Do you really want good ideas? Who wants more good ideas? More good solutions to pressing problems? Who wants new and better answers to the difficult questions that confront us?
All of us, I’d imagine. Yet most of us are reluctant to step out of the safety of the known and the reliable to experience the uncertainty and diversity of the unknown. It feels threatening … like we don’t know who we are anymore if we surrender our attachment to certain ideas, ways of doing things.
Maybe this is why highly creative people are seen as Mavericks: they willingly and regularly swim beyond the borders of the known, to play in the grey mess of uncertainty beyond our current structures and beliefs.
If for an individual, this can feel identity threatening, for an organisation, this can feel destabilising, reckless or dangerous.
But if we don’t do it, nothing changes. It’s not that we need to change constantly for the sake of change, but rather that we exist in a state of flux, where growth and entropy mean nothing is ever really the same. If we do not ALSO move and change, we risk being left behind … and that which does not grow, stagnates and dies.
It is no coincidence that, as we move deeper into the information age, the lifespan of big companies is getting shorter and shorter. Once a business has grown beyond a certain size, it is very hard to keep adapting to the flow of new technology, updating your processes to accommodate it and adjusting your messaging to speak to the new markets that emerge as a result.
Many businesses are simply not set up to be this adaptive. Party because the people who work within them don’t believe they are this adaptive and also because many of those who run and manage such organisations fear the uncertainty of their roles in amongst this growth and change.
It is human nature to both stay in a comfort zone AND to innovate. We seem to not be able to help ourselves with either. But when the innovation requires such rapid growth, it appears threatening and induces a flight reaction (more like a hiding reaction really).
This is the central challenge of change: to adapt to change in increments small enough to feel known or safe, while still moving the pieces across the board. The status quo needs to be a place of mild, ongoing flux … not stasis.
Stasis comes from rigid rules and a culture of unthinking adherence to the rules. It comes from having no idea of the value chain, who or what is up or downstream from you and a lack of interest in how what you do impacts either of those areas.
In short, a lot of old-school management is custom-made to lead to disaster in a fast-changing, technologically driven market.
This leaves the Maverick ready and waiting to take over because they have already broken all the rules and glimpsed the future. For them it is not so scary, it just needs a plan … and they’ve probably already got half of one anyway.
So next time you say you want new answers and ideas, remember that you’re going to have to give up a lot, but then go on after them anyway!