Creative leadership: Encouraging risk taking

Risk-taking

Being the first with something new means by definition to take a risk. Will it work? Will it be accepted? Will it hit big? Will there be a payback on the investment?

Never daring to take these risks, means always moving within well-known and already-explored areas and thus slipping in the competition. This applies irrespective of which area one works; in research, business, medicine, agriculture, societal transformation.

Julius Caesar could not have taken control of the Roman Empire if he in 49 AD had not decided to cross the Rubicon river and march to Rome with his army. The discovery of America had had to wait if Christopher Columbus in 1492 had not dared to sail unknown waters to find a new maritime road to India. Man had not landed on the moon if John F Kennedy had not had a vision and dared to invest both his prestige and the necessary resources.

Starting a business often requires a very large measure of risk taking and no company can survive and grow without a long range of decisions that all imply risks. Nevertheless, risk taking is not something that comes naturally to us. On the contrary, most people have a strong inherent aversion against taking risks. Taking a risk means losing control over the future. We do not want that. Instead, we want to be safe by knowing what’s going to happen in a week, a month, a year…

We want to know what the weather will be like. We want to know how the stock market will evolve. We want to know if the competitor is going to hit. And we definitely want to know if that angry bull will turn around and set after us as we enter the meadow? Feeling that you have a grip on the future, often gives a calm and internal sense of safety and reassuarance, while the uncertainty about what is going to happen and the risk of failure instead can be deeply distressing (unless we belong to the minority living for the adrenaline kicks).

Risk-taking is therefore necessary for survival and growth, but risk-taking can also mean the end. Had there not been a danger of taking risks, there would have been no drama in it. It is therefore important to be smart when taking risks. The better you know yourself and the outside world, the better you are predicting the future, and the more you can calculate the risk, the greater the likelihood that it will be a successful conclusion.

It is also important to always have a plan B. Before the launch of Windows 98, Microsoft had hundreds of different detailed scenarios to fall back on unless something went wrong.

It is important that risk-taking is built into the organisation, i.e. that there is room to invest in the more crazy projects and to have the opportunity to test many of the creative ideas that come from the employees.

However, you should only exceptionally risk more than you can afford to lose. The American investment bank Lehman Brothers took too many and excessive risks in relation to its capital, which led to the world’s biggest bankruptcy in 2008 after the collapse of the US housing mortgages market. Had the bank not taken these big risks, perhaps the subsequent global financial crisis could have been prevented or at least significantly mitigated.

It is therefore a good idea to spread the risks and, for example, never bet more than 10% of the development budget on a single risky new project. The better overview you have on the innovation budget and the clearer the principles are for how much risk you are willing to take, the less anxiety for the risk taking you will have. In addition, the more ideas you have in the company, the less dependent you are on any single idea.

This blog post has been inspired by:

Sloane Paul (2006). The leaders guide to lateral thinking skills. London: Kogan Page.

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Kreativt ledarskap: Uppmuntra risktagande

Risk-taking

Att vara först med något nytt innebär per definition att ta en risk. Kommer det att fungera? Kommer det att accepteras? Kommer det att slå stort? Kommer investeringen att löna sig?

Att aldrig våga ta dessa risker innebär att endast röra sig inom välkända och redan utforskade områden och att därmed halka efter i konkurrensen. Detta gäller oavsett vilken bransch man verkar i forskning, företagande, medicin, jordbruk, samhällsomvandling.

Julius Caesar hade inte kunnat ta kontrollen över Romarriket om han inte år 49 f.Kr. hade tagit beslutet att med sin armé korsa floden Rubicon och vandra mot Rom. Upptäckten av Amerika hade fått vänta om inte Christoffer Columbus 1492 hade vågat ge sig ut på okända vatten för att hitta en ny sjöväg till Indien. Människan hade inte landat på månen om inte John F Kennedy hade haft en vision och vågat satsa både sin prestige och nödvändiga resurser.

Att starta ett företag kräver ofta ett mycket stort mått av risktagande och inget företag kan i längden överleva och växa utan en lång rad beslut som alla innebär risker. Trots detta så är risktagande inte något som kommer naturligt för oss. Tvärtom så har de flesta människor en stark inneboende aversion mot att ta risker. Att ta en risk betyder att man tappar kontrollen över framtiden. Det vill vi inte. I stället vill vi skapa trygghet genom att ha så god koll som möjligt på vad som ska hända om en vecka, en månad, ett år…

Vi vill veta hur vädret kommer att bli. Vi vill veta hur aktiekurserna ska utvecklas. Vi vill veta om konkurrenten ska slå till. Och vi vill definitivt veta om den där ilskna tjuren ska vända sig om och sätta efter oss när vi går in i hagen? Att känna att man har grepp om framtiden ger ofta ett lugn och en inre säkerhet, medan osäkerheten om vad som ska hända och risken att misslyckas i stället kan vara djupt ångestskapande (såvida vi inte tillhör den minoritet som lever för osäkerhetens adrenalinkickar).

