The Innovation Cycle

img_20170124_204454_767Innovation is hard work and its application can be difficult if one lacks a blueprint. Daily, leaders grapple with constant change and the question persists: what does it take to be innovative? This question led me to develop a simple framework to help entrepreneurs and business leaders understand how innovation works. I call it: the innovation cycle. There are four stages to it and they are:

Questions: Innovation starts here. If no one is asking questions, nothing gets better. Hence, questions are the root of innovation. It’s usually not a big idea or budget, but a simple question. “What if?” “Why is it?” “How about?” “Why?” The innovation hype makes people skip this vital step of deep questioning. Often, people are busy looking for the ‘big’ idea. Well, innovation is in the small questions.

Vulnerability: Generally, we are uncomfortable with inquiry because questions make us vulnerable. It forces us to think deeply – especially about our blind spots. When vulnerable, we feel out of control, look or feel stupid and our egos could be bruised or crushed. This is where innovation is fought and often killed.

People know that, most times, change is good. They understand the benefits of innovation. But usually, they can’t stand the discomfort of vulnerability that comes with the innovation process. Questions will reveal weaknesses and people don’t like it.

That’s why you may be perceived by your boss as having an ‘attitude’ when you start questioning their business decisions. This is the emotional aspect of innovation which should be taken seriously. It is one reason a perfectly good idea is fought or crushed and we wonder why. Perhaps, someone feels challenged by vulnerability.

Learning: If you’re lucky to arrive here, innovation is likely. At this stage, you’ve survived being vulnerable and you’re ready to unlearn and relearn. If a business leader is able to fight through vulnerability and its associated emotions, suddenly the mind opens up to a new world of possibilities.

This means you no longer view questions as a personal attack. You admit that you don’t know and you’re willing to know. Your ideas are challenged and put to the test and you’re fine with it because you know you’ll grow.

Change: Innovation hasn’t occurred if nothing changes. The process is supposed to produce a different, better way of doing things, no matter how small. Change is the proof of innovation – a sign that you’re learning and growing.

Now, repeat.


How to Effectively Manage Your Time

wp-1482444118209.jpgAttention is in short supply. That’s the down side of the information age. There’s just so much to focus on and the demand on our time is crazy. Now, all you need to be busy is a smart phone. Also, we’re constantly interrupted; distraction is a battle.

Sadly, more time isn’t added as we get busier. We’re still constrained by twenty-four hours. Consequently, good time management is a skill essential to our sanity. It’s simply not practical to satisfy all the demands on our time.

Just like you, I face this battle daily. So I’ve researched, tried different time management tools and discovered one that’s particularly effective for me – it’s my favorite. Perhaps, it would work for you. It’s a small negative word.


Negative Word, Positive Effect

The word is: NO. It’s a life saver. Those who have mastered its usage are able to conserve some energy. Over time, I’ve consciously strengthened my ‘no’ muscles. I say it politely, but the message is always clear.

I fell in love with this word because I realized that it’s one of the most practical ways to manage your time. I’m not a sadist and derive no pleasure in declining requests; however, a few of those requests are truly important.

Effectiveness is the sliver of positivity to this little negative word. It’s difficult to say yes to every request and stay sharp. You’re not designed for every opportunity and you can’t solve all of humanity’s challenges. Though, culture, loved ones and other factors make us feel like our attention is needed everywhere. It’s not. NO may not be the easiest tool to use, but it will shield you from the ‘attack’ on your time.


Train Others to Respect Your Time

People treat your time the way you train them – that’s how it works. If you have a flexible relationship with time (you’re comfortable with lateness or disregard the clock), those around you will relate to you accordingly. It’s your time and we need to know how we should interact with your time – and the only person who can give us that information is you.

You don’t have to go around hurling “no” at people. But the word can be applied as a lifestyle or a functional time management system. A person’s attitude towards time can become the standard by which they interact with others. For instance, you probably have a friend who keeps to time and in order to maintain your relationship, you’ve had to adjust your time attitude. You’ve been trained by your friend.

What’s your time reputation? If you can build a good one, you’ll naturally say no to many distractions because your focus will be clear to all and more often than not, people align.


Learn to Quit

In his eBook, Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt, said “We need to cultivate the habit of non-finishing. Not every project you start is worth finishing. Sometimes we get into it and realize, “This is a waste of time.” So give yourself permission to quit.” This is so refreshing; it’s one of the best time management tips I’ve heard.

