Tag Archives: innovation

Fueling innovation through diversity

In his 2016 book, Driven by Difference, David Livermore makes the case that high-functioning, diverse teams outperform homogenous teams. However, he says diversity by itself doesn’t contribute to organizational success unless it supports your organization’s mission. And, he adds that unless leaders leverage diversity’s potential, it can actually erode performance and productivity.

So how can a leader leverage the potential of diverse teams? The secret is to minimize conflict while maximizing the informational diversity found in varied values and experiences. To overcome inherent frictions among diverse team members, Livermore says a leader needs to develop their workforce’s cultural intelligence or CQ.

Drawing on success stories from Google, Alibaba, Novartis, and other groundbreaking companies, Livermore identifies key leadership practices and elements of cultural intelligence that fuel innovation:

CQ drive: Build a desire to learn about other cultures and a willingness to adapt.

CQ knowledge: Cultivate appreciation and understanding of cultural differences.

CQ strategy: Be aware of the perspectives and ideas of different people and how their viewpoints affect the work of teams.

CQ action: Adjust to cultural differences and leverage diversity into results.

Leaders can increase their teams CQ by encouraging curiosity,  listening, respect and “perspective-taking” among diverse team members. Drawn from real-life examples, Livermore demonstrates that innovation is fueled by cultural intelligence and the ability to see things from others’ perspectives. Encouraging employees to consider their co-workers’ points of view and to mix their colleagues’ perspectives with their own can pave the way to developing innovative solutions that borrow from many ideas and work for everyone.

What advice do you have for increasing your team’s or your own cultural intelligence?

Anita Rios


“If you don’t fall, you aren’t learning”

Paul falling 2Last week this photo of my brother crashing showed up in my Facebook feed. Ouch. Having biked with my brother often, I know he got up, checked himself for injuries, and then tried to get over that boulder again – and made it! He took a risk, tried an unknown, fell, figured something out and succeeded. Leaders have to do the same thing. Take risks, be prepared to crash, learn from it and try again.

A recent article in the Telegraph Connect, an online community for leaders, highlighted that successful leaders “will take carefully calculated risks, while accepting that failure is a byproduct of success and innovation.” The key point being that they are calculated risks and a part of a leadership strategy having four parts.

  1. Calculated risks mean predicted success. Assess if your goal is important enough to take a chance. Do your preparation and planning and don’t rush in blindly. And, purposely accept and have a plan for how you will learn from each and every misstep, mistake, blunder or crash!
  2. Failure is a part of experimenting. This requires trust and actually accepting the fact that failure WILL be a part of your career.
  3. Change requires growth. You will operate out of your comfort zone during times of important growth.
  4. Accept failure and build rapport. You can create a culture that takes risks, and then acknowledges, accepts and learns from the failures that inevitably follow.

Growing up my family always shared the phrase I used in the title, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying something new and learning.” Are you encouraging your team to “go for it?”

Todd Thorsgaard

It never stops!


I don’t want to cause alarm. Don’t be shocked! But, as Bob Dylan reminded us in 1964, “The Times They Are a-Changin'”. People change, jobs change, leaders change, organizations change, students change, politics change, technologies change, employees change, you change and I change.

Change can be good, bad or in-between. It can be planned or unexpected, purposeful or random, small or large. And it will affect you and your people.

During March and April we will be sharing ideas, tips, tools, resources and asking questions related to your role as a leader during the transitions that occur as a result of these changes. What can be done to plan for change, how to respond to change, ideas for leading change, how to support a new leader, how to be a new leader, what to do when a leader is leaving, what to do when you are leaving, facilitating employee transitions, and other ideas you suggest or want to share.

We can’t stop change. In fact, we don’t want to stop it but we can learn how to make the transitions more successful.

Todd Thorsgaard

That makes no sense!!


“That’s crazy,” “I could never do it that way,” You’re wrong,” “No, listen to me!”

Are you hearing statements like these at work? When new ideas are introduced are you seeing battle lines drawn? How do you lead for the common good when it seems like your people have completely different goals in mind?

Well, not to ignore how hard it is but the place to start is with dialogue. Which means helping people actually listen to each other, even if they disagree with what the other person is saying. Your goal is to help people move from:

  • arguing
  • persuading or telling
  • focusing on differences
  • talking at each other

All of which lead to frustration, lack of trust and either/or thinking.

And move to:

  • listening
  • talking with each other
  • problem-solving
  • looking at options

That requires finding some sort of common or shared interests as a starting point for dialogue. Instead of focusing on the dangers of the other point of view and highlighting the positive of their own point of view, help people work on specific issues by looking deeper and identifying underlying values, goals, and concerns that both sides share.

We encourage the leaders we work with to ask these two straightforward questions to build trust and identify shared interests.

  1. What do we all want?
  2. We do we all fear or want to avoid?

It will take work to keep people from focusing on their initial points of view and look at the bigger picture, but facilitating this conversation will help you and your people find a common good you can all agree on, and that is a great starting point!

