Geoffrey Wade is an interesting guy, which makes this episode entertaining as well as informative.
He’s led many businesses through change and innovation, and this took him to question risk management as part of innovation. The outcome is a partnership in a program that simulates the innovation. The implications are dramatic…but don’t take our word for it…have a listen and gauge for yourself.
Geoff brings an unusual and valuable mix of qualifications in science, engineering, business administration, cognitive science, and NLP together more than 30 years commercial experience to give him a unique perspective on innovation in business.
His engineering helps him understand the hard, measurable physical aspect of reality and process plus the cybernetics of large, messy, probabilistic systems that are goal oriented (systems like organisations). His business qualifications and experience helps understand the critical business drivers and levers. His human performance studies help appreciate how people make sense of the world, how they know what they know and do what they do, how they achieve high performance, and how they can make fast and lasting change. It is the intersection of these fields that gives him a unique ability to help leaders attend to and master foundations of innovation, high velocity change and quantum leap performance improvement.
You can connect with Geoffrey on LinkedIn https://au.linkedin.com/in/geoffreywade
And to find out more about his work check out his website
He mentions a game to “Eliciting a Flow State”, if you want to have a play you can download here
For a quick teaser…check out this video
Listen to the full episode …
If I pull a line from Sir Ken Robinson, uh, I don't know if he, I think he's a famous figure. Not everyone knows him, he’s famous for a particular Ted talk that he did. He's an educationalist and he's got a wicked sense of humor, a really wonderful sense of humor that comes out in his presentation, but he said, he thinks that there are three keys, conditions if you like that need to be satisfied for human beings to flourish. And one of those three keys is creativity. And he says, look, human life is inherently creative and he said, I'm paraphrasing him, we create and recreate our lives through a restless process of connection with others and imagination. It’s this way of constantly inventing and reinventing our lives, And I think he had it right. At the heart of that, and what feeds into that of course is innovation.
And I dunno whether it was cause I'm insatiably curious or what, but I remember in my corporate career I just naturally had a bent for, yes, innovation has a risk for it and associated with it, but there's greater risk not to. One of my mentors, um, he was talking about human behavior, but I expanded it, he said, look, as, as human beings we're capable of lifelong learning and lifelong change, this bit that you can't teach an old dog, new tricks is nonsense.
And, you know, we were talking about the research in neuro-plasticity or the, you know, the plastic nature of the brain, in other words it can reprogram itself, rewire itself, change itself life-long. But he said, what happens is people tend to get to a certain point in their life where they're comfortable and they become complacent, and and it's easy to sit in a groove and not challenge themselves to do new things, learn new things, take on a new language, whatever. And, um, he was saying essentially they stagnate. And as he said, rather brutally Geoff, what happens in a stagnant pond? It all dies. And he says, stagnation is a form of death.
And he says, you can die before your time or you can live a life where you're constantly pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. And of course, every time you do that, the comfort zone expands. But he said, when you do that, you have a pond that's vibrant and full of life and it's affecting the environment around it the same way, but if you stagnate, not only that as a leader in an organization, you're dragging down the people around you. I always took leadership as a serious responsibility. It's like, wow you know what I do and what I say has consequences. You know, I'm running a business unit that has consequences for say three and a half thousand people. And then all of our customers, as well as the shareholders.
And it's like, man, I get up in the morning this is the responsibility I carry. And that that was not about making me fearful of change and innovation. If anything, it prompted me to be more open to it, always assessing the risk, but always wanting to try new stuff. Because when you carry that sort of responsibility, it's about constantly improving, that the principle of never ending continuous improvement is I suppose, at the heart of avoiding stagnation.
One, as a leader, yes, you have a responsibility to foster innovation and encourage people to do it, help them manage the risk. And then there's this piece of when it doesn't work, you want to change their reaction from oh it was failure. And you know, we classify as human beings, I set out to get a certain outcome, you know, and I miss, Oh, I failed. Um no you didn't, you learned something, you learned what didn't work.
Now you can either quit or you can try something different. And so as a leader, for me, it was always fostering well, what did we learn? One of my managers, he was brilliant. He taught me so much. This was in my early thirties. And, um, we, we were managing a crisis as you do on occasion. You know, stuff just went wrong.
The unexpected comes at you from left field. Now we've got the team of leaders in the room and I think there's eight of us. And one of my leadership team is this cool and calm as a cucumber while the rest of us doing the jitters and the whole stress and anxiety thing about how we going to deal with this.
