Is your mind open or closed for business?

May 12, 2011

We live in an age where we are expected to be certain.  And if we are not certain, we at least are expected to act as if we are.  The problem with certainty is that it can lead us to becoming closed to alternatives. The more that we match the expectations around being certain, the less likely we are to being open to admitting that our position may not be the correct one.  Certainty that is not open to challenge can lead to a dangerous approach that is more about command and control than it is about leadership.

Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer with N2Growth, writes about Leadership and Changing your Mind.  He talks about how “the rigidity of a closed mind is the first step in limiting opportunity”.  Leaders according to Myatt should be  more worried about the right outcome and not focus on being right.  Where leaders become obsessed about being right, those around them become less willing to challenge them which leads to group think and a failure to see problems before the arrive.

Smart leaders are not afraid of being challenged. As Myatt notes, they “don’t tell people what they should think, they surround themselves with great thinkers”.  Recognising that you may not have the only answer allows you to take on board other views, refine your position or even abandon a line of thinking as a bad idea.  ” When you fear being wrong more than being proven wrong you have arrived as a leader.”

Is it the situation not the person?

June 15, 2010

A very interesting article in Fast Company by Dan Heath (author of Made to Stick) looks at the impact that the Fundamental Attribution Error can have on how we assess behaviours.  Fundamental Attribution Error occurs when we attribute the behaviour of an individual in a specific context to being part of their core character.

A typical example is how we all can sometimes behave when in rush hour traffic.  Most of us have committed acts when driving that, while not life threatening,  are not always nice!  Do these acts reflect our real personality?  Do we react in a similar fashion in other contexts when under stress – probably not.

Sometimes we need to take a step back when assessing an unusual behaviour, especially one that is out of character,  and ask the question: is this behaviour a result of the situation or is it the person?

Creativity and Thinking in the Workplace

February 27, 2010

I recently attended a Creative Thinking workshop facilitated by Aaron Downes of Creative Development. A very interesting workshop, it made me think about whether organisations allow or suppress thinking in the workplace.  Do we foster independent thinking amongst our employees or is creativity frowned upon?

The greater use of standardised systems – such as reward and performance management – the greater danger that creativity is stifled as employees work to those standards only.  Equally managers feel constrained to manage and reward employee’s performance within a narrow defined range of objectives.  The systems become an end in themselves rather than a means to a better organisation. Such systems can straightjacket creativity by taking risk out of the equation.  When your reward – be it money or recognition – depends on not making mistakes, employees have little incentive to do other than play it safe.

What can organisations do to encourage creativity?  Crucially, organisations need to begin to develop a culture that values creativity, risk and failure.  They also need to give staff the tools to think different – be it De Bono’s Lateral Thinking or Go Mad’s Thinking Framework.  Finally, they need to give manager’s the space to allow staff to make mistakes without the fear of short term consequences.