Back in college, my professor divided my class into groups and gave each a common household item. My group was given a spatula. We were challenged to come up with a new use for the item. On the surface, the request seemed simple; but once we got to brainstorming, we found it hard to separate ourselves from the fact that it was a cooking utensil.
Leaders need to challenge their followers to look at problems from all sides and not just take what they see at face value. In doing so, followers are almost forced into becoming visionaries. Companies like IDEO have taken this idea and have run-or more like sprinted-with it. Just take a look at IDEO's video on redesigning the shopping cart. IDEO has taken thinkers from virtually every industry, put them in the same room, and have tasked them to redesign a commonplace item. This video uncovers the interesting dynamic that forms when a diverse group of thinkers are given a problem to solve. The process and the end result are pretty inspiring.
Although it is not feasible for most companies to hire professionals spanning multiple industries, there are a number of ways their leaders can cultivate this type of thinking in their employees. Training on design thinking, the practice used at IDEO, can teach people how to break assumptions and norms. Similarly, failure can be acknowledged as a positive step forward rather than a step back, and, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, employees can be encouraged to learn about their colleagues' work across the company. If employees are not given this push, they will stay within their comfort zone, uninspired or unmotivated, pulling from stale ideas that have worked in the past. This way of thinking does not propel an organization forward. Leaders must encourage wild, untamed ideas because that is the only way new innovation will arise.
Are You Ready to Ride?
Much like riding and maintaining a motorcycle, transformative leadership requires trust, dedication, and patience; it is not something that can be perfected overnight. Incorporating these four best practices - Holding retrospectives, Encouraging organization cohesion, Acknowledging the power of time off, and Breaking assumptions and preconceived notions - into your leadership style will set you on the right track to becoming more transformative. It might seem easy to sit back, but the benefits of enriching your followers are tenfold for the individual, team, and organization as a whole.
Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A Communication Perspective, Sixth Edition. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
Pirsig, R.M. (1999). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintained: An Inquiry into Values. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
About the Author
Megan is a consultant in our Richmond, VA office, providing Organizational Change Management and Business Systems Analyst support to Fortune 500 companies. Megan brings passion and energy to every project, eager to provide innovative design solutions tailored to each client's unique needs.