Competitiveness

An Introverts SCREAMING Disadvantage

Are you showing your best hand?

Are you showing your best hand?

When we succeed at doing something creative, like writing a book, getting a painting accepted into an art show, inventing something that in some small way makes the world a better place – in our Extraverted world, we’re unfortunately rewarded with something that many people don’t want. A spotlight is cast upon us and we’re asked to make a public speech. This prize is enough of a demotivator that some people have said: they are discouraged away from even trying to do anything creative.

Why do some people love the attention of speaking and others prefer to be listeners? The difference between Introversion and Extraversion is simply that Introverted persons tend to mostly prefer alone time for reflecting to charge their energy while Extraverted persons instead mostly recharge by being around others and engaging their world.

But, comfort with public speaking is about something else entirely – it’s about practice. By their very nature, Introverts tend to get less practice speaking so they often don’t give themselves the opportunity to develop the skills of a typical Extravert – who tends to have more practice engaging with people. With practice, public speaking is something that everyone can succeed at and even enjoy. Public speaking isn’t the critical problem for introverts but something else is.

There is one overarching disadvantage of being an Introvert that many don’t realize – and knowing what it is can help when it matters. I briefly write about this in CREATIVE YOU and now realize more needs to be said. We all have a dominant function that relates to our greatest strength. While Extraverted people tend to lead with their strengths, the disadvantage that Introverts face is that they often conceal their strongest function. Introverts frequently keep the richness of their inner world to themselves and a trusted few, and instead, what they share is their second strongest function.

Sometimes using your second best is ok, but in our hyper-competitive world, it certainly puts us at a self-inflicted disadvantage. To understand, we don’t need a technical discussion about our cognitive functions here because I think you can imagine playing a poker game where an Introverted person lays out a second best hand in front of an Extravert who shows only the best cards. What if we didn’t send our very best athletes to the Olympics but instead sent the folks who just missed in the trials. For Introverts, it’s the lead played by our understudy night-after-night while the star is able and watching from the dressing room. It’s the Introverts nature to hold back their best and if you tend to do this, its not only a supreme competitive disadvantage for yourself, it does a disservice to those who depend on you to bringing your A-game.

For Extraverts, by fostering an environment of trust, you gain trust from your Introverted colleagues and they are more likely to share their richness of thought. And Introverts, to be appreciated, respected and to better contribute –

sometimes its not enough to know, you have to show what you know.

By simply curving a line to become an ocean wave you are sharing what’s important – you don’t have to share the depths but at least share enough near the surface for others to know what you are about.

Being creativity can takes quiet contemplation and sharing your best ideas has risk plus takes courage. When it matters – set out your finest china and fill your crystal glasses to serve your best ideas – good things will happen.

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STEAM In Action: It’s More Than A Show

Electricians designing the stage lighting

Electricians designing the stage lighting

I’d like to share with you something that few people get to see. I had the chance to visit a… don’t stop reading when I say the words… opera company preparing for a show. It wasn’t particularly striking that the members are writing their own script, composing their own music, building their own set, and promoting their tickets – what’s incredible is that the company is made up of 8 year old third graders in public elementary school.

As I’ve discovered through my work, third grade may be the very time that matters most in determining our creative potential. So what seems to happen around the third grade to discourage us? Many people interviewed for my book had variations of the same story. They once enjoyed singing or dancing, building or drawing — but today, they don’t see themselves as creative. Ask why they stopped and they often confess to something that happened around the third grade.

They were doing something original and exciting — like singing a rhyme they wrote or using a purple crayon for coloring a tree — and were criticized and laughed at for the very achievement they were most proud.

It doesn’t take much for children to give up on being original. In fact the other day a retired teacher who had taught all ages said to me that she enjoyed teaching 2nd graders best because: “You can ask the students to become flowers and they become flowers — they still use their imagination and act creatively.”

Here at this critical junction in our development, in her classroom Mary Ruth McGinn, along with her adult volunteers encourages their third grade Lightning Strike Kids Opera Company to be original. Opera is both the process and the product where creativity is encouraged and academic lessons from the classroom are tried and applied in real ways.

