Tag Archives: career advice

Best Of The Blog: Can We Agree To Stop Calling Them Soft Skills?

How did soft skills come to be known as this? And does calling them this underplay their importance in the modern procurement world?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Hugo Britt  in which he explains why soft skills are anything but!

The English language is full of misnomers. Just ask the killer whale (actually a dolphin), or the horny toad (actually a lizard). Once a word or phrase has entered common usage, it’s near-impossible to change it, even if the population generally understands that the term is misleading.

Which brings me to “soft skills”. I work for an organisation that provides training for procurement and supply chain professionals. As such this is one of the terms that I hear bandied about many times a week.

My argument is that defining this skill-set as “soft” actually devalues an essential part of every procurement professional’s toolkit.

To quickly summarise, soft skills are those used in dealing with other people. These include skills such as communication abilities, language skills, influencing skills, emotional empathy, and leadership traits. In contrast, “hard” skills – such as tendering or IT competencies – are readily measurable and (importantly) easier to train.

How Did They Come to be Called Soft Skills?

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has been able to pinpoint the first usage of this term.

The concept has been applied to business environments since at least 1936, when Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People was published. Carnegie’s work, which has sold a phenomenal 30 million copies to date, is essentially the definitive guide to soft skills. However, it stops short of actually using these words.

Recently, there seems to have been an explosion of articles and training courses focusing on soft skills, particularly in procurement. My theory is that procurement – having moved from back-office to business-partnership status only a decade or so ago – is, in effect, late to the soft skills party, and is currently playing catch-up.

It’s possible that the term “soft skills” simply came about as an antonym to hard skills. Perhaps it reflects the “softly-softly” approach, where managers choose to influence, rather than confront, and to make suggestions, rather than issuing orders. Whatever the reason, I believe it’s a misleading term due to the other connotations of “soft”.

These Skills are Anything But Soft

To my ear, “soft” means easy, pliable, or yielding readily to pressure. Yet a procurement professional with excellent communication abilities, who is adept at reading people, will be a “harder” opponent in negotiations, than a colleague lacking these skills.

Similarly, the connotation with “ease” is deceptive when it comes to trying to train for skills like change management or leadership. And quantifying the results of that training is more difficult still. Hence we’re hearing more and more that employers are hiring people based on their attributes (cultural fit, communication skills, willingness to change), recognising that hard skills can be easily picked up later on.

This has changed the approach recruiters are taking in job interviews. There is now less emphasis on hard skills, and more behavioural questions about how you would react in certain situations.

It’s worth considering whether, in the future, soft skills will become so vital, they’ll become a requirement for procurement roles. That situation already exists in some professions. Look at Medicine, where aspiring doctors are interviewed for qualities including maturity, communication, the ability to empathise and collaborate. Hugh Laurie’s Dr House, with his acerbic bed-side manner, would in reality never have gained entry into medical school, no matter how brilliant he was.

There’s a school of thought that when it comes to soft skills, you’ve either got it, or you don’t. Soft-skills training, therefore, is ineffective because you can’t change someone’s personality. Personally, I disagree because I’ve witnessed colleagues who have worked hard to develop skills like effective listening. There’ll always be hard cases, but the days of people dismissing these skills as “fluffy” or otherwise useless are over.

Three Alternative Names for Soft Skills

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, it’s nigh-impossible to change a term once it’s in common usage. However, if professional organisations, training providers, and the like, were to phase out the words “soft skills”, and call them something more accurate instead, we might see this phrase begin to disappear.

Here are three suggestions for a more accurate description of “soft” skills.

1. Essential skills: I’ve borrowed this one from ISM CEO Tom Derry, who also isn’t a fan of the term “soft skills”. Tom used the term “essential skills” when launching ISM’s Mastery Model to describe the many interpersonal attributes required on the journey to achieving accreditation.

2. EQ: “Emotional intelligence quotient” is the technical term for soft skills. I like this term simply because it contains the word “emotional”, which pretty much sums up what soft skills entail. Calling it a “quotient”, however, raises the argument that EQ, like IQ, is something you’re born with, and can’t be improved upon.

3. People skills: The simplest, and possibly the most accurate, alternative for soft skills is “people skills”. After all, every one of these skills involves dealing with people, while hard skills can generally be put to use sitting alone at your computer.

If you have other suggestions, or already use a different terminology in your workplace, please add a comment below!

