Becoming a Book Author: My Greatest Learnings So Far

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

I’ve been in full stream writing my new book on Connectional Intelligence (Macmillan, Feb 2015). It’s been a whirlwind process, lots of work, research, mind share and it’s been one of great learning experiences of my life. 

My experience has made me think a lot about the writing process and what it's all about. Authoring a book is so much more than writing, it's about believing in yourself, generating new ideas, gathering insights, and trusting the process despite challenges that come. 

It’s also made me more aware to practice what I preach.

As I write this book, my big questions are: How do I connect intelligently to get this book into the world? How do I marshal what I know that much more quickly? How do I find and take on supporters? How do I influence the greatest number of people? How do I propel connectional intelligence beyond networking and entertainment and toward a loftier purpose – improving other people’s lives, building sustainable societies, creating the futures we want? In short, how do I get behind this newfound connectivity in ways that are targeted and un-serendipitous, and that get us all to the places we want to go?

Here are some of my greatest real-time learnings from these questions: 

1) Trust the process.

I have to stick with writing process to make it work – breakthroughs don’t happen in an instant, they happen out of years of hard work. 

2) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

There are always little things that get in the way, but they are usually just politics, mindless emails or the ego, focus on the work at hand that really matters. 

3) My schedule is never fully structured.

Sometimes disorganization is okay and the creative process takes shape over time. Since I normally crave structure, I am learning that being in less structure can both keep me more creative and drive me crazy.

4) It's lonely.

Working on new material for the first time is hard and lonely, having supporters is really important to keep me going and energized that there is a larger purpose. 

5) Accept full responsibility of decisions.

There is not someone to “fall back on” when you are authoring a book, it’s about showing up and delivering 100% all the time. 

6) Choose more and choose wisely.

There are plenty of ways to use my time and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by how much information and how many connections are coming at me. Instead I am focusing on what I care most about and what will have the greatest effectiveness for my work.

7) Accept spending more time sleeping on friends couches than in fancy hotels.

This work isn’t glamorous, it’s hard work, involves a lot of travel, international Skype calls at odd hours, early morning emails, and taking care of my health.

8) Believe in yourself despite rejection.

Nothing happens easily, it takes time to find supporters and collaborators for any new ideas. 

Those are just of my few learnings so far, I’m sure there will be many more. 

What are you learning about the challenges you face in your life? Any big decisions you are facing? How do you think about “connecting intelligently” to the big challenges that are currently present for you? Thanks for sticking with me through this crazy journey and one of the best learning experiences of my life. 

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New Company Launch: Cotential

cotential_full__finalCan you believe February is already almost over? I don’t know about you, but, for me, 2014 is moving fast, and it’s showing no signs of stopping! As you know, I kicked off the new year by launching Cotential, a firm dedicated to unleashing the connected potential of people everywhere to solve pressing challenges.  Getting Cotential up and running this month has proven both nerve-racking and extremely exciting. With the start of any growing company, there is a lot of preparation and work to be done in a short period of time. However, it’s that burst of activity right at the beginning that makes launching a new company so exciting. It has been incredible to watch Cotential grow so quickly in just a few weeks, and I am grateful for all of your support in promoting Cotential’s goal of creating a more informed and inspired world through a more connected world.
As I have realized recently, it really is my network of connections and resources that have made the launch of Cotential possible. Just as I hope to show people through my company, Cotential, it is possible for you too to use your networks in our increasingly connected world to make your goals happen—whether it’s starting your own company like I did, driving the growth of your business, or jumpstarting innovation within your organization.  To learn more about how you can use your innate connected potential—your cotential—to achieve breakthroughs, check out this guide on Unleashing Cotential.
As 2014 races forward, cheers to a year full of opportunity, success, and unlocked human cotential. I spent last week leading a keynote panel on The Value of Networks at Social Media Week with leading executives from Bloomberg and CNN and am off to California and South by Southwest next week. 

The year is in full steam! 


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Stop Working: Build Your Life’s Work in 2014

Red2000 | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free ImagesThis is a season for 'productivity' tips and resolution mania. But this year, I'm uninterested in focusing on "planning my work and life" and instead focused on building my life's work. Instead of organizing my life around my work, I'm more interested in organizing my work around my intention in my life. When we reframe productivity or daily tasks as doing the work that matters, it's not about tasks or technologies, it is about having a passion for the challenge we choose to face. So this new year, instead of searching for the next health or work tip, figure out what in your story, in your values calls you to act and makes you want to create something that matters, and you'll reach farther than you'll ever expect. 

This statement, from the inspiring Dr. King, exemplifies the essence of building a life's work:

"Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better." – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is your life's work in 2014?

Happy New Year!

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Webinar- The Advent of Sparring and What it Means for High Performing Teams

Sparring ButtonTraditional mentoring takes a top-down approach—senior people give advice and junior staff are supposed to zip their lips and take notes. But old models don’t work in our multi-generational, global workforce where the traditional corporate hierarchy must be transcended in order to respond to rapid change.