Risktagande är alltså nödvändigt för överlevnad och tillväxt, men risktagande kan också betyda slutet. Hade det inte funnits en fara i att ta risker så hade det inte legat någon dramatik i det. Det gäller alltså att vara smart i sitt risktagande. Ju mer man kan om sig själv och omvärlden, ju bättre man är på att förutse framtiden, och ju mer man kan kalkylera risken desto större är sannolikheten att det blir ett lyckat avslut.

Det är också viktigt att hela tiden ha en plan B. Microsoft hade inför lanseringen av Windows 98 hundra olika i detalj planerade scenarier att falla tillbaka på utifall något skulle gå snett.

Det är viktigt att risktagande är inbyggt i organisationen, d.v.s. att det finns utrymme att satsa också på de lite mer galna projekten och att ha möjlighet att testa många av de kreativa idéer som kommer från de anställda.

Man ska dock inte, mer än i absoluta undantagsfall, riskera mer än man har råd att förlora. Den amerikanska investeringsbanken Lehman Brothers tog alldeles för många och för stora risker i förhållande till sitt kapital, vilket ledde till världshistoriens största konkurs 2008 efter att marknaden för bostadslån fallit. Hade banken inte tagit dessa stora risker hade kanske den efterföljande globala finanskrisen kunnat förhindras eller åtminstone väsentligt mildras.

Det är därför en god idé att sprida sina risker och t.ex. aldrig satsa mer än 10 % av utvecklingsbudgeten på ett enstaka riskfyllt nytt projekt. Ju bättre koll man har på sin innovationsbudget och klara principer för hur mycket risk man är villig att ta desto mindre ångest för risktagandet med sig. Dessutom är det ju så att ju fler idéer man har i företaget desto mindre beroende är man av varje enstaka idé.

Detta blogginlägg har inspirerats av:

Sloane Paul (2006). The leaders guide to lateral thinking skills. London: Kogan Page.

united-kingdom-flag-1- This blog post in English

The moon and your creativity

Moon 1000x667
“Super moon”, 3 December, 2017

Is the moon and its cycle affecting our creativity? This question is especially pertinent tonight, when there is a “super moon“.

This full moon has a larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth, coinciding with the closest distance that the Moon reaches to Earth in its elliptic orbit.

I was thrilled to have coincidentally just received my new telephoto lens today, and had a splendid opportunity to test it on the moon (result as above).

The time of the full moon has a specific significance in many cultures, and it’s not unusual among highly sensitive persons that they have special bodily and emotional feelings during the full moon, including insomnia.

It seems however that the correlation between the full moon and various mental disorders and disturbances, “lunacy” could account for less than 1% of these conditions, which should be a comforting thought.

So what about creativity? Getting the million dollar idea, may depend on how easily you could access all the myriads of associative connections happening in the subconscious parts of your brain every single moment.

What normally keeps all these new combinations of concepts from popping up in your conscious mind as new ideas, is the effective filter mechanisms you have in order to reserve your limited conscious thought capacity (one thought at a time) for the more mundane but necessary tasks of your daily life.

A way of toning down these filters is through regular meditation, and some people regularly into spiritual meditation note an easier access to normally subconsious thoughts when meditating at the time of the full moon, and especially during a super moon.

Is this true? I don’t know. Next time to find out for yourself will be on the night of the 2nd January, 2018. If you are not yet into meditation, then perhaps time to start now.

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Månen och din kreativitet

Moon 1000x667
Supermåne, 3 december, 2017

Kan månen och dess cykel påverka vår kreativitet? Denna fråga är särskilt relevant just i kväll när vi kan glädjas åt en “supermåne“.

Denna fullmåne har en större än vanlig skenbar storlek på månskivan sett från jorden, som sammanfaller med det närmaste avståndet som månen når till jorden i sin elliptiska omloppsbana.

Jag var därför tacksam att det nya teleobjektivet jag beställt kom just i dag, vilket gav mig ett utmärkt tillfälle att testa det på månen (resultat som ovan).

