Creativity Activities for Virtual Work

From March 17, 2020 until March 27, 2020 I ran a small online experiment demonstrating creative activities that could be done in virtual meetings. The sessions were 30 minutes long and had the same format, except that the main activity each day was different. These mini-workshop experiments were well received by participants, and I enjoyed doing them, so they are continuing through April 2020.

I started them as a way to help and that will continue to be their main objective.

Online meetings get boring and repetitive, and are even worse when our regular routines are as completely disrupted as they are right now. Adding short, creative activities to the meetings, not only adds variety and a bit of fun, but it can help relieve some of the pressure and stress, at least for a few minutes.

The videos from the mini-workshops are in a playlist on my YouTube channel, here.

The slides from the sessions are here.

There’s a short video wrapping up the first series and introducing the April series, here.

If you’d like to join the sessions during April, they take place daily at 4pm (16:00) CET on Zoom. Details are:

https://zoom.us/j/136891675?pwd=eCtZK3IzKzQ3QktXamxxYzlXcytxZz09
Meeting ID: 136 891 675
Password: 022145

I hope you’ll join us!

How your KM Program can help you for life after Coronavirus (COVID-19), part 2

Right now (March 2020), hopefully, your KM Program is helping people adjust to remote work. Helping them use the collaboration tools that maybe they’ve only used occasionally before. Helping them facilitate engaging, creative online meetings . But once the initial panic subsides and people become more accustomed to working remotely, what next?

Lots of organisations have KM programs that focus on the traditional KM activities, things like lessons learned, communities of practice, collaboration; activities that support learning and creating new knowledge, or managing and sharing knowledge that already exists. My ex-HP colleague, Stan Garfield, published a list/ presentation of all the things that can comprise a KM program, you can find his list here. It’s a good list, especially if you are new to the world of KM.

When KM is done well, it is pretty invisible. Nobody really thinks about it, and that’s okay, until, it isn’t. Do you have a KM program that is invisible or non-existent? Maybe this is the first time you’ve thought about KM, or maybe you have an existing KM program that is looking to evolve. If you are wondering about the future of your KM program, read on, if not, you can stop now.

Things are shifting at an accelerated pace and also, somehow slowing down; things are chaotic, to say the least. How do we manage that chaos and come through it better off? How do the skills and abilities that exist within the KM Program and those activities help an organisation come through our current, chaotic situation and not just survive, but thrive afterwards, and maybe even during?

How can the KM program help?

KM programs that are successful are about learning, and adapting; they use people, process, and technology to support the organisation in effectively and efficiently using its knowledge and creating new knowledge.

How do those skills apply in this situation, how can the KM program facilitate the successful navigation of the current crisis and help the organisation adapt so that it is ready for what comes after?

What does come after? Do we go back to the way things were? Are things permanently changed?

No one really knows, although lots of people have guesses, and there’s lots of wishful thinking out there. It probably won’t be “business as usual”, but what exactly it will be is anyone’s guess, and depends exactly what happens during this period and how long it goes on.

So, how does the KM program help? What skills and abilities can they share and help others develop that can help.

In my experience, people who are successful in KM are often good at these knowledge culture behaviours:
• sharing openly
• willingness to teach, mentor, coach
• ideas can be freely challenged
• knowledge and ideas can come from other sources (e.g. other departments, organisations, and industries) 
• sharing comes through many different means:  conversations, meetings, processes, best practices, data bases, and questioning

How can these behaviours be taught, if people don’t exhibit them already?

Well, there are lots of different ways people might learn the things that give them the ability to exhibit these behaviours, some of them are learned when we are children (like learning to share) and stick with us, and others are learned and then forgotten as life progresses and evolves. As adults, how do we remember these behaviours or maybe even learn them for the first time?

The best way is to learn through doing, having the experience or insight ourselves, in a safe, supportive environment.

A group of people who often exhibit many of these behaviours and who are experts at working alone, but also collaborating to get things done, when they need to, are artists.

Artists have an attitude of curiosity, passion, confidence, and resilience, which they refine and hone through their artistic practice: perceiving, reflecting, playing, and performing.

KM Programs should be working with HR and management to help develop these skills and abilities in their staff. Why KM? Because it’s about knowledge creation, it’s about sharing and learning: that’s KM.

Learning these skills and applying them to business problems helps solve problems that may have, at one time, seemed intractable. It helps to develop solutions that are new and innovative.

Other businesses are doing this, have learned this already, isn’t it time your organisation did too, so that you can come out of this crisis ready for whatever is next?