Innovation Sparring Zones are spaces of power-free collaboration that create an optimally innovative, responsive, and flexible environment for ideas to germinate and grow by leveraging the groups’ collective experience, differing viewpoints and strengths. The result? Friction-free communication, an open flow of ideas and profitable collaboration. This provides new tools for a new era of collaboration and conflict.In our webinar, I’m going to go into detail on how you can use Sparring to:

  • Learn to harness productive conflict and spar with your team in a way that brings results, more ideas, and greater execution

  • Learn what questions to ask, which suggestions to make and how to adapt their styles to the styles of those on their team

  • How to measure the ROI of innovation sparring zones to make it a productive result for your bottom line to drive results

When is the Webinar?

Presenter: Me! Erica Dhawan

Format: The Advent of Sparring and What It Means for High Performing Team

Day: Wed, November 20 2013

Time: 2 PM EST – 11 AM PST (US and Canada)

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click HERE.

Join the Facebook Event here and Get the FREE Sparring Script here.

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How to Stop Wasting Time

We have all felt like we've wasted time–but what does it really cost us? See below for this top notch infographic on Wasted Time in the Workplace.

Wasted Time in the Workplace - Infographic
Time Doctor – Track your time. Track your team’s time. Know EXACTLY what is REALLY going on.

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Webinar – 4 Ways to Unleash Connectional Intelligence to Achieve Business Breakthroughs

Connectional IntelligenceWe're not tapping into the cognitive surplus of our interconnected age. Everyone has the capacity to link up with people, power, ideas, information and resources, and on an operatic scale. Humans have always been connected, but until now we've never had the capability or the tools to connect to one another on this scale, and no one has cracked the code as to how we can take all our passions, interests, initiatives, innovations and outrages, and go big with them. That's where Connectional Intelligence comes in. In partnership with Saj-Nicole Joni, I have developed a proprietary process, Connectional Intelligence, that helps leaders and organizations consistently deliver transformative results by discovering and leveraging the value of relationships and networks.

In our webinar, I’m going to go into detail on how you can use Connectional Intelligence to:

I’ll tell you:

  • Why organizations that value growth, innovation and excellence must include connectional intelligence as part of the role of every leader
  • How to use tools to harness Connectional Intelligence without causing resistance and how to leverage the connective capacity of every employee
  • How to strengthen teams by transforming disconnects into trust points
  • How to innovate and implement best practices that maximize each person's contributions

Get ready, I'm going to drop some serious knowledge.

When is the Webinar?

Presenter: Me! Erica Dhawan

Format: A complete breakdown of the 4 Ways to Unleash Connectional Intelligence

Day: Wed, October 30 2013

Time: 2 PM EST – 11 AM PST (US and Canada)

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click HERE.

Join the Facebook Event here and Get the Connectional Intelligence White Paper here.

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The Power of Serendipity

I've spent the last three weeks on the West Coast, first at Downtown Project, then HATCHfest, then Summit Series weekend and wanted to give a real update on me (given my delayed blogging this month).

First, I spent a week at Tony Hsieh's new Downtown Project initiative. I had come out here in July for Catalyst Week (here's my video from the event) and decided to come back to work on exploring the Connectional intelligence of this community –boy I did. 

First of all, if you don't know yet, the Downtown Project is trying to change downtown Las Vegas to the most community focused city in the world. The most interesting thing I learned is that every time a city grows, it becomes more productive and effective. Every time a company grows, it becomes less productive. As a result, Zappos is learning how to be more like a city as it scales while growing a city next to it with the Downtown Project. It is an amazing 350M dollar social experiment and one that time will tell will be discovered more.

My week included the following:

–Attended Zappos's all hands quarterly meeting, which included circus performers, Deal or No Deal and Price is Right games, TED talker Yo Yo performer, National Geographic's Jason Silva, and open employees Q&A with executives. I hadn't seen this level of "company fun" ever before.

–Zappos is unleashing a powerful new social technology called Holacracy, which is a governance structure with no employees (only partners), no managers (just distributed authority, and no owners controlling it (just investors along for the ride). No organization at this growth stage has every tried it. Medium is one example of a group that uses Holacracy. Like many things Holocracy models the pioneering nature of Zappos and an aspiration to build a bottom up decision governance structure and open corporate culture as it scales.

–I was most touched by the open, quirky culture of Zappos–the idea that everyone is weird and to let your own uniqueness shine. The People team were incredibly passionate and forward thinking about how to use the concept of "collisions" to grow a diverse, connected comapny.

My next journey was at HATCH, an amazing collaborative community of 100 of the world's creative thinkers in Bozeman, Montana. I had never been to Montana, so this was really fun and new.   I found myself next to everyone from Tim Gruber, the inventor of Siri to now a dear friend Mike North, founder of Reallocate and Prototype This on the Discovery Channel. Most importantly, everyone was thinking about how to push the edge in the most creative ways possible. An experiment we went through was asking: what keeps you up at night? What challenge are you trying to overcome? Then we worked in carefully matchmaked diverse group to work towards actually solving the challenge. Then we connected people with 2 mentors with similar types of challenges to help each other solve it. It was one of the best raw and real events I've ever been to.

