The Rules of Improv

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By amplifying everyday interactions, the core principles of improvisation highlight how what might initially seem trivial components of communication actually has a big impact on the direction and results of conversations and discussions.

Make Each Other Look Good;

The easiest way to look good is to make others look good. Throwing other people under the bus might give you momentary glory but it is a sure way to break the fabric of a team.

Accept All Offers;

Without the first offer, nothing will get started. Shut offers down often enough and no offers will come anymore, stifling any opportunities for progress.

Don’t Hog the Stage;

Know when to shine, and when to shut it. Make sure you listen actively and try to make others look good to avoid being a stage hog.

Yes, and...Yes, but.... > No, but....

Be careful with your buts. Often this little word will have a big impact, it will shut down any further exploration.

And some fun activities to bring some improve into your teams:

21

Stand in a circle. The goal is to count to 21 as a group. The moment that two people say the same number or if two people standing next to each other follow each other, you'll have to start over.

Clap

Stand in a circle. without instructions or any signals try to clap at the same time. Feel the moment and try to get as close as possible.

Tools for Action

Understanding yourself and others is only the start.

You will not go anywhere without understanding how to mobilise yourself and others into taking action. Yehudi Menuhin said about music that “Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.”.

A quote that describes innovation as well as it does music. For us taking action is like playing the symphony of business.

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Chaos to Order

Balancing the tightrope between chaos and order is what makes innovation work. Swaying too far one way or the other might inhibit or disrupt innovation.

The two polar opposites are equally important to the innovation process. At the start of the innovation process, involving ideation and exploration, chaos needs to be embraced. As solutions become real, mature and need to be implemented in BAU structures and processes, chaos needs to make place for order.

This shift in focus and ways of working requires the right people to be involved at specific moments in the process, at the chaotic start you want flexible, open-minded people that handle change well, while further down the process you want structure-driven individuals to take over implementation.

Use this tool when...

You need to come up with and implement a new solution. Make sure to provide the freedom for disorder at the beginning of the process, and create order as the solution proves its value and gets integrated into BAU.

The Innovation Portfolio

Hop-Step-Jump, innovation is like child’s play once you get it. This helpful lens helps you analyse what you currently do, and plan the portfolio you need to survive and thrive. It all starts with BAU (business as usual), the processes and structures you need to keep the wheels turning.

A hop describes the smallest movement towards doing things in new and better ways; basic process improvement. The step takes things one step further.

A step will look at what is on the horizon and starting to show potential and explore what this might mean to the business. For instance, an experiment to test how core processes will function on blockchain.

The jump is the most daring. What does our industry look like when technology has turned us into cyborgs and we live on Mars?

A healthy and balanced portfolio looks different for each organisation and is shaped by internal and external pressure, and how flexible and open to change the people are.

Remember....

This tool is as relevant to your organisation as it is to your teams and you as an individual. Use it to analyse and plan a healthy portfolio of activities.

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Breaking it Down

It all starts with thinking big. What is the biggest, most positive outcome of a challenge you face? Thinking this through should inspire you but at the same time it is scary, how would you achieve such a lofty goal and where to even start!?

This overwhelming phase generates avoidance behaviours. You break out of this by Thinking Down, reducing complexity and scale. You know you have simplified things enough when you know what you can do this afternoon to make the first step towards achieving your lofty goal. And then it’s time for Acting Up! By learning through action you add complexity and scale through execution. You might not end up where you thought you would, but you will end up where you should.

Remember....

Move from too much, too big and later to less, smaller and now. If you can't get started this afternoon, it is too big.

Thought from the Road #008: Experience

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

What makes the difference is not how much knowledge you have acquired but how quickly you can acquire new knowledge.

Sure your accumulated knowledge from your experiences are hugely important. But in today’s regular and rapid changing markets it’s unlikely experiences you have had in the past are enough, you must acquire new knowledge, fast and at an ever increasing pace. You must match it with your past knowledge and experiences, and you must make regular adjustments.

What worked may not work again, what was may not be again, what you believed may not be true no more.

