The importance of trust

What does it take for a team to perform optimally?

For teams to perform at their best they need to trust one another and that is something that takes time to be built and can so easily be destroyed.

I wanted to look at how top-performing teams can push their work into areas that are outstanding and even exceptional. It seems that trust is the key.

Who do you look to as a creative genius?

Do you consider Picasso a creative genius? What about Thomas Edison, Alan Turing, Georgia O’Keefe, Elon Musk, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Banksy, Elizabeth Gilbert? I admire these people for what they have achieved, some more than others. But, I’m reticent to cite anyone as a creative genius on their own as it builds a cult of individualism around creativity and I don’t think that is a true reflection of where real creative thinking comes from.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

– Ernest Hemingway – Writer (1899 – 1961)

My candidate for the title creative genius

I’m a rugby union fan and because of my father’s influence, I am a Leinster and Ireland supporter. This means I worship the legendary centre who played for both of these teams, Brian O’Driscoll. Now, Brian O’Driscoll, or BOD as he is often known, is lauded as one of the greatest centres to play the game due to the beautifully creative mindset he brought to the game (BOD is retired since 2014). There are many videos on Youtube that show  BOD’s genius in action such as this one:

The reason I mention O’Driscoll in this post is that he exemplifies trust in his teammates and this goes a long way towards my view of him being a genius of creative play. Take a look at this “no-look” pass (or blind pass) where he trusts his teammate to be in the correct place in order to make his quick thinking work to the advantage of the team.

The death of the super chickens

Margaret Heffernan, in both her talk “Forget about the pecking order at work” and her book Beyond Measure, lays out the problem we have in our organisations. We are most likely to find practices that can work against our purpose. We might find that we have a culture of competitiveness or secrecy. It is hardly surprising. Our society puts us all into direct competition with one another to go to the right school, get the best grades, rise to the top.

We celebrate the individual when we should celebrate the work of everyone in our organisation and encourage each person by listening to them and trusting them.

As for the super chickens, watch the talk to find out what happened to them:

Nobody wins unless everybody wins
– Randy Papadellis – CEO of Ocean Spray

So how do we build this culture of trust?

At MundoNovus we facilitate games and liberating structures and can bring these into your organisation to build trust and courage within your workforce. We will work with you to develop a team or sets of teams that actively listen to one another and build solutions together.

We also create structures and equip you with methods that will uncover knowledge within the organisation that has until now been silent or unnoticed. This will move your organisation along towards becoming as creative and forward-thinking as possible.

And, who knows? We may even create a team of creative geniuses who support each other.

The road to success is littered with mistakes, it matters more to build trust and encourage ambition than to reward obedience.

– Margaret Heffernan – Beyond Measure

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

You’re not listening well enough

The structures in our organisations are, more often than not, a contributory factor for ruin. We still rely on top-down management to set the course and come up with new ideas and strategies. We tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people who reflect our worldview and opinion back to us. This could lead us to disaster.

But, there is something we can do about this, something easy to do that will provide the radical results we need.

You’re missing the rest of the picture

There is a real threat to every one of our organisations, whether they are small businesses, large corporations or national governments, from inherent biases within the structure of our organisations and ourselves. These can range from overconfidence and overoptimism to confirmation bias and the need to conform or groupthink. In fact, Ralf Dobelli identifies 99 different biases in his book The Art of Thinking Clearly that we can be making use of without realising it.

These biases are analogous to shortcuts in our thinking and we may be so used to them that we don’t realise they are present in our thinking. They are the result of our life experience which is the sum of our upbringing including education, surrounding culture and many such factors. It is therefore useful to us to circumvent such biases by attempting to hear from a wider set of people with a wider set of variations in their upbringing, education, status, cultural background etc. This will uncover some of our inherent blind-spots. This will help us to see some of the rest, if not all of the rest, of the picture.[/vc_column_text][gca_standalone_testimonial gca_testimonial_quote=”We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.” gca_testimonial_name=”Frank A. Clark” gca_testimonial_position=”American lawyer and politician (1860 – 1936)”][vc_column_text]

The real problem

In his book Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed champions diverse thinking and makes a particular point about our bias towards people who share our viewpoints and experiences. We will tend to surround ourselves with people we identify with and our identity is informed by our beliefs, background and perspective amongst many other things. This is a subconscious bias and becomes a habitual way of thinking known as homophily

Are there any solutions?