Fullmånen har en särskild betydelse i många kulturer, och det är inte ovanligt bland högkänsliga personer att de känner av speciella kroppsliga och känslomässiga sensationer, inklusive sömnlöshet, just under fullmånen.

Det verkar emellertid som att korrelationen mellan fullmånen och olika psykiska störningar och störningar, “mångalen” kan svara för mindre än 1% av dessa tillstånd, vilket borde vara en tröstande tanke med tanke på så regelbundet vi har en full måne.

Så hur är det med månen och kreativiteten? Att få den där briljanta idén kan bero på hur lätt du har att få tillgång till alla de myriader av associativa kopplingar som händer i de undermedvetna delarna av din hjärna varje ögonblick.

Vad som normalt förhindrar alla dessa nya kombinationer av olika tankar och koncept att dyka upp i ditt medvetna sinne som nya idéer är de effektiva filtermekanismerna du har som tjänar att spara din begränsade medvetna tankekapacitet (en tanke i taget) för de mer vardagliga men nödvändiga uppgifterna i ditt dagliga liv.

Ett sätt att tona ner dessa filter är genom regelbunden meditation, och vissa människor som regelbundet praktiserar andlig meditation, upplever sig ha lättare tillgång till vanligen undermedvetna tankar när de mediterar under tiden för fullmånen och särskilt då under en supermåne.

Är detta sant? Inte vet jag, men nästa gång du kan ta reda på det själv kommer att vara natten 2-3 januari 2018. Om du ännu inte börjat meditera regelbundet, så är det kanske dags att börja nu.

united-kingdom-flag-1-  This blog post in English

To do or to talk about doing

Donald Trump

Sometimes our ego gets in our way of actually doing things!

The creative process often begins with a first brilliant idea, and then in our inner dialogue we paint in brilliant colors the amazing things we want to achieve. This is an important part of creativity, because if we fail to formulate our intention to ourselves, we have little chance to realise our dreams.

Often this is the easiest part of the creative process, but it feels so good! Because with this, we have actually left the starting blocks and are out on the track – at least that’s what we think. The “feel-good hormones” are flooding in our body and we feel at our creative peak.

The feeling of being on the way and the need for confirmation (that inner ego that has to be nurtured and watered all the time), means that we immediately begin to share with others what great deeds we have ahead of us.

Say that we have an idea for the plot of a new novel. A Facebook posting about our new author ambition immediately gets a lot of “likes” and encouraged by this, we continue to describe in detail our masterpiece to be. The confirmation we receive encourages us to continue – but not to do, but to talk about doing.

Eventually however, comes the moment of truth, when we actually sit down to get started with the actual creative work. But panic! Nothing comes out! That amazing plot for our novel suddenly feels quite thin, and the words are not flowing as we had expected.

Well, we can always go back to our social media and continue sharing our author efforts, because then we have achieved something. Our self-esteem is restored!

PS. Sometimes it is not a bad thing though that ideas remain as words and do not materialise. 🙂


This blog post was inspired by Cory Arcangel’s book “Working on my novel“.

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Att göra eller prata om att göra

Donald Trump

Den kreativa processen börjar ofta med att vi får en första briljant idé och sedan i vår  inre dialog i lysande färger målar upp det fantastiska vi vill åstadkomma. Detta är en viktig del av skapandet för om vi inte lyckas formulera vår intention inför oss själva så har vi liten möjlighet att kunna gå vidare.

Ofta är detta den lättaste delen av skaparprocessen, men den känns ju så bra för i och med detta så har vi ju faktiskt kommit ut ur startblocken och är ute på banan – tror vi. “Må-bra-hormonen” pytsas ut i kroppen och vi känner oss på vår kreativa topp.

Känslan av att vara på väg och behovet av bekräftelse (det där inre egot som hela tiden måste vårdas och vattnas) gör att vi direkt börjar dela med oss till andra om vilka stordåd vi har framför oss.

Vi har kanske fått en idé till en roman. Ett Facebook-inlägg om vår nya författarambition får genast en massa “likes” och uppmuntrade av detta så fortsätter vi att beskriva det kommande storverket. Den bekräftelse vi får sporrar oss att fortsätta – men inte att göra, utan att tala om vad vi ska göra.

Så småningom kommer dock sanningens ögonblick då vi faktiskt sätter oss ner för att göra slag i saken och påbörja själva skapandet. Men panik. Det vill sig inte! Det där fantastiska romanuppslaget känns plötsligt ganska tunt, och orden vill inte riktigt komma fram.

Nåja, vi kan ju alltid gå tillbaka till våra sociala medier och dela med oss av våra författarmödor, för då har vi ju i alla fall åstadkommit något. Självkänslan är återställd!

