Industry 4.0 – Motivating Smart Workers

RIP Carrot and Stick

When it comes to motivating employees, the industrial style carrot and stick no longer serves us. In his best selling new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink notes that the common belief that if you reward certain behavior, you get more of that behavior and if you punish it you get less of it, does not stand true in most cases. The carrot and stick, while fine in some circumstances, is way too simplistic against the backdrop of human complexities. Pink studied nearly 50 years of research in behavioral science, and he believes it overturns a lot of notions about why we do what we do.

He believes we do things because of a biological drive, like when we are hungry or thirsty, but we also do things because we like learning, because they are interesting, because they contribute, because we are social. What has and is changing from the industrial revolution is the type of work that people are doing and the type of thinking that is needed.

The unraveling of Industry 4.0 and what it means to motivate employees

In the rules-based, industrial age, the workplace was by and large task driven, the relationship between employer and employee was designed to be transactional. In that environment a method of motivation as simplistic as the ‘carrot and stick’ did the job. Fast forward to Industry 4.0, and it is a whole other ball game.

From horse drawn to steam powered and from electricity to the assembly line and later automated mass production, the evolution of the workplace has seen its fair share of change over the course of 250 years. As we enter Industry 4.0, where computers and automation will come together in an entirely new way, the relationship between employer and employee is set to take on a life of its own.

As we enter the world of smart working, our people must be given the knowledge, skills, tools and motivation with which to become ‘smart.’ The future of our planet is going to be ruled by smart inter-connectivity like we have never known before. The Internet of Things (IOT) will mean that most of our physical devices, including our vehicles and buildings will become smart enough to collect, analyze, evaluate and exchange data, building a global infrastructure of artificially intelligent information. This will truly integrate our physical and online worlds. Some experts estimate that as soon as 2020, IOT will include around 50 billion objects.

IOT changes everything and will improve efficiency and accuracy, it will also greatly reduce the need for human intervention in many areas of our working lives. Thousands of jobs that have existed for centuries will disappear, but thousands more, that we cannot even imagine today, will be created. When we can get our thoughts around this potential loss and gain, it becomes easy to understand just how urgent it is that we start to create not just ‘smart working,’ but ‘smart workers.’

When we look at the ‘Smart Worker’ list, it is easy to understand why the antiquated ‘carrot and stick’approach to motivation should be ‘put to rest’ and fast!

The Smart Worker of the future will:

1. Be empowered

2. Have autonomy

3. Be highly creative

4. Think critically

5. Be collaborative

6. Be emotionally and socially intelligent

7. Be self-sufficient

8. Have an entrepreneurial spirit

9. Understand and embrace ‘failure’

10.Love learning

We would value your input!

Fi and the Cafe Style team

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BE : DO : HAVE – Creating Agile and Innovative Teams

Leadership in the industrial revolution was designed to ‘Have : Do : Be.’ In this scientific approach to leadership, everything tangible that could be measured, was measured.

The brain is the most complex system in the known universe, and some experts claim that it is more complex than the universe itself. In fact, even with 10’s of thousands of neuroscientists researching the human brain, they still know very little about it, that is how complex we are.

So taking this outmoded, scientific approach to leading teams, is ‘conditional’ and demonstrates a narrow understanding of human nature, and its incredible complexities. Though many of us understand this now, many organizations are still struggling to get away from the ‘Have : Do : Be.’  approach to leadership. There still appears to be this incessant need to demonstrate a ‘tangible’ measurement of everything. Even when it is apparent that it is the ‘intangible’ stuff that is impeding change and causing most of the real issues for organizations, e.g. culture.

From outside in, to inside out

As the world becomes increasingly disruptive and complex, it is vital we make the shift from outside in, to inside out. The main driver is the urgent need for our people to become creative, agile and innovative. To create an environment where this thinking and behavior can evolve, requires a safe environment where people are empowered, have autonomy and are armed with the skills and tools to make it happen.

