In Chapter 2 of "Yes to the Mess" there is a quote from Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, "If you only extend into places where your skill sets serve you, your skills become outmoded." The author Frank Barrett says that organizational leaders need to be constantly challenging routines, taking risks and renewing old skills. He says that there needs to be some improvisation where an organization, working together, can succeed because they have faith that whatever is happening has the potential to lead in innovative directions.
He says that organizations, and leaders, can do this by being open to what can be created when "messiness" arises (e.g. - things that were not planned). He says that organizational cultures would be great where leaders and their organizations can all work together, responding to each other's needs organically, engaging in the moment, improvising as needed and leaning into the mess. He says the best leaders are not those who are predominantly analytical, but know when it is best to be fully engaged in problems/issues and in enhancing creativity and innovation. He says the first step to do this is through "an affirmative move." He gives the example of Michelangelo being able to see the sculpture David in the marble when the previous sculptor had discarded that same piece of marble 40 years prior.
Barrett says that people find it hard to say yes to the unknown ""because humans are profoundly loss averse; most people prefer avoiding a loss to acquiring a gain, especially in stressful times." He says that the best jazz players focus on discovery in times of stress, lean in, focus on the opportunities, and take risks. In high performance groups, such as in sports, Barrett uses the example of tapping into the power of expectation loops by focusing on success. He says there is a big difference "between eliminating obstacles and conjuring an image of success." He says that "research suggests that positive self-monitoring is more likely to lead to effective performance than avoidance goals."
Finally he says that improvisational leaders lean into the mess, ask questions, foster dialogue around possibilities, and create openings. They focus on what they can achieve and not the stable certainty. Are you able to lean into the mess or are you focusing on staying safe? Are you focused on avoidance goals or effective performance? Are you able to say yes to messiness?
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.