5 Core Supply Chain Capabilities Everyone Needs

What are the supply chain capabilities that everyone needs? Dave Food gets to the core of the issue…

What are some of the key capabilities for supply chain professionals?  When it comes to acing decision-making, cost effectiveness, forecasting, and productivity you can’t go wrong if you’ve nailed these five things.

1. Capacity Planning

CP is essential to determine the optimum utilisation of resources, and plays an important role in the decision-making process. It is a technique used to identify and measure the overall capacity of production. CP is utilised for capital intensive resource like plant, machinery and labour. Capacity planning also helps meet the future requirements of the organisation; it ensures that operating costs are maintained at the minimum-possible level without affecting the quality, and ensures the organisation remains competitive and can achieve its long-term growth plan.

2. Inventory Management & Optimisation

IMO is a top investment priority for manufacturers. It is driven by a set of values which are typically service level and inventory investment. IO is widely known as a way to free-up working capital or cost-effectively increase service levels. IO can:

  • identify all the stages of inventory
  • point out exactly which stock is excess inventory and where it is stored in the supply chain
  • understand which warehouse space can be freed up (and which shouldn’t be)
  • create a series of “what-if” scenarios based on the organisation’s improvement ideas and alternative configurations.

An IO solution should offer opportunities for supply chain professionals to understand the causes of inventory, accept or reject recommendations, and build trust in fact-based decision-making.

3. Demand Management

Demand Management is a planning methodology used to forecast, plan for and manage the demand for products and services. DM has a defined set of processes, capabilities and recommended behaviours for companies that produce all manner of goods and services. DM outcomes are a reflection of policies and programs to influence demand as well as competition and options available to users and consumers.

4. Master Production Scheduling

Scheduling is the process of arranging, controlling and optimising work and workloads in a production process or manufacturing process. Scheduling is used to allocate plant and machinery resources, plan human resources, plan production processes and purchase materials. It is an important tool for manufacturing and engineering, where it can have a major impact on the productivity of a process. In manufacturing, the purpose of scheduling is to minimise the production time and costs by telling a production facility when to make, with which staff, and on which equipment. Production scheduling aims to maximise the efficiency of the operation and reduce costs.

5. Materials Replenishment Planning

Most MRP systems are software-based, but it is possible to conduct MRP by hand as well. In almost all supply chains, materials need to be stored or buffered. This competency involves different steps, considering aspects of the planning environment/conditions about the product and the supplier. The importance of the companies’ goals/motives for materials supply must also be assessed.

MRP uses global demand plans to create a pull-driven replenishment process; this prevents ordering from the supplier when there is excess stock elsewhere in the supply chain.

Dave Food is a supply chain innovator, a passionate educator, a futurist, a trend-watcher, an insightful consultant and a marketing strategist. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Best of the Blog: Beware The Scary Old Word CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting Tania Seary’s top advice on how to avoid the scary old world CPO!

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy. But they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver, and how you need to develop in the future.They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop leadership skills.The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

Four Ways To Ensure You Still Have A Job In 2030

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson warns that unless we act now, there’s a good chance we’ll find ourselves unemployed by 2030. 

ProStockStudio/Shutterstock.com

Sorman-Nilsson spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson wants procurement professionals to ask themselves two crucial questions.

  1. Firstly, think about your future career, your employability, or your entrepreneurial plans for the future. Given the kind of work you’re doing today, can a computer, an algorithm or artificial intelligence do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently in the future?
  2. Imagine jumping into a time machine and travelling to 2030. You step out of the machine, expecting to find yourself further up the career ladder, successful and wealthy. Instead, you discover yourself lying on the couch, watching daytime television, and no longer employable. What happened?

Roll up your sleeves and conduct a pre-mortem

Business are familiar with conducting post-mortems, particularly after a project or initiative has failed. Sorman-Nilsson advocates for “pre-mortems” instead: “Imagine that in 2030, your personal employment brand is now defunct. You’re no longer employable. What were the trends that you missed? What were the signals you chose to ignore? And what were the education investment decisions that you chose to delay that led to your personal brand’s demise?”

“Finally, ask yourself what change will you make today to prevent that outcome from happening?”

Job-stealing robots are already here

The AI disruption is happening already. Self-driving cars are a reality, machines have automated a lot of blue-collar work and AI is already impacting white-collar work. “In Japan recently, 34 humans in complex insurance claims processing were made redundant in favour of an insurance firms’ investment in IBM Watson to do those claims instead. We’re really just scratching the surface of what’s possible with artificial intelligence and computing power.”

