As my fellow countrymen U2 wrote in their famous Song “You’ve got yourself stuck in a moment and now you can’t get out of it”. And like many, I have found myself stuck in the moment over these past 4 months. When I think of all the times I just wanted time to do stuff I wanted to do, but time was something I felt I didn’t have. #AndYet here I was, so much time on my hands and doing what? For me it was addiction to the news and to social media. I became an expert in so many things, filling my head full of irrelevancies, getting paranoid about stuff way beyond my control or influence. Sure I was learning stuff and even doing other stuff… but but but whaaaat? As a wise person once said, “It matters not how we got here, but what we choose to do now that we are here”! Not sure who that wise person is as googled and cannot find. No Matter, I like the saying and it speaks to me. Hope it may speak to you also!
Anyway as to #wherenow?!? With the support of my wonderwoman Carol, I chose a month back to get off my ass and to wake up my mind. Using advise from many Guru’s and most specifically Robin Sharma, I started a process of change which I have called #EverydayisaGreatDay. In reality what it means is getting up at 5am each morning, doing exercise, gratitude, meditation, learning, productive work and a bit of breakfast, all completed before 9am. For me a drastic change from a lifetime of being a #NightOwl. In business BS one might call it a paradigm shift. We are currently on day 25 as missed out on a few days where celebrating life got the better of us. I hope to share with you our experiences in a few months, so I can talk in terms of having done versus aspiration. However for now, I would like to offer some inspiration and 2 possibilities for you to consider. I found both inspiring in differing ways. One is angled from a business/professional growth/choice perspective (article below), the other from a personal growth perspective (youtube video attached). So please join me for circa 22 minutes on a journey beyond the Virus.
This particular article was written by a good friend of mine, @EdMontgomery from Belfast. I worked with Ed for a number of years in Helsinki before we both moved on in differing geographical directions. Ed is an amazing event organizer and marketing dude, but also famous in work circles for his scribing and occasional wit. In this article he wishes to inspire by offering the context of what is Lego and moving on from CoronaVirus. Cannot help myself, it’s all about “Thinking out of the box” Well go on, read for yourself. Enjoy!!!
(10 min read)
Creative Destruction – how Lego can inspire us to think differently about our business post- Coronavirus …. written by @edmontgomery
This is the third Lego phase in my lifetime. Phase 1 was during the mid 80’s and I distinctly remember opening a Post Office set on Christmas Day and getting help from my big sister to build it. At the time it felt like an epic battle between boy and brick. I had other sets that were recently found in a box in the garage of my parental home that required some minor surgery to return them to their original glory, including the Lego Police Patrol Squad (6684) and Lego Cement Mixer set (6682).
Phase 2 was a much shorter episode, back in 2002 when I was studying for my MSc. Lego had just released some new Star Wars sets (could it get any better??) to coincide with the release of Episode II and I needed a break from Java so found solace building Set #7201, the Final Duel II.
It was only a few months ago that the original creator of the Lego minifigure sadly died, Jens Nygaard Knudsen. He was the designer behind the creation before its public release in 1978. The joy this has created for countless numbers of kids (and adults) around the world is his lasting legacy. I wonder how his bosses felt when he presented his idea? Thankfully his vision was accepted and signed off, with continual development over the decades, alongside many merchandising deals related to major motion pictures released, plus many other configurations.
Becks & Blocks
Earlier this year, global footballing legend David Beckham was interviewed on US television about his late-night Lego building obsession. At the end of the clip, you will see Jimmy Fallon present him with the largest Lego set as a gift, lucky Becks! Beckham says building Lego “calms him”. The same goes for me, David.
Ice Ice Evan
I remember watching a documentary about the US Navy Seals and what amazed me was their calmness during battle situations. With bullets flying and frag grenades exploding, they were ice cool under extreme pressure. One Seal explained “calm breeds calm, stress breeds stress, so it’s crucial to stay calm”. Over the years I met various ex Pats who were former US military personnel, now in business. They were hired due to their expertise in specific areas, but also for their ability to handle pressure, invaluable in the upper echelons of the corporate world.
Rolling Stone contributor, Evan Wright, wrote a series of articles, later turned into a book called Generation Kill (also turned into an HBO mini-series). It detailed his time riding in the back of a Humvee during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the US Marine Corps. Wright often rode in the lead Humvee. One of the Marines that he rode with was Brad Colbert, nicknamed “Iceman” due to his ability to stay calm during battle.
Lego Creator Sets #AndYet
My third phase of Lego construction came about with the patter of tiny feet. Both of whom love to build Lego. Well, one is more of a builder, the other is more of the destroyer mindset, finding great pleasure in dismantling what his brother has just built. In our house we have the glorious balanced matchup between, the creator and destructor. Recent favorite purchases are from the Lego 3 in 1 box sets.
