What do I Do: the box I fit into

What do I do?

I get asked this question all the time; for years I have been asked this question. At the beginning of my career I could say I was an accounting student, or an accountant, and people understood this. However, the more education and experience I got, the more difficult it became to say precisely what I did. 

When I became self-employed, I used to say that I did knowledge management consulting, and I did, but people (mostly) didn’t understand what that meant, so I tried to explain. I could give examples of projects that I had done and the impact that it had had, and they sort of understood, but not really. They smiled and nodded and we moved onto another subject.

I have been self-employed for 16 years, my consulting practice has changed and evolved, the “how” of what I do has changed. I now incorporate artistic methods/thinking into what I do (the truth is, they was there all along, I just didn’t have a name for it, much like the agile, and design thinking practices I incorporated in to my methodology, without having a name for them either). But, honestly, no one cares about the “how”, they care about the results. 

What are my results? 

I stop you from failing with your big, unwieldy projects and programs. Your big, cross-functional, cross-organisational initiatives, that don’t neatly fit into a box. Those initiatives that have lots of stakeholders, lots of moving parts, lots of conflicting objectives. They have technology, they have processes, they have people.

Examples: One organisation recognised an ROI of 165%, while another was prevented from throwing out a million dollar (Cdn) IT investment and starting over.

In the current environment, these projects are called digital transformation, and up to 95% of them fail. When I first started, they were mostly called knowledge management, and somewhere around 50% of them failed. Certainly, one of the first KM projects I did had failed twice previously under different project managers, and I came along and did it using an iterative, collaborative approach (what might be called agile and design thinking now). Not only did I have a successful pilot with 100 people, but eventually had almost 7000 people using the platform, which increased to 10,000 on the momentum of what I had started even after I left the organisation. 

Since going out on my own, I have helped other organisations do this—well, at least the ones that trusted me. There were some that were uncomfortable with my cross-functional, collaborative, iterative approach, and so shelved my work, which is their prerogative. 

My success is built on experience, trial and error, persistence, collaboration, communication, curiosity, critical thinking, leadership, and a willingness to admit that I don’t know the answer but I’ll find out. There is no course that teaches these things, only experience. 

Courses and certifications teach theory, they teach best practices. But as anyone who knows about best practices will tell you, best practices are dependant on the organisation, the situation, the culture, the people, the technology, and the processes. Best practices from one situation/organisation will not necessarily give the same results somewhere else. 

Experience takes best practices and asks the question, how do we take that and make it work here, in this environment, with this technology, with these people?

What do I do?

I ask the questions, and I successfully plan and execute big, unwieldy projects.

What do I do?

What do I do?

What box do I fit in?

I find it hard to answer these questions because what I do, to me, is nothing special, except that it is, because for a lot of people what I do is magic.

To me what I do is nothing special because it’s just the way I am, but I am magic and my magic is that I listen.

I listen to people and I solve their business problems. Their problems with processes, technology, employee engagement.

I ask questions and listen until I understand.

I ask questions, challenge assumptions, until I have a clear picture of the situation.

I ask questions and discover the underlying issues.

I ask questions.

I listen.

I suggest practical, implementable solutions.

I am magic.

I enable you to be self-sufficient and not dependant on me for what I know: I will teach you what I have learned so that you can help yourself.

I am magic.

Note: this comes as a follow-on to the video, “Don’t put me in a box“.

Entelechy: a poem

Realise your potential.
Realise your team’s potential.
Realise your organisation’s potential.

Do you know how?

Engage the whole person: the analytical part AND the creative part.

Stop forcing people into boxes.
Engage the whole person.

They will be better off.
The team will be better off.
The organisation will be better off.

What I do….in my own words

I have written this as a response to someone who is curious about what I do, but hasn’t been able to talk with me, I share my slightly edited response at his request.

First I have to start with a link to the videos on my website with a recommendation that you watch them, I’ll try not to repeat myself here.

The work I do is centred around helping people to rediscover their creativity. I work with organisations and individuals to do this.

With individuals we engage in a variety of creative activities and discussions about how they can be more creative in both their personal and professional lives. This conversation typically goes over a series of sessions during the course of a period of weeks or months.

In the case of organisations I work with them to look at ways to make their staff more creative, which leads to innovation so that the two are tied together in an organisational setting more so than in personal setting. We look at ways to bring these activities into the daily activities whether it’s in meetings or in the office environment in general– something they can do in their offices or cubicles or in a meeting room with some other people, we look at doing workshops on a regular basis as in an organisational setting it is more about culture change and employee engagement, which as we both know, studies have shown that increased/improved employee engagement has positive effects on the organisation and its profitability and success.

I come to this work through a path that started in accounting and information technology, then knowledge management. There’s more about that in the first part of the second video in the Creativity Chats series that I am doing with Paulina Larocca, so I won’t repeat that here, you can watch the video, here https://youtu.be/1jxUgHyTRDk

Our exchange started from your question about employee disengagement and ways to decrease it; usually people talk about increasing employee engagement rather than decreasing employee disengagement. I know I sent you a blog post from another site as well as the one on mine and that you are looking to put some dollars behind that. I think if you take figures from the Gallup studies that look at the consequences of increasing employee engagement by 10%, for example, it is going to give you the numbers you’re looking for its just that it’s the opposite of how you been thinking about it.

The creative leadership work that I talk about on my blog can be seen as a contributing factor in improving employee engagement so you may want to consider that too.

Anyway I hope this all helps let me know if you have questions.

Best Regards,
Stephanie

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.