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How to get luck on your side

Here is an article in the Australian Financial Review on Luck in Careers. How to get luck on your side in your career. It is about luck in careers, luck readiness, and luck and career success.

Click this link for the article.

Click this link if you want to take the Luck Readiness Inventory.

 

 

 

 

110 Job Hunting Resume, CV and Interview Tips

110 job hunting resume cv and interview tips from Jim Bright

Here are some tips for Job Hunting, Resumes, Interviews, and Testing for 2011.

As an author of job hunting books that have sold way in the 100,000s in the USA, UK, Australia, China, Vietnam, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Japan (you get the idea), with titles like Amazing Resumes, Brilliant CV, Resumes that get shortlisted, Should I stay or Should I go, StressSmart®, and Job Hunting for Dummies Australia & New Zealand, I thought I’d pass on some tips to assist in landing that job.

More tips and advice can be found in other great titles in the USA published by JIST, and the Brilliant series in the UK published by Pearson.

I’ve divided the tips into sections below.

39  Resume, Cover letter, Job Search tips

  1. The resume is just as important as the interview. When we got recruiters to rate candidate resumes and then rate their interview performance, the resume predicted the job offer just as strongly as the interview.  Don’t under-estimate the resume.
  2. The resume is the first point of contact between you and the employer in many cases. The resume is the only time in the recruitment process where you have total control over what information is presented and how it is presented. First impressions count.
  3. Make your resume a marketing tool that sells you! When you show someone around your garden you point out the beautiful flowers, and water features – you don’t dwell on the dog’s droppings and the compost heap! In the same way on your resume you emphasize your achievements rather than just your duties. (We found that resumes that emphasize achievements were more likely to be short-listed that resumes that emphasized job duties).
  4. Make a list of every single achievement you have had in life since birth. Yes since birth.  Leave nothing off no matter how trivial it seems.   You might not use “I learned to talk” on your resume, the practice in training your memory to recall personal achievements means you will recall more achievements from your school or work life that are relevant.
  5. Do as much research as you possibly can on the job you are going for.
    • Google search,
    • ask current and past employees,
    • visit the office, factory or shop if practical.
    • Call the contact to ask intelligent questions
    • Get a friend to call to ask the “dumb” or self-serving questions (like how much money, can I delay my start, can I leave early on Wednesdays)
    • Buy or hire the product or use the service if practical
    • Ask your mentors and network
    • Check out job sites, Linkedin, Facebook, Google + and Twitter for information
  6. All resumes should be be written with the Fit model in mind – the fit between you and the job on offer. Do this by:
  7. Look at the job ad, position description and any other research you have on the job you want to apply for and divide the job into
  8. Knowledge – what you need to know to do the job
  9. Skills – what skills do you need to have to do the job
  10. Abilities – how will you need use your knowledge and skills
  11. Attitudes – what kind of personal qualities are they looking for
  12. Now think about yourself in the same way – Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Attitudes
  13. To decide what to include in the resume (or say in the interview) apply these rules:
    • If it increases the fit between you and the job include the information on the resume or say it in the interview
    • If it decreases the fit between you and the job, omit it from the resume and do not say it in the interview
    • If it is neutral with respect to fit between you and the job only include it if there is room and only say it if there is time

Layout:

  1. If you are completing an online resume – type it out first into Pages or MS Word.  Get the word lengths, format and spelling correct and double-checked before copying pasting into the online form.  Also it means if the form crashes or the link is dropped you still have all your work saved in the word-processing file.
  2. If you are printing a hard copy:
  3. Use white paper of 80 gsm thickness or slightly greater
  4. Avoid gimmicks including:
  5. Clip art
  6. Pictures
  7. Photographs (unless expressly asked for)
  8. Samples of your work (unless expressly asked for)
  9. Colored paper
  10. Non-standard fonts (use Arial 11, Times New Roman 12, Verdana 12)
  11. In our research resumes containing identical content put presented in a wacky way were rated lower by recruiters and they said it included less information

Content:

  1. Leave out date of birth, gender, marital status, children, religion, smoker status, illnesses or disabilities, sexual orientation, memberships of political or activist organizations (unless they unarguably increase the fit), hobbies (unless directly relevant to the job), reasons for leaving, salary or salary expectations
  2. Include contact details, generally include an address (unless it is a long way from the place of work, has a notorious reputation, you have reason to be concerned about security or privacy)
  3. Length: School leavers 1- 2 pages, graduates and most employees 2-3 pages, senior people up to 5 pages.  Academics, and when specifically requested, the sky is the limit
  4. Spelling mistakes.  Eliminate these by
  5. Using spell checker (set to the correct language)
  6. Then printing out and reading
  7. Then give it to someone else to read and check (who has good grammatical skills)
  8. Read the document backwards – this is an old proof readers trick – it forces you to process each word and not read for meaning (which disguises typos and spelling mistakes)

