166: Generating New Big Ideas from Your Hunches with Bernadette Jiwa

By June 12, 2017Podcasts

 

 

Worldwide storytelling authority Bernadette Jiwa shares how to tap into hunches to uncover your next great idea.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to begin trusting your gut
  2. The three qualities that cultivate good ideas
  3. The skill of selling your ideas through storytelling

About Bernadette

Bernadette Jiwa hails from Ireland, presently lives in Australia, and is a global authority on the role of story in business, innovation and marketing. She is also an advisor to business leaders and entrepreneurs, a regular keynote speaker, and the author of five #1 Amazon Bestsellers. Her website, thestoryoftelling.com, regularly tops blog awards in Australia. Her latest book, Hunch, released last week.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Bernadette Jiwa Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Bernadette, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Bernadette Jiwa
Oh, it’s a thrill to be here, Pete.  Thanks for inviting me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, you’re going to be doing some talks about hunches, and so I’d like to kick it off by asking you what have been some of your best hunches that have worked out in your work life or your personal life?

Bernadette Jiwa
Apart from choosing who to marry?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a good one.

Bernadette Jiwa
That’s a big one.  We’ve been together a lot of years; it’s 30 years actually.

Pete Mockaitis
Congratulations.

Bernadette Jiwa
Moving to Australia – that was a huge one for us as a family.  I had never been to Australia before we moved here almost 12 years ago.  And yeah, just had to trust our gut and go, as I say to people, and it’s just been a phenomenal experience and we love calling this place home.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’m curious with the Australia move, where were you coming from and what were the factors?  Apparently it was a hunch and not sort of data-driven analytics.  But what got you to say, “Yeah, let’s do it!”?

Bernadette Jiwa
I grew up in Dublin and we lived in the UK for a lot of years, where we were living, working and bringing up our family.  And honestly, it was really a lifestyle choice; we just felt that it would be a good move for our family and work-life balance, and it has been.

Pete Mockaitis
So in Australia they’re a little more laid back, or what’s the difference?

Bernadette Jiwa
I think there’s something about Australia that is a real “get up and go” culture.  There’s this belief that anyone can do it.  There are no barriers to entry and I love that, and I feel like it’s a very level playing field here.  So, I’m not sure that it’s the same in all cultures and that everyone believes that, so I feel when you live in that environment, you’re willing to take risks.  Speaks to some of the ideas we’re talking about in the book actually.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, perfect, so let’s talk about some of those.  You had a very compelling question there and I’ll let you pose it, about the Dyson vacuum cleaner and yoga pants.  What is it?

Bernadette Jiwa
Well, it’s “What do the Dyson vacuum cleaner, Starbucks, Instagram, Facebook, the GoPro camera, Lululemon yoga pants have in common?”

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us.

Bernadette Jiwa
They all came about not as a result of data-driven analytics, as you pointed out, but because someone who saw a problem that was begging for solution, trusted their gut and went for it, and persisted.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And so then, tell us when you talk about a hunch, do you have some layers to what makes a hunch a hunch, or is that just the sensation in your gut – that’s a hunch?

Bernadette Jiwa
Well, as I define it, you could say, “Well, I’ve got a hunch that it’s going to land on black this time when we spin the wheel”, and that’s not what I’m talking about really.  It’s not crystal ball gazing that we’re talking about here.  I am talking about in the business and commercial sense, and entrepreneurial sense, how we can learn to trust our gut by becoming more insightful, and then having the foresight to do something about what we see.  So, insights that come as a result of noticing patterns, and we do that with practice.  So, getting better at asking questions, and then when we find that insight, having the foresight to see the potential in that idea and to make a prediction about what could happen if you went with it.

So, if we think about something like the GoPro camera, plenty of camera companies had the opportunity to invent that, they had all the technology and the resources, but Nick Woodman, a surfer, who understood what people wanted in an action camera, started off with a small bet by creating a camera strap to try and strap cameras to surf boards, so people who loved surfing could get shots of them surfing.  And it went from there.

So his insights came from being intimately aware of the people he wanted to serve and understanding their world view and what it was they wanted to do.  He had a lot of practice at noticing them – he was a surfer himself.  And then he had the foresight to say, “You know what?  This could be a thing.”  He made a prediction that it would work and he took a punt and invested a small amount of money and just went with it.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, so I’m curious then, how can we have more of those in our lives?