And way through the meeting and, you know, I'm slow to catch on, but about, yeah, I've been watching this for about 10 minutes as I'm facilitating the meeting and had I turned to him and say, Tony, what is it with you? You're, you're as cool as a cucumber. You're making really useful contributions. The rest of us are stressed to the gills. And he says, well, you recruited me what did I used to do before this. And of course, you know, I stand there feeling like someone's just hit me in the face with a wet kipper. It's like, Oh, Tony used to work in the Navy. And he said, what was I doing? And I said, bomb disposal.
So he looks at me. Is anyone going to die? Silence in the room. And I say, no, anyone going to die? If we get our response to this wrong. And I look at him and say, no, is the company going to break and fail if we don't sort this out right the first time, I say no. So he said, is all this stress and anxiety going to make any difference?
And there's a long pause before I say no. So what are we doing it for? Just calm down. Yeah, I tell you that, that was a truly compelling lesson. It's great when one of your team teaches you something in front of everyone else. It's kind of great, funny, but it's great because I clearly took the lesson. Yeah, it taught my team that I was open to feedback and that I could learn.
And it did affect their behavior with me there afterwards. They kind of believed it beforehand, but when they saw it in action, it was like, wow you can tell the boss anything, he'll listen. And if there's a lesson in it for him, he'll run with it, change his behavior.
It profoundly impacted in that particular team, what we call psychological safety. That's one of the foundations of trust. And I think that's a foundation of innovation too. Your people have to know that it's safe to do something new and to learn from the consequences when they’re not what you want.
There's so much more neuroscience now around how powerful our unconcious is and how it actually learns and guides us. Listen to it, it is full of wisdom that you don't necessarily appreciate. And we model or study the structure of expertise in human experience, particularly those that perform well. And I have some talents. And, you know, one of them is that I can assess a commercial context very quickly and you know, I'd look at the numbers, read the financial forecast, and hear from everyone then I'd kind of could just go yes or no, let's do it.
And one of my, one of my teams said I've seen you do this so many times, and it's just like, you just have this gut response to know what to do and you get it right. So what the hell's going on, I want to unpack the structure of how you do that. Now of course I'm working with guys who, and women, who just think that when you demonstrate that behavior, there's the structure behind it.
Now what's really interesting was I had no idea I was doing this. It was all outside of conscious awareness, but literally when I gathered all the information and I would suck it up and suck it up until I crossed a certain threshold and I had enough to process, I would get this intuition that's enough.
And there was a process going on outside of conscious awareness, had a particular structure to it and a sequence. It was like, when it was unpacked, I'm going, wow, that’s clever, where did I learn that? And then I unpacked what I did with, with all the information. And it was like, I had this wall of screens in my head.
And in each screen, I was running all the potential scenarios in parallel of what could unfold with this, this particular opportunity. And I'd run hundreds of them and reject different ways of doing it and narrow it down to a small subset that I’m seeing as feasible and then analyze it in more detail.
This is all outside of conscious awareness. It was like, Holy cow, this is genius, but that was what was going on. And then after I'd done all of that, I would get this gut Yes or a gut No. And I was only aware of this physical feeling in the center of my torso that said yes or no, but what created it was the sort of stuff that every human being can do and does, they just don't know they do it.
And when we unpacked how I did it, we taught other people in the company to mimic it. Um, and we got consistent results from their decisions using the methodology. So it's kinda, you know, there's this intuition. Well, let me tell you intuition is not just a feeling in the gut or the chest or wherever you get it, it is backed up by your unconscious mind doing exceptional processing, parallel processing in great detail. And it's usually based on the wisdom and experience that you've accumulated through a lifetime. And so I say trust your gut.
There's a process for innovation and creativity that you can learn and mimic from modeling people who are really good at it. Uh, very often, when we're working with leaders, we teach them how to calibrate, in other words, how to recognize their intuition signals. We teach them three to recognize.
So the signals that are most useful, all you need a three signals. Yes, No and I need more information, or if you'd like, I don't know. Because with those signals and closed questions, you can start talking to your own conscious. You can tap into, it because you think about internal dialogue in your head, hey Jeff's unconscious, the outcome I want to achieve is this in this particular context now, um, first question, I suppose from my unconscious is are there any parts in there that object or have concerns and you get this sensation in your body that you've calibrated as yes. And it’s like, Oh, okay.
