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You Cannot Keep Spring From Coming: Resistance (to change) is Futile

The title of Aristotle’s “Politics” literally means “the things concerning the city”. It is the origin of the modern English word politics. In the book, he tells the story of a 7th century BC tyrant named Thrasybulus. Thrasybulus asked his fellow oppressor, Periander of Corinth for advice on how he should govern his people. Without uttering a word, Periander walked over to a grove of poppies and lopped off their flowering heads. The message was clear “do away with eminent citizens” and “don’t let them grow above their station.” This is (one of) the origins of the term Tall Poppy Syndrome. Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the mindset where those people who stick their head above the parapet are resented, criticized, and cut down.

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The Pain of Disagreement

Disagreement is painful. Burns’ work suggests that not only are our brains not wired for truly independent thought, but it takes a huge amount of effort to overcome the fear of standing up for one’s own beliefs and speaking out. Those people who speak up with the intention to course correct the business before a calamity should be welcomed, but they are often ostracised and outcast.

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The Challenge of a New Mental Model: Human SLAM

In a business environment in perpetual flux, we must learn how to unlearn, relearn and learn anew in permanence. Unlike robots, we have the ability to rapidly remap our mental models to adapt to big shifts in any environment. Doing so is often accompanied by concerns of what others will think, fear or failure or the worry that we may encounter setbacks and shame. Robots do not feel that, that is a human frailty. To recalibrate to relentless changes in our world, we must not cling too rigidly to our business models, nor our mental models.

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X marks Exploit, Y marks Explore

I am preparing a workshop for a client designed for a group of newly minted leaders. I want to demonstrate the differences between leaders and managers. However, I also want to highlight that being a leader and manager is also contextual, in certain cases we need to be more “managerial” (or theory X) in our approach while in other scenarios, we need to exercise our leadership skills (theory Y). Beyond these contextual situations, we must be aware that we manage things, but we lead people. Furthermore, when we operate in a world where both the problem and solution are known, management is useful. However, when we live in an unpredictable world, our inner leader must emerge.


Innovation Improvisation: Jazz Hands

In Innovation work, it is no different.

We must have extensive knowledge of our industry, of adjacent arenas. We must read widely and eclectically. We must dream big and experiment small.

A huge mistake in innovation work is to hire someone in an innovation role who is all chaos and no order. If you do have an innovator who lacks discipline, then it is important to support them with a do-er. While vision without action is a daydream, action without vision is a nightmare.

Talent without discipline is not enough.

Wonder without rigour remains wonder.

Chaos with order remains chaotic.

One final thing in Innovation is that Innovators need leadership air cover in order to succeed. When you are improvising you are going to make mistakes. It is only through embracing the mistakes that breakthroughs emerge.

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Espoused Neurodiversity: The Change Maker and The Green Mile

While it is natural for organizational neurotypicals to misunderstand changemakers, it is very hard to stomach the incongruity, the mismatch between the espoused values of the organization those values in practice. Innovation and change need friends in high places, without the air cover of leadership in organizations those people who can unlock future growth in organizations will leave to find authenticity and fulfillment somewhere else.

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