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Who you know is how you get stuff done

Business people connecting puzzle pieces - who you know is how you get stuff done

Think about how you usually get stuff done. I mean the important stuff, how you will get your next job, find your next exciting holiday destination or make your ideas happen?

I believe that important stuff gets done because of the people you know as well as the people who know the people you know. It’s all about networks.

Consider this. Someone asks you for a favour. How do you decide whether you do it? From my experience there are three key factors;

  • What’s in it for you? – for example, will you enjoy it, will it be a good experience, will you learn something new, will it raise your profile, fill empty time, make you feel good?
  • How they ask – have they thought about what’s in it for you, have they asked you, well ‘nicely’, have they overcome and obstacles that might prevent you from doing the favour?
  • Do you know, like them and trust them? – how well do you know them, are they credible, do you like them, would you feel good to help them out?

When these three factors are in all place stuff gets done. If one or more factor isn’t quite right stuff stalls.

Think about it, someone you know like and trust asks if you would meet a colleague to give them some advice. They know your time is limited so they offer that the meeting is near your office at a time that suits you. They know you like coffee in the morning, so they suggest your favourite local coffee shop for breakfast as the meeting place. They are appreciative that you would consider helping them out. They also suggest that the colleague might have skills and experience that could help you with a project you are working on.

You are busy.  You are more likely to do the favour because you know, like and trust the person, they asked you well and they spelled out what could be in it for you.

All the factors compound, if someone you didn’t know or like, or didn’t ask well or didn’t make it clear what was in it for you you’d be much less inclined to say yes.

So, it makes good business sense to get to know your colleagues, because more stuff will get done.

And when it comes to innovation having a diverse network is important. Research shows that humans tend to gravitate to other people like them, people from similar backgrounds, with similar viewpoints. When we all have a similar experience, we start to think the same. We start to operate in an echo chamber of our own similar ideas. If innovation is about thinking differently and developing new ideas then we need people in our network that are different from us, that will challenge and build on our ideas. And because we naturally gravitate to people like us we need to be deliberate about seeking out a diverse network made up of different experiences, perspectives and thinking. That’s where, I believe, successful innovation lies.

One of the reasons I’ve set up the Lucidity Network – an online and offline learning and support network is to create a diverse network to help people to think differently and get better results. Already we have members from a mix of sectors from around the world. If you’re interested in joining the Lucidity Network there is more information here. Don’t tell your friends though.

Do you know what your old classmates are up to?

School classroom, apple resting on top of some books

Think back to when you were at school. What do you remember? The smell of the school hall (kind of musty gym kits and disinfectant) cross country in the freezing rain or drinking warm milk out of a glass bottle with a straw?

What about the people? Did you have a favourite teacher? We all loved Mr Sykes (I wrote about him before) none of us did very well at French with Ms Schmidt and we were all a bit scared of Mr Callard.

What about your classmates? That time when Daniel Savage shaved half his eyebrow off in geography class, when Stephen Perkins did a loud fart in a maths exam or when Sharon Taylor got caught smoking behind the bike sheds?

Are you still in touch with any of them?

Who you know matters

I’m still in touch with some classmates from school. Some I still see regularly, others I’ve not seen for years but we know what each other are up to because of the wonder of Facebook.

There is a saying that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I do think you need to know some stuff, and I do agree that who you know is more valuable.

Research into human networks show that large and diverse networks can bring benefits to both your professional and private life. However, it’s not necessarily in your immediate network that the magic lies. It’s in the weak ties. It’s the people that you know less well, that are outside of your immediate circle that are more likely to facilitate your next promotion, your new job or even your next relationship.

And your weak ties include those classmates from school – those people that at one point in your life you had much in common and spent a great deal of time with. What are they up to now?

Often I’ll ask Facebook for help and advice, for example recommendations for places to visit or expertise on a topic (you may have even helped with jogging memories from school in this blog). I’ve asked my friends to buy my book (thank you) and back a crowdfund (thank you again) and whilst I’ve not done a detailed analysis of which friends help out, it does feel that there is a disproportionately high number of classmates that have helped (thank you). For example:

When I was writing the Innovation Leadership Report I was looking for innovators; those doing something new and I remembered my old school friend Neil Cloughley was working on a hybrid aircraft. I asked if I could interview him. No problem. We did talk about guinea pigs for a bit because that is the main thing he remembered about me, but once we’d discussed Biggles and Fergie I got to learn about his vision for his aviation company. You can check out the original article here.