Four actions to take today to save your career in the future

  1. Examine your skill set and focus on where you, as a human being, might still have some kind of competitive advantage over a robot. Where can your emotional intelligence (EI) compete with, or complement, artificial intelligence (AI)? In a world where everything that can be digitised eventually will become digitised, what are the fundamental human skills that you add to a profession that’s largely about numbers?
  2. Learn to speak digital: “You don’t need to speak Java or know the intimate details of cloud computing and data science, but you need to be comfortable in speaking digital. Digital really is the global language of business for the future.”
  3. Embrace the gig economy: As corporates start opting for robots instead of humans, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and offer your personal brand through increasing entrepreneurship.
  4. Invest in your education: “While we’re already experiencing fundamental shifts, we do have some time to prepare ourselves, but this means we need to really invest in our own learning, and our own agility in the way we position our skills. Aim to invest in at least one new skill every year.”

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the founder of Thinque – a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert these disruptive questions into proactive, future strategies. His latest book is titled Digilogue: How to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrow’s customer. 

How To Stop Writing ‘Like A Girl’ In The Workplace

Are women inclined to be more apologetic and less definitive in the workplace than men? Is a woman’s language and writing style more likely to be unassuming, uncertain – and possibly even self-deprecating?

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be hearing from a number of high profile procurement leaders on the topics of diversity, equality and women in procurement.

I’m a staunch feminist. Career driven, financially independent and proudly vocal about gender equality.

But I am also a copywriter and corporate trainer – a profession that forces me to scrutinise the way people write in the workplace every day. And although I routinely come across all types of business professionals who write poorly, I recently wondered: do women have specific bad writing habits of their very own?

So I did some quick research, and within a few minutes my hunch was confirmed.

According to Leadership Coach and Strategist Ellen Petry Leanse, women are three to four times more likely to use the word ‘just’ in their emails and conversations at work.

‘I am just wondering if you are available to discuss…’
‘Just following up on that report…’
‘I’m just writing to let you know that…’

So what’s wrong with ‘just’?

As Leanse explains, it’s a permission word. An apology for interrupting. Or a shy knock on a door before asking a question we have every right to ask.

Why do women feel the need to undermine the importance of their requests before even making them? I suspect we’re scared of being labelled overbearing, controlling – or god-forbid bossy. And so we overcompensate.

But here’s the more important question: What’s the consequence for women who use this weak, hesitant language at work? My hypothesis? Slower, fewer and less substantive responses to our requests… and ultimately, lower levels of respect from colleagues and clients.

(And trust me, women don’t need extra help when it comes to subtle sexism and gender inequality in the workplace.)

However, using the word ‘just’ is not the only writing crime females are more likely to commit than males. Here are some more email writing habits that could compromise your credibility at work.

  1. Overuse of qualifiers

Words such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, ‘maybe’, ‘somewhat’ and ‘possibly’ weaken your message and reveal a lack of confidence in what you’re saying.

If you don’t believe what you’re writing, why should your reader?

Before: You might want to reconsider our financial targets as I think they are probably a little too low.

After: I recommend we increase our financial targets.

  1. Unnecessary apologising and over-justification

Although apologies are appropriate on certain occasions, think twice next time you want to use the word ‘sorry’.

Do you really have something to be sorry for? Or are you simply asking a colleague to perform a task that falls comfortably within their job description?

Before: I am sorry for the inconvenience as I know you are very busy, but can you please pop by my workstation when you are next available as my computer seems to be quite slow today.

After: My computer is very slow today. Can you please come to my workstation today to have a look?

And be careful not to apologise for something that’s outside your control – or for not fulfilling an unrealistic request:

Before: I am so sorry but I wasn’t able to meet your deadline. I had too many other commitments and I need to get up really early in the morning. I tried my best but just couldn’t manage it. I hope you understand.

After: As suspected, I wasn’t able to meet your deadline. I will call you tomorrow morning to discuss next steps.

  1. Asking superfluous questions. Seeking permission.

Questions such as ‘is that okay with you?’ and ‘am I making sense?’ show a lack of confidence in your own opinions, suggestions and accomplishments.

If you need to ask whether or not you’re making sense, then you either already know your email is confusing – or you are revealing that you’re unsure of yourself and your ability to communicate effectively.

