Core guiding principles you cannot afford to miss if your goal is ultimate success

My current book is Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen. I am consistently impressed by their data driven and empirically sound findings on why particular companies succeed, excel and why some simply perish.

The book is based on rigorous research of 10X companies and their counterparts.

10X companies are companies that have excelled over time, not necessarily consistently but they have maintained a large market share and leadership when compared to other companies.

This of course is what keeps every CEO wake up at night: what are we doing right, and how can we keep ahead of the game in a way that enables long-term success.

Some of Collins’ and Hansen’s findings (and their large research team behind all the data crunching) are actually quite surprising and not what you’d think.

3 core 10Xer behaviours for success

All of the 10Xer companies that have had massive success and keep leading in their category display 3 key behaviours consistently:

  1. Fanatic Discipline.

Fanatic discipline is about consistency: keeping consistency in goals, values, strategies, and being pretty much just fanatic about it.

Collins and Hansen coined the term “20 Mile March” as a perfect example of this: the 10Xer companies over time have just kept on progressing, not necessarily by big leaps but by being consistent in their product development, consistent in how company values keep guiding their strategies.

In today’s market place, there is a big push about being all the time “ahead” of the game and being able to quickly act on opportunities.

Yet, the most successful companies keep consistency at their core. They could do large acquisitions, change products quickly, branch suddenly to new markets.

But most of them are fanatic about consistency.

Collins and Hansen use examples from polar expeditions and company progress where the most successful ones only go 20 miles each day.

They could go much faster when the conditions are good and stop or slow down when external conditions are not favourable.

But they don’t go faster or slower.

Companies like Apple, Genetech, and Southwest Airlines go the same number of miles each day, they focus on consistent progress regardless of external conditions.

Having consistency helps you and your team to stay on track, you know the milestones which you are supposed to hit, and you also gain confidence when you do so.

 

  1. Empirical Creativity.

One of the main assumptions about successful companies is their capacity to innovate.

While this may be so, Collins and Hansen stumbled upon a finding they did not expect at all: the 10Xer companies were actually less innovative then their counterparts, yet they killed at the market place.

Successful companies like Intel, Apple (after Jobs took over), and Southwest Airlines, adhered to a simple yet a paradoxical strategy: they innovated but only to a threshold where they could remain successful.

As Collins and Hansen (2011, p. 77) note: “it is not discipline alone that makes greatness, but the combinationof discipline and creativity”.

These companies all exhibited a strategy Collins and Hansen call “fire bullets, then cannonballs”.

This is the essence of empirical creativity where you start testing new ideas and potential products by firing one bullet at a time and then empirically understanding whether that bullet is hitting its target or not.

This is not about going all in but rather an empirical learning journey about what works and what does not.

Once a company has a good understanding where these bullets are going, how they can hit their target, it is only then that they fire a cannonball.

3 key principles define a bullet: it is low cost, it is also low risk, and it is a low distraction.

Firing bullets does not take over the company’s everyday processes and progress but forms a part of testing ground as to what directions the company could take in the future.

The comparison companies were the opposite where they made drastic decisions to for example acquire other companies, leading to significant debt, and then not being able to reverse the decision when it turned out not to be a favourable one.

 

  1. Productive Paranoia.

Another myth about successful companies is that the best companies take large and grave risks.

Yet, the 10Xers in this study took actually less risksand succeeded.

Productive paranoia rests on asking “what if” questions and thinking about different scenarios, and then making practical decisions to prepare for the unforeseen events and circumstances.

Essentially this means excellence in 3 key areas:

  1. Build cash reserves and buffers: make sure that you have enough room to always move.

If you are hiking up the Everest, make sure you have enough oxygen canisters for several attempts to mount the summit, not just for one attempt.

The 10Xer companies Collins and Hansen studied, “carried 3 to 10 times the ratio of cash to assets relative to the median of what most companies carry” (2011, p. 121).

In essence, always make sure you have enough resources to get you through unexpected conditions.

  1. Bound your riskunderstand where your risk is coming from, and the kind of risk it is. In essence 3 categories of risk need to be understood:

Death Line risk(risk that severely damage or kill the company), Asymmetric risk (where outcomes are more negative than potential positive ones), and Uncontrollable risk (risks that are outside of the company’s control and simply cannot be managed).

The 10Xers actually took less of these risks than other companies.

An additional category of risk was also the time bound nature of these risks.

The companies constantly asked “how much time before our risk profile changes?”.

