Questions from Ideation ’12

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Ideation Conference put on by Charles Lee.  It was  a great time of connecting, networking, and learning.  In fact, in the first session, the intro speaker said something about taking notes, not so much on what is actually said, but on what is inspired in you when ideas are spoken about.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve been wrestling with who I am as a leader and how to surround myself with the right people, along with knowing what role I play in new ideas and vision.  I was talking about this with a friend of mine who was also at the conference, Jacob Vanhorn.  One of the questions I asked him was, “in a world like ours, where you have many different things pulling at you, how do you successfully become a master at the one or two things as opposed to be a manager of the many things?”  His response was brilliant.  He said, “sometimes the goal is not so much ‘doing less things or taking less ventures’ but rather having the knowledge of who you are (what type of leader you are), and then knowing what role you should play in the new venture or in your current roles based on who you are…In other words, being able to answer, ‘how am I still being this person in this endeavor?’.  When you can no longer identify who you are in what you are doing, then you have either tried to control it too much, micro-manage it too much, or are drowning in the project because you are trying to be someone you are not.  If that’s the case you need to let go of it and hand it off to someone who can lead it better in the next stage which requires a different sort of leader, and let them truly lead.”

All that to say, I am using that as a filter for myself as I read through the questions below, that were inspired by the Ideation conference.  Below is a set of questions, that were inspired in me as I was listening to the different speakers at Ideation.  I will use Jacob’s question as a lens to begin to think through the questions below.  If you are a leader or someone who is starting or thinking about starting a new endeavor, I recommend that you wrestle through the following questions:

  • Discovery Questions:
    • Where do I (we) need to have courage to move forward?
      • To answer this question you must be able to imagine what could be!
      • To answer this question you must be willing to admit where you have grown stagnant, and complacency has set in.
      • To answer this question you have to be willing to step off the wave of fame, and get dirty.
    • What am I will to go all-in for?  In other words, what am I willing to fail big and publicly at?
    • Do I want to lead others into my vision; or do I want to lead with others into a vision bigger than I can imagine?
      • To answer this question you must be willing to admit you want to keep all the fame and attention; or be willing to give it away and share it.
  • Awareness Questions:
    • What is already happeningin my neighborhood, city, or field of interest that needs to be focused on or harnessed for deeper impact?
      • To answer this question properly, you have to be willing to allow the local situation or need to inform the vision, rather than create your own detached agenda.
      • To answer this question, you have to be willing to let go of other elements that demand your time in order to slow down so you can deeply know your surroundings.
      • To answer this question, you cannot lead from a distance, you have to lead from within.  You have to be willing to be present enough to know the local environment and the holes within it that continually perpetuate the dysfunction or needs
      • To answer this question you must be willing to take your eyes off of you, and find who else in the area is also attempting to address the issues and figure out how to collaborate.
    • What is the common enemy? This question is two-dimensional: (1) What is the common enemy causing the local problem (2) What is the common enemy causing people to be paralyzed from actively fighting the enemy?
      • To answer this question you must be among and within; you must be willing to no longer allow there to be an us-and-them mentality, but a “we mentality” – the enemy must be your enemy as well, or you will never truly engage it at the cost it demands.
      • To answer this question, you must move beyond “drive-by-projects” and move in!
      • To answer this question, you must be able to clearly articulate what the absence of the vision means and how it will affect the context you are hoping to work in.
  • Execution Questions:
    • How do you involve people in the vision without adding one more thing to their already busy life?  Another way to ask this is, “how do you help the vision to intersect the life they are already living?
      • To answer this question demands you slow down to be an intuitive leader.
      • To answer this question you must be able to size the vision downward. In other words, you must help people see beyond the normality of a compartmentalized task, and into a vision that threads itself through all aspects of life.  In other words, you have to be able to explain how the vision looks on a corporate level; on a community level; on a family level; and on an individual level.
      • To answer this question, you must be able to teach people how to be purposeful with the way they already live by showing them how what they are already doing allows them to take part in the vision; while at the same time you must be able to help people subtract “meaningless-time-sucks” from their lives.
      • To answer this question you must be able to make the journey as deep and rich as the completed vision itself – this will help prevent burnout.
    • How do you plan on defining success?
      • To answer this question, you have to paint an intriguing picture of what the finish line looks like.
      • To answer this question, you have to paint a provocative picture of what the journey looks like, which means clearly defining measurables along the way.
      • To answer this, you must be willing to be people focused, or else people will turn into a commodity that you use to accomplish your vision.

I realize the length of this blog steps over the lines of the “blog rules”.  I also realize that these aren’t the only questions to be asked when embarking on a new journey, but as begin to think about my roles, my ideas, and my ventures.  I am going to ask myself the above questions, through the lens of the first question Jacob asked me.  Maybe you should do the same!

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One thought on “Questions from Ideation ’12

  1. Great stuff as always! I tend to burn out of leadership roles when I’m being asked to do things that I’m not really good at. Trying to do those things and failing to do them well frustrates both me and the people I’m supposed to be leading. Unfortunately, there are certain leadership roles where it’s simply not an option to hand off tasks for which you’re unfit. That’s when it becomes difficult to determine if it’s something where I need to push through because the organization needs me, or if I’m the wrong person for the job.

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