Future of Work: Four Shifts Leaders Must Focus on

Talking about the impending shifts like automation, robotics, disruptions and uncertainties in our world of work is almost clichéd.

What seems like a problem is also an opportunity to do the thing that makes us human – to change our attitudes and fixed beliefs about how we have traditionally experienced work. It is this shift in how we see the world around us that truly enables us to deal with it constructively.

In this context, I read an excellent post by Kenneth Mikkelsen titled “Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes” at Drucker Forum blog. Here is a snippet from the post:

Leaders, like anyone else, are habitual beings that protect their worldview and the meaning they derive from it. Peter Drucker understood that better than most people. In Innovation and Entrepreneurship he dedicated a chapter to incongruities, the mental gaps between perception and reality. Drucker saw these gaps as an invitation to innovate. At its core, entrepreneurship is at about exploring such opportunity spaces to create something new, something different.

The post further outlines four shifts leaders must focus on to deal with slides and shifts around us. Here is a sketch note version of ideas presented in the post.

Related Posts at QAspire:

The Spark of Initiative

There are people who coast along, go with the flow and do as directed. And then, there are those who strive to add value, raise the bar and make a difference.

If you belong to the latter, Seth Godin has some simple (yet profound) guidance for you. He wrote about three ways to add value – by doing things, by taking decisions and by initiating. Our education system trains us to do things efficiently. Our experience may lead us to a point where we can decide effectively what’s best for ourselves, our team, project and organization.

But we need to learn the art of initiating things ourselves; by having new ideas, starting small experiments, taking tiny risks, caring enough, exerting emotional labor, doing the right thing when no one is watching, learning along the way, adapting our approaches and then hopefully, see our ideas come to life.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.

Not going all the way, and not starting.”

– Siddhartha Gautama

In his book “Poke the Box” Seth Godin wrote,

“The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”

In a future that is increasingly getting automated, it is this spark of initiative that is and would remain our real competitive advantage.

Sketchnotes: My Interview in a French Book

“For every disciplined effort, there is a multiple reward.” – Jim Rohn

I started creating sketch notes only in mid of 2015 as an experiment to learn better and simplify ideas. Little did I know that this experiment will grow into something amazing.

I have been in pursuit of simplifying ideas and extract signals in a noisy world since 2009 when I wrote my first book #QUALITYtweet. My sharing on Twitter, experiment of 100 word posts and lists are all directed towards brevity without losing the substance of the message. I have learned a great deal out of it.

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I was happily surprised last year when Philippe BouKobza reached out to me with a few questions on my journey in creating sketchnotes for his upcoming book. Earlier this year, the interview and a sample sketchnote was published in a French book titled  “Travailler avec le sketchnoting. Comment gagner en efficacité et en sérénité grâce à la pensée visuelle” roughly meaning “Work with sketchnoting. How to gain efficiency and serenity through visual thinking.”. It is an excellent resource for sketchnote enthusiasts and I wish the book comes out in English sometime soon.

Since the interview is published in French, I thought of sharing the insights here in English too (some people also requested this on Twitter). So, here it goes:

Since when do you use Visual note-taking / Sketchnoting?

[Tanmay Vora] In school, I remember using the last page of my notebooks to doodle. Back then, I used to write my own name in different ways and experiment with letters. After I got into corporate life, I have used visual notations, process flow diagrams and blocks to make sense of things while consulting customers and during internal team meetings. But I got started into visual note taking only in mid of 2015. I only wish I had started sooner.

How did you discover this technique? 

[Tanmay Vora] I discovered the technique of visual note taking through a blog post on the same topic by Abhijit Bhaduri. I have been blogging about leadership, learning and quality since last 10 years and I found a great new way to represent some of these ideas visually to simplify the understanding for myself and for the readers. I learned a great deal from the wonderful sketchnote community on social media where people like Mike Rohde, Mauro Toselli and many others generously share their learning on art and craft of creating sketchnotes.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of Sketchnoting?

[Tanmay Vora] I think the biggest benefit of creating and consuming information in sketch note form is that it simplifies learning and eases comprehension both for the creator and for the consumer. Visual metaphors allows the brain to fill the gaps enabling connection and synthesis of ideas. I find sketch notes a great way to organize and summarize the insights in a way that raises attention and engagement.

John Medina, in his book “Brain Rules” said that we remember 15% of what we read (text), 35% of what we see (pictures) and 65% of what we read and see (text + pictures). Visual notes are a great tool for sense making and easy communication of ideas.

