Design Thinking: An opportunity to reinvent learning and development

In the face of a fast changing and increasingly more complex world, many argue that creativity and innovation are crucial 21st century skills. Design thinking is capability that is gaining rapid adoption not only in Canada, but globally. This highly structured yet agile process not only enables creativity and innovation, but also a competitive differentiator that cannot be easily outsourced. It can be applied to develop new training programs, or to change the way training is delivered, or introduced as a simple process to embed a culture of experimentation, creativity and learning in an organization.  Training departments can offer it as a highly effective experience-based learning module for leaders at all levels in the organization.

For the HRMA Roundtable presentation, Human Resources professionals were given resources to

  • Explain design thinking and the benefits of design thinking to others
  • Reflect on the role of the training professional and how design thinking can be used to reinvent training and development and also create new programs in innovation in organizations
  • Use a simple design thinking tool – empathy mapping
  • Learn about a recent case study in BC where design thinking was applied to create a next generation Whole Person Leadership Development Program
  • Some lessons learnt on how to introduce design thinking into your own organization and clients

Watch the interview below with BC Human Resources Management Assocation about Design Thinking and Adult Learning.



Blockchain Adoption: Use your ‘noggin’ to get their heads ‘noddin’

Neurosciences of technology adoption and growth

Globally one of the key challenges to blockchain and new technology adoption and growth is to create awareness and passion outside of those in the “know” to engage with this new revolution.

Perceived as a risky and unknown technology, start-ups, innovation teams and investors often face significant effort to educate the market, overcome negative perceptions, address technology failures while also using scarce resources in developing new solutions and improving competitiveness and growth.

Research on the functioning of the brain shows that resistance to risky change is not only a psychological, but actually a physiological reaction. When the brain’s fear response is activated, rational and logical explanations about the benefits and opportunities will not always convince people to change their minds, even if it is the “right solution”.

Many a new project failed when impacted decision makers or influencers simply didn’t show up for demo-meetings (“sorry….we had to play golf with an important client.”), send juniors in to negotiate (“they will need to use the solution”, created onerous administrative hurdles to overcome (“our procurement policy…”) or demanded assurance that the solution has been tried and tested by others (“we need evidence that it works”).

Blockchain advocates and companies need to focus in particular on learning how to overcome resistance points to adoption. Understanding behavioural science and best practice change models and tools will help close the blockchain adoption gap and improve the rate of utilization to demonstrate the return on investment.

Blockchain and AI adoption challenges can be managed more effectively by innovators when they apply brain-based behavioural change models and principles to blockchain initiatives.

For a simple start, innovators  can apply global research from the world’s leading technology adoption and change experts to navigate a sequence of milestones, each requiring a different approach and tools for:

  • Increasing Awareness of the blockchain; leading to
  • Desire (willingness) to engage with blockchain technologies (answering: what is in if for me?);
  • Motivating them to Gain more Knowledge about the blockchain to understand it;
  • To be able to better Apply the blockchain technologies successfully to achieve the anticipated performance and outputs; and finally
  • Reinforcement activities to make the blockchain initiatives stick.

(Model from Prosci’s “ADKAR®  is a goal-oriented change management model that allows change management teams to focus their activities on specific business results.”)

What is in it? How will it help improve business growth?

By understanding how to brain responds and knowing how positive change can be achieved by improving the way people think about how to overcome resistance to change, blockchain startups and investors will gain advantages for their own blockchain services and products through

  • Improved and more effective business development and growth strategies based on brain-based models of human behaviour;
  • Strategic communication plans based on behavioural change tactics that will motivate target audiences to engage in a positive way with blockchain technologies;
  • Shortened time lines and decision making with key decision holders around blockchain technology Initiatives; and
  • Setting up blockchain initiatives for success by pro-actively managing risks of resistance by impacted groups to the technology.

