Monthly Archives: November 2012

No Limits

How did they do it? The follow-up survey suggested the team had knocked the cover off the ball. In six short months, every recommended action had been addressed and the business results were the buzz of the senior leadership team. Raising the bar to this level was, to many, a setup for disappointment. The industry’s track record predicted a growth ceiling.

The ambitiousness of the project couldn’t have been anticipated because the team had never stretched themselves to this degree. Sure, everyone bought into a culture of innovation, but most believed this meant freedom to be creative. Take smart risks. Be willing to fail in order to succeed. Embrace differences in perspective. All of the basic anchors of innovation were defined.

When the team leaders looked at the challenge, though, they began by questioning limits. Why are we aiming our product at the same target market as our competitors? What would happen if, rather than merely pushing the limits, we obliterated them? Why can’t our product thrive wherever consumers call work, home, or play? What would we need to deliver to make our product as unique and dynamic as each person who uses it?

The team found rare air. The call to action had done more than igniting creativity. As they pushed themselves to the next level, they discovered an affinity for tension. Productive conflict became normal as teammates dared each other to challenge their positions. Discomfort was expected.

These are the rules of engagement for continuous evolution. Complacency is the enemy. Celebration makes you vulnerable. As soon as you start to feel like you’ve forged something never before accomplished, a new opportunity arises that wouldn’t have been visible without the labor just completed. So you walk away from the temptations of claiming victory and reboot the team for the next iteration of amazing.

This kind of innovation doesn’t come from running faster or working more hours. Nor does it grow out of permission to think independently. It comes from a blending of souls and the chemical reactions sparked in the laboratory of healthy culture. It comes from the courage to be exposed. It comes from asking impossible questions about taboo topics. It comes from the delivery of your essence in every expression of your craft.

Soon to become an internal best practice for the parent company, the team must now find time to share the lessons of this project with their counterparts. The bottom-up momentum has begun. There are no limits to where it can go.


The 2012 Team Clock Institute Thank You List

Surrounded by vital partnerships, it’s time to give pause for reflection and gratitude. Where do you fit on the Team Clock Institute’s 2012 Thank You List?

Clients & Customers – the early adopters and loyal returnees to a model that empowers team wellness.

Villages & Communities – the ecosystem that nurtures and feeds the development of products and services.

Interns & Students – the youth and vigor that inspires new ideas.

Advisers & Consultants – the insight and wisdom that illuminates and fill the gaps in knowledge and experience.

Artists & Designers – the sources of beauty and expression that gives color and personality to the tools and resources.

Family & Friends – the unconditional love and support that anchors stability and fuels perseverance.

History & Legacy – the calling of purpose that is woven through every interaction.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Playfulness is Contagious

The host and his panel had two essential traits in common. They came to play and they came to share. The Du Page Children’s Museum recently hosted an event, Creating a Culture of Innovation, featuring the co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, Tom Kuczmarski. For over an hour, Tom led an exchange with a panel of recent award winners energizing a full house at North Central College with stories of exploration, failure, and discovery.

Playfulness is contagious. Innovative leaders attract open-minded talent who collaborate in a gradual evolution of a culture that creates things that are new and have value. Invention and advancement are the byproducts. The Team Clock model looks at this in four quadrants:

Investment: A willingness to embrace differences, constructive challenge, and experimentation is woven into the fabric of the team’s mission and behavioral norms.

Trust: Interdependence arises from accountability to the agreed-upon norms and the energizing collaboration that ensues as teammates grow closer by trading ideas, practicing respect, and allowing vulnerability.

Innovation: Comfort is sacrificed for excitement and fun and teammates are willing to stretch themselves, take smart risks, and even fail if it provides a lesson for future success.

Distancing: Moving away from the way it’s always been requires poise. Re-engaging in another round of creation takes resilience. Innovative teams are able to let go of the past and embrace an unknown future.

The social interaction following the Du Page Children’s Museum event was remarkably different than the networking that characterized the pre-event gathering. Prior to being inspired by Tom and his panel of innovators, most of us caught up on work and family news, renewed old acquaintances, and shared introductions to new colleagues. After the event, the room was alive with ideas and collaborations. Business cards and contact information was exchanged specifically for follow-up reasons and task lists were ignited.

Playfulness is contagious.