Dr Ciela Hartanov was part of the founding team of The Google School for Leaders and Head of Next Practice Innovation and Strategy at Google, She is a psychologist and human behavioural expert and is the founder and CEO of Humcollective. But before we get a chance to speak with Ciela, it’s The Leadership Hacker News.
Transcript: Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services
The Leadership Hacker News
Steve Rush: It’s been a while since we’ve dug into the history books to find those lessons of leadership that we can draw on. So, I thought we’d start with a couple today. In the early 1960s, a marine biologist and author, Rachel Carson was working to overcome some immense personal and professional challenges. On top of writing what would ultimately become Silent Spring. Her watershed book, exposing the dangers of synthetic pesticides and their impact on the environment. Carson was fighting a battle on a whole other front, cancer. Professor, Nancy Cohen, chronicled the stories of her and others for Harvard Business School and Cohen focused on attitudes and actions in the face of crisis that made a positive difference to the world. Carson’s moment of forging her crucible, stretched out for more than two years, Cohen writes, this long slow burn demanded again and again, that she find her way back from the perceptive despair and then recommit to her mission.
Her ability to stay the course, finish her book and exert enormous impact was fueled only by her unrelenting dedication to a mightier cause. Despite being played by a series of health complications that took great physical and emotional tolls. Carson remained staunchly committed to her mission. Cohen described it as to bring the wonders of the natural world to the public and to spotlight the responsibility we each have to protect the earth and to sustain all life and Cohen notes that unlike many other prominent leaders throughout history known for their charisma or aggressiveness and assertiveness. Carson was shy in retiring, almost quite introvert whose leadership approach was characterized by a quiet, determination, resilience, and stone wall commitment to doing purposeful and driven work.
Frederick Douglas was an abolitionist like Carson. He was driven by deep sense of mission. After escaping from slavery in 1838, he used his experience in bondage to become a leader in the anti-slavery movement and a champion for black freedom. In her book Cohen notes. Douglas realized that in order to enact large scale change, he had to be self-committed and to create his own internal, moral, intellectual, and emotional infrastructure, a framework for both understanding the power of slavery and how to consistently and effectively combat it. Douglas devoted a great deal of effort to building his framework within himself. He then used us to develop an effective leadership style. This would’ve been thorny and complicated work. We can often imagine the series of conversations he’d ever had with himself as he started to work through his own architecture. Cohen had written that these internal discussions had formed a cornerstone of Douglas’s leadership, helping him make day to day choices, communicate with the mission and navigate through the moments of doubt and despair. All individuals who aspire to lead effectively must build their own foundation.
Throughout his life. Douglas used his perspective and personal experiences as tools to fight for social change. He also used his writing and public speaking to inspire others, to stand with him and Douglas recognized that making a significant impact required motivating and empowering his fellow citizens and used his communication progress to achieve that objective successfully. Cohen goes on to write. We long for a leader like Frederick Douglas, who understood that the country could only achieve its full potential when Americans faced and write the critical wrong that Douglas led from the lecture hall and from the newspaper stand, which was as much or more than he did through the offices of elite politicians. He believed that positive change began with ordinary citizens and his work, a leader to help them affect the individuals who governed them. So, their leadership hack here is, whether you are a mid-career professional or an emerging senior leader or brand new to leading others.
The stories that these iconic individuals in part are important, real-life lessons that we can learn from. So, by fostering engagement and cohesion, amongst your team, finding a purpose that connects your passion and developing a leadership approach that informs how you inspire and mobilize others. You can become a more courageous leader and take your career to the next level. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. Big shout out to Karen, one of our regular listeners. Who’s introduced us to the work of Professor Nancy Cohen. If you’ve got any insights or stories that you want us to showcase, please get in touch.
Start of Podcast
Steve Rush: Dr. Ciela Hartanov is our special guest on today’s show. She was part of the founding team and the Google School of Leaders. She was Head of the next practice Innovation Strategy at Google. She’s now a Psychologist and a Human Behavioral Expert and the founder and CEO of humcollective, and innovation strategy firm, preparing organizations for the future. Ciela, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So lovely to be here. Thank you for having me.