When we make the shift, we can propel people, the team or organization towards an inspiring vision. We can work with shared values and develop the necessary resilience to keep going when the going gets tough. So let’s use this Be : Do : Have  development model and see what happens when we bring it into team development.

BE : DO : HAVE – Agile Team Leadership

BE Responsible – DO Empowerment = HAVE Resilience

·       BE Responsible – Everything starts with ‘self.’ People will only ‘follow us’ and go the extra mile when they see we are taking responsibility for everything we do and say. This includes being willing to make tough decisions and being fully accountable should these decisions result in failure.

·       DO Empowerment – Empowering others means being willing and able to let go of ‘control’ and trust people to get things done – in their own way.  We must create an environment where people feel safe and are given the skills and tools to feel empowered to get things done, make their own mistakes and fix them quickly and efficiently.

·       HAVE Resilience – the reward of being a responsible leader and letting go of our incessant need to control how people get things done, is that our people will be allowed to fail safely and learn quickly. Over time, this will enable them to build a high level of personal resilience and make them feel comfortable with disruptive change.

BE Inspiring – DO Clarity = HAVE Engagement

·       BE Inspiring – the word comes from ‘in spirt,’ inspiration provides the energy we need to fire up our emotions (energy in motion) to take action. An inspiring leader makes their team follow them into the unknown, confident that wherever they go will be an exciting and rewarding adventure.

·       DO Clarityoverwhelm comes with the territory in disruptive change. The more complex the outside world becomes, the simpler and clearer our communications needs to be. We must provide clarity that helps our people find their way through the maze of change.

·       HAVE Engagement – the reward of being inspiring and being clear in all our communications is a more confident and engaged team. A team that feel a sense of clarity and fully able to keep their focus on the prize – the shared vision and values.

BE Compassionate – DO Relationships = HAVE Collaboration

·       BE Compassionate – this means first being self-compassionate, learning to forgive ourselves and be our own best friend – our own biggest fan. Then it means we are able to empathize with the needs of our team. We can understand their struggles, as they are continuously being asked to come out of their comfort zones and operate in an environment of uncertainty.

·       DO Relationshipsas ‘social’ is the primary human need, building rewarding relationships is not a nice to have, it is critical to our individual and collective success. This is not just for our well-being, it is a critical element of creating an agile and innovative team.

·       HAVE Collaboration – the rewards for creating a more compassionate environment are endless. Now add to this a team that is built first and foremost on creating and managing rewarding relationships and the inevitable outcome is – a highly collaborative team. The winning formula for being creative and innovative.

BE Flexible – DO Autonomy = HAVE Creativity

·       BE Flexible – flexibility is the key ingredient of ‘creative flow.’ If we are serious about creating an agile thinking, innovative team, being flexible starts with the leader. When we are flexible, the team will be flexible. Likewise when we are rigid, they will be rigid.

·      DO Autonomyour people need to be given autonomy. They need to feel they can self-govern, without being micro-managed, or having incessant external ‘controls,’ strangling their ability to think creatively. They must be able to try new things, which may or may not fail and be independent to make their own decisions, within agreed boundaries.

·       HAVE Creativity – the rewards for having a flexible attitude as a leader include the ability to create a more agile team, who are happy to give and take and are comfortable with continuous change. Add to this an environment where people know they have autonomy to be creative and take the initiative and you will develop a highly creative team.

Hope this is useful, we would be delighted to get your input and hear about your own experiences!

Fi Hills and the Cafe Style team

Cafe Style website

Be the Change – What Does it Mean to Leaders?

A famous quote from Gandhi, but what does it mean to us?

As part of the EI / SI / CI program we have developed for leaders, I explored Gandhi’s famous quotation, with a view to understanding how it applies to leaders in a disruptive environment.

It is true and a tough lesson sometimes, to accept that whatever changes we want to effect in the world, or in those around us, are only possible if we first change ourselves. As we are often tempted to go about our daily lives criticizing the powers that be for not running things ‘right,’ for ruining the economy and our lives. And sometimes we even dare to judge others around us, often without being armed with the knowledge or understanding.

