In Chapter 7 the author continues by providing a new proposed way of looking at leadership - they are not judged by how far up they sit (e.g. - the authority they have), but by how well they utilize the resources at their disposal. He says instead of looking at leadership as a decision making process, we can look at it more in a design framework of emphasizing "pragmatic experimentation." It focuses more on how each person can make meaningful contributions to the organization and helping them rise to that potential.
He says that this design approach takes "creating space, sufficient support, and challenge so that people will be tempted to grow on their own or to create provocative competence." This demands people to stretch beyond their comfort level while enlivening activity and arousing the mind. He says that successful companies and leaders can sometimes get stuck in the "competency trap" of the strengths and capabilities that made them successful eventually becoming rigidities that block adaptation.
He continues by saying that provocative competence helps to push the organization through the competency trap. It is an affirmative move as the leaders sees the potential in their people and play to those strengths. They also provide enough of a safe culture for the employees to venture out and try something new. It is introduced by creating small disruptions to the routine so as to not overwhelm the employees, while demanding activity in order to ensure that people leap into action. The fourth element is to encourage repetition in order to create a new habit and finally it is linking the new with the old familiar ways of doing things in order to reframe the new concepts. In essence provocative competence is seeing the best in your team and your organization even if they are not working that way right now. He ends by saying "change isn't about blowing everything up; that chaos and headlines. Change that endures is about designing organizational structures to sustain successful existing procedures while simultaneously triggering improvisation and creativity beyond existing capabilities."
What are you doing to create provocative competence in your organization? Where are you stuck and need to challenge the competency trap?
In Chapter 6 Barrett continues by talking about the need for both leadership and "followership" in order for an organization to allow improvisation and (therefore innovation) to truly succeed. He says that "innovative breakthroughs are far more likely to result from social relationships, from conversations and dialogues between diverse groups with divergent skills, than they are from individual strokes of genius." As a result it takes deep generous listening by people within an organization to allow for different ideas to emerge and to nurture the potential in each other. Relational breakthroughs, therefore, occur through leading and supporting (by allowing other's potential to arise too).
Barrett continues that in organizations it is necessary to nurture leading and followership as a way of creating a "mutuality structure that guarantees participation, inclusion, and shared ownership." It also allows for new ideas to emerge from people who may traditionally have a silenced voice. He says that, "recent research on collective intelligence shows that when people are listened to deeply, groups themselves become more articulate and brilliant." This might mean not just listening to them, but also challenging them sometimes to get on track, wake up, and/or give them ideas which may get them unstuck. Finally he says that being much more sensitive to the collective good can help the whole organization.
In essence Barrett describes the importance of "followership" almost as a way to coach others to their brilliance. While a typical leader is often portrayed out front, he argues that it takes a unit, a collective, and a back and forth of leading and coaching others to step up to truly make an innovative organization.
Where can you follow or coach others to live up to their potential? When can you employ deep listening as a generous way to open up new potential ways of looking at a problem? How can you give space to others to brainstorm or open up new possibilities in the organization in order for the collective to become stronger?
In Chapter 5 Barrett continues by saying that learning within an organization (and in jazz) happens through being in close proximal relationship with someone who is more skilled than you and then putting that new skill into action. He also says that to be innovative people need to be around diverse kinds of people, networks, and groups in order to promote learning across traditional borders.
For example he describes Steve Jobs, when he was at Pixar, wanting to create a building that would encourage "hanging out and serendipitous conversations." They ended up designing a space with a central atrium which encouraged chance meetings as Jobs thought that random encounters sparked "improvised collaborations." He also describes the concept of crowdsourcing with the company Threadless. The company posts t-shirt designs online and customers vote on the ones that they want turned into actual products. He ends the chapter with saying that leaders can say yes to the mess by "surrendering control to the crowd and having courage."
How can you get diverse ideas into your organizations? What can you do to surrender control to others and allow for more innovation and collaboration as a leader? How can you develop more collaboration in your organization?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.