Listening and meeting John Kao, dubbed ‘Mr Creativity’ and a ‘serial innovator’ by The Economist; and attending a perception-shifting session delivered by motivation and achievement expert, Heidi Grant Halvorson were just two of the highlights of the last 24 hours at ASTD 2012.
John Kao provided a heavy dose of music theory, complemented by exploration of why humans innovate. Through the metaphor of Kao’s love of music, punctuated with a fewbars of jazz, he guided us through the lessons of the greats – Michael Jordon’s failures,Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker’s cultivation of bebop after a crushing rejection, and Bill Evan’s elegant simple authenticity – as evidence of how we can start innovating. Interestingly, the approach the ‘Innovation Sherpa’ uses to deliver a talk is almost a form of bebop inspired improvisation in itself. The ”root note” of Kao’s talk was that we are all hard wired for success at innovating something. The trouble lies in the fact that, often, we don’t know what innovation means.
This was echoed by Heidi Grant Halvorson, who proved that people are surprisingly wrong when it comes to identifying the true causes of their own successes and failures. For example, people often attribute their successes and failures to innate ability; so you either win the DNA lottery and end up with lots of intelligence, creativity, or willpower – and are therefore successful – or you don’t, and you fail.
From her work as Professor of Psychology at Lehigh University, Halvorson showed through conducting many research tests, how this assumption is wrong in two ways.
She stated that first, “ability simply doesn’t work that way. No matter what you begin with, what you end up with has everything to do with experience, learning and effort. But when we think of our abilities as fixed and innate, we give up on ourselves when we encounter difficulty, and resign ourselves to failure.
Secondly, no matter how much ability you have, successfully reaching a goal has everything to do with the actions you take (or don’t take) along the way. Effort, choice, help-seeking, mind set, motivation, confidence, planning, monitoring of progress, and strategies are the real keys to achievement.
Specifically with strategy, these can be broken into two categories, strategies of goal setting and strategies of goal pursuit. In other words, there are things you need to do to get off on the right foot, and then there are things you need to do to fully execute your vision”.
The statistics Halvorson presented were extremely compelling, with individuals, teams and groups performing consistently better and succeeding (especially in challenging times) when the second strategy was used.
Halvorson is a contributor for Harvard Business Review, the BBC Business Daily, as well as other leading publications and has recently co-edited The Psychology of Goals.