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2021 was anything but normal as we found new ways to work, keep in touch and continue doing what we love, mostly online.
Here at Composition8 my goal has always been to keep you resilient and unburdened, and your teams vibrant, lighthearted, effective and responsive, and I am proud to have helped you through all the changes to a new normal.
And as 2022 becomes a reality, I hear many wishing for things to be better in 2022.
As someone who has been through massive upheaval many times, here is my new year’s message to you:
˜”*°•.˜”*°• 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐫 𝐥𝐮𝐜𝐤, 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞. •°*”˜.•°*”˜
Your reality and that of your team will be the result of the choices you make in the new year.
So sink your teeth into 2022 and make it exactly the way you want it!
Dr. Harbeen Arora Arora is in town! 🔥
I first met Harbeen when I spoke at her event during the Women Economic Forum (WEF) in Slovenia right before the start of the pandemic.
Pretty awesome to literally stand next to her in this picture taken yesterday during the G100 Club event at #DeFontein rooftop in Rotterdam.
G100 is a global group of 100 women and men striving for gender equality across all countries.
Note: Presenting during G100 at De Fontein in Rotterdam
And I told the attendees..
If there’s something that the coronavirus has shown us, it is that what we thought of as impossible is actually possible. In a matter of days, companies all over the world have started working online.
Working virtually is not the future anymore, but the present.
Nevertheless, this way of collaborating doesn’t quite run smoothly yet. If you are at the beginning of the remote journey, you probably mistrust tech. And if you are already somewhere along the remote path, you could be disappointed that in spite of having the latest tech, your team is not working efficiently.
Many teams struggle with efficient and action-oriented remote work.
The single most recurring feedback that I receive from my clients is that what they thought of as another impossibility is actually possible: getting work done virtually and getting it done right.
The secret sauce?
You need more than tech tools to succeed with remote.
Great virtual work hinges on three pillars: digital tech, social tech, and personal tech. And my contribution today will be about how to use those 3 pillars to create teams that are productive, psychologically safe, and engaged.
And I am addressing you as if you are someone who has to lead sessions and meetings online.
Your title could be team manager, team lead, or project manager. But also solution architect, CTO, or even CEO. And you could be the founder of a startup or even an entrepreneur with a team.
In other words, if you are responsible for a distributed team and you have to reach goals, this article is for you.
In this slide you see me working with a team using systemic software. Team members get the opportunity to place themselves and change positions in the virtual space as if at the office in order to work on strategic and business goals.
But before I continue, who am I?
The power of a virtual team is in the relational fabric among their people. I work on the quality of that wiring of the entire team, something that is often ignored even offline but that is equally needed when working virtually.
The higher the quality of that relational fabric, the more collaboratively intelligent and resilient your team will be. They will be creating the market by adapting and anticipating rather than being victimized by it. Who wouldn’t want that in this corona times?
Collaborative intelligence and resilience are qualities inherent to performing musicians with their high-level of cooperation.
And I can say a lot about that.
I arrived at my current work with teams after a career of 17 years as a performing pianist working with different ensembles. And I built my current consultancy by translating the collaboration tools of Dutch avant-garde musicians to collaboration tools for corporate teams.
An ensemble and a team are exactly the same.
I am a consultant, a professional certified team coach by the International Coach Federation (PCC ICF), a keynote speaker, and the author of this Medium Publication ‘Transforming Business and Teams’.
And now I work with CxOs and founders helping them create teams that are not only high performing but also vital and engaged, in the same manner as musicians are.
I work online and offline and across all continents because two of my passions are cultures and traveling.
Let me show you a short theater play, “A Conference Call in Real Life”.
This video is the staging in a physical space of that what often happens during a virtual session.
And then there is this other high-level way of collaborating virtually.
Watch Jimmy Fallon, Sting, and other well-known artists display a different style of collaboration during the Tonight Show.
See, when it comes to working virtually, and to keep it musical, the work that lies ahead of us is to orchestrate the transformation of organizations and their teams moving them from A (the first video) to B (the second one). Because working virtually is not yet the norm for many companies, and in any case, there is much room for improvement.
And everyone who has the task of improving anything, including working virtually, is a designer.
What does a designer do?
As Margaret Hagan portrays in the above insert, a designer puts people at the center of everything they do, whether that is creating a new sofa or a new way of working. Because working virtually is not the opposite of human work!
To be a designer is above everything a mindset, a way of thinking that transcends disciplines.
If you lead teams, you are not only a designer but also a change agent. And change always starts with a vision (the Tonight Show!) and it implies hustle.
Lastly, you are also an imagination worker. You show others a reality that they did not deem possible. Your mission is to show your company that there is another way of doing things. Your hustle is at the service of that mission, of showing that new reality.
The change from A to B, by the way, doesn’t happen after just one virtual meeting. It needs time, just like all change processes.
Even though I am going to show you many tools, my true intent is to help you with that bigger mission of accelerating the transformation of your company.
So, how do we design a vital, engaged, and psychologically safe team as in Jimmy Fallon’s video?
In the past years, and even in the past weeks, we have seen new digital platforms rise like mushrooms.
Obviously they are useful and unmissable, and I am going to show them to you. But more is needed for successful virtual collaboration.
You need 3 types of tech, each one with subtypes:
Digital Tech with 7 subtypes
Social Tech with 2 subtypes
Personal Tech with 10 subtypes
Let’s start with digital tech.
My favorite platform is Zoom, which allows you to communicate in real-time not just because of its video function, but also with its whiteboard, annotate, raise hand, pointer, sharing screen, and breakout rooms.
I like that it is user friendly and meant for real collaboration. Team members have the autonomy to mute and unmute themselves as well as to a number of other functionalities, which makes it different from other platforms in which the team lead has control over all functionality, keeping old-fashioned offline structures in place.
Another favorite but simpler platform is Jitsi. I like that it is open source and that you don’t need to install any software, ever. If you don’t need the bells and whistles of Zoom, go for it, share a simple link et voilà, you’re good to go.
You can also consider Bluejeans or even Skype.
2. FOR ASYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION
My favorite is Slack, which allows you to work with several teams at the same time all the while creating a community before, during, and after completion of a project. Its many integrations, channels, tagging and video chat, make it very attractive.