Cover letter:

  1. Limit to one page.  Check all contact details are up to date.  Address the letter to a real person – do not use Dear Sir/Madam (it means you haven’t done enough research)
  2. 1st paragraph – Say what job you want to apply for, provide the reference number (if there is one) and where you saw it advertised (puts recruiter in good mood as they get feedback on their advertising)
  3. 2nd Paragraph – state why you are a perfect fit for the role
  4. 3rd Paragraph – state that you are looking forward to meeting them at the interview (for which you are available at their request)
  5. For general on-line resumes see the excellent book about using Linkedin for job  searching by my friend Aaltje Vincent Career Management via LinkedIn http://www.amazon.com/Career-Management-LinkedIn-Aaltje-Vincent/dp/9049104398/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318218179&sr=1-9
  6. For general job networking and search also see my fellow JIST authors Susan Britton Whitcomb, Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dib’s The Twitter Job Search Guide: Find a Job and Advance Your Career in Just 15 Minutes a Day http://www.amazon.com/Twitter-Job-Search-Guide-Advance/dp/1593577915/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318218290&sr=1-1
  7. For more resume and cover letter advice check out my own books Amazing Resumes (JIST) USA, Brilliant CV (Pearson) UK, Resumes that get shortlisted (Allen & Unwin) Australia

26 Interview Tips

  1. The night before take your mind off the interview and go and do something else which is interesting and engaging.
  2. The night before the interview try and have as calm a night as possible. Go back through your résumé, flick through the material, go to a film, watch television. Just have a relaxed evening, don’t get too tensed up and have an early night and not too much alcohol. I would suggest that you avoid eating food with lots of spice or garlic in it. You don’t want to go to the interview the following day smelling heavily of alcohol or garlic, because that can be off-putting. Get a good solid meal and a good night’s sleep
  3. It is worth bearing in mind, that the person sitting on the other side of the desk interviewing you is human as well believe it or not. Prick them with a pin and they will bleed. (Note do not literally do this!)
  4. Take down accurate records of the time, date, and venue of the interview – so you know exactly where you are going and when (I know durrrr, but I could tell you a tale of one the leading international coaches who forgot to do this and missed a giving a presentation, or the hapless keynote called at home to be asked politely whether he was thinking of attending the conference, as there were 1000 people waiting to hear his speech – and no neither of these were me!)
  5. If there are clashes and you are already being interviewed that day for another job, you will need to consider rearranging the interview. The thing to do here is to consider which of the two interviews is the most important to you. Which job you really most want or which job is the one that you really feel you are most likely to get and then rearrange the least preferred interview for another day. You can be very polite about that and I would suggest that you don’t say that you are being interviewed elsewhere, but make another excuse such as you are unable to leave work that day if you are working, or perhaps a white lie ‘for personal reasons you are unable to attend on that day, but you would be more than happy to attend on any other day that they may care to choose’.
  6. Pull out from your work file the copy of the job advertisement and the résumé and cover letter that you sent. Study those closely and try to remember as many of the points that you made about yourself as possible.
  7. Any information that you found out about the company that you stored in your job file you should go through now
  8. Now is the time to make sure that you have your suitable attire for an interview. Whether that happens to be a suit or just a smart pair of trousers, a shirt, and some shoes that are well polished and look smart and match with the accessories.
  9. Not sure what to wear?  Generally wear clothes one notch smarter than the everyday wear in the job.  For trades roles, smart pressed button shirt or blouse and smart pressed trousers or skirt.
  10. Mindmap stories about a time when you achieved something at work, think up several examples for each selection criterion.
  11. In making up your stories organise them with these questions:
    What were the:

