Book Summaries Strengthen Reading as a Discipline for Critical Thinking

Underneath the surface of every successful leader is a reader.

Reading provides the best regimen for establishing and nurturing the information necessary to lead others. Reading provides a constant stream of intelligence, ideas, and information that enables the leader to act from a foundation of knowledge.

A survey of the typical leader’s desk, workspace, or briefcase includes a stack of books, a pile of magazines, and at least one personal electronic device with access to a vast digital library of resources.

Having the right information is not as big a problem as much as having too much information!

Enter SUMS.

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 6.58.32 AM

For years Auxano Founder & Team Leader Will Mancini dreamed of providing a best of class and totally free book summary service to church leaders. In the fall of 2012, Mancini and his team launched just such a service, called SUMS – a biweekly book summary service.  

>Why Auxano created SUMS

Like many church leaders, Will loves reading, and appreciates book summaries. But he took it to the next level by creating a team who was serious about selection of books for church leaders, designed something great to look at, and created applications for the world church leaders live in every day. As Vision Room Curator, I get the privilege of leading that team – and I love it!

After a two-year run, SUMS underwent changes, including moving to a subscription-based platform which launched last January.

Beginning in 2015, we took the SUMS tool to a whole new level. Every other week subscribers receive not ONE, but THREE book “summaries” all focused around solving a practical church leadership problem. It’s called SUMS Remix.

SUMSRemixCovers

That’s 26 issues of SUMS Remix – addressing the ministry problems you encounter at your church – delivered to your inbox every two weeks.

In a nutshell why is SUMS Remix better?

  • You need content that solves the challenges you face every day
  • You want to scan more information in less time to find the best content
  • You will to achieve more with more credibility as well-read leader
  • You have ready-to-use staff action steps in each issue

For example, the first of four free introductory SUMS Remix focused on the problem, “We want leadership development to be happening all of the time, not just at special events.” To solve this problem we looked at Noel Tichey’s Leadership Engine, Aubrey Malphur’s book (co-authored with Auxano founder Will Mancini), Building Leaders, and Dave & Jon Ferguson’s book, Exponential.

Check it out for yourself and see if you would agree that this is an incredibly innovative content tool for the church. Here are the first four free introductory issues of SUMS Remix:

SUMS Remix 1 We want leadership development to be happening all the time, not just at special events.

SUMS Remix 2 It’s difficult inspiring my team to be more productive.

SUMS Remix 3 I communicate a lot, but don’t consider myself a great storyteller.

SUMS Remix 4 My stomach goes into knots when I think about preaching on the subject of giving.

Click here to subscribe to SUMS Remix. Imagine – an entire year of the gift of insight, delivered to the your inbox – for the low price of $48. Writer/Editor’s privilege: through the end of August, use the discount code august2015 at checkout and receive at 50% discount – one year of SUMS Remix for only $24!

Think of it as creating a personal leadership and innovation literacy program.

Breathe In, Live Out

The word inspire means “to breathe into or upon; to infuse with life by breathing.” When we say, “I am inspired,” it has a deeper significance than we think. We are “breathing in” the living environment of ideas, enthusiasm, and energy that comes with the creative process.

If we look in the Bible, we see the same idea. In Hebrew and Greek the words for “spirit” are the same as the words for “breath” and “wind.” In fact even in English our word “spirit” comes from Latin word meaning breath. “Inspiration” and “respiration” have the same root. This is no mistake. From the earliest times people could see the connection between breath and active life. When a person’s body stops breathing, it also becomes inactive and dies. Breath is the outward manifestation of activity and life. This intimate connection between breath and active life is the reason why the same word is used for both “spirit” and “breath” in Hebrew (ruach) and in Greek (pneuma).

Inspiration comes from things that are infused with life.

In creating, Disney’s Imagineers always work from a basis of their training, exposure to others’ work, their research, and their life experience.  Working together, they are inspired by their collective histories, training, experience, predecessors, and mentors.

When we are inspired, ideas that are living inside us will find a way to be expressed.

Here’s an exercise from the Imagineers: Select a creative challenge – painting, writing, inventing – anything that requires creativity. Now, make a list of creative souls that could inspire a solution: artists, scientists, inventors, musicians, writers. Select one or more people from the list, reflect on their talent, research their work, and let them breathe life into your thinking and imagination.

Now, find your own answers by letting your imagination play with multiple solutions.

 

part of a series of ideas to shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

The Disney Imagineers

 Imagineering logo

What If Leaders Thought Like Designers?

Then they would be familiar with these three words: Empathy, Invention, and Iteration.

