Speed Networking: Connecting Talent, Creativity and Capital

hugh anthony, certified lifestyle speaker · author · lifestyle coach
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a speed dating event. Darn, did I say speed dating? Oh no I really meant a speed networking event.  Have my pardon, no need for the former!!  The event was organized by a creativity enabling organization based in Canada’s technology triangle.  Of interest, the concept of minds, means and money for an idea and thoughts of how to get it off the ground in relations to funding, were some of the experiences gleaned.

Speed networking allows participants to have the opportunity to connect with many other like-minded individuals and professionals in a very short period of time. The organizers were able to facilitate participants connecting with diverse funding (private and public) agencies, like-minded individuals and professionals in very short interactive sessions. Understanding essentially that you have a few brief encounters to mutually exchange your ideas with potential donors, funding agencies and investors.

Speed networking events can be face-to-face or round-table sessions or cocktail formats for an hour or a day, depending on what the objectives are and the number of participants you hope to connect.  What is great about speed networking is that it gives creative professionals and entrepreneurs a forum to meet and learn from their peers, successful entrepreneurs and mentors from various industries, the world over.

Through a format based on a speed dating method, each entrepreneur had the opportunity to briefly explain their business (elevator speech) and listened and learnt of possible synergies during the presentations, during  the three working sessions we had. At  the end of each session, the groups rotated in order to give each person the opportunity to meet as many participants as possible and create new contacts with possible partners, funding agencies and other entrepreneurs.

Every enterprise has the need to widen its network, and this is strategic, especially for start-ups in particular. Speed networking provides an outlet and creates the necessity for entrepreneur’s to promote their business and/or endeavour; and at the same time, to meet some of the most important players in their given industry.

The benefits of speed-networking are evident: opportunity to meet individuals, share your stories, ideas or plans in a focused manner, strategic networking and connecting through exchange, how to ‘break the ice’ and how to engage once a business card is exchanged.  Having gleaned insights from the speed networking event attended and the interactions, I learnt how invaluable such an event can be to the participants, the community and society as a whole.

Here some are tips from businessballs.com titled Ten Essential Principles, that can help you to optimize the speed networking experience, be it that you are an existing or aspiring (social or business) entrepreneur in any diverse field of endeavour:

i.       Elevator speech – Describe yourself concisely and impressively.

ii.       Be different – Differentiate yourself. Aim high. Be best at something.

iii.       Help others – Help others and you will be helped.

iv.        Personal integrity – Integrity, trust and reputation are vital for networking.

v.        Relevant targeting – Groups and contacts relevant to your aims and capabilities.

vi.        Plans and aims – Plan your networking – and know what you want.

vii.        Follow up – Following up meetings and referrals makes things happen.

viii.        Be positive – Be a positive influence on everyone and everything.

ix.        Sustained focused effort.  – Be focused – and ever-ready.

x.        Life balance – Being balanced and grounded builds assurance.

So should you have a business idea or activity and you are wondering how to get started or to acquire funding;  why not consider a speed networking event?  They are useful outlets to connect talent, creativity and capital, as well as entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors.

Speed networking can be a sustainable tool and strategy for the creative community to meld – talent, creativity and capital.  It is a catalyst for fostering creativity and innovation across sectors by facilitating the sharing of bold ideas and initiatives, while harnessing the true spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation; emboldening economic prosperity for those who optimize the experience.

References:

Speed Networking and Beyond – www.entrepreneur.com

Business Networking – www.businessballs.com

Entrepreneur meet Developer – www.techvibes.com/blog

© 2012 Hugh Anthony. All rights reserved.

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Cultivating Thinking on the Periphery

hugh anthony, certified lifestyle speaker · author · lifestyle coach

We have seen that ideas are the currency of the 21st century; creativity is its commodity and innovation the product. The manifestations are evident, from Apple to Zynga. How do we encourage creative thinking and cultivate ideation within our organizations, when there is this expectation of conformity?    Processes are important to organizations, however, are we to think that some organization only focus on the process, without an understanding that they exist in a world of relentless and dynamic change. What type of processes are organizations engaged in?  Are they involved in a process of thinking (or ‘head buried in the sand’ mentality) that suppresses creativity, both tacitly and overtly?   Or do they frown upon ‘thinking outside of the box’, which have its own reward, albeit that way of thinking can be viewed at an organizational level as a challenge to the status quo.

