Building a team

“Creativity gets killed”

close up of human hand

When I consider all the organizations I have studied and worked with over the past 22 years, there can be no doubt: creativity gets killed much more often than it gets supported. For the most part, this isn’t because managers have a vendetta against creativity. On the contrary, most believe in the value of new and useful ideas. However, creativity is undermined unintentionally every day in work environments that were established—for entirely good reasons—to maximize business imperatives such as coordination, productivity, and control. This is even more true in the world of medicine; “untested” is a bad thing.

Surgeons cannot be expected to ignore the need for innovation and testing new things, of course. But in working healthcare systems built on established guidelines, safety first and indeed….adhering to the code of Do No Harm, we have designed organizations that systematically crush creativity.

What Is Business Creativity?

We tend to associate creativity with the arts and to think of it as the expression of highly original ideas. Think of how Pablo Picasso reinvented the conventions of painting or how William Faulkner redefined fiction. In business, originality isn’t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate—useful and actionable. It must somehow influence the way business gets done—by improving a product, for instance, or by opening up a new way to approach a process.

The associations made between creativity and artistic originality often lead to confusion about the appropriate place of creativity in business organizations. In meetings, I’ve asked other leaders if there is any place they don’t want creativity in their companies. About 80% of the time, they answer, “Accounting.” Creativity, we seem to believe, belongs just in marketing and R&D.

Building an innovation system can yield improvement ideas that reshape health care practices, but this rarely happen seamlessly. The following excerpt from the IHI Innovation System white paper presents five types of challenges inherent in most innovation systems and what IHI has learned about overcoming them.

5 Innovation Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them (ihi.org)

Challenge Creates Innovation

Personally, I have a great example where the two worlds (my creativity and lust for problem solving vs the “we have always done it like this”) meet. Go back a couple of years, and enter St Mary’s Hospital in London, an old building that looks like it has secret corridors, hidden passages and at least 3 floors that nobody can seem to access. The staff room is a small room with a floor that leans to the east, with a view over London’s rooftops and chimneys. The only way I can ever find it (yet to this day) is through the back entrance spiral stone staircase, up, up, up…

Standing behind a surgeon learning about the challenges they meet on a daily basis (every patient is unique) is an option to not just learn, but also to innovate. For me, it is a unique situation: I am the only Medtech CEO in the world that has the background of a trained ballerina combined with a women’s health education learning  surgical  game changer TVT from the inventor Ulf Ulmsten himself. I watch how surgeons move, I understand anatomy in a different way, and I can mimic movements down to individual muscles. I am trained to memorize patterns, flow and rhythm. I physically flinch when a move looks awkward or strenuous, and I instinctively know how to fix it.

Watching a surgeon getting frustrated by trying to correctly position the frame and tighten a screw on an old blue plastic retractor sparked one of those moments in me, and I was trying to lighten the mood in the room by commenting: “Not a great design, that blue thing!” I was rewarded with a grin from the scrub nurse, and a smile from the surgeon, who quickly replied: “Let me guess, you make a better one?!”

“Not yet, but I bet I can!”

Nothing makes me more interested to do something than someone telling me I probably can’t. I have a long list of things I have done, purely because of a challenge. Fast forward a couple of years, and Galaxy II is now a global brand, sold in over 40 countries in a range of surgeries. We have launched the worlds first ever light attachment (again a challenge I needed to solve, this time from surgeons doing charity work in Africa and needing better intra cavity light) and won The Queens Award for Innovation in 2021.

Expertise and creative thinking are an individual’s raw materials—his or her natural resources, if you will. But a third factor—motivation—determines what people will actually do. The scientist can have outstanding educational credentials and a great facility in generating new perspectives to old problems. But if she lacks the motivation to do a particular job, she simply won’t do it; her expertise and creative thinking will either go untapped or be applied to something else. Read more about Creativity in this Harvard Business Review Article: How to Kill Creativity (hbr.org)

Summarize me and JUNE: Attempt 1

I have tried to summarize me in a few words for the Goldman Sachs 10k I am just about to embark on. How do you think I did?

Here is what I wrote:

Making healthcare better for the women and girls you love.

Multi award-winning innovator and serial entrepreneur. (thats from LinkedIn, true but braggy sounding on here.)