Before: ‘Would you like to see a summary of my research? You may find it quite surprising.’

After: ‘Here is a summary of my research. It contains many surprising findings, including…’

  1. Overly polite and waffly

What’s wrong with being polite?, I hear you say.

Nothing. But many of us take it too far, which can dilute the core message we’re trying to communicate.

Before: I hope you are well and that you had a really great weekend. I am just writing about our catch up next Friday and was wondering if we could possibly reschedule to the following week? Is that okay with you?

After: I have a conflict next Friday and need to reschedule our meeting. Does the following week suit you?

So, c’mon, ladies. Let’s stop undermining ourselves. It’s time to ditch these words and phrases from our emails and earn ourselves the respect in the workplace we know we deserve.

Vikki Maver is a specialist web content writer, marketing copywriter and writing skills trainer. This article first appeared on her website, refreshmarketing.com.au.

Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group. 

 

If I Could Turn Back Time: Advice To My Younger Procurement Self

Imagine if you could go back in time to when you started your first job. Wouldn’t you love to reassure yourself it was all going to be ok or offer some advice on how to navigate the next few years of your career? 

ashatan-f/Shutterstock.com

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile procurement leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Michelle Baker is Global Procurement Director: IT and Business Services Categories at  SABMiller Procurement.

In this interview Michelle discusses the issues that affect women in the workplace, advice she would offer her younger self and why she loves procurement!

Michelle will also be attending this year’s Big Ideas Summit as a panelist to talk about Global Risk assessments.

What have been the most successful approaches organisations you know have taken to decrease gender disparity?

  1. Putting gender disparity on the leadership agenda of issues to address.
  2. Balanced slates in recruitment.
  3. Making gender disparity a talking topic across the whole company, irrespective of people’s gender.

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

Leading and developing people in diverse global teams (and not just gender diverse, but race, religion, age, sexual orientation  etc.) has been fantastically rewarding personally.

My greatest accomplishment in the workplace is  that I am still curious and excited about the work I do after so many years:  IT’s evolution has  meant I have to constantly hurry to keep up!

What issues currently affect you as a woman in procurement?

I don’t think diversity is an issue exclusively to procurement.

But, looking back, I think the absence of positive role models in senior roles made it more difficult to navigate corporate politics than it needed to be.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

Too many to mention!  I have a healthy group of friends and family that go back to my early days at university in South Africa and many others scattered across the countries in which I’ve lived.  They each offer their own special support, whether they know it or not,  in my development.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you?

It keeps me endlessly curious and allows me to have direct contact with what a range of senior stakeholders in my company are doing and trying to achieve.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be?

Find a mentor, and never stop learning.

Some of the Procurious team joined Michelle at a Women in Procurement Breakfast last year at ProcureCon IT.

Following an  insightful discussion,  everyone said  the two pieces of advice that they would offer their younger selves.

Michelle put together this fantastic infographic to represent the group’s responses.

Let us know the two pieces of advice you’d  like to offer your younger self via the Bravo group. 

Join the  Big Ideas 2017 conversation and register as a digital delegate 

Don’t Judge A Procurement Job By Its Cover

Ever been attracted to a new job because of the flashy brand? Graham Lucas warns that you should be looking at the people on the inside. 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Graham Lucas is Managing Director – Procurement & Supply Chain and Logistics at Michael Page. He’ll be speaking at this year’s Big Ideas Summit about procurement  recruitment.  We’ve picked his brain this week to find out what key skills procurement recruiters are fighting over in 2017 and what mistakes job applicants should avoid making.

Who are the best procurement candidates and why?

For me, the best procurement candidates are those that are highly commercial whilst having lots of emotional intelligence. We are also increasingly talking about bravery.

The requirement around influencing, communication skills, and category knowledge are well trodden boards and are still very valid. But the bravery and creativity it takes to innovate is underdone. This is something that we need to see much more of day-in and day-out if the procurement functions are going to end up as overall commercial custodians of their organisations.

What key skills are recruiters fighting over in 2017?

People who can demonstrate an ability to:

  • Deliver value to the bottom line in a dynamic manner and not just reduce costs
  • Unlock competitive advantage from the supply base through true partnership
  • Influence others, both internally and externally
  • Embrace technology that can help us move further, faster
  • Innovate by managing a supply base of experts to help their business compete

What are the biggest mistakes procurement professionals make throughout the recruitment process?