So updated experience or experience that is augmented with current knowledge is useful, static experience is often deadly. Which makes me wonder.... how awesome would it be to know your rate of knowledge acquisition? At what speed do you acquire new knowledge? Have you tapped out? Meaning you are acquiring as much knowledge and as fast as it’s physically possible for you? Have you stopped or slowed down? Do you let it happen to you or you drive it? Do you exercise this skill? Are you getting faster and better? There should be a number huh? A unit we use....”I acquire knowledge at the rate of 1gb per hr my goal is 5gb”

The Fabric of High-Performance Teams

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To perform on a high level with your team, the team needs a robust fabric.

The psychological safety this fabric creates will fuel an even higher performance, which in turn will strengthen the fabric. This positive feedback loop will make everyone more engaged, fulfilled and effective.

Care.

Or give a sh*t. To be able to work effectively with others, you need to care. You need to care about the others, the work that you’re doing, and how and where you do this work.

Tips & Tricks: Delight your fellow team members by bringing in some coffees or treats to your next meeting. Ask that extra question and show genuine interest.

Trust.
We believe that the language around trust is broken. People talk about trust being something that is built slowly over time, in today’s fast-paced world being able to assume trust is critical.

Tips & Tricks: Assuming trust rather than building trust is not easy. Separating intent from behaviour is often a good first step, the second one involves assuming a positive intent behind the behaviour.

Respect.

Hard to describe, but easy to recognise. We constantly send implicit messages with our behaviour, that might not align with the explicit messages we want to send...

Tips & Tricks: Make the implicit explicit the moment you feel respect is breaking down. Without respect admiration will never be built.

Admiration.

Admiration is a true indicator of high-performance. Once people start admiring each other, things start humming along. And everyone has something admirable about them!

Tips & Tricks: If you can't find anything to admire about someone, you don't know enough about them. Use the life map exercise to build admiration and don't be afraid to share what you admire about others.

Common goal.

The one thing that ties it all together. For high-performance you want to pursue a stretch-goal where the odds are stacked against you, why perform on a high level otherwise?

Tips & Tricks: Frequently discuss, adapt and agree upon the common goal. Goals change when plans meet reality and they are critical for establishing and maintaining a shared reality.

Thought from the Road #007: Explementation

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, it’s arguably more important to have an explementation* plan than an implementation plan. In other words, make sure you have clarity in how you will remove and change a process, system, software or else as fast as possible. We put too much effort and focus on how quickly we can put something in place and we forget that getting rid of it is what will give you the adaptability and agility you need.

So, for example, if someone is trying to sell you software and produces a super fast and cheap plan to put things in place, ask also for the plan that shows how easy is to remove it. The harder it is to remove something the higher the probability you will fall behind and be unable to keep up with the pace of markets...

Stay as nimble and agile as you can, protect your flexibility, it’s arguably one of the most important traits you can have to succeed in the future.

*explementation: new word :-) - the opposite to implementation - removing what you previously put in place.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

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So today marks one week of starting work at 5am, and holy shit - I hope I can keep this going.

Like many of us trying to optimise how we work through everything from food, supplements, lifestyle and wacky experiments we often look at thought leaders for tips. And I am no different, I first started learning about nootropics from listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast and now take “Total Human” pills from Onnit everyday and I haven’t looked back.

But, you’re totally tripping if you think you can just pop some pills and expect to begin smashing life. its all about creating habits. This became super obvious for me when training for The Speed Project 4.0 (a 550km ultra relay from LA to Vegas). Without creating a habit of putting your running shoes on as soon as you got home from work to guilt-trick your ass out the door you simply will not get the Km’s in to ensure you are ready for the long roads of Death Valley.

So when I saw this video of Casey Neistat and Jocko talking the importance of waking up at 4am for productivity it made total sense for me. Even if at first I hated the idea of leaving a warm comfortable bed hours before the sun rises. Ugggh.

Anyway, I decided to commit to the early rise for 7 days to see what happens. And boy am I pumped with the result.

Here is what I learnt from this.