Stillman (2011) inferred that, although leaders of organizations say they want creative ideas, the evidence suggests creativity gets rejected in favor of conformity and uniformity. This might not be explicit for the onlooker, however creative individuals within the ‘hollowed walls or halls’ of business, industry and academia will experience implicitly that creativity is a ‘sexy’ phrase and it is not encouraged within the organization. Subtly, creative individuals and professionals will realize they are told to conform and suppress their creative imagination.  Conformity is the anathema of creativity. The resultant outcome overtime, will be that creativity and innovation dies a natural death, within organizations. Allen & Levine (1967) purports, that conformity pressure produce motivations that are incompatible with the cognitive flexibility essential to creative thinking.

Success for organization for now and the foreseeable future is open collaboration amongst partners (internal and external) – creative, innovative, talented, eccentric and eclectic – in their genome. The challenge for organizations is to embrace a process that fosters and cultivate thinking on the periphery; it is much broader than ‘thinking outside the box’.  Peripheral thinking enhances individual’s passion, potential and purpose by allowing for the recognition of our innate and creative energies.  It can foster a collective pathway for organizational members and senior management in particular, to recognize the strategic importance of peripheral thinking and view it as the core of their organization’s existence.  Thinking on the periphery allows for organizations to anticipate trends, threats and opportunities, given that this process synthesizes creative, critical and systems thinking; encouraging reflection and renewal.

Organizations that are willing to get out of their comfort zones, challenge the status quo, take risks and embrace selfless leadership will continue to exist as they embrace creativity over conformity.  Hence, the new thrust for organizations lie in encouraging thinking that fosters and cultivates a curiosity and creativity to life and work, challenging and testing our current mental models, and engaging in active experimentation with new mindsets and openness.    Organizations ought to realize that curiosity fuels creativity, which stimulates ideation and results in innovation.

Purposeful existence of organizations in an unrelenting and competitive world of business, like creative thinking is as much a decision about and an attitude towards life, as it is a matter of ability.

Through that openness to collaboration, challenging mental models, support idea riots (divergent and convergent thinking), embrace play and excitement, celebrate diversity;  business leaders themselves can challenge the status quo to embrace, utilize and harness the creative imagination in their organizations, investing in creativity (creative talent and resources), the benefits will not be immediate, but overtime will be rewarding and lead to not just perpetual existence, but innovative leadership and collective prosperity.

References:

Teaching for Creativity: Two Dozen Tips – http://www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles

Why Group Norms Kill Creativity – http://www.spring.org.uk/

Creativity and Conformity (1967) by Allen, V. I. & Levine, J. M.

Do You Secretly Fear Creativity? by Jessica Stillman – www.inc.com

Pressure to Conform Can Inspire Creativity –  http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture

Purpose, Power, Politics: Barriers to Creative Organizations – www.anthrostrategist.com

Stealth Passions and the Power of Peripheral Thinking – http://www.ftpress.com/articles/

© 2012 Hugh Anthony. All rights reserved.

What about Leadership for the Future – Which is Now?

hugh anthony, certified lifestyle speaker · author · lifestyle coach

 
“The world economy demands an alternative way of doing business and workers demand a different style of leadership.” — Dr. Tony Baron, The Art of Servant Leadership

In reflecting on the issue of leadership in organizations, be it those I have had the privilege of being a team member, professionally or voluntarily; or the ones I happen to read about from a magazine, blog or other sources, the core value that breed success is that of selflessness.

As with the open quote for this blog, I often wondered; if our leaders have taken the time to reflect on their own leadership or the style of leadership they bring, share or impose on others (or moreso, the people they should be serving).  In a more light-hearted questioning manner – Do organizations understand the type of leadership needed to respond to future, which is now?

We live in an era of unrelenting change, as individuals, citizens, customers, entrepreneurs and leaders the challenge is how we respond, to bring meaningfulness not just to our organizations, but even to our own lives.  Can we bring meaningfulness, if we don’t understand what is expected?   In researching themes on leadership, the suggestions are that the leader’s task is to align, empower, serve and collaborate.  In leadership for business, there should be adaptability, self-awareness and selflessness as we contend and engage in more complex, dynamic and creative work processes; and encounter a more diverse workforce than ever before.