    • Dates
    • Names
    • Outcomes (in numbers, dollars, etc)
    • Locations
    • What Happened?
    • What is the Point?
  12. Use the common STAR formula for your stories – Situation, Task, Action, Results
  13. If you are an internal candidate, take a smarter set of interview clothes to work with you and put them on just before you are called. The contrast and the fact you have made an effort will impress. It also saves you spending the day wearing these clothes and increasing the chances of them looking tired, or worse soiled with coffee spills and the rest.
  14. Avoid strong cologne
  15. Avoid garish make up
  16. Consider removing or covering piercings and body art – yes I know they are lovely, my father was a sailor with tats on both arms, but even he covered them up when working as a Judge….
  17. The minute you walk through the door of the building on the day of the interview your interview has started. In fact, the minute you have a telephone conversation with the recruiter or the recruiter’s secretary the interview has started.
  18. Never make the mistake of patronizing or underestimating the administrative staff in an office.
  19. Don’t express opinions in the interview or where you can overheard, unless you are expressly asked to do so.  Then be careful and cautious in your answers if you do not know the background politics in the place.
  20. The cardinal rule in the interview is keep your cool. It is not the time to start arguing.
  21. If you are sure of yourself and you know where you want to go and what you want out of the job, then you should ask questions. Not asking questions at interview when invited to do so, gives the impression you are not interested in the position, or that you have not prepared properly
  22. Take your time to respond to questions
  23. If you do not understand a question ask for clarification
  24. Do not always accept the interviewers premise i.e. “So you left Bloggs and Co. pretty quickly, where did you work next?”. Why accept the interviewers premise that you left quickly? This is a typical trap, instead reply “Well I was at Bloggs and Co for a year, so I was there a reasonable amount of time, and in that time, the company restructured which removed any chances of progression in my specialist field…”
  25. Emphasize positives during interviews – do not dwell on negative experiences such as sackings, work disputes, long periods out of the work force. If you have had such problems in the past and the interviewer tries to get you to explain such events, you can try cutting this short by saying, “ I am really most interested in how I can best develop my career now and in the future, and I am positive I can make an excellent contribution…”
  26. Panel interviews (where two or more people interview you at the same time) are fairer for you, so do not be intimidated, they are less likely to be biased by factors such as personal rapport, race, gender and other irrelevant issues.

45 Testing Tips

For traditional face to face testing

  1. Ask in advance how long the test session lasts.
  2. Try to have a restful sleep the night before.
  3. Take a spare pen and pencil with you. (for face to face testing) (Stationery should be supplied, but you should bring your own in case the tester doesn’t, or the pen runs out)
  4. Go to the bathroom just before you go into the test room. (Don’t forget to wash your hands!)
  5. Now you’re ready to face the test, you can take plenty of steps to prepare yourself to do well. Once you’re inside the test room, follow these simple tips in the next section.
  6. Don’t be late arriving at the venue.

For online testing

  1. If you doing the tests at home or in the office, ensure you have quiet surroundings and a rock solid internet connection and mains power to your computer
  2. Switch off phones and other applications running on your computer like facebook, mail, twitter, linkedin
  3. If the test is not timed, consider using an open word file to compose answers to any open response questions to get the response right and grammatically correct
  4. Work through methodically, taking advantage of any opportunity to save your work
  5. If you have to provide a user name and password at login, make a record of it.
  6. When completed, if you know how to take a screen grab, take one of the final page that says you have completed, or even take a photo to prove you have completed the test

For all testing

  1. Read the test instructions very carefully.
  2. Check all the options first before deciding multiple-choice answers.
  3. Answer personality questions as honestly as possible but do have in mind the picture of an ideal employee for the role, would their answer differ significantly from yours?
  4. Go back and check that you’ve answered all the questions before you finish.
  5. Don’t have a late night before testing day or take the tests late at night.
  6. Remember to bring your reading glasses
  7. Don’t drink alcohol or take strong sedating medication (other than regular prescriptions) or other drugs before sitting a psychological test.
  8. Don’t take medication that can make you drowsy. (If you have to take medication, inform the tester in writing before you sit the test.)
  9. Don’t plump for the first choice answer without checking the other options first.
  10. Don’t worry if you haven’t answered all the questions in the time available. This is not unusual.
  11. Even if you approach a test in a positive manner, you may find that a number of the questions in personality tests appear to be either quite strange or irrelevant. In the next sections, you have a chance to try your hand at typical aptitude tests and explore how you can best handle the process of being tested.
  12. Personality and aptitude tests can work to your advantage. The trick is to understand why you’re being tested, to test the tester with questions of your own and to know enough about the tests to feel in control of the process.
  13. Personality testing is so complex, the experts find it difficult to agree on what works and what doesn’t. However, the theory called the Big Five has managed to gain a relatively high degree of support among personality test specialists.
  14. The Big Five theory is based on the fact that five broad areas of personality exist and that each of these areas reflect many different facets of personality. These five areas are:
  15. Agreeableness – Trust, compliance and modesty are signs of agreeableness. As the label suggests, agreeableness is about how well you get along with your fellow humans!
  16. Conscientiousness: Competence, achievement and self-discipline are qualities of conscientious people. The words ‘I can resist anything but temptation’ do not make a conscientious response!
  17. Extroversion: Warmth, assertiveness and excitement-seeking are examples of extrovert behaviour. Broadly speaking, being an extrovert is about enjoying getting on with with other people.
  18. Neuroticism: Anxiety, depression and self-consciousness are examples of behaviours that may fall under this heading. Neuroticism is the degree to which you’re relaxed and self-accepting (low neuroticism) or nervous, fidgety and self-critical (high neuroticism).
  19. Openness to experience: Fantasy, ideas and values can fall into this category. Creatures of habit who like everything just so and have the this is how it has always been done’ attitude aren’t open to experience!
  20. Personality tests can make people feel angry, but you can avoid this emotion by asking the recruiter or tester the following questions:
  21. How do these tests indicate to an employer how well I’ll do the job?
  22. How do these questions relate to employment?
  23. Why should I share such personal information with an employer?
  24. Despite what you may hear to the contrary, the truth is that personality tests do give an excellent indication of a candidate’s performance levels. A large amount of research has gone into this subject and documented independent evidence of the highest quality shows clearly that well-constructed personality tests are a useful tool in the candidate-selection process.
  25. A well-constructed and well-conducted test has the following features:
  26. The test contains at least 20 questions and generally many more (personality tests can contain up to 500 questions). Generally the more questions a test contains, the more likely the test can yield a reliable result.
  27. The test includes clear instructions and you’re tested in quiet surroundings where nobody else can see your responses.
  28. After you finish answering the questions, the people conducting the test are happy to answer your queries and agree to provide you with appropriate feedback.
  29. The people administering the test are able to produce evidence that your performance on the test is to be measured against an appropriate comparison group and that the test is administered according to the test manual.
  30. The people administering the test can produce verifiable evidence that the test relates to performance in similar sorts of jobs.
  31. If you encounter references to left- and right-brain abilities or handwriting analysis, be afraid. Be very afraid. Psychological tests have a bad name because of shonky practitioners who use unscientific, fad-like tests. Don’t hesitate to decline any test that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  32. Generally if a recruiter includes a personality test, he or she also includes an aptitude test. Unlike personality tests, aptitude tests are normally timed, which has become a controversial issue in the recruiting industry. One of the key international publishers of aptitude tests argues that recruiters shouldn’t be looking for people who can make snap decisions, but rather people who are prepared to mull over a problem and reach a reasoned answer. Despite this reasoning, the majority of recruiters still time aptitude tests.
  33. Numerical reasoning tests assess your ability to manipulate numbers, spotting patterns and progressions.