  • A routine needs to be planned.
    Just walking up before 5 doesn’t mean your going to smash out work. To make this time work you need to have a plan before you go to bed. I set up my work station before I go to bed and make a list of things I need to get done first thing in the morning. This was super lame things like “reply to that email” or “have a coffee” all the way through to “finish sales forecast for 2019-2020”. By having this list ready before bed I found that I slept better because I wasn’t thinking out the things I need to do, and then when I’m still half asleep I don’t procrastinate and blame the early rise on it.

  • Get Cold.
    This one sucks if you’re not used to it. But I love (and sometimes hate) a cold shower. So as soon as my alarm goes off at 4.55am I go straight to the shower for a 4-minute warm shower followed by a 1-minute cold shower to end on. Old mate Wim Hoff, is one of the global leaders in research and experimentation in this area alongside his breathing techniques to maximise oxygenation of your blood. So to kick-start the day this is what I do.

  • Don’t sit on the couch.
    It’s just too comfortable. Don’t do it. Trust me with this one.

  • Plan the whole day for maximum output.
    I realised pretty early on that I needed to schedule the whole day to really make the most of this 7 day experiment. So I cracked open illustrator and made this wallpaper for my iPhone to keep me on track. This way I can’t forget what I need to be doing or get distracted.

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This is what worked for me - so feel free to use it too or make your own. This worked so well. I end up having 7 hours of sleep, 14hrs for work, 2 hours to go run and 2 hours for food including the lunch meeting (I use this time to catch up with mates over a meal). So the simplicity of this worked really well for me.

A super interesting thing I found was that in the block between 5am and 9am. I get 4 hours of really good work done which then made my whole day free to have meetings, explore ideas with 100% intent as I didn’t need to rush off back to the screen to do some work. I work from anywhere so my day is pretty fun, the profile picture for this post is me working from Barossa valley (I was literally sending emails back and forth with Nike for a project in that photo - Ha!)

Then if from these conversations during the day I then had planned in another 2 hour block after dinner to either explore an idea creatively (most of my work is experience design or conceptual works for clients so when inspiration hits I need to take advantage of it) but often I was so up to date I used this block to make my list for the next day or tidy up anything that happened during the day like little emails or tweaks to past work, nothing too crazy. Or if I didn’t need to get anything done I just used this time to sit on the couch and draw while watching TV to ensure I don’t loose touch with the tools.

  • The Math.

    Now I need to confess, I love numbers so this really excited me. When I had the shops, the bar and the co-working space working an 18hr day wasn’t a rare occasion -But it nearly killed me.

    After a few solid years of this kind of work day become the norm so I never really thought there was another way to do it. But now I realise I was super busy, but I wasn’t super productive. In hindsight I also struggled to find a balance that worked to ensure I still had time to spend with those I love.

    So this new way of working is rad for me because the time in the morning I have no distractions and I am not stealing hours away from my girlfriend or friends or family. And at the same time I’m getting the hours in to achieve my goals.

    Here’s the Math.
    With this way of working I can get 14hrs of work in a day and still go run for 2 hours and spend time socialising and just hanging out.

    14hrs x 7dpw = 98hr work week.
    98h x 52 weeks + 5096 hrs per year
    5096 Div by 8 hr days = 637 work days per year
    637 - 240 (average workdays people work PY)
    = 397 extra days of work per year.

    THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN. EXTRA.

I’ve done similar math to this before but it just wasn’t sustainable before, this routine feels completely different.

So next time someone gives me that bullshit “I just don’t have enough time” statement, they are going to get this math right to the face. We all have 24hrs in a day, it’s how you use it.

Disclaimer*
I’m not saying everyone should do this, but your ambition needs to match you actions. You can’t say you want to achieve huge goals without doing huge work and putting the hours in.

So I think I’m going to stick to this plan to see how it goes. But I am not going to stick to it religiously, if I have a blow out on the beers I’m totally sleeping in. But this plan is my new north star. Let me know if you have any tips or questions for this. I would love to hear what you’re experiencing or experimenting with.

Thought from the Road #006: Key Performance Indicators

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

KPIs kill common sense. KPIs are like an antidote, the perfect way to disarm the sense we struggle with the most.

