Posts Tagged ‘Challenge’

Bamboo mobile phone

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Kieron Scott-Woodhouse, from Shepherds Bush in London, a 23 year old student, has designed a new Android phone clad in bamboo, destined initially for the growing Chinese market (Click the picture to see their website.)  You have to admit that is fresh thinking, instead of oil-based plastics, they use totally renewable resources which are strong, light and very stylish.

This kind of reframing of limitations and expectations is vital in every business and frankly every life.  We are like the elephants who are trained from babies to accept a rope tether.  Of course the adult elephant could easily break it but having been used to this fragile restraint since they were young, they never test it.  We need to challenge our habits and thinking.  Most limitations are not real, but arbitrary or self-imposed.  This were an external facilitator or coach can be so useful, by simply challenging people’s ideas of what they can and cannot do.  It is worth having one person in a meeting whose job it is simply to ask “Why?”

“Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”  Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”   Richard Bach

New beginnings

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Stuart Lancaster, the new interim England rugby coach, has stepped into the breach created by Martin Johnson’s post-World Cup resignation.  He faces a dilemma that many bosses face when entering into a new leadership role, how to find the balance between experience and new ideas / capabilities, between proven performers and youthful enthusiasm and vigour.  When you step into a new company or role, you can see much that is wrong with it (and it is easy to talk this up), however jettison too much of the old guard and you destroy the backbone of the organisation.

He is faced with creating a new culture and setting out his vision of how he wants England to perform and behave.  To clarify his selection criteria.  It is never so easy to send a clear message as when you are new in the job.  People are looking to see what you stand for and will interpret your actions, even if you don’t spell out your thinking, so beware leaving it others to say what you are thinking!

There is no single right answer but it is important to be clear about what you are trying to do and what your criteria are.  People will always debate the How, but hopefully you can rally support around What you are trying to accomplish.  So in Stuart’s case, his job is to show he is building a squad capable of challenging for and hopefully winning the next World Cup, who the right players are is anyone’s (and everyone’s!) guess…

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”   St Francis Of Assisi

“What the caterpillar calls the end the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”   Lao Tzu quotes

A Year of Challenges?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

We all know that it is a challenging economic environment out there, but my year has started with some rather different challenges.  The first client has had to challenge their leadership team and make some hard decisions about who fits; the second needs to challenge the firm’s way of working in order to succeed.  I was asked how to win a million pounds of extra business and I said that the people who could make an ally out of the current financial situation were most likely to be winners.  In a ‘steady state’ economy people tend to follow ‘steady as she goes’ strategies, as encapsulated by the phrase “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”, but in these turbulent times more radical courses are not contemplated but necessary.

Why not start your new year by herding up your sacred cows and culling the herd a little?

“Sacred cows make the best hamburger”  Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

When innovation is a new spade…

Monday, November 7th, 2011

I loved this story.  Here is a major telecom company who are usually all about highly technical innovations who have discovered a quicker, cheaper way to dig a hole!  It only goes to show that we should never fail to re-examine how we do what we do.  So much of the way we work, the way we live goes unexamined and taking a fresh perspective often reaps unexpected fruit, like BT and their new spade.  When you believe that you already are doing everything the best way you fail to challenge yourself and your thinking.  If you create a culture or a mind-set that enables/encourages people to ask questions and challenge assumptions, then innovation flows.

“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.”  Steve Jobs

Not seeing eye to eye

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I was watching the Dog Whisper talking about how to handle aggressive behaviour in dogs, one of his tricks was to walk them together so they were side by side (like a pack) as opposed to eye-balling each other (i.e. rivals).  I thought this was rather interesting because I noticed that walking with someone is a very good way of having a conversation.  I believe that when we move the body, it is easier to move the mind.  Also when we are walking we are engaging a lot of our brain in this activity which allows us more access to our sub-conscious mind.

Normally when we say that we see eye-to-eye we are implying we are in agreement, but when in a counselling situation or when we wish to have a non-threatening conversation we will often sit at an angle to each other rather than face-to-face.  However, despite all this, most office conversations are conducted face-to-face.  Perhaps, if you have a sensitive conversation you need to have with someone in the near future you might consider the value of not seeing eye-to-eye…

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”   Albert Einstein

Team, Leadership, SPIRIT!

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Last night I was watching a TV programme about a group of 12 young people, all of whom suffered from various disabilities, who, for reasons that were not totally clear to me, had decided to hike across the Andes. This would be a serious challenge for anyone, but they were young, inexperienced and severely physically challenged.

Initially, they had to push a couple of four-wheeled wheel chairs up a pretty steep trail strewn with massive boulders through the mud! These people include folks with one leg, one arm, deaf, cerebral palsy, and dyspraxia to name just some of their problems, and some suffer from multiple challenges.

In business today it is de rigueur to talk about team spirit, but what this group demonstrated was the power of Team and the power of Spirit. If you are able to create a challenge that moves and inspires people they will shift Heaven & Earth to achieve it. This group chose this incredible, seemingly impossible challenge. Why? Because at some level this gave them something in terms of Life experience and self image that was more valuable than any bonus or profit share could ever be. How often have you succeeded in creating such an inspiring, work-based challenge?

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Bernice Johnson Reagon

Whilst they have an expedition leader, Ken, who is ex-special forces, he isn’t really in charge; he is more of a guide. The team knows what their task is, and they seem to organise themselves (and I use the word organise in the loosest possible sense!) Each contributes according to their abilities and takes what they need from each other. Is it perfect, neat and efficient? Certainly not! Did they get up that hill? Indeed they did!

The thing that literally moved me to tears was seeing the impact of the contribution of one girl, Julie. She is 21, deaf and has cerebral palsy so has to walk with sticks. She not only struggled up this track, with never a complaint, but once they reached a road (still going up hill) she actually pulled one of the chairs up too! Her contribution and the spirit of her contribution were such that she transformed the team. Dissension fell away, the group stopped complaining and focusing on their own (significant) problems and looked outside themselves. This was real leadership of the ‘Show me’ school.

It was profoundly moving and inspiring to share their journey. I think that business needs to learn from this and recognise the power of an inspiring and worthy challenge, and the sort of leadership that comes from example and true commitment rather than position. I watch, appalled, those idiots on ‘The Apprentice’, who all seem to think that leadership consists of being a bully who never listens and just orders people around… What a contrast! A video cassette and record button could save you a fortune in Leadership Development courses.

“Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Most businesses are really little more than the sum total of the people in them plus a bit of money, and yet I would suggest that most people go to work half asleep and seldom wake up. What could be achieved if you were able to get them to show up and commit like these young people? How do you do that? Ask them; and then add a little faith and lot of imagination.

Do you want to transform your business or just settle for little incremental changes here and there….

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost


BBC2 Friday 9pm, Beyond Boundaries – Across the Andies