Sometimes innovation requires going against the flow.

Many people know that innovation is the key to success in the current and future business world, even if they do not know how to be innovative. Given the pandemic gripping the world, innovation is more important now than ever before. Unfortunately, at the very time that innovation is so needed, it may be harder for innovation to be stimulated.  While innovation is required for many businesses to even survive, too many people are simply doing the same things in a slightly different way, expecting dramatic positive results. Innovation is different than that. Innovation is not “Thinking Outside of the Box.” Just think about that. How long have you heard that phrase, “Thinking Outside of the Box?” Likely, for many years. Now, how innovative is that?! Not very. Is “Thinking Outside the Triangle” more innovative than “Thinking Outside of the Box”? Probably. That is just a very simple example of the fact that we are not really focused on innovation, even when we think we are.   

We have to train ourselves to think and do differently to be innovative.

What is required for innovation to occur? First of all, we must think differently before we can do differently. If we can’t think differently, we will not be able to do differently. How do we think differently? We have to be open to new ideas. One way to train ourselves to think and do differently is to change the order of things we do regularly, such as when we brush our teeth, and in what order we floss and brush our teeth. There is no right or wrong way to do most of the things we do regularly, but we get locked into patterns without even thinking about their order. When we change this, we have an uncomfortable feeling. Try it, and you will experience the discomfort. By changing the order of some things that we do automatically, we are training ourselves to think and do differently. This practice prepares us for bigger and more important changes and can improve our ability to be innovative.   

Another behavior that can help us to think and do differently is to think more analytically and challenge our own assumptions. While all of us have biases, some are better able than others to challenge their own assumptions. This includes turning our thinking inside out. A simple exercise illustrates this. I might think, “Women are more nurturing than men.” To turn that thinking inside out I can change that to, “Men are more nurturing than women.” Some reading this would not agree with the second statement. Even so, does that mean they must agree with the first statement? No. The two statements are not mutually exclusive. How can this be?  By altering the statement, we may find something that most people will agree with regarding the nurturing abilities of women and men. For example, “Many women are more nurturing than many men.” True? Possibly, or maybe even probably. We can also even say that, “Some men are more nurturing than many women,” and that is likely true. If we were to say, however, “Many men are more nurturing than most women,” we would find many women and men who could disagree with us. So, have we thought more analytically and challenged our assumptions? Most likely.

A bigger box is not innovative at all.

Becoming more innovative also requires that we become more flexible. If we are always doing the same things in the same way, we will only have what we have always had. If I only spend time with the people I know best and am most comfortable with, how will I ever expand my experience with and benefit from the strengths of those who are different? 

The Pandemic has certainly created a shift!

Back to the pandemic for a moment. Many businesses have suffered immensely, some not surviving. At the same time with the same set of circumstances, the pandemic has resulted in new businesses and new revenue streams for other businesses. Think of the businesses now making masks. Also, some restaurants that were previously only dine-in now have a thriving take-out business. The failure of some businesses to change themselves as our world has changed has resulted in the demise of too many businesses. The ability of some businesses to adapt and become innovative has created dynamic new services and revenue streams.    

The Fralix Group, Inc. Leadership Triangle

One does not decide to become more innovative and it immediately happens. It does not happen by just thinking differently, or even by doing differently. Becoming different requires vision, commitment, practice, and even patience. There are often missteps along the way. If the vision is clear however, and if the commitment is solid, then innovation can and will occur.

Do not allow yourself, your company, or your organization to be boxed in. THINK OUTSIDE THE TRIANGLE!

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And Then a Hurricane?!

Life is so unpredictable. First the Coronavirus, resulting in devastating health outcomes for so many people around the world. The negative impact on the U.S. economy and many businesses has been beyond belief. We do not know when we can expect significant relief from Covid-19; most likely not until we have a vaccine for the virus. We are many months away from that, and until then, the best that we can hope for is a gradual reduction in the number of people affected with the virus, and hopefully a decline in the death rate. Now that schools are scheduled to begin reopening in varying degrees across the country, some people are worried that we will have a surge in Covid cases. Life cannot begin to return to any semblance of normal anytime soon. Even so, although it is hurricane season, we probably did not expect that we would have a hurricane to contend with. But we did.

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Remaining Calm

These are difficult times, to say the least. I do not need to reiterate the obvious, since we have all been living with the Pandemic for several months. And soon things are about to get worse, some think. School is starting in various degrees in different parts of the country, and parents are worried. I think we all need to be aware of the need to do our very best during these times to stay calm, insulate our hot buttons, and be the stability our children need and deserve.

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Being Aware

There is often so much noise in our heads and around us that we miss important moments. Not so for a Wilmington, NC woman on her walk with her dog. She was not on her phone, or she would have missed it. She was not even lost in her own thoughts, unaware of what was going on around her. She was present. Because of that, she heard the crying of a baby in a trash can and saved his life. The identity of the woman who put the baby in a plastic bag and left him in a trash can has been discovered, but we do not know the motive. We do know that being present and the quick action of the woman who discovered the baby saved his life. The baby boy is now safe, and the woman who found him is so grateful that she was present to hear his cries.

