Remarkable Leadership requires Coup d’oeil

Remarkable Leadership requires Coup d’oeil

 

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Remarkable leaders appear to share a rare high level skill called coup d’oeil.This strange and relatively obscure French expression, which means literally ‘stroke of the eye’, might be better translated as at-a-glance leadership. Truly exceptional leaders have the ability to take in the whole of a complicated situation, do a fast / rapid analysis and then can express it in simpler, clearer terms and develop the appropriate action to take. They seem to be able to distill complex scenarios faster and get better results and achieve long term success.

There are some fantastic examples given by Jim Collins in Great by Choice, listed as 10X companies, although the author doesn’t suggest the process I shall outline here. It is a sequel to his best-selling Good to Great (2001), which identified seven characteristics that enabled companies to become truly great over an extended period of time. Never mind that one of the 11 featured companies is now bankrupt (Circuit City) and another is in government receivership (Fannie Mae). Collins has a knack for analysis that business readers find compelling.

You would probably agree that the business environment (landscape) has changed dramatically in the last few years and is still rapidly evolving. It is more complex, more volatile, and more unpredictable than any so-called thought leaders predicted. The disruptive nature of technologies has yet to be addressed by leadership training processes.

The skills needed for good leadership have also changed. They are more complex and require adaptive, flexible and rapid thinking. Yet the methods being used to develop leaders have not changed much (if at all) over the last 20 years. My personal view of the current leadership training situation (and where it might go) is given in the table below. It is based on my personal experience over many years, lots of research and many hours of discussion and analysis. I don’t claim it is perfect (far from it) and there are of course many examples of excellence out there; we most seek to learn from their content, structure and delivery.

The best explanation I have found of the term coup d’oeil(and it is virtually overlooked in modern leadership literature) comes from an 1827 classic of military strategy, On War by Carl von Clausewitz. The word strategy in fact entered the English language in 1810, when Napoleon’s success as a battlefield general made him Emperor of Europe. His enemies started studying how he did it so they could learn it too and defeat him. Indeed Clausewitz is credited with coming up with the term fog of war (amongst other gems).Clausewitz’s account of Napoleon’s strategy matches amazingly well what modern neuroscience tells us about flashes of insight. Clausewitz cleverly used a four step process, which I have adapted slightly to reflex some cutting edge neuroscience:

  1. The process starts with the ingestion and absorption of research. Accumulating and taking examples, stories and patterns from history, throughout your life and putting them away careful (filed and labelled) in your limitless filing system of your remarkable brain. Studying memory systems and knowing about modern neuroscience can help in the process. Keep stacking and uploading these examples into your hard drive / Hippocampus. Some might call this process ‘conscious encoding’ and it is the long, tedious part of inspiration.
  2. The next stage is to develop a particular presence of mind, where you free your brain of all pre-conceptions about what problem you’re solving and what solution might work. By learning transformational breathing or other physiological breath work (the very simple discipline of 3 minutes (eyes closed) of slow, rhythmic and even breaths) certainly helps. This can create and facilitate (via the powerful hormone DHEA) a sense of being in the flow, or the zone and helps with the brain chemicals like BDNF which stimulate dendrite growth and new neural pathways. The process of going for a long walk, doing some exercise and even juggling can induce this state.
  3. The third crucial stage is developing the space and conditions for the flash of insight itself to occur. Clausewitz himself called it the coup d’oeil. In this flash and moment of extreme clarity, new combinations of the multiple superimposed examples from history, that were encoded over your life time, are recalled and your super brain re-connects them and joins up the dots. The solution is there to be accessed, innovation resolved and better strategies enabled.
  4. The remarkable leader has then to have resolution, courage and determination to make it happen. This is when the great leader says Ah, I see!, but also, I’ll do it! and Now!

I love the thought of using a 1827 book to inspire leadership training. A good example perhaps ofstanding on the shoulders of giants. Modern technology using fMRI has not given us any definitive brain scans that show differences in the way leaders’ grey matter works. Although the ‘flash of inspiration’ or Coup d’oeil is yet to be recorded by fMRI, there is some consensus that leaders have some commonalities in how they think about the world.

Let’s dissect a standard question used in interviews to ‘find’ leaders: What great leader in history do you aspire to be? This question is intended to examine the types of leaders you naturally gravitate towards and whether or not they are in alignment with your values and what you stand for? Some of the most common answers include: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Michael Jordan,Teddy Roosevelt, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Peters, Margaret Thatcher and John F. Kennedy.

Consider then the first quotation from American football coach legend Vince Lombardi,

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.

Kari H. Keating, Ph.D., a teaching associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who studies leadership, published a study in October 2014 which supported existing research that leaders are made, not born. Expanding on work by leadership researcher Bruce J. Avolio which found that leadership ability is roughly 30% genetic and 70% learned, Keating and her colleagues found that the first step to becoming a more effective leader is to believe that you can be a leader in the first place. That is an intriguing finding as it fits with the Coup d’oeil model of rapid analysis. It also implies that the Clausewitz’ 4 step Coup d’oeil process can be taught, practiced and used. To understand whether you are going in the right direction with your own leadership, ask the following questions to be remarkable:

  • What must you keep doing to be remarkable?
  • What must you stop doing to be remarkable?
  • What must you start doing to be remarkable?
  • What must you think of doing to be remarkable?
  • Where is your unique angle on Coup d’oeil?