This isn’t art for art’s sake, here every day creativity is practiced, promoted, on a schedule, and has a deliverable. On my visit, with only 10 remaining group meetings before opening day, everything had a purpose. The writers were writing dialog to be read by the performers. The performers watched a video of their scenes and self-critiqued to make adjustments. Composers were deciding where to insert sounds and songs into the script to evoke moods. The public relations team produced a press release to be sent to local school principles, legislators, and media to spread the word. Designers were creating costumes with styles and colors to suit the characters. Set builders and electricians were using tools and technology for building an atmosphere on stage with lights to enhance the storyline. Everyone was using math to count, to time, to measure, and to design. And since everyone is naturally creative in different ways, the production of an opera provides many ways to contribute.

Among some educators, there’s a shift toward STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics which are seen as core subjects essential for student’s success and competitiveness. And within STEM there is a growing movement to integrate Arts. And with the “A” from Arts, STEM becomes STEAM and becomes more powerful. Arts amplify sciences by showing there is often more than one right answer and the arts provide a way to design, experiment, and apply creativity.

Many people talk about instilling creativity into learning and Ms. McGinn’s Opera Kids put on more than a show. The students are using their education and ideas by putting them into practice, learning about leadership, and collaborating with people with diverging ideas.

Studies have shown that most people believe creativity is necessary for economic growth, to remain competitive, and to improve our standard of living. 8 years old seems to be the very time that children need the experiences and encouragement to retain their creativity, whatever the product happens to be in this case a live performance – integration of the arts are essential. As third graders can learn to collaborate to produce an opera they will have the STEAM to grow into the next generation of creators to benefit us all.

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Finding Courage to be Yourself from Looking at Flowers

Late to Bloom

Tulip Envy?

Jogging past the Boathouse, the XM radio app on my iphone lost its satellite signal so without music to escape into, I was forced to start paying attention to my actual environment.

Opening my eyes, the first thing I noticed were the flowering Magnolias in full bloom. As they grabbed the spotlight, I started thinking about the contrast with the other plants that were refusing to participate. The evergreens remained green as ever, the oaks barely sprouting any buds and many of the tulips were waiting their turn to be next.

Those purple buds won’t open before they’re ready and the inevitable truth is: they will never become red tulips like their flashy neighbors no matter how much they may want to or how hard they try. Similarly, our own power comes without comparing ourselves to others but instead from knowing ourselves – our uniqueness is our strength. After those red tulips have gone to seed, the purple blooms may have their day and we will too.

cenralparkcontrasttreesSMJust as the plants cycle, we develop in harmony with nature and we all shine at our own times – we can make contrasts without making a comparison. This is so important with different stages of creativity, as we  are developing our talents, trying new things,  sometimes we shine and other times we see others shining.

Just as I was thinking that nature reminds us to avoid comparing ourselves to others who may be in different stages of their life-cycle – at that moment a woman pushing twins in her stroller – jogged  past me as if I was  standing still. What differences do you have that you have found to be your unique super powers? or what are your favorite flowers?

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Encouraged by the Bottom 10 percent

"Can" you make it across (click to enlarge)

If you’ve been to Hong Kong, have you noticed the flashing man on the WALK signs look uncharacteristically overweight? Occasionally in NYC, you can see WALK and DON’T WALK lighted simultaneously, but have you ever seen a WALK sign made entirely out of cans of food.

Massive structures are built using cans of food as part of a design competition with the winners displayed at the World Financial Center in Manhattan. The event is sponsored by Canstruction which uses cans of food as a catalyst for change. When the structures are dismantled after November 21st, the food is donated to City Harvest,who uses the cans to feed hungry people.

While most structures are incredible, pointing to one that seemed lesser, I friend surprised me by saying , “if I could do that, It’s not very good.” Conversely and thinking back many years when I first started painting,

Why so angry? (click to enlarge)

I would go to group art exhibitions and feel challenged by the best watercolors yet encouraged by the bottom 10 percent. I would say “I could do that!”

The same sentence, “I could do that” can evoke opposite responses between people. Do you compare your abilities with professional athletes while watching a football game and say, if I could catch that ball, the player must not be very good? Why is our creativity so difficult to accept? Perhaps we could recast our self image on creativity, especially if we see proof that we can do something other creative people are doing.

Which one is your favorite? See more photos of the constructions [Read more…]

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Do you feel like you’re talking on a Banana Phone?


Refusing interviews but posing for photos, a group of macaques living at the beach in beautiful Krabi, Thailand, clearly had life figured out. Monkeys are no lone wolves and even these primates know life’s creative solutions can come through collaboration.

