Tag: boundaries

Soft Infrastructure Post Coronavirus

post coronavirus soft infrastructure
What is soft infrastructure? We all understand the term ‘infrastructure’. It is a collective term for roads, railways, airports, ports, telecommunications networks, supply pipelines, etc. It is all to do with movement and these networks are all ‘hard’ i.e. they are made out of steel, concrete, and copper and they can all be touched.

Infrastructure is not quite the same as structure in an organisational context. Structure implies rigidity, a silo mentality and in many cases adherence to the past (especially in terms of behaviour). The new Organisational structures of the future will be more like infrastructures, offering support and guidance rather than controlling. Unlike the past, future (infra) structures will be wildly different, varying according to culture, market niche, company size, etc. They will, of course, all have one common theme – people.

Let us just take a break there. We could wander off into the future with some great ideas about what organisational structures could look like based on the opinions of experts and our own experiences.

There is just one tiny problem, something that is happening right now. We have a global pandemic and the measures that we are all taking are forcing us to work in very different ways compared to just a few weeks ago.

As a result, organisations might prefer to adopt some of these ways of working and as employees, we might prefer some of them too!

People need to be connected together in all sorts of ways. They are the valuable assets of the organisation and must be looked after by Human Resources, connected by IT and rewarded by the boss. But there is more, due to our dependence on intangible assets such as creativity, know-how, and culture as well as social interaction to create and exploit ideas.

For our businesses to function successfully, these things too must move around. Attempts have often been made in the past to codify these ideas, transmit them to another place and then try and extract both the message and the meaning of what has been received. Try having an email exchange with an angry colleague and you will understand the problems.

In order to have some sort of remote working, hierarchies will need to be flattened. Human nature means that those who imagine themselves with power like to be able to survey their empire and are not always comfortable viewing it remotely.

With many people away from work ill it will become apparent that a lack of employees at the coalface might reduce the capacity of an organisation to deliver a service of produce widgets. Capacity will not be reduced quite so much when those calling themselves ‘managers’ are taken out of the workforce or reallocated to other duties.

We need things to travel in ways that are not constrained by boundaries and which certainly do not travel in straight lines. Just like the ripples on a pond we might wish some things to be broadcast, such as company culture. And like a networked computer system we will need some sort of storage and perhaps some form of maintenance function to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

When thinking of communicating within a corporate environment we often think of sending things out (pushing) or receiving from others (pulling). What about when things just sort of slosh about, and proceed at their own pace or when disruptive events occur and we need a system that repairs or heals itself? We need a new type of infrastructure, one that is invisible and which connects everybody to everyone else. It must allow meaning, intuition, creativity and emotion to flow with no bottlenecks and no burst pipes. What we need therefore is the right sort of ‘network’ – a soft infrastructure rather than a hard structure .

So what does this soft infrastructure actually look like? The best metaphor I have come up with is a bowl of soup with croutons!

The soup represents the entire organisation and its culture. It is organic and simply ‘exists’. The soup contains other ingredients and most importantly – croutons. The croutons are important but are not on a higher level, they are the leaders and managers of tomorrow.

Within this organisation, pay and rewards will depend more on what you know and who you connect with rather than your job title and position in the hierarchy.

So managers and leaders will be ‘expert’ i.e. good at their job, not just promoted for long service. Other employees will also be experts in manufacturing, finance and logistics. Yes employees can move around and change functional areas but only if they are good. No more ‘Peter Principle’.

If you are thinking about change right now you might like to read When The Threat Is Here, It Is Too Late To Change! For other recent articles visit Latest Blog Posts.

What Is Creativity?

what is creativityWhen you think about Creativity, what springs into your head? Does my question encourage you to think of names of great artists, engineers, philosophers or technologists?

The more down to earth amongst you might like to tell me about your father whose home-brewed beer was ‘extraordinary’ or your grandmother who filled her house with culinary delights whenever you visited.

Are both of these groups of people creative, or neither?

Stay with me as I delve a little into some of the theory regarding creativity.