Steve Rush: So, I’m really fascinated to learn about how you meandered through corporate life to end up leading humcollective. Tell us a little bit about the journey?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Well, meander would be a good description of how I think careers are built these days. When I started graduate school, I actually thought I was going to be an academic and that was my presumed path. And there was a sister school to my school that I was attending in cultural psychology in IO psych school. So, I started moonlighting and wondering, hmm, what are these other students doing? What are they learning? And I realized, you know, it was fascinating because I was learning a lot about culture, human behavior, and organizations from a very specific sort of academic lens. But on the IO psych side of the school, they were actually working with organizations, and they had projects where they were working with leaders who were struggling. And I just became really intrigued about how do you apply the theory in practice?
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, I started moonlighting even more and ended up doing sort of a dual degree in cultural psychology and human behavior with a sort of a subset in IO psych so that I could actually bring the theories and practices into organization. So, I abandoned the academic path and went into corporate. I started with a leadership consultancy called the Ken Blanchard Companies, which is a small family run company, which is very unique family run companies are, which we can talk about. If that’s interesting to you?
Steve Rush: Very well known nonetheless.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: [Laugh], yeah. And he wrote The One Minute Manager, which many people know is sort of a seminal leadership book. And I think that was an introduction to me around, gosh, how interesting? How leadership becomes this really critical and evergreen part of organizations. And so, I had firsthand ability to see that inside this consulting practice. And I had a wonderful mentor who threw me into a job that frankly I was not qualified for, but she saw something in me and said, hey, why don’t you go and reorganize our international consulting practice. And I got to travel a lot, to England and Singapore and other places. Rethinking the structures and practices. So that was my first sort of foray into change management, and it really stuck. So, I have a real system thinking mind. So, I was like, okay, this seems like the right path for me. And at the same time, I was finishing my doctorate degree and this same mentor just pushed me out of the nest. And she said, I think you’ve done all you can do here, which was a really seminal moment for me and my career. And I ended up at that point moving into tech and I stayed in technology firms for the remainder of my career until now where I’m running my own consulting practice. So, it’s like, I’ve come full circle.
Steve Rush: Yeah, indeed. Of course, you were part of that massive growth in Google.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Yes.
Steve Rush: That must have been a fascinating time in your career to see that evolve?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Absolutely fascinating. And speaking of leadership, I think you see this inflection point where leadership needs to look different and change. And I saw that firsthand not only for myself as a leader, but also for the leaders that I was leading. And that became a really important and critical pivot point for myself and my career and what I was doing at Google. When I started thinking about, you know, leadership needs to look different in the modern workplace, both for scale, but also because we’re really moving out of the industrial era. So how do we do that effectively? And because of that, I pitched an idea to build an innovation practice inside the people function at Google, which I think is probably the first one that’s ever been built. Hopefully now there’s more. But what I came to realize is that we needed to have much more of an innovation lens on developing people on thinking about how the people practice needs to evolve and beyond the industrial area logic. And that puts a squarely of course, where most organizations are now grappling with the future of work.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And that’s true in every single organization across the board at this point, which is part of the reason why I left to build my own consulting practice, because I think every organization needs to find their way forward in a contextual way. And that requires some support and some expertise.
Steve Rush: And as part of your time at Google. You talk about the future of work. Now you’re perhaps ahead of the game a little bit in visioning and strategizing what the future of work could be at Google. And it’s now probably form almost part of most of our routine lives today, and you’ve created the next practice innovation strategy there.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Yes.
Steve Rush: So, what is next practice innovation?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So next practice innovation is using foresight and anthropological methods to anticipate what likely is going to happen next, looking at scenarios, and then merging that into a strategy that works for the organization specifically. So, what I am a big fan of is, it’s called next practice for a reason, because I think replication is a really, bad idea when we’re trying to look at what’s next for an organization and help an organization leapfrog. So, I understand the value of best practice and benchmarking as a way of understanding but replicating becomes a challenge because then we all become the same.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, the idea about inventing next practice is the call to action that every organization has the opportunity to think wider and think bigger and be at the forefront of their industry, their people practices. And now more than ever, I see that when it comes to the future of work, organizations can’t replicate what other organizations are doing because it needs to work in context. So, I see that across the board, when we talk about things like hybrid work, this is a grand experiment and every organization’s going to have to grapple and take some next practice bets for themselves to see what will work inside their own organization.
