice, embrace Holacracy or accept a buyout.

What do you think about this organizational approach? Any hope for it working?

I say hooray for Mr. Hsieh creatively experimenting with a “manager-not” work force. Since when has business deemed it inappropriate to experiment with organizational structure? Why such fear? His company is still operating… likely this grand experiment will lead to some mighty profitable learning. My guess is the end result will be a fluid entrepreneurial “hybrid” organizational model. Yes, modification will be necessary. Isn’t that what learning is all about? May the “force” of the creative work force be with you– and Mr. Hsieh– always!

Thank you for reading my post. I am an organizational and business consultant living in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.

Read more in my new book: The Three Sources of Creativity: Breakthroughs from Your Head, Heart and Gut

Meditation for creativity?

cleaningladies2When I admit to some people that I don’t meditate, they can be taken aback, like “are you kidding, how can you live like that?” NYT’s blogger Adam Grant recently admitted to this and that it does not work for him (Can We End the Meditation Madness? Oct. 2015). He said, “I have nothing against it. I just happen to find it dreadfully boring.” Three cheers for Adam– because I do too!

There are other ways to reduce anxiety, and stress and become more “mindful”– living in the present moment. We are creative and execute our creativity only in the present moment. People meditate to become more mindful and are more likely to focus their attention in the present after meditating. If it is not for you (or me), what are other techniques to get present, in order to get creative?

There is a universal growth process (UGP) embraced throughout the world in different traditions. The UGP I use interweaves five aspects or “5As” of awareness, acceptance, appreciation, action, and adherence. The 5As can be used to enhance your creativity. I learned this process during a master’s coaching certification process. I modify this UGP approach by framing it with the three centers of intelligence.

Mindfulness practices are sometimes belittled as navel-gazing and a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a proven tool. It de-stresses the mind and opens/prepares us to be more creative; we know this through brain imaging. It is practiced strategically in the business world. The US $131 billion internet company Google Inc. (2014) is very serious about mindfulness training for their employees. We’d be foolish to not leverage this technique. It’s not just for bald people in funny robes living in mountains, or small groups of New Age folks. We can ”practice awareness” for the goal of being confidently creative. We don’t hit a target that we don’t aim for!

By learning this process, you’ll be able to listen individually to each of your three centers of intelligence and gain their information. This helps us to consciously shift  to their higher fruit—all by using self-observation. Learn more about this Growth Process in my book.