The Ironic Manager Blog

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Creative Thinking & The Entrepreneurial Journey

Creative Thinking & The Entrepreneurial Journey

I became a management researcher to make a difference. To become deeply knowledgeable about the dominant institution of our time, the corporation/organisation. And help those that led or managed them to become better managers and leaders.

To do so, I wanted to learn how to think differently. To meld my creative, artistic background with academic rigour. To use the combination to create something beautiful, profound and practical. And create something that would make a difference to the world of work. 

I've hit every personal target I set myself. First in my master's. Check. Win international scholarship. Check. Meet the best academic minds of my generation. Check. Get the best of the best to evaluate my research. Check. Pass PhD with best possible marks. Check. 

Get a job in the field. Beep! Stop. Do not pass go. 

The irony of all ironies. I have yet to make anywhere near as much money per annum as I did before my research. When I only had a Fine Art degree to my name!

Finding people who want to employ me. Who can understand what I bring to the table. A wasteland of blowing sands and drifting tumbleweed. 

Figures right! The thing that most defines management research is how little management thinks it relates to them. But an artist teaching some creative thought and soft communications. Pow! Get him onboard!

Didn't know that when I set out on my research journey. Do now!

An Entrepreneurial Strategy

So, what to do? I'm not getting any younger. My research and knowledge can make a difference. A significant one. But it needs to have an avenue. Or it dies in a cul-de-sac of frustrated endeavour. So, how to turn creative thought into impactful practice? 

This process has three stages.  All of which are vital for the entrepreneurial journey. Even if you are as a reluctant entrepreneur as I am. 

Experts must find your work creative.  Then your peers.  Then the wider public. You are not creative just because you say you are. Only if people across these three domains evaluate you as being so.*

* So says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The guru of creativity. The guy who theorised creative flow. Who I've been lucky enough to meet a couple of times. 

Hence my recent prolific blogging. To see if I can make an impact beyond the expert. That it's worthwhile continuing to do what I do. Not jack it all in and go back to the daily grind. I've at least passed stage one of the creativity test. Experts like it. 

Creativity: The Expert Space

My research has not been read by many people. Only by experts in the field. Partly, because most of it is locked into an academic thesis. And partly because it is so challenging to conventional thinking about management. 

SEGUE: I mainly talk about irony. Which most people equate to taking the piss. Being sarcastic. Snarky. And certainly nothing to do with leadership, management or organisations. Which are deadly, deadly serious. 

Precisely why irony is so bloody important!

So, what do I write about.

  1. Chapter one defines irony and sarcasm
  2. Chapter two examines how the language of management restricts creative thought and how irony challenges the former and activates the latter
  3. Chapter three illustrates and evidences how irony and sarcasm is an unavoidable side-product of strong culture and hierarchical management
  4.  Chapter four draws parallels between the rise of irony in organisational culture and the rise of irony in declining and decadent cultures over 2,500 years of human history
  5. Chapter five examines how the self-reflective aspect of irony informs the development of authentic living throughout the ages
  6. Chapter six is a four act play looking at how an ironic sensibility helps humans cope with the complexity and ambiguity of contemporary existence
  7. Chapter seven examines this coping method in action in a stressful and highly-complex working environment
  8. Chapter eight suggests the comedian Jon Stewart should be seen as an example of great contemporary leadership 

END SEGUE: Despite this eclectic and unconventional mix of ideas, I know it's good. Why?

My reviewers were all significant international academics with expertise in the field. All passed me with no corrections or revisions, which is very unusual in academia. Especially unusual given their heavyweight intellectualism. The below is the summary of their responses:

  • The reviewer most knowledgeable about the specific topics addressed in the thesis placed it in the top 5% and commended the university for making a quality thesis of this kind possible
  • The second (a Harvard top-200 Management Guru) described the thesis as ‘outstanding’ in its coverage and abilities
  • The third praised the thesis for the risky enterprise of adopting a radically different presentation style in line with its central argument.
  • A fourth has said that my thinking is at the forefront of modern debate. 

So, I feel that justifies my claim that I am at least above average in my thinking. And that, at least at the expert level, I am highly creative. Add value. Make a difference. 