Bernadette Jiwa
Wow, it’s interesting that people talk about where good ideas come from.  And I’ve started asking people to reframe that and think about who good ideas come from, who good breakthrough ideas come from.  And it’s about the posture you adopt, your way of walking through the world.  If you think about the people we admire and want to emulate, we perhaps think that their special skill is, “Wow, Elon Musk has a phenomenal IQ.”  Or Savant in Silicon Valley…

Actually there are lots of stories in this book about people from carrot farmers to physicians who just adopted this posture of noticing things in their world and noticing what was wrong and thinking about how they could fix it, what’s happening that shouldn’t be happening, and connecting the dots from there.  So partly it’s creating this thinking time and getting rid of our distractions, being open to discovery really.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  So there’s already several real pieces there.  One is noticing something; two is thinking about that something and the opportunity there; and three is kind of preserving, protecting that ability to think by purging some distractions.  So, do you have some best practices or examples or tips and tricks inside each of these?

Bernadette Jiwa
Well, in the book I talk about the three qualities that you need to develop in yourself.  When I was doing my research I was compelled to find out what these people had in common.  So they share these thee qualities, and we’ve all got  access to this.  So, curiosity – this ability to notice problems that are begging for solution in the first place.  And you can’t fix the problem unless you can spot it.  So, becoming more curious and asking more questions.

And empathy is a big one I don’t think we pay enough attention to, which is understanding why the idea will matter and become meaningful to people.  We all sort of fall in love with our own ideas, and when you see a product that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t actually catch on – let’s say something like a Segway – the disconnect there is probably a little bit of lack of empathy and understanding how a real person in the real world was going to feel, where they were going to use it and how that was going to apply and what you needed to do to support that.

On the flipside of that, you think about Elon Musk and Tesla and electric cars.  It’s not just enough to design a great car; you have to have the charging station, you have to think about how people are going to use it to enable the idea to fly.

And so, then the third part, the third attribute, quality you need to develop in yourself is imagination, and that’s connecting the dots between this idea and what it will change in the world, and then sort of making a leap really without knowing for sure that it’s true or it’s going to work.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  So then, within these abilities or skills there, how do we kind of cultivate or grow or get more of each of them?

Bernadette Jiwa
Well, one of the things is to look up and get our heads out of our phones and stop walking everywhere with our earbuds in.  It’s so tempting, right?  We want to optimize every minute of our day.  So, when I’m heading to the gym in the morning it’s tempting to stick my earbuds in and listen to your podcast, because I want to get some insights from people who have been and done or gone there before me.  And then I’m not allowing myself the thinking time.  So that thinking time’s really important.

I was listening to an interview with Sara Blakely, who is one of the entrepreneurs I feature in the book, and she talks about how she set up her life.  So she’s the founder of the Spanx underwear brand.  She launched this business with $5,000, it’s a billion-dollar business now.  And she lives really close to her office and she has a 45-minute commute, because she drives a very long securitas route round, and that’s her thinking time in the morning.  She actually deliberately takes the long way around, so taking the long way around is really important and giving ourselves time to think about our ideas and not just what other people are advising us to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so great.  So you have that time available, and so that enables you to have more curiosity and gauge the questions and see where they go.  And then how about some of the empathy piece?

Bernadette Jiwa
Yeah, well, it’s understanding why the idea will matter and become meaningful to people.  So, think about the people who come to a café for example.  Why are they there?  I worked with a client recently and his story is in the book, and what he did in terms of research and being empathetic about his potential customers, which is phenomenal – he went and visited so many venues, he sat in cafés and just overheard conversations, watched what people were doing and tried to understand why they’re in the cafe in the first place.

Normally why we’re paying $4 or $5 for a coffee is not because we can prove that that coffee tastes any better or has any better effect; there is something else happening there.  And that understanding of people in context – in their context, not just your outside view of them – is how you can get better at that.  It’s, again, being observant, taking a step back, trying to understand.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  And so then, I’m wondering – it sounds like these are pretty simple things, in terms of just making the time and walking and allowing some wondering and some observation.  Are there any particular exercises or challenges that you’d encourage folks to take on, in terms of building up these capacities all the more?

Bernadette Jiwa
Yeah, it’s a lot about asking questions, and that’s something I’ve noticed that is coming up time and time again.  There are more and more books recently about the importance of asking questions and I don’t think we do that enough.  When was the last time we sat down and said to ourselves, “Well, what’s happening there that shouldn’t be, and what’s not happening there that should be?”

I was on the tram the other day and I noticed a girl had her iPhone in one hand and she had a coffee in the other, and then she wanted to get into her bag.  And what she did with her phone was, she stuck it under her bra strap.  That’s really interesting, isn’t it?  What sort of little hacks do people use, what shortcuts are they taking in their own lives?