Note: If you want to see/read more about what is possible by adopting an artistic attitude and practice, read, “Creative Company” by Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Köplin. You can find more info and get a copy, here

How your KM Program can help you for life after Coronavirus (COVID-19), part 1

The previous post was about KM should be doing now, at the start of this COVID-19 Apocalypse, this post is how they can help the organisation prepare for life after Coronavirus.

How long is this going to last? No one really knows at this point estimates are anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Some analysts suggest that we will have periods of tighter controls and looser controls, but first we need to “bend the curve” and stop this exponential growth. Even when a vaccine is developed, testing and then manufacture is going to take many months.

How can KM help moving forward?

In part this depends on whether the organisation sees KM as a “keeper of historic records and events”, i.e. more on the document/information management, lessons learned side of things, or whether they are seen as key enablers of collaboration, sharing, learning, creating new knowledge. Hopefully it’s the latter not the former.

What we know is that there is going to be uncertainty for a while, and we’re not sure what things will look like once we’re on the other side of this. How do we prepare for that?

By being adaptable and self-aware.

These things are ultimately up to the individual, not the organisation, and yet, the organisation can help. In particular HR, KM, and managers all have a role to play in encouraging employees to learn these skills and to become/be self-aware.

How?

Give employees the opportunity to learn, to try things out, to reflect, to ask questions. Wait, that sounds like knowledge management! It also sounds like quality management (plan-do-check-act), trial and error, being agile, and several other modes of learning/being.

Mostly it sounds like encouraging creativity. And what group are known for their creativity?

Artists!

So, what can we learn from artists? (Learning from other disciplines, that sounds like KM, too.)

First artists have an artistic attitude, they are curious, passionate, confident, and resilient. And then they refine and hone these skills through their artistic practice: perceiving, reflecting, playing, and performing.


Pausing for a second, we were all once creative, but our creativity was educated out of us:

On psychological tests of creativity:

Only 5 percent of people 18 and older registered in the “creative” range?

Among 17 year-olds, 10 percent scored “creative.”

But among 5 year olds, more than 90 percent demonstrated the creativity to suggest innovative ways of looking at situations and the ability to dream up new ideas.

Source:
https://ideapod.com/born-creative-geniuses-education-system-dumbs-us-according-nasa-scientists/

So, we were all artists/creative at one time and we’ve unlearned it. What do we do about it?

We develop an art/creativity practice. Except, we are doing it for another reason, we are doing it to re-learn something we lost. We are re-learning so that we become whole again, so that we can apply it in other areas of our life, because it’s been missing. We are doing it to help us be more successful in our careers, to bring us more balance and satisfaction. We are doing it to be more sustainable.

Back to the original question: How can the KM program help?

One of the motivations for doing KM has been about knowledge creation, some organisations have focused on that as a primary reason for their KM or a secondary reason for KM.

Knowledge creation takes space, it takes questioning, it takes trial and error, as well as collaboration and all those other Artistic Attitudes and Practices that were mentioned above.

To give people a sense of that, of what it feels like, what works and what doesn’t in a safe, supported atmosphere is key. So, in this case, we do, in fact, use art/creativity as a metaphor, as a means to an end.

How does it feel to experiment with different art supplies, or different creative modalities, e.g. poetry, music, to name two, although there are lots more? When people have these kinds of experiences, in a safe supportive atmosphere, it gives them confidence and resilience that transfers to other areas of their lives.

KM Programs should be working with HR to facilitate this experience and the building of these skills and abilities. There are benefits to the organisation as well as the individual–it’s a Win-Win.

But, it’s not a straight-line, the accountants will hate it, however, it is necessary if we are going to come out the other side of this and be able to move forward with whatever the future holds for us as organisations and individuals.

Note: If you want to see/read more about what is possible by adopting an artistic attitude and practice, read, “Creative Company” by Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Köplin. You can find more info and get a copy, here

How not to fail at digital transformation

It is said that digital transformation projects fail up to 95% of the time! [1], I’ve seen slightly lower numbers, but still exceptionally high.

I’m not going to go into the why, the article I linked to above does that, and I will let you read that, what I’m going to tell you is how I implement digital transformation projects successfully, so that you can do it too.

One of the keys is to work across the silos of your organisation, this makes a lot of people very nervous, but it’s the only way to do it and be successful. This means talking to people, involving them, keeping them informed.

