Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Book review written by Latise Hairston

Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
Have you ever experienced pain, failure, heartbreak or any kind of adversity? You’re probably saying, “Who hasn’t?” In any bookstore, you will find a large selection of self-help books on overcoming adversity because life is filled with a plethora of hardships.
 In Rising Strong, Brene Brown focuses on a portion of the quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, The Man in the Arena, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…” Arena moments are any times in our lives when we have “risked showing up and being seen.”
The Rising Strong Process is comprised of 3 parts:
1.     The Reckoning: Walking into our story
2.     The Rumble: Owning our story
3.     The Revolution
Integrating is the engine that moves one through the reckoning, rumble and the revolution. The tools that are used in integration are storytelling and creativity. Creativity is defined as “the act of paying attention to our experiences and connecting the dots so we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us.”

The Reckoning
In Brown’s research she found that people who rise strong are able to reckon with their emotions by first recognizing that “a button has been pushed, something is triggered”. Secondly, they get curious about what is happening and how they are feeling about it. Brown explains that curiosity is correlated with creativity and problem solving.
            So how do we reckon with our emotions? Brown offers three techniques: permission slips, paying attention and tactical breathing. Permission slips are just what they sound like – writing permission slips to feel emotions. Paying attention involves taking deep breaths and becoming mindful of our feelings. Tactical breathing involves breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, and holding it.

The Rumble
The rumble is where we “own our stories.” First, it is necessary to dive into the uncensored story that we tell ourselves, which means it is probably not accurate. In her research, the people who were able to “rise strong” became aware of the traps of the first stories that they told themselves. Many people become stuck in their negative and harmful stories which Brown calls conspiracies and confabulations.
To capture the first stories Brown says that we need to use the second integration tool – creativity, by writing down our SFD (“shitty first draft” or “stormy first draft”). The SFD is an unedited story, letting it all pour out. It doesn’t have to be a long narrative. It can be written on a post-it note. The intention is to embrace curiosity, awareness and growth.

The Revolution
The revolution involves writing a new ending to our story based on what we have learned during the rumble. Brown explains that the revolution starts with a vision of what is possible. Rather than running from our SFD’s we dig into them knowing they can unlock the fears and doubts that get in the way of our wholeheartedness.
I really enjoyed reading this book. The content was in alignment with my definition of creativity. “Creativity is to push pass the inner voices of limitation and lack; to move toward possibilities and potential and manifest them” (Hairston, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017).  The ‘person’ that is manifested is the product of a lifelong practice.
Sid Parnes recognized that the way we think and talk about problems prohibits us from seeing them as creative opportunities (Parnes, 1988). We tend to complain and see our problems as static. Parnes believed that rephrasing problems as open-ended questions could encourage the brain to develop new connections (Parnes, 1988). Further, Osborn (1953) said “But even better than painting or any other such hobby is the more strenuous exercise of energetically tackling the causes of our despair, and creatively thinking our way through to serenity”. (p. 53)
            In the world in which we live, we are often socialized by the critics all around us; however the loudest critic often lies within. It says “no” to who we are and can be. We must dare to stand up to ourselves, to move pass the inner critic and listen to the voices of who we were meant to be, what we were meant to do, and the awesome change we were meant to make in the world. This requires vulnerability. It requires daring and intentional living.
Ekut said “if we are to break habit-sets and move into new original way of viewing our problems and challenges, we must find ways to break old mental associations or connections and form new ones” (2014, p. 312). Brene Brown in Rising Strong provides a step by step process with detailed techniques that allows us to examine “the stories we tell ourselves”,  to break the old association and to develop new stories that allow us to rise strong.


Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Random House Inc.
Etuk, E. (2014) Creativity: Revealing the truth about human nature. Sarasota, FL: First Edition Design

Osborn, A. F. (1953). Applied imagination: principles and procedures of creative thinking. New York, NY: Scribner.
Parnes, S.J. (1988). Vizionizing. Buffalo, NY: Creative Education Foundation.

Latise Hairston is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of HOPE Consulting. She has held a position at the SUNY College at Buffalo for over 20 years collaborating with organizations to develop creative strategies and products that strengthen, energize and empower customers. Latise holds a M.S. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy (concentration in Organizational Development), as well as certifications as an International Coaching Federation coach and FourSight facilitator. She is currently completing a M.S. degree in Creativity and Change Leadership at the SUNY College at Buffalo.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Book Review: Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era: Lessons from Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft

Book review written by Phil Marks

This paper reviews:
Le Merle, M.C. & Davis, A. (2107). Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era: Lessons from Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Corte Madera, CA.  Cartwright Publishing.  ISBN: 978-0-9861613-8-4

Change creates business winners and losers.

Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era functions on the premise that we are living in a “dramatic transition between the Industrial Era and a new Fifth Era being driven by the Digital Revolution, Biotechnology Revolution, and a host of other disruptive technologies…that will transform the way humans exist on the planet.”  Only those business leaders who capitalize on the disruptive changes will be winners in the Fifth Era.    

Written in a straightforward and pragmatic style, full of the authors’ personal experiences, and data-driven, the book is sure to resonate with business leaders trying to improve their innovation processes.  Business leaders who want a how-to manual for innovation will be drawn to this approach.

Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era is filled with practices and tools employed by Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, and the reader is encouraged to adopt as many of these practices and tools as might be relevant to their business.  The practices and tools are excellent, and span all four creative elements: person, process, product and environment.  The tools also make sense from a general leadership perspective; that is, a leader’s vision should be reflected in the organization’s agendas, conversations, strategies and plans, and culture.  Additionally, the authors provide an excellent toolkit of 17 specific activities for capitalizing upon external innovations (e.g. incubators, advisory boards, collaborative research, etc.)  This toolkit alone is worth the price of the book, as it provides a type of checklist for developing an external innovation strategy.

