I was listening to the radio the other day when the DJ’s were talking about New Year’s resolutions. I was about to switch stations when the host stated his new strategy for resolutions; be a bit better. He doesn’t pick just ONE area or set some big audacious goal (although there is some science that says that’s not such a bad approach) but rather he just tries to be a little bit better across the board and that will lead to him having a better year.
I really resonated with that approach both personally but also professionally with my work with charities and organizations. They, like me, seem to set goals and make resolutions that are so unrealistic it leads to “ah-screw-its”, quickly get off track and lose that new hope which turns to despair.
So in the spirit of trying to make the most of 2014, here are…
5 Ideas To Help You Be A Bit Better In 2014
1. The Slow Hunch
This is from a great TED Talk Where Do Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson and the basic premise is that the classic “Aha!” or “eureka” moment is less like lightning striking and more like a series of connected thoughts that coalesce in our brains over time through experience.
So to have more moments of inspiration, sitting around waiting isn’t going to help. Instead, you should talk to people, read books and blogs, gain more experience and do more work and through that you’ll unlock more great ideas.
Key Takeaway: Don’t wait for great ideas to strike, seek out more knowledge and experiences to unlock the great ideas you already have kicking around your brain.
In the Innovator’s DNA, one of the best Harvard Business Review (HBR) articles I’ve ever read, the authors study and explore 5 areas that make/made “innovative” CEO’s like Jeff Bezos from Amazon and Steve Jobs from Apple better and more creative than other CEO’s. While all five of the “discovery skills” – associating, observing, questioning, experimenting and networking – are great associating stood out to me.
Association is essentially like cross-pollination. It is the ability to draw learnings and ideas from a field or people who are unrelated to you and your business. Sports, musicians, artists and the military are common examples of people and industries that business leaders often draw from and are examples of association that can lead to innovation.
Key Takeaway: Intentionally expose yourself to other industries besides charity/fundraising (and even business) to help you “think outside the box” and approach old problems in new ways.
A business school classic. Kaizen is the Japanese for “improvement” and is a business philosophy made famous by Toyota that revolves around continual improvement. While it’s roots are in manufacturing the philosophy has been adapted and adopted by nearly ever business and vertical there is in some way shape or fashion.
The implementation of Kaizen revolves around going through cycles and repetitions, quickly, with a focus on measuring what works and what waste you can eliminate. One of the biggest applications of this in the fundraising world is around chasing “what’s new” and “what’s next” instead of focusing on improving what already works. Another application is having a disproportionate focus on acquisition every year compared to continually improving donor retention rates.
Key Takeaway: Spend more time and energy focusing on continually improving things you are already doing, are working or have invested in before jumping ship and starting something new from scratch.
4. Speed of Trust
Fundraising is fundamentally about trust. But so is building a high performing team, department, business and organization. And if you can do some simple things, like do what you say you’re going to do, the speed at which you and your team’s can operate increases exponentially. This allows you to go through cycles faster, make adjustments and innovate quicker which can all have bottom line benefits.
That’s the essence of Stephen M.R. Covey’s book Speed of Trust. Much of the book takes from for-profit case studies and examples but it also has some very practical applications for simple things like; talk straight, take responsibility for results, clarify expectations and create transparency. The end result is more trust in yourself, your teams and your donors (which is more funds raised and more people helped).
Key Takeaway: Every interaction you have with your staff, your donors and the public, is going to help you gain trust or lose trust. There is no “neutral” activities when it comes to trust so focus on the little things that ensure you build more trust than you lose overall.
5. Read (And Write)
Seth Godin and Mitch Joel are two of my favourtie marketers, bloggers and writers. They both preach the practice and value of writing. For them, it’s a way to process concepts, test ideas, ensure they keep learning and can even be held accountable to the public and their readers. The old expression is “leaders read and readers lead” but increasingly they also write.
This is why I started re: charity 3 years ago. It was purely for myself and when I started it I had no plans of growing it or even caring who came and read it (although I’m glad some of you do…). Looking back, it’s been one of the best things I ever could have done as it continually pushes me to learn, process and create. Maybe 2014 is the year you start, ramp up and start again your writing.
Key Takeaway: You don’t necessarily have to start your own blog but write for others, keep a journal, write an eBook or White Paper to keep yourself challenged, fresh and learning.
Do you see the overlap? One of the common threads here is around learning and experience, often through reading and exposure to other people, industries and thought. It can unlock a great idea, inspire you into action or provide a key insight for your next innovation.
My hope for you is that 2014 is not the best year of your life, but just a bit better than 2013 and not quite as good as 2015.