How can we think outside the box today?

How can we think outside the box today?

Edward de Bono

It’s generally accepted that Edward de Bono is one of the pioneers of “Brain Training” and in 1967 he invented the world famous Lateral Thinking technique. It revolutionised the concept of thinking as a separate skill.

Indeed Forbes Magazine said

If you haven’t heard of Edward de Bono or of Lateral Thinking, perhaps you have been too busy thinking in conventional ways.

If however, you’ve always questioned the status quo, never taken no or can’t do for answer it’s likely you’ve never been restricted by comfort zones or boxed thinking. But as the vast majority of people are we need to understand what they see and why they’re locked.

Lateral Thinking – what is it?

With logic, you start out with certain ingredients just as in playing chess you start out with given pieces. Each piece has a clearly defined role and a value. But unlike on chess, in most real-life situations the pieces are not given, we just assume they are there. Most people assume certain perceptions, certain concepts, and certain boundaries. Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces. Lateral thinking is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organise the external world into the pieces we can then ‘process’.

Comfort zone

Layered onto this we also need to appreciate that for most there is a quite clearly defined Comfort Zone which is a psychological state in which things feel familiar. A place where we like to stay and perform with little or no anxiety or stress.  A comfort zone to a person is where they are at ease and in control of their environment.

Dr Brene Brown describes it as

“Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized—where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.”

In essence, it’s where people feel safe. But it’s an imaginary place as it only exists in our mind, although it might be similar to many others that are around us.

The following may help further although all may not be common in everyone:


How to break outside the box?

You can try training but regular readers will now be aware of the problems of knowledge training and that results are small and rarely sustainable.

Change the culture and encourage people to come out of their comfort zone is an obvious answer but as most HR leaders will know this elephant in the room is hard to budge. It’s also assumed to be expensive and will take time.

But there is a way that’s guaranteed to budge it once and for all and may not take as long as you expect.

Develop Reality-Driven Leaders and focus on reducing Behavioural Waste™ will always work –

If that’s too much to take in you can always look at another sector. One we all frequent and will revisit based solely on our memories or recommendation of a friend. I’m talking about restaurants, where every meal delivered to each guest is of a standard or the quality of the house. It’s why you go back, you perceive value for money.  And the good news here is that there are reality TV programmes about it.

Ramsey’s Kitchen nightmares highlight the problems on what is a simple business – good food and good service at a price we will buy.

Here’s a 5-minute insight

And the full 45 minutes

I wonder if like me you laughed at the obvious that a professional consultant points out? They are classics of manufactured comfort zones and boxes that are killing what is a simple to understand business.

Next steps

If this resonates with you the good news is you can fix it. So you can choose:

  1. Do nothing and hope it fixes itself
  2. Take the examples and run with them
  3. Have a discussion on Reality-Driven Leadership

As ever, the choice is yours.

Do You Let Technology Rule Your Life?

Are we giving technology permission to disengage us and block communication, collaboration … growth?

Everybody knows…

Ask anyone in business, education or life in general and they’ll agree with you that the brain is incredibly powerful. Most will agree that we only use it about 10% of its capability probably because they heard or read it somewhere. But has technology helped or hindered us in using the untapped 90%?

As we ‘know’ technology has catapulted our computing capability where a smartphone is standard issue and occupies a special place in handbags, purses and pockets. There’s even a special stand on the desktop and some have their own personalised cover with inbuilt tracking if you misplace it. It’s like an appendage, a limpit to which we have a physical and mental attraction. When it beeps, we reach for it as some form of (un)controlled automatic reaction… “someone needs me!”

Has “Technology” the Tool, become the Master?

The following video was sent to me with comments about how great this was and what it would do to make the scenes from “Minority Report” become a reality. And yes, if you watch this 10 min TED talk you’ll get that belief – even if you’ve no idea what the movie “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise was demonstrating.

The video, however, started with a message that maybe many miss and says a lot about where many people are today…

You might think that it was a very clever subliminal advertising promo for a new product. And you might be right. But that’s just a distraction for this purpose.

What else did you see? Behavioural Waste?

Did you see what I saw in the first 2 minutes – a message about awareness and giving our permission for a computer (smartphone) to become our master rather than a tool extending our capabilities? Do you observe behaviour that Meron suggests in restaurants – with others or yourself? How we easily give ourselves permission to be distracted even in a personal conversation where the other person perceives (their reality) disinterest…   (at this point my toes are curling up as I’m answering my own questions in my mind …and once again I unconditionally apologise to my wife …)

“… he forces his eyeballs back up to mine and said, ‘keep going, I’m with you’… the moment was dead.”

