Thank You, PDI

pdi

In grad school studying Organizational Psychology, I wrote many-a-paper about the magic that is PDI/DreamWorks.

I wanted to understand and dissect what makes (now, made) that 600-person studio so special.

It was a “dream” work place in so many ways: a place where everyone knows your name, co-workers are family, there is no visible line between the creatives and non-creatives, and everyone is a storyteller. I won the lottery when I joined in 2005, and again when I came back in 2010.

The sudden news of its closing on Thursday hit me quite hard, and of course hit those who still call the studio home much harder.

It’s where I along with so many friends saw their dreams come true, met mentors and heroes, formed life-long friendships, and not only built a career, but a calling.

I’ll be forever grateful to have been a PDI’er – and know that those of us lucky to call it home will carry the magic with us to new adventures.  Whether you experienced PDI or not, know that a work environment so welcoming and inclusive that many of us returned over and over like we were coming home to visit family doesn’t have to be a dream.

Thank you PDI, for setting the bar so high… and for inspiring everyone who walked through your doors.

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Upcoming Public Workshop, September 10th

Join me in San Francisco on September 10th for a workshop on navigating ambiguity, geared towards Organization and People Practitioners…

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/culture-lab-x-disqus-practitioners-gathering-tickets-12923278875?aff=efbevent

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The person and the environment

How often have we observed someone’s behavior, or heard about it from a good-intentioned colleague or friend, and thought well,  that “person” needs to change.

Often, our first instinct as friends, managers, or humans is to modify the person as a means to modifying behavior. We offer a training class, for example, or coaching perhaps.

Consider this:

The behavior that we see in others and we observe in ourselves comes from both our personalities and our environments. Social Psychologist Kurt Lewin’s famous formula tells us:

B = P(E), where B is behavior, P is person, and E is the environment.

These variables work in conjunction, not in isolation.

It’s easy to spot trouble and blame the P, the person. Those solutions seems easier. But if we ignore the environment piece the new learned behavior can be quickly ignored, not reinforced, even punished.

When we are observing (or complaining) about someone’s behavior we often forget about the E, the environment. But when it’s us who is feeling upset or not ourselves we can quickly blame the environment and eschew personal responsibility. A real head-scratcher, eh?

Let’s simplify. Any intervention should and can take both variables into account. But let’s simplify even more – understanding both the personal and environmental forces at work is how we can lead with empathy. That alone is reason to care.

The Secret to Getting Ahead, via the NY Times

It would be easy to read yesterday’s NY Times profile of Professor Adam Grant and his book “Give and Take” and conclude the secret to success is to give more and take less.

We could come to similar, easily digestible conclusions with other, recent management development offerings. We could “lean in” more, “be more mindful”, or say yes or say no more often. But would this stick, or just make us more resentful, anxious, paranoid, or busy?

One thing is certain, I completely agree and appreciate Grant’s work and his message:

“The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other peoples’ lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.”

As I see it, the key to encouraging more giving is by focusing on the feeling it brings.  In essence, we follow the feeling. Sometimes it is indescribable, but it sticks with us. 

If giving more, leaning in, taking more time for yourself, or saying no more often makes you feel better, more whole, more on purpose, then that is reason enough to do more of it. Perhaps it will allow you to give with more gusto, to listen in a way that offers the support your friend or co-worker needs.

We can save the quantity vs. quality of giving debate for another time. I feel better when I give help, advice, support, encouragement, and that is a powerful, potent, push to do more of it.

Mixing motivation and giving isn’t easy. If we view giving as a means to an end, (“matchers”, as Grant calls them in his research) than we’re missing the point.

Improvisers give in the form of making their partner look good. We give because it is the Improvisers credo. It builds trust. And it fuels creativity by opening us up to more possibilities and points of view.

But we are also good at saying no when we need to, when it feels instinctively wrong.  We are skilled at the polite, “NOPE!”. Guilt or pushing doesn’t motivate giving, that is certain.

“The most successful givers, Grant explains, are those who rate high in concern for others but also in self-interest. And they are strategic in their giving — they give to other givers and matchers, so that their work has the maximum desired effect; they are cautious about giving to takers; they give in ways that reinforce their social ties; and they consolidate their giving into chunks, so that the impact is intense enough to be gratifying.”

The impact of this work is profound if we give it and share it with others. It is the foundation of a learning organization, of a company of shared social capital and support. And it is sustained not because your boss told you to give more, or because you read about it in an article in the NY Times, but because you know how it feels when someone gave selflessly to you, and you want to pay it forward.

The year of Daniel Pink

Little did he know it, but in January of 2012 famed author Daniel Pink was already applying some of the tools he talks about in his latest book (out today!), “To Sell is Human“.

I’ll explain. It was December of 2011 when I finished reading his earlier work, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” . I was enamored with the material, and overjoyed that his words seemed to validate my career path, and passion.