The good news is yes there are solutions. There is some element of paradox in that to free ourselves from this problem requires some structure. This can be in the guise of:

  • Being pragmatically conscious of our bias and seeking to counteract it

Or in some cases such as top-down management and hierarchical problems causing us not to hear from a wider pool of people MundoNovus can help by:

  • Using facilitated meeting practices that can encourage organisational cultural change
  • Offering workshops on exercises that encourage listening with intent
  • Playing structured games that are designed to gain deeper insights into your organisation, how to meet your goals and who your customers and clients are (including what they are looking for)

The paradox of this is that using structures will allow more freedom within your organisation for voices to be heard and actively listened to.

This stuff really works

We have found through our work that using structured practices, especially play which allows a low bar to entry and taps into our brain’s pleasure centre, has helped organisations to bring about change and have some of those deep conversations that are often not heard.

Don’t just take our word for it though, this article in McKinsey Quarterly from March 2017, gives a great insight on how German electric utility RWE confronted bias to form a new culture and make better decisions.

Depending on the way you organize decision processes, when the boss speaks up first, the likelihood that anybody who’s not the boss will speak up with a dissenting opinion is much lower…

…we’ve now made it mandatory to list the debiasing techniques that were applied as part of any major proposal that is put before us as a board.

Using play we can help to circumvent these biases by, for example, allowing conflicting ideas to be encouraged. This is a safe way to encourage conflict which is often actively discouraged within organisations leading to entrenched groupthink.

We can bring serious results from using games, exercises, liberating structures and play.

I think everyone should just do it; just start with it even on a pilot basis. You don’t have to start rolling it out across 1,000 people. You can start with your own board, with a few test examples, and see if you think it helps you. But if you do it, you have to do it right; you have to be serious about it.

– Bernhard Günther – CFO, RWE

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation be ready for whatever the world throws at it. Let’s play!

Image credit: Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Building strategy through play

What might happen if…?

This is a question that can scare most managers into inaction. But it is a powerful question that, when treated the right way, can lead to deep insights and an ability to prepare multiple strategies, uniquely formed for a specific scenario.

Praemonitus, praemunitus.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Let’s play games

What if we could find deep insights by playing some games. We can all do this, we are Homo Ludens, we are born to play and it helps us to learn our first language by learning to use our mouths, throats and diaphragm to make sounds and words. There is no barrier to entry and we can concentrate on offering our unique insights.

Playing games allows us to level the playing field of our organisational structures in order to gain the maximum amount of insight. We can use game structures to:

  • Hear from everyone in the room;
  • Uncover deep insights that might not be obvious to everyone;
  • Explore concepts, ideas and scenarios;
  • Develop plans for varying eventualities;
  • Stand outside our roles, organisations and environments to gain other perspectives;
  • Break out of our habitual thinking and find truly new ideas and new structures to best support them.

Would you like to play a game?

– Joshua – War Games – 1983

License to wander

Games give us the license to allow our minds to wander into spaces we might not ordinarily go. As mentioned above we can break out of our habitual thinking and encourage scenarios to be explored that might not occur to us in our day to day work mindset. Further to this, we can test our assumptions in an environment where failure does not cost us too much.

There is a reason the military play out war games. Testing assumptions and scenarios allow strategies to be created to rectify poor assumptions and mitigate against scenarios that could cost us dearly if we are blind to them before they occur.