The only thinking and behavior that we can change, is our own. So to create change and to learn anything, we must first take the journey ourselves. Only then can we bring the example of that thinking and behavior to life and lead the way. Others will emulate that behavior, if our actions are a reflection of our conscious and considered thoughts – only then can we call ourselves a leader.

It is commonplace for people to have a perspective to see their model of the world as being the only correct one. In an organization, this can lead to the different hierarchy of leaders looking to the others to change. E.g. The senior leadership team may go to great lengths to identify the change that needs to happen in the middle management team, and the middle management team may claim that the senior leadership team need to change. Each team waiting for the other team to change and each team stuck in a blaming frame of mind.

The result of this for the organization is disruptive change, but no transformation of thinking and behavior. Inevitably this results in silo behavior and a lack of respect, trust and collaboration, the essential ingredients for innovation.

To be a creative leader, a reformer, we must first be accountable and responsible for our change and be committed to give, before we get, and to focus on adding value to the world. It all starts with ‘self.’

The journey of self-awareness is an internal one and it can be a challenging one. We must dig deep and start objectively viewing and dissecting our thoughts and beliefs. Do they serve us well, or are they driving us to feel negative emotions, and to projecting these emotions onto those around us? If we are a leader, this is a disaster, because our people feed off of our energy and we are either inspiring or tiring our team! We have developed a non time consuming solo play 5-day program for everyone to enjoy and start that journey – if you haven’t already, of course! Enjoy…

Ancient Buddi complimentary microlearning self development program

Cafe Style Masters Program

Innovation – what’s experiential learning got to do with it?

A learning organization is a term coin by Peter Senge and colleagues (Book – The Fifth Discipline). Among other things, it describes an organization that facilitates learning to continually transform and improve itself – to be aligned with a tech-fueled, disruptive world.

In other words, a learning organization is one that is agile, responsive, pro-active, innovative and experiential.

In their book, Peter Senge and colleagues describe five key characteristics that come together to create a learning organization.

  1. Systems Thinking
  2. Personal Mastery
  3. Mental Models
  4. Shared Vision
  5. Team Learning

While we are aware we need to create a learning organization, the challenge is how make the journey from ‘theory’ to making it happen in practice – given the constraints of budget, time and resources.

In practice, creating a learning organization requires these five elements are in place, as a minimum:

  1. Shared vision, purpose and values
  2. Creative thinking (and other higher levels of thinking (HOTs)
  3. Emotional, social and conversational intelligence
  4. Collaboration
  5. An iterative system of learning – (micro)

You may look at this list and be thinking ‘we know that!’

The question is: how do we bring these things together to create a new, more interconnected way of thinking and working, in a disruptive climate?

‘Organizations rarely organically develop into learning organizations’

More importantly, it is imperative to understand that none of these elements can be successfully ‘forced’ upon people in a prescriptive style of learning or leadership.

‘Pull, not push’

To bring these elements alive and get them into the hearts and minds of our people, it is vital that they are developed:

  1. Experientially – learning by doing / action / experience
  2. Iteratively – transform outmoded and rigid beliefs and habits

So creating a learning culture requires that we embrace experiential learning, while iteratively facilitating individuals and groups to:

  • Develop the attributes and the environment that foster innovation
  • Thrive through disruption
  • Be focused on what matters (the customer) and have shared vision, purpose and values
  • Look to continually learn, improve and create a sustainable environment

Over the last few years, the Café Style team has developed hundreds of experiential microlearning activities, programs and solutions to help you create a learning organization.

With many people asking how the Café Style method works to support this process, in practice, we are sharing a workbook, along with some relevant activities for you to play out with your teams. These will help you understand how experiential microlearning works.

Click on the link to join and get access and get started with your team today:

Click here to access Cafe Style (click on the free membership button)

To have your questions answered by the team, email

Are you an Innovator or a Reactor?