On a whim I sent Mr. Pink an email. I complimented him, pointed out our mutual connection (Go ‘Cats!), and…well, asked if he had some time to talk. I may have even quoted Oprah?! Silly me, I thought. But, I had nothing to lose.

I was sitting in a quiet cafe on Polk Street in San Francisco when I received his prompt response:

“hi, lindsey. thanks for the note.

i’m happy to talk, but only on the condition you share with me one or two tips for getting better at improvisation. (as it happens, i’m doing some research that’s kinda, sorta on that topic right now.)”

I screamed. There were some odd looks. I didn’t care – to me, Daniel Pink is a rock star and this was the equivalent of a backstage pass.

Almost a year later Daniel Pink finished the project he alluded to and released “To Sell is Human”. It is a fascinating, thought-provoking read that I highly recommend.

Pink devotes an entire chapter to Improvisation and the tools we use as Improvisers to improve communication, presentation and even, authenticity. Just like in “A Whole New Mind”, Pink has validated, supported, and encouraged the use and application of these tools to a broader base and signals the growth of this field for years to come.

Our conversation in January was one of the highlights of my year. Daniel Pink said “Yes, and” to my request to talk and it is something I will never forget.

In December of 2012 I was chosen to be a part of a small group that would serve as a launch team for “To Sell is Human”.

Small actions (to say “Yes, And”, to help make someone else look good, to practice generosity and taking risks) help to create memories and connections that we don’t soon forget.

Here’s to a new year of saying “Yes, And”,  and to being uncertain but taking a risk anyway. You never know where it will lead.

One link between emotion and creativity

Say you want to help a group be more creative. 

What emotion would best help the group achieve this goal?

This question was recently posed to students in a weekend workshop I attended on Emotional Intelligence at Columbia University.

The choices:

1. Happiness

2. Worry

3. Sadness

4. Anger

5. Other

What would you say? I listened as classmates, one after the other, suggested that negative emotions would fuel the creative fire.

Sure, we know that not everyone responds the same way, but could negativity really be the answer? It saddened me that this was the myth or common view floating around the University halls.

Results of a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, set us straight.

The emotion that best helps a group promote creativity is happiness.  Why? An upbeat mood makes people more receptive to information, helps widens our lens and allows us to see connections we normally would have been closed off to otherwise.

In addition, happiness and laughter release dopamine which contributes to stress reduction.

Stress reduction and an overall relaxed state triggers responses in our brain that coincide with inhibition – and the ability to have more creative insights.

This blog post is brought to you by the letters “H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S” and Positive Psychology. Now go out and make someone happy!

Why Creative Ideas Get Rejected – via David Burkus

If you feel like getting your creative ideas approved and accepted is a battle, new research suggests it may not be your fault.

Creative work that’s novel and different often goes head-to-head with our desire for certainty and structure. When that certainty is well…uncertain, our natural, inherent creativity bias can rear its ugly head.

We want creativity without the risk. Can we have our cake and eat it too when it comes to creativity and innovation?

To help our brains accept new ideas, this research and wonderful writing from Management Professor David Burkus gets us thinking about how we sell our ideas:

“We now know that regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire. Thus, when you’re pitching your creative idea, it may not be the idea itself that is being rejected. The more likely culprit could be the uncertainty your audience is feeling, which in turn is overriding their ability to recognize the idea as truly novel and useful.”

Regardless of how open-minded people are, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations.”

To me, this research shares similarities with the work of David Rock and his S.C.A.R.F model of rewards and threats. When our certainty, the “C” in scarf'” is threatened we close down.

To break through, Burkus and Rock remind us to speak the language of those we are trying to persuade, make them look good by using empathy, listening, and perhaps most of all, patience.

http://99u.com/articles/7207/Why-Great-Ideas-Get-Rejected

What makes people more creative on some days and not others…

The million, okay, billion-dollar question: How do you create a culture of creativity, and make it last?

Harvard University Professor Teresa Amabile wanted to find out.

Discussing her research into the topic with Bloomberg Television, Amabile and her team compiled over 12,000 individual daily diaries over 5 months, from professionals who were working on creative projects within their company.

What she found, “People do their most creative work on days when they’re feeling most positive emotions, most pleasant thoughts about their organization and their co-workers and strongest intrinsic motivation in their work”.

To put it simply: inner-work life drives performance, and allows teams and individuals to come up with better, creative ideas.

Every area in business requires coming up with creative solutions – and to foster that kind of creative thinking takes more than waving a magic wand:

  1. create an atmosphere of trust and collaboration
  2. tap into those favorite intrinsic motivators of autonomy, purpose, and mastery
  3. Remember that “small wins”, making progress on meaningful work (Amabile’s Progress Principle) matters.

For more: http://www.bloomberg.com/video/what-inspires-creativity-in-the-workplace-xLy2z9V~TGKtienzTsGryQ.html