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Posts Tagged ‘consulting’

One of the most useful insights I gained in my studies of creativity and facilitation training was a model of group dynamics that says all groups go through the same four phases: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Now, different groups may linger longer in one phase or another. And, it’s not always linear; that is to say you might go from Storming to Norming to Performing and then back to Storming. Some groups—and we’ve all been in them—actually abort before ever getting to the Performing phase.

This insight has helped me better cope within any group, of which I’ve been a part. It allows me to not be so discomforted by my confusion during my group’s Forming phase. I’m not as dispirited by the bickering that may occur in the Storming phase. I don’t get quite as bored by the Norming phase. And because I have a name for it, I become exhilarated in the Performing phase.

The mindfulness of these phases gives me both hope and direction to get through any rough patches my group might experience. It gives me clues for how to move on. For example, I make sure there is plenty of time for the Clarifiers in the Forming phase. The sooner they use their clarifying questions to help the group understand why it’s there, the faster the group can move onto the next phase.

A Storming phase might suggest time needed to examine the facts and sort out those assumptions masquerading as fact. It might suggest a listening exercise to make sure everyone heard what was said and understands what was meant (not always the same thing). Then make sure everyone agrees on the implications.

A Norming phase, where structure has been established and participants know the group rules, will often cry out for some divergent exercises to help people accelerate their thinking in new and innovative areas.

A team in the Performing phase needs to be vigilant in maintaining its creative culture. It requires the resources to sustain its efforts. And it should take a breath every now and then to celebrate the magic.

Back on January 21st of this year, I wrote about George Land’s Transformational Theory, in which he posits that every living organism (he would include a group as a living organism) travels the S-curve as complexity grows over time. That theory is consistent with the four-phase construct I just described: the bottom dip of the “S” representing the Forming and Storming phases; the first break point representing the Norming phase; and the Performing phase represented by the ascent up the S-curve. (click for more on the  Transformation Theory)

The S-curve also includes a fifth phase, which may take the form of either starting a new S-curve for new growth, or becoming obsolete and going away. The professor who taught me the four phases of group dynamics included a fifth phase for that construct, which she called Adjourning.

I believe this “add-on” phase is so important that I will stop here and discuss Adjourning in my next post.

In the meantime, if you have other insights to add about group dynamics, I would appreciate learning from you.

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There are many people who I admire—smart, funny, talented, generous people. Then there are people who align those winning traits with a strong set of moral values and act to create something brilliant. These people inspire me.

And, I’m a bit surprised to say that social media is the reason I come to write about this topic.

I began to see the power of social media to enable such inspiration when my nephew Elliot posted on Facebook that he had a birthday coming up, and if anyone was planning on giving him a gift, he would love for that gift be a donation to a charity he chose. He suggested an amount, a dollar for every year he had lived, but was grateful for any amount. He set a modest goal, which he blew past immediately. He announced a new goal. Then another. Then another. He must be a popular guy with people who like to exceed goals because he raised a lot of money from people who never intended to buy him a birthday present. Brilliant. Elliot blogs at http://goodworkpeople.com.

Another example first came to me in the form of a viral video called The Money Tree. It showed what happens when you tape 100 $1-bills to a tree on a busy city sidewalk, each bill with a life-affirming note to take one. It’s beautiful. Check it out at http://www.­boingboing.­net/­2010/­09/­08/­what-­happens-­when-­yo-­3.­html.

This is the work of Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She blogs at WBEZ in Chicago. http://www.wbez.org/blogs/mission-amy-kr and is a brilliant filmmaker and writer who inspires “connection, reflection, and creativity.” She has a mission for her followers (of which I’m one) every week. Often she asks for participation from her followers (sadly, I’ve yet to participate) from which she makes beautiful art. For the last three years (8/8/08, 9/9/09, 10/10/10) she’s invited anyone and everyone to meet her at the Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park for an evening of “missions.” If you like life celebrations, check out her films chronicling these moving experiences.

A third example, I just found out about yesterday. Carlo Garcia has a site called Living Philanthropic: livingphilanthropic.tumblr.com. He has committed to contributing to and featuring a non-profit organization on his blog and through his tweets every day for a year, hoping that his followers will respond to the cause and also donate. I’m sorry I didn’t find him until day 314 when he featured Changing World’s, one of my clients. So far, Carlo has donated $3,753 to his featured organizations and his followers have reported donating another $9,915. Another brilliant idea.

Elliot, I know. I don’t know Amy or Carlo. Yet I have a pretty good idea of who they are. They inspire me, and perhaps elicit a bit of jealousy. But I’m glad they’re here. They give me a compelling reason to participate in social media rather than merely curse it as another distraction.

I also know, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have other examples like this, I would appreciate knowing about them. I would like to spread the brilliance. If you are inspired by Elliot, Amy or Carlo, spread their brilliance. These are the lights that need to shine.

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Last weekend, I attended a Gala for Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. I couldn’t have been more inspired.

I know this organization intimately, having facilitated the staff and board through our strategic planning process, and then worked with the Reputation Committee to renew its brand strategy.