Businesses do exist to meet a need, albeit, businesses are also driven by need for profits, however they should not be camouflaged as corporate motifs masked as greed, exploitation and to serve a select few.  Or be led by egotists or demagogues whose selfishness impairs their ability to lead authentically both professionally and personally.   The 21st-century leadership requires a shift in outlook, direction and strategy, if leaders are to be successful in empowering people (internal and external customers) bring value-driven philosophy and sustain superior performance, while contending with complexity in the world of business. How will this be achieved?

Bill B. Flint, Jr. in his recent book The Journey to Competitive Advantage through Servant Leadership proffered a thesis that will help leaders build a company every person dreams of working and every president has a vision of leading.   Bill referred to the term servant leadership developed by Robert K. Greenleaf, and its context is a leadership philosophy that values people, work and community; and focuses on helping people discover and reach their potential.

Bill defines servant leadership as a “… style of leadership that helps companies develop and nurture the unique and collective skills, abilities, and talents of the people within their company.” The servant leader brings purpose, passion and character,  and collaborate with the people they serve, by looking for ways to help everyone feel good about their efforts.

Servant leadership empowers the leader to understand that to lead is to serve. Encouraging and articulating a participative approach to leadership, with the outcome being the greatest possible performance and high levels of employee satisfaction.

The characteristic of the servant leadership as highlighted by Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and others:

  • Self-Awareness: Each of us is the instrument through which we lead. If we want to be effective servant-leaders, we need to be aware of who we are and how we impact others. The servant leader  has the ability to view situations from a more integrated, holistic position. As a result, the servant leader gets a better understanding about ethics and values.
  • Listening: Servant-leaders use emphatic listening as they seek first to understand and then to be understood. Servant Leaders listen actively in as many ways as possible and motivate team members to share and support them in decision identification.
  •  Empowering and developing people: giving people in the workplace responsibility for their own actions. Through empowerment, the servant leader acknowledges the talents and strengths of employees. Underlying empowerment is the acknowledgment that employees are not merely subordinates, but that each is an individual in their own right.
  • Humility: this is an attitude and acknowledgment by the servant leader that they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and that employees may have more knowledge and experience. For servant leaders in organisations dependent on knowledge workers, this is especially important as it is highly probable that employees do indeed know more about their specialisation than anyone else inside the company. By acknowledging fallibility and the limits of one’s own knowledge, the servant leader helps to facilitate a learning environment: one in which employees can learn and develop through their own experimentation and by learning from others. This potential for self-determination has a powerful and positive influence on the workplace and further aids the long-term fostering of a learning culture.
  • Authenticity: is a significant factor as it enables the servant leader to show very clearly to employees that not only can they be themselves, but also that the work environment genuinely encourages and welcomes this. To show authenticity the servant leader must act with integrity: they must do as they have promised; show consistency in actions and morality; and be true to themselves and the spirit of the leadership principles they preach. The benefit of authenticity is that ultimately it supports and reinforces the values of the servant leader.
  • Interpersonal acceptance: the ability to understand and experience the feelings and motivations of others is essential in a servant leadership culture. Empathy and forgiveness must go hand-in-hand. The latter is particularly important if a culture in which it is accepted that people can and do make mistakes is to be developed with authenticity. By accepting employees as individuals, the servant leader shows understanding and appreciation of their unique perspectives and allows people to feel that they matter.
  • Providing direction: knowing what the servant leader expects of them is beneficial for employees and the organisation. To provide direction the servant leader must make work dynamic and have it tailored to the abilities and needs of employees.
  • Stewardship: is the willingness to take responsibility for the larger institution and to focus on service instead of control and self-interest. Leaders should act not only as caretakers but also as role models for others. By setting the right  example, leaders can stimulate others to act in the common interest. Closely related to stewardship is social  responsibility, loyalty and teamwork
  • Foresight is the ability to foresee the likely outcome of a situation. It enables the servant leader to learn about the past and to achieve a better understanding about the current reality. It also enables the servant leader to identify consequences about the future.

The fact is that leadership is not a position, it’s about character, and as John Maxwell highlights, “the measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve the leader, but the number of people served by the leader.”  How  companies inspire individuals to give their best and translate into superior strategy for businesses, translate in having leaders whose essence of character is helping others being their best.

References:

© 2012 Hugh Anthony. All rights reserved.