Category Archives: General

Reflection on Transformation

sailing

Peter Drucker predicted that by 2020 a new world – completely different from our grandparents’ reality – would exist. Drucker, father of modern management, explained in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review, that “every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions.”

To live through transformation is to experience how society rearranges itself over the course of time; it is to live our grandparents’ reality along with our children’s triumphs and challenges.

At a young age, I was given the opportunity to participate in a bygone age; an era of sailing ships, slow travel, unchartered waters, and traditional navigational tools like steering by compass and navigating by stars and sextant. I grew up on sailboats; traditional wooden sailing ships that had very few comforts beyond a bunk, a well-stocked galley kitchen, and a solidly built hull and rigging.

My childhood prepared me for thinking about transformation. Experiencing the shining Southern Cross constellation, dolphins playing at the bow, lava rolling into a frothy sea off the Hawaiian Islands, or voices joined in chorus to accompany raising sails is the best way to learn that we are part of something bigger – an ecosystem beyond our own “world.”

In business we are also part of ecosystems and our connections to networks, to ideas, and to each other means that we must stay relevant, interested, and moving towards bettering our organizational practices in a completely transformed (and dynamic) reality.

Transformation is about profound change but it may be our connection to the simple (yet important) things that guide us through. My work in Marketing and Strategy is about finding and expressing those connections to heart and meaning as well as learning through insights, conversations, and sheer determination how best to create, market, and adapt the products and services we deliver to our clients and stakeholders. In a broader context or ecosystem, we must align ourselves with human interest, values, and a larger purpose in order to stay meaningful and be relevant as the world changes around us.

Aristotle said that society is something that precedes the individual. If society undergoes change we cannot look to further individual or even organizational goals but rather explore how those goals connect us to something larger. That’s what carries us through transformation and what carries a ship safely through unchartered waters.

Esther Clark, April 2019

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Make Space for Humans

0As schools explore how to educate students and prepare them for a future that we can only imagine, organizations have similar questions. How do we create a product or service to address the needs of markets that don’t exist yet and how can we develop the skills required to do this?

The focus of most organizations is on developing skills and know-how to address different scenarios. Rote memorization of facts or of the latest management theory is useless if it is not combined with the skills and empathy needed to adapt to new or uncertain circumstances. As humans, we need to think, discern, and curate rather than just memorize and consume. It’s what makes us human, differentiates us from robots, and characterizes us as creators, builders, and makers.

Enter: “The Maker Movement.” In an MIT Sloan Management Review article on makerspaces, the author states that the “maker movement is a cultural phenomenon that celebrates shared experimentation, iterative learning, and discovery through connected communities that build together, while always emphasizing creativity over criticism.” With Make: magazine and “Maker Fairs” (part county fair, part science fair, and part innovation) entering cities and shared spaces since 2005, the movement has spread. But it’s not the movement that is interesting so much as the idea of making space for humans to connect things. A leading international school once described a Makerspace as an open space, both physically and symbolically, for members of their learning community to dabble, tinker, create and learn. The space serves as a connection point for curriculum, life skills, extracurricular classes, expatriate families, corporate partners, and community members. Some schools that don’t have a physical Makerspace instill a maker mindset in their students by having resources (including time, space, and teachers) available to fit students’ study schedules.

The woodworking shops of old, a mechanic’s workroom, the coffee salons, or a child’s playroom are not too removed from these modern connection spaces. While Makerspaces are examples of connection points, other physical and symbolic spaces can also provide us the opportunity to create, connect, and learn. A technique used by some entrepreneurs is reserving a 3-hour space away from the distractions of email communications, phone calls, or “management meetings” to create. Making space for us to be human fosters a culture of learning, experimentation, and entrepreneurship. It also connects us to ourselves and to others; creating a sense of empathy with those around us and those in our organization.

Educational makerspaces typically fuse together different curricula or subject areas such as computer science, design, art, engineering, mathematics, communications thereby promoting cross functional learning and practical application. Tinkering and “making” are powerful ways to learn and connect with others. Makerspaces in cities, universities, and organizations are inclusive spaces that communicate philosophies like “tinker, design and create together.” They represent examples of making space for humans by harnessing our need for play, for exploration, and for creation.

Defining such spaces – whether physically or metaphorically – can build confidence in questioning or rethinking the status quo; they connect opposing models to create something new or innovative. Pablo Picasso is known for his originality and pioneering the Cubism movement, a revolutionary style of modern art that Picasso formed in response to the rapidly changing modern world. His studio was a space overflowing with creativity. Nevertheless, a lesser known side of Picasso is that he also mastered traditional painting. He was a Master and an Innovator; two characteristics of some of the most prolific thinkers of our age. Roger Martin in Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking (2007) describes opposing models as “the richest source of new insight into a problem.” When we combine opposing thoughts and questions from different areas, or when we combine Mastery with a relentless sense for exploration and learning, we are connecting otherwise disparate ideas that can generate phenomenal outcomes.