Last but not least was Summit Series weekend a week later. Summit Series has been a well-known tribe and known to be a fascinating view of "Connectional intelligence", having just bought an entire mountain, a 40MM investment and getting together in a powerful way to create their own new version of an Aspen Institute. It truly felt like an interesting meeting of the minds and time will tell how this community grows.

Here's what I'm learning from my trip about Connectional Intelligence: Our greatest sources of help are where we least expect it. I learn the most not from the "big speaker" but from the new person sitting next to me, the person that is brainstorming a new way of solving a problem or might have had an interesting resource on questions to ask ourselves. They helped me think the most critically about my book on Connectional Intelligence and why we need diverse crowds to shift the edge. 

So, now to you, how are you going to surround yourself in new "crowds" to help push your thinking and prepare for serendipity to create your next breakthrough? How do you open up your own curiosity to learn? You never know where it could come from, so you just need to dive in!

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Creating Connections That Matter

You know those people who command a room as soon as they walk in? There’s just something about them. It’s not their clothes, their haircut, or their fashionably late arrival. It’s more about the way they carry themselves; something of their essence demands to be noticed.

For the rest of us, the act of getting noticed does not come as easily. It’s something only achieved through careful thought, planning and practiced action. But with today’s ever-growing collection of mediums for social and business connection, networking has never been more relevant. Knowing the right people — and forming a solid relationship with each of them — can, at times, have a greater impact on your career trajectory than your education background and experience, combined.

I'm excited to share my new slideshare: How to Get Noticed, Hired or Anything You Want that highlights my top lessons from my own journey. Enjoy! And sign up for the Get Noticed Workbook here that comes with it!


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3 Ways to Boost Your Innovation

I had the most fun time doing a webshow on Connectional Intelligence with the wondrous! In this episode, we talk about what it means to have Connectional Intelligence in business, key ways to boost innovation and what Bollywood dancing has to do with it all. Be sure to watch until the end for a little surprise–some dancing! yes, I'm serious.

Here are 3 ways you can increase your Connectional Intelligence -

1) Spend 15 minutes every day connecting to new sources of perspective outside your normal perspective  (different news source, forum, conference etc).

2) Schedule 2 conversations with millennials or people you think differently from you on a regular basis.

3) Take the Connectional Intelligence Test at


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5 Innovation Lessons I Learned on the Dance Floor

The greatest leadership lessons I’ve learned have occurred on the dance floor. Dancing is an experiential form of being, learning, and doing. Moving your muscles helps you understand things in totally new ways.

I’ve danced my whole life. I’m a Bollywood dancer, but I'm also a globally recognized leadership expert, and I use movement in all my work. Through movement, I believe we can inspire creativity, deep listening, and cross-generational learning.

Why movement? Our minds and bodies are intrinsically linked; movement acts as a messenger between the two. When we can understand our own and others’ movements, our capacity to collaborate and harness our intuition skyrockets. And growing research in many disciplines–from neuroscience to sports medicine, from psychology to anthropology–supports these ideas.

Here’s what I’ve learned from all those years of hip shaking and shimmying:

1. Partnership

Dance teaches us about the push and pull of partnership, intellectually, viscerally, and kinetically. Dance partners learn how to work together, move together, listen to each other, and to move past missteps. Dance teaches trust. As innovators, we do the same. Our collaboration in teams and groups allows us to open up new ways of working with others, sometimes taking the lead and sometimes following. Regardless of who’s leading, we’re always in partnership with a larger movement or organization.

2. Adaptability

Harvard leadership expert Ron Heifetz uses the metaphor of dance throughout his renowned book on The Practice of Adaptive Leadership. When we adapt as innovators or move as dancers, we test new variations of working. This adaptability brings together the physical, emotional, and intellectual that all feeds our work as innovators. Learning new steps and combination in a dance is a challenge in a controlled setting and freedom within safety. Just learning a new dance move helps develop neuro-pathways and makes us more adept at solving problems in any area of our life. By giving yourself challenges in movement, you rewire your brain and have greater capability in your work.

3. Variation

In dance and in innovation, we often focus on a "final event." Learning variation allows innovators to practice the process of discovery in their work lives. Twyla Tharp, choreographer and author of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, asked her dancers to reverse their moves as if they were a mirror of themselves. This small variation created a whole new dance form called inverse variation. Similarly, an innovative leader can quickly test new variations of working and then decide which works best rather than talking on and on ad nauseum.

4. Inquiry

The questions we ask ourselves as dancers are questions we should ask ourselves as innovators. Think of your work as a piece of art you create. What is the rehearsal process? What does hardship look like? How is it structured? What’s holding the piece together? What judgments are you coming up with? How do you sustain yourself?

5. Audience

Building an audience as an innovator or dancer is about who you can connect with. Most people attend a performance because they’ve been encouraged to or they see that it relates to their interests. Ask yourself: What conditions do I want to build for success? Much of it is about sharing your ideas early on with others and embracing them, like you would in a first dance performance. Additionally, as in dance, the most important part of business innovation is the process of surfacing the knowledge in the room to use it in a different way. Innovators are given permission to see, comment, or fix. However, so much of innovating is observing and noticing and getting more voices in the room.

This post first appeared at Fast Company.

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