Change is a book burning.
It stands at the podium in all its righteousness and altruism and asks you to willingly throw your stories on the fire. The well-worn chestnuts you’ve told a hundred times. The stories you’ve clung to and retold for decades. Stories that have garnered you attention, laughter, applause, love, and connection.
Change asks that you give all of that up in faith that new stories will arrive. That new stories will magically fall from your lips, pour forth from your soul, or be woven together by a community of people that doesn’t yet exist.
I always tell the story of change in personal terms. When I stopped smoking I lost a few friends. You know the ones. The ones that don’t want to see you change. The ones that would rather see you suffer (or die) with them rather than confront change in themselves. I don’t miss those friends so much.
But then I got married and I lost a few more friends. The ones that weren’t ready for serious relationships or were struggling to find a part of themselves they could truly give to another.
Then, I had children, and I lost most of my friends. Choosing to bring a new life into this crazy world is a bridge too far for some people. And, it added to my responsibilities, making my precious spare time all the more precious.
In 2012, I founded the Integral Church – an interfaith group committed to pluralism, religious literacy, and spiritual practice. As you can imagine, my friends thought I had gone off the deep end. And at this point, I could count them on one hand.
Even though I had pruned the bushes of my life back to a nub, I didn’t succumb to isolation or depression. I was constantly meeting new people and making new connections. Each decision to step into a new way of being was chosen with intention and I stayed curious about myself and what kind of people I needed to surround myself with. Leaders, visionaries, creatives, those unafraid of change.
You can move to a new city; give up your career of 20 years; or come out as gay, bisexual or polyamorous. The effect will be the same. You will slough off some people that you didn’t need in your life anymore, shaking them loose like a winter coat.
Living happens on the precipice of change. The most important growth happens while standing at a crossroads.
Where I sought a spiritual life, there are also those who seek to leave it behind. For those sitting in the front pew of their church (having spent years working their way forward from the back pew) deconstructing your faith can be scary. Admitting that you’ve outgrown an institution or set of beliefs takes massive courage. These people are melting on the inside (like a caterpillar in a cocoon), dying to be reborn as something else.
Republicans and Democrats alike sometimes find themselves in the sanctity and anonymity of the ballot box only to end up voting for someone outside their party. They realize that their values have changed. Their beliefs about the role of government, policy, and responsibility have changed. It could be that they have changed; it could also be that the party has changed (hasn’t moved with the times, or is too progressive).
In consulting, we find no shortage of business leaders struggling with change – grappling with a vision in flux. Their strategy is now obsolete and they no longer have the right people in the right seats. For leaders in changing organizations, that means onboarding and aligning your team to the new vision and finding new team members who can help you accomplish your mission in the world. It means rallying the team behind a bright, clear, bold vision even as that vision is dissipating and you are anxiously crafting a new one.
You can plant a sapling and wait for it to bloom or you can repot a plant that needs more room to grow. Either way, change happens in an ecosystem – in a forest.
If you are the tree, then that tree has a lifecycle – a kind of toroidal function where the acorn and leaves are falling and debris is composting into something else. Turning into food and being reabsorbed through the roots. There is rhythm and motion and life.
But this tree is also connected to the mycelium and mycorrhizal network – the fungus and mushrooms and other trees around it. It's literally and invisibly holding its neighbor’s hands underground, forming a living community, a thriving marketplace or a well-regulated nation right underneath your feet.
Beyond the forest is what's called the purlieu. The frayed edges of the forest, where it turns into savannah or desert or plain is where mutation (or innovation) happens. It’s where the laws of the forest start to break down.
In business, this means we must manage our personal cycle of growth (from levels of listening to unconscious competence), the lifecycle of our business (from start-up to maximization to irrelevance), as well as the innovation portfolio being created on the farthest horizons of the purlieu.
In the sci-fi/horror movie, Annihilation, based on the best-selling Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, the edge of the forest is called “the shimmer.” Inside the forest – beyond the shimmer – things grow at accelerated rates; the DNA of plants, animals, and humans is re-combined before the naked eye; and there seems to be no boundary between physical being and time. The forest in Annihilation is a sandbox of evolutionary emergence.
This is exactly the kind of jungle we find ourselves in as we navigate the 21st century. With our political post-modernism seeking to include, our decentralized media marketplace seeking to give access, and our remix culture seeking the novel and the new, change is a constant.
Our quest is to get off the well-worn highways and tromp new trails and pathways through the forest.