Empathy –  design must start with establishing a deep understanding of those we are designing for. Leaders who thought like designers would put themselves in the shoes of their team or client. More than just “customer-centered” (that’s internal and external customers), the idea here is to know the “customer” as real people with real problems, not seeing them as statistics or targets or a cog in the machine. It involves understanding both their emotional and “rational” needs and wants. Great designs inspire – they grab us at an emotional level. Yet we often don’t even attempt to engage our customer or team at an emotional level – let alone inspire them.

courtesy annetteleach.com

courtesy annetteleach.com

Consider one of my favorite metaphors – the bridge. Now go to New York City with me and look at the bridges there: the Manhattan, the George Washington, the Williamsburg, and others – and then there is the Brooklyn Bridge. The others offer a route across the water. The Brooklyn Bridge does that too, but it also sweeps, symbolizes, and enthralls. It has, like other design icons such as the Sydney Opera House, become a symbol of the land it occupies and an inspiration to generations. Translate that same feeling to leading people, and you can begin to grasp empathy.

Invention – design is also a process of invention. Leaders who thought like designers would think of themselves of creators. Many people have talked about the “art and science” of leadership, but to be honest we focus mostly on the science aspect. All to often leaders play the role of scientist, investigating today to discover explanations for what has already happened, trying to understand it better. Designers invent tomorrow – they create something that isn’t. To get to growth, it is necessary to create something in the future that is different from the present. Powerful futures are rarely discovered primarily through analytics. Analysis is an important role, but it must be subordinate to the process of invention when the goal is growth.

Great design occurs at the intersection of constraint, contingency, and possibility

– Richard Buchanan, former Dean of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design

 When leaders start the growth conversation with the constraints of budget and the hard road to success, we get designs for tomorrow that merely tweak today. Great design starts with the question “What if anything were possible?

courtesy en.structurae.de

courtesy en.structurae.de

To illustrate, let’s go back to New York City, this time to Central Park, one of America’s great public spaces. In 1857, the country’s first public landscape design competition was held to select the plans for this park. Only one plan – prepared by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux – fulfilled all the design requirements. Others were stymied by the requirement that crosstown vehicular traffic had to be permitted without marring the pastoral feel of the park. Olmstead and Vaux succeeded by eliminating the assumption that the park was a two-dimensional space. Instead, they imagined the park in three dimensions and sank four roads eight feet below the surface.

Iterate – Leaders who thought like designers would see themselves as learners. Leaders often default to a straightforward linear problem-solving methodology: define a problem, identify various solutions, analyze each, and choose one – the right one. Designers aren’t nearly so impatient,or optimistic. They understand that the successful invention takes experimentation and that empathy is hard won. So is the task of learning.

courtesy ikeainalmhult.com

courtesy ikeainalmhult.com

The IKEA way of business we know (and love!) today didn’t originally start out that way. Almost every element of IKEA’s legendary business model – showrooms and catalogs in tandem, knockdown furniture in flat parcels, and customer pick-up and assembly – emerged over time from experimental response to urgent problems. “Regard every problem as a possibility,” was IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s mantra. He focused less on control and “getting it right” the first time and more on learning and on seeing and responding to  opportunities as they emerged.

A bridge, a park, and a business model – they share fundamental design principles:

  1. Aim to connect deeply with those you serve
  2. Don’t let your imagined constraints limit your possibilities
  3. Seek opportunities, not perfection

Is there a way for ChurchWorld leaders to think like designers?

inspired by and adapted from Designing for Growth by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie to fit ChurchWorld realities

updated from an earlier post

The Rebirth of Aesthetics

aes – thet – ics – (noun) a set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty

An idea is only an intention until it has been perfected, polished, and produced.

– Marty Neumeier

According to Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation at the Liquid Agency, the same principles that activate other forms of art will soon become essential to the art of leadership. The more technological our culture becomes, the more we’ll need the sensual and metaphorical power of beauty.

aesthetics

Take a look at the chart below, and see how the aesthetics of the single word on the left inspires your curiosity of leadership through the questions on the right.

The Aesthetics of Leadership

Contrast – How can we differentiate ourselves?

Depth –  How can we succeed on many levels?

Focus – What should we NOT do?

Harmony – How can we achieve synergy?

Integrity – How can we forge the parts into a whole?

Line – What is our trajectory over time?

Motion – What advantage can we gain from speed?

Novelty – How can we use the surprise element?

Order – How should we structure our organization?

Pattern – Where have we seen this before?

Repetition – Where are the economies of scale?

Rhythm – How can we optimize time?

Proportion – How can we keep our strategy balanced?

Scale – How big should our organization be?

Shape – Where should we draw the edges?

Texture – How do details enliven our culture?

Unity – What is the higher-order solution?

Variety – How can diversity drive innovation?

What beautiful thing are you creating in your organization today?

When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

– Buckminster Fuller

inspired by and adapted from Marty Neumeier’s The Designful Company

The Designful Company

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

Sunday August 9 would have been my father’s 88th birthday.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful to my dad for.