If you only need the chat function, WhatsApp is becoming very popular in some countries.
3. FOR SHARING DOCS
You need a place for all your pdfs and other files that you can share with all of your team members.
Consider Google Drive if you like collaborating using Google Docs or OneDrive if you prefer collaborating using Word.
Dropbox is also a good alternative.
4. FOR KEEPING EVERYTHING ORDERLY
Use something like Trello to follow up on resources, events, and tasks, so you can keep your team clear-headed about the job at hand.
Use Asana or BaseCamp for more functionality.
5. FOR VISUALIZING THE ACTION
Collaborate, brainstorm, share prototypes and interact as if you are in the same room with Mural. Used to post-its for everything? Post-its everywhere with Mural. It comes with a huge number of pre-designed templates, think Kanban and many other boards.
Miro is a great alternative.
6. FOR VOTING
When working with teams, we have to do our best to involve all voices independently from where they are geographically. Because if one person is not in the virtual room, no one is in the virtual room!
Polleverywhere allows you to choose from many different styles of polls, and integrates beautifully with Powerpoint, making your presentations look wizard-like.
7. FOR FIGURING OUT TIME ZONES
As a designer, you select your own constellation of tools that will serve your objective. You can look endlessly for the right platform, but it doesn’t exist. Each company has different needs and the needs of your company will also change as you adapt to the changes in the market.
I will give you a recommendation though, simplicity wins. Choose the minimum amount of platforms that will help you reach your objective.
And before the actual work, organize a session to give everyone the chance to familiarize themselves with the different platforms and learn to switch back and forth between them. Remind participants also that cables are better than Bluetooth and Wifi, and that before starting any session they need to check three elements: audio, video, and internet connexion.
To make an analogy with an orchestra, digital tech is what makes everyone feel onboard, which is great. But we still aren’t working the relationships. Here’s where social tech comes in.
Social Tech helps you work with the entire team at the same time. If your team has 10 members, you are the conductor working with all 10 at the same time. The invitation is for you to look at your team not as the sum of its individuals but as a web of relationships and interactions.
Social Tech is everything in my Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) toolbox. These tools serve two purposes: creating relationship and normalizing conflict on the one hand and solving strategic and business problems on the other.
Some of these tools can be implemented by anyone. Others require intensive training.
But both types are crucial because these are the tools that’ll help you create psychological safety in your team. And a team that feels psychologically safe is a team that performs better, innovates and is vital and engaged, just like Jimmy Fallon’s band. Because as this event’s host Gizehlle Garcia says, happiness pays!
Communication, virtual or otherwise, is simply communication, which asks for a change of mental chip. Considering our current circumstances we have to make human digital collaboration the departing point.
Our job as facilitators and team leads is to design the conditions for vital virtual dialogues.
What are the easy tools that you can already implement?
1. A team alliance or group contract
2. A clear agenda with clear objectives and deliverables
3. Energizers because our energy needs to be managed whether working online or offline.
Both offline and online, great teamwork starts with a good team alliance.
As a facilitator you ask:
What group culture would you like to create?
How do you want to feel when working together?
How do you want to behave when conflicts arise?
2. As the facilitator, you dig further to translate words into concrete actions:
How would you know that you have that culture?
How would you know that you are feeling that way?
How would you know that you are behaving that way?
3. In this manner, you’ll not only be designing the personality of your team as an entity, but also the conditions for team members to hold each other accountable for achieving that desired culture.
Use Lucid Meetings or even Trello for agendas that truly move things forward.
What you don’t want:
Lack of clarity about the objective of the meeting
Lack of an agenda or even no agenda
No time limit on discussions
Lack of a clear process
Team members who have not done their homework
No one really facilitating with discussions derailing or moving in circles
Team members who dominate the discussion and others who don’t say a word
No closure on most topics and little action in between meetings
What you want:
Clear agenda that specifies what will be spoken about, the objective of the session and who has brought what point to the discussion
An estimate of the duration of each agenda point
Clear process describing the tools and techniques that will be used during the meeting
Clear roles of facilitator, chairperson, minute taker and timekeeper
A process that creates closure on all points
Follow-up on specific plans
Did I say Lucid Meetings?
My favorite energizer is using gallery mode and asking everyone to make a figure using their arms moving them to the left, right, upwards, or downwards to make that figure.
You can start with simple figures like triangles, a heart, square or letter and making them more and more complex from there onwards.
Make a screenshot and share it with the entire team with the functionality “share screen”.
There are thousands of energizers online, including Mural’s.
During all team processes, challenges will arise around alignment, conflict resolution, decision making, leadership, and hierarchy.
The screenshots in this slide show how I address those issues using systemic tools. Even though it is software, I have included them as social technology because the team being able to position themselves in space is only the visualization of the problem, but in order to actually solve it, knowledge about relationships and power dynamics is needed.
To give you an idea, it took me 2 years to get certified as an Organization and Relationship Systems Coach and an additional certification in Coaching for Power Intelligence to address those issues.
Besides having effective meetings, when working virtually we can solve the same sticky problems that arise offline
And lastly, a word about executive presence, which is linked to the skills and competencies of the facilitator. This is what I call personal tech.
* * * *
Misfit helping CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires. Also virtually.
This blog post is based on the session on vision and validation that I gave as a mentor for the Founder Institute Berlin. Watch it HERE.
Whether you are a brand new founder or a corporate startup, I will show you how to include your customers in the making of your product, using systemic tools. This will both help you drive sales from the start and make customer care a whole lot easier.
Slides 1 to 10 are about vision. Slides 11 to 22 contain actionable validation tools.
And I began..
I am here to show you how to do both customer and team development using systemic tools.
What does systemic mean?
Regarding customers, it means that I do not do 1-on-1 interviews for my clients. Instead, I invite diverse sets of customers at a time or an entire customer team if I am in an existing organization.
Regarding teams, it means that I work with the entire team at the same time: designers, growth hackers, founders, developers, even investors.
And I also work with those sets of customers and the team at the same time.
I engage all these populations in structured processes using markers on the floor.
Why do I do that?
