Monday, November 1, 2010

Innovate Emotional State

During the last 30 years, and specially during the first decade of the Century XXI, Innovation has been one of the most popular topics and subjects, as much as in organizations and in universities and public entities as well.

I was browsing a while, and I found that many sites are talking about changing paradigms as the key to innovation, and I agree with that. However, nowhere speaks to innovate the Emotional State or the Emotional Space in which we live and from which we learn: Fear.

Fear as emotion drives us to hide, to stay "stuck" or to run away. And as Emotional State, it leads us to want to have everything under control, being one of the biggest enemies for Innovation this way.

Then, how are we going to want to innovate from fear, when it leads us to control everything, and control doesn’t give any space or for flexibility or for much-needed creativity to innovate?

Then I have the opinion that we find it hard to innovate, not because we don’t have talent for that, but because since we live and learn from fear, we do not give permission to make mistakes, or for error; key variables to create change and innovation.

I guess this is the reason for the most popular phrase when talking about innovation: “we must dare”, because we only need to dare when we are afraid.

If in first place we innovate our Emotional State or Emotional Space in which we live, I mean, changing Fear for Gratitude, a whole open universe of possibilities and views will appear in front of us.

Unlike Fear that leads to the Control, Gratitude leads to Trust, and Trust is the main engine in order to coordinate actions with others, for others and for ourselves.

As I indicated that Fear predisposes us to hide, to paralyze us, or to run away, Gratitude predisposes us to want to be "a gift" for others as much as emotion, as Emotional State or Emotional Space, and in both cases it leads us to Trust.

Imagine how much innovations would be achieved from Trust, where both, wrong and making mistakes are allowed and not punished.

So I think as long as we live and learn from Fear and Control, innovation will be difficult or with slow progress, because pretending to break paradigms (to open boxes, fields, and mental maps that command us) from them it’s a very tough task. We better must first change the paradigm of living in Fear-Control, to live in Gratitude-Trust: we shouldn’t try to do different things while living in the same the same emotional paradigm.

I am sure that making this change, breaking paradigms will be very simple and easy, because we will trust others, the circumstances, the uncertainty, and we’ll trust ourselves.

Rodrigo Silva Ortúzar

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The 33 miners:Sense of Purpose and Leadership

Having a Meaning in life generates a purpose, transforming it in our engine, our motivation and guidance. The meaning is felt, is with oneself, with others, you live it, you choose it, eliminating the "meaningless", and most importantly, it's action.

I can not stop thinking about the Meaning of Purpose that each of the 33 miners trapped in the mine San Jose would have, and more importantly, how did they come to find and establish a Common Meaning Purpose that does not decay and motivate then until they were found?

In my prism, there is a close and direct relationship between direction and leadership, understanding that leadership is the activity of mobilizing people in scenarios of uncertainty, where breaking the status quo of the organization is critical, and questioning the habits, attitudes and values people is the essence of adaptive work. Furthermore, it is a risky activity that involves losses, not only economic but often emotional, sentimental and even worst, they may lose their life (Martin Luther King is an example).

Then, if an activity as risky as leadership that involves going "upstream", why are there people willing to exercise it? This is where I make the connection with the concept of Meaning. A person is willing to exercise leadership and bear all risks and difficulties it entails, by having a Meaning: A Meaning of Purpose.

As Victor Frankl says in his book "Man Searching for Meaning": "There is nothing in the world that could train a person to overcome external constraints and internal constraints such as having awareness of having a task in life ".

Without an specific purpose, nothing makes sense. As Meaning is with yourself and with others, itself creates a compromise between those who are exercising leadership and people who are involved with the purpose, building a Common Purpose Meaning between eachothers.

Thus, our aims undertake us and connect us with other people. Together they give meaning to the adaptive challenge. Only with a particular meaning of purpose and that it's common to everubody, people begins to accept the losses and changes that are needed to break paradigms, judgments and assumptions, and develop adaptive work. You can not lead by your ego, but by oneself and for others, in order to reach a better place for everyone.

So, who must have exercised leadership among the 33 miners, faced a challenge from an adaptive scenario of uncertainty, where solutions were not fully known, however, they were willing to do so and take the risk, having a clear and
powerful meaning of purpose, that also allowed them to transmit and manage it, making it a Common Meaning Purpose for all trapped miners.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hard Skill v/s Soft Skill: a way to Post MBA

Last night, some friends and I we discussing about the meaning of Leadership, executives, and business (the four of us are Commercial Engineers, two of us with MBA, and another with a Masters in Logistics). They told me that managers should be capable to master their subject o fiel of work. For instance, my friend with the Master in Logistics said he wanted to become an "authority" in Logistics, in order to differentiate himselves from his competition, which it is an excellent point of view. But then I asked him: "And, what happens when your logistical expertise only provides technical solutions to a new scenario, which it only helps to resolve the situation in the short term, thus hiding an underlying adaptive challenge which require not only expertise from your logistics, but also changes in habits, values and attitudes of people involved in that new scenario?"
This challenging question generated a brief silence. Then, my friend replied: "I do not know."