During times when their risk profile was changing slowly, they waited to see how the changes would unfold. When risk profiles were changing fast, they acted quickly.

This key question became more important than understanding whether to react fast or slow, but rather in understanding the time bound nature of those risks.

This aided more robust decision-making on how to react and which strategies to pursue.

  1. Zoom out, then zoom in.

What these companies then did was that they used a strategy of zoom out-zoom in: they looked at the big picture, the larger trends and risks, (what is changing, how fast are particular trends and threats approaching) and then they zoomed in to their own strategies and practices, and focused on executing their objectives.

But they did not change their operations just because of a looming threat:

“Rapid change does not call for abandoning disciplined thought and disciplined action. Rather, it calls for upping the intensity to zoom out for fast yet rigorous decision making and zoom in for fast yet superb execution”. (2011, p. 122).

Zooming out means understanding the risk profiles and making informed decisions as to what that means for the company.

 

But you also have to have SMaC

So here we have the three key components in hugely successful companies. But it doesn’t end here.

Collins and Hansen also found that most companies actually used SMaC as their key strategy in combining all of these behaviours.

SMaC stands for Smart, Methodical and Consistent.

This means adhering to your key principles and is “a set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula” (2011, p. 147).

Each of the 10Xers had created a set of principles which they adhered to through the test of time, and kept as their main operational and strategic formula.

The question Collins and Hansen pose then for their readers is what is your SMaC?

Which operational or strategic choices and practices have you made or feel you should make to make your company or career a success?

For me, as a scientist, this has also direct connections to disciplinary development and the need for the consolidation of the field as I’ve written about before (here).

In order for a scientific field to grow and become robust, we need to find our SMaC, and also use the strategies above to really understand which of our methods, practices and strategies are relevant and robust guides to enable more successful climate change adaptation.

Luckily there’s much happening in this space and it keeps me hopeful that the field will continue some level of deeper soul searching as to how we could amend some of these principles to scientific development as well.

 

 

Why leadership development is about consistency extraordinaire  

This week marks the end of my participation in the Coaching for Leaders Academy 2017-2018 cohort.

I was accepted to the Academy last October for 12-month training program and I just cannot believe that those 12 months have already passed.

It has been 12-months of waking up 4.30 a.m. every second Wednesday to make sure I am bright and ready to contribute with my leadership group, The Mavericks.

They’ve mostly seen me with a cup of coffee but still.

True, the time difference did not favour my participation, but I’ve only missed a handful of sessions and mostly because I have been sometimes travelling for work.

Many friends have asked me what I find the most useful about the Academy.

One even demanded to know “exact practical examples” of what I have done with the training from the Academy.

I thought I’d share some reflections this week why I decided to participate in the Academy, and what I have gained through participation, and also reflect a bit more broadly on key leadership principles that I have gained and wish to maintain in my life.

 

My journey that led me to the Academy

I came across the Academy at a time when I really needed support in both my professional and personal lives.

I had just left my husband at a time, was embracing single motherhood, and kept thinking that there must be some very practical ways I could start developing my leadership skills both at work and at home.

Dave Stachowiak hosts one of the best and widely listened leadership podcasts, Coaching for Leaders, that really aims to equip people with sound leadership principles, and encourage people to reflect on their leadership skills and abilities.

When I heard on the podcast that Dave was going to open up applications for the Academy, I jumped at the chance.

The Academy is essentially a 12-month training program around personal leadership that is grounded in biweekly teleconferences with Dave and a leadership group.

The beauty of this program is that you can be wherever in the world and still participate as the Academy uses zoom platforms for all of the meetings.

For someone like me who is a single mother and has limited capacity to travel, this form of Academy training is ideal as I don’t have to be away from work, I don’t need to travel or worry about paying for babysitting.

Each session we reported on our leadership commitments, tracked our progress, and discussed key mechanisms in how to take the next steps in our leadership journeys.

 

Consistency is everything

The Academy has made me consistent in ways that I never imagined was possible.

It has instilled me “a fanatic consistency” in attending the sessions, following through on my commitments, and showing up even when I have not felt I am in the mood to contribute.

Such consistency is essential for leadership and this is what true discipline is, as noted by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen in their book “Great by Choice”:

 “Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action- consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time… True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to confirm in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations” (p. 21).

True leadership is then exactly that, following up consistently, keeping the big picture goals and visions in mind, and making sure that our actions are aligned with what we are fanatic about.