The majority of managers are currently developed via on-the-job experiences, training, and coaching/ mentoring; while these are all still important, leaders are no longer developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new environment. In the emerging future views of leadership, leaders do not have influence simply because they are ‘bosses’ or ‘commanders’. Rather, leaders are people who are committed to creating a world / organisation / team to which people want to belong. It of course involves brilliant communicating, powerful interacting and managing relationships within an organisation, network or social system to move toward one’s highest aspirations.

As we try to take command of our own destiny and guide the destinies of our families, communities, organisations and our planet, the necessity of effective leadership ability has become increasingly obvious. Effective leadership might just need the 4 stage Clausewitz process for Coup d’oeil as one of the keys to our future success and future survival.

Be Amazing Every Day.

Design Thinking Changing Training

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Training: see what happens now and repeat.


Like a sad dinner-for-one that is sat at the back of the fridge that’s past its sell-by-date, the current prevailing concepts of training are out-dated. I has been superseded by something better and can safely be discarded. Training is a very commonly used word and perhaps it needs refreshing itself. Transformed into a new design led process, by re-imagining, re-designing and inspiring new methodologies. Learning is in many ways a better way to think of this subject, because learning belongs to the learner, whereas training traditionally belongs to the trainer or the organisation. Training (in my opinion) should be about whole person development, not just transferring skills, the traditional interpretation of training at work.

Design Thinking (crash course here) is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems. When Design Thinking is applied to the new paradigm of learning and training, it can draw upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be, and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the trainee). A design mindset is not problem-centric; it’s solution focused and action oriented. It involves both analysis and imagination.
With this in mind, it is good to look for solutions across different platforms and styles of thought. My favourite scientific rapper (there can be only one) is the very wonderful Baba Brinkman. While covering the theory of evolution and the work of Charles Darwin, equates evolution with how he writes his lyrics thus: Performance, Feedback, Revision.

…..and how do human beings (learning and training organisations) ever learn to do anything? Like this:

  • Performance – Feedback – Revision

…..and how do I generally develop my lyricism (training / speaking / inspiring)? Like this:

  • Performance – Feedback – Revision

Because the performance is necessary to change the words (learning) to decide which have an impact and which to send back to the drawing board.

  • Performance (training people to be amazing, by me)
  • Feedback (from trainees and my peers)
  • Revision (the ‘bits’ that have impact are iterated)

Organisations which approach training and development from this standpoint inevitably foster people who perform well and progress. Importantly their good people stay around for long enough to become great at what they do, and to help others become so. Leaders creating future leaders. The best training methods are not necessarily just conveying information, but that can make receiving data or instructions a much more enjoyable experience, which will keep trainees involved and help them retain more information. The process of design thinking for training might look like this visually:


A modified form of this process for training might include these waypoints:

  • Define the Challenge and Agenda. The start is crucial and doesn’t have to be linear after this.Develop a set of powerful questions to surface opportunities, and frame training and learning innovation.
  • Gather Data. Learn how to gather data through qualitative research such as observation (thick data) and storytelling to augment traditional forms of data gathering. Some powerful tools include Journey Mapping, touch-point analysis and value chain analysis.
  • Reframe and Clarify the Challenge. Make sense of research by seeing patterns, themes, and larger relationships between the information. Challenge assumptions and illuminate opportunities latent in the training process.
  • Explore Play and Create Novelty. Giving a safe place to experiment and innovate. Lower the barriers to what can be done, what could be achieved and direction training might go. Technological and ideological events that allow freedom and true innovative experience.
  • Make Learning Fun. Designing from the basis of fun will make a process inspirational. Trainees will not be enthusiastic if training sessions are dry and dull. Few employees respond to or remember complicated concepts or theories; they want to learn practical information about what they can do to get better results today. If they don’t find the message entertaining, they won’t retain it. Using the design process it is possible to use multiple, diverse and different training methods to engage learning for trainees in a variety of ways.
  • Encourage Artful Reflection. Cultivate your intuition and develop aesthetic ways of knowing. The elegant training solution wins in the marketplace.
  • Powerful Visualisation. Develop visual thinking skills to de-code images, and communicate ideas visually. Visual literacy transcends the limitations of language and activates our senses. Training tools include Mind mapping, sketching and painting.
  • Time to Ideate. Learn six idea generation tools to foster shifts in perception, break out of traditional mind-sets, and generate seed ideas for innovation, including Metaphorical thinking, connecting the dots, and Edison’s invention techniques. The new paradigms for training don’t need to re-invent the wheel but under process like meta-cognition (learning to learn).
  • Evaluate and getting Feedback. Identify the criteria you need to evaluate training ideas; learn the distinction between critiquing and criticising an idea; give feedback that enhances creativity rather than crushes it.
  • Encourage Participation. Use the Design Process to understand how facilitation works. Make the session lively by engaging participants in the learning process. In fact, try to spend close to 80 percent of training time on group participation. Encourage everyone in the training session to speak freely and candidly, because learning occurs most readily when feelings are involved.
  • Fast Prototyping. Create a visual tangible representation of your idea and present it to the group for feedback. Create a feasibility and an adoption checklist to get people onboard.
  • Customer Co-creationand Empowerment. Exploring alternative futures with your internal and external training customers.
  • Interim Assessment. Gather early feedback from prototype. Assess outcomes, and refine your project. Develop a set of feedback questions to get the information you need, i.e., does this add value to the trainee or the client?
  • Use Humour and be Playful. Humour helps keep enthusiasm at peak levels. Trainers can make a point more effectively by using humour than by drowning trainees in statistics or theories. Personal, self-deprecating humor is the safest way to go.
  • Roll out and Implementation. Create an action plan and test-drive your innovation plan for training change.
  • Finally Iterate. Assess results, modify and improve, using this framework to drive the cutting edge of training change.
  • Excellence, always. Goes without saying.