Suddenly, several started a loud commotion and in the confusion, one leaped down from her hiding place in the trees and grabbed an unguarded gin and tonic, chugged the drink, slammed the cup down, and staggered

No ice?

back into the trees. Funny to watch since it wasn’t my lost beverage, I noticed they collaborated using a unique common language which sounded to me like a mix of Thai and Chimpanzee.

Do you use a common language with those you collaborate with? Or do you feel like you’re talking on a banana phone with nobody on the other end?
With Twitter, facebook, linkedin, blogs, email, sms, voicemail, fax, and ancient practice of talking in person, we all have preferred modes of communication and each mode has its own characteristics.

Are your messages getting through or do you hear: “I don’t use LinkedIn,” ”I never check voicemail,” or “What’s Klout?“ The first step for us to reach our audience in order to collaborate is to use a common mode of communication, but with so many choices our preferred mode seems different for all of us.
Have you experienced miscommunications from using mismatched technology? Do you have a favorite mode of communications? And what brand of banana phone do you answer ?
Take a moment and count to three before responding – one chimpanzee – two chimpanzees – three chimpanzees – Please tell me your favorite monkey story by commenting, twitter, emails…

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Just Five More Minutes

Back to School

In most of the world, when the water starts to feel warmer than the air, it’s a cue to the end of summer and children start to think about going back to school.  For many adults, that chronic “back to school” feeling we had in our stomach was cured the instant we received our diploma. But maybe that sickly feeling was a good thing. Maybe it signaled impeding changes and new challenges. Maybe it’s time to get that sickly feeling back!

Here’s a hint: the correct answer is C) Lifelong learning!  The questions are how do we remain competitive? How do we stay creative? How do we possibly use our mobile phones?

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” described Mark Twain.  For most of us, our formal education was a one-way street where we had few choices and our learning was directed by our teachers.  “I began my education at a very early age – in fact, right after I left college,” described Winston Churchill.  As adults we can choose our direction by strolling down the many avenues for self-directed learning. We can learn to sail, play golf, edit a move, create pottery, or improve our public speaking through conferences, books, seminars, speaker series or the internet.  You can watch college courses on DVD, listen to podcasts during your commute, or take a continuing education course.  With such necessity to stay in the know – with so many choices of what to learn and so many ways to learn, we have no excuse, except maybe the dog ate my homework… again.

To keep our jobs, to remain creative, and to accurately set the time and date on our phones we must continually update our skills and knowledge.

What do you need to learn to do better work, make better decisions, and communicate better with those around you?  What new skills or subjects will you learn in September? Or what is your favorite excuse?

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Survival of the Fittest?

Yellow Orchid

Not in my backyard

There is an ancient vine growing on a trellis in my backyard. Each spring, some runners reach up for the stream of water that runs along the gutter and each summer, I prune the vines off the roof. It occurred to me that for the sake of order, I was cutting the longest, strongest, and most adaptive stems, and although the plant survives, I’m discouraging the plants full potential and may be missing the best flowers.

Forbes asks: Are people too smart to be creative?
Companies can’t have too many captains and can’t have too many stray vines. Employees are encouraged to keep the status quo and stay aligned with company goals. How do you remain professional without sacrificing creativity? Understanding the mission, adhering to culture, dress, using proper language, grammar, being on time, and keeping to schedules all help your ideas to be accepted without sacrificing your creativity. Bounce ideas off trusted friends before making them public. Look for the formal or informal paths for innovation that allow for review and selection of new ideas worth implementing.

Understanding culture and paths for innovation allows you to climb the trellis and flower without being clipped. How do you create within an organization?

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Best of the Best – Your Second Chance

Lion Dance Sheko

Lion Dance: King of the Jungle?

新年快乐! Kung hei fat choi! As China welcomes the year of the rabbit, westerners have a second chance to make a New Year’s resolution and may I suggest something of global proportions.

There is talk of countries using creativity to increase competitiveness through innovation. That’s fine for whole countries but what about us? Individuals are also starting to look around and realize they are not the only ones running the race.  What steps can we take to become personally more competitive?

Although globalization has fans and opponents, it’s nothing new and has been around since before the Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean or caravans traveled the Silk Road.  Today’s phenomenal growth in the East is partially the result of centrally planned capitalism, for example, China has thrived by looking at their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) and using this to target industries to put their resources.