 

Transform your career by shifting: Shift 11 – From Trust As Control To Trust As Faith

Transform your career by shifting: Shift 11 – From Trust As Control To Trust As Faith

There comes a point in all things that really matter in life when trying to exert control is not sufficient.  The complexities of the world  make it impossible to be any more planned or prepared, there will always be some loose ends, some possibilities that cannot be thought out in advance. When we reach these points, if we are to confront them effectively with imagination, creativity, optimism and hope, we need to shift our trust in the power of control and embrace trust in faith.

Trust as Control

Too often people misuse the word “trust” when what they really mean is control.  When they say “I trust you” or even “I trust myself”, they are actually saying “I control you so tightly you can only do what I expect” or “I control myself so tightly, I can guarantee the outcome”.  This can lead to some fairly predictable problems:

  • It over-estimates our ability to control others or ourselves, or indeed the environment.
  • It is a recipe for micro-management and a potent way of destroying openness, thinking or creativity
  • It is in bad faith – there is no trust, only control.

full steam trust as control

Trust as Faith

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of trust is “trust (noun): ‘confidence, strong belief in the goodness, strength, reliability of something or somebody’, ‘responsibility’
have trust in (verb): ‘believe in the honesty and reliability of someone of something’, ‘have confidence in’, ‘earnestly hope’ ”

Look at the key words there:

  • Confidence
  • Belief
  • Hope

Trust in fact has nothing to do with control, but has everything to do with faith.  It is about uncertainty not certainty – you do not need to be confident or hopeful about an outcome, if that outcome is assured.  Trust is about ambiguity, complexity and mystery. It is about the limits of what we know and indeed what is knowable.

When trust as control is not enough, or not desirable, we can shift to a stronger position of trust as Faith.

faith in self

Faith in Self

It is a commonly heard injunction “to believe in yourself”, “to back yourself” during times of duress.  Having faith in yourself is an important cornerstone of career development.  There is plenty of evidence for the importance of this idea from clinical psychology such as Albert Ellis’ work on unconditional self-acceptance.

A recent favorite of mine is Brené Brown and her work on shame. In her book the Gifts of Imperfection she talks about the importance of Courage, Connection and Compassion.  The last of these, Compassion, relates to compassion for ourselves as well as others.  It means accepting who we are, and appreciating that it is OK for us to be limited in our powers to control or change things. I have written more about Brené’s work here and here.

Strengths-based approaches to Career Development that aims to build on existing strengths rather than overcome perceived “weaknesses” is another positive way of working on faith in the self.  See this post on David Winter’s excellent blog Careers in Theory for more on this.

Faith in self also means recognizing that we are strong enough to confront whatever life throws at us.   When this belief is lacking, our exploration of our own potential and of the world is also lacking.  However this does not happen in isolation and our faith in ourselves is bolstered and also determines our faith in others.

