065: Disruption, chaos, and creativity
Chaos theory holds that systems tend to entropy toward an eventual state of unpredictability and chaos from which new patterns emerge. However, there is no way to predict what those new patterns will be. The possibilities are endless.
The status quo is an illusion because everything changes. In this episode of the Spirit of Leading podcast, I discuss this phenomenon and how our current experience with the COVID-19 outbreak is an example of disruption and the potential new systems that might emerge on the other side of dealing with it.
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I’ve decided to devote my time and effort primarily to helping others become more effective thinkers. When we don’t think critically and creatively for ourselves, we are at the mercy of those who can benefit from intentionally misleading us.
Here is an earlier podcast that speaks to the power of A-Ha. [podcast: The power of A-Ha]
This earlier podcast makes the case for INPowering leaders also being advocates of creative thinking and self-discovery.
Listen and seek to apply this thought provoking podcast.
Stretch yourself to be more
Please forgive what might seem, at first glance, to be the hyperbole of this blog post title, but I mean the words literally. Curiosity is awesome.
To me, our ability to be curious–inquisitive about the world around us–evokes awe for me–an overwhelming reverence about the capacity of the human mind.
Within our brainspace, the right hemisphere invites randomness, free association, and interconnectivity. Our left hemisphere insists on order, hierarchy, and routine. That these two worlds can exist side-by-side is awesome to me. Both are information hungry, but handle it differently.
Curiosity will lure me to stick my nose into some of the most interesting and surprising places.
Sometimes curiosity gets me into a little trouble.
The wonder of ideas and life experiences creates a mental wanderlust in me. I can easily invest a day in meandering through the vast library of TED Talks.
I marvel at the amazing true-life adventures of scientists, anthropologists, photographers, computer code writers, mathematicians, social reformers, storytellers, and others who are shaping and reshaping our world in real time.
I am mesmerized by the quantum world, the cosmos, and how they relate to each other. I am equally amazed by what we have learned about the human genome and the interactive workings of body and mind.
As I’ve learned that we humans share the same innate emotions as many, if not all, mammals, it’s made me wonder if they, too, have souls. And in thinking about souls, I wonder which came first, the soul or the theology about it.
See where curiosity leads us?
3 INPowering questions
What sets humans apart from all other species is our ability to imagine something different from our current circumstances. We can wonder. We can pursue the pathways of our curiosity in imaginative ways.
Ask these three questions of yourself everyday:
- What if I . . .?
- How can I . . .?
- What can I do now to . . .?
Be curious about how you can
INLarge the expectations of living in yourself and in others.
You will be
and that can be wondeful.
Everything you need to find joy and fulfillment in life is within your reach–literally.
All you have to do is get off your seat, and put yourself in position to grasp it.
I’ve learned over and again that when I put myself out there, good things are more likely to happen for me than when I sit on my sofa and wonder why I’m not getting anywhere.
You, too, huh?
I drift into routines. Routines have benefits, but they can result in mindless, rote behaviors that dull our sensitivity to what’s happening around us.
So, let’s shake it up a bit.
I discovered Jessica Hagy’s work on such an outing. Here’s the story.
I was visiting a friend one weekend and we were about to settle into our routine of watching our favorite political pundits on cable TV. When I said, “I’m bored. Let’s do something different.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s just get in the car and drive somewhere,” I said.
“OK,” she agreed.
So we did.
Within the hour, we drove into a small town a few miles down the road where we found a combo coffee shop and curio store and decided to stop for a cup of coffee.
While milling around, sipping my coffee, I spied a book title displayed on an old crate used as a merchandise display (a technique often used in curio stores). The title read, How to Be Interesting (in 10 simple steps).
I so want to be interesting, and if I can do it in 10 or fewer steps, so much the better.
I was curious and bought the book. And that’s how I discovered Jessica Hagy, the author, and her work. Click here and save yourself the trip to the curio store.
The very first chapter is, “Go exploring,” (See how that works?). She offers some ways to be creatively curious. I’ll not spoil the fun of learning her secrets for yourself.
There is, by the way, a direct correlation between being interested and being interesting.
Henry Miller, a trendsetting author, advised, “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
Then, share your interests with others. It encourages them to share their’s with you. Before you know it, everything just got more interesting.
Curious . . . how that happens.
The INPowered are seekers. They want to know what’s happening in the world around them. They want to engage with different ideas, people, cultures, tastes, nature, and ways of understanding and knowing each other.
Take an interest in becoming more creatively curious.
And you will be more
Bullet point and spreadsheet presentations are not inspiring. A glassy-eyed audience tries desperately to absorb the relevance of an endless data stream that seems to be going nowhere.