For me this short introduction captured the very real problem we have today of being engaged and disengaged. We do it mostly automatically without noticing – it’s our habit, we always do it that way. Of course when you start to think deeper lots of other messages come to light. What does it do for you?

Communication is a collaborative discussion

It also says to me that communication can easily be engaging or disengaging – no surprise there! The guy on another table sharing and laughing with his colleagues using the same device, a smart phone, about Instagram pictures. His colleagues were engaged in a collaborative moment. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that too.

Some questions may be…

  • Do you agree with Meron Gribetz that tools should extend our senses rather than going against them?
  • Is what you do, or what your organisation does blocking the collaborative brain power?
  • How do you see that manifest itself?


If you ask the simple but tough questions and answer them honestly you’re on the right road to developing your can-do attitude and winning mindset. Of course, technology, business systems/processes and other people could block or distract you. But it’s how you handle those ‘blockages and distractions’ that will make all the difference to your future.

Despite the complicated nature of some business, and with my oil industry experience I’ve seen a lot of complexity, you can always break it down into bite-sized chunks, so I still believe

business is simple, people make it complicated

To gauge where you are and see what type of attitude you, your team or organisation has – Can-Do, Can’t-Do or Won’t Do –  here’s a link to the Mind Fit Footprint that will give an insight into how much Behavioural Waste™ exists 

Want to take this further?

As ever you have a choice – what’s yours?

Read about Behavioural Waste™ ?  Improve your Communication skills?

What is the Poor to Peak Performance Continuum? Part 1

From Poor to Peak Performance

As we stood outside a conference room in Pakistan waiting to deliver a Masterclass on Behavioural Waste™ Management we did what we always do and looked at the banners by the entrance. Why? Simply because that’s what the delegates see last and it’s always good to know what you’re going to say first, so the audience and you know you’re in the right place!

At this particular event, there was a banner by the entrance from a Learning & Development (L&D) provider stating,

‘We unlock people’s potential’

which as ever got us thinking. It’s a great quote and can be found all over the world not only from L&D but it’s also prominent from coaching and probably other sources too.

One such coaching source, as some will say the guru of business coaching, former racing driver Sir John Whitmore, who sadly died in April, quoted in one of his books,

 “Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance”

and Graham Williams knows all too well having been part of Sir John’s team that John saw a clear link between potential and performance.

But what does this actually mean for organisational performance on a strategic or operational basis?

Do organisations really want everyone to unlock their full potential and become peak performers?

The answer to the second question would probably be a resounding NO! Now at first reading that might be a surprise to you but in short it’s unrealistic, as we’re only human and we can’t all be Superman or Superwoman and what would it be like if we were all peak performers? However when you think a little deeper what organisations want are most of their employees

to perform to a level that delivers value and, in some cases, adds value.

This would therefore seem a reasonable expectation – people engaged with what they do and ‘performing’ at work.

So when you try to measure this reasonable expectation what we unfortunately find, according to Gallup, 87% of employees across the world are disengaged, which means that they are probably poor and ineffective performers.

That doesn’t mean people are doing nothing and many are not busy, but that they are probably engaged in activities that do not deliver value, directly or indirectly. In other words, busy doing things that amount to Behavioural Waste™, which can be personal, cultural or systemic, of no value or of negative value to the organisation, and yet are costly and will negatively impact the bottom line.


If a majority of people at work are disengaged then unlocking their potential to some degree would make perfect sense.

This ‘unlocking’ process however requires a Can-Do attitude on the part of all the participants and then it’s linked to a clear purpose. Traditionally, the L&D’s approach to this challenge is to provide these disengaged underperforming people with an assessment of some sort followed swiftly with knowledge training.

Does this approach work? Has anyone ever checked it does?

An opportunity not to be missed

We regularly take the opportunity to ask L&D professionals five basic questions to try to understand how effective this knowledge training input has on improving performance by unlocking potential, and what it actually delivers. The questions are simple:

  1. What do you do to unlock people’s potential?
  2. Does it work?
  3. Does it change attitudes and behaviours?
  4. Does it improve business results?
  5. Where is the evidence?

What do you do to unlock people’s potential?

The first question is usually easily answered. With great enthusiasm L&D professionals tell us that

they create programmes that provide people with the knowledge that they, the L&D professional, think people need to perform their role in their context.