Theories in this area tend to differentiate Creativity (creativity with a capital “C”) from creativity (creativity with a lowercase “c”).

And what is the difference? The former is basically to do with the ‘big stuff’, the scientists and well known creative thinkers. The latter is actually much more interesting.

This creativity can take many forms and may even involve nothing more than making a few tweaks to a recipe, directions or set of instructions. Even though it’s appreciated or experienced only by your circle of friends and family, you feel good about having an impact.

Some common features of creativity include originality, effectiveness, surprise, divergent thinking, and discovery. You don’t have to be an artist, then, to be creative by standard definitions because you can be an inventor or original thinker in fields such as science and technology. In fact, an artist might not be creative if they simply paint the same things using the same paints and subject matter.

The other question which only popped into my head the other day is ‘for whom is this creative’? To what does this creativity refer?

If I have created an exciting new gadget in my shed, I have been creative. Do I need to show this to people and get their feedback? Is it essential for our creative efforts to be appreciated or commented on to make them creative?

What then happens when others perceive creativity in our efforts? This is beginning to get deep I know but please bear with me.

Let us consider one more idea about creativity. Children are very creative. They turn everyday items into suits of armour and swords and create the most detailed and multicoloured drawings. Is this just childish naivety or do these expressions of creativity have a real meaning?

Creativity research has often detailed primary (self-expressed) and secondary (recognised by others) creativity. Is it actually possible to split creativity like this?

More recent research has brought new ideas to the table. “Primary” creativity that is unique to the individual and “secondary,” which begins when an audience is “in dialogue with” the creator.

So primary creativity contains things like subject matter, medium and significant outcomes (works of art or inventions).

For secondary creativity, the outcome reaches an audience which, in turn, produces the secondary outcomes. This could be an interpretation or experience.

At this point, I shall leave the theory behind but you can see that there are a number of dialogues going on here which can continue for some time.

This has an impact on how we as speakers, trainers, consultants (and even my engineering friends too) deliver to the world. It is not good enough to dream up an exciting new concept, we have to think about the interactions that will take place as our idea is shown to the world.

Be cautious also, the interactions are not always started by ourselves! Our audiences can be creative in their responses.

Newsletter – The Electrification Of Fruit

Dear Reader,

Once again I would like to say that the autoresponder on my website should now be working as intended. If you signed up for my newsletter at the tail end of 2017 but you never received your free download then please let me know.

The series of short videos which I am gathering together under the title ‘Rough Cut Creativity’ are being added to but are not yet published. If you have not had a peek yet then you can find them via YouTube by clicking here.


#justdaydreaming

At what point did someone realise that the Earth was not flat? That is one big change in thinking. Try thinking ‘What If?’ about more everyday things (or even in your business) and see where that takes you. What if chips had never been invented? What would we be eating with fish or burgers?

#justthinking

Travel Agents are just Travel Agents, right? Wrong! Since I talk about finding The Difference That Makes The Difference, how about this? For all you business people out there, did you know that you can actually book flights months in advance (guaranteeing that seat and that price) but not have to pay until much closer to departure? Similar things can be done with hotel rooms too! It makes business travel much easier. For more ways to find out how the pain of travel can be taken away get in touch with Daniel Reed (email danielr@travel-pa.com or visit the Reed Travel website).

Banish boundaries


Now, back to the fruit ….

Whilst standing in the shower I let my mind wander a little (well quite a bit actually) and it settled upon the electrification of fruit as a topic. I began to wonder what electrified fruit might look, smell and feel like. What functionality would it have, what consumer needs would it fulfill? My sensible, logical side then said ‘don’t be silly you can’t electrify fruit’. And it might be right but flip this on its head, what if fruit could supply electricity?

Many of us have at some time created a ‘potato clock’, a device powered by a potato. That will not save the energy problems that we have because it produces very little current but the subject of fruit & veg together with electricity is a very interesting space for ideas (biomass etc).

