How can leaders prevent business disruption in this hybrid and virtual workspace?
Today we interviewed Brant Cooper, author of the book Disruption Proof (Release date: November 9, 2021). Brant suggests in a time of continuous disruption, we must spend more of our time innovating in what he calls “exploration mode”. Leaders need to be more open to trying things out, experimenting, exploring and finding solutions to near-term ever-changing problems. As companies innovate in their core businesses, they are working towards building a “RAD” organization (Resilient, Aware, Dynamic), so that empowered teams solve issues quickly, and the organization is able to respond to uncertainty with agility.
In a post-pandemic era leaders need to rethink their roles. Instead of thinking about innovation within a five or 10 year horizon, leaders must empower their teams to deal with uncertainty today and solve near term problems. This approach allows leaders and teams to be exceptionally skilled to Team Anywhere.
Why are Leaders having such a Hard Time Accepting a Hybrid Style of Work?
Many leaders are still using an Industrial Age mindset, one that believes the leader should know all the answers. This outdated mindset focuses on a centralized, top-down decision making style that causes leaders to think they are the only ones responsible for solving the problems.
Today, COVID has increased uncertainty in business at astronomical levels and the way of doing business is now radically different. Today, successful companies are depending on their front line teams to be heavily involved in both making decisions and implementing change. This approach is completely opposite to what many executives and leaders understand, but this is where true transformation happens.
Embracing Uncertainty Requires More Time in Exploration Mode
Executives and leaders need to step out of their executing as they did yesterday to spend more time exploring near-term solutions. Your leaders can’t buy into a long-term vision if they are crippled by current issues.
In the pre COVID era, work and leadership was centered around certainty. An average team would roughly spend 95% of their time in execution mode and 5% of the time in exploration mode. This worked in the pre-COVID era, but with so much uncertainty now, this approach no longer works. Today, leaders need to spend more time in exploration mode and use their innovative mindset to be able to solve near-term challenges.
The Shift from Managing to Empowering
When leaders rely on their teams to find solutions, they empower their teams. This gives the leader more space and time to remove obstacles in the way of the team. When teams are empowered to exercise their intelligence and their creativity, they are more engaged, enjoy their job, and look forward to coming to work. Leaders can begin to empower their teams by trusting them to solve problems that are low risk and create near term impact. Empowering teams in this way helps the teams demonstrate their ability to solve those problems.
Empowering teams creates a shift that allows leaders to spend more time doing strategic work. The leader then begins to get information that’s coming from their teams, ending the old top-down approach and creating a double-loop communications.
5 Elements of A Disruption-Proof Business
To build a Disruption proof Business, Brant explains that it’s important to build a RAD Organization (Resilient, Aware and Dynamic). A RAD organization is much like a palm tree that bends as it weathers a storm but doesn’t break. RAD organizations are flexible and strong. These organizations continuously gather data, collate themes, formulate external and internal trends, expand perceptions, and transfer this dynamic knowledge into strategic planning and everyday work. These organizations are able to quickly change based upon that new information.
A disruption proof business develops a deep understanding of their customers, colleagues and team members. Empathy requires listening deeply to what customers are saying and learning about their aspirations and wishes to develop insights. More than intellectual property or technology innovation, your competitive advantage is knowing something about your customers that your competitors don’t.
Exploration comes from a place of vulnerability where you admit what you don’t know, and then seek to discover what you don’t know. The exploration phase requires a learning mindset. As human beings, we go from not knowing how to walk or talk to going into one of our first jobs thinking we know everything. Exploration is a place of not knowing, running experiments, observing and listening.
Disruption proof companies use data and insights to inform their decisions, knowing they don’t want the data to completely make the decisions. We need evidence to inform our decisions. One of the best ways to overcome conflict with colleagues is to agree on experiments and then view the evidence to help make a final decision. Depending on evidence is a strong call that is better than sitting around a conference room table debating about what “best approach” to use.
Equilibrium is finding a balance between execution work and exploration work. During COVID, companies had to be in exploration mode again. Uncertainty causes the organization to think across the spectrum whether they should be spending time in execution mode or exploration mode.
Generally speaking, companies want to live and behave ethically and have their own personal morals and values. Yet studies and experience has shown that we have this incredible ability to rationalize our “ethical behavior” in any given moment.
We need to include our values in our missions to empower teams. We need to go beyond our highfalutin value statements and get down to clearly expressing what those values look like in our corporate hallways, zoom meetings, on-line communications, presentations, and written outreach programs.
To Be More Disruption Proof, Hold an Impackathon
Much like a hackathon where teams work together to build something over the span of a couple days, Brand recommends Impackathons. Over a couple of days, get your team together to practice the 5 elements of a disruption proof business (empathy, exploration, evidence, equilibrium, ethics) in service to the current challenges that your leaders have.
Through an Impackathon, you find out whether your team or organization already has a certain skillset as you drive near-term impact. This doesn’t have to be as formal as a hackathon, but it allows your teams and leader to practice new behaviors. Any leader could empower their team to help solve obstacles.
If we allow the structure of a company to transform into a RAD organization, the five components within “Elements of a Disruption Proof Business” become a more natural way of working. Many organizations want to emulate the success of companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, but they don’t realize that the structure of those organizations are completely different and operate like RAD organizations.
About Brant Cooper
Brant Cooper is The New York Times bestselling author of The Lean Entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Moves the Needle. He is a trusted adviser to startups and large enterprises around the world. With more than 25 years of expertise in changing industrial age mindset into digital age opportunity, he blends agile, human centered design, and lean methodologies to ignite entrepreneurial action from the front lines to the C-suite. As a sought-after keynote speaker, startup mentor, and executive advisor, he travels the globe sharing his vision for reimagining 21st century organizations. Bringing agility, digital transformation, and a focus on creating value for customers, he helps leaders navigate the uncertainty brought on by increased complexity and endless disruption.
To learn more about how to prevent business disruption, download this episode now.
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