Another key is to involve the users. This often gets called design thinking, these days, but design thinking wasn’t something I’d heard of when I first did it 20 years ago, it just seemed to be the right thing to do. I certainly don’t know what would make people’s jobs easier, and reduce their workload, or at least not increase it, so I ask them. I talk to them about their processes, what they call things, how they are organised. The things that worked for them, what didn’t work for them.

Once I get their input I create wireframes or prototypes and validate them with the people I’ve talked to, making modifications where I’ve misunderstood something or not asked enough questions. We often do this 2-3 times until we get it right. This gets call agile, trying and failing, or iteration; again it just seemed to be the right thing to do when I first did it. I was realistic enough to know that I wasn’t an expert in whatever my users were, so if I was going to help them, I was going to need their help–it was a team effort, we were in this together.

Something else that is critical is keeping everyone informed: users, management, other stakeholders. We have regular emails, updates, and meetings as well as documents being posted online for people to access. It takes a lot of communication: A LOT!

I ask questions and ensure alignment. When something doesn’t make sense, I go back to the users, the use cases they had described, the organisation’s vision or strategy, whatever helps me ensure we are moving in the right direction, in the best interests of the people I was working with and the organisation as a whole. If I have conflicting information, we talk about it and make a decision, sometimes, I make the decision, sometimes the team does, whatever keeps us moving towards the goal. The times that I make the decision, I explain my rationale and reasoning, so that people don’t feel excluded, like I have “done it to them”. We are in this together, we only succeed together.

I treat people like equals, with the trust and respect they deserve. They come to trust me, and work with me to achieve our objectives. It is hard. Lots of people don’t like it. Lots of people want a command and control approach, but that’s not going to be successful. We’re in the age of the knowledge worker, and have been for a long time. It demands a different approach than the industrial age.

You have to be passionate, tenacious, and willing to admit you don’t have all the answers but you’ll find out. Success takes leadership, not a place on the hierarchy.

Feedback on a Workshop Experience

I’m working on some new marketing/positioning materials and going through the quotes etc. that I have from clients over the years and came across this one from a workshop I did a couple of years ago with a couple of colleagues, although the feedback is directly about me/my role. The workshop was about bringing artistic principles to the workplace and combined artistic activities with more typical (and expected) business activities. The participant wishes to remain anonymous, and I have edited the person’s words for clarity, but otherwise the words are theirs.

“This was one of the funniest workshops that I have ever attended…what I can say though, is two things…

“I had…I am a very curious person, so even prior to the workshop I had [wondered] who is that Stephanie Barnes? I had found her website and looked at some of her art because I wanted to know who is that person, right? I certainly intensified that quite a bit after the event, because I thought this really very interesting, but what else does she do? I need to look at some of her paintings more closely.

“The second thing that happened was that I was really very, very impressed with the way that Stephanie conducted this workshop and how she actually managed, it was magical, but anyway, she managed to make us as in also me, actually paint, I have it sitting at home. Me, I would normally say, ‘aaahhhh’ before I do something silly or stupid or you know…but without having to feel funny about it, just let it evolve, just let it naturally happen, or whatever. I don’t really know how all that worked and came into being, but it was certainly her way. And it was secondly, that the workshop was prepared really well, we had all these facilities that you could think of to become creative, all sorts of crayons, acrylic colours, and all sorts of tools that you could think of and we were treated as (and this is also something I appreciated very much) we were treated like artists ourselves. Like, you know, just get on with it, just do it. And never-the-less, we were always invited to ask for help, or tips, advice…so that was the workshop.”

I am so glad I found these comments, they made me smile and remember why it is I do what I do. I am also grateful that this workshop participant took the time to share these thoughts.

Creativity and Innovation for KM Programs

If you know me and/or have been following this blog, you know that since mid-July I have shifted my focus to creativity and innovation, something that I have been working on for the last six or more years.

As I have shifted focus I have reached out to some of you in my KM network, because I wanted to share the news with you and renew our connection. I also asked for a favour of some feedback on what I was doing or if you knew anyone who might be interested in what I’m doing. Most of you were happy to help, and a few of you admitted that you couldn’t, which was a perfectly acceptable answer.

Anyway, with that first round of feedback and conversations, I realised that I wasn’t doing a good job of conveying my excitement over my shift, and why I thought I was particularly relevant for KM programs. I’ve taken a few weeks to reflect on how to do this better and received some coaching about how to approach it and have developed a short slide deck, which you can see below.

I’d appreciate it if you have a couple of minutes (there are only 6 slides), to take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Thanks!

Why Creative Leadership is good for your organisation

Let’s first start with: what is Creative Leadership?

