Newsletter No. 19 Summer 2010

Hopefully you are enjoying an interesting summer; one with intermittent rain and plenty of sun. Sun always makes people feel better.

One of the most important things for organisations to think about and implement is innovation and creativity. You can’t ‘do’ purposeful self-renewal without plenty of creativity and innovation taking place around you. But the environment doesn’t encourage the risk taking that is needed for this – what do organisations do? Read further and find out!

In this issue:

Best wishes from the LASA Team

Latest thinking

PS-ROs, Innovation and Creativity

In “Beyond Crisis”1 , we have suggested that a key aspect of management over the next decade is the ability to challenge assumptions, detect change and create new ideas. In doing this we found the Fox/Hedgehog model useful:

The Fox knows many things, but the Hedgehog knows one big thing.

Archilochus (7th-century BCE).

Hedgehogs relate things to a concrete narrative, through which everything in life is reduced to a single set of certainties. Foxes, on the other hand, distrust grand designs and absolute truths, and instead pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory. They use a flexible array of insights that guide them as they experiment, play with ideas and experience, explore and, on occasion, pounce.

Recent psychological testing2 has shown that this is a valid and powerful way of classifying people (More information can be found in Tetlock3 ). In a sense, the hedgehog has one big trick and the fox has many. The hedgehog likes to keep the status quo, straight and steady, while the fox likes change. The hedgehog is good at detail, the fox gets bored easily. However, no person is 100% fox or hedgehog, rather everyone has a leaning one way or the other. This means that they can learn new behaviours.

In our experience, perhaps due to commoditisation and becoming leaner, organisations have got rid of most of their foxes. Foxes are difficult for managers; they raise objections and ask questions; they put forward suggestions unrelated to and outside their job description; they argue about priorities and directions; they make life difficult. But foxy behaviour is the root of innovation and organisations in today’s world need to innovate or they will die.

This innovative, curious behaviour is needed if you want to quickly adapt your organisation to take advantage of new opportunities. You’ve got to be looking in order to find them, for a start. You have to be aware of what is going on in the environment and system around you. You also need to be aware of what is happening inside your organisation; what trends there are and what resources you have. From that awareness and insight, you can develop new options and adapt your organisation accordingly.

From the external trends, you will see that organisations need to move towards social enterprise-like thinking. In other words, they need to benefit all of their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. This means the people who work for and with them; it means the larger community and ultimately, it means the planet. It encourages innovation and foxy behaviour and becomes a cycle of virtue – each part contributing to the others. Keeping your people happy and enabling (and encouraging) innovation (and foxy behaviour), makes them feel even better because they can see their contribution which makes sense (and cents) for the organisation, increasing profitability while taking care of all the stakeholders and their shared future. Each part reinforces a positive movement.

So what now? In many organisations we find that when we need to kick start innovation and idea generation, then put it into practice, we no longer have internal capacity and must go to external consultants for help. What would happen if we identified the innovative, creative behaviours we need and found out where they already existed in the organisation? What if we then encouraged that sort of behaviour (i.e. foxy behaviour) from those people, even if they are hedgehogs? Innovation and creativity require a different type of thinking; hedgehogs will need support and encouragement as they develop these different thinking “muscles”. We need to give them a blame-free, encouraging and supportive environment, and the permission to make mistakes. Perhaps outside help WILL be needed to get creativity and innovation flowing. But once started, it will remain a powerful force within an organisation, for as long as it is encouraged and acknowledged.

� Patricia Lustig, 2010

1 Ringland, Gill, Oliver Sparrow and Patricia Lustig, Beyond Crisis John Wiley 2010

2 Rosnow, R. L. ‘Hedgehogs, Foxes, and the evolving social contract in psychological science: Ethical challenges and methodological opportunities’. Psychological Methods, 2 (4), 345-356, 1997.

3 Tetlock, Philip, Expert Political Judgement, Princeton University Press, 2005

Latest Books

The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Penguin 2007
Pp 366.

Black Swans are random events that occur, phenomena for which we have no explanation. But weak signals do exist and are there for all to see. There are also usually some people who have noticed these phenomena, perhaps even mentioned them, but who were disregarded. There is a growing interest in this area; not trying to predict what is, by definition unpredictable, but in preparing sufficiently that impending crises do not sneak up on us.

Taleb is an academic and he has a good background to tell this story – he grew up in Lebanon where Black Swans were, he says, an every day occurrence. It is an interesting and irritating book at the same time. He can be humorous and he tells a good story, but sometimes he is too arch for my liking. It is not an easy read, rather it is a book one has to read in snippets (great train reading) because one needs to go away and think.

His conclusion is that our brains are programmed to recognise these weak signals but we disregard them because they are weak; we need to learn to look for them, recognise them when we see them and develop a greater awareness of our wider environment. And some people (i.e. foxes) find this easier than others.

At the end of the day, he says that ‘you always control what you do, so make this your end.’ In other words, you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it. Wise words.

The Black Swan is certainly a book we’d recommend because our world is becoming more and more turbulent and anything that helps us to make sense of it is welcome.

Joke corner

Great Puns:

Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine.

A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

Dijon vu - the same mustard as before.

Practice safe eating - always use condiments.

Shotgun wedding - A case of wife or death.

A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.

Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.

A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.

What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead give-away.)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia - the LAN down under.

Every calendar's days are numbered.

Flame azalea Norfolk Coast, August 2010
� PMLustig 2010

Latest News from LASA

  • Tricia completed a major piece of work with Angel Trains, contributing to the final strategy report and helping devise the Executive Summary.
  • Nic and Tristan, through LASA Data Solutions, continued to work with Kingdom Interiors, maintaining and further developing their website for e-commerce to support their continued growth.
  • Tricia spent much of June and July responding to requests from various journals for articles based on Beyond Crisis.
  • Tricia is preparing to run a Master Class with Mark McKergow (of SFWork) at UWE (University of West of England, Bristol)on appreciative methodologies for change.
  • Tricia organised and facilitated the Open Space sessions at the Resurgence yearly conference, hosted by Green and Away (Europe’s only tented conference centre), held in Worcestershire at the end of July. Running over two days, these lively, spirited workshops proved as popular as ever with participants discussing topics such as Plan for the Planet and Practical methods to defuse conflict and encourage peace.
  • Tricia is helping to organise the “Expected Surprises” symposium organised by the School of Management at the University of St. Andrews and SAMI Consulting (where she is a Fellow). It is running at the Shoreditch Trust on the 27th and 28th of September. You can reserve a place by clicking here
  • Beyond Crisis was nominated for the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) Management Book of the year. It has also made it onto the Top 100 on the Amazon Bestsellers list under Leadership.


Creativity and innovation.

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat. ~ Anon

If you’re not failing every now and then it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative. ~ Woody Allen

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B. ~ James Yorke

Capital isn't so important in business. Experience isn't so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn't any limit to what you can do with your business and your life. ~ Harvey Firestone

Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart. ~ Tencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE

Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted. ~ George Kneller

It's easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date. ~ Roger von Oech

The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. ~ Dr. Linus Pauling

The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail. ~ Edwin H. Land

The things we fear most in organizations — fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances — are the primary sources of creativity. ~ Margaret J. Wheatley

The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions. ~ Anthony Jay

Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits. ~ Edward de Bono

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things. ~ Theodore Levitt

A person might be able to play without being creative, but he sure can't be creative without playing. ~ Kurt Hanks and Jay Parry

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