Archive for May, 2012

Innovation and Success

May 10, 2012

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 KaoJohn 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 Heidi Grant Halvorsonexample, 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.


Jim Collins@ASTD

May 8, 2012

Jim Collins opened the second day at the ASTD to a theatre packed audience talking about his new book – Great by Choice, Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite them All.

He spoke about the ten years of research conducted on companies for the book and how he and co-author, Morten T. Hansen dubbed organisations that thrived despite uncertainty and chaos, 10xers; and why when matched with identical companies with identical challenges, the 10Xers came out on top.

Jim CollinsCollins’ study showed that trying to lead in a fast world with fast decisions and fast actions is a good way to end up in disaster.   What the 10xers would do, would be to keep a very close eye on the storm and begin preparing for it. Rather than react instantly the 10exers would instead watch the web of events unfold before making very deliberate, rigorous decisions.

As with Good to Great, he advocates that the single most important leadership skill is the ability to pick the right people, with the right skill for the right job at the right time.

Collins also examined the role of luck, the part (if any) that it played and also how great leaders were able to get an ROI from bad luck.

Moving to Leadership Skills he stated that the X Factor for a great leader when aligned with the hierarchy of capabilities, was humility.

To increase success in business, Collins ended the session with Ten To-Do’s:

  1. Commit to building a pocket of greatness.
  2. Get the right people on the key seats.
  3. Double your questions to statement ratio.
  4. Confront the brutal facts – not opinions.
  5. Find your personal Hedgehog and focus on it; (Hedgehog = passion and drive).
  6. Be disciplined with your Hedgehog principle.
  7. Get a high return on your next luck event and decide who is your best luck.
  8. Have a Stop Doing List as well as a To Do List
  9. Creative pockets of quietude in order to ‘think’.
  10. Set personal visions aligned to lifetime core values that you can pass on to others.

ASTD 2012 International Conference, Denver, Colorado

May 8, 2012

Excited to be at the ASTD 2012 International Conference and Expo in Denver wearing my hat as ASTDI Board Member for International Relations and representing BluePrint’s goal to always be aware of new industry blueprints.

The conference opened in Denver on Sunday, 6 and despite what we hear about job ASTD 2012 International Conference and Expo in Denver unemployment in the States there’s a buzz and optimism in the corridors here. The conference alone has an increase of 22% attendance with visitor numbers expected to be between 8000-10000, Quite a difference from our last attendance in 2010 when numbers were only around 3500.

This year there are 290 educational sessions highlighted listed under one of the eight content tracks of;

  • Career Development
  • Designing and Facilitating Learning
  • Global Human Resource Development
  • Human Capital
  • Leadership Development
  • Learning Technologies
  • Measurement, Evaluation, ROI
  • Trends

ASTD 2012 International ConferenceSessions I attended on the first day included ‘Building E-Learning that People Will Want to Use’ which focused on how to separate good programs from junk.

Learned how the World Bank used Virtual Learning for effective global collaboration, and how Brazil’s market leader in environmental solutions, Essencis, used social learning to engage and empower their younger generations of employees.

Last but not least was a session on ‘New Blended Learning Model in Action’. All very stimulating.