Jazz – The Poignant Innovation

davebrubeckthequartet

Looking for business improvisation in your office? Well, focus on music as it provides a poignant innovation key.

According to one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, the answer is to deliberately focus on the “white”, and not the “black”. Most traditional players of music are captivated by those pesky black notes, carefully placed with much thoughtful deliberation by the composer on the five well regimented lines of the staff. The orchestral focussed musician then, without any allowable hesitation, follows without question the vast array of strategically positioned crochets, quavers, semibreves, and even the occasional minim, with a well-practiced systematic bow, blow or beat of their beloved instrument. The result is a perfect and consistent replication of the musical selection, just as the composer had stipulated.

However, if you are a player of jazz, you tend to not be a musical conformist, but one that focuses more on the creative freedom represented by the unrestricted white score background devoid of all black notation. These innovative musical entrepreneurs utilise their deep, fundamental understanding of their instrument to collaborate in joint mutual harmony with a range of other diverse thinking performing colleagues to create the true essence of improvised jazz.

To complement the jazz player’s unhindered creative style, no formal orchestral dress attire is typically worn. Rather, you will observe a selection of them occasionally wearing a diverse range of coloured paisley patterned shirts, stylish mod-suits, denim, boots, dark glasses, and even a stylish hat.

Now consider the corporate office with all its conservative business rules and regulations, its staff brandishing the standard business suit, shirt, cuff-links and ties, analogous to the large, classical symphony orchestra lead by the CEO conductor. But don’t get me wrong, as for many businesses to succeed, this long standing and proven tradition is essential in ensuring that all employees are working off the same musical score, are working together with a common objective to manufacture a high quality performance that is appreciated by the expectant shareholder audience.

But should your business be striving for the development of a culture in which innovation can flourish, consider how a “jazz room” environment can be established where your employees can mix with other likeminded paisley clad individuals, can experiment with corporate melodies previously untried or heard, and are free to let their creative talents loose without any critical judgement or fear of failure. With time and practice, the result will produce some new and dynamic sounds that may be the start of a new direction for your business.

So what’s the key to business improvisation?  Try to not always focus on what you typically see, but allow yourself the opportunity to expand your creative horizons and explore the innovative vastness of what could potentially exist in the background.

 

Using Thought-Mail

(Too much) Thinking

I don’t know how people coped in 2015! It must have been so tedious having to write E-mails, talk on that massive heavy communicator (and they called it a “mobile phone”, I mean really!), and use that archaic and primitive “thing” called the Internet! Thank god I was born in 2064 and am a “Generation SC64er”.

I put my history book down and decided to get back to work.

The first thing I needed to do was to send a “Thought-Mail” to my work team. I’d been putting it off for ages, but I had finally worked out my “thinking” on the business strategy and now needed their input and feedback. I “mentally” turned on the “thought reader” and inserted it in my ear and then “thought” about what I wanted to say to my team. This only took a couple of microseconds as I’m quite a fast thinker. I then “listened” to the play-back draft of the message in my mind, made a couple of corrections, and then visualised the names in my work team and allowed my “Thought-Mail” to be sent. Immediately, everyone in my team received my thoughts.

Not all of them replied immediately though. That was OK, as I assumed that some of them would be “thinking” about other things. I knew that my “thought” would sit in their memory and would be “read” when they had some available thinking time in their work day. I could have classified the “Thought-Mail” as urgent as that would have forced them to think about it straight away, but it wasn’t that important, a response tomorrow would be just fine.

A couple of seconds later I started to “feel the replies” coming into my mind from two of the people in my team. I thought about their comments and agreed with their reasoning. Thankfully all those team members that hadn’t yet responded, also received these replied “thought updates”, so they would have all the updated thinking which would assist them in making their own thoughtful responses.

Well, that took 30 seconds. I now moved onto my next task and again started “thinking” and the process was in motion.

Author note: I wish I was born in 2064, don’t you?

Shirt Wear – Guidelines for Corporate Creativity

Shirt

You know…the business shirt is quite an amazing source of innovation and creativity and has a unique and strategic place in the corporate office. However, many wearers do not recognise this fact, or its importance. So let’s explore this grand piece of clothing a little bit further.

The key shirt characteristics that define your shirt wearing creativity are:
• The colour
• The buttons
• The in/out tuck

Colour:
Most shirt wearers in your typical conservative corporate organisation tend to wear the stock standard white shirt. Need we say anymore, except, this probably explains why these companies are quite boring and lacking innovation!
When colour is introduced; now we are talking! These colourful shirt wearers tend to have that increased level of flamboyance and “oomph” that supports the generation of new ideas. Other areas for creative differentiation are the optional stripe or pattern.