 

Faith in Others

If you think having faith in self in hard enough, just wait until you have to put faith in others!  In fact we unwittingly put faith in others all the time.  Whether it is faith the builders did a good enough job to prevent your roof falling on you while you sleep, or faith in other drivers not to do something crazy, or faith in farmers not to poison us, we are steeped in faith for others.

It is fairly obvious that our actions become very self-limiting without this faith in others.  If we believe we cannot rely on others, we will fail to reach out to them, and try to fulfill our needs ourselves or not even try.   The result is self-limitation and social isolation. A potent recipe for depression.

Again, complexity is to blame.  When we are in the grip of “Control fever”, we demand certainty from others. It is an impossible demand because the world and people in it are too complex and too inter-connected to permit certainty of outcomes.  Trust as control here really means “I do not trust you”.  When we do not trust, we are cautious, slow to move, closed and self-limited.

Trust as faith means to accept that ultimately we accept our own imperfections and in turn that allows us to be accepting of the imperfections of others.  Thus we believe in ourselves and in others too.  Indeed as Brené Brown points out, our love of others is limited by our love for ourselves.  So too with faith.

Faith in the Universe

Wow! Why stop at faith in ourselves and others?  What about the bigger picture?  It strikes me that at some level, having faith in systems that our bigger than ourselves and our social circle is an empowering and transforming thing.  Having faith that we belong and take our own place in Universe is not only reassuring, but gives us a sense of ownership and responsibility that transcends daily hassles and doubts, and provides:

  • courage
  • connection and
  • contribution

We cannot predict and control everything in our lives, nor is it desirable to do so.  We and the world we inhabit are complex, open and changing.   Trust as control is a limited and potentially damaging response to those realities, it needs to be subsumed within trust as faith.  It is perhaps the most important shift of all the Shiftwork principles.

Shiftwork is the work we have to do to manage, thrive and survive in a world where shift happens.  I’ve identified 11 shifts that we have to make (see here), this was the final shift.  The earlier ones you can read by following these links:

  • first shift Prediction To Prediction And Pattern Making (see here)
  • second shift From Plans To Plans And Planning (see here)
  • third one From Narrowing Down To Being Focused On Openness (here)
  • fourth shift From Control To Controlled Flexibility (see here)
  • fifth shift  From Risk As Failure To Risk As Endeavour (see here)
  • sixth shift From Probabilities To Probable Possibilities (see here)
  • seventh shift from Goals, Roles & Routines to Meaning, Mattering and Black Swans (see here)
  • eighth shift from Informing to Informing and Transforming (see here)
  • ninth shift from Normative thinking to Normative and Scaleable thinking (see here)
  • tenth shift from Knowing In Advance To Living With Emergence

What other shifts do you think we need to make?  What shifts do YOU need to make? Which of these shifts presents the biggest challenge to you? How are you going to SHIFT?

Inspiration – the first step into creativity

Inspiration – the first step into creativity

Inspiration is the starting point for creativity in the Beyond Personal Mastery® model.

The inspiration step is all about getting ideas and experiences.  People cannot be creative, change or reinvent themselves unless they have some ideas or experience.

The mind map below some ways in which people can boost their inspiration.

 

Beyond Personal Mastery ® Inspiration step

Beyond Personal Mastery ® Inspiration step © Jim Bright 2011

So the first step in boosting creativity is to get people actively engaged in the activities like the following.
Inspired people…
Read

  • Blogs
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Books
  • Comic
  • Autobiography
  • Fiction
  • Biography

Watch

  • TV
  • Films
  • Other people
  • Nature

Turn up

  • Parties
  • Events
  • Conferences
  • Theater
  • Movies
  • Coffee
  • Clubs
  • Sporting Events

Join in

  • Conversation
  • Threads
  • Tweet
  • Blog
  • Email
  • Post
  • Converse
  • Connect

Try things

  • Think
  • Fail
  • Write
  • Blogs
  • Dreams
  • Diaries
  • Articles
  • Reflections
  • Ideas
  • Sports
  • Hobby
  • Arts
  • Travel

Feel

  • Confident
  • Energized
  • Connected
  • Relevant
  • Intrepid

The Psychology behind the idea – the lego metaphor and instance-based memory

In this step we are trying to lay down as many new memories as possible.   Imagine your memory like a large lego bucket.   Every new memory (experience you have) represents a new piece of lego to add to the bucket.   It stands to reason that the more pieces you have, and the more varied they are, the more different things you can ultimately make when you come to combine the pieces of lego.

This idea is consistent with instance-based models of memory like Hintzman’s MINERVA II model that was central to my PhD on implicit learning.

I have produced little animations and a short movie to illustrate these ideas. Inspiration – the first step into creativity.