Sunday it will be Book Lover’s Day, not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter, and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book summaries, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent consultation with a client, I was able to pull a dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books for leadership development. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

On this Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”

My reading list for the next two weeks:

  • Design to Grow, David ButlerBooks082015
  • Stuffocation, James Wallman
  • Can’t Buy Me Like, Bob Garfield & Doug Levy
  • All In Startup, Diana Kander
  • Louder Than Words, Benjamin Bergen
  • Team Genius, Rich Karlgaard & Michael Malone
  • Reframe, Mona Patel
  • The Open Organization, Jim Whitehurst
  • Rhythm, Patrick Thean
  • Pure Pork Awesomeness, Kevin Gillespie
  • How to Braise, Michael Ruhlman
  • William Sharespeare’s The Phantom of Menace, Ian Doescher
  • Tomorrow-Land, Joseph Tirella
  • Walt Disney World with Kids, Bob Sehlinger
  • Walt Disney World Fun Finds and Hidden Mickeys, Julie Neal
  • Irresistible Community, Bill Donahue

I prefer to think of it as creating innovation literacy.

If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station and I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest services. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

From Storytelling to Storyboarding

 

Storytelling is probably the oldest form of communication. John Hench, Disney Legend and former Senior VP of Creative Development, used to insist that storytelling was ‘in our genes.’ – Tom Fitzgerald, The Imagineering Workout

Storytelling has played a vital role in our survival – allowing us to share information, knowledge, and values from generation to generation. Story is the medium through which we receive our early learning as to right and wrong, good versus evil, reward and punishment, social values, etc.

We respond to storytelling. It engages our attention; no matter how old we get, who doesn’t love a good story?

Understanding this, Walt Disney created a technique in the early days of his cartoon films that helped illustrate the flow and continuity of stories – the storyboard.

Donald Duck storyboard, circa 1937 - courtesy of Tom Simpson

Donald Duck storyboard, circa 1937 – courtesy of Tom Simpson

Storyboards are tools that allowed Walt and his artists to envision a film prior to production. It allowed his team to have a shared vision of the story they were telling and how it would unfold. As a bonus to driving the creative development, it also offered a cost-effective way to experiment with a film early on, so that when production began, costs could be minimized.

Decades later, the tradition of storyboards continues on, though it has long expanded past just films. At Walt Disney Imagineering, rides, shows, and films for Disney’s theme parks around the world are the objects of regular storyboarding.

Starting with brainstorm sessions, the Imagineer’s first thoughts, ideas, images, and feelings about the story they are creating are captured on note cards and quick sketches.

The storyboards are worked, re-worked, rearranged, and edited until the story is strong and clear. Only then will production proceed.

At Walt Disney Imagineering, everything they do revolves around the story – and storyboards have remained an essential tool in helping them tell the story.

What story are you trying to tell?

Let it start with words and images to single note cards pinned on wall. Step back and look at the story you are trying to tell. Rearrange, edit, and add to the cards. Work at it – hard – until the story is just like you want to tell it.

Now, it’s time to tell the story…

 

part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

 written by The Disney Imagineers

Imagineering logo

Seeing With Your Brain

We live in a culture rich with images. My generation (Boomers) grew up with television – maybe only 3 channels, but what a difference from our parents’ primary information – the radio and the spoken word only.

My kids (2 Gen X, 5 Gen Y) expanded on the basic television, first with cable, then videotapes, then the Internet, and then DVDs.

My 4 grandchildren? They are digital natives, taking visual communication to new – and participatory – levels with social media, smart phones, tablets, apps, streaming video of all types on many different devices, and who knows what’s around the corner.

We can’t escape the power of the visual image – and most of us don’t want to.

Most of us are visual learners. We like to see a picture, not just hear a word. Len Sweet has said that images are the language of the 21st Century, not words. Why?

Pictures stick. We remember pictures long after words have left us. Pictures communicate far more than mere words. There’s a simple reason:

We see with our brain.

Vision trumps all the senses. Half of the brain’s resources are dedicated to seeing and interpreting what we see. What our eyes physically perceive is only one part of the story. The images coming into our brain are changed and interpreted. So it’s really our brains that are “seeing.”

If we are on an increasing visual trend in our culture and we understand the importance of vision in our lives, then it follows that leaders should be leading the visual revolution, not just observing (pun intended) it.

With that in mind, I wanted to introduce you to a trio of resources that will help you know how to use visual tools, manage visual practitioners and their work, and understand how to help your entire organization be visually literate – especially if you don’t think of yourself as being skillful visually.

Visual Leaders

Visual Leaders will help you and your organization take advantage of the visualization revolution. Visualization is transforming the world of work and the role of leaders in an age of global communication and complexity. The book is a guide to increasing your own visual literacy and your ability to help others with theirs. (Download a free summary of this book here.)

Visual Meetings

Visual Meetings supports a group’s cycle of learning. Visual Meetings explains how you can use graphic recording, sticky notes, and idea mapping when imagining, engaging, thinking, or enacting in meetings. It is loaded with very practical and detailed descriptions of how to conduct different visualization activities. It also reviews the Group Graphics Keyboard and the seven archetypal choices for organizing displays.

Visual Teams

Visual Teams explains how to create and sustain team performance with visuals. Visual Teams builds on Visual Meetings and shows how to use these methods across the whole arc of a team process, including the parts in between meetings. It also provides a graphical user interface to thinking about team dynamics with the Team Performance Model. The seven challenges of high-performing teams are explained in detail and linked to tools that help meet them.

Got a pen?

 

You might also like: