My 2014 in Review

At the end of 2013 I thought I’d had the best year of my life.  

I thought I couldn’t top it but I just did.  Now that 2014 is over, I’ve had the best year of my life, again.

It wasn’t an easy year.  It was probably the hardest and most fulfilling.  I finished co-authoring Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence.  Cotential, my consulting business, gained more clients, and I moved back to New York with my husband.  We settled back into the big city and now I’m gearing up for my book launch in February.  

And so, to celebrate a new year and the end of a great year, here’s a roundup of my writing and media appearances from 2014:

How You Can use Youtube to Turn Your Passion into a Career in Forbes

Inside the Minds of Biz-Savvy Millenials in Fortune

How to Connect Intelligently over the Holidays in Linkedin

Women in the Workplace in HuffPostLive

Why Did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Go Viral? in Linkedin

How Chevy Turned an Epic Fail into a Social Media Success in Forbes

How Much Should You Invest in Young Talent? in Chief Learning Officer Magazine

The Power of Connection on Work Life Radio

How to Create High Quality Connections at Your Next Event in LinkedIn

6 Steps for Getting Noticed in Any Setting on FOX Business

Why You Don't Need to Be an Inventor to Be an Innovator

6 Ways to Improve Your Next Conference

Why the Crowd is the Ultimate Engine of Creativity

What the Art Museum Can Teach Us About Innovation

6 Ways to Improve Your Next Conference

The Value of Networks at Social Media Week

Six ways to Make Innovation a Reality

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.

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.

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!

Top 5 articles you must read on Innovation

writing pen  1. Bryan Mahoney's article, Innovation Strategy goes on to identify top five strategies to address innovation, one of which entails the creation of culture of innovation by promoting and rewarding entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

  2. This article in Innovation Excellence by Paul Hobcraft expresses that organizations should not rely on a single innovation function, it must integrate with the entire organization.

  3. How does a company like Google continue to grow exponentially while still staying innovative? Susam Wojcicki, Google's Senior Vice President of Advertising, discusses some of the processes and principles in place to make sure that the company doesn't get bogged down in the past as it keeps moving forward. 8 Pillars of Innovation

4. Today, we’re on the brink of a new digital paradigm, where the capabilities of our technology are beginning to outstrip our own.  Computers are deciding which products to stock on shelves, doing legal research and even winning game shows. They will soon be driving our cars and making medical diagnoses.  Here are five trends that are driving it all

5. 7 Tips to Speed Time to Innovation: This article delves into the goals every organization should work toward to boost product development performance, looks at how these goals further a product organizations ability to bring innovative products to market, and outlines the ways that a Product Portfolio Management (PPM) Solution helps comapnies reach these goals. 

Own Your Time

“We spend 2/3 of time answering email, going to meetings and doing our job. Our competition has figured out that they need to spend time doing remarkable art.” –Seth Godin, Medicine Ball session, Dec 9, 2011

Last week, I attended marketing guru Seth Godin’s Medicine Ball session. It got me unstuck, ready to rethink and focus on producing remarkable art in the world.

Before the event, my biggest ‘challenge’ or ‘excuse’ was that there wasn’t enough time in the day to produce my art in the world: to build a women’s leadership business, start a Bollywood dance company, and finish graduate school. The truth is: I OWN my time, I make choices about how to spend my time and ultimately what works of art get done done.

Timezones were invented 120 years ago and the notion of synchronization worked well in a factory-oriented world. Today’s connection economy is asynchronous, success is about producing remarkable art, presenting it to the world, and eventually people caring enough to pay for it.

Here’s my top four list of nuggets that Seth taught me about ‘owning my time’ to produce my art in the world.

1)   Set up your calls and meetings only 2 days a week. The other days are for your work, your time, your art.

2)   Have less meetings. Meetings don’t make decisions, leaders make decisions. When you have less meetings, more work gets done. Check out Al Pittampalli’s  “The Modern Meeting Standard” for more tips on effective meetings.

3)   Follow the 7pm rule. Why do we work past 7pm? We make rules to have lunch and shower, so when did it become optional to go home at 7pm – it’s the end of the day! Take the time you need to recharge and you’ll produce better art.

4)  Schedule hours per day for various tasks. Set a scheduled time each day for the work that matters most. Plan everything else around that precious time. Owning your time is about making time for the art that matters.

So get to work and OWN YOUR TIME! More tips from Seth are to come in my upcoming blog posts. And if you have other tips on how to own your time, please comment and share!

My summer work at the Presencing Institute

Through all my social impact work over the past 5 years, whether in the education, food, health, or sustainability sector, the common thread I have seen is a need for (1) a more systemic, cross-institutional way of thinking in order to address the fundamental root problems in these systems and (2) local and decentralized leadership capacity that allows leaders to identify potential for innovation, and to act on it. There is a lack of leadership capacity on the ground to work across sectors. I have learned that we cannot address the challenges just by focusing on one sector.  What is required is the capacity to collaborate across sectors, and to create projects and innovations that focus on multi-sector innovation capacity.

Through a course called “Leading in a Profound Sustainable World” at MIT in fall 2010, I was introduced to the Presencing Institute and became immediately inspired and interested in their work on ecosystem change to address the world’s largest social problems.

The Presencing Institute (PI) is a global network of change makers that seek to initiate profound societal innovation and change. PI focuses on advancing social technologies and leadership skills, and making them available to change makers, innovators, and communities around the world to address the root causes of the current economic, ecological, social, and spiritual crisis. Over the past 5 years, PI has created a global network of advanced practitioners, and built cross-sector innovation processes that address social and environmental challenges in, among others, major global companies (Nissan, BASF, BP,Shell) NGOs (WWF, Oxfam, Red Cross) and multi-lateral organizations (GIZ, UN).   PI also aims at creating local platforms that connect change makers and leverage their work.

This year, the Presencing Institute launched a new project to create a shared cross-institutional learning and leadership platform—and a network of places—that allows for learning and capacity-building across institutional boundaries. This innovation and leadership platform called aims at creating a globally networked and regionally grounded innovation ecology that consistently generates the following five types of outcomes:

1. Vibrant Living Prototypes
2. Leadership Capacity Building for local change makers
3. Cross-Institutional Platforms for Innovation
4. Knowledge Tools for Change Makers
5. Core Group of Reflective Practitioners and Thought Leaders

My summer internship working on the project with PI is a perfect synergy of my intellectual interests and my passion to help addressing the social and environmental challenges especially in non-industrialized countries. I am already intrigued by the emergence of a powerful network of such leaders and their institutions. My goal is that my work for PI will also leverage the earlier work I have done especially in India. Looking forward to more updates here in the coming weeks!

Meaningful life with meaningful work

Last week, I was fortunate to meet Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon, who was the keynote speaker at the Sloan’s women celebration. She embraced a vision that I aspire for: having a meaningful life with meaningful work. In this post, I want to recount some of her “lessons learned” that have motivated me to do the same.

1)     Follow your compass, not your clock. Do you want the company, the work, or the title? Many people find jobs but not careers. She advises to find passion by finding the work that brings you both passion and compassion.

2)     Thank your parents. Andrea discussed her traditional Chinese upbringing (reminds me of my Indian-American childhood!) and the principles and values she learned along the way. This has counted to be most important in dark moments. At the end of the day, human values and human relationships are why companies survive and thrive.

3)     Reinvent yourself. Every month, reflect on your decisions. Are you being objective and opening up to listen?

4)     Innovation. George Bernard Shaw said “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” Be a transformative thinker.

5)     Use technology. Social media is transforming business and the world.

6)     Be open to stamping your passport. We live in a global marketplace now. China is the second largest consumer market in the world.

7)     Social responsibility. It’s not an option anymore, it can be part of your job. Any private company can do good. It is not only for what we do that we are responsible, but also for what we don’t do.

Andrea reminded me to stretch myself and find balance between all sectors of my life: my work, my home, myself, and my community. When asked about work-life balance, she said “It can be done, but you need to make decisions prioritizing the two.” As an example, she spoke of a time she declined an invitation to meet President Bush at the White House in order to send her daughter off to Paris for summer camp because “she will remember forever that I wasn’t there… [whereas] President Bush would never have even noticed.”

This fall, I am forming a women’s entrepreneurship circle with a group of Sloan women to share ideas, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. If you know any great speakers or organizations we can partner with, please let me know.