The Three Ingredients of a Successful Team

Is there a secret recipe for a successful team? A little of this, a little of that and BOOM! Can it be that easy?

The latest HBR post suggests these 3 must-have ingredients in your recipe for a successful team. And, well…how much you add of each gives something for leadership to chew on.

1. A big challenge: How big is the goal you are chasing? Is it big, a bit scary but abundantly clear what the mission is? Do you have the support you need?

2. People with a passion to perform: Do you have passion to find answers to the big problems and challenges? It’s the passion and excitement that keeps your team pushing through and keeps you engaged during the frustrating times.

3. Space to excel, space to create and innovate: The freedom to fail, room for experimentation to help ignite the power of passion and kick around the big problems.

These ingredients (challenge, passion, and space to create) nicely compliment Daniel Pink’s research on workplace motivation. His 3 ingredients: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

These food analogies are making me hungry. What is your recipe?

Who in Your Company Can Say “Yes” to Innovation, Without Permission? – via Harvard Business Review

It’s no secret everyone wants to innovate and to be innovative, and you can propel it forward by adding a lot more of the word”yes” into your vocabulary.

I don’t mean saying yes to more meetings, more red tape, and more hierarchy -but instead, saying yes to more PLAY.

“The truth about big innovation is that you get what you play for. If that looks like a typo — if it’s jarring to see “innovation” and “play” in the same sentence or to hear anyone suggest that you, a manager, should play at anything — then this blog post is for you”, write Mark Sebell and Vijay Govindarajan in this latest post from the Harvard Business review. 

Everyone – leadership included, should come to play.

What it means to play is to be more open to new ideas and to have the ability to test out, and toy around with products or inventions you may have scoffed at in the past. Innovation could leave you feeling vulnerable, and risking failure – and you’ll need to asses the level of risk that’s right for you and your organization. But, when everyone comes to play, and it’s easier to get on the field instead of sitting on the sidelines, you’re at least putting more ideas on the field than watching them go by, judging them as they pass. Playing, in this case means removing the barriers that were once in place so that you can say “yes, and” where you used to say, “yes, but”, and letting teams run with an idea for a little while so that they fail faster and better instead of never trying at all.


A Positive Approach to Modern Living, via Training Magazine

As a tool for personal and professional development, Improvisation has the ability to affect both our cognitive and behavioral tendencies.

It puts into action real life scenarios where our tolerance for change, failure, acceptance, are tested – simply….it puts our thinking into action and works to build new habits.

It gives us a strategy (a set of skills) to make the best of any situation.

This article from Training Magazine  highlights the 3 main categories of life-skills to fill our toolboxes with, as identified by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

  1. “Learning to know,” which is about our cognitive abilities involving decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
  2. “Learning to be,” which is about our personal abilities involving skills for increasing internal control, managing feelings, and managing stress.
  3. “Learning to live together,” which is about our interpersonal abilities involving interpersonal communication skills, negotiation and refusal skills, empathy, co-operation, teamwork, and advocacy skills.

A Positive Approach to Modern Living |

Innovation as Jazz

“Jazz is a conversation that is comfortable with uncertainty and new knowledge,” said John Kao at the ASTD conference keynote session last week.

Jazz, he says, is a metaphor for innovation – where you need a combination of improvisation and discipline.

“If you play just to what’s on the sheet of music in front of you, you’re limiting your options. Jazz musicians have a different mission – to go new ways with the music and create new notes and moments.”

The freedom found in the limitations creates the magic.

Develop the basic skills needed to play the notes – build your capacity first, set the ground rules, set the target – but realize that the real innovation happens in the space between that structure and the unknown.


What’s the drill – May 15: Give your presentation skills a boost

Are you a detail or big-picture person? Do you describe or present information with all of your senses?

One simple exercise changed the way I look at presenting information – and its applications stretch from vision planning, leadership, presentation skills, story, learning retention and more.

It’s an exercise I first learned in an Improvisation class at BATS Improv, and then continued to read about in Kat Koppet’s book, “Training to Imagine”, and then applied to my workshops at DreamWorks Animation.

It’s called, Color/Advance.

Here is a basic example of how it works: Grab a partner and pick one of you to begin describing your day.

At any point, your partner can say, color… or, advance. Color means to add more description to your story – use all of your senses. When your partner says Advance, it is your job to then go back to advancing or continuing the story. Continue to switch back and forth, with the direction given by your partner.

Give your storytelling, imagination, creativity, and presentation skills a boost.

Also use this tool to learn what inspires or interests your audience – see what they want to learn or hear more about.

Color. Or Advance? Why not add both to your toolbox.

Leadership Lessons: It’s Adversity That Defines Who You Really Are

“Embrace what you actually get”…

If every business is a stage, and we can choose our performance, then we have the ability (with practice, and mindfullness) to define the way we view and act when presented with a challenge. The first step (as it is on stage) is to accept whatever is given to us, and then to do what we can to see the positive, “yes, and” it when possible and make the most of the scene and the offers around us.

Leadership Lessons: It’s Adversity That Defines Who You Really Are.

The Hands-Off Manager: How Questions Can Lead to Success

The Hands-Off Manager: How Questions Can Lead to Success.

“We have been trained by the media, by our families, by our traditions, and by our culture to focus on the negative and try to fix it. We obsess over sins and shortcomings, trials and tribulations. We try to go outside ourselves to change the negative things. Then we try in vain to create an external situation that’s positive. But none of that works, because the positive solution is on the inside. What we were seeking was already in us. No wonder we couldn’t find it out there. And just how do you find these solutions inside you? Questions! Just start asking questions. And then listen“….

How to foster a culture of courage and creativity

Innovation requires courage and creativity, which can be difficult to foster and maintain in a culture“, says’s Chief Product and Technology Officer, Lisa Kavanaugh.’s innovation strategy is one many companies are adopting:  to teach Improv skills to every member of their company.

These Improv skills are used as tools to build a safe work environment where ideas are encouraged, shared and built upon.

Hear from the team about the success of this important initiative here.