I don’t like Brexit

I am Swedish, living in the UK since 12 years, still struggling to not translate and try to explain swedish expressions (eg “There is no danger on the roof”) during business conversations.

Useless education

Trained ballerina, rocks parallel parking but can’t cook. Once burnt boiling eggs.

It’s complicated

Like talking strategy, change and people. Enthusiastic introvert who has to do the hakka before networking. Residential will take all my energy, but I am really looking forward to learning from everyone on the programme.

JUNE Medical

June was a code name from the beginning, but it got stuck so I kept it. We focus on surgical women’s health, anything that is in the operating theatre and give women the opportunity to get back on their feet faster, back to the life they want to live. We distribute medical devices for some of the largest companies in healthcare, as well as making our own solutions when we don’t find good products (Galaxy II is such a project).
I have been supporting The Fistula Foundation with surgical equipment for many years, and my GalaxyII project is an important cornerstone in that goal.
I am on the programme to ensure I make the best choices and optimise where and how we can contribute to improving healthcare for women and girls.

Leadership struggles

As a leader, one of the hardest things is to figure out when to push your employees, and when to back off. Finding the balance, different for each person you lead, is hugely challenging.

Sometimes leaders get fed up too, because in the end of the day, we all have rough days when we just want to roll over and pull the covers over our head. But as the leader of a team or a company, that simply isn’t an option. Your actions would impact too many, and for a long time. You need to stay professional, at all times. Moping has to be done at home, hidden away from those your emotions will influence, worry or offend.

Supportive leaders are great

But how do you make the decision to just stop helping and stop coaching? When do you say “enough is enough” and draw a line in the sand? For example, how much of our personal life’s should we bring into the office? When should we tell our teams to be professional and just get on with it? Is it right to have team members not pulling their weight because they are going through a tough time at home? Should a boss be a mentor, a coach or a psychologist? Or all of it?

Lead with kindness

I always advocate empathy and understanding and believe leading with kindness is right. But….here is a thought for consideration: Is it right to spend extra time and resources on the ones who aren’t performing? Is it fair to the other ones in the team, those who are doing well, even great? Shouldn’t THEY be the ones who get the time, the coaching, the support and the help?

If you want to lead a team of high performers, is it strategic to spend most of your time worrying about the low performers? Or is it time to just ditch the deadweight and go with the stars?

Pondering continues.

Two new people to help find their strengths!! Who’s excited!?!

Me!

In september, we have a new apprentice start, on a rotation program between 3 of my companies. She is in for a treat very different to most apprenticeships: she originally didn’t want to do one, because she was afraid she would be filing and making tea for a year.

Not with us. Here, you learn.

When Ifsa (our first apprentice) started, we gave her responsibility for the entire Continue reading…

Why leaders with egos are bad for business

Here is what a leader with a big ego will do:

  1. Being defensive. (Early sign: Defending ideas. Ultimately turns into becoming defensive.)
  2. Comparing to others. If you continually compare yourself to others, you will actually become less competitive. Too inward focusing!
  3. Seeking  acceptance to justify your ego needs. You crave respect and recognition from others, which eventually interferes with your success.
  4. Show off: You make a point of showcasing your brilliance.
  5. You think you have all the answers.
  6. Reject advice. Not smart.
  7. Can’t admit to being wrong. Ever pushed an idea through, even though you had that sinking feeling in your gut? Cut your loss and regroup instead. Only weak leaders have a hard time doing this.

None of this will make your business stronger, bigger or healthier, and none if this will foster good leaders around you.

Got a big ego? I suggest you send it on holiday for a few weeks and see how you get on without it. You just may be surprised.

I’ve yet to meet anyone complaining someone’s ego is too small.

“What’s your strength?”

I asked….and they didn’t know. I was a bit saddened by that. They looked so lost.

I asked them what their strength was; 29 out of 58 wasn’t able to write down anything on the paper in front of them. Just a sad face in the space where their strength was supposed to be.

A room full of young people, 85% had already told me they didn’t know what they wanted to do, or be, or dream of. A few were clear: focused goals and a plan of how to get there….but the majority looked like deer in headlight; “Oh no, will this be another grown-up telling me what I should do..?”

So I told them. Loud and clear, I let them know that I wasn’t going to tell them a single thing about what to do with their lives. A few looked like they were thinking I wasn’t being very helpful. That may very well be true. But I wanted to give them a bigger gift than that.

