Posts Tagged ‘Inspire’

Asking questions as a creative habit

August 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are genuine.”
Abraham Lincoln

Being a bit, well, old I can remember when research exclusively meant having to physically go to a library and read stuff. And when I say read, I mean really read. You’d ask librarians, speak to subject matter experts and whittle it down yourself to a few key titles if possible. Then you’d be alone: scouring the contents pages looking for the right chapters.  Essentially it was a whole lot of reading. Then the world changed.

Behold the internet!

Often we fail to recognise how it has made stuff quicker and simpler. Now we don’t even have to read because a subject matter expert has made a video. When it comes to DIY it’s possible to “get good” at any number of things because one can watch a VideoJug or YouTube expert showing you how.

Of course, quicker and simpler isn’t always better.

As my induction to Blue Sky Performance Improvement rattles along I find an increasing need to up my understanding on various topics. This has become a curious hotchpotch of t’interweb (video or otherwise), reading actual books, working with subject matter experts and getting coached. It’s underpinned by plain ol’ fashioned questions.

Then it occurred to me that I was experiencing blended learning. Now this has me reflecting not only on the shortcomings of each method in isolation, but of my own disappointingly lazy tendencies for finding evidence to fit the crime (so to speak). So as adoring of the web as I am, my level of trust in myself needs to be policed. I am staying honest and tempering my rampant enthusiasm by one simple question.
Is that true?

Is that cynicism? Nope, it’s pragmatism dear reader. The hopeless romantic in me would love to think that everything published out there in the Cloud was good and true. Then I read about Professor Hal Gregersen at INSEAD who positively relishes asking questions of what is presented to him. Like him I now find myself helping reshape and refine existing materials, practices and processes because questions have been asked. This feels good. This adds value. So now I modify my approach.

So what if that was true?

Now we have joyously disruptive conversations around here that test current thinking and move us ahead. How very refreshing.

Abe Lincoln would be proud…

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementwww.blue-sky.co.uk

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“If I Had More Time I Would Write a Shorter Letter”

August 7, 2013

Simplicity & Sophistication.

There’s much debate over who this quote is actually attributed to. On this occasion, let’s credit Mark Twain. More here. No matter, it’s a theme that fascinates me. (It’s also a rich vein for irony as any expansion on the topic surely invites ridicule. Note to self: Use the KISS principle in blogs.)

Recently joining Blue Sky I am learning all the time about us: as people and The Blue Sky Way. Then there are our many wonderful clients and projects. Have you seen our case studies?! It’s really rather exciting! And yet really rather overwhelming when you’re new. My poor, overloaded Welsh brain is imploring folk to provide summaries, headlines, priorities and snapshots because it can’t make sense of it all.

This is where the fun starts.

You see, when you are so very deeply connected with a job/project/idea, to pull back and give someone a simple oversight is surprisingly challenging. It’s all too easy to brain dump and give all the detail in briefing a colleague. How so? This is human nature on several fronts: our professionalism, our intelligence, our thoroughness, our knowledge, our expertise all jostle for position.

Yet such detail is not always helpful to the new guy/gal. Not at first. So how do you do this in a manner that gets the newbie up to speed with maximum efficiency? Time to efficiency is a concept all of us have some interest in at work. (Although when you Google it I was rather surprised to see searches around Viagra as a top hit!) How long before you’re going to be truly effective?

Not that one can exist on a diet solely of sketches, helicopter views and big pictures you understand. Yet to prioritise, one must get a handle on the themes at play and then seek out the detail. It came to me in a flash: I need people to pitch to me so that I can buy what they are talking about.

At times like these I turn to Dan Pink. In his corking read “To Sell is Human” he postulates that we need to practice six pitches to get on.  Here’s the first one:

http://vimeo.com/66508882

On a note closer to home, I’ve had success with asking “how would you explain this to my maiden aunt?” Then I get a non-technical, jargon free, plain English overview for what’s going on. It works wonders. Why? Because then I’m curious: then I want to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Da Vinci said it before, I’ll say I again:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Ian-Beer - Blue sky Performance Improvementhttp://www.blue-sky.co.uk

Bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses

July 25, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I start to read numerous articles each week, but in truth, actually finish reading only a small proportion. I’ve been wondering why that might be.

