Welcome to the radical Briefing 0010. Here is a low ball question to get us started… (!) When you think about the future – does it fill you with dread and fear or hunger and excitement? Why are we asking? We are firm believers we will build the future we believe in. If we are not able to see and conceive a positive future, it’s not going to be easy, or perhaps even possible to build one. Fostering and embracing a positive mindset toward the future is critical for ourselves and our teams. We see passionate positive future builders and innovators inside companies with a particularly strong vision and mission to orientate toward. So if you want to embrace change, and move forward with intention and strength into this brave new world, getting clear on your why is half the work. Watch this excellent video from our radical Ally Kevin Starr on your ‘Eight Word Mission Statement’ and get started!
Workplace Rituals and Your Lobby
Talking about creating a positive future, one of the hardest things to do is to move (your) people to action. It is often not enough to express a clear and compelling vision. People might listen, but that, of course, doesn’t mean that they do anything.
Last week I had the great fortune to spend quality time with Frederik Pferdt. Frederik is Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist, a dear friend (and fellow German), and a brilliant thinker and doer. To overcome the above he developed a beautiful concept around workplace rituals. Small acts which allow an organization to infuse vision into the doing (and spark new doing altogether). Read his recent post on the subject on the Google Blog.
A related notion, and one of my prime litmus tests to figure out how an organization ticks, is to look at a companies’ lobby. Everything inside of a lobby (and in extension every office/room in a company) tells you a lot about the company itself. The things you put on the wall, the furniture you have, the way your people interact with visitors. All visible indicators of how you think about the company, your people, customers, and the future.
Formulate your vision for the future. Develop rituals embodying this future. And create an environment which speaks truth to this vision.
Insights worth reading this week:
The Immune System Response Vaccine
A good friend of ours Salim Ismail popularized the theory of ‘The Immune System Response’ via his organization ExO Works. Salim states just like the body, an organization also has an immune system. It happens naturally as a result and combination of your systems, processes, culture, and peoples’ mindset all working to keep the system running smoothly, thus maintaining the status quo.
That all sounds great, and in many ways, it’s critical to keep the company operating effectively. However, the immune system can also become over-active with incredibly damaging consequences. As Salim states “… when this happens, it can’t tell the difference between an innovative opportunity and a perceived threat. The organization’s immune system will go on overdrive to attack and disarm any disruptive innovation or new element threatening to change how the organization’s body currently functions.” This can mean potential innovation and market opportunities are missed, and perhaps even the company’s demise. Read the full and excellent article from Salim on Medium where he also outlines 6 Ways To Bypass The Immune System.
This got me thinking, what if there was a vaccine for the immune system response? What if we could prevent it from happening? What if it could never happen in the first place? What would be the antibodies we need to signal innovation and change are not a threat, and instead healthy for our organizational body? The answer is complex and we’re working on a longer thesis on this – in the meantime here are 3 very short areas to begin focusing on, all mindset related.
(1) Examine your perspective. Question not only others’ perspectives but also your own. Ask yourself why do you believe something to be true or not possible. What is underneath your reasoning? Do the same with your people and your peers and challenge perspectives. There are always more than one, often many multiple perspectives, with several equally being true. The more we can be present of mind about our bias, experiences, and yes even fears, then we will be able to see more clearly the decisions ahead.
(2) Practice leaping. Humans do not like change, it’s a human thing. And yet if we practice change often enough it becomes a practice, dare we say even normal. So leap proactively as often as you can. Hand in hand with leaping is curiosity. Changing because we want to learn something new, or experience something different is welcomed, desired. I would argue if you are not leaping to a new thing often enough, it’s time to work on your curious gene. A company with impassioned people hungry to grow will embrace innovation and be ready and willing to change.
(3) First attempt in learning [FAIL]. The immune system kicks in because it thinks the new thing is going to fail and destroy it. But if there’s already a culture of learning from mistakes, then we will be more welcoming of new ideas and more forgiving of failures. Plus, we will be even smarter because we will capture and embrace the learnings to inform our future decisions. The immune system response wants to keep things pristine, it doesn’t want messy projects and initiatives. We all must embrace learning over failure to succeed and make it through.
Preventing an immune system response is of course much more complex inside a large organization. Though, focusing your leadership and your people as much as possible on these three mindsets will go a very long way in creating the antibodies that know the difference between change and sudden death.
Leadership articles worth reading this week:
Meet radical Ally, Tom Chi
Tom Chi has pioneered a unique approach to rapid prototyping and leadership that can jumpstart innovative new ideas and move large organizations at unprecedented speeds. He was head of Product Experience at Google X, and currently works to accelerate a future where humanity becomes a net positive to nature.