Does it work?

The second question took a bit more thought as most say that they sometimes did test the learning, at other times they didn’t. This did not answer the broad question as to whether their approach works. Nor indeed were they able to say with any confidence that it did work. But they all performed feedback after the learning – the proverbial happy sheet was logged in the filing system. Most said they used these feedback forms to bring back the best trainers/teachers.

Does it change attitudes and behaviours?

On the third question we’re told that it is almost impossible to measure attitude and behavioural changes. It was obvious this is a very strongly shared belief that dominated the L&D mindset and culture. It can’t be done! Sadly for them we know it’s not true. We do it! How can we measure the success of what we do otherwise?

Does it improve business results?

On the fourth question (which is what a manager, leader, board and shareholder wants to know) we’re told it is up to the participants to take that knowledge and use it. It’s not the responsibility of L&D! Whose responsibility is it?

Where is the evidence?

The fifth and last question is met with a simple reply, ‘they had no evidence that the training worked’ apart from the happy sheet taken on the day.

This last response doesn’t surprise us because it’s likely to be beyond their responsibility – but if not theirs whose responsibility is it? Who should measure the real ROI of the training?

Interestingly if anyone had looked, since 1989 (Alliger and Janek) it has been known that the link between learning, behavioural change and results is virtually non-existent. In 2005 Donald Kirkpatrick of training evaluation fame stated that there is a ‘devastating disconnect between learning and behavioural change’, and in 2007 the CIPD said in an article on training evaluation that the transfer of learning into results is ‘no better than random chance’. Clear research evidence simply proves it does not work. Is anyone aware of that? Should HR or L&D be aware of it?

The amount of time, effort and money that is invested in training by organisations across the globe is staggering yet they still do it, and organisations ask for it. If there is no evidence that it works, surely common sense says do something different. Or perhaps we’re just insane?

Einstein definition of Madness or Insanity

This is the first of a 2 part article because this 1st part may take some believing – but these are facts that you can research and a Google search may give some surprising results. Why not ask your L&D team to demonstrate improvements in performance?

Tune in next week for Part 2

GuaranteeIf you’re curious or keen to understand the impact of Behavioural Waste this free chapter is a must read Recycling Behavioural Waste

As always you have a choice  – what’s yours?

We GUARANTEE results if you really want to change

Has Your Industry a Reality Driven Leadership?

Has Your Industry a Reality Driven Leadership?

As every industry has its uniqueness, to answer this question might be contextually difficult. So let’s look at the question on something that the large majority of working people do – taking part in sport. It’s not rare or unusual that people at work are in some way involved in a sport, either passively or actively. In fact it’s probably over 70% of leaders and managers will either play a sport or be a supporter in one way or another.

If you ask a simple question

“why do you play or get involved…?”

the answers will include “ I like it..”, “gives me a buzz..” , “ spend time with mates..” , “ I get healthy..”, “keeps me sane!”  and lots of very personal interests that are being satisfied. It’s not surprising really as we make a conscious choice to do it, no one forces us and if we do it regularly we can assume we get sufficient enjoyment from it.

Now – do we believe those managing the sport are doing it for us or some other reason? Has my sport got Reality-Driven Leadership driving it? Are they making it better, more exciting, a magnet for young people… or what?

Now any sport that’s growing, bringing in new talent at the top, fulfilling the amateur’s wants and increasing the funnel at the bottom is clearly doing something right even if it’s not perfect. I’m sure you can think of improvements in your own sport if it’s on that track.

But what about other sports that have struggled? How about a game where business is traditionally known to be done?

Let’s look at Golf

It is not news to anyone in the golfing world that golf is facing many challenges and while the games interested parties look into fixing the problems, what if the games problems are viewed from a different perspective – one that a Reality Driven Leader would take.

One of the biggest issues the “owners” of golf face is the belief that golf takes too long. Now they haven’t just imagined this – it has come from questionnaires around the world, but as you might know today that questionnaires will give you the answer you want to see, so maybe the tail is wagging the dog?

If you go and watch a game of soccer (on the pitch for 90mins)  or American football (on the pitch for 60mins), the supporters that go and watch will spend at some 5-6 hours at the game if local, and longer if your team plays away. Would those supporters, not even players, complain about the game being too long?

However, let’s just assume we accept for a moment that game of golf is too long, how has this reality/perception arisen to be even a ‘starter for 10’ problem?