Statistics are boring and sterile.
But the stories behind the data can be riveting. A wide-eyed audience immerses itself in the real life drama of challenge, trial, risk taking, near misses, collaboration, serendipity, and final triumph that played out for those bullet points and spreadsheets to be possible.
Stories are compelling.
Inspiring leaders are storytellers. They pull us into stories in which we identify with the trials and triumphs of characters we care about. We see something of ourselves in them. We share their dreams, their struggles, and, hopefully, their happy endings.
Inspiring stories INPower us to make things better for ourselves and others.
If you want to be an inspiring storyteller as a leader, check your stories for the following three elements.
1. It is believable. It can happen.
We don’t want fairytales or science fiction. We do want to hear about what is possible, even though we might have to stretch, sacrifice, and struggle.
Leaders of movements tell us of what can be; yet, they are honest and real about how it is.
2. It is relatable.
We want the stories and its heroes and heroines to show us how we can rise to the occasion in spite of our frailties and foibles. We want to identify with their circumstances as a way of being encouraged that we also can be successful.
3. It is inclusive. It’s about me, and my dreams
We connect with stories that are about us, or people like us. When we connect with the storyline, we find ourselves caught up in the emotional energy released in that connection. We are in-filled with the spirit of the story and the storyteller. We are uplifted and moved to action. We are into the story because we can see ourselves in the story.
Furthermore, the story is not about the storyteller. The story is about the listeners. The storyteller is just a voice, a narrator. We listeners create our own magic in our imagination as we see and feel the story come to life in our own hopes and dreams.
Learn to tell a story like that,
and you will be
How do you feel when you suddenly, or finally, get it–when you clearly understand something that had been perplexing? For me, it’s the a-ha moment when the light comes on and I feel like a mystery has been revealed.
The Greek scholar, Archimedes, shouted, “eureka,” when one day he noticed the water level rise in his tub as he stepped into it. It was his sudden realization that the amount of water displaced by his foot and leg equaled the volume of his foot and leg that was submerged. Eureka means, I found it, or I find. Archimedes had an a-ha moment.
There is an INPowering energy in a-ha. We experience a surge of enthusiasm that propels us even further into exploration and discovery. The more we learn, the more we want to know.
An INPowering leader helps make that happen for you. A dis-empowering leader wants you to think like he does and spends a lot of energy trying to keep you from learning on your own. That leader wants you to take their word for it and check your ability to think for yourself at the door. Beware of that so-called, leader.
The enemy of a-ha is propaganda
I had a recent encounter with a new acquaintance over a difference in opinion. They would hurl an opinion they had heard at me as if it were a fact. I would go research the opinion and, where warranted, cite facts refuting what they claimed. This happened several times, and on a couple of points I gave them back a fact providing information that either directly contradicted their assertion or revealed their conclusion was more exaggerated than the facts logically allowed.
When they objected to my replies, I simply asked them to provided the facts that supported their opinions. Our discussion ended with them insulting me and accusing me of being closed minded. No “a-ha” for them.
You are under no obligation to agree with me
To be an INPowering leader, you are obliged to explain your conclusions with verifiable facts. And you can take it to the next level by insisting others go learn for themselves.
A fact is verifiable. You can seek independent information that affirms the fact or dispels it. An opinion is one’s conclusion about what a fact means to them. You might disagree with my conclusion about a fact, but the fact should, itself, be verifiable.
Propaganda is information that has been intentionally slanted to promote a point of view. They spin the information, often distorting facts, to convince you of their opinion. Just know that most of the information you hear on cable news is spin.
Be an “a-ha” maker.
Here are some ways to promote a-ha possibilities:
Be a guide to knowledge instead of a propagandist. Point others to information. Ask them what they think the information means to them. Have discussions about what they learned from the information.
Seek counter points of view. Just because you are willing to listen to contrary information does not mean you are wishy-washy or flip-flopping. Others might cause a shift in perception and open your mind and eyes to other possibilities.
Take the fear out of changing your mind. It’s not a character flaw to shift your opinion or conclusion based on learning something new. Celebrate revised opinions as a sign of vibrant thinking.
To INLarge the expectations of living in yourself and in others, you must be an “a-ha” maker. The greatest compliment I ever receive as a teacher is, “you made me think today.” They might even say they are not sure they agree with me. That’s OK. They are thinking, and that’s what matters most.
Promote the power in “a-ha,” and be
Fools fascinate me. Fools are invaluable to our society because they have a knack for exposing the numbskulls who, for some incomprehensible reason, end up in positions of influence in our most important institutions.