For three reasons:
In systems theory, the darkness principle says that each team member or customer only has one mental model of the customer problem. By inviting all those mental models to the table, you can make data-driven choices and better choices.
2. The number of products that we are building today has grown exponentially, there is no such thing as the Ford T model that everyone wants to have and that you can replicate millions of times. Today you need to involve the customer because each one of them has a specific set of needs.
3. Working systemically while involving the customers is a way to begin thinking about sales from the very start of your business.
What does working systemically look like?
In the picture you see me working with a client in real-time. Designers, growth hackers, customers, and founders move across a blue grid that I marked on the floor. Everyone moves across the grid while answering strategic questions around the product. The quality of the questioning determines the quality of the outcome.
I work in this way because when it comes to idea validation, paying customers are the only experts. You want to identify your early adopters as quickly as possible because they are the ones who will be driving your business model. Only then can you build your product.
When I ask entrepreneurs about their value proposition, they say things along the lines of we want to be the best iPhone app for filters on Instagram. Or even, we are just going to build stuff and see what happens, right?
No. That just won’t cut it.
If Instagram disappears, you’ll still want to exist. Technologies, social networks, trends, etc, all come and go, and as a company, you want to stay relevant regardless of what happens around you.
That’s why you need a robust vision for your business for years at a time. It will help you with that relevance.
See here the vision of three different businesses.
Notice how Google doesn’t mention searches, Amazon doesn’t mention books, and Twitter says nothing about apps or tweets.
This is long term thinking. You can’t base your company around current technologies, trends, or other companies.
A vision is big, it is aspirational. It takes the obsession with product building away so that you can focus on what you are doing for your customers, whether that is being the pulse of the planet or organizing the world’s information. That’s what the vision is about. That is what Twitter and Google are truly doing for their customers.
In the same way, a vision will sustain your pivots over time.
Because, here comes a hard truth about startups, challenges will arise, but the key is to see them as opportunities to pivot instead of as an insurmountable brick wall.
Instagram started as a local-based social network competing with Foursquare. Flickr started as an online game. Twitter started as a podcast. Groupon started as an online petitioning website.
A long term vision has allowed them to stay in business for long by pivoting to something else.
I want you to think about the vision as your protection, it gives you air cover in the long term, making you flexible and adaptable.
Which is important even in small teams.
A vision helps you understand what activities are beneficial and which ones are valueless distractions. It tells you when to say no, and when to say hell yes!
If you look at the pyramids, when you have a vision, you can set clear goals.
And for each goal, whether it’s ‘10% in market share’ or ‘100K users’, you can plan a strategy for achieving it.
That strategy lets you choose tactics, that is, different ways you can go about achieving it.
And each tactic lets you pick your activities, the actual work to make it happen.
Let me use myself as an example of a business with a vision.
On the left you see me performing complex music on the stage with an ensemble. I am also the producer of those performances, complex projects involving algorithms to trigger visuals and soundscapes with our instruments.
And on the right, I am helping a customer with a complex business and organizational goal.
What helped me with my pivot was my vision, making sense of things, especially if complex or complicated by thinking differently and challenging the status quo. That’s what I do for my clients, just like Google organizes information.
The hexagon at the bottom of this slide is a graphic score, music notated visually as a grid. It is a serious game, a one-pager that helped us modern musicians organize an efficient collaboration.
Right above it and to the right, what you see is markers on the floor, a systemic tool to help stakeholders with modern collaboration as well.
In other words, a graphic score and the blue grid on the floor are the same thing. They help an ensemble and a team respectively, organize around a goal.
I too pivoted my business. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos, I used my lemonade stand skills to start a hamburger and hotdog stand. And my vision, making sense of complexity in simple ways is what helped me support the pivot.
How did I interview potential customers to validate that they had a problem before actually pivoting?
I became member of two business networks while still in the arts. For 5 years and while still a pianist, I attended dozens of events in corporations in the Netherlands. It gave me the opportunity to see my future clients and their problems.
So, let’s talk about validation.
You don’t want to be a Juicero. That was a solution without a problem, a business fail.
Instead of putting your money into building a product, use your money to do as many experiments as it takes before you put a product out there. If you are going in the wrong direction you want to know it as quickly as possible, so you can pivot. And if you are going in the right direction you want to know it as quickly as possible as well, obviously, because then you can grow quickly.
So yes, validation, whether positive or negative, thank you very much!
When going out the door to execute your experiments and test your MVPs, don’t despair. As a founder and entrepreneur, you are an artist. You are going to create something that doesn’t exist yet. I want you to think of yourself as someone who goes back and forth several times inside the why-how-what (or vision-strategy-product if you prefer) spiral of creation on the left of the slide.
How do I conduct interviews to validate the problem?
What I see in the market is a lot of 1-on-1 interviews.
My approach is different. I interview sets of customers at a time, and the interviews are embedded in my tools.
One such tool is Anthropology On Steroids.
The goal is to learn from the customers, to be taught something by them that we don’t know. The skill lies in the questioning, without leading the customer or offering feedback and using a lot of active listening.
Picture your team and the set of customers. Just as in the picture on slide 11, I designate an area on the floor for each group and another empty one. I then initiate a process in which the different populations get to visit each other’s space, much like we do when traveling as tourists.
An example is Xtreme Technologies.
They build IoT solutions to guarantee that medicines arrive at the right temperature and that patients have taken their medication. They put loggers on shipment containers, medicine bottles, and even single pills.
They have built their products by engaging key customers and suppliers in the development process.
What are other techniques to research customer problems?
Another one of my tools is the Customer Selfie, which I would have used if working with Tinder to test a risky assumption with a single-feature MVP, left-right swiping.
Picture 3 rounds with a paper in the middle of the room containing 3 different questions: how concerned are you about the convolutedness of dating sites? How much would you like someone doing something about it? How happy would you be if someone implemented swiping?
Customers position themselves close to the paper if the question resonates with them or further away if not. From there, my work as a facilitator centers around the question, why are you standing where you are standing and what is that like?
Here’s another question and another tool.
I often get asked, how do you identify a viable customer problem to build your business upon?