From now on, in big letters across the top of your white boards should go the words:

Performance – Feedback – Revision.

Nice.

Innovate: Read & Watch More

 

If you want to lead, read. If you want to innovate, read and watch more. There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory, which states that this has already happened.

 

 

Is the answer to becoming a successful innovator, or millionaire trendsetter, blowing in the wind (my friend)? Or is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything, the number 42*?

Maybe we can find the answer, in the lyrics of one of my favourite songs, The Sounds of Silence. Written in February 1964 by Paul Simon in the aftermath of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, the song propelled the group to mainstream popularity:

And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls / and tenement halls

<- Sprayed on the walls and Victoria Embankment pavement, London 8.9.14

Just Do It is a trademark of the shoe company Nike, and one of the core components of Nike's brand. The slogan was coined in 1988 at an advertising agency meeting. Maybe London’s streets are really paved with gold? This is a saying that came from the 19th century story of Dick Whittington and his cat, loosely based on the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Richard Whittington. The saying, which expresses the idea of a land of opportunity, is partly ironic, since Dick Whittington found when he went to London that the streets were in fact grimy and poverty stricken.

So where is today's innovation to be found? What is the ultimate secret or the ultimate answer?

 




I think that tradition embraces stability and rejects change. The tried and true, extrapolated into the future, often looks like a sure thing, while deviating from historical norms can look downright foolish. Yet the funny thing about the future is that there’s no guarantee that it will look like the past. Contexts change and when they do, old rules no longer apply. So how can we get a handle on this paradigm shift?

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.

 Mark Twain

Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators, make their fortunes because they have this amazing ability to understand market trends and what consumers will be buying in the short, medium and longer term. They are also able to take a look at when it's best to buy or invest into a particular industry and as Richard Branson once famously said, Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.

Innovation and understanding new market trends are fundamental to a successful business and being able to spot them is not as hard as you think. It takes research, planning, being able to test your own thinking about consumer driven demand and comes back to the very basic human instinct; the motivation to own something. It also requires a lot of reading and watching. Let me outline why:

  • Innovation is fundamentally all about new ideas but, where do you go to learn about what’s worked in the past and what might work in the future?
  • Read and watch more.
  • How do you develop the intellect and the library of ideas on which to draw for innovation?
  • Read and watch more.
  • How do you cultivate your credibility and compete for the attention of venture capitalists or those who will sponsor your innovations?
  • Read and watch more.

Read and watch more is the secret to successful innovation and trend settingIt is also about understanding the difference between the innovation of an already existing product and your idea being so unique that it will revolutionise your industry. Look for these common themes that are emerging and keep an eye on everything that comes out of Hollywood, especially when it comes to science fiction. Remember the whooshing sound of the doors opening and closing in the original Star Trek series? Within the decade those types of doors had become the new norm in office blocks and apartment buildings the world over. Yes Sci-Fi is cool and you are not a geek.

Read and watch more across an ever widening spectrum of material. Do not self edit or self limit. Avoid the monoculture of one subject area, one author, one time period or one genre. Of course you have limited time. Human endeavour and the practice of it, has been recorded faithfully for generations and you have ready access to the real words of these very real people. Have you ever wondered how Benjamin Franklin could be so productive and how he balanced his time between politics, religion, science, writing, diplomacy and music?

As innovators, we really live in exciting times. We also live in an age of vast accessibility to knowledge and history that even our parents and grandparents could only dream of. Take advantage of it. Read and watch more now, more now than ever. It can expand your borders beyond the prison of an unexplored Life. Just Do It.

 

 

 

Be Amazing Every Day

 

 

 

 

*Taken from the supercomputer, Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7&frac12; million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. (Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the Question was). Douglas Adams was asked many times why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed, including that 42 is 101010 in binary code, that light refracts off water by 42 degrees to create a rainbow, that light requires 10 seconds to cross the diameter of a proton. Adams rejected them all. On 3 November 1993, he gave the definitive answer: The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do'. I typed it out. End of story.