CYSO has long been a world-class youth orchestra, training the area’s best young musicians. Historically, it focused on performance and education. In revisiting the brand, the Reputation Committee discovered that at the intersection of performance excellence and personal growth is the element of inspiration.

This “inspiration” has become the brand driver, changing the way the organization communicates to its publics. CYSO began telling inspirational stories about the young musicians, the composers and compositions, and the venues in which it plays—compelling stories that give us even more reasons to appreciate and care about the music.

On Saturday evening, they took it to the next level in their concert, ¡Viva la Música! On the last number of an evening filled with beautiful Spanish compositions, the orchestra surprised everyone when it began swaying in unison to the lively score it was playing. Suddenly, orchestra members began randomly popping up and down to the music, giving the impression of a large wind-up toy. So unlike your typical Symphony Orchestra. So fun for the student musicians. And inspiring the audience to a whistling, hooting robust standing ovation.

This is an organization that embraces its brand.

To learn more about and support this fine organization, visit http://www.cyso.org. And check out the video we made to capture the magic of the CYSO.

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Okay, so we had a little snow to clear yesterday. And true to my suggestion on my previous post, I went out to shovel with the idea of using physical activity to help solve a problem—what to write for my next blog entry.

I started shoveling and I let my mind wander. At first it was just a sense—and then a conscious realization—that the piles of snow I was clearing were at eye level.

I couldn’t remember seeing snow that high since walking to C. Ray Gates School in Grand Island, Nebraska with my brother, Jeff. In my adult life, I had always maintained that it didn’t snow as much today as it did when I was growing up in Nebraska. Yet, here the snow was as high as when I walked to school. One catch: when I was walking to school, I was under five-feet tall. Today, I’m 5-feet, 9-inches.

So, I thought, perhaps I’ve been sharing dogma (it used to snow more) from an outdated perspective (that of a short grade-schooler).

Then I realized that as creative leaders, we need to continually revisit the perspectives from which we form our world views. Are they still relevant within the current environment or are we stuck in an old paradigm? And we must recognize that others who have strong beliefs may fall for the same trap. Being mindful and open to considering new perspective is how we grow as individuals. It’s also how we create and innovate as groups. I wondered what else I could do to challenge my own assumptions.

Then my feet got cold and I had to go inside to warm up.

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We’ve all been there: staring at a blank sheet of paper with a blank mind. Out of ideas. A bit panicked.

Yet the last thing we consider at desperate times like this, is to take a break. Go for a walk. Do something physical.

Next time, make it one of the first things you consider. Ideas often lie just beneath the surface. Like good coffee, they need to percolate—bubble up from the subconscious. So going for a walk, with the intention of solving a problem or getting unstuck, might be just what the doctor orders.

Think for a moment when you get your most creative—and often most random—ideas. When you’re exercising, taking a shower, driving…when you’re doing anything but thinking about your issue.

Many of us are kinetic thinkers. We have to move around to free up our flow of ideas. Try going to the zoo with a problem in mind. Look to the animals for inspiration on ideas for solving the problem. Take a bike ride to a pre-determined destination. Have a topic you want to consider as you ride. When you get to the destination meditate further on the topic. When you get home, write down everything you considered (if you’re afraid you’ll forget something, take a note pad and pen with you.)

Some communities even have a public labyrinth to walk. A creativity colleague of mine, Janice Francisco, has written about the use of a labyrinth as a creativity tool (A Creative Walker’s Guide to the Labyrinth, available through Amazon and Lulu). Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a set pattern leading to the center and back out. If you enter the labyrinth with a thought about an idea or issue you want to solve, the walking of the labyrinth will help surface new ideas.

Please share examples of activities you use to break through your creativity logjam.

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If you haven’t seen this yet, go to thefuntheory.com. This is a brilliant initiative by Volkswagen “dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” You’ll see a video on how one team made it fun for people to take the stairs rather than the escalator. Another video focuses on how to make going the speed limit fun. And there are a host of other videos featuring incredibly creative ideas for introducing fun into not-so-fun aspects of our lives.

My challenge to you is this: next time you’re planning an initiative that requires someone to do something, ask the question: How can we make it fun?

This is one of those questions that dramatically shifts thinking from coercion strategies (how do we make someone do this?) to attraction strategies (how do we make someone want to do this?). You might be surprised at the wonderful ideas that come to you by engaging The Fun Theory.

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Maybe nothing. But in selecting my workout this morning on an elliptical trainer, I was presented with the following options: Manual, Interval, Rolling, Fat Burn, Random, Heart Rate, and Constant Watts. So I started thinking, as is my want during mindless workouts, what does the choice of workout mean about me and my leadership style?

If I choose manual, does it mean I am a command and control leader?

If I choose Interval, Rolling or Constant Watts, does it mean I want to know what’s coming—no surprises? Does that make me a good manager? A Six Sigma expert? More interested in the process than the outcome?

If I decide on Fat Burn or Heart Rate, does that make me more goal oriented? Am I a leader who will establish objectives and metrics, and then work hard to achieve them?

And what about random? Does it mean that I prefer the chaos of not knowing what’s coming next? Am I creative leader remaining open to the ideas of others and making order out of chaos?

All are predictable except Random, which is, well, random.

For the record, I chose Random.

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