Harnessing the Power of Emotions to Fuel Extraordinary Performance
Author: Jackie Barretta
Pub Date: October 2014
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814434413
Page Count: 240
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434420
Buy the book:
Unleashing Maximum Potential
Over a decade ago, IBM met a challenge that would have destroyed most
businesses. IBM’s leaders, recognizing that the company could not sustain
a viable future relying on the hardware that had made it a household
name, initiated a complete transformation of the company from a hardware
manufacturer to a global problem solver. Their new business model
deployed smart teams to work creatively with clients on the development
of customized solutions to complex business problems. Instead of
just selling PCs to a customer, IBM now fields teams who analyze the
customer’s workflow to determine the functions that equipment, such
as mobile devices, could enable employees to perform optimally.
Transforming the company from building one-size-fits-all products
to developing one-of-a-kind solutions to meet unique needs took
courage. Such a huge and risky strategy would capsize most companies,
but IBM isn’t most companies. Its employees often say they “bleed
blue,” meaning the IBM spirit and culture run through their veins.
Their deep emotional connection to the company helped motivate them
to persevere through a difficult transition and played a key role in their
success as members of smart, creative teams. The emotional connections
and sensations that people feel in the workplace can empower them to
come up with innovative solutions to their clients’ most challenging
problems. At IBM, emotions—as much as, if not more than, IQ or any
other measure of brilliance—stimulated people to make their new service
business succeed in a radically altered marketplace.
In this chapter, you’ll discover that your organization already contains
a treasure trove of similar problem-solving potential that you’re
able to release by stirring optimal (i.e., distinctly upbeat and deeply felt)
emotions in your people.
SPARKING THE CREATIVE BRAIN
I vividly recall the magic that happened one day in a software development
team I was leading. The CEO of our company, a trucking giant,
had challenged us to alter our computer systems to support a new railroad
service he wanted to launch in four weeks. We felt highly motivated
and had spent every waking moment over a two-day period
straining to find a quick way to modify our trucking software to work
for railroads. Sitting together in a conference room, batting around ideas,
and drawing diagrams on the whiteboard long after the other company’s
teams had gone home for the day, one of our teammates, Jake, voiced
our basic fear: “We just can’t do it in four weeks. These changes are
going to take at least four months.”
Although I respected Jake, I felt we could do better. “Let’s shift our
emotions,” I suggested. Several heads nodded agreement. We all needed
a break from fear and anxiety. “Forget about all these alternatives and
diagrams,” I continued. “Let’s take the problem and put it on a mental
shelf alongside our anxiety.” I then led an exercise (which I’ll outline
later in this chapter) to get everyone de-stressed, centered, and feeling
positive. Once the energy in the room had shifted, I said, “Now let’s
pull the problem off the shelf, leave all the anxiety behind, and see what
happens.” It took only a few minutes before Jake exclaimed, “I’ve got
it! I know how we can solve this quickly.” He had devised an elegant
solution we could implement in a scant few weeks.
Make Creativity Job One
The success of an organization depends on those key moments when
teams develop creative ways to provide greater value to customers and
perform more efficiently in increasingly demanding situations. Too
often, a team under pressure falls prey to negative emotions like fear
and anxiety and formulates an unimaginative solution that barely gets
the job done, takes an eternity to implement, and requires constant repair.
However, when they replace fear and anxiety with optimal emotions
such as joy and playfulness, they find it a lot easier to dream up
solutions that delight customers, rapidly deliver value, and elegantly
evolve along with the business.
A 2010 IBM survey reported that the majority of over 1,600 global
CEOs agree that the success of their companies rests on the creative
problem-solving capabilities of their people. That’s the only way their
companies can handle the accelerating complexity of today’s business
terrain, with all of its disruptive technological innovations, quickly
evolving customer expectations, constantly shifting government regulations,
dramatic swings in the global economy, and overwhelming volumes
You must instill creativity at every level, from the senior executive
team to the help desk staff, because you cannot afford to waste valuable
time waiting for decisions to travel up and down the food chain. By
then, impatient customers will have switched to your competition.
While executives in the IBM survey agreed that organizations should
encourage creativity in frontline workers, they admitted that they did
not know how to do that.
Whether your team must solve an internal design problem or invent
the next disruptive breakthrough in your industry, they won’t exceed
your expectations unless you make it clear that creativity is Job One and
develop an environment that fosters innovative thinking. Don’t leave
creativity to chance; shape it by design. Most businesses today focus intently
on enabling data-based decisions and streamlining their processes,
but these tactics will never spark the creativity needed to get and stay
ahead of the competition. Creativity and innovation require the right
state of mind. Fortunately, new research in psychology and neuroscience
suggests that you can employ specific methods to put any team in the
state of mind where creativity becomes a habit.
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