I think many people are keen to talk about the £30m saving they made.  This is great but I do think that, unless you are managing a huge spend, it’s easy to oversell your impact.

Talking about some of the more tangible things that you did, and how you delivered these, is more impressive. I met with a candidate last week who had identified a food material that was being cooled a further four degrees lower than was required before being packaged. He was able to explain the financial benefits across the utility and labour spend which amounted to a £400k saving. All whilst speeding up the manufacturing process, which supports their customer objectives. Evidently, the previous half-dozen people in his role didn’t identify this.

How has the recruitment industry changed during your time at Michael Page?

Fourteen years ago the market was fairly linear. The line manager or their personnel team recruited someone, or an agency did.

Now the market is much more varied, highly competitive and dynamic. Four thousand recruiters started up last year I believe and that’s just in 2016.

Add to that the advances of technology (job boards, linked in etc.) in-house recruitment teams, RPO’s, MSP’s, and we can see that many more commoditised markets have been eroded.

Whilst recruiters are having to evolve and embrace these challenges, I genuinely believe the right specialists, knowledge and strong relationships, have never been more required than they are now.

What two pieces of career advice would you give to any of procurement’s rising stars?

Don’t be blinkered. The more you can understand your broader business, the sector you are in, supplier challenges etc., the more likely you are to progress. Your ability to navigate organisations and departments outside of your own will be essential. That’s the secret to being  highly successful.

Don’t judge a job or organisation on the brand, or value of your category. A great career move tends to be based on the person you will work for, the people you will work with, and how those two things can personally develop you.

How do you identify innovation in candidates?

Someone should be able to clearly and positively explain what they have challenged, changed and most importantly, show what positive impact that has had on customers. For me, the best innovation has the customer at the heart of it, adding value to them even if at times it hasn’t directly benefited the bottom line.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 

 

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock.com

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

How to Hit a Target 10 Years Away – An Olympic Effort

How do you sustain your focus on a goal that’s 10 years away? One Olympic legend shares her story – how will you apply it to your career?

Australian Olympic legend Chloe Esposito trained 45 weeks a year for an incredible 10 years before the day she won gold in the Modern Pentathlon in Brazil. Chloe visited The Faculty CPO Roundtable National Meeting in Sydney to share her inspirational story with our members.

In case you missed it during the Olympic Games, here’s the incredible moment Chloe broke away from her competitors to cross the finish line in first place.

Chloe’s interview with The Faculty’s Sally Lansbury was packed full of life lessons, insights, and a strong message about persistence and resilience that can be applied to every career.

At what point of the event did you know you were going to win gold?

I only knew I was going to win after I put down the gun (in the final shooting event) and started to run for the finish line. I just bolted out of the shooting range – I didn’t know where the other competitors were, but I just focused on myself as that’s really all I could control. When I glanced back, I knew that I had it. It was such a pinch-me moment, and one that I’d trained for basically all of my life.

What exactly does the Modern Pentathlon involve?

It’s actually five events in one – fencing, swimming, show-jumping, shooting and running. They’re spaced over the day, and you start each event with a penalty depending on how you’ve performed in the previous event.

The challenge is to train across five different areas – my father (who is also my coach) and I have deliberately focused on my weakest area, fencing.

We moved to Budapest, Hungary, to concentrate on fencing. Budapest is like the boiler room of Modern Pentathlon. It’s right in the middle of Europe, with so many competitions and pentathletes there.

My favourite event would have to be horse riding. You only get 20 minutes with an unknown horse before the event, so there’s no point trying to train the horse in that time. You just spend those 20 minutes getting to know each other.

What do you think gave you your edge over the other athletes?

Putting in the extra 1 per cent. In Budapest we doubled the hours of all training. Whether it was pouring rain or snowing, I’d still train, no matter what. My family and I got to be known as the “Psycho Espositos” – our training schedule is nuts, but it gets results!

The other factor that gave me an edge is the incredibly supportive network around me. My dad, mum, brother and sister all got behind me to help me achieve a life-long dream.

How do you sustain focus on a goal that’s 10 years away?

The secret is to set up a series of short-term goals and focus entirely on those. These were smaller competitions, world cups and so on. If you try to think too far ahead, you’ll go crazy and you won’t get there.

