This article was based on episode 155 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager get The Synaptic Alchemy Sneak Peek which provides an in depth overview of the book for free, and get free access to The Synaptic Alchemy course when you purchase the book. Become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
Management is all about taking a group of people and turning them into a functional, empowered team. Steven Cardinale, entrepreneur and executive known for his unique perspective to leadership innovation, calls this approach “synaptic alchemy”. In the physical world, synaptic alchemy means turning lead into gold. In the management world, Steven applies it to turning ideas into gold.
In order to generate this magical spark, teams need to better understand themselves and each other. Steven shares his approach to developing this awareness as well as his three step process for transforming how we operate in the workplace.
The first step in knowing yourself is what Steven calls “Prima Materia” or the primary materials of who you are. One easy way to get a deeper understanding of who you are is to take personality tests, such as the popular Myers-Briggs or Big Five.
Your personality type, which identifies natural preferences, helps explain why you navigate towards certain approaches more than others. By knowing your tendency to think “big picture” or “detail-oriented”, for example, you are better able to recognize what you bring to the team’s thinking and where you need to lean on others for support.
KNOW EACH OTHER
Just as important as knowing yourself is having this knowledge about your team members. Understanding each teammates’ unique assets leads to greater team collaboration and synergy. Encourage your whole team to take these tests to further their self knowledge. Then, share the results in a way that feels authentic and useful. Steven suggests having one person each week share their results and how they best operate in the workplace. They can even offer tips or suggestions for how to collaborate best with them.
TURN IDEAS INTO GOLD
The process of turning ideas into gold, or “alchemical transformation”, happens when teams destroy an old rule and create a new one. Amazon, for example, destroyed the old rule that books need to be sold in bookstores. Instead, they created a new rule that books could be sold through the internet.
So how does a team even go about figuring out which “old rules” aren’t working anymore? Steven recommends asking our teams, “what are we doing and why are we doing it?” When we take the time to reflect on our current practices, we can examine what isn’t working and brainstorm new ways to do things differently.
CULTIVATE AN ATMOSPHERE FOR INNOVATION
Managers need to create a safe space for their teams to question old practices and come up with new solutions. One way to reinforce this is through team mottos or “soundbites”. One of Steven’s favorite soundbites is “a better question is more important than the right answer, because it's usually the right answer to the wrong question.” This phrase reminds his team to keep asking questions that challenge the status quo of their operations.
Just as it’s possible to turn lead into gold, we can take the ordinary materials of human beings and turn them into incredibly innovative and powerful teams. But we can only do that if our people understand themselves, how they operate in the workplace, and how to best collaborate with each other. Filled with this knowledge, we can move forward together by challenging old ways of thinking. Transforming groups and ideas into gold is possible, if we have the courage to look inward and to take outward risks.
KEEP UP WITH STEVEN
Book: Synaptic Alchemy: The Art & Science of Turning Ideas into Gold
Members of the Modern Manager get The Synaptic Alchemy Sneak Peek which provides an in depth overview of the book for free, and get free access to The Synaptic Alchemy course when you purchase the book. Become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 155 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.