You don’t do this beforehand, you have to test it, which is why you want to use the money that you have for experiments, your pivots, not for building a product.
However, there is a hack that you can use to measure viability upfront. It is called picnic in the graveyard.
If we take Google Glass as an example, Google Glass failed, but we did discover that they were onto something. There is a need, it was just the wrong product.
Therefore you can now focus on building something better. For that, I would use a tool called Deep Robin, which has two steps, a Round Robin and a positioning exercise in space to further qualify the harvested results.
An example would be Vuzix Blade AR
Picture a Round Robin around What should Google have done better? to build an MVP.
I let the customer set write down in a piece of paper the 3 most important features they think the new glasses should have in order of importance. I open by asking one person to tell me the number 1 on their list. I ask the rest if anyone has that on their list as well, regardless of the place. I count the total. That feature gets a score of 6 if 6 people have it on their list. I move on to the next person and do the same thing. By the end of the exercise, everyone’s features will have been harvested and ranked in relation to the group, not their individual ranking.
Working in this way would yield the new features for the Vuzix Blade AR: display and power source need to fit within the frame, lower in price and has Alexa integration.
To further qualify the results, I would then put those features on pieces of paper on the ground and have the group position themselves in space in relation to those features.
Another question I get asked often is, how do you determine that you are uniquely qualified to pursue a customer problem?
You do! You are the entrepreneur! No tool for that!
And if you can’t manage, you surround yourself by a team who can help you.
Because remember the darkness principle?
How do you know if the customer problem is large enough to pursue?
You test it!
And you decide with your team what you consider a success metric.
Picture a line on the floor with percentages on it. I ask team members to stand on the percentage they consider a success. If everyone is on the same spot, that’s a clear go. Otherwise, it is an opportunity for healthy debate until deciding on a metric. Then you are ready to build your MVP. For instance, a website to test the conversion rate
That’s what my business partners and I did with SevenSense.
This Walt Disney quote is the case for a systemic customer and team development approach. The information to build your product is in your team members and in your customers.
What I do is, by the way, comparable to Design Sprints. I also help customers put an MVP out there in just a few days.
Systemic work is qualitative, turbo customer and team development by inviting many mental models into structured processes, so you can make both data-driven decisions and better decisions.
What other experiments can you use to gather information from your customers?
With a Comprehension Test, you are testing the understanding of your value proposition, not whether there is interest in it.
In order to come to the value proposition ‘Save money. Live better’, Walmart tested it by writing down their value proposition in a couple of sentences, showing this to participants for a few seconds, just enough to read it, and then taking it away and asking the participants to explain it in their own words.
Zappos started by purchasing shoes as needed from local shoe retailers and shipping them to the customer, instead of stocking their own inventory. This is called Imposter Judo. It allowed Zappos to test their idea fast and cheap, before investing in their own inventory.
With a Wizard of Oz, you make customers believe that the infrastructure is already in place with someone being the man behind the curtain simulating the functionality of a fully built product.
This is what my business partner Larry Cornett did with Voicekick, a video app that created a slideshow of your photos with music and your voiceover.
The very first prototype was built in Keynote and loaded as an ‘app’ on a phone with Larry uploading the clients’ voiceovers manually.
With Pre-Sales, you gauge interest by testing willingness to pre-order.
Pre-sales allow you to present your product to potential customers and convince them to pay for it before fully building it. You have two options: installing a ‘pre-order’ button on a landing page or directly talking to customers. This second option, even though less scalable, allows for more qualitative insights by seeing customer reactions first hand.
* * * *
Misfit helping CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires. Also virtually.
This year I gave two talks during the Women Economic Forum Slovenia 2020 at the Grand Union Hotel in Ljubljana. One on Intuition and Futurism, the other on Teamwork.
This article is based on the first talk on Intuition and Futurism.
I am going to tell you a story.
For 17 years and until 2012, I was a famous pianist of contemporary music giving concerts in the Netherlands and abroad. My colleagues and I used algorithms to alter the sound capabilities of our acoustic instruments and trigger visuals.
During those 17 years, I saw policymakers do two things with great eagerness: every 4 years they’d fiercely shrink the budget for the arts and redefine the types of projects that would be funded. The arts had to be profitable and self-sufficient at all costs, the government was not willing to chip in anymore. My observation — I have always been an observer, was that such tightening and redefining of the artistic policy was way too extreme.
And I observed something else happening at the level of society as well. Society was finally buying into the character assassination of artist musicians initiated by politicians back then.
My intuition was telling me that it was time to pivot to a different industry. My intuition was telling me that the system of the arts was going to collapse. Colleagues and the music industry at large were shocked by the scenario that I was anticipating for the arts and thought that I was out of my mind.
In 2012, I was the first and only musician in the Netherlands to pivot from the contemporary music arts to the domain of team and business transformation. And today, I run an exciting consultancy with clients all over the world. But I did it all alone with no moral support from the environment.
It was 5 years into my consultancy when I received an e-mail that read: Sonsoles, you were right, and you were ahead of the times. Imagine the emotion, tears racing down my cheeks, the transition had been such a lonely path.
This story is important for several reasons.
Being able to anticipate the future can be a very lonely place. You have to follow your hunches, but you might have to do that all by yourself until you find a supportive tribe.
But also, the story shows that to be intuitive, at least three ingredients are necessary:
In my case, I did so by joining two business networks 5 years before my actual pivot. It gave me the opportunity to attend innumerable events hosted in corporations, allowing me to see them from the inside. Standing with one foot in the arts and the other in the business world made it possible for me to start seeing parallels between high performing teams and high performing ensembles.
Ahead of my talk in Ljubljana, I did quite a bit of research and some experiments on Facebook. I can tell that intuition is:
Jeff Bezos is such an example. ‘All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart and intuition’, he says. In other words, his intuition is an asset, not a weakness.
You should see some of the answers I got during my Facebook experiment.
On Facebook I had asked two things:
What is intuition? and Why is it not appreciated by some?
I got the vaguest answers, including ‘it can’t be explained’. Now, imagine someone is selling you a car or a vacuum cleaner. You want to be told the exact specs because unless that happens, you won’t buy. And the salesperson says: it can’t be explained!