· What are your main uses of this technique? 

[Tanmay Vora] I use visual notes extensively to:

  • Simplify learning for myself and others
  • Summarize insights on leadership, learning and quality
  • Sense-making through idea synthesis
  • Brainstorming
  • Creative problem solving
  • Visual communication (as social objects) to drive conversations and change

How does your entourage react when they see your sketchnotes?

[Tanmay Vora] Hand drawn sketch notes add a human element into the digital world and that’s the reason people instantly connect with sketch notes. My followers on Twitter, Facebook and blog use my sketch notes as useful reminders of some of the most important concepts in leadership and learning areas. I often get pictures of how my sketch notes are decorating someone’s home or office space in form of a poster. Sketch notes I created have made it to several live events including global conferences and TEDx talks. I feel immensely grateful when my work intersects with real world and I get positive feedback on how it helps others in their own learning journeys.

Just like I was inspired to create sketchnotes through inspiration from others, my own work in visual note taking has inspired several people to start taking visual notes. I feel very happy when my work sparks inspiration for others. That is why I do everything that I do.

Also See: What Creating Sketchnotes Taught Me About #Learning

In 100 Words: Finding Inspiration

We either wait for inspiration to happen to us or try finding it from somewhere (books/blogs/videos etc). I have spent countless hours trying to wait or find inspiration. It helped, but only for a short while.

A better way to create inspiration, in my experience, is to get down to doing things. Once you dedicate yourself to the cycle of doing, delivering and improving, that becomes the source of your inspiration, the one that feeds more inspiration.

Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly said, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”

The best inspiration happens while doing the work!

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Also Read at QAspire

Six Rules to Simplify Work

Most re-organization efforts either focus on hard stuff (processes, strategy, structure, KPI’s) or on soft stuff (culture, values, relationships, feelings). I have seen very few reorganization efforts in my career that are focused on the most important aspect of how value is delivered to customers: Simplicity

Simplicity stems from decentralization of power. “New Power” as they call it, is all about empowering people, creating conducive ecosystems for performance, learning collectively and encouraging collaboration. Most complexity in organization is introduced in an attempt to centralize power. The focus then is on adding more checks, processes, structures, metrics, KPI’s, incentives, coordinating offices and such.

Yesterday, I saw a very interesting TED talk by Yves Morieux (Boston Consulting Group) where he says,

Complicatedness: This is your battle, business leaders. The real battle is not against competitors. This is rubbish, very abstract. When do we meet competitors to fight them? The real battle is against ourselves, against our bureaucracy, our complicatedness. Only you can fight, can do it.

The talk sets the context on how organizations increase complexity and offers useful ideas on how work can be simplified. Here are my notes from the talk and I recommend you watch this insightful and provocative talk to gain a more well rounded view.

More Posts on Simplicity at QAspire

Leadership and Change: Build These Three Muscles

There is no real leadership without change.

If you are simply “sustaining” what already exists, you are not a leader because real leadership is about change – moving people, processes, outcomes and culture to a better place.

In an organizational context, there is no change without some leadership.

Without any leadership, things still change but often, in a southwards direction. Any change in a positive direction means channeling collective energy of people, overcoming resistance, building consensus and involving others – none of which is possible without some leadership.

As Esther Derby so rightly says in “6 Rules of Change”,

Leaders don’t drive, install or evangelize change. They NURTURE it. 

Explicit details of change (the gross part) is never as difficult as the soft side it it (the subtle) – how leaders enable and empower others during the change process.

In this post at Rebels at Work blog, Lois Kelly emphasizes on three change muscles that leaders need in order to nurture change – Appreciation, Understanding of character strengths and Creating Psychologically safe environment.

Rebels at Work is an excellent movement and I strongly recommend that you read the post “Build these three change muscles”. Meanwhile, here are my visual notes when I read the article.

Related Sketchnotes/Posts at QAspire.com

How to Build Real Thought Leadership: Insights by Dr. Liz Alexander

In early 2013, I interviewed Dr. Liz Alexander on the all important topic of thought leadership (based on her book). In a world where every other person with a blog or a book under the belt claiming to be a “thought leader”, this interview helped me clarify what real thought leadership actually means for individuals and organizations.

You can read the full interview here and presenting below a sketch note version with key insights that you may find instantly useful. And if you do, please be generous to share it along in your networks.

