Expertise – a double-edged sword?

You can only create a future-fit culture of innovation and agility when people in the organisation are energised, engaged and enthusiastic enough to make it happen.

Fortunately, that happens automagically once they see, clearly, with their own eyes, what’s been holding the organisation back and how they can help it break free.

That’s what makes the approach described in the Five Fatal Habits report 1 so powerful – it enables people in the organisation to see and remove the hidden barriers preventing the organisation’s own unique culture of innovation and agility from emerging and flourishing.

Most approaches to culture change aim to create a culture that conforms to a model designed, defined, or dictated by an expert.

Experts see things that others don’t – that’s their value. But the downside is that they’re the only ones with the eyes to see what their model ‘reveals’.

They can see things others don’t, describe what that means, and suggest what the organisation might do with their ‘insights’.

But the real magic only occurs when people in the organisation see what they need to do for themselves with their own eyes.

I first recognised how expertise can be a double-edged sword in the 1990’s applying the Unwritten Rules of the Game approach to culture change, working with its creator, my then colleague, coach and expert mentor Dr Peter Scott-Morgan.

Unwritten Rules remains one of the most powerful and effective approaches ever devised to create a new culture in an organisation.

But its main drawback, like all expert-led approaches, is that the insights it reveals are only really visible to the experts, not the client.

When we had decoded what really drove their organisation’s culture, a client could ask us how people would respond to certain events or interventions and we’d be able to describe with a high degree of confidence precisely what would happen.

But what we couldn’t do was transfer this ability into the organisation so they could see it for themselves.

Or rather we could, but it would have required one or more of their people learning to master the approach over several years, apprenticed to one of our experienced practitioners. And even then, they’d be the only ones to be able to *really* see it for themselves.

The fact is that creating an innovative, agile, adaptive, future-fit organisation isn’t about designing and implementing a new culture at all.

Instead it’s all about removing the hidden barriers preventing the organisation’s own unique future-fit antifragile culture from emerging and flourishing naturally and automatically.

Once this penny has dropped, you can’t help but see that the very idea of designing and implementing a culture of innovation is a complete oxymoron – because any designed culture couldn’t hope to capture or cultivate the organisation’s own uniqueness and, as a result, would quickly prove unsustainable.

The bottom line is that creating a future-fit culture of innovation and agility is all about unlocking the unique, natural, collective human capacity to continuously create new value that’s already innate to the organisation.

I’ve found that the best way to do this is in three steps:

Step 1: Help key people in the organisation see for themselves with their own eyes what’s getting in the way of innovation & agility.

Step 2: Help them see for themselves what they can do to remove these barriers.

Step 3: Get out of their way.

Real magic is never in what an expert can do for an organisation – it’s in what the people in the organisation discover they’re able to do together, for and by themselves.


Footnotes:
  1. Download the Five Fatal Habits report for FREE (no email signup required) here.
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