22 Apr April 26, 2019 – Admiral Joseph Jaffe, Creativity Unleashed Michael Roberto and Habitat for Humanity
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Joseph Jaffe – Marketing Expert, Admiral, Co-founder at the HMS Beagle, 5-time Author (newest book is Built to Suck: The Inevitable Demise of the Corporation…and How to Save It?) and Trouble-Maker
Focus. Choose your lane and be the best in the entire world
at the one thing that you do better or differently from everyone else.
Joseph Jaffe, a Survival Planner, Serial Entrepreneur, and 5-time author, is one of the most sought-after consultants, speakers and thought leaders on innovation, marketing, and social media. Joseph is Admiral and Co-Founder of the HMS Beagle, a strategic consultancy that helps its clients navigate the journey to survival. In 2012, he founded Evol8tion, a company focused on helping big brands connect and collaborate with early stage startups. In January of 2018, Evol8tion became a part of The Innovation Scout and Joseph became a super advisor, helping them leverage their intelligent automated SaaS platform to deliver institutionalized innovation “better, cheaper & faster.” Earlier in his career, Joseph was Director of Interactive Media at TBWA/Chiat/Day and OMD USA. Joseph blogs and podcasts at Jaffe Juice. He also has a video show called JaffeJuiceTV. He has been featured by CBS, ABC, Bloomberg, NPR, WSJ, New York Times, USA Today, Fortune, Ad Age, Adweek and more. Joseph is a mentor at Founder’s Institute, Entrepreneur’s Round Table and Techstars. Joseph Jaffe’s new book, Built to Suck focuses on the reality that the very thing responsible for the success of corporations–size, scope, scale–is now the single biggest contributor to its demise.
Dr. Michael Roberto – Professor of Management at Bryant University and Author of Unlocking Creativity: How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions by Shifting Creative Mindsets – Read interview highlights here
It’s one thing to dismiss naysayers or people that say your idea
will never work, but it’s another to fall so in love with your idea
that you aren’t listening to your customers.
Dr. Michael Roberto is the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. He joined the tenured faculty at Bryant after serving for six years on the faculty at Harvard Business School. His research focuses on how leaders and teams solve problems and make decisions. In addition to publishing three books, Professor Roberto has created three audio/video lecture series for The Great Courses. In 2017, the Case Centre ranked him #25 on their list of the 40 best-selling case study authors in the world. In addition to traditional case studies, he has developed a number of innovative multi-media cases and simulations for students, including the widely adopted Everest Leadership and Team Simulation (co-authored with Amy Edmondson).
Amy Sedlacek Frith, Manager, Corporate Giving and Community Relations at Chico’s FAS, Inc. and
Allison Green – Director of Cause Marketing and Workplace Giving at Habitat for Humanity International
Nearly 19 million U.S. households spend more than half of their paychecks on housing costs, creating a burden that often requires families to make difficult choices between their housing, healthcare, education and transportation. Habitat for Humanity is doing something about it with the support of five major brand partners, including Chico FAS, Inc. that will be raising awareness and funds for affordable housing through the third annual Home is the Key campaign during the month of April. Amy is Manager, Corporate Giving and Community Relations at Chico’s FAS, Inc. Allison Green is the Director of Cause Marketing and Workplace Giving at Habitat for Humanity International, serving as the subject matter expert to advance global cause marketing campaigns and partnerships.
I believe that we all have hidden creative talents. Creativity is not just about being able to be a great artist or sculptor. It’s about the ability to generate original ideas. We all have it. But a lot of barriers stand in the way, and sometimes those include teachers. I like to say in the book, that sometimes there’s a little bit of double talk from teachers, they say they want creative kids, but what they really want in their classroom is compliance and conformity. And that, unfortunately, can really inhibit the talents that are there.
