“New economic progress depends more than ever on innovation” Bill Gates

Economic success is more than ever dependent on innovation, adapting, beating the competition and standing out from the crowd (Worthington 2005). Moreover, in our economic climate, the fate of our recovery is not only place in the hands of the consumer but also in the hands of businesses. Entrepreneurs can and will help the recovery, especially in the UK (Worthington 2005).  The ability to create, innovate, revolutionise and develop are not just ideals, they are starting points and the foundations for most business start-ups. It is a crowded market place, so what makes you and your product different? This process, all involves creativity and innovation. As such, it can be assumed that entrepreneurs need to be creative and innovative in order to start their entrepreneurial journey. But what is creativity? How does one become creative and think of a business idea, in everyday life?

The notion of success and especially, the success of an entrepreneur is often treated like a secret and some unidentified formula. It isn’t. Entrepreneurs are ordinary people. They don’t follow a set of stages in order to be successful; it is hard work, luck and an idea. The idea doesn’t have to be mind-blowing or brilliant, there just has to be an unanswered need and a created solution to fulfil it.

A key barrier, to my business journey so far, is the concept that an entrepreneur has to be innovative and creative.  I have often found myself thinking “I can’t start a business because my idea isn’t good enough” or “I’m not really an ideas person”. This partially based on my idealistic view of what an entrepreneur “should” be rather than what they actually are (Burns 2011). My view of someone who is creative was someone who is artistic, has lots of brilliant ideas and makes them into a reality. Someone who literally spends their day tripping over excellent solutions to problems. When I was a child, I really struggled with creativity in the artistic sense. I can’t draw, I’m not musical; I can’t physically create things of beauty, therefore I considered myself uncreative. Consequently, until recently I waited for the idea for a business to come to me; I’ve always felt I’ve had all the business skills to make a successful entrepreneur, but if only I had the idea. Within my early business life, I sat back and watched people thinking “I wish I could have thought of that”. But then I realised, innovation is within everyone’s reach; you just have to try and open your mind to the possibility. Creativity is a challenge you can set for yourself.

As I’ve developed, I’ve realised innovation and creativity in the business sense, spans a range of skills and abilities. Anyone can be creative, including me. When I was a child, my introversion would lead to hours spent inside my own head; considering different possibilities, different scenarios and situations and constantly questioning everything. I was brought up to challenge and to develop my own opinions. As an only child, from an extremely middle class background, I rebelled in order to stand out, be different; I embraced my quirks as my USPs. I became creative in the sense, I saw things differently and I challenged the status quo.

Consequently, I am creative or more correctly, I became creative through increasing my self confidence in my own ideas. I accept I’m not going to have that eureka moment and suddenly feel overwhelmed by divine inspiration; I’m not going to develop a new product. But what I can do is identify problems and gaps in the market; I seek to solve them and fill them.  Like my Father, I seek out effective and efficient processes; I look at services and routines and seek to revolutionise them. I’ve developed this skill, by taking time out of my day to think and to discover. As such any budding entrepreneur should set time aside to be creative and to question, a form of business mediation. Not just to reflect, but to consider the “what if?” Of course, this has involved the creation of a lot of TERRIBLE business ideas. My time spent as a business consultant, working with start-ups and idea incubation, taught me that entrepreneurs often have many terrible ideas, before having a good one. I remember working with one gentleman who wanted to create a Russian vodka importing business and had done a lot of research into it. Speaking to him about his idea and critically looking at, he wasn’t deterred. Weeks later, he came back with the skeleton idea for “stuff 4 unit”, which has been a runaway success. Consequently, innovation isn’t just about getting it right; it is about being open to the creative process and willing to try.

Another aspect of my creativity is my self-confidence in my own ideas. This self-confidence, drives me forward to consider and explore, shaping them up into the best idea possible. Many aspects of entrepreneurship are considered to be genetic traits (Burns 2011), things you are simply born with. But, I couldn’t disagree more. The ability to change and develop into who you want to be is a far more important factor. As a child and an early teen, I was the sort who gave up when things got difficult, I panicked and was unable to systematically deconstruct a problem and I was not confident in my own ideas. Today, the reverse is true. I seek out challenges, I love deconstructing things and I’m very confident in my own ability. My mum always taught me as a late teen, that (aside from her), no-one else was going to be my number fan, so I may as well take that role and champion myself into success. If I don’t believe in myself and my own creative ideas, then why on earth would anyone else? As such, creativity is not a personality trait; it is something that is developed.