MaRi Eagar is a Director and Founder of Digital Futures an independent strategic business and investment advisory and incubator that brings to bear many decades of deal shaping and making to the world of digital currencies, blockchain and financial technologies fuelling the growth of the digital economy.


Digital Transformations: Trust is the bandwidth of communication

Trust is the bandwidth of communication –Karl-Erik Sveiby   (veteran in knowledge management and intangible assets)

How can you build  more trust with your investors, clients, teams or colleagues while you have to deal with designing and implementing new solutions like blockchain, address tough business challenges and implement complex organizational change?

How do you build trust when you are a new leader who inherited an environment and team with a history of incompetence or poor performance, or uncommunicative team members?

During new technology development, proof of concept projects or an organizational change implementation a lot of effort is put into creating well-scripted and thoughtful messages using best practice methods to communicate important ideas, such as the vision for large scale transformation or the benefits of a new exciting technology revolution.

If the human trust “bandwidth” is low, it does not matter how well branded your messages are, how inspiring the words, what social media you use, the careful story telling techniques or expertise you employ… A low trust bandwidth means people will just not believe you, will maybe hear messages that are not here, make up their own stories about what is going on and probably continue with current habits that contribute to the very climate you want to change.

High trust contributes not only to more effective and sustainable investor confidence, customer service or team productivity –  it is critical for effective change, as well as individual, team and organizational success, engagement and happiness at work. Steven Covey placed trust in the centre of his Four Leadership Imperatives.

How does lack of trust between people deplete innovation, work performance, productivity and work wellbeing?

A study at the Stress Institute in Stockholm found that  employees who had managers who were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive and uncommunicative, were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition,

Being in an environment of low trust feels like a sense of never feeling “solidity underneath you, as if the parts continue to move all the time and you never know where it will be the next day or where you stand with someone. It uses a lot of energy in your need for constant alertness and creates a sense of anxiety about when the next unexpected event will occur.

The purpose of uncomfortable emotions, such as anxiety,  is to help you pay attention to potential risks and threats in your environment and move you into finding solutions and opportunities to address it. But being in a state of constant “alertness”  depletes valuable cognitive and physical resources. As vitality diminishes, physical health and strength diminishes, which ultimately results in loss in confidence in your physical ability to deal with the constant changes. Lack of confidence is a big reason why people don’t try out new things, lack creative options or just become apathetic or avoid change altogether.

This is a particular challenge in the current technology revolution of continuous innovation, of constantly starting and stopping (agility) or  always being in motion or increasing the speed of decision making and activities due to aggressive competitiveness in the market.

It is also present in teams and organizations where leaders are not inclusive, or try and be the “lone hero” who will solve everything on their own, or the worst – playing team members off against each other in a way to keep them “on their toes” to push for increasing productivity and high performance.

In low trust environments you will notice a lot of sarcasm, a lot of blaming and avoidance of talking about glaring issues. People will hardly ever be in open conflict with each other – a sure sign that there is no trust because people who trust each other are able to have really important conversations in a timely way.

If I don’t trust you as a leader, I will simply not tell you important things because, well –  I don’t think you will do anything with it or just take my ideas and build your career without acknowledging my contribution to your success. Why should I then give you more than the effort that my job description requires? If I am an investor, I will simply walk away to find another project to support.

How do you build trust?

Trust takes a long time to build, yet it can be destroyed in a minute if you discover that a person has not been truthful and have not operated from their best selves but instead from an self-centered  place.

A concept that people often associate with trust is valuing Consistency or what we could also call Integrity.  A good example of how I see integrity is the following analogy. If I travel with my car across a bridge, I trust in the integrity of the structure. Structure is not to be confused with bureaucracy, but could instead be simple “rules of the game”, guiding principles that are applied consistently. This allows for some sense of “predictability” in often uncertain and continuous change. Integrity creates that sense of a solid basis and provides for a source of inner strength that is crucial for times of continuous change.