 

Other Related Sketchnotes/Posts:

P.S. Thanks to Harold Jarche for an excellent interpretation of what co-creating knowledge means and featuring my work on his blog. Thanks also to Jane Hart at Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) for including my sketch note in her October 2015 best posts round-up.

What Creating Sketchnotes Taught Me About #Learning

There are people who stick to their primary pursuits for long and then there are those whose energy keeps changing direction. Between these two extremes, there are people who stick to their primary pursuit but still manage to go wherever their energy takes them. I have figured out that I belong to that middle path.

My alternative pursuits like writing, blogging, photography, social media etc. are my source of creative energy that helps me become more effective at work. The goal of these learning experiments is simple: to experience deeply, learn immersively and share generously.

The latest addition to these learning experiments is sketch noting. If you are reading this blog regularly, you would have noticed that every post has a sketch note – a visual representation of ideas in one page.

Inspired by a post from Abhijit Bhaduri and work of Mike Rohde, I started sketch noting ideas two months back and sharing them here. Each week, I created two sketch notes on ideas that really resonated with me out of so many things that I read/saw daily. I enhanced my visual library by studying other sketch notes for illustrations and fonts. I created about 25+ sketch notes in two months and most of these were widely acknowledged via shares, likes, re-tweets and comments.

Learning becomes even more purposeful when you know others are using your creations meaningfully. Folks at NHS, UK converted my sketch note on 6 Rules of Change into a poster. Some authors requested their ideas in form of sketch notes so they can use it for promotional purposes. People shared these sketch notes in their classes, meetings and even during conferences. Australian HR Institute’s HRMOnline featured my sketch note in their weekly round up video.

And along the way, I found interesting new applications of this newfound skill. I created handmade “thank you” cards to appreciate people in my team. I experimented with creating sketch quotes – a sketch that adds a different dimension to a quote by someone else. I eventually used sketch note as a presentation for my talk recently. All of this in about 2 months as a side project!

But then, all this started as a learning experiment. So what did I learn about learning while learning how to create sketch notes? Here we go.

  • Everything you do (or have done) connects: I cleared a state level architecture entrance exam back in 1995 (right after my schooling) for which I worked on my sketching/drawing skills. I could not secure admission and I thought it was all a waste of my time. But when I started creating sketch notes, that practice came in handy. I just had to hone it. Here is my big take away: Not everything we do yields instant rewards and not all rewards are visible. And yet, everything we do (or have done) helps us somewhere in some unique way. Knowing this is the key to synthesize our skills and lessons to create or address a unique context. 
  • Intersections are powerful: Explicit learning deals with absolutes and absolutes are crowded with a lot of commoditized knowledge. Real learning (tacit) happens at the intersection of two or more things. That is where ideas overlap and innovation happens. People create sketch notes about everything – travel, to do lists, notes and so on. I decided to create sketch notes on business topics I care about. That way, I can bring in my own ideas, experiences and interpretations to the illustrations. This is where my ability to represent visually intersects with my interest in the topic and my unique experiences.
  • Learn, Do, Share, Adapt: The first sketch note I created was quite naive (and unfinished) but I still gathered courage to share it on Twitter. Almost instantly, people responded affirmatively. This led to more creation, sharing, feedback and hence improvement. I gained confidence at each stage of this cycle. When we learn from open networks, it is our obligation to give it back in whatever form we can. The feedback, encouragement and support we receive from these networks is just a huge bonus. We need to “learn out loud.” Or as Harold Jarche puts it, co-create knowledge by adding value to existing knowledge through our unique perspectives.
  • Going where your energy takes you is NOT a waste of time: We often think of “return on investment” when learning. But our best learning happens when we learn out of joy. Everything that I have learned so far (personally as well as professionally), I have learned because I was drawn towards it. All I had to do was go with the flow rather than resisting it. And the great thing is – when you learn out of joy, you will never feel like you did a lot of “hard work” to learn. Learning then becomes a way of life.
  • Visual is powerful: Writing about things is a great way to learn but words alone are not sufficient to make the connection between ideas visible. And it is not about drawing skills at all. It is about making the connections between ideas visible, even if it is on your whiteboard. For me, representing ideas in sketch note form allows them to penetrate deeper into my sub-conscious. Research says that doodling improves learning and I’ve experienced it first hand!
  • Excitement is contagious: Learning things builds your mental muscles and generate a different positive energy within you which is contagious. One day, my 9 years old daughter walked up to me with a request to teach her how to create a sketch note. She saw me doodling and instantly wanted to do it. A few people in my teams attempted to represent their project related ideas in form of basic sketch notes. I instantly knew that if I am inspired by learning journeys of others, my own journey may be inspiring others. It is both a privilege and a responsibility.