A crucial aspect of creativity, is what Clutterbuck (2013), expounds as psychological safety. This is a key element to creativity. As an individual, you must feel safe and comfortable to explore ideas and to innovate, without reproach. This process involves thinking of ridiculous and unworkable ideas, having them deconstructed, but working through the process in order to develop the innovation process. This is even more crucial when working with others and bouncing off their creativity. It is a fine line, between critically looking at their ideas and pulling them unconstructively a part. Within any organisation, my academics and my own business, I want an ethos where every single person feels like they can make a different; they are more than just a cog into the corporate machine. Consequently, I want their ideas and input. But I also want them to respect my ideas too.

Zwilling (2013) in his article puts forward several ideas surrounding entrepreneurship and creativity. He discusses corporation’s perceptions of creativity and how as a business, we often perceive how to innovate, which has led to business incentivising creativity, changing the ethos of their company to foster creativity and that creativity is restricted by resources. As such, innovation is labelled as something that needs to be encouraged, needs to have a certain facilitative factor and that not all people can do.  

Being an entrepreneur, starts with the ability to create and build on ideas. Instead of focusing on the idealise entrepreneur, we should be looking at how to encourage innovation. However, like with any output, creativity and idea generation is different to everyone; it is a skill that can be developed over time. Business idea generation is daydreaming; dreaming and developing a perception of your idealised world, with something you have created in your mind in it (Zwilling 2013). To boost creativity and innovation, we need to promote more of this day dreaming and considering the “what if?”

There will always be people in the world that can take ideas and make them into a reality. But there may not always be new ideas and innovation. To ensure progress, we should not encourage this elitist view, that innovation and entrepreneurship is for the gifted few. Businesses and success start with idea generation, a process that is accessible and open to all. There isn’t a successful formula to developing a good business idea or a method of promoting idea generation, it all comes from self-discipline. For me that starts with my little note book, a quiet space and a pen. The more I’ve opened myself up to the business idea process and believed in my ability, the list of business ideas I’ve thought of has been remarkable. My notebook is full of terrible ideas, with no practical application or any hope of success, but then once every so often, there develops a good idea, with enterprise mileage (Zwilling 2013).

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Question everything

riddler

I heard a very good piece of advice recently, “question everything!” This is something I’ve been brought up to do, something I do daily and I think is a crucial skill within being an entrepreneur. The art of looking at the norm or a product and questioning, “Why does this have to be this way?” and “How could things be improved?” Nothing has to remain the same and nothing should remain unchallenged. That is exactly what entrepreneurs are, they are business challengers.

Questioning things is a deep part of my personality. I believe it improves processes, teams, and business. This aspect of my personality and my willingness to question things, leads me on to the focus of this post. What is the impact of my personality on our business team and on their learning?

Hills (2001:33) defines personality as “the probability of a particular set of behaviours occurring” and considers that “personality drives the nature of interactions between people.” From this evaluation, we can consider personality types are crucial to effective communication between people which is, in turn, crucial to developing an effective team. At first glance, this seems challenging, that who you are and how you are perceived directly impacts on our team. But from previous experience within teams, I would say aspects of my personality have been initially misinterpreted which have had an impact on the team. Once the team has got to know who I am and how I work, the impact is lessened dramatically.

So the questioning begins with my personality type. Well, I could list off a variety of attributes I think I have, but the most effective method of assessing this stems from the Myers Briggs Type Inventory. This comes in the form of a questionnaire and focuses on types of personalities leading to certain likely behaviours. A participant answers certain questions and is labelled a type. My type, is as always, an INTJ, which is apparently quite rare. I have been this type since I took the inventory, ten years ago. The only aspect that has changed, is that gradually, I’m becoming less of a strict thinker, representing the fact I consider people and their feelings on board. I also attempt to be more risk taking and go a little more on my gut instinct.

My results are as follows;

I’m 44% introvert – thought orientated, deep thinker, recharge alone

88% intuitive – seek pattern recognition and meaning

12% thinking – Objective, logical, deductive decision maker

33% judging – Seeks organised and structured learning.