I have heard it said that learning from things yet to happen is key to strategic resilience. For this to happen, there must be a space for learning and making. An organization that learns is able to grow and adapt by connecting new ideas, concepts or innovations. The keen learners of knowledge are respectful of both scholars and craftsmen (makers) and therefore see their organizations as learning organizations. They make space for connections between ideas, people, and actions.

Peter Drucker in “Management and the World’s Work” published in Harvard Business Review (1988) stated that it is “also management’s job to enable the enterprise and each of its members to grow and develop as needs and opportunities change. This means that every enterprise is a learning and teaching institution. Training and development must be built into it on all levels—training and development that never stop.”

All inventions and movements start somewhere. And great innovations start with addressing a “job to be done” by combining different pieces and solutions. Whether in the office, outside, or in a Makerspace, we need opportunities to learn by doing, and spaces to do this in, if we are to prepare members of our society to address the needs and jobs of tomorrow.

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This article is one in a series related to the 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum, with the theme management. the human dimension, that took place on November 29 & 30, 2018 in Vienna, Austria #GPDF18

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Grateful

Several months ago I took a productivity course. It was a well intentioned effort to improve productivity by learning the processes and best practices of the world’s most productive people.

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As a writer and observer, I learnt much more. I learnt about the “maker” and “manager” schedule. I learnt about the importance of scheduling time for creativity and writing. I learnt about establishing a discipline in doing certain things that would eventually turn into routine or habit.

My promise at the end of the course was one related to gratitude. I wanted to establish the practice of being grateful and therefore I proposed to chose one person in my LinkedIn network to thank every Friday.

Despite my greatest of efforts I didn’t manage to meet my  goal (yet!). But it did have surprising consequences and helped me be more aware of gratitude in general.

In a world of “me” it is nice to be grateful and to express gratitude – whether or not it is part of a habit forming exercise or not.

Thank you to you – my blog followers – for years of reading, of support and of encouraging me to explore the next market or horizon.

I am truly grateful.

-EMC

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November

We are a few days away from November and one of the busiest months for me as a writer and consultant. I am savoring these last few days as the calm before the storm of assignments, projects, articStockSnap_V11UPDVG1N.jpgles, conferences and events.

I’m not sure about you but when I look forward to a busy month I tend to savor the moments of “downtime”, of “whitespace”, of  doing nothing. When there is lots going on there is also a heightened sense of calm, of slack, of quiet.

For me, the quiet times become more intense just as the busy times becomes more busy. It’s part of my professional quest for balance between elements: between leadership and serving others, between creativity and structure, between quiet and noise.

 

Here is to enjoying November in all its beautiful intensity!

 

-EMC

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Savvy Saturday July 1st, 2017

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Monk and the Samurai

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A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. The monk replied with scorn, “You’re nothing but a lout – I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!”
His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled “I could kill you for your impertinence.”
“That,” the monk calmly replied, “is hell.”
Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.
“And that,”said the monk “is heaven.”

Story told by Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ

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White Space

We all need “white space” in our lives. White space allows us to think, be creative, be strategic, focus on what counts, do something fun, laugh, cry or a combination of all these things.

I usually factor “white space” into a project because it provides you or the project manager the opportunity to pause, reflect and tailor actions before things go too far in the wrong direction.

White space is not only reflection. White space is planning, thinking, future looking, story building time that allows us as human beings to remember we are human. Check for mistakes, celebrate a success, write that thank you letter or start that side project you have always wanted to do.

White space makes us human. Without white space we run the risk of becoming machines. e3dc9e58e2c5faad2871843721955e3d

EMC

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Dragons and Bureaucracy

“This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don’t want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don’t want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise). No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.” The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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While reading The Hobbit again after many years, I ran into the above statement as my mind joined in the adventures of Bilbo and the dwarfs. The words are so powerful that I thought I would share them here. Substitute “dragon” for anything that keeps gates to creativity, generation of value or progress closed. I think you will agree with me that while it is dangerous to generalize, statements such as these can help us identify those things (even flaws in ourselves or our organizations) that stop or slow down our ideas and projects.

–EMC

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“Everything we design, designs us back”

Called ontological design, it is a concept that considers how context and environment shape our ideas. Spaces where we work impact our work. Colors make us feel more creative or more restricted in our thinking. Furniture design can impact how we interact with our clients. Spaces with hammocks and green plants can help employees feel playful and encourage new ideas and approaches.Where we do business affects how we do business (and vice versa).

Our experiences are subjective and they can be influenced by our environment. I am reminded of a quote by the famous Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan who said:

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

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We often talk about this quote in terms of technology, yet there is so much more to what McLuhan says here. We are natural creators, born to create but also born to become part of the reality we construct and influence with our art, science and business.

EMC

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