PS. Ibland är det inte alltigenom negativt att idéer (romaner eller andra) stannar vid ord och inte övergår i handling. 🙂


Detta blogginlägg har inspirerats av Cory Arcangels bok “Working on my novel.

united-kingdom-flag-1-  This blog post in English

Eight ways to boost your creative life energy

Young woman doing cartwheel on grass

Everything runs on energy, and so does your creativity. When it comes to creativity, the energy is not the kind of that could be counted in calories, but instead your life force energy, the one that in Eastern philosophy often is called Chi.

You can easily feel when your creative energy is high. You know the days when the sun is shining brighter, your stride is lighter, and you feel like taking on any challenge. Such days your mind is alert, and the thoughts are running lose.

You can also easily recognise the opposite.  The days when you are tired or stressed under the pressure of  too many things waiting to be done. Everyone around you is pushing for your attention and your mail inbox is filling up faster than you can empty it. On top of that, you may be out of focus due to worries and concerns.

You are both body and mind, yin and yang, and in order to boost and keep your creative energy, you will need to take care of both, or like the old Romans put it; “Mens sana in corpore sano” (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”).

You have been endowed by a body which is an intricate and beautiful piece of machinery, which unlike your car cannot be exchanged for a newer model. Instead you will need to take care of the one human body model you have the best way you can.

The following eight tips will ensure that you will optimise your creative energy, and live a fuller life.

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for restoring your body after an intense day of work (or play). Sleep is also necessary to consolidate your memories and put them in a broader context. Lack of sleep causes slower brainwaves in your prefrontal cerebral cortex, poor attention, anxiety, memory loss and physical and mental fatigue and for a few days without sleep can lead to acute psychosis. In a previous blog post I have written more about the importance of a good night’s sleep.

2. Eat healthy

Modern western diet with a lot of carbohydrates and industry processed food is the main cause of the global obesity epidemic that comes with a number of chronic diseases, notably type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including stroke. Many natural and non-processed food items are also anti-inflammatory. In a previous blog post I have been writing on how the right food could increase your creativity.

3. Exercise regularly

In order to keep your energy high and at the same time reduce the risk of disease, regular exercise is important. High-intensity training may be addictive (in a positive way) to some individuals due to the regular excretion of endorphins – the body’s own opiates.

But for those who are less interested in intensive training, it may be comforting to know that also light training, such as half an hour’s brisk walk four times a week brings you all the benefits that are related to good health and increased energy levels. The most important thing is to choose a form of exercise that appeals to you, and that you are likely to continue exercising year after year. Exercising regularly has a number of positive effects:

  • Your health is improving: Regular exercise has a number of positive health effects. Training reduces blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, lowers the blood pressure, prevents inflammation, reduces cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colon cancer, strengthens the skeleton, reduces weight, and increases life expectancy.
  • Your sleep is improving: Studies have shown that physical exercise counteracts problems with insomnia.
  • You get an energy kick: Low-intensity exercise (walking) reduces fatigue and gives up to 20% energy boost. The effect of a brisk walk on the immediate energy level is greater than a hard work-out.
  • Your memory is improving: Studies have shown that aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming increases the size of the hippocampus, which regulates memory and learning.
  • Improves your self esteem: Regardless of intensity, training has shown to make us find ourselves more attractive.
  • Improves the sex life: The sex life can of course be improved by higher energy, weight loss and increased self-esteem. But research has also shown that regular exercise increases the sexual ability of men and the sexual desire of women.

4.  Enjoy sex and physical touch

Most forms of soft physical touch (caresses, hugs, massage and sex) feel very enjoyable, and this is partly due to the body secreting the hormone oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone”.

In the brain, oxytocin is also involved in processes that relates to our social context, connection with other people, trust, empathy and generosity. It is also stress-reducing and anxiolytic and has an important role during pregnancy and lactation. Intimacy and physical touch is therefore very important to our mental well-being in all stages of our lives.

When we have sex, oxytocin plays a major role for our enjoyment, but it’s not the only hormone that does this. At the orgasm, the second “feel-good-hormone”, dopamine, is also excreted, as well as endorphins. But in addition to the positive oxytocin effects , regular sex also has many other benefits, not least for the health.

Sexual activity improves the immune system by increasing the levels of certain antibodies in the blood. Sex in itself is also a form of physical exercise and regular sex therefore gives all the benefits we have seen in the above section. It has also been shown in different studies that sex reduces the experience of pain – including headaches!