This led me to think a little more seriously about assumptions and boundaries. Many people might assume that fruit and vegetables have no place mixing with electricity. Someone has created an arbitrary boundary there, a fence that says ‘do not enter’ to your brain. This might be a good idea but what if …?

Another interesting subject is that of stereotypes or categories. Do you remember when the EU first started meddling in food products? In Portugal, they produced Carrot Marmalade. I’m sure that it is a fine product and the EU obviously thought so too. They had previously decreed that marmalade must be made from fruit and so redefined carrots as fruit rather than vegetables.

This arbitrary and silly categorisation has far-reaching consequences but it is entirely unnecessary. It now forces EU bureaucrats to think of the category of fruit as containing carrots whilst the category vegetables does not contain carrots. This might mean that carrot growers are treated as exactly as fruit growers or excluded from obtaining grants or subsidies aimed at farmers or vegetable growers.

How often does our categorisation of objects or behaviours prevent us from solving problems or taking a potentially advantageous course of action? Instead of being controlled by labels, we should focus on what works and what does not. Maybe one day we will electrify fruit, who knows? Until then, let us trample over the arbitrary boundaries that are created.

Please do get in touch or provide feedback by replying to this newsletter, or using any of the contact methods listed on the website derekcheshire.com.

Happy reading,

Derek Cheshire

Ways I Can Help You

1. Keynote speaker - How to avoid the Innovation black hole,  how to add Creativity to your business toolbox
2. Innovation measurement - find out where your strengths lie using tools created from my Innovation Equation
3. Innovation programs - help to set up and run your innovation initiatives.
4. Workshops - idea generation, managing creative people and much more

Derek is a Fellow of the RSA, a speaker, facilitator, award-winning radio presenter and Adjunct Professor at VIT University, Chennai. He has been working in the field of Business Creativity and Innovation since 2002.

The Electrification Of Fruit (or Breaking Boundaries)

breaking boundariesDo electricity and fruit mix?

Whilst standing in the shower I let my mind wander a little (well quite a bit actually). It settled upon the electrification of fruit as a topic. I began to wonder what electrified fruit might look, smell and feel like. What functionality would it have, what consumer needs would it fulfill? My sensible, logical side then said ‘don’t be silly you can’t electrify fruit’. And it might be right but flip this on it’s head, what if fruit could supply electricity?

Many of us have at some time created a ‘potato clock’, a device powered by a potato. That will not save the energy problems that we have because it produces very little current but the subject of fruit & veg together with electricity is a very interesting space for ideas (bio mass etc).

Boundaries and assumptions

This led me to thinking a little more seriously about assumptions and boundaries. Many people might assume that fruit and vegetables have no place mixing with electricity. Someone has created an arbitrary boundary there, a fence that says ‘do not enter’ to your brain. This might be a good idea but what if …?

Another interesting subject is that of stereotypes or categories. Do you remember when the EU first started meddling in food products? In Portugal they produced Carrot Marmalade. I’m sure that it is a fine product and the EU obviously thought so too. They had previously decreed that marmalade must be made from fruit and so redefined carrots as fruit rather than vegetables.

The consequences

This arbitrary and silly categorisation has far reaching consequences but it is entirely un necessary. It now forces EU bureaucrats to think of the category of fruit as containing carrots whilst the category vegetables does not contain carrots. This might mean that carrot growers are treated as exactly as fruit growers or excluded from obtaining grants or subsidies aimed at farmers or vegetable growers.

How often does our categorisation of objects or behaviours prevent us from solving problems or taking a potentially advantageous course of action? Instead of being controlled by labels, we should focus on what works and what does not. Maybe one day we will electrify fruit, who knows? Until then, let us trample over the arbitrary boundaries that are created.

 

Examining Business Boundaries

Many business owners think of their business in terms of what they do on a daily basis e.g. farmers milk cows, printers print brochures and jewellers make jewellery. A better way of thinking about your business is to ask the question ‘what is it (of value) that I create and who helps me to do this?’ We should be examining business boundaries. Any other person or business that helps you in terms of creating value, and hence money for your pocket, is in fact an extension of your business.

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