For someone like me who has immersed herself in leadership and management theories and principles as of late, such statements seem now common sense.

Yet, this is not always the case.

For example, I recently attended a media workshop where the presenter pretty much told us in the first 5 minutes that social media is not about consistency, academics are busy people and should not care about developing a consistent media strategy for themselves.

I had hard time staying quiet, but I did, mostly because I did not want to embarrass the presenter.

But anyone who is one bit familiar with branding, leadership and management literature would say that consistency and discipline are the first and the core principle.

And social media in particular is about creating your brand and being consistent with it.

This is what Academy has really instilled in me, that I can be and become consistent in what I do, but that I don’t have to worry about doing it alone.

The Mavericks and Dave have truly kept me to my word, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to get to know these amazing people all around the world.

 

Practical examples and change

There are several other things that spring to mind when I think how I have changed in the last 12 months.

I finally had the courage to establish my own website and I have followed through my commitment to write and publish a blog each week.

This has not been easy by any means as I often have struggled finding the time to write (like now am writing on a Sunday afternoon that is not an ideal time to publish).

I have learned about different ways of handling conflict at work, about the differences between managers and leaders, how to start building my own leadership ideas and principles and what not.

But it is not just about practical examples of what I have done.

It is the way that I have grown as an individual, the way that I have been able to share my journey with the other leaders, and how over these last 12 months I have gained profound insights into who I am and who I want to be.

That is priceless.

And it has been life changing.

The academy has really given me the skills (and btw no, Dave is not paying me to write this) to understand leadership better and in a far deeper level than before, to keep moving on my goals and targets, and not forgetting that life is really about work and family, intertwined.

I am therefore saddened to leave the Academy but I don’t have the financial support from my institution to continue this time around.

And buying a house does put other demands on my own finances.

But change is good, and I suppose the ultimate test of leadership training is how I use those insights and lessons learned from such opportunities in my everyday life.

I wish and hope I can keep up my consistency even without our biweekly calls with The Mavericks, and keep the friendships going, which I have formed over the past 12-months.

I do want to say a heartfelt thank you to Dave for opening up the Academy for emerging leaders like myself.

As I’ve learned over the past year, one of the key principles is to keep moving.

For me, I will continue walking my leadership talk, and hopefully I’ll be back for a second round soon.

ps. Imagine if we could say similar things about learning how to adapt to climate change… someday we hopefully will.

3 mistakes most people do in career transitions

Those of you following me in Twitter or LinkedIn already know that only last week I began a new job at my university, transitioning from research role to a role of lecturer in environmental policy where my job will consist of teaching, research and service.

Given many people have flagged to me how teaching often takes the biggest part of your time, especially the administrative tasks associated with answering to students’ emails, marking, actually teaching, and all of that, I have tried to also find out how I can perform in my new role the best I can.

Universities have naturally performance reviews and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that the university as a whole needs to tick but individuals as well.

I’ve spoken already with a range of people who have offered very interesting insights into how to navigate competing demands on my time.

3 helpful steps 

There are in particular 3 steps that I’m told people often fail to take when they transition to a new career. This is not university specific necessarily but I would think can apply across many career transitions.

Keep the right balance across the work profile 

 Many people who change roles often focus on those skill areas in the new role where they don’t feel confident.

This often leads to overemphasis of those areas where the person wants to be seen as excelling with the cost to other components of the job description.

This, although understandable, is not wise since most roles consist of a number of activities that all need to get done.

What this means for those transitioning from research roles is that often those with less teaching experience have a burning need to demonstrate that they can teach.

They start spending more and more of their time in improving their teaching, with the outcome that their own research and also service components of their job suffer.

When it comes to performance reviews however, each individual is rated in how well they have performed across all their tasks and not just how great they were in for example teaching.

Overly focusing on teaching then and not driving research outcomes will backfire as the review still requires even teaching staff to demonstrate new research outcomes such as scientific publications. 

 

Learn and contribute to the organisational big picture

People are very focused on their own careers.

We are told to go after our dreams, find jobs that empower us, and do things that we truly enjoy.

While this is obviously a great mindset to have, only focusing on our own career especially if we work in a large organisation can mean that we fail to link our own activities to the big picture stuff.

Each institution, universities included, has strategic goals and aspirations that they expect staff to be part of and to deliver.

It is the big picture stuff that makes the organisation what it is.

If you don’t make a strategic link in how your own work fits to the broader organisational framework or vision, you risk failing to demonstrate how your work is in fact advancing some of the big picture ideas and goals.