So, if we are here to change the script and have intuition be valued for the asset it is, the first step is being articulate about what intuition actually is. Otherwise, nobody will buy.
By the way, it made me laugh that when I asked, Why it is not appreciated by some? that nobody said, well, because nobody knows what it is!
So let’s go, here are 5 ways to change the script.
1. Be articulate
What is intuition?
If I go back to my opening story, a very pragmatic definition would be — superior pattern-recognition based on years of experience, observation, and experimentation.
A more elaborate definition would be: an ongoing process unconsciously blending and cultivating 4 elements simultaneously: recent data that you’ve analyzed, past experiences, your future ambitions, and the possibilities.
Intuition is about synthesis, quick synthesis, an essential skill for success in the 21st century with its accelerating change, interconnected global challenges, and information overload.
Intuitive thinking organically adds meaning to our perceptions of data, linking seemingly unrelated things — like ensembles and teams, and engaging our whole brain.
And because it improves with experience, people who are not open to new experiences will not be able to develop their intuition. Intuition is therefore inherently related to fierce curiosity.
Authentic intuition is characterized by intense clarity in mind, a strong feeling sense, and a working together of the left and right brain.
And because feelings play a crucial role in intuitive decision-making, we have to develop our emotional intelligence so that we can recognize and understand our emotions and decide on our next move.
Intuition keeps us safe from harm, whether personal or from the market, like it saved me from a market that was crashing down.
As you see, intuition is not something mystical. It can be explained, and therefore sold, like the car or the vacuum cleaner.
Scientific experiments have confirmed two things:
Intuition lives in the place where that deliberation takes place.
In today’s world of business volatility and constant change, intuition is an invaluable asset. And one that is often dismissed in a workplace setting even if the world’s most brilliant leaders are known to have leveraged it to create substantial financial gain for their organizations.
Intuition is broadly misunderstood and often lacks context. But I don’t want to get ahead of my narrative.
2. Tell stories
Like I told mine.
What is your story? When did your intuition serve you in business?
Tell that story!
3. Give examples of influential business leaders
CEO Satya Nadella, who in just three and a half years generated $250bn in market value for Microsoft says about himself: ‘I am pretty intuitive.’
Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, who tripled Best Buy’s stock value in 2013 with his Renew Blue transformation, touts: ‘to make strategic decisions, the only way to feel what was needed was to be in the store and trust my intuition.’
4. It is time to clarify those misconceptions.
Intuition is not the opposite of rational thought. Intuition is grounded in experience and knowingness, as we saw in the fifth slide. It is mindful of our intellect and thereby analytics.
Instead of a tug of war between data analysis or intuition, we can say that:
In other words, it is ‘and and’, not ‘or or’.
5. It starts with awareness
Whereas analytical ability is great for understanding the past, intuitive ability is great for anticipating and building the future.
And right at this very moment, we are transitioning from a linear world used to looking to the past for solutions to a non-linear world that senses and co-creates the future in interdependence with different stakeholders and world events.
Intuition is non-linear, and therefore a perfect match to our times.
That’s what I meant with context earlier in the article. Today, intuition is an asset that helps successful teams and their leaders navigate uncertainty and complexity in a world that is global, uncertain, volatile, and networked.
Within that context, intuition is a gift, a superpower, not a weakness. In a world that is round and impacted by constant new variables, we can not respond linearly. It doesn’t matter how much data you analyze, you will be taking a risk anyway because variables are changing all the time. If after an exhaustive analysis of a course of action for a new strategy, product, investment, or hiring decision, you still feel that something is off, then something probably is. Trust it.
Intuitive leaders reposition their organizations in anticipation of market change. Just like I repositioned my business in anticipation of the collapse of the arts.
I am writing as we are on lockdown due to the coronavirus. Extreme upheaval like this one is not the moment to develop your intuition. Intuition develops when things move relatively slowly over a long period of time, giving you the chance to be very curious and lean back to observe.
Extreme upheaval is the time to leverage your intuitive superpower if you already have it. This article aims to give you ammunition to defend your case.
Nevertheless, anticipatory leadership can definitely be developed and honed over a long period of time. And I am going to tell you exactly what skills you need to develop.
Based on my work with teams and their leaders, I can tell that intuitive team members and leaders consistently display 4 skills that you too can develop and hone.
As an intuitive pro you are:
In other words, you transform volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity into teams and organizations that are vibrant, uplifting, creative, and abundant.
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Misfit helping CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires. Also virtually.
This is part II of the talk on multipotentiality and the transfer of skills that I gave a few months ago during Stichting Hoogbegaafd!’s (The Gifted! Foundation) Symposium in the Netherlands. I originally gave the talk in Dutch.
Before I continue my story where I left it in part I, I would like to say a word about the design mindset.
The design mindset is the love I didn’t know I had. I only found out that there was a process to outline my way of thinking when I had already completed my career transition and everyone had started asking me how to orchestrate their own career transformation.
Looking for a way to describe my process, I found the design methodology.
What is a designer?
Whereas most people at a crossroads would ask themselves — what am I going to build? a designer’s question is — what is possible? and goes on to expose herself to a variety of experiences to inform many prototypes. A designer prototypes, leans back, observes, gathers feedback and goes back to work until the challenge becomes an execution issue after several iterations. A designer is curious and moves across domains to connect the dots in new ways.
Here are the experiences I had been exposed to prior to my career transition:
In design terms, my life and work had been a big exercise in diverging.
How can you intentionally force diverging?
The exercises that I provide below will help you diverge and prototype your way through your career transformation.
And I continued..
So, let’s say you too want to do what I did.
You are not excited about your current job, perhaps you are even bored, you don’t fit the mold of recruiters, you simply have more than one interest, or you just want to try something new. That’s all ok. In spite of what you might hear around you, there is nothing wrong with you!
We have made ‘work’ an engineering problem, a one-fits-all path that is supposed to lead us from student life to professional bliss in increments along a straight line. But that is no absolute truth, it is just a construct of our time. It has its origins in Henry Ford’s Industrial Era when every worker was only allowed to know a tiny bit of the assembly line. And you know what they say, ‘how you do anything, how you do everything’. So we extrapolated the linear assembly line to the design of our organizations and departments, and to recruitment even in this day and age that the workforce consists of mainly knowledge workers, not blue-collar workers.