I’m not out to bash our leaders wholesale. I am, however, out to extol the virtue of divergent thinking in the service of getting at the truth we must confront to make good decisions.
By NBC Television (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In medieval times, fool was a licensed profession of sorts. In some cases fools were used merely for entertainment. But some monarchs and rulers used the fool, or jester, to bring up the absurd counterpoints that others were too afraid to mention for fear of costing them their head.
Our current day fools are the comedians who spoof the actions of political figures, celebrities, and those at the helms of business, educational, and religious institutions.
Fools change the direction of our thinking
Why? Because the fools invariably see the truthful nuances and absurdities we either don’t see, or don’t want to see. Fools expose the disastrous effects of numbskullery on our institutions and on our freedom and tolerance.
Margaret Heffernan’s comment from her TED Talk, Dare to disagree, struck me as especially poignant (click here to view).
“The truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.”
Fools possess that skill, talent, and moral courage.
The stand up comic often finds himself or herself being a stand up leader who is INPowered2 LEAD, by speaking a truth through humor. First we laugh; then, we think. Sometimes that leads to action that changes the landscape.
“Steve Martin” by Towpilot – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Comedian, Steve Martin, defined a joke as, “complete knowledge in a nanosecond.” Like the time I heard a local fool in my community say of a hometown political kingmaker, “If you aren’t under his thumb, you’re under his skin.” Complete knowledge in a nanosecond.
Sometimes, a stand up leader must accept the brunt of a fool’s truth directed at them. Like the medieval ruler who was smart enough to recognize the truth veiled in humor, and act on it to change the landscape.
Everybody needs a fool
“It’s no accident that AHA and HAHA are spelled almost the same way.” – Mitch Ditkoff
Those who can make us laugh at ourselves are some of the best friends we can have. They help us relax the tension that comes from taking ourselves too seriously. When we loosen up, we release the creative juices to explore the possibilities we would otherwise squelch.
You have permission to be a fool for the truth.
The sooner you are,
the sooner you will be
Even though we expect leaders to help us go places we cannot or will not go by ourselves, that does not mean they will have all the answers up front. What INPowering leaders do have is the ability to connect and improvise and synthesize ideas from all sectors to help people find the solutions that fit their unique circumstances.
Leaders do not have all the answers.
As a consultant I tell my prospective clients, “If a consultant tells you they have the answers to your problems, run from them as fast as you can. But if they tell you they will help you find your answers to your problems, they might be worth listening to.”
That reminds me of a sales presentation I made to a local chamber of commerce committee that was looking for someone to lead a project to revitalize community spirit and generate more tourism interest for their city. The gist of my pitch was to develop a community driven project that would let the ideas for tourism opportunities bubble up from the interests and talents of the citizens. I explained that would also generate structures for volunteerism and sustainability. I believed the the improvisations, synchronicity, and serendipity of the journey was as important as the destination.
The chairman of the project listened to my pitch, then said, “I’m not interested in any of that self-help crap. I want someone to come in here and tell us what to do.”
They retained a consultant who promised they could deliver on that. The whole project died within four months for lack of participation and interest.
INPowering leaders help others learn how to find their own way. There simply are never any pat answers.
Improv is a leadership talent
Improvisation is the skill of thinking on your feet, connecting with others, and helping everyone interact at a higher level.
Actor Alan Alda conducts inprov workshops for students, scientists, and other groups to stimulate interaction and communication. He pointed out that improv is a method of connecting and interacting so that your own performance flows from being absorbed in the story. You must accept what the other actors give you and work with it. Improv is relating and responding, not just delivering memorized lines.
Improvisational leadership is relating and responding to lift the level of engagement among all participants. It isn’t hogging the show or upstaging others.
Our current political climate is like watching actors on stage compete for lines and the spotlight. No one is listening to the others. Everyone is just spouting his or her rehearsed talking points.
That’s why I am so uninspired by our current political environment at all levels. And it’s also why I’m optimistic that a new breed of leader, seeing the banality of what’s going on now, will come onto the scene with a whole different approach to leading.
My objective with INPowered2 LEAD is to promote a fresher approach to leading in which leaders learn to connect and interact. However, this style of leadership is not just shooting from the hip. Great artists in all disciplines are first, and foremost, excellent technicians of their craft. INPowering leadership is no exception.
“The more you know, the more you can improvise. You do have to know what you are doing, but once you have the skills, you can make it up as you go along.” Charles Reid, American watercolor artist
We are hungry for this type of improvisational leader who desires to take on the task of setting a new standard for leaders. They will be leaders who connect and interact with each other and with their communities to elevate the quality of solution finding and community building.
These improvisational leaders
have the skill and the flexibility
to show everyone how to be