One of the more interesting insights from the book relates to the balance between incremental and disruptive innovations.  Many business leaders are consumed with developing a balanced innovation portfolio, leading to extensive debate about which projects to pursue from a risk/return perspective.  A Microsoft executive gives insight to the prevailing mindset of an innovative organization with his response: “We view innovation as being the process and customer benefit as being the objective function.  Whether a given innovation ends up being disruptive or incremental is a result of the impact the innovation has on meeting customer needs.  We can’t begin by trying to predict whether an innovation will be disruptive or not.  The result of innovation is an output variable – sometimes disruptive and sometimes incremental – but not something we know in advance.”   

Most interesting, Le Merle and Davis clearly identify a gap between leaders’ stated beliefs and their actions: Leaders universally say that the most important innovations affecting their industry will come from outside their own company and very likely from outside their own industry.  However, these same leaders also say that 70-90% of their company’s innovation resources (people and money) are allocated internally.  The authors use their own observations and evidence to support the prevailing view that disruptive innovations will most likely come from the outside.  However, they don’t address why leaders don’t act more in-line with their beliefs. 

Which gets to the hollow feeling I had while reading the book.  As a creativity student and practitioner, something seems amiss here.  The authors identify that leaders are not acting consistently with their stated beliefs.  Instead of helping the leaders identify the root cause of that inconsistency, the authors instead console and encourage the leaders to just copy successful leaders in other businesses.  At no point in the book is the leader asked to clarify why he isn’t acting consistently with his beliefs.  The book calls their attention to the contradiction without questioning why it exists.  Since the book goes on to provide advice about what to do, it then provides helpful solutions to perhaps the wrong challenge.  I believe leaders could follow many of the actions and wonder why nothing changed in the culture. 

In fact, the authors devote a whole chapter to building an innovation culture, but don’t base their recommendations on solid creativity research.  The authors identify “customer obsession” and “pride in products and services offered” as the top cultural attributes that support innovation.  While these are certainly well-known attributes of commercially successful organizations, the authors fail to recognize the underlying climate dimensions that enable a culture to convert customer obsession into leading products and services: namely, the climate dimensions understood through Ekvall’s Creative Climate Questionnaire or Amabile’s KEYS instrument. 

With insight and potential new tools, Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era has helped me to become better equipped to change culture and set innovation strategy within my company.  Aside the aforementioned concerns, this book could be useful to boost conversation about innovation and invite leaders to think more deeply about how to achieve long-term organizational viability through increasingly disruptive change.  These would be positive steps for most organizations.  Additionally, it might help creativity practitioners to become more aware of the current activities being pursued by corporations who hope to increase innovation, as well as to understand the corporate leadership mindset just a little bit better.

 Phil Marks is the Global Director of Product Engineering for Federal-Mogul’s Systems Protection business unit.  He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from WPI (Worcester, MA), and recently became a certified professional coach.  He is pursuing his M.Sc. in Creativity Studies at ICSC/SUNY Buffalo State.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spotlight on CEE Presenter: Helene Cahen

By Michelle Neumayer

Helene Cahen is founder of Strategic Insights, a consulting firm in the U.S. offering innovation training, facilitation, and coaching customized to each organization's unique needs, culture, and environment. Helene studied business at elite schools in Paris and received her Master's of Science degree in Creativity and Change Leadership from the State University of New York. In addition to her consulting work through Strategic Insights, Helene teaches executive MBA classes at Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Cahen is known for her knowledge of both Creative Problem Solving and Design Thinking. Her Master's Project as a student at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) was titled, “Designing a Curriculum for Design Thinking for Creative Problem Solving Users.” Her 2016 Creativity Expert Exchange (CEE) Conference presentation was about Design Thinking.

While passionate about the need for using both Creative Problem Solving (CPS) and Design Thinking processes for innovation, Cahen stresses that it is critical to include an ethnographic approach that infuses empathy into the process of problem solving. She believes that in order to influence change, it is important to look at cultural and human-centered insights that are based upon a deep understanding of end-user needs for driving ideation. Iterative prototyping, testing, and feedback completes this ethnographic cycle, as more understanding of end user needs is gathered and utilized.

Cahen believes that gatekeepers of creative change want more than just a written “plan” in order to make decisions. They will be more open to embracing innovative solutions when provided with rich end-user information made possible through the ethnographic approach. They may also feel less anxious about the uncertainties of embracing truly novel ideas when given the rich end-user information and more tangible results of iterative prototyping, testing, and feedback.

According to Cahen there appears to be a gap currently in the field of innovation coaching. Business executives need more than just training sessions and workshops in innovation processes. They need help effectively applying learned innovation processes when they return to their work environments. Her solution to address this gap is to offer executive clients ongoing coaching over a period of months, as they work out the application of their innovation training “in the field.”

Over the last few years Cahen helped spearhead the inclusion of short, TedX style talks at the annual Creativity Expert Exchange (CEE)Conference, called “CEE Talks.” Conference participants are now able to enjoy a diverse group of short presentations about creativity from a wide range of people from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, educators, consultants, and diverse people from within the community. We are grateful for her contribution to the field of creativity and innovation, and for adding the dynamic element of CEE Talks to the CEE conferences!

Michelle Neumayer has been called “uber creative” as a photographer, but is now also an “emerging creativity expert” as she completes her Master's degree in Creativity and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo. She holds a design diploma from Sheridan College in Canada, and a BA in Creativity and Change Leadership from SUNY Empire State.