‘Bring your inner kid to work’ day

There are two little people in our family.

We have a strategy – keep them safe, feed them healthy stuff (mostly!), help them grow and develop to be their best selves

We have expectations of their role – we’re clear on what counts as ‘good’ or ‘unacceptable’ behaviour (be kind, don’t hit!), we ask them to do certain things (like polishing their own school shoes on a Sunday night – a cosy hangover from my memories of my own childhood!) and we try to be consistent with these expectations so they know where they stand

We have performance management – in our house, this constitutes moving from the happy face to the worried face (no teddy when you go to sleep), to the sad face (no teddy all night!!), and we always say sorry if we’ve hurt or upset someone

We have learning & development – often gamified these days – check out Maths Bingo! A big hit with our two!!  But also old fashioned stuff like Guess Who, memory games, jigsaws.

We have rewards and recognition – a ‘thank you’, a ‘well done’, stickers!!  Of course the latter being for the most outstanding achievements!!

And we have motivational techniques – give context, give a good reason why, and if all that fails, bribe with chocolate, cake, TV, iPad (or all of the above!)

And then they go to school and get pretty similar stuff there……

Given all this, I’m ridiculously mindful that we’re bringing them up in a good old hierarchy where you listen to what the ‘more senior’ person says you need to do, and you do it because you’ll be praised and maybe even be given something nice!  And occasionally you test to see how far you can push the boundaries of said senior person – usually pulling back before you reach the point of no return because you don’t really want to be kicked out (btw no need to call social services – there’s no risk of our kids being kicked out for being a bit challenging!!).  I was told a ‘great’ (read ‘awful’) example of this yesterday when I was hearing about someone who’s middle management and very capable but who daren’t do anything without their boss’s say so for fear of ‘getting into trouble’.  A bit of parent-child control going on there – a bit!!  And it happens everywhere.

So to counter this, I try to treat my kids like equals whenever possible – really listening to what they have to say, believing them when they say they don’t like a food (which incidentally they ate loads of last week!), allowing them to influence and negotiate with me (scarily my son is far too good at this and has an amazing ability to show up the flaws in my logic!!), letting them make mistakes to learn from, showing them that grown ups don’t know everything and that it’s fun to learn together.  And I plan to do more of this stuff as they get older in the hope they’re better prepared for the world…….

My mum thinks I’m too liberal with them, that I let them have too much free rein, which of course is a reflection of the fact that us and our parents were brought up in much stricter households than kids are today.

So is it any wonder then that, with a controlled upbringing and in our hierarchical workplaces, people believe they must respect seniority, that they need to look to someone above them to give them direction, purpose, instruction, and that this senior person will tell them what they should learn, when and how.  We’ve already started seeing new attitudes coming into work – people with different expectations of the freedom they should have, of how they can be, of the value they place, or don’t, on seniority.

Timely then that Tom Paisley shared this VT (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_T9ePzANg) earlier today to give a glimpse of how education could be in the future…..

A change has begun.


Lego Culture (spoiler alert!!)


Towards the end of last week I was starting to think there’s a lot in the world of twitter & blogs that bemoans the sorry state of work, people, leaders…..(including some of my own tweets and posts!).

Of course, being challenging of what we see around us is an important part of growing, changing and improving so that we create an always-better future. But I started feeling that I wanted to switch into a more positive mode for my next post. And, as if by magic, my inspiration came from going to see the Lego movie this weekend!

The movie itself is fairly average and mildly amusing. But that’s not the key thing about it. (The kids enjoyed it by the way, so please take your’s if you’re at a loose end, maybe if it’s raining or something!)

The premise of the movie is that the baddy Lego person (Lord Business) wants to control everything. He wants everything built exactly to the instructions that are provided. And he wants each of the Lego ‘realms’ kept separate (the pirate realm, the Wild West realm, etc). This is to ensure the Lego people can’t mess up each other’s realms with stuff that doesn’t belong there – because that would be against the rules!!!

So the baddy wants to deal with this once and for all by super-gluing everyone and everything so he has the ultimate control and things will be kept exactly how they should be – forever!

The goodies are the master builders. These are the Lego people who are able to build anything from the pieces around them – taking bits from their ‘proper’ place to build something new – without *gasps* instructions!!!

The star of the movie is Emmet. He’s an ordinary construction worker who follows all of Lord Business’s rules, and especially loves the ‘Everything is Awesome’ song that Lord Business ensures is played all the time. He fits in so well to Lord Business’s controlled world that nobody pays him any attention – there’s absolutely nothing unique about him.

Then……one day………he falls down a big hole on the construction site and discovers a special piece that isn’t like any other Lego piece. Turns out, this piece is the lid of the super-glue and therefore it’s the only way to stop Lord Business in his evil tracks. The prophecy says that Emmet is ‘The Special’ and is a master builder who has come to save them all!!! Of course, he’s not a master builder, he’s a rule-follower, and so then everyone thinks he’s a fraud – not ‘a special’ in any way – and therefore that he’ll never be able to save the world.

So begins his bumpy journey to convince people that he can lead them to freedom!

Luckily, Emmet has someone who believes in him, who tells him “Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Just focus on what’s special about you.” And who tells him that, with some training, he too can become a master builder.

Funnily enough he never gets his ‘official’ training because some baddies come to get him – instead he has to dive in and just start doing. First of all, he’s pretty rubbish but over time he keeps trying and, when he builds his first thing that actually becomes useful his self belief grows – as does the belief of those around him.