In the middle of this disruptive ‘cyclone’ of change, it is fair to say that an organization’s culture can be categorized into two types. Those that innovate – and those that react to those that innovate.


This may sound harsh, or even too simplistic (especially when we speak about the illusive and complex world of ‘culture),’ but it’s a fact. It’s a bit like the argument – disrupt, or be disrupted, while we are busy looking for a ‘million’ creative ways we can ‘do more with less.’ In terms of culture, ‘intent’ is everything! We must simply choose what side of the fence we are on, then make it a priority to build the culture around that premise.

The culture – environment, thinking and language of an individual, or organization, determined to innovate, is literally light years away from those in the mode of ‘reacting.’

Clearly, we may not be an Innovator right now, but could well be on a journey to become one. But, if our intent and purpose is not crystal clear and definitive when we set out, we are in grave danger of being disrupted along the route.

Bottom line…

Organizations tend to fall into one type, or the other. We are either creating, or we are left reacting to those who can be bothered to take a risk and create. This is just another universal law, just like: action beats reaction, moving forward ‘leads’ the way and everything changes, when we change.

That really is the bottom line. So when we talk about innovation and its benefits, we sometimes forget to talk about what may happen to us should we choose to remain on the fence!

This is an open discussion – your thoughts and inputs to this important topic are welcomed!

Cafe Style


Understanding the difference between ‘Creative Thinking,’ ‘Creative Leaders’ and ‘Creative Leadership’ – and why it matters!

‘Creative thinking’ began to be talked about widely at the start of the 21st century, and it is now believed in the not-too-distant future, ‘creatives’ will rule the world of global business.

The bottom line is that the faster the speed of technological advancement disrupts organizations, the demand for creative thinking, by everyone, will grow.

The challenge for organizations is that, by and large, approaches to leadership and learning remain linear, simplistic and outmoded, against the backdrop of our complex modern world. Though playfulness, autonomy and freedom are proven to create an agile, creative thinking environment in organizations, there are still high levels of resistance to change from traditional ways of operating, at all levels within organizations.

This is leaving many traditional businesses and markets wide open to being ‘disrupted’ by what can appear to be insignificant, underfunded start-ups, led by powerful ‘Creative Leaders’ who are delighted to make waves.

The bottom line is that it has now become critical that businesses take a more agile approach to leadership and create learning organizations. These learning organizations must celebrate diversity, evoke trust, collaboration and develop an environment that celebrates ‘out of the box’ thinking and reward innovation.

To lead individuals and teams to think creatively requires a whole new way of thinking, as well as a multitude of skills and tools, many of which are alien to conventional ways of leadership and learning.

The question is: Is it easier to develop creative people to be competent and confident leaders who inspire others. Or, develop leaders to be creative thinking and capable of creating an environment that fosters creativity and innovation?

The truth is, the complexity and uncertainty we face moving forward requires we do both, and fast. Workplaces must become environments where creative genius is encouraged and playfulness becomes an everyday part of daily working life.

In our recent ‘Creative Leadership and Innovation’ module in the Café Style Master Facilitator program, we highlighted the difference between ‘Creative Thinking,’ ‘Creative Leaders’ and ‘Creative Leadership’ and the importance in understanding the differences, if we are to successfully transform culture and learning. I thought it would be useful to share this:

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is a process in which we use various High Order Thinking (HOTS) to come up with new ideas. These may be completely new ideas and concepts, or a fusion of old ideas and concepts which may not have been merged before.

We may just have insights (Sparks) instinctively and accidentally, or we can create an exploratory environment where we create these insights deliberately. Clearly, in a disruptive environment, we do not want to leave creative thinking to chance. This means the objective of leaders right now is to create a learning organization that evokes all ‘ingredients’ of the creative thinking process, in everyone. I thought this would be useful to share:

Creative Leader

A ‘Creative Leader’ is someone with an amazing capacity for insights, who demonstrates incredible vision and who ‘improvises’ their way to get to that vision. They are the risk takers, the warriors that appear unafraid of failure and are tolerant of adversity. They see things others don’t and when they do, they are more than happy to smash their way through comfort zones. These uncommon individuals are more than willing to take criticism, if it takes them further down their path towards their vision. Creative Leaders are everything we need to lead us through the maze of disruption, to blaze the trail and lead the way to enable innovation to happen. But, what is important to understand is, they are not always the people we need to create a system of ‘Creative Leadership’ in large and complex organizations.