Steve Rush: And there’s no playbook here either is there?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: No.
Steve Rush: Because all organizations are so diverse and so different to your point, it’s around just figuring it out and finding out what does work and doesn’t work.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, there’s no playbook, but there is an innovation process and practice. And that’s what I want leaders to know is that there is a process to hold onto. The process I run is a three-step process that gets you all the way from scanning and the big ideas to thinking about what do you need to employ in your strategy now to build the next practice for your organization? And how do you look at that over time and adjust as you go and be much more, you know, adaptive over time. That all is a process that is completely possible. I’m leveraging the work that I did at Google building the innovation next practice lab. So, this is all tried and true, the process itself. So, there is no playbook, but there is a way forward.
Steve Rush: Right. I love the unconscious anchor in the language next practice as well because it’s forward looking. It’s allows the unconscious behavior to be a little bit more visionary, doesn’t it?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Absolutely. And I think that’s really exciting, you know, when we can unlock ourselves from the fear of uncertainty, which is a natural human reaction, when we don’t feel stability, we feel scared, fight or flight, we know that. But what this gives us is an anchor and a hold to say, how do I, before were looking, and then how do I enter that place of awe and excitement about what’s possible? And that’s where human ingenuity comes from. It’s within us. That’s part of our human nature.
Steve Rush: So, what’s the core work you are undertaking there with humcollective?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, there’s a few things that I’m really interested in right now. The one piece that I’m focusing a lot on is research that I think is going to become even more essential as we’re looking at the new age of work. And that is how do we look and build the next practice of culture and connection inside organizations. So, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about flexibility, personalization, and where we do the work. Now we need to turn our attention to how we do the work in this new context and how we build those essential connective tissues that make up an organization. So that’s where I’m focusing most of my research and my conversations with organizations right now. I really believe that if we only focus on flexibility, we will lose the fabric of what makes an organization sing.
Steve Rush: It’s a really interesting cold concept, this hybrid world. I’ve noticed, you know, through the journals I’ve been reading, the blogs I have been reading over the last couple of weeks that people are getting a little bit uncomfortable with hybrid now, and we’re starting to creep back to being more present in the office and less flexible. What’s your take on that?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: I think that’s because we haven’t invented the next practice of how we build that connective tissue.
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, my call to the organizations that don’t want to backslide is, okay. Now’s the time to think about what is the next practice in culture, connection, networking, and start building some of these next practices. So that there isn’t a backslide because I understand why there’s a backslide, because it’s what we know about how we build bonds is by being in the office.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And even employees I talk to are saying, you know, I left this organization that I joined during the pandemic because I don’t feel any resonance or connection to this organization. And so, there’s a longing on the part of the employees to feel that connection as well. So, the organizations that do answer that call are going to be the employers that are able to draw the best employees.
Steve Rush: It’s almost an unconscious corporate muscle memory, isn’t it?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: That’s right.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: I mean, it’s like any habit change, you know?
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Like it’s so easy to go back to what we’ve known and where we’ve been. There’s no judgment in sort of the backsliding because it’s natural that we would want to gravitate and grab onto what we know, but this time is a time like any other where we can truly invent the modern contemporary workplace. And I hope organizations and leaders will take that call.
Steve Rush: I think, you know, if they don’t, there’s a real risk to their future attraction and retention strategy as well, by the way.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Yeah, and we’re already seeing that of course.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Right. That even though you know, the economics are different now than they were when this whole great resignation conversation started. I think what we’re going to continue to see is that one, because employees have started executing more choice. They’re going to be reticent to let that go. And the employer employee contract will continue to adjust whether or not organizations go kicking and screaming or not. It will still continue to be present and in an important conversation that leaders are having around, gosh, how are we defining this new contract? And are we getting ahead of the game?