Our challenge is to be two people at once: the Wise Planner who thinks big thoughts and manages complex processes by optimizing or creating new routines and the Impulsive Toddler who will narrowly focus on the process at hand by executing existing habits.
Our task is to push our chests into the fog of uncertainty with the courage and contentment of a master. To love the tightrope strung between the known and the unknown. To compost and be composted.
Our aim is to live in a state of anticipation and curiosity, not expectation or entitlement.
There is a Greek proverb that states, “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.”
I believe a man grows great when he plants trees that he knows will be chopped down and turned to pulp. Pulp that will be pressed into books and thrown on the future fire.
THE 7 TYPES OF INNOVATION
ISO TC 279 defines innovation as "a new or changed entity realizing or redistributing value."
At Illustrious, we define innovation as the act of creativity and experimentation that turns your best ideas (and even your best failures) into value. This means that whether we’re talking about corporate innovation or a small business that encourages innovation best practices on small teams, you can’t have innovation without the ability to 1) generate and elevate new ideas, 2) iterate ideas into process maps and prototypes, and 3) validate and scale those idea prototypes into the right audience fit.
Innovation strategy falls into numerous categories. These include:
THE 3 HORIZONS OF INNOVATION
An organization’s innovation strategy also falls into what McKinsey and Company call horizons. These are the time-bound areas of focus for innovation efforts.
The first horizon (H1) is the home for any short-term innovation strategy and includes both “incremental” and “notable” shifts along the value scale. Incremental shifts include improvements or additional unique features to products and services (think a toothbrush with rubber grips or a flipchart with handles).
According to Magnus Penker, author of How to Assess and Measure Business Innovation, “notable” shifts include a “distinguishable advance in design, process or business model” (think the RAZR phone or disposable hearing aids).
The second horizon (H2) includes mid- to long-term innovation efforts and results in significant or “radical” shifts. This means there is an advance in the product or experience design as well as to the process or business model (think Southwest Airlines or iPod/iTunes).
The third horizon (H3) is where we see game-changing transformational shifts. The hallmark of the third horizon is that at least two important advances are made in a combination of design, process or business model. (Think market disruptors like the razor and blades model or the light bulb and electrical grid.)
Each of these corporate innovation types requires a different leadership style (entrepreneurial, democratic/participatory, coaching/charismatic, etc.). Each type requires a decision to buy, build, partner or do “open” innovation (collaboration outside the walls of the business). With each leap, what got you there will not get you where you’re going. At each horizon, you will take on new or different team members, mindsets, language, business systems and management methods.
When you commit to the practice of innovation, you are not only committing to changing your surroundings, but also to changing yourself.
If you’re ready to have a conversation about the inner work required to lead innovation in your business, we’d love to help you shine.
by Rachel Blasco
From updating your strategy to scaling your team, growth is change and change is hard.
Visual Consultants are hired to “facilitate the organization to perceive, understand, and develop the organization’s business and human processes, in order for the client to improve the situation themselves, as they define it.”
Visual Consultants work with clients to (quite literally) paint the picture their teams are trying to describe in vivid details that is clear and easy to understand. In other words, visual consultants are the map makers and cartographers for our ideas in order to define and put plans into actionable stories.
Visual consulting is at its essence, storytelling. The practice developed out of the constant need for innovation in businesses that want to remain not only at the top of their game, but to continue to move the ball forward in their field.
Visual consultants are at the intersection of three fields that have given rise to a new way of working: Visualization, dialogic practice, and change consulting. The outcome is both rewarding and inspiring to executives and teams alike. Visual storytellers and consultants both design and lead change in organizations and communities that may otherwise feel unmotivated or simply unclear on what the objectives and expected outcomes of the group may be.
Ultimately, this is an orientation in process thinking and process leadership. So, clients seeking alignment on new visions, process transformation, innovation, culture change, and sustainable results get the results they are looking for in hiring a visual consultant to bring order to the chaos.
Why Seeing is Believing
In both high profile corporate coaching and small personal development circles, creating a clear picture around your goals and steps to get there is a central topic. Look at the vocal facilitators and consultants as pros at this. Navigating both verbal story and visual landscape, these experts bring design thinking and creativity to the gray landscapes of corporate agendas and enhance team enthusiasm and commitment.
An article in Forbes, Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them, discusses the research behind describing or picturing goals and the strong association with goal success; and, people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish what they set out to do. Think about visual facilitation and storytelling as the map to your destination. It’s much easier to get to where you are going if you have a better picture of what to expect or look for. It helps our monkey brains process more efficiently, and focus on what matters.
