How do you lead when you don’t know where you’re going?

So, there’s a new philosophical discussion we need to have. It’s about new principles in the field of human studies. Throughout history we’ve seen times when you can’t solve new problems in the tried and trusted ways. It happened in physics, it happened in medicine, it’s going on right now with climate change and now we’re going through a time when organizations and businesses are being affected by very tough circumstances.

Resilience – Advancing Despite Adversity

And so what most people want to do is be resilient. What they believe resilience to be is to just fight through it and keep on going; to just make it over the next hurdle. To just keep on talking and making sure communication is on track, they say, and we’ll get through this. 

But I think that’s the worst thing to do and I think it exhausts us to pursue old ideas to solve new and evolving issues. 

Firstly, let’s just figure that resilience is important only if you’re focusing it in the right direction. If you focus it on the wrong direction what’s the point of resilience?

So the analogy I used in the talk the other day was if you’re in a house and in this house one side is burning and the other side is under renovation, you need to understand that just putting the fire out is not going to get you to where you need to go. Just focusing on the renovations and not putting the fire out will most likely burn the whole house down!

What do leaders need to do to move forward in these taxing times?

We need to be able to focus on one or the other, you can’t actually do both. If you do both it’s almost like being schizophrenic because you’re running trying to put this fire out while you’re doing the renovations, and guess what? You’re not doing any one of them well at all.

Economies of scale versus economies of learning 

So the thing that we need to focus on is that in this new world of business we need new principles and new philosophical ideas because for

 the longest time we drove economies of scale. It’s always been about bringing your cost down and your profit up.

But today we live in a world that requires economies of learning not economies of scale.

It’s how quickly you can unlearn to relearn. It’s about how quickly you pre-empt what your customers want and it’s not so much about efficiency but robustness. It’s about how many partners and collaborating teams you have around you offering as many different services and products within your field to make sure that you’re as resistant as possible to any of these sorts of disruptions. 

Today and Tomorrow Teams

These are big discussions and I don’t think anybody has the answer but I think what we need to do is understand that the idea of resilience needs to be put into the right format. So, this is what I advise organizations to do. Divide yourself up into today and tomorrow teams. Make sure you have people focused on putting the fire out today while other people are planting the seeds for tomorrow.

The most famous today and tomorrow team is Steve Jobs. When he came back to Apple there was the Lisa computer. He hated it but realised that he couldn’t create a new computer inside Apple so what he did was take his top engineers and some new ones to an office away from Apple, put a pirate flag on top of that, and they created the Macintosh that disrupted the Lisa. So, he had a tomorrow team that focused on disrupting the today team. 

If you’re in a position of leadership or if you have a business or if you’re in a position of Management realize that if you’re asking your people or if even you yourself are dousing the flames while doing the renovations you’re not doing anyone any favours. Think about dividing your teams into today and tomorrow. Good luck – it’s tough out there.

The article was published on John’s LinkedIn page!

John Sanei – Keynote Speaker & 4x TedX Speaker. Author. Futures Strategist. Human Behaviour Specialist. Faculty Member at SingularityU & DukeCE. Associate Partner at CIFS. Techpreneur.

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