From these results, you can begin to gleam what sort of person I am.

Another method of personality labelling has been put forward by Cattell and Kline (1977) and focuses on personality traits: 16 of them. Within their questionnaire, again you answer a serious of questions and the outcome is you are rated between 0-4 for each trait. The closer you are to 4, the more you are considered to hold the personality trait.

My results were as follows:

Warmth – 2.6

Reasoning – 3.4

Emotional stability – 2.6

Dominance – 3

Liveliness- 2.1

Rule conscious – 2.4

Social boldness – 1.2

Sensitivity – 2.7

Vigilance – 0.6

Abstractedness – 3.3

Privateness – 1.6

Apprehension – 1.7

Openness to change – 3

Self-reliance – 2.8

Perfectionism – 2.1

Tension – 1

So far within my learning, I have focused on self-awareness and self-reflection. This is the starting point. But I’m yet to consider what these results mean in the sense of the team and question the impact of my personality on the team.

Looking at the results so far, the picture paints an introverted, pragmatic individual. One who reacts based on rationality and judgement over feelings. Someone who seeks out meaning, challenges and can be detached and self-reliant. A dominant personality, who welcomes idea exploration and is always open to change.

As Hills (2001) suggests, it is the people within the team that make the team, hence knowing the people within the team and how they interact is so crucial. Consequently, it is the personalities, the mixture of personalities and understanding of those personalities that is the most important in determining the success of a team.  Hills (2001) discusses many barriers to team development and effective team learning, but there were two points, which instantly stuck out to me. He considered two of the barriers are (and he listed many), the detached learner and the self-sufficient learner. These are two aspects of my personality (I am quite detached and I am very self-sufficient) that I have never questioned how they would impact the team.

The detached learner is an introvert, one that doesn’t rely on people, one that needs to process information often in isolation before reflecting back into the group. This personality can be misunderstood, considered aloof and is hard to grasp by learners that like learning alongside other people. Consequently, my quietness in meetings, sitting a part and often leaving a meeting at the end to be on my own, can be (and on reflection, has been) mis-interpreted. It gives off the air of someone who doesn’t actively want to be involved and someone who isn’t interested in engaging with the group on a personal level. This couldn’t be further from the truth it is just the way I naturally am within a business environment.

The self-sufficient aspect has always been something I saw as a strong point. I take ownership of my own learning and I manage my own learning effectively. I don’t bring what I learn back into the team and I don’t actively involve them in the process, I often feel I don’t have to, after all I’m the one engaging in the learning process. Hence, I can come across as the one who seems to know everything or may be more aptly, “the one who think she knows everything”. But within a team learning business environment, I’m not being a team learner and I’m not ensuring the sustainability of the group. I am pocketing knowledge in secret.

Consequently, as a team, we need to take two steps. We need to first learn about our personalities, question them and understand what we do to then communicate that into the team. Secondly, we need to listen to others and how their personality may impact on the team. As a team and as individuals, assessing personality and behaviour, we need to appreciate the importance of diversity. We have a lot of differences, that instead of rejecting; we could focus on as being complimentary when paired together.

Moreover, the key to an effective team is compromise. It is about accepting how you are and how others are and working together on the business in the middle ground. Whilst having awareness, that if someone like me detaches, it is simply to think and reflect, and that will be of benefit to the team. Also, if someone else gets defensive or upset about feedback, it is because they are driven by their emotions; passion is always beneficial within a team. Most importantly, it is having the confidence to question the behaviours and personalities of others, to gain a greater insight and understanding.

As an individual, I can make small changes which will have a big difference, something which Anderson (2013) advocated in one of my previous blog posts. I can stick with the group more, even if just superficially during lectures, seminars and breaks. But I will take my lunch breaks alone; as this is the time I utilise to plan and reflect. In terms of sharing my learning, I can communicate more openly what I’m learning and highlight it within the group. I will stop looking at the learning from the point of view, what do I need to know and what does my business need to launch? Instead, I will look at it strategically considering, what will the team benefit from learning and what does the team need to launch our business.

These steps forward, couldn’t have been made without questioning things that are so natural within my interactions and learning processes; things I’ve never questioned before. Questioning enables progress and change. Therefore, question everything in business, including your personality.