This article in the Boston Globe details how a group of political operatives, former government and military officials, and academics got together to play out various scenarios for the upcoming US election. According to the journalist who wrote the article, the games did not go well. According to Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Defense Department official who co-organised the group of 80 contributors to the games:

All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse

Admittedly this does suggest looming disaster, but the games can only be considered a success as by understanding the possible scenarios ahead of any one of them occurring we can begin to shape strategies to mitigate against them. We can develop a playbook or better understand the future of our products or services this way and use this knowledge and insight and the strategies to improve them.

Imagine being seen as the most prescient organisation within your industry or sector. Using games we can be seen as the Steve Jobs and Apple of whatever we do by gaining all of the advantages listed above.

Human minds are plug-and-play devices. They’re not meant to be used alone. They’re meant to be used in networks.

– Professor James Gee – American researcher

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation be ready for whatever the world throws at it. Let’s play!

Building mental health with fun and play

It is a joke as old as time.

Four people meet on a Zoom call. One from Brighton, one from Athlone, one from the Netherlands and one from Liverpool. Much laughter ensues.

They all leave in a better state of mind ready to tackle their day.

On Tuesday the 24th of March 2020, I was joined by three people from remote parts of Europe including one person from the Netherlands, one from Brighton UK and one from Athlone in the Republic of Ireland for a Zoom call. The call was aimed at uniting the team in having some fun and laughter using games (mainly from the Improv world). This was an experiment in whether we could find a moment to play even in our isolation.

There is a lot of research into the effects of fun and laughter on the brain. It has been found in the work of Dr Lee S Berk that laughter can help suppress the stress hormones Cortisol, Epinephrine and Dopac. These hormones are responsible for those feelings of anxiety we may feel, especially in times like this. There is also a positive effect in the creation of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which helps to boost the immune system. []

The power of laughter to decrease stress and anxiety

We had some fun and laughter with particular high points being the discovery of Annette as the Warrior Queen of a Diamond Mountain and the shared wisdom on changing a bike tyre that brought us the phrase “Never, ever do not attempt to play with yourself”. I’m still puzzling over the logic in that.

The moment I loved the most was when the phrase “Playing is all I want to do everyday” emerged from a shared moment.

Thanks Martin and the team. It was the best fun I had in a long time

– Annette Josephine Mulvihill

Get in touch with us and we can help your teams build social capital and release stress whilst also exercising new ways of collaborating, listening with intent and relating to one another in a distributed workplace.

21 methods for finding game-changing ideas

Where do ideas come from? How does someone have an idea that seems so original that it seems like a gift from the gods?

To be frank there is no one sure-fire recipe for having a great and game-changing idea; but there are things we can do to increase the ease of our idea creation and also to increase the quality and quantity of the ideas we have. These techniques are really about habit forming and can help to enrich your output.

Download our guide to methods for finding game-changing ideas here.

Be sure to join our newsletter for a weekly dose of idea filled inspiration.

Distributed Play

My daughter’s school has now closed for an indeterminate period from the afternoon of Friday 20th of March. Her circle of friends have been busy eversince reaffirming their connection via text groups and Whatsapp. They have even found ways of playing by each singing one line of I want it that way by the Backstreet Boys. I found that very amusing but also brilliant as they were busy building their network for the times ahead.

I have been looking into ways we can help distributed teams build that social capital, resilience and care for their mental and physical health by using play and laughter. The idea is to use a facilitated Zoom call to play some of the games we use in Comedy Improv. The advantages of this are numerous and we have talked about many of them before: How improv can improve your business.

Below the following video we will look at the benefits to your team and individuals from play and laughter that will help build resilience and mental strength over the immediate future.

Get in touch to book in a distributed gameplay session online for your team.

We often use our Applied Improv workshops to introduce:

  • Diversity in thinking
  • Creative collaboration
  • Entering Flow states

But the advantages don’t just stop at the team level, they are also felt on the individual level. By using play and provoking laughter there are a number of benefits that are huge advantages to us during this pandemic.