I thought it was a brilliant idea. Isn't it doesn't matter. Objection. My unconscious is seeing something that I've missed. Alright. And then you can take it further and you can actually, when, when you know how to talk with your unconscious, using that simple set of closed questions, you actually tap in and find out what the objection is, or you can ask your unconscious to bring to bear the resources that are necessary and sufficient to manage that objection, to handle it so it's not a problem anymore. And that the outcome that you're framing is one that you can safely pursue, and by safely I mean, you know, I get my outcome, but I don't break the system in which I'm operating.
And, and look, as you're taking in the information, you will get to a point where you realize, or you get a sensation that says I have enough now to make an informed decision.
There's a trade-off, like I can go after every single piece of information I need and crank the risk right down, but you'd never make a decision, you’d be hunting for information forever. One of the things that um, differentiates or classifies, those who have business acumen is they're able to get a set of information which is not a hundred percent and it's enough for them to make an astute and accurate commercial decision and then act on it and manage it to success.
What do you get when you're in a desert? Typically it's a landscape that looks pretty empty. Sandy, dusty, rocky, dead. The desert isn't dead. Right beneath the surface are the seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions to come about. And when it rains, our deserts burst forth with an abundance of plant life.
And I think commerce is a little bit the same. And innovation is a little bit the same, you know, it's starting out with a desert, but I'm starting out with a whole pile of hidden opportunity, but when I start looking for it and the conditions become right, or I make the conditions right there's abundance. And that, that for me, is part of innovation and creativity, it's seeing the opportunity where everyone else is seen desert.
When, when you look at, uh, what creative people do there's a lot of raft of different things, but I'll suggest two that are useful. Number one relates to your state. By that, I mean your mental and physiological state. Most of your audience would have heard of, I think being in flow? Or another way to think of flow is, is much like being in the zone. For the golfers who are in the audience, you know, there's always been that day when you went out and you just played par and birdie and maybe the odd eagle, it may not have been the whole game for the day, but you did it on enough holes.
That's flow. It's that state that you're in, when you do the genius performance, the exceptional. And it has a structure and the structure is full blown external attention with wide peripheral vision. It's silent, internal dialogue. It's in your physiology, your body. The first piece is get that state.
There are the games, there are exercises are activities that create that state. And yeah if, if anyone's really interested, they can contact you or me, you know, and I'll give them some literature on one or two of those games that they can play. It will create a flow step for you. So, that's one.
And then, then the other is there’s process, there’s structure to thinking strategies that creative people follow and, and kind of one is they mess around with different logical levels.
So I suppose some people might know of the work of DeBono, but, uh, you know, he talks about lateral thinking and stuff like that. Abductive thinking. So, you know, deductive thinking, inductive thinking. Abductive thinking right, they’re processes.
So the example is I might start out with and I'm thinking about a particular Stradivarius violin, you know, And then I can chunk up to a slightly higher logical level and say, well, you know, that's part of the group, a family of violins. So I've expanded you know, the member group and also what I'm thinking about. I can chunk up a little further and say, well, it's a member of the group of instruments where you pull a bow across the strings to make sound. And then I can chunk up further and say, well, it's a member of the group of instruments where you, where you use strings to create the music and that now suddenly you think about a whole lot of and now I'm including pianos.
It's like, and you know, anything that makes sound, and when you chunk up to those higher levels, you just keep expanding the scope wider and wider and wider. And when you do that, suddenly it makes accessing the new ideas so much easier. Creative people, innovative people start chunking up to higher logical levels and they expand the scope of their thinking and the members of the group that they're thinking about when they're dealing with a particular problem or trying to innovate a creative solution.
We put in, you know, other, other consultants who are helping build all of that, that reality mimic of the commercial retro book. Part of the team has cognitive scientists. Because you know, when we build these virtual worlds, part of the idea is that it's almost where we were wanting to reprogram the brains of the people who go into the virtual worlds.
We're wanting to break down some of the limiting paradigms and beliefs and mindsets that they've got and help them get courageous and risk and experiment with new ideas in the virtual world. So, when that sort of thing's going on, we're also wanting to measure how people are interacting in a virtual world and what that's telling us about how they're thinking, how they're making decisions, the sorts of decisions they're making and how quickly.
So there's all sorts of stuff that's in there that tracks that, and we're able to do fairly astute analysis of the individuals and, uh, you know, where they're at and how they're changing as they go through the experiences in the virtual world. So, that allows us to assess, you know, for example, variations that are designed specifically around assessing the business acumen of senior executives, we throw senior executives in and we give them a problem in a business and then, and then see how they try and solve it.