Life Creativity – Applying Beyond Personal Mastery® to Life Changes

Life Creativity – Applying Beyond Personal Mastery® to Life Changes

I want to share with you my model of Creativity that provides practical steps to enhance Life and Career changes.  I will describe the model in this post, and in subsequent ones discuss each of the steps in greater detail.

Here is the Beyond Personal Mastery® model.

 

Beyond Personal Mastery® and its brother Beyond Corporate Mastery® are really two related models comprising Action and Mind steps.  The Action steps, as the name implies, describe the actions that lead to creativity.  The Mind steps are attitudes and dispositions that have been shown by research to support and promote the Action Steps and hence creativity.

The Action Steps model is based on the following ideas derived from the research into creativity:

  • Little “c” creativity involves combining ideas in a new way that has some amusement value, novelty, or modest utility for the person creating and perhaps their immediate circle
  • Big “c” creativity involves combining ideas in a new way that solves or contributes to solving a problem deemed important by others and society generally
  • Ideas are combined when previously stored knowledge is combined in a new way, or old knowledge and new experiences are combined to form a new idea
  • Innovation occurs when Strategies are developed and Implemented to put the creative idea into practice or practical use
  • Creativity starts with the Inspiration stage – meaning literally breathing in or taking in new ideas or experience. In my model this does not mean being impressed, excited or energized that comes later. The Inspiration stage is about taking in new information and experiences. There are a series of ways of improving your Inspiration. I’ll address these in another post.
  • The new information coming into the system is processed into Patterns.  This often happens automatically and unconsciously.  However consciously examining the new information for patterns will yield richer, more subtle and complex patterns.
  • Once the structure of the new information is understood in terms of patterns, the Learning stage classifies patterns into pre-existing categories, schema and mental models. or generates new categories for information deemed novel.   (The more rich the Patterns generated in the previous stage, the greater the chance of new categories being generated).  During this stage, new information can be rehearsed to ensure it is fully understood.  There are, of course, myriad different ways of enhancing learning. See future post.
  • Emulating or copying or leveraging is the stage where one has mastered the new information and can repeat it, play it, do it, understand it, explain it or use it.  Once this stage is reached, you have attained Mastery.  One of the biggest barriers to creativity is people trying to avoid Emulating, but it is an essential step. See later post.
  • Combining and Adding is the step when we go beyond mastery into creativity, hence the name of the model. It is in this stage that we take some mastered idea, knowledge or practice and combine it either with another previously mastered idea or with a current Inspiration.  When this happens – a solution or new pathway appears, often suddenly, and it gives rise to the “Aha” moment.  This is often the exciting and energizing time.  There are lots of techniques to help people with the combining and adding.
  • Once we have the new solution, it is the appropriate time to enter the Strategizing stage to develop plans and goals to implement the creation.  Nearly all personal and business change models start at this point and tend to neglect the previous steps that should now be quite obvious as being essential.  The solution/creation determines what can be a goal, a goal does not provide the solution. This is often misunderstood.  See a future post for more on how to do this.
  • Finally, we must execute our plans in the Doing Stage.   This again is non-negotiable.  Because inevitably given the complexity of the world, something will go not strictly according to the plan, and sometimes things will go very differently indeed.  These “failures” or “unexpected by products” provide new Inspirations, and so the cycle can start again.

The Action Steps explained in general terms. (click on the graphic to open in a new window where you can zoom in and enlarge image)

The Mind Steps model

The Mind Steps are likely to be more familiar to many people as the terms used here are commonly used and understood in counseling and coaching.  I will briefly explain here why they are included.  I will go into greater detail in future posts.

Optimism

The great contribution of the Positive Psychology movement, and its champions like Martin Seligman is that we now know that optimism can be learned, developed and enhanced.  Optimism is an important predictor of people’s willingness to change or an organization’s ability to change.  People who believe that things can be better in the futrure are more likely to be motivated to try to explore possible futures. The are ways of boosting optimism that I’ll cover in future posts.
Openness

Creative people and organizations are open systems.  That is they are curious about the world, and accept that there are always interesting things to learn, and different ways of doing things.  This mindset increases their chances of having new inspirations and patterning them in novel ways. It also increases their chances of combining and adding in novel ways.  Some of the ways you can increase openness will be covered in a later post.

Self-Efficacy

Is defined by Bandura as the degree to which a person believes that they are capable of achieving in a particular domain.  Self efficacy has been shown to be a strong predictor of success in a range of different areas such as completing training, preparing for a big event etc.  Increasing self-efficacy can be a useful way of fostering change.  Ways of increasing self-efficacy will be covered in a later post.

