I was fortunate to recently be in Melbourne at the Australian Institute of Management breakfast at which Stephen Lundin spoke about his new book – CATS: The Nine Lives of Innovation.
You would remember him as the author of the best selling book FISH : A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, which was inspired by the Pike Place Fishmarket in Seattle. Remember the message in FISH – Be There; Play; Make Their Day; Choose Your Attitude – simple but immensely powerful. The Pike Place Fishmarket, as a result of his book, is now an international tourist destination!
CATS, his new book,is the same – a simple but powerful message, communicated within an innovative framework via a fun process that makes the message of innovation accessible to all. So if innovation has always been a mystery, or even a threat, then this book is worth a read.
A CAT, for Stephen and Jimmy Tan his co-author, is “an everyday human being who learns how to release his or her creative potential and develops the skills and understandings critical to innovation”, those creative and imaginative people who are invaluable to any organisation caught in the rapidity of change in the twenty-first century.
This book is a journey. It takes you through a process of discovery. You need to read it through once and then go back and work it through, or better still buy the accompanying workbook CATS: The Personal Guide. It organises and presents the principles of innovation in such a way that you can understand and see what you need to learn and how you need to grow to be innovative. Underpinning the book is the assumption that “all human beings are capable of amazing individual acts of innovation” that will enhance their lives. In other words, we are all capable of becoming CATS.
What makes this book different to so much of the reading I have done on innovation, however, is that its message is that innovation begins with the individual and that it begins with being innovative in the ordinary and the small in our lives. That’s where the process of becoming a CAT begins. Innovative organisations are just organisations with lots of individual CATS in them who are supported by a seasoned CAT that Stephen and Jimmy call a CAT Wrangler – a leader who knows “the difference between a meow and a purr”. You’ll have to read the book to find out what those kinds of leaders are really like!
The journey they take us on teaches us how to deal with the four challenges of innovation, live the nine lives of CATS and earn the five CAT Belts that tell us how successful we are as a CAT and even what sort of a CAT we are.
For Lundin and Tan the four challenges of innovation are:
1. Overcoming our doubts and fears.
2. Getting beyond “the normal”.
3. Creatively managing failure.
4. Leading through change.
The nine lives are:
Life One: CATS overcome the clutter of life.
Life Two: CATS are always prepared, especially for the unpredictable.
Life Three: CATS know that innovation isn’t normal.
Life Four: CATS welcome real provocation.
Life Five: CATS promote imaginary provocation.
Life Six: CATS say “How Fascinating”!
Life Seven: CATS fail early and well.
Life Eight: CATS pounce on change.
Life Nine: CATS love CAT Wranglers.
All through the book there are practical examples and exercises to do, ways to become a CAT, ways to deal innovatively with our lives, enhancing every aspect of them. Towards the end, however, you can go for your CAT belts. There are five exercises to do, each of which requires some commitment and time. The completion of each exercise sees you earn a CAT belt – moving from level one to five.
This book promises to have as big an impact as FISH. As the back cover of CATS says: “Innovation is about you, and how you decide to understand it and use it will lead to a rich and productive life.”