In the Renaissance, on the other hand, it was the most normal thing in the world to do different things at the same time or to have several careers.
My advice? Own your multipotentiality, and look for and reach out to other multipotentialites so that, systemically speaking, you can feel strong in a world that doesn’t understand you.
Stop trying to change that world and focus instead on what you can do. Doing, that’s the word.
A useful question to ask yourself is: what action can I undertake right now that will get me moving and engaged? And not: what possible new diagnosis could I stick to my forehead? Trust me when I say that there is nothing wrong with you.
If you want to work by design, and I have said it twice now, a ‘bias to action’ and joy as a compass are your best friends.
Besides, ask for help. Your life is not a piece of art, but a fantastic design. Let me explain.
Mozart wrote symphonies all by himself but a designer can not design a new product or service in isolation. A designer needs input from others in their team, and from the users. I want you to look at your life and work as a Tesla, a fantastic design, not a piece of art. A fantastic design is something that we co-create with others hailing from different domains through radical collaboration.
Why different domains? In systems theory, the Darkness Principle says that each one of us only has one mental model of the challenge at hand. Therefore, to truly solve a problem, whether that problem is a new career or a new anything, we need to invite to the table as many of those models as possible so that we can pick the bits and pieces that can best help us forward. That’s why I recommend that you go out and talk to as many people as possible. See them as your ‘team’, each one of them will provide you with a piece of valuable information.
The reason why I did so many cool experiments is that I was lucky to be working in an ecosystem of curious and interesting people. Such an ecosystem is what you need to design a new career as well. Today you don’t create a job by just thinking and by doing so in isolation. Today you create a job by taking action and talking to as many people as possible.
What else do you need?
The right attitude, a focus on the right problems, and ideation techniques if you are stuck and would like to unstuck yourself.
What follows is a set of tools to help you get unstuck. From a design perspective, you choose better if you have many possibilities to choose from. The idea, therefore, is to never just choose the first solution to any problem.
Besides, if you are bored now because your job is not challenging, I can guarantee you that by doing these exercises, you’ll be busy for quite a bit.
Come up with as many possibilities as you can. Remember the field of possibilities in part I. Said differently, think of diverging. The more options you have, the better equipped you’ll be to make good choices. Why? Because on your way up on the creation spiral the environment/the market will teach you something. You’ll learn something that’ll allow you to converge, to materialize your end product or service.
Therefore, the design mindset is perfect to loosen up if you are stuck.
Wayfinding is a designer’s attitude.
It is the art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your exact end destination.
What you need is a compass — energy, engagement, joy, and a direction, not a map. And then you pay attention to the clues in front of you. You follow the joy, what engages and excites you, what brings you alive.
That’s the spirit when it comes to your life and work.
Wayfinding is also a journaling exercise.
Log your daily activities for at least three weeks, preferably daily but in any case twice a week, and keep track of how engaged and energized you are during each one of those activities. Put your Sherlock hat on and look out for patterns, insights, surprises, and anything that is a clue about what works and doesn’t work for you.
You will gain a clear sense of what activities are worth pursuing and which ones aren’t.
Make a clear distinction between gravity problems and wicked problems, and focus on the latter, problems that are actionable.
What is a gravity problem?
In the design mindset, a gravity problem isn’t even a problem. It is a situation, a fact, a force majeure, something that you can not change.
An example? Recruiters only hiring those with x years of experience doing the same work in the same domain. That’s just the way traditional recruitment works.
The highly sensitive have a tendency to sink their teeth onto a problem until it is solved. In the end, solving problems is a sensitive person’s raison d’être. But some problems can’t be solved, they are not even a problem because they are not actionable and one can’t change the situation. Traditional recruitment is such a gravity problem, it is not actionable.
But if you must insist on going through the recruiter mill, by the way, I give you some pointers in The War Against Talent.
Another example? The Dutch performing arts. Even though I had always known that there was more than one career inside me, it was the collapse of the arts in The Netherlands about 8 years ago that worked as a catalyst for my career transition.
I learned that the best way to manage through massive upheaval and disruption is to disrupt yourself, not to change the world. I think reinvention is going to be the one skill that we’ll all have to have in our skill set in order to survive and even thrive moving forward.
And how do we recognize a wicked problem?
There is no clear problem definition, solutions are not right/wrong but better/worse, and they are multi-causal, multi-scalar and interconnected. An example? Your life, your work!
I am going to give you ideation techniques so that you can build many different prototypes for new jobs or business acts.
One such technique is mind mapping, a great way to get unstuck. It is visual and therefore bypasses your logical/verbal sensor.
You can depart from many things for a mind map, but I would like you to put your journaling to good use and reuse the content of the journaling exercise.
5. Pick 3 and write a job description for each one of them
6. Name the roles and draw a sketch for each on a napkin or post-it
A very powerful way to (re)design your work is to design as many jobs as possible, to diverge, to broaden your perspective before you make a final choice.
Here come the Odyssey Plans:
Invent 3 possible job scenarios for the upcoming 5 years.
A. What you already do or that cool idea you have been chewing on for some time
B. What you would do if A suddenly wouldn’t be there anymore
C. What you would do if money or image were not an issue
Each one of those plans is plan A. They are all you, all equal in value, and they are all possible.
Use 3 A4 sheets or bigger, one for each scenario and make 3 one-pagers containing 3 sections each:
A dashboard to gauge resources — do you have the time, money, skill and contacts to make it happen? likability — are you excited or not? confidence — are you feeling confident that you can do this or not? and coherence — does it make sense on itself and does it fit the bigger picture of how you want to live and work?
When you are done, present your 3 one-pagers to another person. Pay attention to your energy. Remember that energy is your compass.
The best jobs are not found via recruitment. Therefore, stop using the internet to search for job vacancies. Use it to connect with people whose professional stories interest you and that you want to get to know.
A Design Interview is a prototype in the shape of a conversation, a prototype conversation.
You are going to reach out to your network and your network’s network to learn what it is like to perform a certain job or role. The purpose is to find out if you would like to do that work yourself at a later stage.