Year of the Rabbit (SWOT Analysis)


Strengths


Weaknesses

Cute, Fast, Soft

Small

Multiplies

Poor Language Skills

Four Lucky Feet

Damages Gardens

Excellent Hearing

Owns Easter

Bugs Bunny Franchise

Opportunities

Threats

Silent Spokes-model

Foxes

Entertainment

Wile E. Coyote

Gaming

Competition from:

Pets

Dogs and Cats

Surveillance

Fur Coats

It’s no longer good enough to be the best rabbit on your block or your neighborhood, today; we must be the best in the world. What steps do you need to take to get in the top 1 percent of people within your skill set. We can start by asking what do like to do? What am I especially good at? Where do I add the most value?

List a few things by asking: What do I need to do to get on next year’s top ten list? How do I win the gold medal in cost accounting? What do I need to do to win the Oscar for most efficient software coding, or the daytime Emmy for most positive influence on children, or the people’s choice award for most caring of my patients, or the best supporting customer service rep? Think about what business you are really in – Apple is not in the computer business but information sharing.

Find the best teachers and first-class partners. Find the intersection between your chief skills and your collaborators unique abilities. If we happen to be the best auto mechanics and team up with a great farmer, maybe our competitive advantage comes from improving tractors.

Being the best in no longer about vanity or bragging rights, it’s about survival.  If you take steps to identity and refine your skills now: “You’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest,” as Dr. Seuss said.

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Destructive Criticism

Past to the future

Past to the future

It’s amazing how many people are commenting on the controversy sparked by the book about eastern parenting styles called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Like most people, I have no experience raising teenagers girls of Chinese decent in America and did not read the book – but read an excerpt called “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”- and some of the reaction are taking on a life of their own.

The theme of the debate is not whether tigers eat their young but instead can be simplified as: eastern (discipline, academics, and obedience) verse western (self-esteem, independent thinking, play) methods of parenting.

In the 1980s, there was a mystique surrounded the principles of “Japanese management,” and today we start to look toward Chinese values (could happen #3) because of the mystique  surrounding China’s Asian miracle of growth and  lifting their people out of dire povertyis admired.  It’s also amazing to watch a sprouting bamboo  grow an astonishing 24 inches a day in the spring, but this is unsustained and the plant levels off before summer.

There is not a single method for parenting and most reach a healthy balance between being demanding and being permissive, with an aim not to prepare children for our world,  but  for the world they will live in. Criticism can be constructive, but it can also stifle creativity and be destructive.  Use of creativity is needed by young adults to adapt to a world that will change beyond their parent’s imagination. Asia has not changed for centuries but is rapidly changing now. I wonder what kind of upbringing those leading the change in China had. Continuing with traditional parenting prepares children for a world that is confined to  (could happen #1) museums.

Perhaps a controlled upbringing with traditional Chinese values, may have been the best way to prepare a child for an agrarian/manufacturing society where collective rights are valued more than individual rights. Of course academics and discipline matter, but so does developing self-esteem and independent thinking to adapt to an unpredictable future. So do you stake-and-tie your tomatoes or let your chickens run free? What do you think?

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New Fruit on an Old Tree

Heirloom

Heirloom

I read the news today oh boy; with much fanfare, the Beatles released the digital versions of their music on iTunes. This is big release for 40 years ago albums. While most music made it to the web a digital lifetime ago, the holdup was related to a long trademark dispute over the ownership of the apple with both the Beatles’ Apple Corp and Apple Computer each wanting a bite. The questions for us to consider are what makes: She Loves you, Yellow Submarine, and Help! endure? And are there  common elements that we can incorporate into what we make?

They were hot in the 60s and their upbeat and enjoyable harmonies, catchy lyrics with timeless messages are some of the reason why the Beatles remain relevant today. Some songs hold up because they remind us of yesterday, but most of these songs hold up because they still remind us of today.

Now that we’re comparing oranges to oranges, what factors have allowed Apple Computers to not only endure but to be getting so much better all the time. People fondly remember the old Macintosh but left unchanged, few would use an antique computer today. While some computer makers concentrated only on increasing processor speed, Apple stayed relevant and ahead of the competition by continuously innovating their products in ways that improve the user’s experiences. Constantly improving their own products, if something works, they don’t just let it be.

– how do you like those apples?

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