Building Innovative Agile Organisations

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Innovative, agile organisations thrive on rich interactions between people with different perspectives.

With insufficient diversity of perspectives, organisations get bogged down in old attitudes and behaviours. These may have served the organisation well in the past, but now prevent it from surviving and thriving in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous future.

But when diverse people are brought together, instead of innovation and agility it often leads to misalignments and fragmentation. Unless and until you systemically cultivate innovative mindsets throughout the organisation.

Without an innovative mindset, others who see things differently appear mistaken, misinformed and misguided.

The way we've traditionally organised, managed and measured our organisation encourages this effect, leading to fragmentation into fiefdoms, factions and silos where local perspectives become increasingly entrenched and those with different views disenfranchised and alienated.

This kills innovation and agility, which can only flourish when people who see things differently respect, value and integrate their perspectives to co-create new value.

Adopting an innovative mindset doesn't just tolerate others with different perspectives but actively seeks them out.

At the individual level, this mindset is automatically adopted when there's the understanding that none of us ever sees the whole picture in any situation and that other people's similarly biased, incomplete and one-sided perspectives enrich, rather than threaten, our own.

We become genuinely interested in what others see that we don't. This leads us to act and interact with the respect that breeds the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that's at the heart of an innovative agile organisation.

So, how do you enable and encourage the systemic, organisation-wide adoption of innovative 2D3D mindsets?

Unfortunately, the usual approaches to organisational change don't work: bringing in a 'team' of external consultants; publishing vision, mission and values statements; rolling out standardised training across the organisation; hiring an executive coach for the 'top team'.

The fundamental flaw in all these approaches is that they fail to focus narrowly enough and deeply enough to make sure 2D3D mindsets get adopted by key influencers. The knock-on effect of this is to block further adoption of innovative mindsets throughout the organisation.

Every organisation has its own unique set of key influencers whose attitudes and behaviours systemically affect everyone and everything else.

The pragmatic, low-risk, high-leverage way to cultivate a systemic, organisation-wide shift to innovative mindsets is by focusing precisely and deeply, first and foremost on cultivating this shift in the mindsets of key influencers.

The need to focus on key influencers becomes obvious the moment the penny drops that 'organisational culture' is simply the system of mindsets that forms and informs people's awareness of 'the way we do things around here'.

It's deceptively easy to get trapped in – and hard to escape – our narrow, biased and limited '2D' perspectives. That's because what we see can so easily become deeply enmeshed with our ideas about who we are.

The power of these 'Seeing-Being' Traps makes them the #1 personal barrier to building innovative agile organisations.

Key influencers caught in Seeing-Being Traps block the wider adoption of 2D3D mindsets, anchoring the organisation in past orthodoxies and stifling, smothering and strangling the innovation and agility on which its future depends.

For more than 30 years I’ve worked with senior executives throughout Europe, Asia and the US, helping them to build innovative, agile organisations.

Here are some example cases of systemically improving innovation and agility based on approaching 'organisational culture' as a system of mindsets.

These cases illustrate the systemic knock-on effect that a shift in key influencer mindsets has on everyone and everything else.

I've always been fascinated by how things work and how they can be improved through innovation. I've been based in Cambridge, the UK's innovation hub, since 1983. 

I started out helping clients leverage technology to build innovative products and services. Since 1986 I've been helping senior executives cultivate the mindset shifts that enable them to build innovative agile organisations.

Find out more about me in this video and on LinkedIn.

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