I wanted to give them a tool to figure it out for themselves.

So we spent an hour together, talking about two major things:

  1. Body language. How to figure out what someone is saying when they are not using just their words. And, perhaps more importantly, how to communicate back and forth on that level.
  2. Strengths. Not weaknesses. Not fixing “what you have to be better at”. I told them to stop wasting their time, because trying to fix your weaknesses is fighting nature. Make sure your weaknesses isn’t putting barriers up for you, but don’t strive to be better than someone else in an area of weakness. Focus on your strengths: Find them, hone them, practice them.

Show off your strengths. Wear them like a badge of honour, a crown on your head, a halo of skill leading your way.

And then we talked about how. And we practiced, because if you don’t know what your skill IS, how are you going to know how to do all that?

More about that later. Sign up to get a notice when I spend time to develop that part of the conversation.

Open plan office pitfalls?!

I like open plan offices, as it encourages communication. But does it work as well as we think?

Think about average number of distractions during an average work day…..Now take that number and multiply it by 23.

That’s how many minutes of concentration you actually lose. You see, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction.

Distractions side track you for up to a half hour!

In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 23 minutes and 45 seconds. (very few of the twitter posts I read are worth that kind of investment, but perhaps I am just following the wrong people… !)

And all these distractions not only hurt effectiveness, they make us stressed, grumpy and less sharp: “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote.

Are we victims or villains?!

 

Interestingly enough, half the interruptions were self-inflicted. Working on a task and switching tabs to check Facebook, for example, is a self-inflicted interruption. As opposed to, say, a coworker walking over to discuss a project.

We are, essentially, playing tennis with our cognitive energies, volleying them back and forth at a moment’s notice. Only unlike a tennis ball, our brain takes a little time to switch directions. More like a really large ferry…!

And the problem isn’t just the time wasted. We’re sacrificing some of our best thinking: if you keep jumping between different topics and thoughts, how deep can you really get into a subject?!

Does this resonate with you? It does with me. I just don’t know what to do about it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Ice Skater Louise Walden-Edwards talks about making ‘A True Champion’…

After enjoying reading Louise’s previous guest blog post, I asked her to write for me again.  This time after a conversation about the responsibilities we assumes as leaders.  Here is what she has to say…

Who does it take to make a true champion?            

When a sprinter is the first past the finish line or a tennis player scores the winning point of game-set-match or even an ice skater receives the championship winning score, it is the athlete that receives the applause, the medals and the glory.  It is the athlete that gets the credit, the prize money and their national anthem played on the top of the podium. 

“What some may fail to appreciate is what it has actually taken or how many people have in fact contributed to the success of the winning individual(s).” 

My own competitive sporting success, over twenty years took ten ice skating coaches, seven dance teachers, two strength & conditioning coaches, three physiotherapists, one sports specific doctor, two unconditionally supportive parents, one patient sibling, a support network of numerous lifelong friends & family members, four ice skating partners, many doubters, hundreds of dedicated fans and yet more people along the way that inspired me more than I can credit. Unfortunately, in sport there simply isn’t enough time or space on the top of the rostrum for all those people to publicly share that moment of attention in a victory. 

Now my competitive sporting career is over and I move through a new phase in my life, I can intelligently rationalise the people involved in my success became part of the team for their own reasons.  Through a very cold perspective, the professionals in the team were paid to help educate and support me and some also continued on to bigger and better things, helped by the results we achieved together. 

“Loyalty is something that I value immensely myself and when the going gets tough, it can be tested.” 

When there can only be one winner and isn’t you, perhaps performance related mistakes are made or it simply isn’t your day, it is still the athlete who is the head of the team and the one to bear the brunt of the criticism and in turn the guilt. For the athlete, there is no one to hide behind or to move on to, they are the face of the operation.  It is the athlete who must carry the responsibility of the team behind them, they are the ones who must endure the physical and psychological pain of injury, lose sleep over the financial hardship of training expenses and consequently battle to hold the team together and boost collective morale when the cracks show. 

What I can now take pride in with an objective view away from my competitive world, is that the one thing that all those people had in common is and was me. I channeled that concoction of talent, the recipe for success and that refined combination of knowledge, into a world-class winning product.