If you are experiencing the following, you may need someone to consult with on your vision, culture, story or strategy. Some of the main complaints among brands and businesses that would benefit greatly from visual consultants are:
With all of this in mind, and especially if you are experiencing any of these issues, it makes sense to hire visual consultants to facilitate innovation workshops and improve overall team output and performance while defining what the next chapter of your business will look like.
If you still don’t know where to start or what this might look like for your organization, we’d be happy to schedule a quick 30-minute call.
An Interview with Joran Oppelt by Ashley Preston
There are a lot of misconceptions around success.
The dictionary describes it as “the correct or desired result of an attempt,” or “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame,” but how it is measured is highly subjective to each person pursuing goals.
So the question becomes, “how should we think of success?”
That’s why I sat down with Joran Oppelt, the founder of Illustrious Consulting and an international speaker and author to get his thoughts on what “success” really is, how it is achieved, and what kind of mentality we should approach it with.
Here’s what he had to say about his journey, the biggest lessons he’s learned along the way, and some of the most common misconceptions he’s seen about what it takes to be successful.
Q: How can someone find success?
A: There might be a formula for sales, there might be ways to template out content, there are aspects of a business you can replicate and train, but no one can just hand you the roadmap to a successful business.
I wish people knew there are no gurus or experts that can turn them into an amazing CEO or business owner or manager. People are making things up as they go all the time – they’re building their airplanes in flight.
Relying on a step-by-step process pigeon-holes you into a certain way of doing things. The best entrepreneurs accept that there isn’t a precise process, there isn't an exact framework. It doesn’t work that way.
Q: Why is it important to find your own formula for success?
A: Everyone has different markets and segments, so one-size-fits-all approaches aren’t going to solve your problems. Success is found by those who are willing to go out on a limb.
You give your power away when you allow yourself to think that one person’s book or system can help you hit your goals. That puts your chance to succeed outside of yourself. You’re not taking responsibility for your own future. You're avoiding experimentation, which is a vital piece of this whole puzzle. It’s how you learn important lessons and collect valuable data. When everything is an experiment, all you get is results.
Q: How do successful people talk about their endeavors?
A: When I hear successful people talk about their wins, I hear how they worked to make their ideas fit – to get over whatever hump they had to – and come out stronger for it. They are unafraid to learn how to create a sales process or a marketing campaign. They are willing to experiment and to fail and to learn. It’s about seeing themselves as leaders.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to be a success?
A: I’m a big believer in “how we do anything is how we do everything.” There is harmony and balance in the cosmos. At the micro level, if you’re intentionally steering the ship, those micro-adjustments will make a difference in where you go.
Are you messy? Are you late? Did your team hit its goals this year? Did you hit your goals this year? Think about your role in your own business and in your own life. I'll bet that you can draw a straight line from the attitude you have when you wake up to how you show up for your team or business to the results you see at the end of the quarter.
Q: What do you hope to instill in your coaching clients in order for them to own their own success?
A: My biggest coaching breakthrough is always when the client sees themselves as the kind of person they want to be. They can’t do that unless they put the work into changing their habits and thought patterns.
Once we understand the interconnectedness of intention and presence and strategy, then we have something we can build from. That mindset -- that kind of vision -- gives you a direction in which to experiment, the ability to see failure as an opportunity, and the opportunity to be reborn every day as someone who transcends their problems and includes what they’ve discovered along the way.
According to the Wall Street Journal, WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani recently said that remote workers are less-than-engaged with the companies they work for. Mathrani’s conflict of interest here is staggering as his business model clearly depends on people leaving their homes.
Then, Morgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon said remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.” This contradicts a recent SHRM article which stated that:
You cannot tell me that remote workers don't have "hustle" or that they aren't committed. As I see it, there are only two downsides to an all-remote team. The first is losing physical touch and biofeedback loops created by being in the presence of others. The second is losing the opportunity for leadership's shitty ideas to go sour around the water cooler. Having that side conversation in the hallway or throwing some over-the-cubicle shade can be a necessary ingredient to determine viability and feasibility or to create stable bonds in the culture.
CEOs leading in remote environments risk fabricating grim fairy tales of how work is going unless they are surrounded by the inputs and outputs of the team.
I've seen CEOs make confident and horrible decisions despite the cost to culture and strategy.
I've seen leaders get caught up in their own bubble and believe their own bullshit because no one would push back.
I've seen entrepreneurs endlessly chase new and novel ideas, calling it "innovation."
I've seen too many bosses mistake faith, loyalty or acquiescence for buy-in.