Some of being creative is learning from those around us. A lot of times creativity is not about some entirely new field or domain that you established. But in fact, it’s about the ability to see the relationship between ideas that already exist in two or three separate domains, and pulling them together, connecting them to combine them in some new way. That’s creativity, too. We look at these great musicians or artists or others in fields that are deemed creative. We look at their extraordinary accomplishments. And then we say, “Well, I can’t measure up to that.” Even in business, we look at Steve Jobs or others. So I think we may hold ourselves to that standard and define it in such a dramatic way that makes it difficult. I think the other thing is that we have run into frustrations at times, where we thought we had an original idea that was really good, and others didn’t deem it to be right. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea. It may mean there are a lot of reasons why people adhere to the conventional wisdom, and reject new ideas. In fact, the resistance to new ideas has been going on for centuries in different fields by experts who claim the conventional wisdom. Just because you’ve been rejected or pushed aside doesn’t mean you didn’t have a good idea. Sometimes we can convince ourselves that it’s not such a good idea.
I define Steve Jobs as creative, not because he didn’t invent the mp3 player, but because he invented a good one. Because the ones before were just crappy, to be honest. You don’t have to invent the whole new product category to be creative. Taking something and making it a whole lot better, a whole lot more user friendly, is creative, right? I think we don’t need to define creative as you have to be this path breaker who invents something totally new, whole cloth, out of nothing. That’s not my definition of creativity. Being able to make something a whole lot better, and bringing new elements to it is creative. Like the smartphone, smartphones existed, but nothing like what the iPhone was, for example. The definition of creativity is what we’re kind of haggling about, and I’m sure there are multiple definitions, but for me, advancing domains in a the significant way and recombining ideas in new, novel ways is certainly creativity.
I think that when we hear people talking about the barriers to creativity in organizations, we often hear things like hierarchy, bureaucracy, short term financial pressures, or Wall Street expectations, and none of those are incorrect. Those are all barriers at times. But the book really says, “Hey, there’s a deeper set of obstacles or barriers that are a lot harder to dismantle. And I call them mindsets.” By that I mean shared belief systems about where ideas come from, how we evaluate them, and how we move them forward toward implementation. Belief systems are durable; they’re not easily dismantled, and they often serve as barriers to creativity.
We are trained to solve problems in a really linear way going back to school. And when it comes to corporations, we think in terms of a linear, analyze, research, plan, execute, kind of model of how we operate. But the creative process is fundamentally nonlinear. It often involves a lot of testing and experimentation, and then looping back. It involves a healthy dose of failure at times. It’s a fundamentally nonlinear process, and we don’t grapple with that very well; we tend to try to jam everything into the fairly linear processes of planning that we’ve established in companies. And for those reasons, sometimes we squelch really original ideas.
We need people who can make things 2% better, who can improve efficiency or make incremental change. And we need people who can create bolder solutions. We need both. As for the copy, it leads nicely to the second mindset I talked about, which is the benchmarking mindset. We are obsessed with benchmarking our rivals. We have to keep abreast of our competitors, no question. But unfortunately, in many cases, benchmarking leads to copy cat behavior, imitation. But it leads to bad copy cat behavior, meaning when we go to copy others, there’s rampant copying, and it depresses profits or doesn’t improve them. Because strategies are converging when that happens. But secondly, we often see bad copying, because we are looking at a firm from afar, we don’t truly understand all the sources of its high performance. We try to surmise what those sources are, and then try to replicate those in our own friends. But because we haven’t actually understood that the real causal relationships, we end up with a bad copy, and we don’t get the same performance. So copying in theory should mean equal performance, but it often means subpar performance.
What happens when people benchmark is that they forget that the goal of benchmarking is to learn from other firms, but then create a unique strategy where you’re adapting what you’ve learned in ways that reinforce and help you advance your own unique strategy, as opposed to pure imitation. But unfortunately, people don’t put that unique twist. They end up doing the sort of straight copy, and then again, copy badly, and then we have trouble. Especially as industries mature, what happens as a result of all this benchmarking and copying, is strategies converge. And what started out as three or four firms that looked quite unique, ends up becoming firms that grow more and more alike, and the strategies converge, and profits fall in an industry.