So when starting a new job, pay attention to company vision, strategic aims and goals, new emerging areas of interest, and find ways to contribute to those through your work.

In some cases this happens naturally but especially for academics, we need to keep in mind what the university’s big picture organisational vision is.

Linking our work at least to some extent to these will also enable us in career progression within the institution that we work in if we are seen to understand and support such aspirations.

 

Pay attention to leadership opportunities

The trick with developing leadership is not waiting until you have the title of a Professor or CEO but actually recognising which skills are needed in those roles and which areas you need to improve in order to land such a role in the future.

Even if you are not quite there yet career wise, any job is an opportunity to learn new skills but also to start tracking that skill development.

Being a professor or dean or CEO requires a vast set of skills, starting from managing staff and budgets, participating in committees, drafting strategic documents, public speaking at events and representing the university or company.

These are not skills that most people automatically have, or if they have them, they don’t necessarily know how to do each well.

Taking on budget management for example in a project, or volunteering to help in taking notes in committee meetings can start enabling you to acquire these skills.

Learning these skills is essential but also often forgotten: most people don’t put in their CVs many of the informally learned skills but often emphasise formal qualifications.

LinkedIn is an excellent way of promoting these more informal skill developments e.g. by explaining which roles you did in which projects, and what skills you learned in addition to the official tasks and job description.

 

What counts as an impact

Having said all that, what many companies and now universities in particular emphasise is science that has an “impact” in the real world.

But when we are asked what that impact actually looks like in practice, I think few of us can really pinpoint as to what that means.

So of course, I have asked this question from several people because I am also curious how universities measure impact.

One person in particular noted that often impact equals research income (how many grants you get): if you are making an impact, you get money.

The point here is that if your research is widely recognised as highly useful and impactful, you will have a track record of grant money coming through because of that recognition.

This of course can be debated: there is plenty of theoretical research that is highly necessary, and on which then applied research is built later on.

I think there is a blurred line here as to what makes research “useful”.

There are also a number of other metrics such as memberships in international committees, speaker invitations, and of course Higher Degree Research completions (how many students have you helped to finish their degree).

All of these together demonstrate different aspects of impact, yet all of them are based on numbers (things you can count) but not necessarily reflect always the quality of interaction.

There are also other things we cannot measure directly such as providing informal mentoring among other staff and students, and taking on additional leadership roles that are not necessarily always recognised such as forming informal support groups for students or helping particular students to find career direction.

But, again, the trick is to find the balance and make sure you don’t overcommit on lots of informal activities that don’t get the tick when it comes to KPIs and performance reviews.

(I have a lot to say about performance reviews and how these could be more relevant and nimbler, but I think for now this will suffice).

But to be fair, no one has claimed that research income is the one and only measure of impact.

There are many more obviously and universities in particular have began to expand their notions of impact in a way that does not just look at numbers of publications but rather they seek a more robust measures about real world impact.

Am sure those of you who have been in the university environment longer than I have are murmuring with insights of your own while reading this.

But as said, am just transitioning to the new role and would love to hear what your thoughts are or best tips how to move across roles even within the same institution.

The 4 kinds of people you need for breakthrough success

So for those of you who read my last blog post on creativity, it might have seemed somewhat superficial.

Some of you might be asking so what if there are assumptions about creativity and the lone genius, how is that going to help me to get more creative?

Well the good news is that now I have progressed to another level in the book and this blog post is all about sharing more actual steps that Allen Gannett outlines in detail in the book The Creative Curve.

I must say I have been surprisingly inspired by this book, not only because it tells the story of his research so well but also because it is just that: many different kinds of stories that are refreshing, personal, and also insightful.

For someone who reads a lot of academic papers, reading these kinds of books gives also a break from constant referencing and a more carefree style of writing.

Anyway, to the point…

The 4 people that are your creative community  

What Allen found across all the successful artists and entrepreneurs that he interviewed was the common thread of four different people or kinds of people that each successful person had as part of their creative community.

These four are the Master Teacher, a Conflicting Collaborator, A Modern Muse and a Prominent Promoter.

All 4 types are utterly necessary for increased creativity but also increased success.

The Master Teacher is someone who knows the field and knows how ideas have developed, which ideas are about to emerge, and can teach you how to situate your own ideas.

These Master Teachers often have themselves stumbled upon methods of success and often train the next generation in a particular field who then continue particular methods or mindsets and develop successful careers.

