How to Discover “Native Genius” – Taking action on Multipliers

This is a follow up on my previous blog post, the 4 Key leadership learnings from Multipliers.

On Monday this week, Adam organised a “Native Genius” session for one of our Bluewire Media monthly meetings. It was a cracker! In fact it is probably one of the best sessions we’ve ever conducted with our team.

Here’s what I wrote to Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown as feedback on the session:

I can’t tell you how energizing it was! It’s incredible to watch people around the table really identify what is the absolute best in their team mates. Then the reaction of the person in the “hot seat” – as they come to realise what others believe is their strongest quality, understand what it is that really drives them and realise how it translates not just to work, but across all aspects of their lives – was inspiring! The formal reviews we had scheduled for the next day were quite different as a result too.

If you wanted to watch the same unfold in your organisation, here’s how the session rolled out:

  • Get your group together (we did it with 6 of us – this was a good size and we had all been working together for quite a while which probably helped too)
  • Read through the description of “Native Genius” from the book:

A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition)…They get results that are head-and-shoulders above others but they do it without breaking a sweat.

  • Choose the person whose “Native Genius” you want to discover (let’s call it putting them in the “Hot Seat”)
  • Read through the 5 discovery questions (p48 ):

What do they do better than anything else they do?

What do they do better than the people around them?

What do they do without effort?

What do they do without being asked?

What do they do readily without being paid?

  • Get everyone’s input on that person’s Native Genius and write them down
  • Once everyone in the group (including the person in the “Hot Seat”) has had their say, summarise and then label their Native Genius!
  • Repeat this process, including the description and the questions, for each person in the group.

Good luck!

If you give this a try, I’d love to hear how your team responded and what you got from it.

Is this the first ever example of crowd-sourcing?

Twelve mighty volumes; 414,825 words defined; 1,827,306 illustrative quotations used… The total length of type – all handset, for the books were done by letterpress, still discernible in the delicately impressed feel of the inked-on paper – is 178 miles, the distance between London and the outskirts of Manchester. Discounting every punctuation mark and every space – which any printer knows occupies just as much time to set as does a single letter – there are no fewer than 227,779,589 letters and numbers.

Do you know this book?

Probably – the quote above is describing the first ever edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and it may well be one of the first documented examples of “crowdsourcing“.

Crowdsourcing

What is crowdsourcing?

The Wikipedia definition of crowdsourcing is: “the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.”

And it is exactly what made the making of the OED possible.

The scope of the task:

In his speech to academics, in the London Library on Guy Fawkes day 1857, Richard Chenevix Trench set out his Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was to build an English dictionary that “should be a record of all words that enjoy any recognised life span in the standard language”.

He envisaged a dictionary that would:

  1. List every word in the English Language
  2. For each word, have the quotation that represents the first time that word was ever written down
  3. For each word, have sentences to show every meaning and every possible usage – obselete or modern.

Can you imagine for a moment the scale of this project?

The task would be gigantic, monumental and – according to the conventional thinking of the times – impossible.

That’s a hell of a BHAG.

So where does crowdsourcing come into it?

The undertaking of the scheme, he [Trench] said, was beyond the ability of any one man. To peruse all of English literature… It would be necessary to recruit a team – moreover a huge team, one probably comprising hundreds and hundreds of unpaid amateurs, all of them working as volunteers.

Sound familiar to you? Think no further than Wikipedia.

How about an open call to the public to submit every single word in the English language plus quotations plus definitions past and present? Not only that, but to do it entirely by mail?

The first editor, Herbert Coleridge, designed a stack of pigeon holes to accommodate 60-100,000 slips of paper that would come in from volunteers and estimated that the first volume of the Dictionary would be available in 2 years.

The reality? 6 million slips of paper came in from volunteers, it took 20 years to complete the first volume and 70 years to complete the entire Oxford English Dictionary.

At least now with the internet, we can streamline the crowdsourcing process. It’s humbling to think that this scale of project would be undertaken without it…

Surgeon of Crowthorne

This is just a small part of the incredible story of the making of the OED as told by Simon Winchester (@simonwinchester) in “The Surgeon of Crowthorne – A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words“. I highly recommend reading it. Brilliantly written, it’s part tragedy, part history, part inspiration and has one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” story lines that will keep you wanting to find out more.

PS: A small irony: When I checked originally in the Crowdsourcing article in Wikipedia, there was no mention of the Oxford English Dictionary in the “Early Examples” section of the article. So I decided to make my first ever contribution to Wikipedia. Crowdsourcing in action!

Heretics + Followers – Blind Sheep = Obligation

Tribes by Seth Godin

Tribes, by Seth Godin

What’s it about?