I think many open with statements that immediately make me feel like I’ll need to commit to a considerable journey of exploration with a resulting output, that in truth, is likely to leave me none the wiser.

Confronted with complex questions, theories, models, mnemonics, tinged with an inordinate amount of academic references and unpronounceable words, the outcome tends to be the same. “Hmmm, haven’t I got work to do?”

Now, whilst I’m no Stephen Hawking, I’m certainly no slouch so surely if I find much of this stuff heavy going, intimidating even, there must be others like me, no?

I want to read articles that engage me immediately. Things I can identify with and understand without reaching for a thesaurus, something that hints at what’s in store and lures me in with tantalising titles, offering me a little “try before you buy”. Essentially, I want a mini-break before committing to the fortnight’s holiday.

Well, I fairly recently discovered Daniel Goleman and have found his articles an absolute breath of fresh air. Whether skimming the surface or a mere flirtation with the topic, he has a way of keeping it simple whilst offering links which will take me on the deeper journey, if and when I decide I’m ready. Whether it be Evaluating your own Emotional Intelligence with the starting point being asking myself 9 very straightforward questions or exploring the Five Key Steps to Habit Change, he does enough to engage my thinking swiftly.

Seriously, who could resist an article entitled Maximize your “Aha!” Moment Before I know it, I’m there, bags packed and heading off on a journey to who knows where.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that this is over simplified nonsense. Trust me, with his Ph.D. from Harvard, for those interested, there’s enough references to Freud and gamma activity to keep even the purists happy.  I think he succeeds where others struggle, in bringing the complexities of the human brain to the masses.

Miranda-Cain---Blue-Sky-Performance-Improvement   Mirandaatbluesky

Blue Sky Performance Improvement Logo - High Resolution

Quiet Please!

March 5, 2013

When a colleague recommended Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ I was intrigued. The introvert/extrovert spectrum is a topic I have long been interested in and I had no idea that such a book exploring this existed.

Built on the premise that Western culture has increasingly adopted an ‘extrovert ideal,’ and that culturally, we need a much better balance between extroversion and introversion, both in the workplace and in the classroom, Cain proclaims that in this day and age, the bolder, louder extrovert is valued over and above the more reserved, quieter introvert. In a world where introverts are increasingly pushed aside, she shines a spotlight on them, not to criticise extroverts, but to celebrate their opposite, arguing that they, too, have an important role to play in today’s society. A greater willingness to listen to others, heightened sensitivity, risk aversion and potentially a heightened moral sense are just some of the traits she believes are linked to introversion that can prove invaluable in the workplace, and adds weight to the idea that success is not just the domain of the extrovert!

It may surprise you to know that between one third to a half of the population are introverts, and by introvert, we are not talking about shyness (which is a fear of social judgment), but actually about the way one responds to levels of stimulation, including stimulation of social situations. By design, extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, for example loud parties, group chat, thinking aloud, while introverts feel at their most comfortable when experiencing lower levels of stimulation i.e. spending time in their own company, enjoying quieter environments or reading a book.

Needless to say, the book now has pride of place on my bookshelf as not only was it factual, rigorously researched and engaging, but it has left me feeling empowered, with a real boost to my self-esteem. Drawing upon many years of extensive psychological and neurobiological research, this book has shed some real insight into how aspects of my personality, such as not enjoying school, avoiding small talk, feeling uncomfortable in large group situations and thoroughly enjoying quiet evenings by myself or with one or two close friends, are actually all related to my introversion.

Not only do I recommend it to any introvert, partner or parent of an introvert, but to extroverts looking to understand a large proportion of the population a little better… If you are considering it, but still not convinced, follow this link to watch Susan passionately bringing it to life.

Kat@Bluesky

Katherine Marsh - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

40 feet up and what do I think about?