Creative Leadership

Think of this as the culture. Creative leadership is about creating an organization-wide culture, designed to evoke new thinking and behavior in everyone, not just the chosen few. To develop Creative Leadership requires that L&D practitioners, and leaders, stop thinking for their people and start facilitating them to think for themselves. The ‘how’ to think, rather than conveying ‘what’ to think, if you like.

To develop an environment where everyone is capable of thinking creatively requires that we develop a system that evokes curiosity, ignite insights, develops the ‘HOTS’ and is underpinned with trust and collaboration. It is ‘Creative Leadership’ that leads to continual innovation, especially in large and complex organizations. It can be that a ‘Creative Leader’ is capable of driving a culture of ‘Creative Leadership,’ but often, this is not the case.

Cafe Style Virtual

‘Sparks Technique‘ – The easy way to create an innovative team

As part of our Creative Leadership and Innovation – virtual leadership program, the Café Style team has developed a technique that better enables leaders to systematically create the right environment. An environment that fosters creative thinking and ultimately, a more innovative team.

After developing a program of Café Style activities to enable leaders to ‘spark up’ their teams, we wanted to share the idea of ‘sparking’ with readers, as the Spark Technique offers a practical, down to earth approach and check list for creative leadership.

Nudge’ is used quite widely across many organizations now (albeit not widely enough!). For those that don’t know it, here is a quick explanation from Wikipedia:

Nudge theory (or Nudge) is a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics which argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to try to achieve non-forced compliance can influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals’

Basically, Nudge drives incremental behavior change – preferably ‘on mass.’ Nudge is great, we love it, but it is does not address the urgent need to develop a more agile, collaborative and innovative culture. To do this, we need to ‘spark’ the right thinking in people in highly complex and unpredictable situations.

This is where the Sparks Technique comes in – by systematically addressing the ‘vitals’ that need to be in place to stimulate the right thinking and enable the transformation of culture to evolve, team by team.

Sparks Technique – Interpretation

S = Stimulate

As creative leaders, we need to stimulate an environment that evokes creative thinking. This is an environment that sparks curiosity, and from there generates new ‘insights’ in individuals, and groups.

Environmental stimulation can be ‘physical,’ but it also includes developing a whole new language that evokes the HOTS (Higher Order Thinking). For example – let’s say you are planning a creative thinking/problem solving meeting (brainstorm), with the goal of transforming a process or product. Sparks would include props, posters, or even the design of the meeting, that lends itself to the job in hand. In that space and time – divergent and lateral thinking may be the order of the day.

A ‘separate’ meeting (space) may then include ‘sparks’ that stimulate thinking that are appropriate to ‘critiquing’ and ‘rationalizing’ the ideas generated in the first meeting/brainstorm, e.g. convergent and critical thinking etc.

In both cases, these are HOTS, they are very different, and must not be played out in the same space and time, if we want to achieve a productive overall outcome.

To understand what ‘sparks’ to use, and in what context, requires that leaders first understand all of the different HOTS, then learn to develop the language and techniques that sparks the appropriate thinking.

This may sound complicated, but once we understand HOTS and get to know the stimulants/sparks, it is just a case of contextualizing things.

P = Probe

Wow, in the first place, probing requires that we learn to become curious and observant, as we go about the business of living. Hopefully, the environmental stimulants will open people’s awareness and increase the habit of curiosity and observation! Probing does include questions of ‘wonder,’ such as ‘what if?’ These take us into the faculty of the imagination, to seek the possible.