Real alignment – real wisdom – is a matrix of legacy, mindset, certainty and inclusion. This is the mythical Zone of Genius. If you aren't leading from this place, you may very well destroy what you're building.
The Leadership Line (Uncertainty → Certainty)
Certainty in this case does not mean your personal confidence or optimism about your vision or the business’s prospects. On the flip side, I'm not talking about uncertainty in terms of futures, foresight or plausibility. I’m not saying that you should claim to know things you don’t.
I'm talking about organizational uncertainty -- a lack of vision or transparency, poor communication, no line of sight into or across divisions, low team morale/confidence, lack of alignment around (or commitment to) OKRs, etc.
Uncertainty in this sense is deeply felt and unmistakable. It makes the business (and those inside it) feel like they are floating on a loosely-bound raft, sure to drown at any moment.
Leading with certainty lowers resistance to change because everyone has enough information, there is transparency in the planning and they are confident that you’re the leader that will take them there.
The Culture Line (Exclusion → Inclusion)
On one end of the culture line, team members are excluded, left out of rooms or conversations they feel are important, and kept in silos.
An inclusive culture convenes the right voices around the table, puts the right people in the right seats, creates openness and psychological safety, and facilitates meaningful and productive dialogue among team members. An inclusive culture might look diverse or include different opinions or communication styles, but it always respects the individual and treats conflict as an opportunity for growth.
The Mindset Line (Fixed → Growth)
In her 2008 book, Mindset, Carol Dweck wrote that people with a fixed mindset avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless, ignore feedback and are threatened by the success of others. Those with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find inspiration in others’ success.
Great leaders view themselves and others with a growth mindset. An individual’s mindset varies wildly depending on what their mind is fixed upon. Being able to spot a fixed mindset is the key to loosening it up and allowing for growth. Notice when your beliefs are telling you that something or someone is “impossible.” Possibilities emerge when you quickly reframe negativity.
The Legacy Line (Immediate → Generational)
This line indicates the depth or complexity of your decision-making. On one end, we find immediate and short-term benefits to yourself, your reputation, or business. These are quick wins that yield small- to medium-sized returns.
On the other end, we see decisions that take into consideration and may benefit the seventh generation and beyond. These decisions might be described as visionary, ethical, sustainable, or having a “long tail.” These require patience and deliver longer-term results, sometimes even beyond the lifespan of the founder.
From updating your strategy to scaling your team, growth is change and change is hard.
Visual Consulting (sometimes called Process Consulting)* is when a consultant is hired to visually “facilitate the organization to perceive, understand, and develop the organization’s business and human processes, in order for the client to improve the situation themselves, as they define it.”
This differs from “Expert Consulting,” where the client has a perceived and predetermined need and a consultant is brought in to share their expertise related to that specific need.
It is also different from “Pair-of-Hands Consulting” (or staff augmentation) where the consultant (or consulting team) is brought in to fulfill work that the client lacks the time or resources to deliver.
Visual Consulting is about teaching the client to fish, not fishing for them, or selling them fancy fishing equipment.
If you are experiencing the following, you may need someone to consult with on your vision, culture, story or strategy.
There are four things to look for when hiring a process consultant.
1. They are Process-Agnostic
If a consultant tells you they have an out-of-the-box solution, don’t believe them. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy. There is no killer app in consulting. It is dynamic, empathy-based work that requires deep listening and should include the wisdom (and the elements that work) from different maps, models and methods. A good consultant should have a belief in human potential and a passion for building capacity on your team, regardless of what book they’re reading.
2. They Understand the Process of Change
Look for a consultant that understands the positive and negative effects of change, what resistance to change looks like in individuals and groups, how to ease or work through that resistance, and ultimately, how to empower teams to lead themselves through change. If the change work (or creativity, or innovation) ends when the consultant leaves the room, they are not the right consultant for you. A good consultant strives to develop resilient, emotionally intelligent teams that are well-versed in the language of change and fire-tested in the crucible of transformation.
3. How They Do Anything is How They Do Everything
Take notes on the sales/discovery call and their approach to setting boundaries and expectations. Notice the way they organize information and their attention to detail. This is exactly how they will engage with you (and possibly your clients). If they are late, rushing, scattered, forgetting things, their tone is too negative (or jarringly upbeat and positive) this is not a good sign. A good consultant matches your energy, makes you feel at ease, asks great questions, and sometimes provides clarity and answers before you can form the questions.