I’m not telling you to be a quitter. But some things are just learning curves and you’ll realize at some point that letting go is best for you because the lesson is done. You don’t have to be trapped by the thinking that you must finish everything. You can say “no” midway – and as you get skilled at using this small beautiful word, you’ll get better at knowing what to finish and what to quit.

Happy New Year🎉

Weekend Star Article: You Are Enough, You Do Not Need Validation



If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll relate to a person’s need for validation. Subconsciously or not, we’re always asking, “I’m I doing okay?” We go about life wondering if we’re getting it right. At each turn, we look out for signs – from loved ones, institutions and other sources – that confirm we’re doing well.

We’re energized by the assurance from what we consider credible sources and frustrated by the lack of affirming words or action.

That said; when should we be affirmed? When do we qualify for the pat on the back?


The Lie and Struggle

Our fast-paced modern culture communicates a clear message: do more, be more, get more. We call it: ‘the grind’, ‘the rat race’, ‘the hustle’ – whatever the term – the idea is to constantly break your own record because your life depends on it.

Get a degree, get a job, get married, get kids, buy a home, get more degrees, get a better job, move to a nicer neighbourhood, climb the corporate ladder, climb higher – and the demands never end. Is it ever enough? When at each peak, you’re told to do more.

I’m for hard work and attaining higher levels, but my concern is the nagging inadequacy that people experience with success – a situation where success becomes the struggle.

Society lies to you that you will be worthy of respect (or be enough) as a human being only when you achieve (and keep achieving) higher goals – and not before. It’s a lie because the goal post is constantly shifting. You achieve a milestone only to have another set before you. It can be exhausting when your value as a person is tied to getting or being more.

This lie creates undue pressure. For many, the pressure mounts daily because they’re convinced that they must first acquire more stuff before self-worth is conferred on them. So they grind away, getting more, hardly content and still feel unworthy.


See Your Worth

Contentment is the belief that you are enough as a human being at each point in life as you work hard at getting better and attaining higher levels.

For instance, I have a bachelor’s degree and currently pursuing my MBA. But before I get my graduate degree, I appreciate who I am now.

I am adequate and secure in my person as I push for better. Before the MBA, my worth is in place. I make the MBA, it doesn’t make me. Right now, I am enough as a person.

Some people achieve goal after goal and remain confused about their adequacy as persons. It’s a tough place to be because you’re blinded to who you are, what you’ve done and what you already have.


Enjoy Where You Are

If no one has told you (or you probably need reminding), I would like to clearly state that: YOU ARE ENOUGH! Yes, YOU. So far, you’ve done well and I appreciate the person that you’ve become in your journey. Right now, you are a person of value. It’s not dependent on how much more you achieve, but the fact that you’re a human being – and that’s enough!

You’re not yet a billionaire, but you’re a millionaire (or not) – for now, that’s enough! You may not be the perfect parent or spouse, but you work hard to improve – that’s enough. You work hard on your job and you’re getting better – that’s enough. Appreciate and enjoy where you are as you plot the next level. Celebrate who you are now and what you’ve attained as you grow. You are enough!



Weekend Star Article: The Three Reasons Why Your Great Idea is Likely to Fail


Ideas are common. Like oxygen, everyone has access to these free flowing elements. For some, it feels like a ‘mind-siege’- they constantly have fresh ideas surging through their system. However, how many of these thoughts get done? Truth is:  an idea assumes value only when it’s done. Until then, it’s cheap – just floating in the air.

Reality is an idea’s dream. Every thought wants to move from the unseen to the seen realm. That’s the push. Hence, an idea would keep moving until it finds someone who’s able to make it visible. That’s why you’ll see an idea that occurred to you being done by another – it moved. Doing the thought is more important than receiving it.

Two people get the same idea; one is unable to do it and the other does it successfully. Why? Why would brilliant ideas move from you? What’s stopping you? Why do you think, talk about it and don’t do it?

Existing Thought Patterns is one reason. Often, ideas occur in contradictory circumstances. They come to shake up our established way of thinking and living. Hence, it’s easy to think an investment banker is crazy when he decides to become a novelist.

Every new thought will encounter a push-back by our comfort zone. This is where the fight begins. Many novel ideas don’t survive this stage because the conflict can be fierce and most times, the comfort zone wins. Here, folks conclude it’s not worth the trouble.