In Seth’s words:

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea.

This is a Small Book (about tribes) with a Big Idea:

You, Me, Everyone has the opportunity, no, the obligation to lead.

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for free flowing, inspiring thinking then pick this up. Don’t expect a “How to lead a tribe checklist”. Seth believes the process will be different for everyone and to follow your heart and your passion. He writes his stories as he writes his blog posts, with a driving urgency. He demands that you question the status quo, that you “ship” (his term for taking action and getting something done), that you form a tribe and that you ultimately create change for the better.

If you read the book with a “how can I apply this to me/my business/my [insert passion here]” mindset, then I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

What did I get from it?

# Heretics are the new leaders

“Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.” (p11)

A heretic questions why things are done the way they are, looks for improvements and finds a better way. So get out there and be a Heretic!

Actually Seth gives a great example of a couple, Jerry and Monique Sternin (p134). Rather than enforcing an outsider’s perspective on a problem (eg sick kids in developing communities), the Sternins look for individuals within an organisation or a community that have already solved it (a mother whose children are healthy), then explore ways to amplify and pass on that solution (by handing the spotlight to that mother and encouraging others to adopt her practices).

What a refreshing way to solve the problem!

# You need followers but you don’t want blind sheep

If Heretics are the new leaders, then Seth is also quick to note that a tribe needs followers too. Not just any followers but people who are eager to follow, with enthusiasm and energy for their tribe. Why? Because it takes micro-leadership at all levels to achieve change ie: “Think globally – act locally”

Seth says: people “eagerly engage when they want something to improve”. This kind of engagement leads to your tribe connecting to others and recruiting to the cause. Energy is infectious and is the best way to spread the word.

# The market for something to believe in is infinite

This is the cartoon referenced in the book. A little bit of inspiration to wrap up this post:

Cartoon - The market for something to believe in is infinite

4 key leadership learnings from “Multipliers” (by Liz Wiseman)

Multipliers - Liz Wiseman
The premise of Multipliers written by Liz Wiseman, is that any leader can be placed on a spectrum between being a Multiplier (good) and being a Diminisher (bad). (If you’re interested in finding out your style, try this questionnaire.)

What is a Multiplier?

“A leader who uses their smarts to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them”.

What is a Diminisher?

“A leader who drains intelligence, energy and capability from the ones around them and always needs to be the smartest one in the room”.

The book aims to help us move away from a Diminisher style of leadership towards the style of a Multiplier, stating that there is at least a 2x greater return on resources for Multipliers vs Diminishers.

It outlines the 5 different roles that a Multiplier plays:

  1. The Talent Magnet – looks for talent everywhere, finds people’s native genius, utilises people to their fullest, and removes blockers (eg prima donnas)
  2. The Liberator – creates space (to think, speak, and act), demands the best work and generates rapid learning cycles
  3. The Challenger – seeds the opportunity, lays down the challenge, then generates belief in what is possible
  4. The Debate Maker – frames the issue, sparks the debate and drives a sound decision
  5. The Investor – defines ownership, invests resources and holds people accountable

These 5 roles are what the book calls the Multiplier Formula. What makes it a great “how to” book are the chapter summaries of these roles to be used as a quick reference once you’ve finished reading (or if you don’t have time to read the whole thing!).

I dog eared some pages (sorry book lovers) as I read, so I could keep track of the things that really resonated with me.

Here are 4 of them:

1. Ask questions

A Multiplier asks questions constantly. Then listens intently. They listen far more than they speak. I’ve heard this plenty of times before, but it’s great to have it reinforced. (I’m going to start counting my questions in meetings from now on.)

2. Native genius

Multipliers go looking for native genius in everyone around them. I loved this concept! (On page 61, there are 3 steps to help you begin genius watching too). What’s more it really aligns beautifully with what we’re trying to do at Bluewire Media – which is “Do what you love”.

A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition)…They get results that are head-and-shoulders above others but they do it without breaking a sweat.

3. “Calmness is not synonymous with softness”

Multipliers remain calm even when under pressure, but are intensely focussed. They create environments that are intense not tense.

4. Make your own mistakes known

There’s a great example in the book of a weekly meeting agenda item called “The Weekly Screw-up”. If you as the leader share your mistakes, then others will be far more willing to share theirs. As a result you’ll breed a culture of transparency where mistakes are not punished but learned from. We’ve just added this to our weekly meeting agenda so I’m looking forward to watching the results.

In summary: This really is a good book in an excellent “How To” format. Plenty of case studies and stories to drive home the points and the chapter summaries will be great quick reference tools.

Have you read it? If so, what did you like about it? What were the things you found most interesting/applicable?