Inotivity Blog

An Exercise in Changing Your Company

Marshall Goldsmith (20 March 1949) is an Ameri...

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A few weeks ago, SeriouslyCreative and Inotivity helped a major company disrupt themselves.

It was a disruption day.

A day for them to ask questions that they typically don’t ask themselves.  A day to look at how conventional thinking has helped them achieve success and how it may be hurting them now and in the future.  A day to collaborate in unexpected ways.

Or as I often put it, “ a day to discover if what you’re doing is doing you in.”

A few years ago, the great Marshall Goldsmith wrote about a technique he learned from Psychologist Nathaniel Branden.  It’s about a simple exercise that helps people isolate the pattern that makes the most sense to change, because it helps them visualize and experience the benefits of change.

“Five to eight people sit around a table, and each person selects one practice to change. One person begins the exercise by saying: “When I get better at…” and completes the sentence by mentioning one benefit that will accompany this change. For example, one person may say: “When I get better at being open to differing opinions, I will hear more great ideas.”

After everyone has had a chance to discuss their specific behavior and the first benefit, the cycle begins again. Now each person mentions a second benefit that may result from changing the same behavior, then a third, continuing usually for six to eight rounds. Finally, participants discuss what they have learned and their reactions to the exercise.

Now, it’s your turn to pick a behavior pattern that you may want to change. Complete the sentence: “When I get better at…” over and over again. Listen closely as you recite potential benefits. You will be amazed at how quickly you can determine whether this change is worth it for you.”

At Inotivity, I have adapted this to fit companies and organizations.  “When we get better at… we will.”  Then, the group identifies the ideas that resonate the most we ask them to imagine how that idea will be transformed into action.

An example:

“When we get better at listening we will begin understand our customer’s needs.”

Now transform the idea into action steps:

To begin understanding our customer needs means we:  Need to improve our listening skills by training or evaluation. Need to find a way to respond to our customers faster to show them that they have been heard.  Need to prove that we’ve listened.  Need to share with others in our company what we’ve heard.

At its core, this exercise is about imagining consequences of even the smallest of behavioral changes and how it can migrate into changing an organization.

Check out Marshall’s original column in HBR:

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About the Author

Martin Baker, Inotivity’s President and Chief Idea Catalyst, was among the first to be trained as a certified trainer, facilitator and coach with the world’s leading innovation firm, Chicago-based Solution People. He has been an award-winning creative director and consultant with such leading agencies as Saatchi & Saatchi in California and The Martin Agency in Virginia. He was also an Executive Associate Director/Creative Director at Texas A&M University.

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