4. The Proof is in the Artifact
They are a visual consultant, so look at their visuals. Are the final deliverables something that will be ready to share or distribute with your team/organization? Do they have visual impact? Will they be memorable or just another “dumb” report? The efforts and summary of your work should not only live on and easily shake hands with your implementation lead or strategic plan, but they should inform (or change) the way you tell your story -- internally and externally.
If you still have questions, let’s set up a Discovery Call to discuss what’s happening in your business.
* Source: Visual Consulting: Designing and Leading Change, David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, PhD.
Guest blog post by Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed.
When I discovered Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the fifth grade, I fell hard in love. The funky box art, the spooky dice, the idea of a story lived and a world discovered through the power of pure imagination, all took me in and never let go. Through Dungeons and Dragons, people like me began creating outstanding virtual experiences for their friends long before Zoom, the internet, and even personal computers were part of daily life.
Dungeons and Dragons was first published in 1974. It disrupted the toy and game space and became the best-selling toy of 1978, despite having no board, no pieces, and no winner. It also flew in the face of the emerging trend in video games. Pong had just arrived and it seemed that digital games tethered to TV sets were the future. D&D wasn’t about winning or losing or technology. It was about fellowship and story-making. It was VR before VR was cool.
A shared virtual experience doesn’t live on a screen or a cloud server; it lives in the minds of the participants. They cast visions together with their super-power of conceptualizing the unknown and unseen. Their ability to collectively imagine creates unique interactive and problem-solving opportunities.
Truly virtual experiences provide a sense of agency. When participants cannot affect change through meaningful choices, their experience is passive and vicarious, not virtual. Engagement, investment, and synthesis characterize optimal virtual experiences. In D&D, the participants’ choices shape their outcomes. The Dungeon Master (DM) describes the setting and situations, but the players decide the actions of their player characters (PC’s). What emerges is a memorable, enjoyable, virtual adventure.
A good D&D session is a highly curated experience. The DM considers lighting, sound, and insists on the all-in presence of the players. Everything the DM does is intentional and aimed at immersing everyone deeply in the virtual world. Distractions must be minimized; table rules for players’ behavior are as important as the rules of the game. Cell phones in a basket, people! There’s no texting in the Fever Swamp.
To be a good DM, you must be a rules expert, a compelling narrator, and a master of description. As the rules expert, you need to know how the game works: what the characters can reasonably do, what they absolutely cannot do, and how to determine the outcomes of their decisions. What makes D&D a game as opposed to a cooperative storytelling exercise is the welcome element of uncertain outcomes. Just as in facilitation, the DM knows the rules of the game but not how it will turn out. The more a DM invests in a particular outcome, the less meaningful players’ choices are. Without the skill and courage to manage agency and uncertainty, virtual experiences are boring at best and destructive or divisive at worst.
To help the participants make the most of their agency, the DM must master skillful narration. Good DMs optimize the pace and momentum of the game through their narration of action, reaction, and consequences. Players lose focus and act silly or nihilistic when they are out of the spotlight for too long or the narration feels irrelevant. The DM solves this by keeping narrations short and vivid. Once a players’ turn is resolved, the DM focuses on the next player. Quick summaries, frequent reminders of critical information, and occasional over-cuing are tools DM’s use to keep the game moving forward.
Just because the DM doesn’t know what the players will do, she must imagine what they might do. DMs should visualize various outcomes before the gaming session to anticipate what the players may need next. The RPG luminary Hankerin Ferinale creates binary nodes at critical decision points: if A, then B happens; if C, then D happens. Thinking ahead and planning for both success and failure won’t provide an exact answer for whatever the players choose. It will provide a set of options that combines and synthesizes with new information to create the next adventure node.
Finally, the DM must master the art of succinct, evocative description. This isn’t action-focused narration or storytelling, which resolves a question. Resolving questions is for the players; The DM’s job is to evoke a shared story-space full of meaningful choices. The story emerges as the participants engage with these choices. With the focus on surfacing critical content, the DM must make situations as clear as possible: what are the stakes, what are the dangers, and what resources are available? By describing just the right details to bring the environment and situations to life, DMs enhance essential player agency.
The quality of a D&D session can be measured by how vividly and fondly the players remember it. They will carry the experience with them, reminiscing about defeating the red dragon or the zombie invasion. They may make art or write stories about their adventures. Their real-life behavior may reflect something they’ve learned through play. These are responses to deeply engaging and impactful experiences.
Learn the lessons of great DMs to shape your facilitation clients’ online experiences:
Follow these guidelines and your clients will be able to bravely and mindfully engage their challenges, and their virtual experience will be memorable and valuable. They will be heroes in a shared story and enjoy the riches of the highest outcomes.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.