Trust Building Model by MaRi Eagar

Without connection it is almost impossible to trust someone. Connection is about caring. The old saying still holds: Friendly face-to-face interaction is still the best. I know two leaders who walk “the rounds” once a month and personally interact with each person who work in their hospital. This takes them a whole day, as they not only hand out snacks to everyone, but also ask each person one simple question, personally write down each answer and then publish it for everyone to see. The questions they ask are simple and focused on cultivating positive interactions, such as “what makes you proud of your work?” or “what acts of kindness have you seen the past few days”?

Character has particular qualities that differentiates itself from ‘strengths” or skills or charisma or other leadership qualities. Leading from character strengths, per Chris Peterson, does not generate envy in others but inspires them, and makes people feel energized and motivated. Expressing and generating value from character strengths creates credibility and ethical leadership. Terry Bacon states that “Being recognized as a person of character enhances your capacity to lead and influence others because they trust your intentions, are more confident in your leadership, and see you as a person worth emulating.”

Competence is often under-estimated in a world where leadership is described as being “visionary” or “leading to purpose and passion” and so on. But competency is also about knowing what you are talking about, emotional leadership and creating opportunities to experience personal satisfaction and making a positive impact derived from work.  No-one of us will embark on a dangerous climb up a mountain without a competent guide. Why should people trust you with risky projects if you are not competent?

Investors, employees and customers or business partners do not just listen to what you say.  They see how you act around them including your behavior towards your team and clients and competitors. They determine your competence based on the outputs and the impact you make through your actions and your non-actions. The way you role model (or not). Telling people to change their habits but you yourself don’t change your own in a very visible way means they will think you are not serious about it. As a leader you need to demonstrate competence not by words and jargon or quoting best practices but in your embodiment of what and how you want the new patterns of behaviour to be.

The final component to remember is that you have to cultivate all of this as a consistent habit. Doing things on a whim diminishes trust if you only demonstrate positive qualities and take positive action on an ad hoc basis. The consistency will be what contributes to building trust, so you need to work hard at creating new habits that are visible and that people can see – frequently and over a period of time. The worst thing you can do is, for example, declare that you are now starting a more inclusive and open environment, and then fall straight back into command and control when people start behaving chaotically around you. The advantage of consistently trying to build trust is that people will be a lot more forgiving when you do make mistakes (and you will).

Trust bandwidth is increased through intentional effort.

How can you lead  in a way that increases your bandwidth of trust?



Virtual Reality Technology to connect body, mind and learning

“Only what grows out of your direct experiencing has the power to change everything.” – Dr Lisa Caparo

An exciting new opportunity is opening up to change how we grow and develop our skills through augmented virtual reality, experiential technology and neurogaming.

Instead of passively sitting and playing virtual games and simulations, a whole new paradigm is opening up with this new technology which makes reality not only a cognitive experience, but also felt in the body and emotions. This enables us to creatively nurture  somatic intelligence based on neurobiology of the embodied learning.

The Flow Dome from the Flow Genome Project is an example of applying somatic entrainment to become more familiar with the state of Flow.

Somatic leadership, for example combined with intentionally designed creative movement and technologies of mind, are new approaches that, combined with augmented virtual reality, can make change and growth fun, effective and enable innovation and leadership in a novel way.

A somatic leadership philosophy, intelligence and practices has the potential for leaders to develop new body-centric models of leadership utilizing the language of the “way of the body” to generate a body and health centered model for leadership. Fusing this with virtual reality technology takes it into a new dimension – gaming that focuses on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing while learning new skills in a fun way.

Such Embodied leadership practices can take us out of all of the “cognitive” leadership processes of a worldview that the mind is only in the brain, and gets us right back into our genuine self – as lived and expressed through our body.

Contact me to find out how I apply somatic intelligence to strategy, leadership, change and organizational development.

We need new ways of thinking to create a new future

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”

— Peter Drucker

There is a global consensus amongst leaders and experts that we need new ways of thinking to go beyond the very approaches that got us where we are today.