But, it also includes questions that evoke ‘critical thinking’ and who better for this than harnessing the works of the genius – Socrates.

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Probing questions allows us to get underneath the surface to examine assumptions, norms and explore possibility. Developing this skill lies at the heart of critical thinking, and is a vital element of creating an innovative workplace.

In the interests of not reinventing the wheel, I found this interesting explanation on the ‘The Six Types of Socratic Questions’ from the ‘University of Michigan’ (, which provide a good framework to follow as an example to start the process of probing:

Questions for clarification:

  • Why do you say that?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
  • “Are you going to include diffusion in your mole balance equations?”

Questions that probe assumptions:

  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
  • “Why are you neglecting radial diffusion and including only axial diffusion?”

Questions that probe reason and evidence:

  • What would be an example?
  • What is….  analogous to?
  • What do you think causes this to happen…?
  • Why?
  • “Do you think that diffusion is responsible for the lower conversion?”

Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:

  • What would be an alternative?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  • Why is it the best?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
  • How are…and …similar?
  • What is a counterargument for…?
  • “With all the bends in the pipe, from an industrial/practical point of view, do you think diffusion will affect the conversion?”

Questions that probe implications and consequences:

  • What generalizations can you make?
  • What are the consequences of that assumption?
  • What are you implying?
  • How does…affect…?
  • How does…tie in with what we learned before?
  • “How would our results be affected if…. neglected diffusion?”

Questions about the question:

  • What was the point of this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does…mean?
  • How does…apply to everyday life?
  • “Why do you think diffusion is important?”

A = Animate

Creative leadership means bringing the future vision of the organization to life in the here and now, thereby enabling people to support the creation of that future. In theory, we know this challenge is on many leader’s lips – how do we put this into practice?

Techniques to ‘animate’ include – creating a clear purpose, and then bringing it to life through ‘experiential storytelling,’ values driven leadership and developing exciting, but manageable challenges for teams, to shift them out of their comfort zone etc.

All too often, the ‘stories’ being told by leaders are neither experiential, nor visionary. They are often just narratives of the doom and gloom, of perils of ‘what is,’ and do little, but instill fear in people (the enemy of creative thinking). What is more, they are often foregone conclusions that require no exploration, or experience from its recipients.

Creative leaders paint a narrative of a future that is worth fighting for, and people will work together to do just that, because they feel inspired. Experiential storytelling leaves room for everyone in the ‘tribe‘ to develop the story, as opposed to being prescriptive, conclusive, or pushed onto people. This is how we bring the future alive, create hope and excitement, and over time it takes on a life of its own.

Values, support this by providing a clear pathway in which to travel safely towards this vision, while challenges provide a safe, playful environment that develop people to take calculated risks, building resilience.

R = Resilience

Resilience is such an interesting and complex subject in leadership and change – you cannot ‘teach’ it, as such. It is, however, critical that we develop it if we are to thrive through disruption, which is why we have included it in ‘sparks.’

The moment we create a ‘sparky’ environment, we are inviting new ideas, concepts and change. Clearly, quantity trumps quality in ‘sparks’ i.e. the more the merrier! This means many of the ideas and concepts will not be ‘right’ or may not work – and that is just fine. Taking calculated risks must be encouraged – it must be safe to ‘have a go.’

IF the environment does not support this, resilience will be depleted. Resilience is that quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Resilience is built through adversity, so rather than allowing ‘failure’ to overcome or drain our resolve, we can dust ourselves off and ‘have another go,’ however many times it takes. This iterative process builds psychological muscle, but only if it is handled effectively by leaders.

An environment where resilience can be built requires that we create:

  • A positive ‘can do’ attitude
  • An outlook of a future that is hopeful and optimistic
  • A mindful and emotionally intelligent workforce
  • The habit of seeing ‘failure’ as constructive feedback – that enables us to be like a missile and ‘get back on course’ again, and again

The fact is, in this age of disruption, things WILL go wrong, and at the very least, will not always go to plan, so we need to soldier on – ‘head down, keep swinging’ until we win. This takes courageous, selfless leadership, which is not for the faint hearted!