That’s the problem we have today: executives and professionals in general don’t know to respond to uncertainty scenarios, where we have to break paradigms and to face adaptive work. We have been taught with a lot of subject and theories, giving us technical or "hard" skills, which only respond to scenarios that have already been tested and known. But we haven`t learned to face problems of uncertainty scenarios where the answers are not known, and thus this leads us to question not only the current way of proceeding in an organization, but also to question our values, attitudes and habits. Basically, we weren’t been taught with "soft" skills like leadership.

Leadership, (as I have always postulated in this blog) is the activity of mobilizing people and oneself, at a stage of uncertainty, where the answers are not known, and where everyone is part of the problem and at the same time responsible for the solution in one way or another. The so-called “hard” skills, which in one hand, they are technical skills, today they are just commodities, generating no greater differentiation, and adding no value. On the other hand, “soft” skills like leadership makes the real difference between one professional and another today, and they are the ones that really add value to an organization.

Accordingly, organizations and universities should begin to bring focus on what Francisco Cerda in his blog called a "Post MBA.
Francisco suggested that the pillars for this program should be 3:

Leadership, Strategy, and Society, which act together in the sense that:

  • Leadership & Society shares the epistemology of being an observer, the role of language and the theory of systems.
  • Strategy & Society shares the look of power, social movements, and the new economy.

Universities such as Adolfo Ibáñez and Alberto Hurtado already have realized this need. I’m sure in some years ahead they will develope a curriculum on the nature of a "Post MBA”, preparing better executives for a new society.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Money is just a Technical solution to Chilean Education problems

Juan Carlos Eichholz, Director of the Center for Strategic Leadership at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile), a few years ago began an article called "The New Riches" by saying: "We do not want to be aware that money is not enough. The key is the people who implemented the new programs that are financed."

With this article and sentence, Juan Carlos purported to show, that money is not enough to fix problems, but will require something more, a lot more! It is required an adaptive work and people’s change. So, he put as an example people of limited resources, who having won the lottery, in the long run, money hadn’t enabled them to solve their problems, and ended in the same state of scarcity of the beginning, because they have failed to adapt to their new reality.

I use this as an introduction to explain my last talk with my friend Sebastian, when I raised him that the solution to improve quality education in Chile was a change in the adaptive work from all those who in one way or another, are involved. Against this background, Sebastian answered me that he did not agree. He standed that in order to improve education in Chile, it’s only required a technical solution: raising the salaries of teachers.

I won’t speak further on the discussion, because obviously we didn’t reach an "agreement", and I insist: money or raise the salary of teachers in this case, it’s not the solution. Like in the example of the lottery, what can we get by increasing the salary of teachers if that does not fix the real problem or their need to change and to adapt to their new realities? Without and adaptive work from them, it’d be the same teachers with the only difference that they would receive more salary. But, would they put into practice the new programs that could be invested?

And, what about the contribution thar parents of children should make? What about the responsabilities of school directors, or the role of the Ministry of Education, the role and responsibilities of students themselves, and the role of teachers , independent of the salary?

The real solution to the this problem, it warrants an adaptive work, where all the people involved should be part of the problem and at the same time be also part of the solution. Technical solutions to an adaptive problem is like wanting to cure with aspirin a headache caused by a brain tumor. Aspirin would calm for a moment the pain but won't cure the tumor.

People like my good friend Sebastian, a good trainned MBA would search through technical solutions (commissions, allowances, taxes, bonds, etc.) in order to respond to problems that require more than a derivative, as are changes in habits, behavior and values.

Crisis & Leadership

Many of us have read or heard the sayings of Albert Einstein, in he way that in order to innovate or get new results, we can not keep doing the same things. That is, in order to get something different, we need to change ( processes, factors of production, personnel, values, habits, etc).
In addition, during times of crisis, Einstein said: "Do not pretend that things will change if you always do the same. The crisis is the best blessing that can happen to people and countries because crisis brings progress. Creativity is born out of anguish, as the day is born of the dark night.
It is during crisis that arises inventive discoveries and major strategies. Who overcomes the crisis, overcome himself without being "overcome". Who attributes its failures to the crisis and hardship, violences his own talents and respects problems more than solutions. The real crisis, is the crisis of incompetence. The problem of the people and countries, it is laziness to find the exits and solutions.

There is no crisis without challenges. Without challenges life is a routine, a slow death. There is no crisis without merit. Talk of crisis is to promote it, and to quiet crisis, it’s is celebrating conformism. Lets finish al last, with the only crisis that is threatening us, the tragedy of not fighting to overcome it. "
Consciously or unconsciously, Einstein was already demonstrating the difference between technical and adaptive solutions. Clearly, the crisis requires an Adaptive change , to make us all part of the problem and responsible for new solutions for the new reality.
But this requires leadership. It requires someone who dares and take the challenge of mobilizing people in times of uncertainty and scenarios where the answers are not known, and where people should be made responsible for the problem and find solutions. This is the essence of leadership. It requires people willing to put difficult issues on the table, to exert leadership, with or without authority. People willing to swim against the tide and set paradigms. People who can generate tension; a mobilizing tension. But at the same time, people able to contain the pressure generated by the changes and conflicts, but not far enough for passage to decrease the adaptive work.Without leadership, there is no change. No change, no adaptation. Without adaptation, there are no solutions. Pretendig to get out of the crisis without leadership, is like wanting to get out of it, doing the same things, without wanting to "sacrifice" anything in return.