Creativity: The Peer Space

So, am I creative in the peer space? Thanks to LinkedIn, I am also getting feedback from others who have taken the time to read my work. Peers, who are trying to do the same stuff as me.  

Some have started working with me. Purely on the strength of a few of my blogs. And some subsequent discussions. 

Some have helped me. Been so interested in my ideas they have taken the time to ask questions. To make suggestions. To help me to write better. 

A few have asked why I'm not working in a senior role for a top tier consulting firm. These are people who have either (a) worked in senior roles for a top-tier consulting firm or (b) have written best-selling books on leadership and innovation. So their opinions have weight. 

A few others have told me to write a book. Now. With no delay. Even suggested they'll help me meet some publishers. 

One has told me he's only keeping his LinkedIn account open because of my blogs. Which probably touched me the most. 

So, my peers, or at least some of them, seem to really like what I do. And how I think. So, I am beginning to find validation there. 

Creativity: The Public Space

But, creativity in the public space. Now, there's a challenge!

In fact, it's a number of challenges.

  1. I don't have an extensive professional network in Australia because my initial visa restrictions meant I couldn't work. For over four years. I am thus constantly playing catch up against competing players who could consult during their studies.
  2. My topic matter, irony and sarcasm, doesn't translate very well. Although it has a strong relationship to powerful themes impacting leadership and organisation, nobody knows this. Which makes it difficult to sell. 
  3. HR professionals cannot interpret my CV or understand my value. It's generalist in practice, but massively specialised in knowledge. So I don't fit. A square peg in a round hole.
  4. I have been scratching out a living. A bit of consulting here. Some training there. Some contracting somewhere else. Volunteering my skills somewhere else again. But very little that properly employs my knowledge to better management in practice.

So, at a practical, money-making level, I'm failing. 

Consequently, I am being forced to change direction. I know I have to better translate my ideas. No longer worry if they are attractive to world-leading management academics. Or management consultants and coaches. But turn them into something meaningful for leaders and managers. And the guys and gals who want to be future leaders. Build future organisations. If I can't, I'm going to go nowhere. Fast!

Thanks to LinkedIn, I have had some wonderful contact with people in this space. They can see the relevance of my thinking. It resonates with them. At least in part. And, wonderfully, they have taken the time to write to me. In replies to blogs. Via LinkedIn messaging. On Skype calls. 

Helping me turn my message into something more obviously powerful. The most useful contacts you can have!

So, once more a reluctant entrepreneur. Having to turn creative thinking into money. 

Who would like to finally make a living out of the thing he's spent ten years thinking about. But, slowly and surely, one who gets to meet and work with interesting people. Which makes him think the goal might finally be attainable.  With just a little bit more hard work. 

The Last Challenge

But I have one last significant problem. A final hurdle to overcome. I've horrendous imposters syndrome. So I can't do the self-promotional bullshit. Which seems to be more and more prevalent. Not just on LinkedIn. But everywhere in the HR/recruitment arena. 

In fact, I really hate self-promotional stuff on LinkedIn. It makes me uncomfortable. The whole notion that you have to be this extrovert salesman. Selling yourself. Isn't that the oldest profession? 

But, you know what? I should get over it. Because I need to better sell myself as a management thinker. And I am not an average management thinker. I believe I am an exceptional one. Perhaps in the top 1% of my generation. Critical and creative. Well-read and innovative. 

Not because I have ridiculous self-belief. A dash of narcissism. Or a dab of delusion. Imposters syndrome, remember! But because I have a fair bit of evidence telling me so. From experts, peers and, increasingly, the wider public.

From people I respect and trust. Whose opinions mean something to me. Who tell me to keep getting myself out there. Give me advice on how to meet the good and great. And how to get them to want to work with me. 

Which gives me the motivation to keep moving forwards. 

 

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The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

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Over twenty years helping people managing change understand why resistance happens and develop quality vital communication skills that aid successful business transformation.

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Research recognised as exceptional by world-leaders in the fields of power, leadership and organisational change, receiving considerable praise for its originality, depth and rigour.

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Extensive training, coaching and mentoring experience in professional development in well-known organisations, governments and business schools across the world.

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Consulting on change, transformation, culture, organisational narrative, innovation and creativity, and communications to private and public sector organizations and entities.

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