Vision

Vision refers to a collection of qualities such as Purpose, Spirituality, Connection, Limits, and Imperfection.  It is about fostering a sense of a bigger picture, and encouraging people to ask questions such as Why am I doing this?  To whom am I connected?  Whom do I serve? How can I be useful?  What place can I or do I occupy in society/family/friends? How can I serve others?   Do I have a choice? What matters to me? Research shows that fostering this type of thinking can sustain people and reduce stress. It can help people persist, or even try in the first place.

Playfulness & Risk

Increasingly research is showing that play is a potent form of learning, and that many western educational systems have under-valued its central importance.  Furthermore risk-taking is often misunderstood or characterized in pendulum attractor terms as
“risk-free or reckless”.   Nearly all creartivity has arisen from play, risk taking or both.  There are ways to develop appropriate playfulness and risk taking and I’ll show you how in a future post.

Flexibility

In a world that is rapidly changing, uncertain, complex and chaotic, the ability to be flexible is very important.  Flexibility of mind is centrally important for playfulness, inventiveness, creativity, overcoming barriers, seeking inspiration, combining and adding, strategizing and doing.

Persistence

The importance of keeping on going, in the face of adversity, loss of enthusiasm, boredom, obstacles, set-backs, criticism, despondency, ennui and the rest cannot be over-estimated.   Others prefer to capture some of these ideas under the term “Resilience”.  Much of what is done under this term would fit in the Persistence category.  I prefer the term Persistence because the word more strongly implies movement, and movement in a self-determined direction.  I’ll post more on how to develop resilience later.

And this is Life Creativity – Applying Beyond Personal Mastery® to Life Changes!

 

 

 

The Day my Dog became a Triangle

The Day my Dog became a Triangle

Dogs are not triangles.  Any fool knows this.  They don’t even bother assessing this knowledge when they issue you with a dog license.  So it was very awkward indeed when my dog became a triangle. For a start her name is Chloe. This is less embarrassing to call out at our local dog park compared to “Pythagoras”, even if people called Chloe do get offended when I point out it is a dog’s name.  Equilateral would be a very inappropriate name for a Welsh Springer Spaniel.  Scalene sounds like a skin disease or a song by Dolly Parton.  Isosceles, well now we are getting just a tad pretentious.

triangle dogNow you might be wondering why my dog became a triangle.  Did she decide one day that our social construction of welsh springer spaniels was way too limiting for this pooch?  Had I been at the green chartreuse again?  The answer is simpler and more complex at the same time.  I decided it was time to have a look around me.  And I mean really look.  To look at things in a way I’d never looked at things before.

Looking at things newly is a lot harder than it sounds.  Try telling someone to look at things differently and generally all they will do is look at you in a very familiar and unoriginal questioning manner.  Or they will punch you in the face.  Or both.

The trick is give yourself or another some parameters. Some limits.  Presumably you are reading this blog on some form of screen.  Look at the screen and everything around you in only one of the following ways:

  • as a series of circles
  • as blotches of color
  • as a series of triangles
  • as a swatch of textures
  • as a stormy sea
  • as a part of a basketball
  • as the head of a flower
  • from the front and the side at the same time

 

 

 

 

chloe welsh springer spaniel in trianglesHow did you go?  Could you manage it?  Could you draw what you saw?  For those who managed successfully, you have very probably been creative.  Who knows some might even have been Creative (little c creative is what I term small personal wins, amusements or provocations. Little nudges that prompt our thinking.  Big C creative is the type that Csikzentmihalyi (1996) sees as solving a problem in a new and useful way that is recognized by others.

We could try the same exercise using poetry.  Stephen Fry in the Ode Less Travelled, points out that the limitation of Iambic Pentameter (having five feet to each line of verse followjng a “tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum” structure) actually fosters creativity as one has to fit meaning into this structure.  For instance, he cites Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

“That time of year; thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang”

As Fry points out, it is the limitations that we impose on our attempts at expression and the tension that these create that often lead to great creative expression “Painters paint within a canvas, composers within a structure. It is often the feeling of the human spirit trying to break free of constrictions that gives art its power and its correspondence to our lives, hedged in as ours are by laws and restrictions” (p24).

The idea of Creativity arising from constraints is commonly understood in creative circles and those that study creativity (e.g. Stokes, Creativity from Constraints, 2006). Related to this idea is US painter and jazz musician Larry Rivers, who used a musical metaphor in describing the material we use for the basis of our creativity as the “first chorus”.

I love the idea of the first chorus.  In jazz, the first chorus is often played “straight” to give the audience the structure of the piece, and from there the musicians can improvise (though like Fry’s poetry the improvisation is limited by the chords and chord changes).

The idea of the first chorus is the point at which one has mastered some domain, become familiar or expert.  Rivers says that creativity is the variation on history – on all the stored ideas in ones memory. The first chorus is merely a repetition and is not creative.  This is why experts often get bored because they master the first chorus and then are engaged to endlessly repeat it. They are interested in adding and combining – improvising – and therefore being creative.  This fits well with my model of creativity, creative people want to go beyond mastery, hence the title for my model.