And that tells us a load about their leadership style and their business acumen and their thinking strategies and where our strengths are that they can leverage in the future and where they might want to focus to develop and be more resilient, more resourceful individuals for the corporation that they, that they're operating it.
One organization, it quadrupled the value of the mine. So the outcome was measured in billions, right? It more than doubled the throughput without spending much as they found they were managing the wrong constraint. I’ll take another example um what we jokingly call the last child.com examples. You know, some of the clients who come to us are, uh, they're literally on the burning platform at the edge of the precipice, and they're going, um, we're so desperate. We've tried everything else. We've spent gazillions with all these different consultants.
And they go from literally, the bank is about to wind up the company to, 90 days later, they're making healthy profits and they've recovered. And a year later the company is in acquisition mode and buying others to cope with the growth.
Another one where, you know, we doubled market capitalization or in other words the share price in one year. We tend to talk about the, the potential that comes from rehearsal around innovation as a look, unless you want something more than a hundred percent improvement don’t talk to us, because the numbers are a hundred percent and above.
And you've actually got to be courageous enough to want that sort of change. That's why we call those projects Performance transformation. Yeah, cause that's what comes from innovation. It's not a 5% shift. It's not a 20% shift. Start thinking a hundred percent and more within a year.
The customized versions that we, or virtual worlds that we build are for the bigger end of town. And they, they deliver hundreds and hundreds of millions of value to the clients. And so for them, it's easy to go through the project and have a custom world built for them. Also, the other benefit is, you know, they solve one problem and then they get in a virtual world and solve the next and the next and the next. But we've started building generic, virtual worlds.
And, uh, you know, you want to build an agile organization. We have one where you can throw your people in and it will teach them how, it literally rewires them to behave and think and make strong decisions within an agile culture. You can build an agile culture in that session. We've got a generic mining and merger and acquisition and things.
And so, yeah, when we talk the generic solution, you're starting to talk two and a half grand per seat. Which is totally affordable for almost anybody. And we are going to build more and more virtual worlds. We have about half a dozen at the moment, but you will get industry specific and context specific virtual worlds.
And then I guess, yeah, the, the other option is, come talk to us about your specific situation and maybe the solution that, that we've got for you is not a virtual world, but it's one that will, for example, you know, we talked earlier about, we teach people how to tap into their intuition. It might be something like that, where there is an intervention that changes the culture in the organization. And then as a consequence, you can build innovation in.
We think the change culture in an organization is something that takes a long time. You know I remember when the head of national Australia Bank, made his comments and I don’t mean to single him out but he made a comment after the banking inquiry here, commission.
And he said, yeah, we have to change but you know, we're a big organization and it's really slow and we'll take a long time. And my instant response was, yeah the mistake a bank is making is that they didn't fire you five minutes after you said that. Cause you just gave 30,000 people permission not to change.
And I know you did that because you came from a belief or mindset, and an experience that culture change is slow. But it ain’t. We've changed it in big organizations from one day to the next. You just have to know how to do it.
You do an intervention that doesn't have people standing up saying the culture's changed. You do an intervention where people see the culture change. And one of my favorite stories, there was, you know, an organization where the culture was to sweep the bad news under the carpet because the boss noticed the messenger. To change the culture in that organization, because it was costly, you know, the boss would hear about the bad news when it was just too late and too expensive, we did some work with the boss, changed the way the boss behaved.
And then the cultural intervention was we pulled the 680 or whatever staff it was in a conference facility at 5.30 after work one day. And they're all standing there and had no idea why they were there. And then in walks the boss and he's holding a skilsaw in walks the executive team behind him and they're holding a couple of Trestles and the oak doors from the CEO's office. He plugs in the skilsaw they slam the doors on the Trestles and he just starts carving these doors up into pieces.
680 people are shocked. He and his team pick up the pieces of wood from these doors and just walk out into the audience and hand out pieces of wood. Turn around, unplug the skilsaw of walk out, pick up the Trestles and walk out. And then the hotels cleaners come in and start to clean up.
The CEO said the next day at about 10 o'clock someone stood at his door nervously, or at least where the door used to be and held up a piece of wood and he invited them in and they told him about a problem. Now he behaved totally differently and he got all the information and they worked out how to solve the problem. And he thanked that employee so much for coming in and sharing the problem with him early, so it could be solved before it became costly. And he said within half an hour, the grapevine had done the rest and he said that one change increased their profit by 8% in nine months.
But you get the idea. We think that you do culture change by telling people about it. You don't. There are, there are metaphorical ways of doing culture change that are far more effective and can change the culture in days.