You also need to have the flexibility to change your short-term goals as circumstances require. For example when I tore my Achilles tendon, we changed a lot of my goals to focus on recovery, mainly through spending more time in the pool.

What’s next, now that you’ve achieved such a major life goal?

Tokyo 2020! There’ll be huge pressure now that I’m a gold-medal winner, but I’m definitely going to give the Tokyo Olympics a go. In the meantime, I’m stepping into a completely new world to what I’m used to – speaking, presenting, television appearances. I’m starting to build another career for myself.

What life lessons have you learned through your Olympic journey?

I can think of five lessons that will take me right through my career:

  1. Hard work always pays off at the end of the day. When you’ve worked so hard, something good has to come out of it!
  2. The extra 1 per cent always pays off in the results.
  3. You’ll need huge determination to achieve your career goals.
  4. Don’t rush into things – the opportunity will eventually come.
  5. Give yourself some time off. I like to do something completely unrelated to training at least once a week, such as going to the beach.

Packed with value, The Faculty Roundtable gives member organisations access to cutting-edge thought leadership and commentators, a ready supply of valuable expertise through exclusive market intelligence, as well as networking and professional development opportunities for CPOs and their teams.

Please contact Sally Lansbury for more information.

My 5 Killer Job Interview Questions

How do you separate the diamonds from the rough in your next recruitment process? Do you have the killer questions to help?

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When I started all my businesses (The Faculty, The Source, and Procurious) I declared that I was building a culture, not a company.

Culture can’t be forced, but it also doesn’t happen organically. It stems from recruitment. It’s not always the best person, but the right person for the job, that can help foster company culture.

Leadership experience, technical skills and cultural fit are all important here, so how can you recruit someone that ticks all three boxes?

From all my years of playing interviewer, I’ve compiled five killer questions that separate the diamonds from the rough.

1. The “Tipping Point” Question

“What were the reasons for leaving your current job?”

Asking a potential employee why they decided to leave their job provides good insight into what makes them tick. It also highlights their personality and gives you a definite indication of what they don’t want to happen in their new job.

It’s also a good question to ask in exit interviews to ensure your business can learn from its mistakes.

2. The “Leader of the Pack” Question

“Tell me about something you’ve lead – a group, a team, a movement, an initiative…any situation where you were in the lead?”

This question resulted in the most surprising interview response ever. When I first established The Source, my procurement recruitment company, I was interviewing for the Managing Director role.

When I asked this question, one of the candidates paused and then answered, “I once led a revolt against management in a manufacturing company I worked for.” Wrong answer.

3. The “Mentor Me” Question

“Tell me about some people you’ve mentored and what they are doing now?”

If people stumble on this question, they obviously don’t have a track record in developing people. Furthermore, if they can’t talk to what their mentees are doing now, they really weren’t genuinely committed and interested in that person’s development enough to keep track of their progress.

4. The “Question” Question

“Do you have any more questions?”

I always want people to have lots of questions. And not just about them – their pay, their hours, the role and where they’ll sit – but about the business, about the industry, the issues we are facing, about our future.

To be successful in any business, people need to be genuinely concerned about their profession or industry, not just their own career development.

5. The “One Word” Question

One of my mentors gave me this tip. One of her interview questions was:

“If your friends could summarise you in one word, what would that word be?”

This question is great because it allows the candidate to drill down to the one attribute they represent but also aspire to be.

Want to hire someone who describes him or herself as “encouraging” or “meticulous”? Of course you do. Someone who describes him or herself as “Chatty” or “Brilliant”? Didn’t think so.

Reflect on Your Questions

So you’ve asked your questions, the interview is complete and you look to move onto the next candidate. Before you do so, remember the final important step – reflect.

This was a key piece of advice I received from one of our recruitment experts at The Source. It’s important to reflect on the candidate’s responses and behaviour to help determine where they fit in the organisation.

Hiring managers should always consider their current and desired workplace culture, and think about how the candidate fits in.

To do this, I often ask myself:

  • What were the energy levels like? Did the candidate have energy – physical, mental and spiritual (I know, sounds spooky…but think about it!)?
  • Did the conversation flow? Was the candidate both interesting and interested? Did I struggle to follow what they were sharing? Was the conversation stilted?
  • Would the person be a good representative of the team? Here, I’m talking about their values and approach, as well as the way they communicate and present.

With these interview questions in your repertoire plus some “reflection” time, you will be on your way to recruitment success.