At one stage, he shows the master builders that, as much as they are brilliant at what they do, they work independently of each other, because they’re so desperate to make sure their own unique building style is captured in whatever’s being created. But by combining their unique skills and creativity with the teamwork that him and his construction buddies use, they can be even more amazing and build even better stuff than they did before.

You’ll be surprised to hear that after much excitement and adventure, and with (of course) a little love story running alongside, they do defeat Lord Business and get the lid back on the super-glue!!!

Pretty formulaic ending right?

Well, yes, except that rather than destroy the baddy, Emmet tells him that he’s amazing and special and that he too can do incredible things. He shows Lord Business the fantastic things that the Lego people from all the different realms have built, by coming together as a team to save the world. Given some space and encouragement, they’re a pretty innovative bunch!!

And so they all live happily ever after 🙂

So that culture you want in your organisation…..
– the one where everyone is believed in, ‘a special’ in their own right
– the one where different teams and departments (aka realms) come together and share
– the one where creativity and teamwork come together to create more than could ever have been done before
– the one where people learn by giving stuff a go, making mistakes and learning fast

Lego have shown that this is most definitely possible!!!!

So are you leading this change? Do you have someone who believes in you, despite what others say, to make it happen?

If you don’t, who is that going to be? And when are you going to talk to them?

I wish you well on your adventure and would love to hear how it goes!

[Photo Credit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lego_Movie%5D

Want a bit of advice?

The other day Christopher Demers blogged about advice and consent in HR and the need for us to accept that our advice won’t always be taken on board, but that advising is our role. If you want to lead and run the business then go do that.

Interestingly, the next day on the radio, I then heard thoughts about advice and that we’re inherently not very good at accepting it. We either hope it reaffirms what we already thought the answer should be, or we just plain ignore it! Look at all the ‘we told you this would happen…’ that’s going on around the flooding. Or, taking it to really old skool levels, Adam ignoring the advice from God not to eat the apple!

And yet these days we’re surrounded by and actively pulling on sources of advice from online content all the time. So we clearly want it!

So are we really happier and more likely to accept online advice than human?

Could this be because it’s non-threatening coming from a phone/tablet/computer? It’s not judging us. It’s not going to affect any performance appraisals. It allows us the time to read, absorb, mull and then come to an informed conclusion.

There’s neuroscience evidence – but of course we’ve known this for a long time anyway – that if you put a person in a situation to give them feedback (the potentially most extreme version of advice!) and the way you do it causes them to feel threatened, they’ll go into fight or flight – they certainly aren’t going to be hearing that ‘advice’. So maybe there is something in the non-threat angle of computer advice.

But is this risky advice to take! How do you know what you find online is true? How can you trust it?

There was a debate the other day with scientists worried about scientific research being posted online and commentable-on. Along the lines of ‘all sorts of people will be able to pass opinion or comment without being qualified to do so. But the people reading those comments won’t know that’.

As human beings, trust and relationships are really important to us. And we will continue to need advice/opinions to grow and succeed. But as time progresses will we still be able to trust what we find online? Or will internet content be put in the advisory dog house? This could then see people return to human interactions to seek advice from trusted sources.

If so, we’d better get practicing at making human advice much more hearable!

Bumper to Bumper

Driving home tonight, amongst the throng of rush hour traffic, I watched the many people who stay bumper to bumper. Not leaving an inch lest some ‘cheeky’ driver from a side junction jump in ‘their’ space. How very dare they!! Even if actually all that driver wants to do is cut through to their route on the other side of the queue.

It made me feel sad.

So many opportunities for small acts of kindness. Is it really so hard for people to let one person in ahead of them, or to help that person get a way through to continue in their new direction, to give them that opportunity to progress on their journey, and to just make it that little bit easier for them to do so. And to feel happy – both the giver and receiver of that act of kindness. That helping hand. That boost to make things a little bit better for more people.

At work…….seen it? Leaders defending their domain, protecting their power position. Not helping others to develop and progress on their career journey – what if they turn out to be better than me? What then??

So when it comes to performance expectations, what weight does your organisation give to leaders who develop their teams?

What are leaders recognised for? Promoting their own agenda, or giving others the support to promote their’s?

Who are the ones that ‘get on’?

And what would be better for the organisation – ego-driven self-obsessed leadership?
Or a whole organisation of people who feel supported, developed and given the chance to step into the the ‘space’ by the person who ‘owns’ it just now.

How do you want it to be?

What is it they say? Never assume…..

So, our right brain is where our creativity comes from isn’t it.

Well, turns out, no!

When we were with Doug Shaw the other week in our #artforworkssake session, Noel Gray had a go at drawing with his pencil in his left hand (he’s normally right handed by the way!) and he was pretty pleased with the results. He mused about whether it was because he had lower expectations of what he’d be able to do so he was able to draw more freely. And I suggested maybe there was something going on with switching to a different side of brain activity…..

So when I got back I was keen to find out what might have been happening in the old Gray matter (get it! Noel ‘Gray’!!).

I found an article in American Scientist where I learnt that in fact many parts of the brain, on both the left and right sides, are required to work as a team for creativity –
“the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions.”

You can read all about the big scientific names in the article but I just thought it was brilliant that –
a) it’s possible for scientists to figure this stuff out
b) it’s possible to find out about this stuff at the click of a google button
c) it proves how wrong we can be if we believe everything we’re told stays true forever!

Things change, keep learning, there’s a world of stuff out there we don’t yet know!