I was in a sense the managing director of the “brand” that won those medals and that in itself, gives me reassurance in my own ability to move forwards and transition from an athlete into so much more in the future.  The principals that I adopted and the skills that I learnt as an athlete through my chosen network, have given me the confidence that even though I may yet have to realise where my future lies, I will make it.

“With a simple dream of success, hard work, determination and self-belief, if you have the right people around you, with the same common goal…anything is achievable.” 

The true athlete in me still full of passion, will forever be touched by each and everyone one of the people who I chose to contribute to my sporting success. I will always believe the connection I made with these people was more than just business and that we created a “family” together, as opposed to a workforce.  Perhaps an athlete with a different attitude of their own ability would feel differently, but as a little girl with a humble beginning, having the phrase drummed into her by her doting mother “don’t hurt anyone on the way up my love, as you may need them on the way back down”, I will always feel indebted to my teachers, mentors and teammates.  

“I believe that everyone in my career and successes even now, plays a part in making me who I am, even if simply to teach me valuable lesson.” 

I know I have thanked everyone profusely for their involvement in my career but my gratitude and appreciation will never feel sufficient towards the people who have helped me achieved my sporting goals.  I think that perhaps in reflection, the perception I have of this is because even though I may not see those people daily as I once did, their values and principles that they taught me are those in which I live by each and every day in all that I do. Regardless whether it be sport, in business or life, all our experiences are what make me me and for that I will forever be grateful. 

It isn’t personal. I just want BETTER.

The team around me is used to my objective, non biased, unemotional drive for constant improvement, but I was reminded today that not everyone can handle that kind of feedback.

We have to untrain people as they join us. Here you don’t get criticised. Here, we all just strive for better.

I say what I mean.

When I say “the outcome was poor”, I mean exactly that. It means we can improve, do something better, and that we have learned a lesson. Nothing else.

I remember the days when I worked in a different team, and a comment like that was an attack on the team or the individual. It is so easy to forget that most people still work in that type of environment. (I remember how exhausting it was.)

It isn’t feedback.

I take time to give feedback. I think, digest, review, challenge and form constructive feedback aimed at increasing confidence while improving performance (or perception, but that’s for another day. Remind me I should talk about that too.). I don’t lash out on emotional detours in the middle of a working day. But of course, today, that’s how my comment was perceived, and I need to fix that. I certainly cannot put the responsibility of knowing me and understanding how I communicate on the recipient. That would be hugely unfair.

It isn’t personal.

Just a little bit…in the GOOD way. I consider my team members partners, and we work together, side by side. In my view, we have the same goal, and we work equally hard to get there. I am much more focused on the end goal, and I have no time for internal competition. So when I push for better output, it is me objectively pushing for improvement. from ALL of us, including me.

And I will never stop. Sorry 🙂

Gut Says YES, Brain Says NO….!??

If you’re like me, you often find yourself with two options, both appealing for your young startup: one risky, the other is safer.

The risky option promise big growth, great opportunities and fast revenue. Even though you know it’s more than you can take on, you leap. Your heart is shouting a clear Yes, telling you how great it will be and how proud it will make you. Shouting No (almost) as loudly is your sensible and cautious head, which instructs you to slow down and think about it some more.

People around you (especially as you start up) will likely tell you to “listen to your heart,” and “believe in yourself”.  Oprah Winfrey (link is external), too, suggests you follow your emotional inclinations rather than those logic would suggest. But is that really good advice? Think back on the times when you did follow your heart. How did it work out?

Don’t trust your own memory!

Unfortunately, we tend to be bad statisticians when it comes to reviewing our own prior experiences. Research on reminiscence shows that we tend to remember the distinctive events in our lives, particularly those that were pleasant. For most people, even traumatic memories tend to fade with time (hello childbirth!). As a result, we’re almost programmed to go with our heart because we favour and remember the occasions when it provided correct guidance.

Go rational or go home

Your rational decision-making processes probably have a pretty good track record. You just wont remember as much of it: when you followed logic, it just wasn’t as memorable. It’s also possible that when reason prevailed, it told you not to do something; therefore, you have less to remember.

But guess what? All that being said: following your instinct sounds so much more fun.

Decision made. (As I was typing this I was debating with myself if I should follow the logical approach, or follow my heart about who to hire for our next team member. I’ve just clarified for myself that I should trust my gut. )