Steve Rush: Yeah, definitely. So, with so much uncertainty around the world, you can have a look at companies, locations, countries. There seems to be so much uncertainty and volatility around us at the moment. What is it that makes those leaders and those people in business run towards it and get, you know, excited about that disruption yet others might feel that this is something just want to avoid and hide away?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it goes back to what I sort of described about the human condition. If there’s too much uncertainty, our brains simply cannot handle it. So, we retreat. And because this is sort of a cognitive issue, my recommendation for leaders is always to find a place of stability inside that uncertainty and those leaders who do find a place of stability are able to go towards the uncertainty with openness excitement, because they have a stable ground to come back to. So, I did a big study while I was at Google about what are those most transformative, agile adaptable leaders doing? And it was exactly to answer your question, why do some run towards the uncertainty with excitement and why do some retreats? And what we found is that the core of it was that they had a set of stability practices that they never would let go of. And that could be anything from, you know, showing up to dinner at 6:00 PM every evening with your family to a meditation practice, to an exercise regime. So, it was nothing grand, but it was specific and consistent. And if you find that consistency where you find that stable ground for yourself, then your brain will feel safe enough that it will allow in that uncertainty in a way that it’ll look at it as novel and exciting.
Steve Rush: That’s really fascinating. I think, you know, I’ve studied this genre of leadership and you find that most successful leaders have these rituals that they put aside in their practices and routines.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: That’s right.
Steve Rush: To create either conscious stability or indeed recovery time. But I’ve never really noticed it as a tactical, almost safe location to go where you have that anchored routine. I think it’s quite fascinating.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And it was really actually surprising to me. I thought there would be something else that created that for these leaders. I thought, you know, maybe they had a background where, you know, they had grown up all over the world or traveled a lot or something had created inside of them, the ability to handle different conditions and no. Really it all came down to your point about having a ritualized practice around stability so that they were ready and able to take on the volatility.
Steve Rush: Yeah, love it. So, if we think about the future of work that we’re in at the moment, it’s fair to say, it’s going to continually be uncertain and there’s going to be things that are going to be unknowns of the future. What kind of give maybe tools and ideas as to how we might best embrace that uncertainty?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, the first thing I think is important to realize is that the pace of change is not going to reduce. And so, the place that I always start when we are thinking about organizations and leaders, is building awareness about that truth, and helping educate around why that might be the case. So, I really do encourage leaders to get educated about driving the shifts in organizational life, but also just the colliding forces that we see. So, I do a lot of work with leaders, helping them see what are the shapes, the, you know, the future signals that are shaping, how organizations are going to change? Doing scenario planning. So doing all of this awareness building is another way for us to gain comfort around the uncertainty, because then you’re starting to understand the shades of what might be possible. Of course, you’re not predicting, but you’re giving your mind and understanding around what might be possible.
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So that requires all of us leaders. But I think also just all of us employees who are working in the world right now to become a bit of a futurist. So that’s the first piece of the puzzle I think, is really important. Is this awareness building around, why is this happening?
Steve Rush: There’s also a bit there as well, isn’t there? About just being uncomfortable, being uncomfortable.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Mm-Hmm, so that’s the second piece I was going to say, which is going back to sort of yourself inside this uncertainty. I know that this idea of self-awareness gets overplayed a lot. I think it’s because we misunderstand it, but one of the things that I’m writing, I’m writing a book right now. One of the chapters that I’m writing about is called the sensing self. And I think it’s essential in this era of volatility, uncertainty. There’s a lot of names for what we’re experiencing right now, but we need to anchor and find ourselves and become what I call a sensing self, which is the ability to understand ourselves, but understand others and also understand the context that we’re inside of. So, it’s this elevated idea of self-awareness. So, I talked first about becoming a better futurist and understanding the context, but it’s equally essential for you to understand yourself inside that context so that you know, how you can make moves to be effective inside that context.
Steve Rush: Yeah, one of the things I love about your work, I read an article of yours in The New York Times. I think it was a few weeks back, was around this whole notion of psychological architects. And you have this real strong belief that we’re in control of building that architecture for ourselves. I’d love to just understand a little bit more about that.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, for me, I think that, so I have a psychology background obviously, and one of the pieces of work that I spent a lot of time when I was at Google thinking about was mindset. Why and how do we build our world beliefs? And that these become sort of our operating system and they dictate our choices and our behaviors, and those mindsets don’t have to be static. Those psychological ways of sort of viewing the world don’t need to be static. We can work with them and change them. And what we’ve learned through neurosciences, that there is this cognitive flexibility that’s possible. We see it all the time with children because children have a much more modular sort of minds. And then they start spaces in the mind, and then it starts to harden over time. But as an adult, we can still architect that for ourselves too, where we’re examining our mindset and making it object to ourselves, and then we can work with it and change it. So, when I talk about self-awareness from a leadership standpoint, what I’m actually talking about is working with mindset at the deepest level around that sort of psychological architecture versus getting a 360 feedback, for example.