K = Kickstart

So we have the ideas popping out like springs from all directions. What is more, we have created a process that takes some of these cracking ideas and makes them valuable, valid and real. Now what?

This is where the fun starts! Ideas without action, remain dreams. The leader’s role is to create an environment where everyone takes personal responsibility and ownership for everything they do – and they are not afraid to take action (within clear boundaries).

This is more of a shift towards ‘will do,’ rather than just ‘can do’ in attitude – from everyone as a collective. This requires that ‘values driven leadership’ is in place, otherwise it won’t happen. Operating within the boundary of the organizational core values, people should be encouraged to make ‘small and mindful decisions’ as they go about their daily work. These decisions must drive the company forward towards their clear vision, as well as be aligned to the values.

Again, this is an experiential process and is NOT prescriptive or linear. This is the part that leaders let go of ‘control’ and trust that people will make the right decision, given the context of the situation they find themselves in, hence it is highly complex and must not be ‘controlled.’

To be able to really ‘kickstart’ means the environment and the development process for people must be robust and act as an enabler for this to happen.

S = Scale

Complexity! Great, we got this far, but how do we scale this new thinking?

While scaling may seem daunting, and admittedly it is easier in a ‘start-up’ that has no ‘baggage,’ it is possible to scale with tens, hundreds of even thousands of teams…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Chinese Proverb

Don’t be tempted to parachute in and try to ‘change’ tens or hundreds of teams from up high. Or, by sheep dipping ‘prescriptive thinking,’ thought up in a dark room by a few, for the ‘good’ of the many. Take the approach of transforming mindsets, team by team, from inside out. In other words, the change ‘initiative’ is designed to work with the team, then just use the same approach for each team, once its proven to work. (It is worth noting here that ‘experts’ claim that as much as 75% of disengagement is caused by ‘dysfunctional relationships’ in the local team).

Oddly enough, the approach is often to try and break down wider ‘silos’ and fix the aggregation of a new culture from above, before transforming the thinking, behavior and relationships in each team. This is one reason why ‘big initiatives’ continue to prove so disappointing during disruptive change, regardless of how well thought out they are.

When our clients are tempted to ‘implement’ the Café Style methodology, we advise them to not take this approach. ‘Slowly, slowly catchy monkey’ – choose teams who are already advocates for change, and start there. Let them tell others…and so on – create a social tipping point. People talk, and this applies to the positive, as well as the negative, so make sure you create a ‘story worth spreading.’

The big initiative approach worked when the world was linear and simplistic, and when businesses were hierarchical and controlled. It’s way too complex and dangerous to take this approach in a disruptive environment. All too often ‘big initiatives,’ driven from the top, evoke a cynical ‘here we go again – just ignore it and something else is bound to replace it soon enough’ vibe.

The trick of scaling is to ‘create the need’ = ‘pull’ not ‘push.’

Fi Hills and the Café Style team!


Bring your virtual leadership classes to life in 2017!


If you are looking to get to a global, or even nationally dispersed audience of leaders, the virtual classroom is a fantastic option to blend into your critical leadership development mix in 2017.
But, it is true to say that the transition to the virtual classroom has not been the smoothest when it comes to great learning experiences and measurable outcomes.
That can change when we fuse experiential learning into the virtual classroom. So let’s explore some hurdles and considerations when designing and planning virtual leadership development sessions that are sure to add value to your leadership strategy:

A few pre-flight checks

  • Is a virtual classroom environment appropriate for our situation and needs?
  • How can we best blend virtual live sessions into our leadership development strategy?
  • Have all our leaders got access to the classroom from any device?
  • Have we set the expectations of the leadership team? A virtual classroom is not the same as a webinar, it should be interactive and highly participative.
  • Have we carried out a pilot and planned how we are going to measure the outcomes?

