Clarity

The Pen and Paper Trick

I just downloaded Brin. It’s a new app and I have no idea what it really does yet. It wants to talk to me, and provide me with a whole host of info. Everyday there is a host of new apps to explore and discover. Another accounting software, platforms that integrate with a whole lot of others, or the category of super popularity – productivity apps! As soon as you get to grips with Snapchat, Instagram pulls out a competitive platform, and the dance is never ending.

Innovation in technology is everywhere around us, and it is moving forward at an expediential rate. It is exciting, a little scary, and sometimes exhausting.

When I speak of innovation with people, the tech version is what people immediately think of for the above reasons. However, innovation to me comes in the form of a good chat, or even just a piece of paper and a pen. Allow me to explain.

My interpretation of innovation is to do things in a new way. A way which we haven’t thought of doing before or have implemented previously. The most confronting aspect of my work is that a majority of people go about their business the way they always have because that is how it has always been done. It can often be very restricting for an entity’s ability to grow or work itself out of a tight spot.

Before I get on my high-horse about this it is important to point out that there are good reasons why a lack of innovation takes place:

Short Term’ism – an everyday battle. Trying to achieve today’s target often means that overall values and long term goals need to be comprised. It is a fact of life and a part of the human condition. This is the easiest of traps to fall into for all of us.

Time – innovation requires an investment in time. To think creatively to build a strategy ready for communication and implementation will use time. Who has spare time? None of us, or at least we don’t if we do not see the value in creative thinking and prioritise this as a necessary task.

Cost – almost 100% of the time implementing new ways of working will take an investment of cash. New materials, equipment, people… etc. This is all that leaders can see when faced with the prospect of change.

Risk – all of the above all have a level of risk. Put them all together and add the fact that your new innovative plans will never come with guarantees. Now you have every excuse to remain where you are and keep doing things the way you always have.

The bad news about using all of these reasons (or excuses) to not start getting innovative is that it is extremely rare (I cannot overstate this) that your competitors, and ones that do not even exist yet will take your business away from you. This may not happen now, or in the next year, but it will happen. It has been proven on many occasions that businesses rely on good timing in regard to the market as the most critical factor for their success. Take seven minutes to watch the insightful Ted Talk by Bill Gross on Start Up Success. Bill uses examples in the sharing economy such as Airbnb & Uber to illustrate his findings. These business models simply did not work five or ten years previously. People tried and failed. The technology was not right, but most importantly the market did not relate to it with the result being that no one brought the concept. The lesson – move with the times, listen to the consumer market with detailed attention, and constantly innovate.

There is a good trick I use to install innovation and creativity into a person and their business. It requires paper. Preferably, A1 or A2 size. A pen, or preferably some coloured markers (however some napkins and a pen at a bar works well too). Then identify a particular problem that needs to be solved. Make it as specific as you possibly can and write it down. You can do this by yourself or with a small group. Either works well depending on the topic.

Step 1 – Brainstorm two or three solutions. At this point stop.

Step 2 – Take one clean sheet of paper and write/draw a picture or mind map of that idea and explore it as much as you can. Think of every which way it would work and how the idea could be activated until it has been developed as much as you can.

Step 3 – repeat for your other initial ideas.

Step 4 – by this point you have probably opened up a few other ideas in areas that you never would have thought of. Take a moment to explore them if you have the energy or time. If not, schedule yourself a time to re-convene and bang out the process again.

Step 5­ – Sleep on it. Allowing your mind space and time so that your sub-conscious can work on the ideas by itself. This is hugely beneficial as the analytical conscious mind finds many reasons/excuses (as stated above) to rule out great ideas. Sleep, exercise, playing games/sport, gardening, or general procrastinating can be useful for this step. Yes, procrastinating can be productive!

Step 6 – Conviction. You need to muster up the guts, the balls, the courage to go for it. This is easier if you grab a piece of paper and pen and write out the process of implementation. I use a quote that works well for me “writing is doing”. Getting thoughts out on paper makes it real and ensures good ideas don’t just bounce around in our brain resulting in never turning into actions.

I have used this method with many clients. In my previous roles with corporate businesses, and with franchisee’s. I use it often myself when I have a specific challenge to deal with, and it is extremely helpful when creating new marketing campaigns and sales strategies. I call it a trick because the process makes seemingly complex and paralysing situations simple and easier to find solutions for.

Maybe I will use it right now to solve my app problem starting with how to use this new app Brin, and figure out how it can be of use for me and my business.

Squashing the Chatterbox

What is the most energy sapping aspect to your life? For those parents out there, being a parent is probably at the top of the list. For those that manage staff it may be the constant strains of their team. Maybe it is your customers, or suppliers, or a physical thing like long-distance driving, presenting, or just long working hours. These are all common answers, however there is one underlying factor that leaves us exhausted on a daily basis. The common drain I talk about below stops us from performing efficiently and has a big impact on our ability to rest and recuperate as well.

I am referring to the mind. We’ve all got one, and the constant “chatter box” inside of our minds that seemingly never switches off can be destructive to our energy levels. I am certainly no clinical psychologist, but I have always had a rampant chatter box that stops me from actively listening, stops me from mentally being in the moment, and definitely stops me from getting quality sleep. All of this can be quite destructive, especially over a long period of time. Some of us with an overactive mind will need to manage this throughout our entire lives. And, on top of guarding our energy levels, I am a big believer that in order to manager others well we must first be able to manage our selves well first.

It is not all doom and gloom – trust me, there is a big hit of positivity to come by the end of this article. If someone with a chronic case of “chatter box syndrome” (like myself) can find ways to overcome this and restore balance, then there is hope for many out there. A useful first step is to acknowledge that this is a factor, and that time and resources need to be put into correcting this. The second step is to get active – in every which way. That is to start listening to people that have good strategies in their lives to keep their mind in a quiet calm state. The third is to find what works for you. This may take some trial and error, but just going through this process of discovery can bring benefits – knowing you are actively sourcing the best solutions for yourself will already give you one less thing to worry about.

Common tools for shutting down the chatter box include:

  • regular exercise (a little goes a long way),
  • meditation (this is next step for me – I’ll let you know how I go),
  • recognising your triggers for anger, frustration, anxiety and halting your reaction before it takes over,
  • REGULAR deep slow breathing throughout the day,
  • nature – even a walk once a week, or eating lunch in the park can be beneficial,
  • hanging out with friends, or being around people can help you find connection and gives an opportunity for you to get all of those thoughts out of your mind,
  • support groups/networks, to be around people with similar challenges can make you feel less isolated as well as gaining insight into real world solutions that work for others
  • Professional Development Coaches – provides guidance, validation, and accountability so your chatter box can take a break on the big challenges in your business

I am sure there are many more (please share in the comments), but initiating any of these into your routines will start to make a positive impact and lift energy levels. There will be other benefits that tends to come with your ability to self-manage your thoughts and emotions, which in turn makes for a happier smoother daily experience for you and those around you. Clearer thinking, better decision making, increased problem-solving capability, and an overall increased capacity in terms of performance. Most importantly energy levels will go through the roof. Add in a clean diet and a high consumption of water and your energy levels will sky rocket. Easy affordable and a potential game changer for some. This is also a huge step to being a better leader in your work and personal life. I told you there was a big hit of positivity! Start today and let us know what works for you.