Creative Leadership takes more calculated risks and keeps innovating in how they lead and communicate. They are ready to upset the status quo even if it is successful and are committed to ongoing experimentation with disruptive business solutions

In a 2010 study done by IBM (and cited in this HBR article) organisations that had creative leaders had 6 times higher revenue growth and planned to get 20% of their revenue from new sources in the near future.) The article also cites increased employee engagement as an outcome of Creative Leadership.  

Why does this matter?

Well the revenue/profit connection is clear (I hope). But what does Employee Engagement have to do with anything?

Well, employees who are engaged in their jobs/careers are more productive, which leads to increased profitability. Because they are more engaged there is less absenteeism, increased loyalty, higher retention and thus lower turnover.

Employees who are satisfied and engaged are better at solving problems and engaging with customers (from the previously cited HBR article).

So, how do you bring Creative Leadership to your organisation?

Create a culture where it is okay to try and fail, a culture where it is acceptable to question the status quo, to unlearn and selectively forget past successes, and co-create new products and services with employees, customers, partners, and the wider community. Help staff re-learn how to be creative, because it was educated out of them. 

Creative Leadership isn’t just about those higher up in the hierarchy having these skills, this is about everyone having these skills. In the knowledge economy, everyone is a leader and everyone is a follower. Creative Leaders create more Creative Leaders.

Collective Intelligence

Today (September 27, 2018), is the second time I have come across the term, “Collective Intelligence” in the last week. I liked it the first time I heard it and the first time I heard it was in reference to what knowledge management had evolved into at a large, international organisation.

The second time I came across it was earlier today, on the website of an organisation who seems to be doing work like I am doing: creativity, innovation, resilience, autonomy.

I am sure there are lots of other places that it is used, I’m sure the words aren’t new and the ideas expressed in both situations aren’t new. But what attracted me, was that they describe what I have done and what I am doing, which somehow reassured me that I wasn’t crazy for doing what I’m doing.

So, are you trying to capture, leverage, tap into the collective intelligence of your organisation? It seems that anecdotal evidence suggest using a combination of knowledge management activities, combined with creativity to give you innovative, unique results to help you realise your potential: Entelechy

We need to talk, I can help you!

Productivity, is that all there is?

(this blog post originally appeared on my Missing Puzzle Piece Consulting blog in April 2017, and I expressed similar thoughts in a chapter I wrote for KM Matters, which was published early in 2018. I am reproducing it here, because I will be taking my Missing Puzzle Piece Consulting webpage down, and this content is still relevant.)

We seem to have spent so much time in the last 100+ years trying to drive efficiency and effectiveness into our processes. How to do things faster, with more quality, with better outcomes, reduce waste, reduce re-work. These are not bad things, but in our push to be effective and efficient many of our organisations have removed time for reflection, for questioning, for considering alternatives out of the process.

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the last 100+ years, there most definitely has been. Whole areas of study have been developed/discovered, new technology is being developed all the time, but what about the “smaller” things, everyday things. What happens when we take away the time to think and reflect? We do things by rote, not thinking about if that’s the right thing to do, we get tired and suffer burnout, we start to make mistakes and treat people badly because we have focused on efficiency and effectiveness to the detriment of the system as a whole (see United Airline’s complete failure to respect passengers  (https://fortune.com/2017/04/11/united-airlines-video/ and https://innovationexcellence.com/blog/2017/04/17/innovating-for-a-worse-customer-experience-insights-from-united-airlines/ and https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/03/27/united-airlines-bars-teens-from-flight-for-failure-to-meet-dress-code-social-media-erupts/)

How do we bring that space for reflection, for some humanity back into our activities? By introducing time. Time for reflection, time for learning, time for asking questions, time for talking to other people, time for doing things differently, time for experimenting. Time.

Future Females: Berlin, Thinking creatively & thinking bigger event

Last night (July 17, 2018), I spoke to a group of about 70 energetic, engaged (mostly) women at the Future Females: Berlin, Thinking Creatively & Thinking Bigger event.

What an honour and a privilege to talk to them about creativity and how to increase it’s presence in both our professional and personal lives.

I shared 4 different creativity activities with them, 1 was an improv activity, and the other 3 were drawing, as well as some background and context information about creativity.

I usually speak with much smaller groups, so this was a great learning opportunity for me, but despite my “learning on the job” or maybe because of it, we had a great time, some good discussion, and some fun trying new activities.

Thank you to all who came out and tried something new!

I have posted my slides on Slideshare, if anyone is interested.