Planning and Design

  • Often, there are not clear goals set for the sessions. Or, the goals are not blended well into overall leadership development strategy.
  • Going virtual means going microtraining. There appears to be a couple of issues here. The first is that a lot of microlearning/training design tends to just be chunked down versions of traditional training sessions, which does not work. When we chunk training down so radically, it is imperative we shift to a more experiential approach in the design. E.g. transcribe a large chunk of ‘knowledge’ into a distinct game, or experiential learning activity, then it will work in ‘micro’ time.
  • Delivery can sometimes feel be more like a ‘webinar.’ Remember, it must be designed to be interactive and include activities, discussion and full audience participation.
  • Too many participants – and it becomes like a ‘lecture.’ Ideally, there should be around 25 participants in a class. If there are more, the design should include more breakout activities.


  • Environment – each participant should have their own device with video capability, a head-set and quiet space that is conducive to learning, with no excessive background noise.
  • Knowledge – all leaders need a quick induction on the logistics of the virtual classroom platform. The capabilities, maximizing the tools, breakout rooms, classroom etiquette etc.
  • Facilitation – in some ways facilitating a virtual classroom is more challenging than face to face delivery, but in other ways, it is easier. When we are face to face, we do have the benefits of the whole person experience, and all the idiosyncrasies that come with that. On the other hand, we can get far more efficiency in a virtual classroom environment, like the speed of organizing break out activities and more flow etc.
  • Slides – one or two at a time with plenty of pictures – then engage, discuss / carry out a breakout activity, and repeat.
  • Back-up workbooks – virtual participants need content as back up to reinforce the learning – it is the same as in a traditional classroom environment.


It is not necessarily the case that a great classroom facilitator will be a great virtual facilitator, or vice versa. A great virtual facilitator is both comfortable working with technology and facilitating a highly diverse audience, in a virtual environment. This might sound obvious, but the reality is that we do need to assess and measure before making assumptions and handing over the reins.

Another point here is for a class with more than 15 participants, though the facilitator should be comfortable with the technology, always have a Virtual Classroom Assistant to manage the chat and other logistics during the session. The focus of the facilitator should be kept fully on the learning.

Personally, I absolutely love facilitating in a virtual classroom environment and so do my Café Style colleagues! So far we have had lot of fun, in many ways more fun than face to face. I will add, though I take the learning seriously, I don’t take myself seriously. I am mindful that I am there to engage and entertain the audience and help them feel comfortable as quickly as possible, not just facilitate learning.

Along the way, myself and my Café Style colleagues have gathered funny props and now many participants have got the ‘silly prop vibe’ and are bringing unique props along, just for a bit of fun. Examples include a ‘spinning plastic flowers,’ signs saying silly things like ‘chill out,’ ‘thumbs up,’ ‘bla bla bla,’ ‘yawn,’ ‘quick, hide the boss it coming’ and lots more. One participant brought a bath duck, another a really funny puppet ‘policeman’ (for the Assumption Police game). As time has gone on, many try to outdo each other with the props. This may sound crazy, but they create fun, participation and make every laugh, which makes everyone feel more at ease. Strangely enough, we would never think of bring such things to a traditional training session, but somehow there appears to be more freedom to be creative in a virtual environment. This is another benefit.

Fun and entertainment is not everybody’s style, and that is fine. The key to great virtual facilitation is really about being authentic. If you are really passionate about your subject and appreciate that this environment can be intimidating for some participants (if it is new to them), then people will engage into whatever style is authentic to you.

I am very optimistic about how successful experiential learning can translate into a virtual classroom environment, though I appreciate the boundaries still need more ‘testing.’ My advice would be for anyone of thinking of taking the plunge, but feeling unsure – go for it. It is a refreshing environment for learning and collaboration, and is far more appropriate to the demands of our current disruptive working lives.

Have a great 2017!

Fi Hills and the Cafe Style team!

Click here if you would like to register for a complimenary Cafe Style Virtual Master Class – 16th January 2017