Todd Thorsgaard

Moving beyond brainstorming

This is our last post for the year. We’ll take a break and come back in January with a wrap-up on the Minnesota State leadership competencies.

Therefore, I’d like to propose an early New Year’s resolution – for myself and each of us as leaders. During the year I want to expand my toolbox and find new ways to help my work groups reach decisions.

When we’re leameetingding meetings and there are decisions to be made, it’s easy to default to the tools that are comfortable and familiar. That usually means brainstorming and group discussion. Using other techniques can add a spark of creativity, help people remain engaged, and generate better decisions.

Here are some easy alternates to brainstorming:

  • Six Thinking Hats – Assign each member to approach the decision from a particular viewpoint. Ask people to have fun and get into their roles, even if it’s outside of their usual comfort zone.
  • Interviewing – Ask each team member to talk to 1-2 stakeholders who are impacted by the decision. Share the results and identify common concerns and any new issues that came up.
  • Pair-pair-share – Ask everyone to pair up with a partner and spend three minutes discussing their views about the decision. Then group the pairs into teams of four and have them come up with a list of considerations to share with the whole group. You’d be surprised how much new information can be generated in 10 minutes!

We hope you all have chance to relax and renew over the winter break!

Dee Anne Bonebright



Too much on my mind!

too-many-tabsThe holidays are looming, errands must be run, deadlines are pressing, family is calling, the academic session is ending, end-of-year reports are due, and decisions must be made! In fact, author Noreerna Hertz, in her book Eyes Wide Open: How to make smart decisions in a confusing world, estimates that most of us make over 10,000 decisions a day! No wonder we make bad decisions sometimes.

I’m sure you are in the middle of chaos so I am posting a short but very practical post today sharing Hertz’s top 10 steps for making better decisions – even when under deluge.

  1. Acknowledge, accept and “come to grips” with reality – we are exposed to more information than our brains can process and we need to accept that and create strategies to deal with it. It isn’t going to change.
  2. See the forest and the trees – don’t stop looking for the complete picture. Our brains automatically screen out details.
  3. Don’t automatically accept the stated narrative – work to understand the hidden meanings or intentions in information shared by others. Don’t automatically reject it but dig a little deeper.
  4. Don’t be afraid to challenge “the experts” and the status quo – ask questions and seek out alternative points of view to ensure you accept what you are hearing.
  5. Listen and learn from those “who know” – include the ideas and information from those with hands-on experience.
  6. Use technology to connect with a wider circle of people – take advantage of crowd-sourcing, affinity groups, networks, and instant communication channels to develop a wider circle of peers and colleagues to provide insight, advice and counsel.
  7. But, confirm the identity, background, knowledge and expertise of your network – you are responsible for the information you gather.
  8. Embrace “math” – good decision-making requires basic understanding of probabilities, expectations and risk. You don’t have to be a stats nerd but you need to learn the basics.
  9. Monitor your emotional state – emotions affect decisions just like information does. Develop an awareness for how your emotional state influences your decision-making effectiveness and take action to make decisions at the appropriate time.
  10. Embrace dissent and encourage diversity – multiple perspectives can open up new ideas, expose additional details, add different information, and facilitate true dialogue.

Happy decision-making!




Tough collaboration!

barbed_wireIt is pretty easy to collaborate with close colleagues, it gets much trickier when we need to collaborate across boundaries. It can even get downright painful!

Today, I am excited to share an example of collaboration across boundaries to ensure future success. The Minnesota State system of colleges and universities announced at today’s Board of Trustee meeting that we will guarantee admission to students who students who complete the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum and earn a minimum 2.0 GPA* in an Associate of Arts (AA) degree from any Minnesota State college to every one of our seven Minnesota State universities with junior year status.

This required collaboration across multiple boundaries, including; community and technical colleges, state universities, administrators, faculty, labor organizations, local admissions offices, system office leaders and just a whole bunch of individuals with strong opinions.

As Dan Sanker highlights in his book, Collaborate! The Art of We, collaboration like this is required for success in the complex and competitive world we face in higher education (and all fields.)

I was not a part of the work to develop the admissions guarantee collaboration but I imagine it contained most of the elements that Sanker describes as essential for successful collaboration:

  • Ongoing communication – even when it gets tough
  • Willing participation – not up front agreement but a willingness to explore
  • Brainstorming – open to alternative ideas
  • Teamwork – all must participate
  • A common purpose – the crucial starting point that requires clarification and alignment
  • Trust – requires both time and demonstrated behavior
  • A plan – turn ideas to action
  • A diverse group – provides the unique perspectives to develop innovative ideas and action
  • Mutual respect – foundation for work
  • A written agreement – creates a shared understanding
  • Effective leadership – not just a single title but actions to keep the group focused and help when the process goes off-track

Each of us are responsible for creating the conditions that will support collaborative efforts on our teams and across work groups on our campuses. Sanker’s list can help our teams avoid getting stuck on the barbed wire fences that pop up at work.

Todd Thorsgaard