You should aim for as many of those conversations as possible because you are a designer and therefore diverging will put you in the best shape to make a choice.
During such a conversation, you are not after a job, you are searching for the story.
If you do this well, from a place of true interest in the story and the connection with the other, it is very possible by the way, that people will ask you — we are looking for someone, is this something you would like to do?
My life story is proof that life is not a work of art, something that you get right once and for the rest of your days. Work is instead, a fantastic design. And it is my hope that I have set you in motion not only by sharing my story but by also having given you practical tools to help you along.
Considering the complexity of the current market, you’d do well by embracing your multipotentiality. If there has ever been a time in which agility and reinvention are desired, that is today.
Before you go, I would like to give you one more tool.
I often get asked, how can I merge two fields?
Honestly, I did what I did because I did it. And when I realized what I had done, I was as surprised as you are. A designer stands back and observes until seeing parallels between domains, understanding. Perhaps football genius Johan Cruijff was right, ‘je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt’ — ’you see it when you get it’. I had merged teams and music.
And I liked it so much that I made a conscious hobby out of it.
So, here is what you can do.
Make pairs of seemingly unrelated things and find out how they are similar instead of different. Once I made it a hobby, I wrote bizarre blog posts in that way. For instance about leadership and cats, to give you an example. Because.. music and teams, what the heck do those two have to do with each other? A lot, it turned out.
To finish, keep these two thoughts in mind wherever you go.
1. Focus on real problems instead of holding on to things which are not an actionable problem. You don’t have to change the whole world, don’t allow your sense of justice to mess you up. The world is the way it is, and when it comes to working, the only thing that you have to do is take your next step, your next action.
2. Go out and connect with people, and keep the Darkness Principle in mind. Work is not something that you solve by thinking and doing so in isolation, it is something that you solve in interaction with your environment, the market of life.
And now, go go go, do!
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This article is part I of the talk on multipotentiality and the transfer of skills that I gave a few months ago during Stichting Hoogbegaafd!’s (The Gifted! Foundation) Symposium in the Netherlands. I originally gave the talk in Dutch.
And I began..
My presentation will be about three things:
1. The ‘business of you’ and the importance of a vision in order to support your different pivots or business acts
2. The design mindset as a methodology to embrace multipotentiality and make it bloom
3. The transfer of skills and how you too can achieve it as well
I chose the title ‘Met vleugels kun je vliegen’ — ’With wings you can fly’ because I thought it to be a cool wordplay. I was born on Tenerife. And growing up, I had absolutely no clue what my work was going to be in the future. As in, no clue whatsoever. But training as a performing pianist from an early age — grand piano, ‘vleugel’ in Dutch, translates as ‘wing’ in English, gave me literally wings. I would be sent abroad to study with great teachers. And that, discovering the world, was definitely something I wanted to do.
That, and making my own money, I was a feminist.
See, even though I had no idea what my future work was going to be, I could definitely take my next step, traveling.
Traveling gave me energy and joy. And energy and joy are the compass of a designer when you don’t know your exact destination but yet you want to follow a direction.
That’s also the reason for the subtitle ‘building your way forward’, and not ‘solving your way forward’, because work is for us, and for more and more people in these complex times, not an ‘engineering problem’ that you solve once and forever, but a ‘wicked problem’. A problem for which you don’t know the exact outcome beforehand and one that continuously challenges you to take the next step. Careers are not ladders anymore, but jungles. Besides, no one knows today what the jobs of the future are going to be, anyway.
And there you have it. I just introduced you to two elements of the design mindset: energy and joy as a compass, and a bias to action, to taking the next step.
By the way, this presentation has two parts. Part I is about my journey from pianist to team development consultant. Part II contains concrete steps you yourself can take to give shape to new and joyful business acts or jobs.
Let me tell you about my acts!
Career Act 1: Sonsoles the Pianist.
Before becoming a team development consultant, I was a well-known pianist of contemporary music in The Netherlands. Composers wrote pieces for me, and my fellow artists and I used algorithms to both enhance the sound possibilities of our acoustic instruments and trigger visuals.
After having followed a solid academic path along Madrid, Freiburg and New York, this odd bird landed in Amsterdam to pursue the experiment: How can music be notated differently and what would that do to the collaboration with other musicians? How do I create a market for multidisciplinary contemporary productions? What happens when plugging a piano into a power socket? That explains the picture with the cables around my neck.
At the same time, I had 36 other ‘jobs’, like creating a market for those productions for which there was no clear demand and supply, being my own agent, and developing strategies to perform abroad, just to name a few of them.
Career Act 2: Sonsoles the Team Development Consultant.
In the picture, I am in Berlin mentoring for the Founder Institute, where I told founders the same thing that I am telling you today, the importance of having a vision for your business for the long term.
Right here and now, I would like to make an analogy between a ‘business’ and the ‘business of you’. Today I want you to look at yourself as a business.
What you see in the picture is the vision of three well-known businesses.
And here’s the thing, Google’s doesn’t say anything about searches, Amazon’s doesn’t say anything about books, and Twitter’s doesn’t say anything about tweets.
This is long term thinking. Because you can’t let your business depend on technologies, trends, or other businesses. Why? Because those come and go, and you want to stay relevant independently from what happens around you.
Instagram started as a local social network competing with Foursquare, Flickr started as an online game, Twitter as a podcast. Thanks to their long term vision, today they are still in business. How? By pivoting to something else.
The same hard truth that applies to Instagram and the likes applies also to you as a business. You will encounter many challenges. The art is to see them as a chance to pivot instead of as an insurmountable brick wall.
Your vision is, therefore, your protection. It gives you air cover for the long term, making you flexible and nimble.
I too have a vision — to make sense out of things, especially if complex or complicated, by thinking differently and challenging the status quo.
On the left, I am playing contemporary music, also known as complex music. I also initiated and produced complex projects using algorithms to trigger visuals and soundscapes with our acoustic instruments, as I mentioned before. To add to the complexity, I had to hire personnel too, from musicians to developers to transport guys and everything in between.
On the right, you see me with a client working on a complex business and organizational problem.