According to Wikipedia, Lego introduced the first 3 in 1 sets in 2007, branded as ‘Creator’. Allow me to explain, as the name suggests, each box contains 3 different variations for people to build from the same pieces, what a toy technological triumph for its legion of adoring fans. Our boys find great pleasure re-building these sets, multiple times each day. And yet this story gets even better, as each set often contains additional, secret sets, with instructions available online. (Personal favorites are the Dinosaur 3 in 1 and the Outback Cabin).
(T 2 inspecting the retro 80’s Lego)
Lego and business are very similar
· Building blocks are your Employees
· Instructions could be classified as your strategy
· The Lego City would be your supply chain and customers, an epiphytic eco-system, dependent on one another.
· A full set of bricks gives stability and security, when considered in a business context, would its various functions, housing competent employees.
If a brick or 2 falls off (employees leaving), then you find new bits to add to the set.
From Creative Play to Creative Destruction
At the end of April, I was listening to an economist talking about Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian economist, who was explaining Schumpeter’s theory of Creative Destruction.
To summarize Schumpeter, he said that the whole system of capitalism is in constant flux, one great battle between the innovator and establishment, where the innovators are constantly trying to outwit the status quo.
Creativity is the way forward
Therefore, an economy is not in a state of equilibrium, as textbook economics suggests, but quite the opposite. The natural conclusion from ongoing innovation is that the economy is in a permanent state of change. We are in a state of almost constant chaos, where new products, techniques and ideas are constantly undermining existing ones. Think of those online businesses with no capital assets – AirBNB, Uber and Deliveroo.
This is what Schumpeter, termed ‘‘creative destruction’’. This implies that recessions are the necessary product of innovation, and what Schumpeter was implying was that capitalism eats its young and, in so doing, it constantly renews itself (the ‘creative’ part of creative destruction).
Schumpeter said the economy can be explained, the growth in the economy can be explained by new businesses replacing old businesses, adapting to a changing environment and almost evolutionary economics. Essentially, Schumpeter was talking about continuous innovation.
The M&S 2 in 1 Creator
Naturally this reminded me of the Lego Creator sets, finding different builds within the same box. So back to the subject line, how can we learn from Lego? In March 2020, the much loved high street brand, M&S did not sell and deliver their food products, when purchased online. You could place an order online, but you had to physically go to the store to collect your order, a process I never quite understood in the era of Amazon. However, in May 2020, M&S announced a partnership with Deliveroo – Great pivot M&S because I miss your double chocolate cookies, a craving that isn’t quite fulfilled by their competitors. Nothing quite matches up to their delectable and devilishly delicious sugary debauchery! My wife predicted this back in March saying M&S would suffer if they didn’t keep up with the other high street retailers.
#AndYet Cookies by Bike
M&S had one business plan, their Classic – you buy in store or online, but collect your shopping regardless of how you made the purchase. Now they created a new option, Plan B – bingo! Brought to you by the beauty of the internet and bearded hipsters on bikes.
Apply this theory to your company. How do you change what you are doing to stay in business? How do you rearrange the pieces to build something else? There are many other examples of companies pivoting, either due to national need, or by their own philanthropic plan to help out during this crisis. From manufacturers of alcoholic drinks now making hand sanitizer, to F1 teams making ventilators.
Our new Normal #AndYet
As we take our first (virtual) steps in the age of the ‘new Normal’ we will need to reinvent ourselves, our social lives, our careers and for business leaders, their companies. Will you as an executive, listen to the Creative Destructors in your company, or from external consultants, if you can afford them? As employees, possibly furloughed right now, have they faith that during their hiatus from work, your bosses are re-writing the company playbook and strategy to survive and thrive?
Calm, Creative Destruction is Called for
Remaining calm under pressure is key, easier said than done. ‘Remembering times when I was under significant pressure and stress, my creative factory would shut down with too many items swirling around my head and I needed help from colleagues.
Being able to think, brainstorm/blue sky thinking should be the first thing you do each day. Schedule a ‘daily thinking cap session’. Companies who quickly pivot now and see an opportunity will still be around when this pandemic has receded.
Remembering Jens Nygaard Knudsen, what will our legacy be to the world and how we re-built our businesses? Since 1978, Lego has largely been continuously innovating and Schumpeter would approve.
You need your creative destructors more than ever, those people who see things others don’t.
(T & T-Rex, the inspiration for this post)
Thank you Ed Montgomery and thank you to your beautiful boys. Have seen some of their amazing transforming work with Lego!
And to my second offering for Inspiration. As part of my learning process I have been doing a lot of reading, watching and researching about our amazing brains and how we are not stuck with what we have, but instead how we can develop and grow them, irrelevant of age. The whole research area of Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity is pretty new and offers us a completely different insight to our brain’s potential. However in this video rather than focusing on all that is amazing, I offer you Sarah Bond Chapman and her 7 secrets on the what we can do to Turbocharge our brains, the “wake up your mind” bit! Just 12 minutes, Enjoy!