There are simple questions on change leaders’ minds:

  • We know that to enable us to innovate we need to change the way we think. But how do we actually change our thinking and have evidence that it changed?
  • Why is it that, even when we attend special creativity and innovation programs, or learn new knowledge, we still gravitate to our fixed thinking when under pressure?
  • Why is it that, despite our best intentions, our leadership cultures continue to fall back to the very approaches that we are trying to change?”

Why achieving breakthrough thinking is difficult

“Current leadership  development practice relies heavily on the use of models and theories, and the development of self‐awareness. Findings from neurosciences suggest that use of models and theories do not impact the regions of the brain required for behavioural change. They also suggest that self‐awareness, while an essential starting point, may not be enough. ” (Peter  Hamill: Embodied leadership: towards a new way of developing leaders”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 Iss: 5, pp.5 – 10)

Changing our minds is not easy.  Even the great Steve Jobs had some fixed ideas that resulted in failures.

Canadian neuroscientist Donald  Hebb, the father of neuropsychology, famously explained the dilemma with what is now known as the Hebbian theory:

“Neurons (cells) that fire together wire together.”   In layman’s terms this means that when brain cells are simultaneously activated, it results in increases in the synaptic strength between those cells. This creates a strong connection between these cells which eventually become neuro-pathways.  As a consequence, this results in loss of connection between other cells.

This ability to create neuropaths is important as it helps us make sense of the more than 4 billion bits of information that we have to filter every second so that we only pay attention to what is important to us.

The downside of this however, is that, over time, this becomes what we would call a “mindset”, resulting in unconsciously ignoring information that does not fit into our neuropaths or in other words, our paradigms.

How do you overcome the “fixed thinking” dilemma so that you can cultivate new thinking (and therefore see trends that are shaping the emerging future)?

It is actually possible to develop new neuropaths. The brain is “plastic”. That means when you start paying attention to new ideas and things and act on them, you will eventually develop new neuro-pathways, and therefore new ways of thinking.

A simple example will describe how this works.

Most of us have gone through the process of buying a car or helping someone else buy a car. Say you are thinking of buying a red all-wheel drive car that is big enough for your family.  Have you noticed that you suddenly start spotting lot more red all-wheel drive cars wherever you travel?

The reason for this is very simple.  It is not as if there was a sudden and dramatic increase in sales for red all-wheel vehicles.  They have always been there, but because you are now starting to think about it and do research about it, you see more of them.  In other words, you are now paying more attention and also with more quality of attention due to the new focus and information you are gathering.  In this way you started creating a new neuropath.

Similarly, you need to start seeing new possibilities by shifting your attention away from what you currently preoccupied with towards new unknown ideas and objects. This does not require too much time or effort.

Simple actions to achieve breakthrough thinking

Connect with different communities outside your normal networks

The best source of new information and ideas come from people who think completely differently to you.  By connecting with these communities you will be exposed to new paradigms and thinking while you make new friends and business partners.

An example is crypto-economics. Here new business models and economic values are developed by a community of passionate inventors and innovators who are unafraid to challenge the status quo.

“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.” The first sentence from Satoshi Nakamoto: Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System (A disruptive technology to addresses inherent weaknesses with current systems.)

Stop reading mainstream literature on business and leadership

Give your mind a rest from the business and leadership literature. Start reading up on digital futures, fuzzy logic, neurosciences, philosophy or anthropology.  Have conversations with experts in these fields and attend lectures. Participate actively in learning about new topics you find interesting, such as music or surfing.

If you continue such neuro-changing intention activities for a period of about six months, you will realize how you are building a new paradigm for yourself. And from this new emerging paradigm, your thinking will change. You will see more possibilities, generate more choices, and develop improved solutions.

(Note, this article was originally published by Presidents of Enterprising Organizations during 2012 as part of an insight series for executes which was authored by MaRi Eagar. It has been adapted in November 2017 to reflect the impact of the release of Satoshi Nakamoto’s White Paper, October2008.)