Several basic principles guide our work.
People support what they help to create. For centuries, the dominant management technique has been based on a top-down hierarchy where decisions made by a small number of leaders are imposed upon the rest of the organization. The serious flaw with this approach is the fundamental resistance of people to support and sustain something they’ve had no role in creating.
By contrast, we see again and again that when people from across the organization are involved in creating the solution, the solution is not only smarter, it is supported, fostered, and more likely to last. Participation and buy-in are central to all of our work – and not as vague platitudes. Every initiative we undertake will involve as much of the client organization as possible, from beginning to end. The results are dramatic – superior outcomes, supported by the people responsible for making them work.
Leadership liberates. Thriving living systems seek both order and chaos. It seems like a contradiction, but it’s not. Dee Hock uses the term “chaordic” to describe this tendency for top performing organizations (from schools of fish to corporate task forces) to both work cohesively for a common goal and sometimes abandon the rules to explore new possibilities.
Most corporate and governmental organizations are perfectly built for control, and entirely unsuited for chaos. Likewise, conventional leadership is all about control, creating goals to meet and rigid boundaries within which to stay. Conventional leadership assumes that every action will generate the desired result; that change can occur in a straight, predictable line. There’s no room for chaos in this model.
We believe chaos is just as important as control. We believe the shortest path to change is a winding road of learning. We believe the role of leaders, therefore, is not to create boundaries that control, but environments that liberate. People and organizations that are free to look beyond the conventional wisdom produce greater results than those that are restrained. When we work to build leadership – whether in one executive or across an entire organization – we strive to capitalize on both order and chaos.
Change starts with thinking. Einstein tells us: “A problem can not be solved through the same thinking that created it.” It is a change in how we think that unleashes the potential for change. Collective, generative thinking is the art and practice that fosters conditions for the generation of new thinking. This technique is central to all we do, helping organizations find answers not purely by seeking new information, but in unlocking new ways to look at information already available.