When I launched my book to get my Amazon ranking up which (sadly) is important I promoted it everywhere. If you are my friend on Facebook you’ll already know this. One friend from school said, ‘I’ve not seen you in 25 years, I only know you through Facebook and you want me to buy your book?’

‘Of course I will!’

One classmate worked at a marketing agency that the organisation I was working with had been trying to get an introduction to for a long time. When I asked it was no problem to introduce me to the right senior executive and arrange a meeting that I’d never have got without a personal contact.

And when people help you out – you step forward to do the same back when asked. And that’s how networks and weak ties work.

I’ve talked about school, but you’ll have weak ties from many different parts of your life, for example college, university or a Saturday job. Who are those friends who you’ve lost touch with and what are they up to now? I encourage you to get in touch and find out. You just might be able to help them too.

If you’d like to build your networks and get better results you might also like the Lucidity Network – an online and offline learning and support network. Already we have members from a mix of sectors from around the world. I don’t think any of your classmates have joined yet though. Check out this link for more about the Lucidity Network and how to take advantage of the early bird offer.

Being able to solve problems is more useful than having a right answer

When I was 8 years old I knew all the flags of the world. When I was 16 I knew about Pythagoras theorem and when I was 21 I knew how Nylon was made.

Whilst flags, Pythagoras and Nylon are all interesting to a degree, I’m not sure how genuinely useful any of those topics have really been in my career. I learned about them to pass exams. I crammed the information in order to regurgitate it and get as many questions right as I could. Then I forgot it all. My schools and Universities could tick a box though. If enough of us remembered enough facts it meant they got better ratings which meant more students and more money in subsequent years.

Throughout education I remember being rewarded for getting things right. And I learned this young. At an early age I figured out that asking challenging questions, thinking differently or being a maverick didn’t make me popular with teachers, so over time I stopped.

Then when we start work we are given key performance indicators and objectives. As adults working for an organisation we are measured and judged on how we conform to a set of pre-defined objectives. These are just the grown up versions of getting rewarded for getting things right passing tests, and ticking boxes.

So it’s no wonder that so many organisations struggle to be successful at innovation. Learning to pass exams rather than learning to think for ourselves discourages innovation from an early age, and lets not underestimate the impact that our early years experiences have on our adult behaviour.

Innovation isn’t about confirming to a set of rules or learning about how things have always been done. It’s about thinking differently to solve problems and having the courage to push new boundaries to make change happen. I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn from history and the great discoveries that have gone before us, but if we are not mindful, we may end up focusing on the events of the past and miss the real lessons of the innovators experiences; of questioning the status quo, learning from trial and error and not giving up when others said it was impossible.

And real life lessons that we experience are really important in a world that is changing faster than ever before and will never move so slowly again. It’s unlikely that anyone entering the workforce today will have the same job in ten years time. *One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist.

Last January, a McKinsey & Company study found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerised and if that wasn’t bad enough, last year, the Bank of England’s chief economist said that 15m UK jobs might be taken over by robots!

Ford, the futurist, offers some optimism with predictions of three job areas that are most likely to survive the robot invasion.

  • Jobs that involve ‘genuine creativity’, such as being an artist, a scientist, or developing a new business strategy.
  • Occupations that involve complex relationships with people, for example, nurses, or a role that requires close relationships with clients.
  • Roles that are highly unpredictable, like a plumber who is called out to emergencies in different locations.

All these jobs involve thinking for ourselves to solve problems. So I’m proposing that we get better at doing this. Let’s take charge and skill ourselves and our teams with the tools and confidence to think, to ask questions, to solve problems, to understand data and draw conclusions, to challenge convention, to learn from failure and build personal resilience to get back up again and have another go.

This is why I’ve up the Lucidity Network – an online and offline learning and support network. We’re recruiting new members for a limited time only so join us now.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/10-jobs-that-didn-t-exist-10-years-ago/

 

The difference between failure and success is confidence

Dice represent success, failure and confidence

Innovation is (in my view) a buzzword. It can mean different things to different people. For example, you or your organisation might want to be disruptive and develop brand new ideas that change current thinking and business models, or you might opt to make incremental changes or you may choose to focus on product development. They are not mutually exclusive; you might opt to do them all. There is not single right or wrong approach to innovation. And, sadly, there is no silver bullet.