Years ago you would never hear no-one saying that golf takes too long, it was never even mentioned. Now, it is one of the first things that springs to mind. Golf was a part of corporate life and in many cases it was instrumental in securing a position and we all know that lots of business was done on the golf course.

Corporate golf was a ‘perk’ many enjoyed and fun was right at the top of the list. But was an important message being missed? The opportunity for golf to grow and the time spent on the golf course was an ideal time to learn and develop essential skills for sport, business and life.

Of course today, the corporate life is a small part of golf so things have changed, but let’s look at a common tale today of two different golfers.

A tale of two golfers.  Is this YOU

First let’s take a look at golfer number one – Jay. After a stressful week at work, you would think Jay’s  time on the golf course would be an opportunity to relax, you couldn’t be more wrong. But Jay looks forward to playing golf none-the-less. Arriving at the course in a rush and hurrying to the first tee, after a few nervous putts on the putting green, it is time for the first tee shot.

Remembering what happened last week, Jay is focused on avoiding the same scenario again and the out-of-bounds on the right. A last minute look down the fairway and a short, quick backswing the ball curves sharply to the left and finishes in fairway bunker. Unaware of the fact that Jay had avoided the out-of-bounds down the right, our golfer is still not happy with the result.

Already cursing and swearing Jay puts the club aggressively away in the golf bag and stomps down the fairway. Unfortunately what follows is four and a half hours of torment and anguish. Any good results are viewed only with a sense of relief and no learning (or enjoyment?) takes place. In the 19th hole after the game Jay is left wondering why play this ‘stupid’ game and you can guarantee that anyone Jay meets will not be encouraged to want to take up the game. But the same happens next week and the cycle continues.

Now what about golfer number two – Jules?

Equally as busy as Jay during the week at work with the main difference being how much Jules enjoys work and the people working in the team. Jules plays at the same golf course and is often in the group behind Jay.

Jules always looks forward to the weekend game of golf and views it as me-time and an opportunity to develop skills, learn and have some fun with friends. On the putting green Jules follows a now usual routine of making certain to assess the speed of the greens before heading off to the first tee.

Standing on the first tee, Jules is focused at first on what the outcome is wanted, and then a measured practice swing is followed by a polished pre-shot routine. A fluid swing results in a shot that doesn’t finish anywhere near the outcome wanted, but Jules has learnt from the shot. After receiving the usual comments of silence or “bad luck” from playing partners, Jules cleans the club and places it carefully in the golf bag.

Upon leaving the first tee Jules is looking forward to the next four and a half hours on the golf course, sharing stories, with the usual playing partners, enjoying the fresh air and exercise in beautiful natural surroundings and not to forget the opportunities to learn more and have fun.

For one of our two golfers time seems to drag and the 19th hole cannot come soon enough, for the other time would seem to fly. But no one has changed the speed of time.

RDL Front coverThe role of Reality Driven Leadership

There are 5 roles of Reality Driven Leaders:

  • Investigator –Challenges beliefs and identifies the reality
  • Innovator – Generates new ideas to tackle Behavioural Waste™ and identifies opportunities for Growth Behaviours
  • Navigator – Provides clear routes through the complexity that organisations operate
  • Stabiliser – Generates robust systems and processes that remain adaptable to meet change
  • Explorer – Explores potential scenarios that build organisational agility to meet constant and complex change

However, the first, being an Investigator is critical as it without reality you will build a solution doomed to fail.

So let’s ask the question to Jay and Jules – what would make the game better for you? Do you think the answer would be a shorter, quicker game that comes first?

Jules may reflect on the benefits of the game, personal soft-skills like confidence, self-belief and control, the well-being benefits and anything else that is attractive and what would make the experience better. If Jay heard those answers would Jay want to improve personally, enjoy the game more or want the game shorter? If the game was simpler it might help as there are so many rules, even the top pro golfers need help! But simpler should be the driver and that may well lead to being shorter, but will ½ hr really make a difference to the experience?

So as you can see the investigator, one role of the Reality Driven Leader is vital to getting things right and doing the right thing.

A belief that shortening the game of golf is the number one priority, will quickly become fact and then all change is driven by that one belief. But what does Jules and Jay think?


Next steps

As ever it’s a choice so if this has given you an idea, and you’d like to know more, the place to start is identifying Behavioural Waste™ in your working or social life.  Here’s a free chapter that explores the ideas

Behavioural Waste TM

And the choice is yours.

Has Your Industry Reality Driven Leadership?

What do you think?