Steve Rush: Yeah, so is it as simple as making a choice of which mindset you have, or is there some deeper activity that needs to take place for that to happen?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, there is deeper activity. The thing about mindset when we’re really working with the deepest core of our mindset is that it’s deeply attached to our identity. So, what starts to happen is if you believe something to be true about you, it’s a bit hard to unravel that, right? So, where I see leaders getting most stuck about not being able to handle uncertainty or change is because them having to change, to grapple with whatever the situation that they’re in hits that sort of a root issue around their identity. So, to have the biggest sort of impact around mindset, we’re really talking about working with your identity. Now there’s entry ways into that though, that don’t feel so overwhelming. And the way into that then is to start working with what I call assumptions. So, looking at assumptions means that you start having other people or yourself name what you’re assuming about a situation.
So, an example of this might be, you know, I’m entering a situation with a colleague, and I always have an issue with this colleague, for example. We don’t seem to see eye to eye. And so, what starts to happen over time, you might notice is that every time you enter that meeting with that other person is that you are coming with an assumption that that meeting is going to be dismal, for example. So, the work then is to start naming your assumptions about how you’re entering into different environments. And then you start trying to shift that. So that would be as easy as when you’re entering this meeting, you could say, okay, I know that I’m entering with an assumption that I think this meeting is going to be a disaster. How do I reframe that for myself? Let me just reframe that. And maybe you don’t even believe it, but you’re just repeating it to yourself a reframing, you know, this meeting is going to go well, this meeting is going to be unexpectedly excellent. You know, you just sort of start reframing in your own mind. And then what starts happening over time then is then your mindset actually starts to shift, and those assumptions start to shift. So that’s the easiest place to start is just working at this sort of assumption level.
Steve Rush: Yes, neat way of using assumptions because often folk use assumptions in a different way. And that creates other behaviors. So, paying attention to assumptions can often, without being really thoughtful about it, reinforce some negative behaviors, right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: That right.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: That’s right.
Steve Rush: Awesome. Now you have this notion of emergent mindset.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Yeah.
Steve Rush: Which comes with some principles and some perspectives I’d love to get into them.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, one of the things I’m thinking a lot about is okay, if we are the psychological architects and we need to work with our mindset, then what might be some of the mindsets that we would want to be holding to handle emergence or uncertainty. And I use the term emergence on purpose because I think that’s a more accurate representation of what’s happening right now. So, what’s starting to happen is we’re living more and more in this interconnected environment. And because we’re in this really interconnected environment, there’s these emergent outcomes that happen all around us all of the time. And so, it means we have less control over the outcomes. And a great example of this, just to give you a visual is, there is a park across the street from my house, and there’s a lovely walkway that’s been built and paved, et cetera. Except now there is this path through the dirt that has been created because people have started walking through this dirt, right.
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And so, this happens all the time in parks. Like urban planners. This is their worst nightmare is, that they try to plan where people are going to walk and then people walk somewhere else. And then what happens is, then a brand-new path through the dirt gets built. That is an example of emergence because you and I didn’t agree that, that we were going to do that. But what happened was each person sort of started doing that. And then it became a collective outcome that we couldn’t have predicted beforehand. So, this is what I believe is happening inside organizations, inside societies is that we are all participating in this grand, you know, experiment of modern work. And it’s really hard for us to predict where that walkway is going to be, for example, because we’re all participants in it. So, in order to handle that kind of interconnected emergence, we need to hold a different set of mindsets. And this is true for leaders, but I believe this is true also for everyone who is working in the modern context. So let me share with you what I believe this emergent mindset is made of.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And there’s four sort of shifts that I ask people to think about and take on. And I would invite your listeners because we talked about assumptions. When I share with you this shift, think about what assumptions are you making about that shift? What assumptions automatically come up for you, because then you know what your mindset is that you’re already holding and where your resistance might be. So, the first one is moving from predicting to adjusting. This one is essential because really businesses need to respond to the changing needs of the environment. And what this gives us is the ability to access human ingenuity against the context of something that’s not predetermined. So, one thing that we’ve spent a lot of time doing in organizations is trying to set up sort of predictive strategies around what is going to happen. My question then becomes instead, why don’t we ask ourselves what might happen and how do we adjust to the future? How do we build systems that are more adaptable and that maybe it’s not a repeatable practice, but it’s still essential so that we can adjust over time? So that’s the first one from prediction to adjusting.