 

 

Monday Morning Blues

Monday Morning Blues

The thing I love most about a Monday morning, is that for me, it the time to set all my targets and objectives for the coming week and plan for when it all needs to be done. This strangely fills me with excitement, I love challenges and having a lot to do.

It is also a time for reflecting on the past week and seeing how I did in relation to those tasks. Usually, I can see that my targets were a little bit unrealistic….but why not reach for stars in personal achievement?

So one of this week’s targets was to arrange to go to a presentation skills workshop (finally). I’ve been saying that I need to do this for the past few weeks and conveniently not doing it. But now it is arranged. So I can expect the usual fear, being made to do presentations, exploring why I hate them and why I try to avoid them. This session though, I’m hoping will provide a little more on the technical side. I’m known for my often overwhelming hand gestures. I don’t use my hands much when I talk, but as soon as I get on stage, I’m practically doing the YMCA. I am also far too reliant on my notes and I cling to them like my life source.

So next week 21st, I am attending. I also picked out some other sessions, I might quite like to go to. It has been a while, since I’ve completed reports, so I’m going off my previous knowledge from years ago. A refresher might be useful. I’ve also suggested that my team should have a look at the other sessions, as I think they could really benefit the team, making everyone have a certain level of knowledge that can be brought back within the team to make our project work better.

Another aspect of this morning, which relates to my Daria picture, is I collected my Insights Profile this morning. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything, that sums me up better, than these ten sheets of paper. It had an element of hard hitting honesty, but every single thing, I agreed with. I will go into these in deeper reflections later, but my take away message (typical for me to discount all the positive and jump straight into the negative analysis) was this idea of “aloof” and “unemotional”.

Ironically, the profile, said that would be the bit I honed in on and would question and reflect on the most, which obviously I am doing. There are many aspects of my personality that I have tried to change in order to work better and the profile was good at showing some of my weakness, that possibly come to the fore when unchecked. However, some of the negatives, due to my self-awareness, I’m able to realise this is within me and I can act in a different way. Again, I will go into more detail at a later date. But this element of aloof and unemotional, remains a concrete block of my personality. I’ve asked for feedback on it previously and it is something that no matter how hard I try, is commented on. My parents used to always comment on my controlled, unemotional nature as a child and growing up. I just have full control of my emotions and I don’t really “feel” things too much. Maybe the right phrasing is I separate feelings away……I always feel they are burried away. But I don’t think that is always a bad thing.

But the aloof element, I try so hard to be inclusive and to speak, so I’m always blind sighted when it comes up. A recent ocassion was when I went on a date, with my current boyfriend Jackson, whom I really liked. It was our first proper date. I spent the whole time, just being me and making a huge effort. However, Jackson has since commented, that I came across disinterested, aloof and like I wanted to be elsewhere. It is strange, that I can feel so differently on the inside and yet, portray the complete opposite unintentionally.

Consequently, this makes me question, what I’m bring perceived like now? My friends and people who know me, embrace my aloof nature and I’m known for being quirky. I guess, they accept me as I am, so I never have the opportunity to consider if it is an issue or not. I remember another occasion when I was in Enactus Newcastle. I’m not really into business/work and socialising. I portray a different side with the people who I know and keep them separate. Hence I don’t really socialise professionally….a downfall I know as networking is key. (but i HATE networking with a passion….i always feel so awkward.) But within Enactus, I “thought” I was socialising but I event got feedback, from my lovely friend Sophie (the much valued voice of brutual honesty – in fact I’ve learnt more about myself working along side Sophie, than anyone else), that I didn’t put enough effort in with the social side, seemed detached and uninterested, which was compounding the view I was aloof. I corrected my behaviour and put ALOT more effort in and reaped the rewards, but it felt very much, I had to really not only compromise, but be someone else, for a while to get them onside.

Why I’ve picked Daria here, is when I was growing up, she was the cartoon character I identified with the most. Awkward, detached, abit weird, not concerned about being liked, socially ridiculous…..and I used to watch it as a teen and think, that is me and feel a sense of acceptance. The older I get, the more frustrated I get, that THIS is how I’m perceived.

The more it is said negectively towards me, the more confused I am by it, the more impossible it seems to change and the more I worry it will effect me in the long term within my business.

But hopefully, I can take the questionnaire as a whole and learn from it.