"Do not try to do the great things; do the little things with love."
Mother Teresa

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 423

Estimated reading time:  2:45 minutes


Greetings from a cold and snowy Vancouver. We are shivering and sliding around today, as a pacific storm hits a cold front. That doesn't happen very often here, where having lived here for 30 years I can count on one hand the number of white Christmases. 


The weather has got me thinking about risk management, and old adages like ‘better safe than sorry.’ You may recall the family movie from a few years ago, The Croods https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fVCKy69zUY where a risk averse, “never leave the cave”, prehistoric family are thrust into wonderful and terrifying new world. 


There appears to be a tension within us somewhere between “never leave the cave” and “oh wow, that is really cool, I want a closer look.” Our brains are wired towards the former; likely for our own survival, but we are a curious species. One of the challenges we face though in the 21st Century is how “never leave the cave” becomes our only fear driven perspective. It leads to racism, to misogyny, to homophobia. And it leads to in and out groups within organizations. 


From a leadership perspective, in addition to the moral problems with exclusionary beliefs and actions, our brains do not work very well under threat. We move to narrow tunnel vision, mere compliance (rather than commitment) and the loss of creativity and innovation. I would hazard a guess, that somewhere in the strategic plan of your organization is some mention of a need to increase creativity and innovation. 


Here are three ways that you can increase creativity and innovation in your team.


Always discuss risk coupled with reward. Our brains will focus on what we are talking about and if we are only concerned with risk, that is where we will stay.

Put diverse people on teams. Mix up project teams by gender, age, and skin colour, as well as expertise. Diverse groups take longer to make decisions but their decisions, once made are always better.

Celebrate mistakes, sincerely.  Mistakes that have grown out of trying something new are signs of learning and creativity. It may not have worked, but at least we now know that. 


Our work in these times is about revolution; examining the assumptions we have had in the past, and turning them over as required. To live in a world where we cannot leave the cave, is to stagnate and die.