Steve Rush: Like it.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: The second one is from simplicity to nuance and anyone who has read my work or any of the podcasts I’ve been on, I am on a big diatribe I guess you could say about us moving to a more nuanced point of view again. We have oversimplified the understanding of how organizations worked. We’ve tried to build structures that predict, like I said, and that we are really obsessed with this idea that there’s right and wrong, and that’s not how the world works. In complexity and emergence, what we’re dealing with is that there’s all of these sort of irreducible parts and it’s reduction is thinking is not going to help us. What will help us is understanding more nuance about a situation. And that requires taking multiple perspectives and understanding and seeing all of the shades of gray versus turning our eyes from it.
So that’s the second one from simplicity to nuance. The third one is moving from data to insight. So, I know we have a lot of data. We have a lot of big data that we’ve worked with and I’m a fan of data. It’s absolutely essential to help us create more multiple perspectives and more nuance if we use it in the right way. So, I really believe that we need to take data and make it more nuanced and more interesting. And by that, I mean, it’s not enough for us just to push out a data set that tells us an answer. Instead, we need to look to what I call thick data. And anthropologists are the ones who came up with this idea of thick data.
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Which helps us delve deeper into sort of the meaning behind what the data’s telling us and illuminate the human experience inside that data. And that’s where true insight comes from. We need more insight these days. We don’t need more data. We just need more understanding. And that comes from diving deeper into this idea of thick data.
Steve Rush: Love it.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And then the final one is from moving from linear to indirect. And this one I find is the hardest one for people to grapple with, because I know we all love a step-by-step plan. And often on podcasts, I get asked, you know, what are the five things that a leader needs to do right now? And I never answer that question because that’s linear [laugh].
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: And that’s not how we’re going to make our way through. So, we need to get more comfortable with an indirect path these uncertain circumstances will lead us through sort of a murky winding road. And we have to account for that and how organizations are built and how outcomes are achieved.
Steve Rush: And it’s interesting because we are naturally drawn to linear step by step process, aren’t we?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Well, we’ve been taught that.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: But if you look at children when they play, that’s not how they play.
Steve Rush: No.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, I always look back to sort of the essence of the child brain, because we can pull that forward. And in brain science, they’re learning more and more about the fact that the right hemisphere of our brain is not linear at all. And it’s where the creativity lives, but it’s all preverbal. So, once we start moving it into the language part of our brain and we try to articulate it, that’s where we start getting the step by step, because we’re trying to articulate something that’s not articulate, can’t be articulated, right. So, it’s sort of the idea that how can we build back into our whole brain and allow that to thrive inside organizations because that right side of the brain has a lot of non-linear connections that are being made that can unlock a lot of potential.
Steve Rush: Yeah, such great perspective. Thank you for sharing it. So, this is where we get to turn the tables a little bit, and I’m going to consciously not ask you for your top three. I’m going to ask you for your three most indirect nonlinear hacks.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: [Laugh] that’s a great question. So, as you know, I’m not a big fan of hacks. And so the place that I will go is back to what we sort of talked about throughout this conversation, which is where and how can you get the space as a leader or otherwise to allow your brain to wander, to allow yourself that spaciousness where that right brain can start doing its thing, where you can start being more excited about the future, because what I’m starting to see more and more right now is that leaders feel so pressured and constrained and burnt out that the innovation part of their job has been completely crushed. And I think that is a real shame. So, if there was one called action, which is not necessarily a hack, but I think it’s essential to deal with these modern times is get yourself some spaciousness, find your way out of the churn and the day to day so that you are investing in a long-term creative process that ultimately will create the next practice for your organization. But you can’t do that if you don’t get yourself off the hamster wheel.