We learn by seeing (visual), hearing (auditory), reading/writing and doing (kinesthetic). What is fascinating about sketch noting is that it brings all these modes of learning in the game as soon as you start scribbling your ideas onto that blank piece of paper.

I am so looking forward to lessons this journey unfolds from here.

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Additional Resources for sketchnote enthusiasts:

  1. Read a sample chapter from Mike Rohde’s book “The Sketchnote Handbook
  2. The sketchnote podcast by Mike Rohde is a great way to learn the fundamentals.
  3. See the work of beginners featured at Sketchnotearmy.com

Leadership, Learning and Personal Knowledge Mastery

One of the crucial leadership skills for today and future is ability to learn constantly from various high quality sources, synthesizing information and collaborating with a community to get a better grasp of the constantly changing reality.

Leaders also need this vital knowledge to scan the horizon and trends to make better decisions.

In this context, I read the HBR article titled “The Best Leaders are Constant Learners” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche. I have been following Harold Jarche’s work through Twitter and his blog and this post provided a very clear view of the Personal Knowledge Mastery model. In the post, they say,

leaders must scan the world for signals of change, and be able to react instantaneously. We live in a world that increasingly requires what psychologist Howard Gardner calls searchlight intelligence. That is, the ability to connect the dots between people and ideas, where others see no possible connection. An informed perspective is more important than ever in order to anticipate what comes next and succeed in emerging futures.

Here is the sketch note I created based on this post.

Bonus: 

Employee Engagement: 4 Basic Human Needs

At Blanchard LeaderChat, Randy Conley shares insights from Leigh Branham’s research on employee engagement and outlines 4 basic human needs that leaders need to take care of at work.

There is an epidemic of workers who are uninterested and disengaged from the work they do, and the cost to the U.S. economy has been pegged at over $300 billion annually. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20% of people say they are truly passionate about their work, and Gallup surveys show the vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged.”

Engaging people at work is the #1 leadership challenge. Most engagement initiatives are aimed at providing external motivation to people. The truth is – extrinsic motivation doesn’t last long (if it motivates at all). As a leader, you are responsible for creating an ecosystem where people are more likely to feel motivated intrinsically.  To be able to do this, we need to humanize our approaches. Deming famously said, “All that people need to know is why their work is important.” without which, all external motivation, rewards and recognitions will fail to engage them at work.

Here is a sketch note I created based on the post (Read the full post here).

I feel that if leaders at all levels understand the basic human needs at work, they will go a long way in improving the engagement levels within their teams and organizations.

In 100 Words: Invisible Chains

Once there was a circus Lion who was so tamed/trained that he never knew about his real strengths. He was then left in the jungle where real Lions lived. Upon seeing other Lions, the tamed Lion started running fiercely driven by fear until he saw his own reflection in a pond. He realized that he was also a Lion as powerful as others.

Metal chains are easier to notice but mental chains of our past experiences, fixed beliefs and perceived limitations are invisible. Mental chains are best broken with curiosity, openness to new experiences/ideas and an attitude of lifelong learning.

– – – – –

Also Read: Other Insights and Parables in 100 Words

#Sketchnote: Leadership 7 by Nicholas Bate

In 2009, Nicholas Bate had sent me a few of his books and a wonderful collection of handmade cards with brilliant insights. I still refer to those books/cards and the amazing thing is that all the ideas are still so relevant after so many years.

One of the cards he had sent contained ideas on Leadership. Here is a sketch note version of that particular card which decorates the soft board behind my desk for an easy reference.

Nicholas Bate’s blog is a must read – short bursts of profound insights that has the potential to take you and your organization to a better place.

Sketch Note: How to Influence Without Authority

My work in corporate quality functions in the past involved influencing cross-functional teams (as an internal consultant) on processes and methods when I had no direct reporting relationships with them. I knew that only technical expertise was not enough and I wished I had some guidance on how to influencing without authority.

Jesse Lyn Stoner is one of my favorite leadership bloggers and her post “How to Influence Without Authority” offers useful guidance on the what she calls as “8 Portals of Influence”. It is also one of the most loved posts on her blog! Whether you lead backed by a formal authority or you lead without a title, these ideas should help you build influence.

Here is a sketch note version encapsulating some ideas from her post. Read the full post here.