These people share their knowledge on “the patterns and formulas of your craft or industry, to ensure that you create things with the right level of familiarity, while also giving you the feedback you need to hone your craft through deliberate practice” (p. 182).

Allen cites for example the case of Max Martin in the music industry who has produced winning number one hits to Taylor Shift, Kate Perry, and who has mentored and taught his method of song writing to countless up-and-coming songwriters.

 

A Conflicting Collaborator is someone who balances your ideas, someone who does not have the same skill sets necessarily but who can complement and critique your skills and thinking.

We often see successful collaborations emerge between people where the other is a big idea person and the other extremely pragmatic and focused on how an idea can work in practice.

The balancing of ideas and debating viewpoints increase often creativity:

“You don’t want to collaborate with someone who is so easy to get along with that they don’t push you. The goal is to find a person who will help you discover and overcome your flaws”(p. 171).

This does not mean that every idea is watered down to an acceptable compromise, but it does mean that ideas are looked at from different viewpoints that can enhance their viability.

 

A Modern Muse are “people who provide material for a creator to use as well as practical motivation” (p. 173).

These can be friends and colleagues who often have similar career aspirations or are in the same field, who have the same passion for a profession or a specialisation and help in maintaining energy and passion even when things are not working out.

Having these muses around is crucial to keep things going:

surrounding yourself with other creative people, no matter what their field, gives many creators the motivational boost they need to move through the lowest points of their work” (p. 174).

You might already have these kinds of people in your life.

But if you don’t, Allen notes that there are plenty of opportunities to find them: artists often for example hire lofts where they connect with other like-minded people, and there are other professional groups as well that one can join.

 

Prominent Promotor are people who are already well-established, successful, and happy to promote you on their platforms.

These are people who are already recognised and have high standing and credibility.

For you to claim your place in the spotlight, you need to establish credibility and collaborating with people who already have established themselves makes this much easier.

These are often mentee-mentor relationships, but they work in both ways: even if the other is more established and has already had a longer career, they still crave for new ideas that often come from those who are up-and-coming.

Thomas Kuhn for example noted that newcomers to science often have fresh eyes and it is upon them to innovate because they are not chained in their thinking by past developments or thinking in that particular field.

So how do I get these people?

What Allen says is that surrounding yourself with these four kinds of people can greatly enhanced your opportunities to become more creative and more successful.

But instead of stressing out that you have these 4 different people, what I would add is that often you can actually find people who fulfil many of these roles at the same time.

I have friends and colleagues who have promoted me while also acting as conflicting collaborators, and also as master teachers.

The trick is to find people who want to work with you and it might well be that you are lucky enough to find even if it’s a handful of people who fulfil these roles in your life.

I’d also add that watch out for opportunities to be one of these people yourself.

All of us have specific skills and ideas that we can contribute to others and it might be that you are already fulfilling one of these roles already for someone else.

If not, pay special attention to opportunities where you might be able to help someone else to develop their career or ideas.

Often such collaborations will also help you to think through your own ideas and gather new perspectives in where to focus next.

Lessons for the scientific community

But this is not just restricted to those who want to be successful artists or entrepreneurs.

The more I have read this book, the more I recognise similar traits in how the scientific community works.

As a scientist, I can recognise which people play and have played these roles in the development of my scientific career and in my idea development.

Much of science is actually about “standing on the shoulders of giants”; we take the existing ideas and test them, try to understand whether there are better ways of understanding something.

For those earlier in their careers, it is essential to find “modern muses” who can keep you inspired and share your career journey, like other PhD students or Post-docs.

But finding Master Teachers and Prominent Promotors is equally important; those professors who have already established themselves in the field and who have important knowledge to part with, who know the trends and have seen long-term how particular ideas have developed over time.

One of the real joys is to find a Conflicting Collaborator who can play an intellectual boxing partner with you on ideas and make them stronger and better.

I do firmly believe that science progresses through collaborations but just purely collaborating is not enough.

You need trust and often even friendship for ideas to flourish, for you to feel secure to share your breakthrough ideas in the knowledge that you will be supported by those around you.

Without trust, people will remain guarded and the free flow of ideas and possibilities, and eventually innovation and creativity, will not reach its peak.

In the end, as Allen notes, creativity is really about social acceptance and recognition that your ideas and hard work are worth recognising.

You need to build your platform and they will come.

And this exact same applies for leadership: great leaders are surrounded by different kinds of people who recognise and are willing to support him/her as a leader in an environment of trust and respect.