Buttons:
The typical business shirt has seven buttons in the main frontal section, and a smaller button on the sleeves (assuming that this is a cufflink shirt).
My extensive research (based on extensive individual research I might add), is that the number of buttons done-up greatly influences the shirt wearers level of freedom which I assert has a direct correlation with creativity.
The optimum level of thought freedom appears to be attained with no buttons done up….yep that hairy chested high air-flow look! When all the buttons are done-up, “theory” states that creativity is proportionally reduced. Owing to HR T&Cs of acceptable dress in the corporate office, I would suggest the top two buttons being undone, if not completely removed to ensure that happy creative compromise with the official corporate guidelines.
Another option is to undo the small buttons on the shirtsleeves and roll your sleeves up, once again, a certain freedom of corporate constraint seems to prevail as a consequence.

In/Out Tuck:
This is indeed a very personal choice. Some people like to have their shirt tucked in, others like it out. However, when wearing a suit, having the shirt out does tend to make you look rather uncouth hedging towards that bogun looking classification. However, if it improves your ability to think with your shirt flapping around your bottom, well, each to their own!

Now, I haven’t explored the choice of hooks and eyes, or zips, as an alternative to buttons, but would welcome any constructive feedback from any readers of this blog post that might be beneficial to the argument being proposed above (which of course is all tongue in cheek!).

In conclusion, may I suggest that you view your business shirt as a key factor in the development of a culture of innovation in the corporate office.

The Thought of Antiquities

Antique shop window - Lillie Road

I must admit, I am not a fan of the whole shopping experience. When I need to purchase an item, I go straight to the target shop, buy the required product, and then quickly make a planned and strategically executed escape out the nearest exit!

However, there is one particular shop where this focussed stealth methodology seems to not work for me, that of an Antique Dealer. Here I can happily spend hours fossicking through the vast array of totally unexpected items. In these premises I have no preconceived idea of what to expect, I just meander through the pre-owned range of second-hand inventory gleefully absorbing the visual feast of gadgets, furniture, paintings, knick-knacks and other ornaments. In some instances, I don’t actually purchase anything, but I always leave the shop with numerous ideas of optimistic purchase possibilities that might just be useful for some project when I get home.

On examining my thought further, I willingly enter the Antique Dealer with an open mind, I have no preconceived objectives, except in the exploration of new and potentially exciting objects. On seeing these items, my mind is subconsciously linking these antique items with my existing home objects.

There is an interesting corollary here with the process of generating solutions to specific problems in our private lives or in the corporate world. In many instances we tend to quickly focus on a solution without exploring other options, some of which may take time and patience to develop. Most of us follow the “get-in/get-out” shopping approach that I typically follow, but the better solution is to let your thoughts wander contentedly along with an open mind (ie the “Antique Dealer” approach).

In the corporate world, time pressures and business imperatives tend to cloud our ability to take the “Antique Dealer” approach, but I would suggest this strategy as the outcome will be more beneficial and satisfying to all those involved.

Just a thought that might just be useful in the future?

 

The Mathematical Idea

Numbers

If you were an accountant, just imagine if the unthinkable happened?  What if you were at the crucial stage in developing a strategic profit and loss statement, or an annual budget and you ran out of numbers!

Yes, instead of numbers being an unlimited thought concept, what if they were an actual physical asset that was purchased, had a market value, and were manufactured in a finite quantity? How would the accountant cope? If they ran out of “4”s, could they continue the financial analysis that they were working on by replacing the “4” with a “3”, after-all they are close? Somehow, I suspect not!

So why is it that some corporate organizations tend to have a greater proportion of innovative ideas compared to other companies? After all, aren’t ideas, like numbers unlimited and freely generated?

One probable answer is the culture of the organization and the environment that has been established to encourage and promote innovation of thought. Many progressive companies are well aware of this requirement and have developed a range of thought creation initiates to drive and maintain the innovation process focused on targeted applications. If we go back to the accountant, it is all very well have an unlimited supply of numbers, but the key is how these numbers are applied to a specific problem thereby creating a solution. The same can be said for ideas, it is great to have a plethora of them, but the real opportunity is obtained when they initiate a creative solution that leads to additional sales revenue via a new market or product.

So next time you use your calculator to solve a mathematical problem, try to think of the numbers on the keys from a slightly different perspective. Why not view those numbers as the inputs for a range of ideas which when combined via a systematic approach lead to the generation of a creative and new solution. By the way, in this calculator there would be no “Error” function, for when generating ideas, there are no mistakes, just opportunities for improvement!

The Business Vote….In or Out?

Voting

At election time you will find a politician strategically working their electorate in an attempt to win as many precious votes as possible. The politician will tell you what they have done in the past, and what things they will do in the future to ensure your personal interests are being maintained. If you find the political sell credible, you have the option to vote them in, or out of their parliamentary seat of power.