The importance of limitation to creativity is a valuable reminder that when working with individuals looking to change their lives, or looking to change our own, an important first step is to acknowledge the limitations.  Then we we have something tangible to work with, something that allows us to be creative as we look for ways to improvise in our lives, to find solutions by combining the pieces we have or we can obtain, to get a new hand by shuffling the deck of cards we already have or could obtain.

It seems as though everything I am saying here about limitation goes against counseling injunctions to focus on strengths, or to be optimistic but that misses the point.   A true understanding of strengths only comes in the context of knowledge of the limitations, optimism is most powerful when directed at the attainable. Nor does this mean we should overly encourage people to limit themselves, we should not.  Too often people who are looking for solutions in their life are “stuck” (Amundson, 2007).  However in unsticking other people or ourselves, getting people to improvise and strategize using the materials they have and those readily to hand around them is likely to result in more inventive, creative and positive solutions to their own problems than simply asking them to be more creative.  Our limitations are our strengths.

As I’ve said before, each of us is like a beautiful song.  We are limited by the melody and chord structures.  However those limitations are the very things that give us our uniqueness, our identity.  It is those limitations that allows us to strain against them by being creative in rearranging and improvising so our song can be played in an infinite number of ways.   We cannot be anything we want to be, but there are an infinite number of ways of being us.

Often in counseling or coaching for change we encourage others to take a different perspective on a situation.  Changing metaphors, re-writing the story, re-framing, reality checking, skills audits, values lists, interests are all examples of encouraging people to take a new look.

However what I am talking about is fundamentally deeper and that is to see something familiar, something mastered not from a different perspective, but through new eyes.  To hold multiple stories at the same time, to have multiple metaphors simultaneously, to find new solutions using the materials of your history and what is readily available to you in terms of supports, resources, and ideas. Good career development gives you a new perspective. Great career development has you seeing differently.

Sadly for me and my thinking it didn’t stop with the triangular dog.  The cat become a crescent, my kids become trapezoids, trees become oblongs. And this sentence became a full stop.

References

Amundson, N. (2007). Active Engagement 3rd Edition.BC. Canada Ergon Communications.

Csikzentmihalyi M. (1996). Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennial.

Fry, S. (2005). The Ode Less Travelled.  London. Hutchinson.

Stokes. P. (2006). Creativity from Constraints. New York, NY. Springer.

 

The Edge of Chaos Posters

I want to share a resource I’ve been working on over the last week called the Edge of Chaos Posters.   I’ve designed a couple of posters that try to illustrate the idea of the relationship between certainty and uncertainty.

I decided to select words that in some way illustrate the ideas of certainty and uncertainty, order and disorder.   I decided I wanted a complete A-Z of words which was something of a challenge.   I determined to put words redolent of certainty on the left hand side and words indicating uncertainty on the right hand side. I found it easier to think of or find words for certainty. It was more challenging to find words for uncertainty. In fact often, just like the word “uncertain” – the uncertain has to make do with a modification of a word about certainty.  This I find intriguing.

The poster above is the “Yellow” version. Click it to download a 6Mb PDF version.

The poster above is the black version. Click the poster to download an 8Mb PDF version. Note you may have to right-click to save these posters to your computer, or look in your downloads folders, or even look in Acrobat as different browsers do different things.

All the words on these posters will be familiar to you.  On the left there are words like Plans, Goal, Control, Prepared, Stuck. Similarly on the right there are words like Exploring, Change, Serendipity, Vulnerable and Magical.

The purpose of these posters is to help people appreciate that a full life needs all of these words.  However when we are feeling confused, sad, unsure or vulnerable we tend to retreat into what we often see, or are encouraged by others to see as reassuring, and somehow more legitimate, more proper left side words.  However, this can only provide short-term succor. Sometimes we believe that all we need are the right-hand side words, but these alone wont do either.

A full life requires all these words – order and disorder, chaos and certainty, strength and vulnerability.

There are lots of uses for this poster.  You can circle the words you identify with – are you more left or right sided?  You can use words on the left to help you strive toward words on the right. You can use words on the right to help you arrive at words on the left. You could even measure new ideas, initiatives and policies against these words – is a balance of left and right achieved?  The possibilities are endless.

You might be interested in this related post on Why people don’t get uncertainty

You can download low-res posters in yellow or black and white by clicking on their images above – they are 2381 x 1684 pixels, but they are still large files (6Mb and 8Mb).  If you want high-res versions, you’ll need to email me as these are very big high quality files suitable for making large posters.  I am happy for you to use them with acknowledgement. I’d love to know what you make of them.