I was asked recently how to KPI innovation and this is what I said:

Innovation is action, action applied to unsolved problems to resolve them.

ANY KPI that helps any team (from legal to reception to product) measure the process of solving problems is a way of measuring innovation...BUT...as I said I am not a massive fan of KPIs as they tend to stand in the way of common sense. KPIs are also generally too static for the pace of change we are experiencing, the only way to make any KPI relevant is to review them daily!

That’s a massive tax...so if you have them, few and regularly updated please ;-)

Thought from the Road #003: Novelty

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

If you want time to slow down or you want to improve your creativity, ensure you hit your brain with novelty far more regularly than you probably are now.

Exposing your senses to the same stimulus will only force your brain to commit as much of it as it can to the subconscious and time will not only seem to speed up but you will spend most of your day unaware and unable to recollect what happened...you know, when you were just in autopilot and life just passed you by.

Novelty, remember, seek it, learn to enjoy it.

Three Parts of the Brain

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Broadly speaking, our brains evolved in three distinct stages.

This view might not hold up completely under scrutiny of a neuroscientist but even they agree there are three distinct areas with distinct functions.

Having insight into what these stages are, what functions they fulfil and how they influence your behaviour gives you some powerful tools. So, let’s have a look at them.

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Reptilian.

The Instincts

Survival.

We all have a little dinosaur in our heads. There is no creature running around in our heads of course, but the most ancient part of the brain basically has the same wiring as any reptile or other ancient creature. Its focus is to maintain balance and survive and it directly influences bodily functions to do just that.

When presented with threats to survival, like a zebra spotting a lion or someone facing redundancy at work, it will trigger the fight-or-flight response.

All of this takes place unconsciously, and the physical reactions associated with this response might lead you to behave in ways your conscious self does not agree with.


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Mammalian.

The Emotions

The Limbic System.

Sitting on top of our little dinosaur is the emotional part of the brain. This system is very much a mammalian specialty; reptiles are not well known for their emotional lives.

In addition to being responsible for the pleasant feelings and behaviours associated with reproduction, bonding and parental care, this part of the brain is also critical to memory and learning processes. Emotions, memory and learning are drivers of cooperation and competition, processes us mammals engage in constantly.

Just think of the cooperation required to hunt and the competition for food, or building a team to achieve a common goal and competing with your peers for that new role that has become available and with competitors for customers.

Human.

The Reason.


Logic & Reason.

The brand-spanking new, or most recently evolved, part of the brain. The cortex is associated with logic, reason and conscious processing. We like to think that this is our control centre, where we control urges and impulses like the fight-or-flight response.

And although the cortex at times does influence and mitigate
triggers from the little dinosaur and the emotional part of the brain, more often than not it’s actually being influenced and limited by the older parts of the brain, fabricating justifications to explain behaviour along the way.

When you are under a lot of pressure and feeling on edge, for example, your cortex might make impulsive, and even stupid, decisions that seem brilliant at the time.

Thought from the Road #002: Unrealistic

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Join Gus for another thought from the road, this series comes to you straight from the airport lounges, hotels and AirBnB’s around the world.

Don’t let anyone’s realistic expectations destroy your unrealistic dreams!

Somebody needs to be unrealistic at some point in time to create new realities.

The damage we unintentionally cause in the development of our kids through the school system is often a worry for me, situations that may seem small have a powerful long lasting impact happen every day.

My 12-year-old and the rest of the class had to do a budgeting exercise at school a few days ago. The idea is to first identify what your income would be in 10 years’ time and then figure housing, expenses, food, etc. and conclude with savings.

He looks up the average income of a professional NFL player, writes down $20m per year and starts the exercise. The teacher says “it’s going to be hard to figure out costs in America....let’s pick something more “realistic”. The teacher then convinces him on a Job as a chef for $70k per year.

I was not impressed. That night I told my kids: “my life has been anything but realistic, someone has to be unrealistic at some point in time for new realities to exist. Our life right now is unrealistic but here we are, forging forward carving our unrealistic path, not someone else’s realistic path. Kids! Unrealistic is critical”