I once received a great compliment, although it was expressed more as frustration: “The thing that makes me crazy about you is that we talk about an idea, and by the time I’ve had a chance to think about it, you’ve already moved forward.”
I recall smiling, not at the reality that I was tormenting this kind leader, but at the fact that my creative disobedience had been uncovered.
To this leader’s credit, and with apologies for the frustration I created for him, he encouraged a culture of ideas to actions in pursuit of our broader goals. He understood that ideas and experiments are the building blocks of survival and prosperity.
Today, ideas that challenge everything about how you’ve done business in the past are the life rings of survival.
If your firm does nothing more than increment over what it has always done, it will end up as global road kill for a business born of digital DNA.
Surviving and thriving demands a different model of leadership—one that eschews the drive to coordinate and control. You want creative disobedience on your team, and that means that you have to purge the idea that it is necessary for YOU to “lead.”
Instead of an old model that emphasized bringing order from chaos and controlling risk through careful coordination and gatekeeping, your new role is to facilitate, encourage and help. An essential part of helping is shepherding ideas to experiments and experiments into actions.
You as a facilitator, guide and helper are responsible for enabling myoshu—something unexpected and brilliant. Our culture is filled with stories of myoshu, from sticky notes and clear tape to iTunes and Uber. Creating myoshu takes a different set of skills than we’ve traditionally asked of our managers and leaders.
It’s important to find and hone those skills.
Your competitors are or will be very different from the ones you face today. They don’t think like you do. At all.
- In a world where agility and adaptability win, these new competitors are unencumbered by the baggage of history or the drag of structures and equipment. They know that physical assets are the enemies of agility and adaptability.
- They view innovation as cheap and getting cheaper in a world of pull versus push. They pull the resources they need, including research & development, design, supply chain, and manufacturing, incurring just fractional costs as required.
- They focus on radically altering everything about how a service or offering is consumed, again, drawing on pull versus push.
- They don’t waste creative time trying to figure out how to control people through antiquated models of managing and leading.
For anyone accustomed to an older model of leading—myself included—this shift is uncomfortable. For some, it is impossible.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
There’s nothing that should feel normal about leading today. The seismic shocks from social and technological changes are perpetually changing the landscape. Your firm’s survival and success depends upon you letting your people invent the future. If the ideas look a lot like the past, you need to let go and encourage more creative disobedience.
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