We have many moments in which we miss important things just by not being present. We may be distracted, not aware of what is going on around us. We may be lost in our thoughts, failing to see or hear the pain of those closest to us. Or, we may see and hear, only to miss the important messages we would understand if we only slowed down enough to be fully present.

Let’s clear our minds so we can hear the music.

When life is in full swing it is easy to miss what is important that is going on around us. Maybe we can even understand that. But our most recent and current times have afforded us a unique opportunity to slow down and see and hear in a way not often found. Our Coronavirus experience has given us this gift, while also giving us much more that we may fail to see as a gift, but which in reality, may be.

I wrote last week about being present in the moment, not focusing on the past or the future. To be fully aware requires us to be in the present moment, avoiding the temptation of living in the past or future. While we really only have the present, it is easy to lose sight of that, and obsess over what was and what we think or fear will be. When we do so, we can miss the magic of what is.

Granddaughter Virginia’s artwork, painted for me last Christmas. I think she was fully aware of those words from me that took hold in her heart.

How can we be more aware? How can we quiet the noise in our heads? What can we do to be more fully present? 

First, we should turn off the external noise, at least some of the day. That includes the TV and all of our devices. We should be still and allow our thoughts to give us insight that the noise of our distractions too often covers. We can get active, paying attention to what our body can tell us. My favorite activity is walking, and I usually have my wireless ear buds in, listening to educational and inspiring podcasts. While I enjoy these, even they can mask what I can learn from just going within, without anyone’s words in my ears but my own. 

Another idea is one Julie Cameron writes about in her 1995 seminal book, The Artist’s Way. Cameron calls this creative approach Morning Pages. First thing each morning after awakening, before doing anything else, one should write freehand on three 8.5” pages, whatever comes from one’s mind, not trying to organize the thoughts. Just write. Then put the pages in an envelope and seal them. Once a week, open the envelopes and read the pages. Insights from one’s subconscious will be found on the pages. I have done this at different times through the years. I recently found some morning pages from 2000 and reread them. I found a theme in those pages from twenty years ago about my thoughts that I needed to not drink so much alcohol. Nineteen years later, May 7, 2019, I stopped drinking. I may have stopped earlier had I continued with the morning pages.  But then again, my subconscious thoughts written on those pages may have surfaced from that very work nineteen years later.

Being Aware can take many forms. What is most important is to find what works for you. Life is too precious to miss what we need to hear, understand, and know to be able to live it fully.

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Being Satisfied With The Present

So much of our life is spent planning and waiting. There is also a good part of our life that is spent reliving the past. We have to force ourselves to live in the present. But the present is really all that we have. Too often we miss the present, for we are too focused on the past or the future. 

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Four Months and Counting

The little things have become the important things.

Most of us have been dealing with the Coronavirus and COVID-19 for at least four months. We are spending more time in our homes and less at retail establishments. We have limited our exposure to some of our loved ones due to concerns related to the virus. While summer is in full swing, our vacations and usual summer activities are not. We do not yet know if schools will be back in session in the fall. It is a major understatement to say that life as we knew it has not returned and may not. We are living with a new normal. While some of the changes we are experiencing are difficult, some are providing a much-needed respite from a frenzied lifestyle. Perhaps it is more productive to focus on the gifts of this time than the losses.

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The Responsibility of Freedom

Our nation celebrates a birthday tomorrow, July 4. Since 1776 when Congress made its decree for freedom and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the bell for freedom has rung in our country. While we talk and sing about the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, some believe that freedom is not afforded to all citizens to the same degree. Our country is in a struggle about this. Nevertheless, freedom is our birthright. But freedom must be tied to responsibility, or we can have anarchy. This year as we celebrate, perhaps we need to think not just about freedom, but also about responsibility. For we can only remain free if we act responsibly. When we fail to act responsibly individually, our leaders must step up and lead the way for us. Not to control us, but to lead us.

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The Power of Human Connection

Children do not have to be told “How” to make a human connection!

I listen to podcasts while on my (usual) daily walks. This morning’s podcast was so filled with wisdom that I stopped several times to take notes. I was listening to Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us”, in which she interviews noteworthy experts. While I love Brene Brown’s work, not long ago I declared that I would no longer follow her due to her frequent use of profanity. Well, I have not kept that promise, and she is still using profanity. (I suppose that is not the only promise that I have broken!) I am conflicted by this, but not enough to follow through with what I said I would do about it. Her podcasts are so good, and although for me they would be even better without the profanity, I have decided to hang in there with her and hope that she changes in this regard. I am hopeful.

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The Challenge of Not Knowing

The beauty of the ocean and our Oak Island Golf Course grounds me.

It has been more than three months since life as we knew it changed dramatically for most of us. We have no idea when, if ever, our lives will return to normal. Many people are not even expecting life to return to normal, instead assuming that we will have a “new normal.”  As life goes on, it becomes difficult to know how to plan. So, what are we to do? My best guess is that we must become more comfortable with not knowing.

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Communication That Builds Bridges

What the world needs now.

There is so much going on these days that can create misunderstanding and conflict. Even with the best of intentions, we can easily make the situations that are bad enough even worse. While we have a right to our opinions, we need to be careful how we express those. I do believe that most people are reasonable and truly want to get along with others, yet how some opinions are voiced makes that difficult to do so. Let’s think about these things for a moment and consider communication that builds bridges. 

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