In my experience whether innovation is disruptive, radical, marginal, incremental or whatever the next buzzword prefix is; the best innovation happens when people work together, build on each other’s ideas, add new elements, develop new perspectives, understand audiences and focus on how to make the idea a reality.

I think the biggest barrier to delivering innovation (of which there are many lets face it, fear of failure, fear of success, internal politics, external politics, no budget, too busy, too many deadlines, wanting immediate results, the list goes on) is lack of confidence.

Lack of confidence, which is incubated by all the blockers and barriers that we battle with on a day-to-day basis when we try to create any sort of change.

I think it all starts in school.

Think back to showing your parents or your teacher your math homework. There were 20 questions. You got 18 right. Yet rather than getting a ‘well done’ for the 18 right answers, the focus from your parents and teachers was on the two answers you got wrong.

And as we grow older we learn in school that we get rewarded for getting things right and following instruction and not for inquisitive enquiry, experimenting or ideas, being different or asking questions and certainly not for getting things wrong.

The impact is that we feel safer sticking with what we know, we prefer not to take risks, and we like to be rewarded for getting things right. We conform. We prefer not to challenge or test new ideas that may fail, or be marked wrong.

The only people with objectives around thinking differently or (dare I say it) failure are the innovation managers. Organisations talk about innovation, but their structures and processes do not encourage any different or creative thinking. Innovation is often blocked (see blockers above) or fails to gain traction because insufficient time and resource are invested into helping it succeed.

Layer on top that most of us (I have one too) have an inner voice that nags away at us, telling us we’ll get found out, or we’ll fail or that we’re not good enough.

The little voice nags away, and especially when we are doing something new or different (innovating) becomes louder, more insistent, more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know because then you are safe and nothing bad will happen.

That’s why at Lucidity when we help individuals and organisation to innovate we work with people to help them build both their confidence and their capacity for innovation. Because we’ve learned from our own hard-fought failures that without confidence even the best ideas die on the vine.

Confidence is such a big deal for achieving success that I’ve up the Lucidity Network – an online and offline learning and support network. We’re recruiting new members for a limited time only so join us now.

Do you have an inner voice that sucks your confidence? You are not alone.

When I read sweeping research claims I do tend to take them with a pinch of salt. Here’s one ‘Women don’t apply for jobs unless 100% qualified and men will apply when they have only 60% of what’s required’

I first read this in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In with a raised eyebrow and I thought it was complete rubbish. Then I started to notice more. I spotted more women saying no to opportunities. Not going for the promotion. Not taking on the new project. Not stepping up. I heard the same clichés ‘I don’t think I can do it’ ‘I’m not qualified’ ‘So-and-so is better than me’ and ‘So-and-so deserves it’

I started quoting the 100% qualified vs 60% qualified research to them and asked them to prove it to be false by going for the promotion and taking the opportunities that they wanted and deserved.

Many did, and in the discussion about why they could and should step up, everyone revealed an inner dialogue that they’d had to overcome. Each person had their own name for it. The ‘official’ term is Imposter Syndrome, but amongst others, I met Jiminy Cricket, the little voice on my shoulder, ‘bad <insert persons name>’, devil’s advocate and my inner critic. The list was long.

For most of us (I have one too) the inner voice is like an old friend that sucks the fun and possibility out of your dreams and leaves you with a feeling of woeful uneasiness that if you get too big for your boots and put yourself out there you are going to ‘get found out’. Or worst still something bad will happen to pay you back for being greedy and wanting too much.

The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent, more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know because then you are safe and nothing bad will happen.

Sound familiar?

I disagree that the critical voice is just the territory of women, I think every human being has the voice. My hunch is that it’s the difference between how men and women manage their inner critic that is the difference that might mean that the 100% vs 60% has some truth to it.

Harvard Business Review claims that it’s not confidence that stops women going for the job, but a greater fear of failure because girls do better at school and it’s more instilled in us to follow rules and conform – and we perceive failure as having greater and longer lasting consequences. Conversely, men have a greater willingness to break rules and are less inclined to follow instructions (in the context of applying for jobs breaking the rules and ignoring instructions of needing a certain amount of qualifications and experience) and just apply for the job anyway. Men are better at ignoring or telling their inner critic to pipe down.

Make of it what you will, I see similar fears fuelled by the inner critics of both men and women I work with.

Confidence is such a big deal for achieving success that I’ve up the Lucidity Network – an online and offline learning and support network. We’re recruiting new members for a limited time only so join us now.