This past week I observed something I never thought was possible. A team from a multi-national corporation transformed from fear and pessimism to innovation and optimism in 4 days!
Like Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile - this proves that your current culture is not your destiny. Don’t believe it when people declare that frustration and bureaucracy are their destiny.
Our destiny is what we make of it. It’s not static.
The scene was a Eureka! Accelerator session in Asia.
IT LOOKED UGLY: At the start, the quantitative assessment of their state of mind was very discouraging - fear, pessimism, stress. There was a feeling that it was their “destiny” to be miserable and frustrated.
Sadly, this is not an unusual situation in today’s world. Over the past 40 years we’ve seen steady declines in optimism, courage and engagement in large companies.
THE INTERVENTION: The project leader, Eureka! Ranch CEO, Maggie Nichols calmly laid out the data and lead a constructive conversation where the team was able to express their frustrations and challenges.
Then, before they could develop into a “pity party” she accelerated the session - flooding them with mind opening stimulus - technologies, trends, science, customers and new ways of thinking.
The folks attending got swept up in her momentum and a new energy started to develop across the room.
Just before each participant was to select an idea to develop and put into testing with their customers overnight she asked me to speak to them “from the heart.” To speak about why this was the moment when they had to believe. The moment where they needed to believe in their ideas, their team and their company.
Sadly - some 98% of the time - this is when executives take the path of least resistance and play it safe. They go for the easy, close in ideas instead of being bold and brave.
THE RESULT: This time was different - they engaged. All 20+ participants went big and bold. They wrote ideas worth doing. I was shocked and delighted. The results from customer testing was outstanding. And this was just the start this new spirit of courage, optimism, and meaningfulness stayed with group for 3 more days. Each day the ideas become richer, bolder, braver and more amazing.
The result from the session is an embarrassment of incredible ideas that can make a difference for their customers across dozens of countries as well as for their company. The end of the Eureka! Inventing session was a love in of hope, joy and possibilities.
WHAT CHANGED THE DESTINY OF THE GROUP: My hypothesis is that three things sparked the transformation fear to courage.
- LEADERSHIP: The leader of the group was not only in the room physically he was fully engaged emotionally. When the data was first revealed he didn’t dodge it, he didn’t make excuses, he lead by example - engaging in the creation of meaningful ideas, true ideas.
- PATIENCE: Maggie did an amazing job managing the group’s emotional state with empathy and understanding. She gave everyone space to make the change of mindset. When the moments felt right to her… she used me as a catalyst to tip emotions. Her patience was far greater than I would have, could have exhibited if I was leading the group. It’s something I’m going to have to work on :).
- DEEP DIVERSITY: The participants varied in job responsibilities, demographics and most importantly cultural background. I don’t know how many countries were represented but no culture even came close to 25% of the group. This deep diversity gave no group of participants a “safe haven.” Instead, the group created a “sense of belonging” to the concept of creating ideas worth reading and writing true sentences that define true ideas.
What I learned this week is that fear is not your destiny. Your future is not determined. You and your team can change your way of living and working - by focusing on doing things worth writing about.