In my job, I hear many executives asking “to shake the tree”. What does that mean ? The temptation to just “Pump-up-the-volume” or let the innovation engine run “red hot” is just around the corner. “Let’s come up with a list of hundreds of initiatives and “tricks”, and we’re done.”
Tick ? Don’t think so.
Before discussing the “how”, any organization should first have a look at the “why”.
Usually, the why has to do with creating a more agile organization, waking up the entrepreneurial spirit, in other words to “un-trap” the creative juices.
And to do so, work is needed at the foundations. It’s about making the organization healthy, fit and un-trapped. This has nothing to do with six-sigma, lean, or other way to improve the efficiency of the organization, the efficiency of the organizational “body”.
What we are talking about here is
of the organizational “mind”
The expected outcome of pumping up the volume and the fitness of the organizational mind is a
With connected healthy internal and external primary and secondary circuits.
In between the “why” and the “outcome” is the “how”: the set of tricks, tools, and processes that enable a connected and innovative organization.
As mentioned above, I can easily produce a list of hundreds of new or enhanced innovation initiatives and that set of “hows” will be the subject of one of my next blog posts called “Pump up the (innovation) volume”.
But first, we must focus on the “why”.
We must make sure
that the roots
of the mind-tree to be shaken
Make sure that the “connections” between the people of the organization are open and healthy. That the rotten apples – both people and processes and cultural dysfunctions – are eradicated. That the connections are such that they encourage acceptance.
Acceptance at several levels
Let’s look at a framework for these connections, the circle of acceptance.
All credits for this framework go to André Pelgrims, who is our team coach for team-dynamics. You can read more about André here. Every organization should hire one or more “André’s” to make their culture programs real. (Disclosure: I have no shares or business relation with André, but he was one of the coaches of the Leading by Being (LBB) program I already mentioned so many times on my blog; stronger, LBB was the reason to start this blog)
The first level of acceptance is being accepted as a person. In our full authenticity. Watch carefully yourself when you meet a person for the first time. What is your screening mechanism: is it respect, space, trust, or something else ? And how much are you trapped in this specific mechanism ? A person that “passes” this initial 15 sec check will be accepted by you as a person. The effect is that person will give you energy.
However, if that person pumps-up its space, trust etc, then that person will start being an energy drain for her colleagues. It happens when people bring into the team the baggage that is not related to work. They don’t even have to talk about it, they bring it unconsciously with them. The art is to be aware of it, in the present moment. And not let it develop as the personal drama. Then it becomes an energy drain. Personally, I need space and silence. If not, I get drained.
The second level of acceptance is being accepted in your role. Only then you can create impact. When people make themselves (ie. their role) look bigger than they are, then we enter the space of
The third level of acceptance is being accepted as a change agent. Only then you can create a new type of dynamics, only then you have the right to shake the tree. It’s the moment where you don’t have to sell yourself anymore, you are being called. Again, when one tries to show bigger than one is, one ends up with
The awareness of these circles of acceptance are particularly important for innovation teams, who are supposed to keep the fire of innovation burning throughout the organization. Not only the innovation team must maintain healthy connections within the team, but especially in all its relations with its stakeholders. You can shout “change” as much as you want in an organization, if you are not accepted as a person, in your role as innovator, and genuinely being called, you can forget about all the “tricks” you have in your pocket. They remain what they are. Tricks.
Therefore, I prefer to being called as-a-person. The tricks are a bonus. Some people think they have no tricks. I don’t believe that. But even in the hypothetical case that you don’t have tricks, you can still give energy, have impact and being called as a change agent IF you are accepted as a person.
I want to be called as a person
I want to be loved
Recognition is not good enough. Recognition is like a compromise: if I am not capable of receiving love, I compromise on recognition. That’s why a tap on a shoulder, a holding arm, a hug are only relevant if they are real. The animal in us just senses when these are un-real.
So, what does it take to be real ?
In addition of having acceptance at all levels, what else is required ? For me what makes the real difference is the way a person approaches me with a healthy mix of love and courage, combined with an equally healthy balance of guilt, shame, and vulnerability. With respect for primary and secondary circuits.
The Love/Courage mix:
- I may have a lot of courage when giving feedback to a colleague, a partner, a business partner, etc. But if this courage is not rooted in a feeling of love for that other person, then I end up with “active destruction”, the effect of a dirty forward tackle in football. Many companies have unfortunately a culture of forward tackle.
- On the other hand, when I approach the person with love but without courage, then the effect of my intervention is one of “passive destruction”, unaware of the emotion
The Guilt/Shame mix
In a very similar way, guilt and shame go together. Guilt without shame is inwards focus. It leads to depression, in a slow and creepy way. Leading to aggression against yourself. On the other hand, shame without guilt is again like the forward-tackle. Not creepy, but blow in the face, active aggression against yourself.
Vulnerability. I have already very often mentioned vulnerability in my blog posts. Suffice to say here that showing vulnerability in the safe primary circuit should be ok. Only works of course if the connections in that primary circuit are healthy.
Illustration by Hugh MacLeod
Secondary circuits. Last but not least, let’s pay some attention to secondary circuits. There is nothing wrong with secondary circuits. On the contrary, they need to exists to feed a healthy primary circuit, to be supportive of the primary circuit. The problem starts with secondary circuits that are NOT supportive to the primary, and even are counter-productive. Those are the rotten apples. But the secondary circuits need to be made explicit. And for a really healthy system, it would be better that many of the secondary circuits’ discussions are held in the primary circuit for the benefit of the whole team.
Our goal should be
to make the primary circuit stronger
than the secondary circuits
and not the other way around in many organizations.
What happens a lot in “shake the tree” experiments, is that one or more levels of acceptance are skipped. Or that awareness about the effects of energy drains, power games, and illusion building are being denied. Or that we don’t expose the right mix of love/courage, of guilt/shame, of vulnerability in our day to day connections. That we start jumping into the “how” before questioning the “why” and the desired outcome.
Therefore, let’s first check if our connections are pure, healthy and real. This is the only possible foundation for a deep change that is sustainable on the long term.