Steve Rush: Definitely so, and you know, I’ve said before, actually, you know, even though our show is called The Leadership Hacker, my job is to hack actually into your mind and into your experiences.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: [Laugh].
Steve Rush: Not to shortcut any solutions because we all know there aren’t any right?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Right, there are any and yet I think what we’ve learned from sort of the research on habit formation is, and I’m a real big fan of James Clear who talks a lot about how habits are formed is that it’s about the doing so when I say something that is like simple, like make sure that you have at least some spaciousness in your week, what matters there is that you do it regularly. And that is what is probably the biggest hack if you will, is using the habit formation research to be able to change your behavior over time.
Steve Rush: Yeah, and the next part of this year, we call it Hack to Attack. Essentially is where something hasn’t worked out as well. We may have learned from it. It may now be a force of good in our life or work. What would be your Hack to Attack?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Mm-Hmm, so when working in innovation research, you have a variety of different people that you’re working to influence. All those people from those who are, you know, the operators who are spending most of their time on the job, building out outcomes and OKRs all the way to people who are much more visionary. And I’ve learned, I have to say the hard way that in order for people to get excited about the future, you really have to meet them where they’re at with a story about, you know, how this relates to them. And this seems obvious in retrospect, but because I am such a big thinker and I’m always looking around the corner, that’s what gets me excited. But if I come forward with that, for someone who is not like me, or doesn’t think like me, that can feel really intimidating or even nonsensical. So, I’ve learned over time that to become an effective visionary, you have to be able to tell the story in a way and multiple ways that people can understand. And I think every leader who’s created a vision probably has learned this, but I think it’s essential that how we talk, the narrative that we build is just as important as the vision that we’ve decided on.
Steve Rush: Yeah, that’s very true. Very true. So, the last part of the show, we give you a chance to do a bit of time travel now. You get to bump into Ciela at 21 and give her some words of wisdom. What was it going to be?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, the words of wisdom that I keep thinking about right now that I wish someone would’ve told me when I was 21, is that it is about the process, not the product. And this is a bit counterintuitive of course, to how businesses are run, which is often about output and what is the product you’re producing. But in life, it’s really about the process and having what I’ve been reading about lately, which is called active patience. So, setting into motion your plans, your hopes, your dreams, your desires, and then making steps towards that. But alongside that waiting and have patience around that and enjoying being inside the process versus just waiting for the outcome to be achieved.
Steve Rush: I love that notion active patience.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Mm-Hmm, I’m loving it too.
Steve Rush: Yeah, as you said it. I’m thinking I need some of this [laugh].
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Dr. Ciela Hartanov: We all need some of this, right?
Steve Rush: Yeah, I often find myself being impatient in delivery and I’m missing the journey, right?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Absolutely, and you know, I think things are always unfolding in ways that we can’t really always expect. And you could say this is serendipity or luck, but there is always an unfolding that’s happening if you’re doing enough work. I think one of the things that we’ve sold, that’s a myth in the Western culture is that if you work harder, you try harder, you’ll achieve more. That’s not actually the sort of the physics behind outcome.
Steve Rush: Right.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: You set something in motion, and it’ll become like a flywheel. And that’s why that active patience is essential because you don’t know how that’s going to evolve and change, but you can be part of it and do your one essential component.
Steve Rush: I’m sold on the idea. I’m now going to be, as soon as we’re done into some research to find more about active patients [laugh] and for our listeners, they’re also, I’m sure going to want to learn to find out a little bit more about your work, when the book’s coming out? all of that kind of stuff that you’re doing now with humcollective, where’s the best place for us to send them?
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: So, if you could find me on LinkedIn at Ciela Hartanov, that’s where I post most everything. And if you want to reach me, feel free to reach out via my email@example.com.
Steve Rush: We’ll make sure your links in our show notes as well.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Wonderful.
Steve Rush: Ciela, thank you so much for taking time out your busy schedule. I know you are super, super busy at the moment, so it’s been a great opportunity for us to have you on this show, dive into your mind and thank you for being part of our community.
Dr. Ciela Hartanov: Real pleasure, Steve. Thank you so much. Take care.
Steve Rush: Thank you.
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