As an African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Aurecon’s Giam Swiegers believes this motto can drive people, organisations, and even nations, yet a ‘me first’ culture may be standing in the way. To get anywhere in 2018, you’ll need to get over yourself, he says. Here’s why.
Sometimes, it’s the simplest ideas that have the potential to make the largest impact. In this case, there are six simple little words we believe contain the missing links to the kinds of engaged and positive cultures we seek to build. When applied regularly, they’re packed with game-changing possibility and can unlock regenerative powers.
You can even say them now with us.
“I don’t have everything it takes.”
There. Not so bad? In fact, this simple self-confession could become your organisational lifeline in 2018.
Today’s best teams are learning that if you want to unlock creative genius, you’ll have to learn the power of ‘us’. In his book Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, author Warren Bennis puts it this way: “There are two ways of being creative ‒ one can sing or dance, or one can create an environment where singers and dancers can flourish.” If you can’t do the first, you’re off the hook; not everyone can hold a tune. But everyone, on the other hand, can cheer the singer on. Imagine a culture where the audience in the shadows was as important as the singer in the spotlight. If everyone operated in such a way that the other person was given the voluntary preference, what could that organisation not do?
“None of us is as smart as all of us,” Bennis reminds us. In 2018, let’s get smarter and get over ourselves, so that we can get on with the work of fixing the world, together.
So long, Lone Ranger
The human race has always had a thing for heroes. Our textbooks are peppered with tales of impervious, ’larger than life’ leaders whose capacity always seems to be bigger than the adversity they face. We love the image of the Lone Ranger ‒ the leader à la Steve Jobs who rewrites the rulebook and smashes down the walls of status quo. Although we know no person is an island, leaders often act like one.
But in today’s sophisticated and complex digital world, we can’t afford to put the powerful few on pedestals and assign heroism to leadership (only). Our previous paradigms of the Great Man or Great Woman are simply insufficient to solve the challenges we face. “We’ll need not great leaders alone, but great leaders who exist in a fertile relationship with a Great Group,” says Bennis. In a fluctuating disrupted business world where time is of the essence, we have no choice but to collaborate. There is simply more we can achieve when working together, with each individual’s talents activated and celebrated.
It’s been said, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” Teamwork is the stuff that can take a common set of people and produce uncommon results. And, given the exponential rate at which innovation is cruising, we desperately need our legacies to pave the uncommon.
There’s strength in difference
We all want to build a “Great Group”, governed by “webs of voluntary, mutual responsibility”. We want to be masters of what we do, because we are passionate about why we do it. But we’d do well to remember that true masters are not intimidated by divergent thinking. In fact, diversity is required to hone and develop your craft; unusual ideas (and the people who share them) are very, very necessary. Opportunities to be challenged ‒ even contradicted ‒ can fuel a more resilient and robust organisational culture.
The key to ‘organising genius’ is to start by believing there’s genius among us ‒ and it’s worth the cost to leverage it. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Great ideas can’t grow underground. We need to create platforms on which ideas can germinate and people can flourish in the light. We need to keep fostering unconventional thinking and encourage questions to be asked ‒ even if the answer never comes. People need to be given licence to think and dream and imagine, with a commitment from top leadership to talk less and listen more.
To make 2018 our most successful year yet, we will need to reflexively tuck into team mode and draw from the exceptional power of creative synchrony. Let’s change our aspirations from ‘I’ to ‘us’ and see just what we cannot accomplish through this reformed perspective. It starts with me. But let’s have it end with ‘we’.
Read more from Giam Swiegers on Aurecon’s Just Imagine blog.