If you look at the pictures, both settings look kind of similar. On the one hand, the pianist and initiator working with an ensemble; on the other, the facilitator and entrepreneur working with a team. In both cases, people everywhere who need to organize around the achievement of a goal: a performance on the stage or a performance off the stage respectively, but nevertheless a performance. An ensemble and a team are the same thing.
Having a vision is what helped me change course, be able to explain my seemingly bizarre career transition to my clients, as well as make clear to them why I could help them. The conversation was not one about pianos or teams, but about making sense out of complexity. That’s what I was selling.
This is the perfect moment to talk about multipotentiality. In a nutshell, a multipotentialite is someone with several career or business acts.
The pyramid on the left represents a business, and for today’s purpose, the ‘business of you’. The drawing on the right represents the model of the 3 levels of reality used in systems theory.
The lowest bit is the essence level, the field of possibilities. This level is multipotentiality, here everything is possible!
And that matches awesomely with the vision bit in the pyramid, which we just spoke about a few slides ago. I make sense of complex things. Here I don’t say anything about ‘pianist’ or ‘team development consultant’. That would be what I materialized when completing a successful trip to the top of the pyramid. The pyramid, just like the 3 levels of reality, is a spiral of creation.
Why do I say ‘a successful trip’? Because every time that you pass along the dreaming/strategy level (depending on which model you are looking at) you are passing the level of interaction with your environment, with the market. And at that level, you will learn something, and you will have to go down to the essence level several times to fine-tune your offering until it becomes a reality at the consensus/product level (once more, depending on what model you are looking at). Not everything that you think of at the essence level will become a product. And that’s ok, not everything HAS to become a product or a career.
Today I want you to look at yourself as an artist who goes back and forth, up and down this spiral several times to give shape to your different acts or jobs.
So, multipotentiality is in any case about a diversity of acts. What else?
Looking at myself, and starting from the bottom up, I can say that I am adaptable.
When I saw that the Arts were going to come crashing down in the Netherlands, I realized that I was dealing with a ‘gravity problem’, a fact, a situation that I could not change. So I decided to focus on what I could do. To keep it musical, I could orchestrate a transition to a different domain. I was pragmatic and agile, just like Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr. Because besides wanting to travel, there was something else I knew when growing up in Tenerife, remember? I was a feminist and wanted to make my own money, good money.
And now I would like to tell you about the other two bullet points on Tanmay Vora’s drawing: combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection, and the transfer of skills across domains.
How did I combine two fields to create something new?
The hexagon you see at the bottom of the slide is a graphic score. A graphic score is a serious game for modern collaboration, a one-pager resembling a business canvas used to notate music visually.
What you see on the right is me using a systemic tool with a team. I ‘drew’ a canvas using floor markers to help the team organize around the achievement of their business goal, $3 million in revenue in Q3.
So, look at this!
I effectively translated the concept of the graphic scores to systemic tools for teams. Or to quote Jeff Bezos, I used my ‘lemonade stand’ skills to open a ‘hamburger and hot dog stand’.
An ensemble and a team are the same, and so are a graphic score for ensembles and a systemic tool for teams, it’s just a different setting!
And my vision/essence? It remains the same — to make sense out of complexity.
Let me tell you how such a serious game works using this animation of Kandinsky’s Composition 8 as an example:
1. The light yellow background is the workshop space in the workplace
2. The light blue area in the middle stands for “how do we reach “$3 million in revenue in Q3”
3. The circles and triangles stand for female and male team members respectively
4. The squares stand for events that are having an impact on the team (e.g. a new competitor in the same market, import/export restrictions…)
5. The straight lines and curves tell whether there is a relationship between team members, and team members and events, and how strong the relationship is depending on the shape of the lines
In the animation all these elements stand in a certain formation, landing at the end in a different one.
With my help as a team development consultant, the relationships within a team change or become stronger to achieve that desired goal of ‘$3 million in revenue in Q3’.
I gained this experience by performing graphic scores (visually notated ensemble music) for 17 years in Amsterdam. Such a score is an iterative serious game that allows modern musicians to develop new skills in real-time while moving in space on the stage. The result after each iteration is improved collaboration skills among musician performers.
Today I use floor markers to jumpstart similar processes with my clients’ teams.
To paraphrase Paul Klee — who said: “a line is a dot that went for a walk” — a line is a sound that went for a walk. In other words, my work as a team development consultant is to get people (sounds) in motion so they strategically grow towards each other to achieve the desired business goal.
This journey from A to B is a re-alignment of existing relationships within a team in service of a goal, in the same way as with the graphic scores.
See me HERE working with a team in real-time.
Let’s say that you too want to transfer your skills.
Everything starts with awareness. Your first step is becoming conscious of your current skill set in your current domain.
I said earlier that I had 36 jobs as a ‘pianist’. A pianist is the ultimate systems thinker: knows their part, knows other ensemble players’ parts, initiates projects, networks, manages overlapping projects, etc, etc, etc.
Do you know what your current skill set is?
Only once you do, can you ask yourself — how can I transfer them?
And then you take the second step, which is communication. You need to translate your skills to the new domain using a language that makes sense to your new type of client or employer.
Let me give you a heads-up by telling you about the skills I transferred:
Then I also discovered that some skills remained the same:
Stay tuned for part II where I will dive deeper into the Design Mindset while giving you concrete steps you can take towards designing new business or career acts.
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In today’s vlog I speak about the superpower of CEO Satya Nadella, who in just three and a half years has generated $250bn in market value for Microsoft.
In the transition from the industrial era to the VUCA world, another major shift has occurred. These days employees want their ideas to be valued and used.
If you are a leader today, your most scalable course of action is taking responsibility for developing the superpower and the conditions to engage the talents and intelligences of your people, and then letting them pour into their work. Today’s employees have a natural desire to create and contribute, and some conditions are conducive to it and some aren’t.
Becoming a contemporary leader is both challenging and easy. Challenging because you will have to let go of long-standing beliefs that are not useful today, and easy because once you get the hang of how engagement works, you will further your business vision with much less effort. What leader wouldn’t want that?
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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.
Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.
Check also my 5-week online masterclass:
And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:
Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.