Let’s talk about the state of making something. State of flow. Creativity. Innovation. Bear with me…this is difficult to describe. I wrote a whole book about this subject (Personal Brilliance), but still look for better ways to explain the magic.
Whatever your specialty is, think about the mode of a breakthrough. How does your brain work? What is your demeanor during the process?
We all have breakthroughs every day. It may be something simple and transactional like writing an article or solving a small process problem; or it may be something big like developing a new product or expanding a market.
This is the interactive part. I’d love it if you could describe your process for me. Privately of course, I won’t share it. You can email me at Jim Canterucci. Here is my current mode as I work on something important. I hope it’s helpful.
Given my personality, if I’m not in ‘generate’ mode I’m uncomfortable. I get antsy. Maybe an artist feels like that if they’re not sculpting. How about you? Do you feel the withdrawal?
The big thing. There is the day-to-day stuff of course but I tend to always have a ‘big thing’ going on. By ‘big thing’ I’m not talking about the ginormous thing. It’s usually a subset.
For example, the ginormous thing for me right now is the development of the computer system Constituent Hub. The ‘big thing’ is the design of the communication module for the software. The communication module is a key component. It’s very complex and it will be a critical attraction point for organizations who buy Constituent Hub. Think of it as an ‘out front’ feature.
The distinction. I’m working on a number of bits and pieces related to Constituent Hub. But a significant step in the process is a major feature like the communication module. Once the communication module is completed I’ll move on to another big thing.
The file is open. When working on a big thing the file is left open, literally and figuratively. There is a notes file on the topic open on my laptop at all times. More importantly though is the mental file that is open over the period of time (in this case weeks).
Everything I do, every conversation has this mental file open so that perspective from the immediate interaction can fuel the big thing. It’s funny how when the file is open, a conversation with the neighborhood kids, a TV show, or a seemingly unrelated problem contributes.
Much is written about our brain’s inability to truly multi-task. This may be true, but I think our brains are capable of having multiple files open. In practice, if we’re having a conversation about an issue with your pricing philosophy in the west coast region, and I hear something that triggers an idea or something to research about the communication module, it’s just a quick note in the margin to explore later.
Thinking. Thinking about the goals and challenges looks at the past, the present, and the future. Over the last 30 years or so I’ve been involved in scores of large organizational change initiatives. There is a large volume of history to tap into. What’s new today regarding technology and people? Just as important, what will the future look like?
Apparently I tug on my lower lip when in big thing thinking mode. My wife, Holly, can always tell when the file that’s always open is being actively reviewed.
Research. I compartmentalize my personal experience and outside research. I think about these things as separate steps. For example, I may write out a solution based exclusively on my direct experience. This considers what I’ve tried and what I’ve found works and what doesn’t. This experience provides an approach and with that approach some biases.
That’s why separately I want to write out a solution based on what I find in other people’s experience. Google is helpful but don’t forget conversations with other experts, and of course in our example actual change leaders with diverse backgrounds.
How different is my solution and the solution that others may create? Where are the bridges? Can I add something that my experience hadn’t touched upon?
Testing. Well before the big thing is finished we test concepts and approaches with real people. A conversation with a trusted user representative might go something like – “Here is how we are thinking about allowing you to map communication activities across time and prompt you about what to communicate at different times in your change project. What do you think?”
We’re completing a specification for the development team. I ask a lay person to read it and gauge how they understand it. This always generates a big edit of the approaches. Think about testing your idea for promoting a manager into a bigger leadership position. Will all the parties understand your logic?
Focus. As you probably know, we make a big distinction between bouts of very concentrated singular focus and the focus we’re talking about here which I call 360 degree focus. The real life that happens during the process of working on the big thing makes for a much better result.
Results. The tangible result of the big thing at this point is a 50 page document that our developers are working with now for Constituent Hub. This process fueled what’s in those 50 pages and what will ultimately be a highly productive and sticky feature of Constituent Hub. When the document is finished there’s a bit of recovery.
We then turn to the next ‘big thing’ that will result in the ‘ginormous thing.’
To do this week: Explore how you work on your ‘big thing.’ Does it happen over time? What happens during that time?
Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.