In this series, I am introducing you to the twenty superpowers that leaders need to possess to create an environment for resilience. This is an environment in which individuals and teams are resilient in the face of constant change.
Individual resilience is critical when the world around us is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Resilience means we can adapt to difficult situations and not just survive but thrive. Unless we do, the stress will overwhelm us, and we will suffer physically and mentally.
Each week we will explore one of those twenty superpowers.
Superpower: The Caretaker
The Cultivator creates the environment for innovation.
Organisations that cannot innovate to stay ahead of the game will cease to exist.
Employees who do not feel safe to contribute through creativity, experimentation and innovation will have low resilience. Therefore, as a leader, you need to cultivate an environment in which innovation thrives.
Psychological safety is key to innovation. An environment in which everyone feels safe to try new things, however crazy they may seem, is imperative. Everyone should feel free and safe to challenge the status quo and suggest potentially better ways of doing business.
Every idea should be heard and given space to be considered. It is easy to tear down ideas, but the best people bring bricks to help build something. See The Caretaker.
Encourage out-of-the-box thinking
Encourage people to challenge the status quo and think differently.
The Apple ‘Think Different’ campaign video transcript (1997) sums up the thinking that leaders need to encourage:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels, the troublemakers, those who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough, to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Create an environment of imagination, exploration, and where people are free to ask “what if?”
Don’t let the naysayers spoil the party.
Give people the time to think in this way.
Experimentation leads to innovation.
Leaders have to encourage experimentation. This means allowing people to try new things and to also get them wrong.
A “right first time” attitude will kill innovation. Experimentation is about making mistakes and learning from them. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Reward and recognition
Recognise and reward those who are pushing the envelope and trying new things.
Recognition can be a verbal acknowledgement. Reward can be a couple of movie tickets or retail vouchers.
Innovation and experimentation should be honored.
Allow and celebrate setbacks
Setbacks are part and parcel of innovation. Every setback is a step nearer to success, so they should be celebrated as a learning opportunity. Analyse what went wrong and how to make it better.
Leaders have to provide autonomy for employees to innovate in their own way. Micro-management is another killer of innovation.
Waiting until you have all the facts and data will not lead to innovation. Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of VISA said:
Making good judgements and acting wisely when one has complete data, facts and information is not leadership. It’s not even management. It’s bookkeeping. Leadership is the ability to make wise decisions, and act responsibly upon them, when one has little more than a clear sense of direction, proper values, and some understanding of the forces driving change.
It requires true leadership. It requires those who can go before and show the way. It requires educing the inherent integrity and virtue that lies within everyone waiting to be aroused and brought into play.”
There has to be an element of acceptable risk in order to enable innovation.
When hiring, leaders should seek out the innovators. These are the people who are intellectually curious. If they are asking questions about the organisation and probing deeper than the information available on the company website, it is likely that their curiosity will continue once they have been hired.
Ask potential candidates to give examples of when they have experimented and come up with innovative ideas.
Innovation is everyone’s business. Leaders need to make innovation an integral part of every employee’s job. Innovation does not happen behind a closed door with an Innovation Lab sticker on it.
Innovation often happens with the people working closest to the opportunity. The retail worker, the call center operative, the brick layer, the train driver etc. These are the people who, when encouraged to think creatively, will come up with innovative ideas for improvement.
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