Dr Lee S Berk has studied laughter and the effects it has on our physical and mental health for a long time and finds that laughter can help reduce the three detrimental stress hormones Cortisol, Epinephrine and Dopac that can be detrimental to the immune system. This helps relieve some of the anxiety that is likely to build when we are forced into change like being a distributed team.

Other effects are also present and include a boost to the immune system by the boosting of beta-endorphins which help elevate our moods and human growth hormone (HGH) which optimises the immune system.

Now you have the background on the benefits get in touch to book some time with us to help your team or teams during this period when we are all banished to our bedrooms, kitchen table or garden shed.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

How Improv processes can improve your business

I often come back to Mike Bonnifer’s book Game Changers for a quick flick through and to remind myself of some of the huge amounts of wisdom found within it’s pages. This passage shows a good illustration of how Improv processes can benefit your business. There are many others.

Cultural growth of the organisation is a huge benefit of the gifts its people give. One employee playing a guitar at lunch is a diversion. Maybe even a distraction. Two employees playing instruments at lunch could be the start of the office band. It is the second person who gives the gift.

– Mike Bonnifer – GameChangers.

When we view activities and interruptions as gifts we have a mindset that is open to spotting opportunity. Contact us today for a free 30 minute consultation on how Improv can have a positive impact on your business.

#playeveryday #seriousplay #businessplay #workplay

Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash

Plans are worthless, but principles are everything

Eisenhower is often quoted as saying “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything”. I do not disagree, but as a motto, it is a little confusing and could do with some clarification. Is planning enough? A plan is really just steps to take in order to put an idea into action. Many organisations have planned and put ideas into action to find that the plan failed because it didn’t follow a set of principles.

“But we planned everything”

I mentioned in a previous post about creating a principled organisation that M&S was taking some criticism for the well-intentioned LGBT sandwich, with many members of the public pointing out that they also opened stores over the last 4 years in Saudi Arabia. It seems that they attempted to show they held certain values whilst also pursuing a strategy that was not coherent with that set of values. They are not the only organisation to fall foul of this. Burger King also did a similar thing when attempting to use Mental Health Awareness week to show they cared for their customer’s mental health which caused many criticisms. Least of all the criticisms was surrounding the way they pay their staff and whether that would be coherent with a caring for people’s mental health.

So how do we create plans that are in line with the values we want ourselves or our organisations to portray?

Forgoing the planning stage

A friend of mine was telling a brief story of his work life over the previous 15 years. It involved him working and living across various countries and creating various communities. At the end of the story he said:

The older I get, the more I learn, the more I realise I know nothing about anything, that plans are great, but rarely come true, and keeping space for the unexpected usually yields far better outcomes.

Now I’m not seriously suggesting we don’t go through the planning stage as planning encompasses all the stages of achieving goals, turning ideas into action and making events happen. What I do think is missing is that most of us don’t test our plans as we have nothing to test them against. If M&S had a set of values in place they could use those to create some guiding principles to create strategies from. The principles will keep those strategies in-line with the organisation values and offer something to test ideas against before they become plans.

What is the difference between a strategy and a plan

Put simply a strategy is the why and plans are the how. So if we are clear about why we are doing something and we can test that against some guiding principles to keep the strategy in line with our values. When we come to ideas of how to achieve our strategy we can again test each idea against the strategy and the guiding principles and reject the ideas that do not fit.

This all illustrates how important it is for every organisation to have a set of values and some simple guiding principles set out clearly and in as simple terms as possible. The reason for them to be clear and set out in simple terms is two-fold.

  1. It is much easier to live up to your values and follow your guiding principles when there is as little ambiguity as possible;
  2. Communicating your values and principles to your customers will help you to build a lasting customer relationship.

So perhaps that Eisenhower quote can be amended to:

Plans are worthless, but values and principles are everything

Talk to us today to discuss how we can help you discover your values and the guiding principles for your business.

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