When somebody has an original idea inside of a large organization, they’re often asked, “Will it move the needle?” How big is the market opportunity, and if it’s not big enough, then it won’t move the needle, meaning it will not help us achieve our very ambitious growth targets. The problem with that logic is that we’re presuming that a nascent stage of an idea can be accurate in our predictions. In fact, what the research shows is, we’re not very good at predicting. Experts aren’t very good at predicting the future in a lot of fields. But we certainly aren’t good at predicting how big ideas will be when they’re that nascent. And so we’re putting people in a tough spot, they either have to exaggerate the claims of how big the market is. And then if they don’t deliver, we cut them down at the knees. Or if they’re truthful and conservative, we don’t even give them resources, because we say, “Hey, I won’t move the needle.” And it’s problematic.
Structure is really simple. It’s the idea that people have this belief that if we flatten the organizational structure we’ll get more innovation and creativity. It’s not that straightforward, because structure doesn’t drive performance in such a direct way. In fact, too often CEOs resort to restructuring as a sort of panacea or as an elixir, because it’s easy to move boxes and lines on an org chart. The bottom line is the data says many of those restructurings aren’t effective. And it’s because what really matters is the culture, the climate, and the way you define the work in the environment. The structure alone isn’t what’s driving performance. And yet this becomes a crutch for a lot of executives, because it’s the easiest thing to change.
The focus mindset. This one is the idea that people have come to realize that the research is clear, multitasking is terrible. It’s certainly terrible for creativity. And so they flipped all the way to the other stream and said, “Well, the way we’re going to tackle really hard problems and get good solutions is total focus. We’ll include a group for a week, they’ll do a design sprint, we’ll go to an innovation hub, we’ll put them in a war room.” Imagine a rock band in a castle or on a mountain top, in isolation recording the next great album. But actually, what we know about creative breakthroughs is that the best formula isn’t multitasking, nor is it complete, isolated focus. It’s a mix. It’s intense focus, punctuated with a few moments of unfocused time, where you get some distance from the problem, so as to help you achieve a creative breakthrough. And so the focus mindset says, “Don’t fall into the trap of multitasking all the time.” But don’t think that total isolation is the answer, either.
The last one says, Devil’s advocates are important in organizations. They help drive critical thinking, and they can help enhance creativity, but not if you have destructive naysayers. There’s a difference between a constructive devil’s advocate and a destructive naysayer. A constructive devil’s advocate is asking good questions and helping to generate new options. Naysayers are always looking for all the reasons why ideas won’t work. There are a lot of naysayers out there, and they use the legendary stories of people who were told no 99 times. They use that as an excuse not to listen to user feedback. It’s one thing to dismiss naysayers, and people saying your idea will never work. But it’s another to fall so in love with your idea that you aren’t listening to your customers, and adapting your idea and modifying it, evolving it. So I think that we have to be careful because it’s easy to fall in love with your baby and stop listening, and to just discard everything as naysaying. That’s not right, either.
I would just say, as I think about this creativity issue, I think as leaders of organizations and entrepreneurs leading startups, you don’t have to have all the great ideas yourself. Your job is to clear the path, so that the talented people around you feel like they’re empowered and have the ability to advance their original ideas. You have to take the obstacles out of their way. It’s a big part of the job of a leader at any level startup or large corporation, so that those talented people with creative ideas aren’t self-censoring themselves. You want them putting their ideas out there. And you want them feeling as though they’re not put in a really tough spot when they’re trying to put a new idea up against the conventional wisdom. So don’t think you have to have all the ideas yourself. But you have to create a path for the people who have ideas to get them in front of you, so you can Marshal the collective intellect of the people around you.
www.professormichaelroberto.com is my website. People can find me on Twitter, and other social media platforms as well. And probably Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com are both great ways to get a hold of the book.