In men, regular ejaculations also protect against prostate cancer, and in both sexes, sexual activity keeps the hormones (estrogen and testosterone) in balance.

Finally, regular sex also improves the sexual experience itself and makes the sex better.

4. Minimise the stress factors

The now living generations are probably the most stressed out in history. The work-life balance is getting increasingly difficult. Living both the physical life and a 24/7 online virtual one adds rather than decreases the stress. An eternal strive to earn more money to buy more things is the frosting on the stress cake.

From time to time it could therefore be good to sit down and see what are the stress factors in your life, all the things you do that drain more energy from you than they give you. If possible then try to eliminate as many of them as you can.

If you are really honest with yourself, there are probably a lot of things you do because you feel obliged to, and not because you really want to do them. Life is too short to always try to please others, especially when no one is thanking you. Learn to say NO more often.

In the end who is really grateful for the extra hours you spend at work instead of playing with your children or spending with your friends. You may also do things to please your ego. The kick of feeling indispensible could be very powerful. Realise you aren’t. None of us is.

Just as you can choose what to do, you can also choose how to do it. Of all the hundreds of different small activities that you have to do every day, it is important to put on a reasonable level of ambition.

When you go for lunch on a regular weekday, it is important to go to a restaurant where the food is good enough, but you do not have to spend hours finding the absolute best lunch spot. Same thing when you clean the house. It should be good enough for you to feel satisfied, but every piece of dust under the cupboards need not be gone. And honestly, do you really need that new car, when your old still takes you where you want to go?

The Nobel laureate Herbert Simon has coined the concept of satisficing or the art of living your life at the optimum rather than perfection. Always going for the perfect and choosing between a large number of fairly equivalent alternatives creates stress and fatigue in the form of information overload.

In all aspects of our lives we are overloaded with different alternatives, and all the time choosing between a large number of fairly equivalent options creates stress and fatigue in the form of information overload. Each active decision requires mental energy and modern neuropsychology research has shown that we as humans are only able to make a certain number of considered decisions per day. Then it will stop regardless of how important the decision is.

By instead going for the optimum, you can avoid a lot of stress while you have enough time to invest your full energy on the things that really matter.

In the end, the happiest people are not the ones who have the most but the ones who are happy with what they have and can spend their time on what they are passionate about.

5. Manage your time

This brings us to time management. Let us assume that you now have cut out a lot of things that you no longer spend time on, but what about the rest?

We believe that we are able to multitask, but that’s an illusion. Every time you shift your attention to a new task, energy is required; less for the small tasks and more for the larger, but any shift does have an energy cost.

Therefore always try to get as much uninterrupted time for what you’ll need to do. Turn off the alert signals on your computer and smart phone, put a busy sign on your door, and try to avoid any other distraction.

Also have in mind the pareto principle that 80% of the benefits comes from 20% of the efforts. Therefore, try to identify and focus on the important 20% and if possible cut down on the rest.

6. Look for inspiration

Things and experiences that intrigue you and tickle your mind and fantasy are not only fuel for your creative abilities but also energy boosters. Even though we are creatures of habits, try to challenge yourself at least once every day by doing something out of the ordinary.

Read books that give you new dimensions. Watch a documentary on TV rather than a soap. Visit an art gallery. Go to a poetry slam. Or take a walk in the nature.

7. Find your passion

To live a complete and full life we will need to find a deeper purpose. This may sound grand and overwhelming, but need not to be. You don’t need to find the cure for cancer or become a buddhist monk, but in order to live fully, you would need something that would ignite your passion and give meaning to your life.

What this woul be, will be different to different people, and often something simple, but still of great importance to you. Maybe it is to devote yourself to your grandchildren in a way you did not have time for with your own children, or following your favourite sports team, or solving difficult crossword puzzles.

Your passion may very well change over time, but when you’ve found it in the life where you are right now, stick to it and seize the opportunities to endulge in it. Your surrounding may not always understand or appreciate it, but in the end they will also benefit from you being a more complete person to be around.

8. Strive for happiness

The final tip concerns your happiness. That does not mean that it is the least important, rather the opposite. Dalai Lama and other wise people claim that the real purpose of our lives is to find happiness. In recent years, happiness research has shown how we can change our lives ourselves to become happier. In a previous blog post, I wrote about twelve strategies to incraese your happiness.

If you want to read more about how to increase your life energy, I can also recommend Sanna Ehdin’s excellent book on increasing your energy! Höj din energi! Nyckeln till ett starkt, friskt och lyckligt liv. (available in Swedish).

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