IDEO, the design firm have a great one, which is talk to people about what’s in their pockets or what’s in their bags, and listen to them – why is it important to them?  Why are they always carrying that thing?  Or why is their bag a mess, how do they organize their lives?  Things like that, this whole curiosity piece, and then trying to understand, make sense of the world really.  I think we’re very, at the moment, obsessed with what’s already known, instead of wondering about what we don’t know.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, intriguing.  And I guess I’m wondering right now as we’re talking, it seems like a number of these components are sort of physical products.  I’d like to get your take in the world of maybe services or solutions in the workplace or for a team.  Does that change the game at all?  Are there different questions that can really spark some great things there?

Bernadette Jiwa
Again, it’s about paying attention.  A couple of the stories I talk about in the book are service-related.  Physicians who came upon scientific discoveries but also who improved services to their patients because they were paying attention to what was happening in their practice, or actually what wasn’t happening that should’ve been happening.

Patients phoning up for appointments and not being able to get appointments and asking the question, “Why is that broken?”  If something is happening over and over again that we don’t like to see happening or that people aren’t happy about, why are we not finding a solution to that?  It could be a small fix; often doesn’t need to be a big fix.  So, the same applies in services – it’s usually something that’s broken that needs to be tweaked, and we can do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  And I guess I’m wondering then on the service or human experience dimension, I think that asking questions really becomes so critical, because I think we often are not even aware that something is broken in the first place.

Bernadette Jiwa
Absolutely.  One example that I was speaking about was physicians working in a practice flat-out thinking, “We’re maxed out with our appointments, we can’t take anymore.”  And coming up with a  solution, which was, “You know what?  When patients phone on the day for an emergency appointment, let’s not get the receptionist to try and defer them to another day.  Let’s give them a call back, let’s trigger something in our practice where the physician sits down at coffee time and gives them a call back to make sure that they feel seen and heard and that they don’t need to see a doctor in an emergency situation and we’re not taking risks with our patients.”  That’s one thing.  I also have a fabulous client who’s a dentist in Alaska – in the service profession obviously – and he has restructured his practice so that he can do the most treatments on the same day, and that’s his whole business model.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so good.  I don’t think I’m going to the dentist multiple times. [laugh]

Bernadette Jiwa
Yeah, how good would that be?

Pete Mockaitis
How did they do it?

Bernadette Jiwa
It’s his way of working, it’s his way of listening to the patient, understanding what it is they want, how he structured the business.  I can send you the link.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Bernadette Jiwa
It’s just he’s changed his business model so that he is coming from a place of doing what’s good for the patient and not just what’s easy for the practice to do.  Sometimes it’s hard.  He was telling me a story of a patient who came in at midday on a Friday and decided she wanted extra work done and he had to look to his assistant and say, “Who wants to work overtime?  Is anyone willing?”

So sometimes it’s about being flexible, but he had to notice to set that up what he felt was broken in some aspects of the profession or some things that he wanted to change before he could create that model.  So, we have to, again, have the foresight to make some kind of prediction about the ideal world people would love to live in.  And how excited were you when you heard about not having to return visits to the dentist?

Pete Mockaitis
It’s definitely a differentiator, in terms of, go once and then make another appointment and say, “Okay, I was sort of hoping to be one and done.”  So, that’s really cool.  Now, you also have a point about safety, like is it safe to try new things and having that belief and that comfort?  And I want to hear your take on safety.  I think sometimes the lack of safety is an illusion, like we’re scared for no good reason.  And I think other times, maybe in certain workplaces or cultures that are not as welcoming, it really might feel unsafe to propose something out there.  So, how should we think about that?

Bernadette Jiwa
I read this article recently about Elon Musk and it talked about one of his new ventures, and the commentator said, “Perhaps his greatest strength is that he is fearless.”  And I don’t buy into that at all.  If you really care about bringing an idea the world, you can’t be fearless.  You actually do care about the outcome.  Those two things go hand-in-hand.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Bernadette Jiwa
If you make small bets and if you’re in a workplace that’s not allowing you to be the person you want to be and live your values, then I guess that may be the more risky thing – to squash what it is that is really important to you, in terms of making a difference or creating progress.  And then you can always try things at home, right?  They say, “Don’t try it at home”, but there’re so many ways to make small bets nowadays.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some of those?

Bernadette Jiwa
Well, if you think about what we’ve all got access to – we’ve all got access to Etsy and Kickstarter and PayPal and things that would’ve cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up years and years ago.  We’ve all got access to WordPress and blogging platforms and Amazon CreateSpace.  There’s absolutely no excuse for not having the ability to create and to put an idea out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And inside existing groupings and relationships and teams, I guess one option is to get out and get a new grouping, a team there.  Are there any other pro tips when it comes to introducing or suggesting we do a small test or we get some input?  I’m wondering when there are third parties of power and influence and authority, how do you recommend navigating the social element of this?