 

 

 

 

 

De-mystifying Creativity: the real strategy to empower the creative you

My latest book purchase is Allen Gannett’s “The Creative Curve: How to Develop the right idea at the right time” .

I came across this book first on one of my favourite podcasts “Learning Leader” (episode 268) where Ryan Hawk interviews guests and tries to help us to understand how to reach and attain excellence in leadership.

To be honest, I am only a few chapters in and already dismayed about the number of myths that he mentioned in the book; the assumptions and stories that have been made about particular people, like Mozart and Paul McCartney and what the truth behind their creativity.

Why what you know about creativity is plain wrong

These assumptions have cumulated over time to define who is and can be a ‘genius’ and now form a part of what Allen calls “the inspiration theory”.

This theory assumes that a) creative geniuses are people who just have “it”, and b) creative geniuses are lonesome weird characters who receive insights in a sudden flash (often during a shower).

As Allen notes, this theory dominates our beliefs that

“creative genius is innate- we’re born with it, or we aren’t, and being a bit “different” tends to come with it” (p. 21).

This is very similar to Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset where people are often told and assume that since they do not seem to possess a particular skill, they are likely not just have it.

Yet, as Allen is looking through history, reading peer reviewed articles, and interviewing people deemed creative, the picture that emerges about creativity is much more mundane as to what it takes to master a skill and be recognised as special or genius.

Mozart practiced piano every day since he was 3-years-old and only composed his first original piece at the age of 18.

Not at the age of 4 as the common story goes but at the age of 18.

If you do the numbers, it took him 15 years of gruelling daily practice to write his first master piece.

It took Paul MacCartney a process of 18 months to come to the final version of the song “Yesterday”.

And no, contrary to the popular belief, no great writers have pieced together an award-winning earth chattering novel on a napkin in a train.

Most of these people have worked hard, relentlessly on achieving something they or their families have believed in.

Yet, we remain hooked on the idea that we have no control over creativity:

“The traditional view of creativity implies that we all exist in a world of indefinite possibilities, and must wait for a novel idea to cut through the noise. We are told that serendipitous moments can occur unpredictably, anytime, while we are in the shower, on our commute, or in the boardroom” (p. 19).

Neuroscience, and the work of Danny Kahneman and Gary Klein, have shown that these flashes of insights do occur but mainly because our system 1 (unconscious processing) keeps progressing our ideas even if our system 2 (conscious processing) is taking a break from a particular topic.

But to get insights,  you need to do the work.

Having long showers and waiting for a flash of insight is a foolish strategy (and environmentally detrimental as well).

What both Morten Hansen and Allen Gannett note is that what you need to excel is actually purposeful practice.

This means a lot of work but done with a different focus.

Purposeful practice leads to creativity

What this means for people like you and me is that purposeful practice is key if we want to excel in something.

Not the number of hours only that you put in but specifically how you choose to spend those hours of practice.

Allan is quick to note that not everyone can excel in everything but those who have really have had a different way of approaching learning and excellence.

This involves monitoring that practice, learning on daily basis, and really investing time, finances, and focus on what one aims to be and become:

“research shows that exceptional talent is not always the result of winning the genetic lottery, but instead the outcome of immense amounts of structured, purposeful practice” (p. 57).

This is very much similar to Morten Hansen’s insights from Great at work again where we see the top performers and most effective leaders embracing this notion of “purposeful practice”.

It is about monitoring one’s own behaviour, reflecting on how your behaviour and way of working is perceived by others, while truly focusing on what you want to achieve with passion and purpose.

Sounds easy right?

Isn’t this what most of us aspire for: to be more creative, more effective, and more successful?

But what Allen’s book in particular shows is that this is possible through the recognition of what he calls the “creative curve”.

The dark side of the inspiration theory

The book is a great contribution to the emerging and much necessary literature on debunking some of the common myths and assumptions aka heuristics that we have developed over time about particular concepts.

The dark side of the inspiration theory is that as long as we all buy into it, we seemingly cannot develop excellence in creativity if we a) don’t have the genetics and b) are not weird enough.

To be honest, I have enough to deal with and I don’t really want to become weird (of course open to interpretation) just to reach the creative side.

Allen’s book has really given me a lot to think about in terms of how I view creativity and how I can actually start creating space and possibilities both at work and at home.

Given creativity is out there for grasping, I recommend you have a pause of reflection and think about which strategies you could implement in order to make the most of what you can be.