Did you look at the trees this morning on the way to work?

Despite some hard frosts and earthquakes, most of them are budding. The early bulbs are also flowering and if you look closely lots of plants are showing signs of renewed growth.

Hopefully without sounding sentimental, there is something about this time of year which seems to give a sense of potential and possibility.

We like to see potential and possibility in the work we do – so curiosity and fun are the themes of the newsletter this month.

Question time

Have you noticed that some meetings seem to comprise everyone round the table doing nothing other than express their own opinions? People saying what they want, what they (think) they know or what they don’t like.

In contrast, we’re always surprised by how infrequently people in organisational life ask questions. So we enjoyed Guy Browning’s recent article on the subject of curiosity. He makes some great observations about the role of curiosity in relation to accidents at home, the growth of the Internet and the emergence of the scientific revolution in Western Europe (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,332520378-103425,00.html).

Asking the right questions can be as powerful as coming up with the best answer. In our experience, the best teams generate lots of questions and then don’t feel they have to rush to conclusions or solutions. They can hold ambiguity, can explore ideas together and are open to new possibilities. There is no compulsion to appear smart by having all the answers.

However, the lure of certainty is ingrained in so much of what goes on around us. American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was pilloried when he said in 2002: “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns”. Sense or nonsense? We know what he means. Others are happy to mock: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3254852.stm

This difficulty in acknowledging uncertainty is all around us and underpins a ‘low-curiosity’ syndrome that we see in many organisations and teams struggling to perform. It leads to the all-too-familiar and heart-sink way that people start their sentence with “yes, but…”.

Leonardo Da Vinci - a model of renaissance living – built his life’s achievements on an advanced and insatiable curiosity (Curiositá). A willingness to ask questions, to look closely, to try and understand and to learn from mistakes. If you’re interested in his approach to life and his achievements, you’ll enjoy ‘How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci’ – seven steps to genius everyday (http://www.amazon.com/How-Think-Like-Leonardo-Vinci/dp/0440508274).

One of the big lessons from this is the encouragement for each of us to think and act across a range of very different things – not to pour all your efforts and energies into just one or two parts of life. Amongst other things, Leonardo tried his hand at painting, sculpting, physics, botany, architecture and future gazing. Inspired by this, you might take up a language, try out a sport, begin to draw or learn an instrument. Or all of these and more!

But perhaps the biggest potential benefit of being more curious is that it can make us more understanding of other people. By not jumping to conclusions, by asking “what might be going on here”, by trying to imagine the other person’s point of view, we can become more compassionate in our relationships.

Any questions?

Fun at work? You’ve got to be joking!

Last month we remembered the late Gerard Fairtlough and his great insights on how to get things done in organisations. We think Gerard would have appreciated the spirit to be found in this New York company.


What an attractive place to work!

Is your organisation a fun place? No? Maybe you don’t think work is about having fun or making you happy? We think most people would like to have a better time at work – as someone at one of our clients nicely observed: “I’d like to see people bounding up the stairs rather than being listless in the lift”.

We also admire the ethos of Marshall Goldsmith, the executive coach. Quoted in InView he describes how he works with people: “You don’t judge or critique my ideas. Why? I’m a Buddhist. My number one goal is for me to be happy, so if I give you a dumb idea, just don’t do it. It’s just a waste of my time and yours, critiquing me all day.”

So the ingredients for a fun workplace: energy, confidence, curiosity, compassion. Any others do you think?

Lexicon for Leaders: 26 lessons for business success

C is this month’s letter. We’ve already had Confidence, Curiosity and Compassion. These form 3 of the ‘4 Cs’ – the last is Connectedness. Taken together, we believe the four Cs provide a powerful combination to shift an organisation to be a more effective and more appealing place to work.

You can see the 4Cs applied to the NHS in the February edition of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Matrix of the month: “knowledge management”

Connectedness and curiosity come together when we think about how organisations learn to create and use their knowledge.

“If only Hewlett Packard knew what Hewlett Packard knows” is an often repeated quote which gives voice to the frustration experienced by many: that within a business – its systems and its people – there is far more knowledge than ever gets used. To paraphrase, how do we get the whole to be at least the sum of the parts?

A few years ago there was a fashion for ‘knowledge management’. This month’s matrix of the month shares our take on this fad.

It’s not a classic 2x2 matrix format but does highlight the critical dimensions around giving-finding and new-existing. [Next month there will be an online test version of this - let us know if you’d like to have a go piloting the beta version].

Many individuals, teams, organisations and systems get stuck holding onto a ‘Not Invented Here’ culture. ‘Stealing with Pride’ is rarely the norm but can be so much faster, cheaper and more effective! Awards ceremonies are all the rage these days. How many do you know that have a ‘Xerox award’ for brilliant copying of someone else’s idea? Working out the leadership actions to help your team and organisation move from the top left to the bottom right can be hugely powerful. Is this an idea too good not to embrace?

2 things you might not know about idenk - a bit about what we are up to

Right now we are doing a number of “end to end” communication projects using our whole spectrum approach – from strategy to communications plan to documents and media.

Communication was the 3rd C (!) in our first think piece written 2 years ago: “How to be your own Management Consultant

We now also work with a number of skilled partners: Meet three of them here...

  • Stephen – the environmental activist and broadcaster who runs brilliant brainstorms like no other. He can turn a dreary internal meeting into a wow.
  • Sarah – the experienced innovator who leads creativity workshops that really get somewhere. She uses a tried and tested method based on best practice from design houses and the most innovative companies.
  • Katie – the talented HR professional who has an approach to coaching that is totally focused. She uses her deep insight and natural charm to help you get important things done.

Contact us to find more about more how they can help you with their fresh and affordable solutions for teams and leaders.

We’re curious about what you think

We’ve had some great feedback on the first couple of editions of our newsletters. It’s good to hear that they are proving interesting and helpful – and occasionally provoking some energetic debate. Let us have your thoughts. And do forward them onto colleagues if you think they’ll be curious!

If you missed the previous editions of our newsletter, you can find them here.

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