Bring back the great British tea break!

It’s an institution or, at least, it was an established ritual: the great British tea break.

Get together

When I first started work, and for many years afterwards, there was a break every morning and every afternoon. Everyone in the department would stop work for 15-20 minutes each morning and afternoon, to get together to have a cup of tea; it was important.

Being there

Well, maybe it was a mug of coffee, that was not important. The important part was to provide a social routine for the group in which we were working, Continue reading

Innovation happens like fire

Innovation happens automatically, under the right conditions, like fire.

For fire, those conditions are generally: fuel, air supply and heat. Removing any one, prevents it.

For innovation:

  • fuel is something valuable to be done,
  • air supply is the communication of information and ideas,
  • heat is energy, and sparks of enthusiasm and inspiration.

Innovation is prevented by:

  • misunderstanding value,
  • stifling communication,
  • pouring water on sparks.

When none of those are happening, innovation happens … automatically!

Unified communication, this is not!

In this world of increasingly diverse communication, our conversations are becoming scattered across channels.

A few channels in a few minutes

Yesterday, my ex-partner sent me a text (SMS) message which approximated to: “Will you please reply to my email about …?”.

A few minutes later, she sent me another: “Actually, it might have been a voicemail“.

So I telephoned her and said: “Actually, it was a text message!”

Funny, or not?

On one level, we can dismiss this as being part of our funny old world.

But as the number of channels increases, it is not so funny when an important conversation breaks down because messages are being sent and expected on multiple disparate channels.

Innovation is an opportunity

Innovation happens as new perspectives, thoughts and ideas lead to changes in behaviour. Doing the same things and expecting a different outcome is unrealistic. Only when we do new things, do we make a substantial difference.

Mankind has evolved through the application of small thoughts which continually make a difference to someone and big ideas which occasionally rock everyone’s world. There is always an opportunity to innovate in specific ways, but now something else is happening at a generic level.

Innovation is an opportunity now: not because we have access to many new technologies; not because we face major challenges; and not because the pace of change is increasing. These have been true during many periods of history.

Innovation is an opportunity now because the world is beginning to understand that innovation can be managed. This has been understood by some people for some time; yet, for most people, the concept of managing innovation remains out of reach.

We have the opportunity to do new things more effectively through the application of our understanding of innovation. The opportunity is to be more innovative, and we are still learning what that means.

[This post was originally written in connection with my contribution to the Like Minds 2011 conference in Exeter, UK between October 19-21, and was published in the conference magazine for the Apple iPad, see the AppStore under “Like Minds” .]

Communicating context and meaning

Recently, Mark Jennings posed an important question:

“Do words mean the same to say as to hear?”

Much of this subject is, I believe, quite well understood by people involved in communication theory and, particularly, in organizational communication.

There are experts on this subject: the person from whom I have learnt most of the following is Alan Nelson, when he explained the essentials of organizational communication, during an interview. Continue reading