Bernadette Jiwa
Some of it’s storytelling and showings examples about how other people have perhaps approached it, and then your ability as a storyteller to sell an idea is really important.  And the other piece, again, back to empathy is standing in the shoes of the person in the position of power and really trying to empathize with their challenges.

What is it that’s stopping you from getting them to a “Yes”?  Where’s their fear?  Because sometimes those decisions and often those kinds of “No’s” come from a place of fear or needing to protect something that’s already existing.  So empathy is a good one, and storytelling – we all need to cultivate that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well now, we can have a whole another episode about storytelling and your deep expertise there, but if you could indulge us with a couple perspectives in the realm of communicating hunches or new ideas.  Are there maybe just a couple of pointers you might offer in terms of making for some great storytelling?

Bernadette Jiwa
Yeah, there are couple of things you can do.  One of two things, as I spoke about, is to look at what other people have done and communicate those to your team, help them to connect the dots between where they are and where they want to go.  So, one of the other things you can do is just sit with some questions.  So, talk about why we’re here and how we’re going to get to there, and is what we’re going to do now going to get us to where we want to go?  So, showing examples and asking great questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, thank you.  Well Bernadette, tell me – is there anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Bernadette Jiwa
No, I don’t think so.  I think you’ve done a really good job of asking great questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you.  That’s one of the key things you want to do, so that’s good news.

Bernadette Jiwa
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, for starters, how about a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Bernadette Jiwa
My favorite quote is something that I have quoted in the book at the very start, which is something my friend and mentor and one of my favorite authors has said to me, and that’s Seth Godin.  And he said, “You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you.  And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Bernadette Jiwa
I am fascinated by the work of behavioral economists of all kinds, and Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky and the book that came about as a result of their research, Thinking Fast and Slow.  Another fascinating researcher in that field is B. J. Fogg.  If people don’t know of his work – the Fogg behavior model, where he talks about triggers and motivation and ability.  And actually that’s something that people could think about if they want to motivate teams of people to do something, to get to “Yes’s”.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent.  Yes, B. J. Fogg is so good.  I have shared his YouTube videos with my men’s group and said, “Hey, what are some tiny habits we need to make here?” So good.

Bernadette Jiwa
I feel like so many people have springboarded off his work to go on and create great careers writing books and whatnot, and he is the source, but people don’t know.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now we have a few thousand more are aware.  B. J. Fogg, so good.  And we hope to have him soon on the show.  And so, could you also share a favorite tool, something that you use frequently that you find helpful?

Bernadette Jiwa
Can I say it’s got to be my MacBook Air?

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Bernadette Jiwa
It’s got to be my MacBook Air.  Yeah, I still have an Air, it must be 7 years old and I can’t part with it, even though it really needs an upgrade.  Yeah, I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice that helps you flourish?

Bernadette Jiwa
I do sprint cycle training, which is high-intensity interval training on a bike.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I am a fan of the high-intensity intervals myself.  Can you share perhaps what made you go this route and why you prefer it to a steady state?

Bernadette Jiwa
It’s just I feel like those 30 minutes are time well-invested.  It’s quick, it’s high-impact, it’s high-energy, you feel so good afterwards, it’s efficient.  All of those things.  The economy and the payback you get I think are huge, and it gets you fit really fast.

Pete Mockaitis
Perfect.  And is there a particular nugget that you share in any of your books or talks when you’re working with folks that really seems to connect with folks?  An articulation of your message that gets them nodding heads, taking notes, saying, “Oh yes.”

Bernadette Jiwa
The one that people seem to quote back to me most is, well, a couple of things.  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy how it makes them feel.”

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.

Bernadette Jiwa
And if we think about everything from a $5 cup of coffee to a MacBook Air to whatever you can mention, that is the truth.  The Harley Davidson…  And anything, big and small.  And the other thing is, “Product minus meaning equals commodity and product plus meaning equals brand.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.  And if folks want to learn more and get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Bernadette Jiwa
My website the TheStoryOfTelling.com.  And if they want to know more about the book that I’ve just written, it’s Hunch.how, is the website for that book.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And do you have a final challenge or a call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Bernadette Jiwa
Yeah.  Look up, question, notice, make thinking a habit, and then go and create something.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  Well Bernadette, this is so fun.  Thank you.  Please, keep on creating.

Bernadette Jiwa
Thanks Pete.  It was a pleasure to speak to you.

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