What if this voting concept was utilised in the corporate office? Why shouldn’t senior managers, such as the CEO, MD, be voted in or out of their role by a range of key stakeholders which includes their shareholders, peers and more importantly their subordinates? Some senior managers typically sell themselves exceptionally well to their shareholders, but typically do not view their direct reports in the same manner, nor with equal importance.

Why shouldn’t the senior manager on a regular basis be required to promote themselves, just like a politician at election time, to their employees where they outline their vision for the organisation, how they will achieve it and the future benefit derived for all workers? At the end of the promotional and lobbying period all employees would vote on the senior manager’s performance and credibility. If the vote is poor, this would result in the immediate dismissal of the senior manager as it would be apparent that they have not inspired their staff sufficiently to deliver the required business strategy. It would also benefit shareholders as it would be a good indicator of the future performance of the organisation under the leadership of this senior manager.

It’s just a thought, but the concept could also lead to greater transparency in the corporate environment where all levels of the organisation feel as if they have some political control, ownership and influence in the future direction of their business?

The need for more noisy hot air!

Hot air Balloons

Yesterday, my early morning predawn walk of individual thought solitude was rudely interrupted by the sound of a large whooshing sound overhead!

On looking upwards, I sighted an impressive and colourful hot air balloon meandering through the clouds with a crew of delighted occupants peering over the edge of the basket gleefully looking down at me.

I became enthralled with the upward view as I listened to the random bursts of hot air blasts that the pilot used to reposition the balloon strategically in the sky. As the hot air balloon climbed to greater heights, I lost sight of it momentarily in between visual and audible “trackers” associated with the gas burner used to replenish the heated air.

The thought of these “trackers” I found interesting from a business perspective, particularly for those companies involved in the implementation of Change Management. During a time of structural change, employees need to have a reference point which reconfirms that progress is being made within the organization. In the case of the hot air balloon that was camouflaged within the clouds, these were the sounds and sights of the gas burner that punctuated its progress. In the business world, these “sight and sound trackers” could come in a variety of forms such as; financial targets, management forums, employee surveys, morale or via other external measures. The key is to have these “trackers”, and to promote them regularly as the Change Management “hot air balloon” travels towards the desired end goal (or “landing position”).

So for all you who are involved in piloting your Change Management process……make sure you make lots of noisy hot air!

 

 

Focus on the “N”

gear shift

Most of us when we are at work are too busy racing from one activity to the next one with minimal time to think and plan the next steps. If our workflow processes were likened to a car, we would be continually moving from 1st gear, to 2nd, then to 3rd and countless higher gears, back down again, sometimes into reverse, and then do it all once more! I’m sure that this sounds all too familiar!

But how much time do we spend in the “neutral gear (N)”?

In a car, we all pass through neutral on the way to the other gears, however, if it is not done correctly, we tend to “crunch” the gears and make that all too painful sound!

This got me thinking….

At work, what if we spent more time in the “neutral gear” tactfully planning and considering our next steps before we blindly or habitually commence the next activity? If so, we might find that there are more optimum “gear choices” available to use that better utilize our limited time and achieve a more productive and efficient result?

So, next time you are driving in your car, focus more on the “N” and similarly try and think about exploring the “N” in the office. The result could be much more harmonious and may lead to less of the “crunch” in your work routine?

 

Mannequin Motivation

Interview Series, Arlington Street between Boylston and Newbury Streets, Store Window Displays, Ida Claire and Esther Dorothy, Inc.

When walking past any clothing department store, you will typically observe a mannequin in the shop window parading the latest fashions and accessories.

The purpose of this promotional activity is to attract your attention and to entice you into thinking about how those clothes may look on you. As part of this process, you may visualize where you could wear these exciting items of clothing, and also the reaction you may receive from your friends, family and work colleagues. Your thoughts are no longer standing in front of the shop window, they are now travelling to various geographic locations and different emotional states via the use of your imagination.

What about using the motivational benefits derived from these mannequins in the corporate office?

Just imagine having a mannequin strategically positioned in the office foyer as you enter the building. Each Monday morning, the attire of the mannequin would change to provide a theme for the week and to act as a thought provoker. Some potential clothing options:

Personal Wellbeing: sporting clothes (eg tennis outfit)
Creative Thinking: 1960s “flower power” clothes
Watch out for the competition: a suit of armor
New Business Development: a mountain explorer
Appraisal Time: a corporate suit
Holidays: swimwear

The mannequin could also hold message signs to highlight specific business events and communications. For instance, if it was the boss’s birthday, a sign stating “It’s my birthday today, so please enjoy a longer lunch break to celebrate!”….the possibilities are endless!

So next time you walk past that clothing store, think about the “motivational mannequin” and how it could improve the morale in your business.