November 9, 2011

Imagine yourself 40 feet up in the air on a platform that looks like the size of a postage stamp, think about how hard the ground could feel and you may understand why I had the most amazing experience; what it really takes to face your fear and conquer it.

Working with like minded individuals that were willing to go the distance meant that we challenged not only ourselves, but worked as a team and faced our fears together. I think my CEO may have a nice memory of me holding on for dear life waiting for the next person to come up thinking: “I’m sure I love Blue Sky for something”. That’s something that we will share together knowing that it happened 40 feet up on a postage stamp size platform. See picture for the full effect!

Inspire - 40ft Up - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Blue Sky recently got together for one of our unique Inspire events designed to take us out of the office and our comfort zones and take business into the creative and inspiring environment. I have truly walked away with new ideas after conquering what I believed to be fears. This experience has definitely shown to me that taking the time out to review where we are, who we are and what we can do to change is an essential part of any business and its model.

Understanding your staff, their wants, needs, (fears), motivations, drivers and general well being helps drive a company forward. Reviewing not only the current but the future and past helps to resolve any barriers that could help drive consistent innovation and creativity at every level.

By all means review the many photos and videos of the team, especially the one with all the girls on the platform and you may understand my meaning. I’m sure we can all take something away from this experience.

Facebook - Bluesky People - Blue Sky Performance Improvement   Flickr - Bluesky People - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Ben@Bluesky

Ben Wardell - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Inspire – The Way of the Panda

July 28, 2011

Imagine a beautiful sunny day with the company setting out for their mystery hike, blindfolded and bundled into the back of a mini van. If we hadn’t seen them all go off so peacefully we would have thought they were being kidnapped. But no, their fate involved a map, a compass and a lot of walking.

However, not us! Physically impaired yet still inspired, unable to take part in the outbound antics due to a variety of injuries, the (special) team were empowered to choose how they spent their afternoon. After some serious consideration there was a clear winner…Kung Fu Panda in 3D at the Odeon, Guildford.

Simon, Charlie & Yvette Inspire Themselves

Two of our values – connection and progressive – formed the theme of the day. We lived these to the full, connecting via hot dogs, wearing each others’ popcorn and Simon made progress as he had never experienced life in 3D. With the help of Kung Fu Panda we reflected and recognise that inner peace and choosing who you are, right now and in the moment is a key lesson.

We ended our day connected, inspired and a bit sticky (from the popcorn)!

Simon, Yvette & Charlie@Bluesky

Simon, Charlie & Yvette - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Feel the love and blindfold your staff

July 25, 2011

As a CEO and highly trained chartered accountant with a passion for numbers and ROI I have a major confession to make – I absolutely love my role in developing the Blue Sky culture.

Yes it’s the soft fluffy stuff that’s my joint passion and I challenge every leader to truly embrace it. We preach engagement to our clients, we extol the virtues of driving performance and for me as a CEO it’s my role to lead on it and make sure it truly happens.

Inspire - Blindfolded on a bus to nowhere

Like all organisations we have core values and I try hard to make sure they’re not simply fancy words on a poster but we are living them and breathing them and holding ourselves accountable to each other when we’re not. A great example of making sure we embed them is our Inspire events. Every four months all our staff spend two solid days together and the agenda is simple – take time out to reflect on and live our values. We host many different sessions so for example at our June event we held a brainstorm around updating our approach to social media to demonstrate our value around Progress.  Another value core to us is Being Authentic and a workshop around creating an open feedback culture was well received by staff and is something we are always striving to create. Then there was the fun bit! Connection is another one of our values and this time that meant blindfolding all our staff, putting them in a mini bus and abandoning them in various locations in the Sussex countryside (yes now and again a leader’s role definitely means you can be fiendish!) and make them find their way back to our secret location.  Four hours later some felt more connected than others!

So what do you do to lead the culture of your business and do your staff see you at the heart of it?

Go on, embrace the fluffy side. You might just enjoy it!

Marc@Bluesky

Marc Jantzen - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement