Friday October 23, 2020 0 comments
By Bill Van Eron
Success = Stakeholder Relevance Advisor
Headwaters Marketing & Innovation
Most of us associate cats as independent, resourceful, proactively active creatures. So the concept of caging them constrains their value. Shift that to how we individually & collectively get caught in cages, to now imagine being freed up to realize our higher value.
An Emotional Fact: With one life & many interdependencies, we all deserve opportunities to rise beyond obstacles to shape lives, careers & communities that matter. What stops us?
That list is now longer. The answers to these questions are long overdue and affect all of us. It helps to understand many of the patterns in life and work that cage us or set us free. Many fall into without even realizing it, as I did. Design is a profession that challenges the status quo to shape higher value. Change, challenges affect those stuck in a pattern more so than those who embrace it as a system of obstacles & enablers. Many challenges are defined as chaotic, and times of adversity. Conversely, as one who grew up in Brooklyn's projects, adversity was a constant. We, as a diverse community, are all in the same boat. Ironically the values we learned and applied to succeed in life or just survive, are now the values, management has to apply more deeply to earn a more highly regarded leadership profile.
Let's look at a few patterns that affect most of us:
- Initially, in many professions, we are tasked to measure up to a standard of performance that has long defined education, industry, positions, and compensation. Once we measure up, many stay the course versus improving it. Especially when the rate of change is low; the workflow is repetitive and pre-determined priorities rarely allow you to lift your head to synthesize positive change. Even a caterpillar can fail to anticipate what it's like to fly.
- Today attention to human-centric systems shows how others are affected by or affect your work. I respect when anyone achieves a level of expertise in any craft or skill requirements. Yet, experts have less to do with innovation than people who are conscious of others, new thinking & insight diversity. Open ideas to nurturing inclusive diverse input
- Management for decades has applied bottom-line thinking which often declined investments in intangibles - notably trust, inclusion, diversity, culture & 360 accountability. A core management approach was to isolate challenges or problems to fix them. We wondered why innovation remained unresolved on CEOs' top 10 Priority List for decades. In truth, it is connected to a more entrepreneurial culture - now a priority for Millennials and younger to work in. Big corporations rank the lowest. We also have to ask why management struggles to embrace a far better form of leadership, and enabling employee's collective force to earn significance, as now key to success, yet decades overdue. The Cats "Meow!"
- Self Re & We-Flection - How many have insights as to what would be better now and why? I value testing my insights with diverse input from leaders ready to act and those holding back, so both needs are designed into an inclusive solution. I also engage employees to check how many see paths beyond the obstacles that cage us in. All levels often ask afterward; "Why didn't I or we realize this sooner, as gosh, this is so much better?" I see why "experts" often defend their expertise or fail to challenge core assumptions, as some worry about losing control per the value of inclusion. Those that do push the limits of continuous learning and actionable enlightenment tend to stay relevant through change. Insights happen at various levels and methods. You may be one that reflects on your own personal strengths & shortcomings - or as 75% do - just the minimal to keep your job versus being passionate about a purpose you feel contributory to making real...as it should be.
Here are a few insights to help you get on a path of boundless enlightenment:
- Some professions prepare you for parts of a solution. Now it is vital to see the whole relevance ecosystem as to how your actions influence it or benefit from actions others may take. All businesses need this values-compass as we all now are held to a higher standard. Most work that applies an advanced form of design & systems thinking, psychology, integration, or an eclectic experience path, should start to open you to paying more conscious attention to others, how & why they feel a certain way & ultimately how most that you have to or want to do, affects them. Categorically, much of this falls under the right brain mindsets. We have seen and contributed great attention to technology. While we do respect technology, most are missing the costs to what should be even more important - earning higher stakeholder relevance. Attention to our humanity-values, attributes, purpose, now enabled far more than repetitive work or a closed caged-in culture allows.
- Humanity & technology by design - embrace challenges that defined success as unique to design then. Mastering a craft in perhaps the world's most demanding market - NYC- was actually a blessing in disguise. If we did not stay open-minded, continuous learners & synthesizers to translate what really matters, so as to shape authentic, original approaches, we lost our jobs. For myself and others, NYC was a constant flow of inspiration, change, complexity, values, perceptions, all as a stimulus to shape deeper, more meaningful solutions. My AHA! was the more I paid attention to others, showed empathy, recognized strengths in others, even the seeds of worthwhile ideas; our collective diversity all felt engaged, inclusive, thus trust & relevance was always high.
- You don't always need permission to unlock that cage. Imagine my own shock, when I opted to leave my top-rated design, brand & marketing position in HP because I cared to help them beyond all norms. When I immersed myself in HP's stakeholder - customer-facing ecosystem 2 years and was greeted as a "Converted factory puke" - I knew I had left an often invisible yet limiting status quo. The opportunities to help shape and earn outstanding team collaboration, customer feedback at events, and learn what resellers struggle with, value, and how to position them for success through branding done on my own time without charge, was a non-stop river of shared stakeholder relevance as a true win-win-win action.
- Ironically, those who suffered the pain and lived up to change as a constant, have a better shot to champion these values, then those with less-vested connections. This shift now characterizes an authenticity all leaders need to understand and enable in others. That said, a great solution has to embody better answers to why leaders have resisted embracing transformation by enabling a true path to gains more can be part of. As importantly, when we sacrifice things we care about to care more for what matters to others, shape purposes that matter internally & externally, that positive word of mouth shapes earned significance.