The misconception is that you can execute a new idea on your current wiring (existing thought patterns). This approach has proven ineffective. To increase your chances of success when you get a fresh hit of inspiration, first ask yourself: what needs to change about my current way of thinking for this thought to flourish?

Another reason why ideas fail is Environment. Every place powers a thought. Silicon Valley powers tech innovation, Hollywood is the world’s movie Mecca, Las Vegas supports the idea of gambling and Wall Street is the engine for global finance. In these places, the atmosphere is specifically designed to ensure that a particular idea thrives.

This is very important in the creativity process. Generally, positivity enthusiasts assume that any idea can succeed anywhere. This notion works against the reality of the forces at play in each location. Sometimes it’s possible to exert a greater force in order to change the elements of a place for your idea to work. Other times, it’s wise to move to a place with ready energy for what you have in mind.

Where are you now? Does your location support your idea? If not, what are you going to do about it? Perhaps, you have the right idea in the wrong place. You can’t ski in Turkana – it doesn’t snow there.

People can hinder creativity – this is the third reason. If you ask me what I think is the main key to success, my answer would be: association. It’s my number one pick. In my view, nothing affects your journey more than the people around you.

There are dreams and ideas that you may never birth in the company of certain people – no matter how affectionate they are. There are places and experiences you may not get to enjoy because of your crew. Some ideas will naturally die around some folks.

To make ideas happen, sensitivity in this area is key. At the risk of sounding cliché, I’ll ask: who are your friends? Who’s got your ears? Whose company and words help shape your perspective? If you’re not willing to change your association, you might as well forget your dream.











#AnatomyOfLeadership(4): What Leadership Effectiveness Means

Anatomy4As a younger leader, I read many leadership books. They had ideals, standards and clearly stated the qualities that a leader should possess. To be effective, I had to practice a long list. It wore me out – and I found out why.

Those books addressed only the good and left me clueless on what to do with the bad and the crazy. I got relief when I realized that my weaknesses and complexities are vital aspects of my effectiveness.

On that note, I redefined leadership effectiveness. It’s simply the sum total of The Good, The Bad and The Crazy. The formula would look like this:

The Good + The Bad + The Crazy = Leadership Effectiveness

How does this work?

Focus on the three aspects. None is more important than the other. As much as the good, I suggest that you KNOW, OWN and MANAGE your weaknesses and crazies. Pay attention and think through a management system to handle them.

Your faults and crazies may never change, but you can be in charge. And yes, you can be crazy and lead well.

The Anatomy of Leadership ~ 3

Anatomy3I began this series by stating that every leader is made up of three major parts: The Good, The Bad, The Crazy. I’ve addressed the first two. Now, welcome to The Crazy.

The crazy is the complicated aspects of the leader’s life. It’s those elements that have deep, complex roots that can’t be easily explained or taken at face value – the crazy defies logic.

Usually, these are inward struggles due to different life experiences or the leader’s background. For most leaders, this is the toughest part of their existence. It’s simply complicated.

Leaders avoid talking about these areas of their lives because they grapple with its complexities – sometimes for many years – and lack the articulation required to share it with the public. It’s private and typically not shared.

However, it comes out in symptoms and often shocking behavioral patterns that make people wonder. It’s one reason why a massively successful person would suddenly commit suicide for “no apparent reason” – with no explanation. The crazy does exist and it’s part of leadership.

If that’s the case, what does leadership effectiveness mean in the context of this anatomy? Part four explains it.

The Anatomy of Leadership ~ 2

Anatomy2The bad is the leader’s weaknesses. These are faults or undeveloped areas in the leader’s life. Weaknesses in leaders vary – from emotional or character flaws to professional incompetence.

For instance, Tiger Woods is a great golfer, but had issues in his personal life. Every leader is flawed in some way.

Many leaders fail because they try to build integrity on their weaknesses. They make promises in these areas oblivious of the depth of their flaws. Here good intentions don’t count. It’s difficult to build integrity in an area in which you’ve not developed.

That said. Does a leader’s weakness make them a bad leader? No. Yes. No because faults are challenges that can be managed or overcome. Yes – when the leader lets their flaws run amok. But overall, weaknesses don’t have to disqualify a leader. It’s the leader’s choice.

Managed or not, weaknesses in the leader may or may not go away. But it’s a vital aspect in trying to understand leadership because the bad comes with the package and affects everyone involved with the leader.

In the next part, I’ll address: The Crazy. Keep reading.