Crisis precedes innovation
Just before innovation people feel, frustration, stress, even hopelessness.
For example, your company raised the performance bar while restricting resources. The people “up stairs” don’t get it and you just know you’ll never succeed. Frustration precedes innovation.
Demanding clients that challenge proposals, costing structures, or deliverables, create stressful innovative moments. Stress fuels innovation.
Relationships on the verge of disintegration, if they don’t dissolve, are ripe for innovation. Relational intimacy blossoms on the other side of hopelessness.
Leaders recognize that frustration, stress,
even hopelessness precedes innovation.
If you feel the black abyss of crisis dragging you into the darkness, don’t run. You could spit in your hands, tighten your belt, dig your feet in the starting blocks, and innovate. Or, you could embrace and then transform the dark.
Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Don’t solve every crisis. Learn to walk away. Here’s one way to know when to step in or turn away.
Step into storms that stand between you and your mission and vision. Turn away from the others.
How do you decide when to step into the crisis or walk away?
How can leaders innovate through crisis?
I love the line ” Step into storms that stand between you and your mission and vision. Turn away from the others. I appreciate your effort to bring new insights to community. I would rather say it alignment. When things that align to your purpose, accept it. The things that distract you from your purpose, reject or resolve it. I think, when you have resources to face crisis, step in or walk away. I don’t bother about magnitude of crisis but worry about trustfulness of elements. Even a minor crisis can shake you when you do not have tool or resources. on the other hand, even macro crisis will be easy to face provided you have best resources to fight it.
Crisis opens up options. Options provide opportunity to trade off with resources and strategy. Crisis challenges confidence. When leaders face crisis, the real test starts from there. So, when leader focuses inward then he evaluates his exiting belief,thoughts, ideas to face the problem. When he finds himself helpless, then he challenges his belief and this process forces him to look for various options and this leads to innovation.
I believe in this lines-“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” There is a thin line between success and failure. Many a times we give up our effort, lose confidence. I think, consistent effort with strong determination bridge the gap between failure and success.
Always a pleasure! Thank you for consistently adding value.
I love the idea of alignment as it relates to innovating through crisis. I believe we can lose focus and therefore lose alignment. Great comment.
One theme I see in your comment is confidence. People lose confidence during crisis. More and more I see that healthy confidence (not hubris) makes all the difference in our attitude and approach to life in general.
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
To me Hubris is a new word. It means excessive self confidence. I feel, when confidence becomes excessive, it turns into arrogance and that is ruinous to self and disastrous to others. It is so true that healthy confidence is a mentor and excessive confidence is an enemy.
I needed that reminder. It is so tempting to be deceived into thinking I am a good leader because I persevere through every struggle that presents itself. But some of those struggles are a waste of time, were created by people who just thrive on chaos, or aren’t MY struggles at all, and someone else is supposed to learn perseverance through them. Being a good leader means wisely picking my battles as well as fighting through them to the victory.
You honor the community with your insight and personal application. Perhaps one of the greatest leadership challenges is letting go and trusting others to solve their own issues. Obviously its dangerous because things could get out of hand. Thats where training, mentoring, and coaching come in.
The dark side of solving other peoples battles is we subtly say, “You are incompetent to solve this on your own.”
Spot on Sabrina! You clearly identified one of the demarcations of a good leader and of a great leader.
In some ‘crisis’ situations, the best practice is often to ‘let the chaos be’ as it will run its course and new options will appear. Is it uncomfortable for a ‘servant leader’ mindset, definitely!
From that discomfort may come the next excellent leader and a new collaborator to work with you and advance the vision.
Once JFK quoted “Kites rises highest against the wind and not with it” , true in words and in scientific approach also. Had their not been crisis, man would have remained as homo sapiens only e.g; the new age communication gadgets would’nt have seen the light of the day had there not been a crisis of faster and error free communication . Man considered to be the best creation of God has been empowered to think, analyse, prioritise and execute and these qualities come handy in handling crisis (i prefer calling it challenge). The prioritising function enables one to understand whether to take up or turn away. Its all about the mindset of the person while executing the prioritising function, depending upon one’s knowledge, experience, exposure and troubleshooting skills
Thanks for your comment.
Crisis or Challenge can disorient some but setting priorities helps keep one focuses.
I’ll add that clarity about ones values, mission, and vision help identify priorities.
I welcome you to leadership community. I agree to your point that kites rise highest against the wind and not with it. Here I see wind as a circumstances and kite as a value. Circumstances will always exist and values always march against odds. I also agree that innovation and execution depends upon mindself of people but the major question comes, what drives mindset?
I believe that human needs, desires and intentions drive mindset. Value shape them. Without values these drives becomes self centric and often harms people, organisations and society.
Another excellent, thought provoking post! I agree with Ajay that your quote “Step into storms that stand between you and your mission and vision. Turn away from the others” is a real gem! I find that the best way to innovate through a crisis is to seek out advice from others. This could be through forming a team to collaborate with, increasing my knowledge on the subject matter, a conversation with my coach, hiring a consultant, seeking out a mentor, etc. Personally I’ve found that my success rate in working through crisis is much higher when I seek help from others than if I try to do it on my own.
Ka Ching! You’ve added an actionable idea to the conversation. I’m in 100% agreement. Bringing the outside in creates an innovation opportunity — if we listen!
I’m so glad to see you again.
Best to you,
Hi Dan I love the graphic on today’s post. That is very innovative on its own right. Crisis, Chaos, disruption, and confusion stared at with the right lens can lead to opportunity and re-energize a leader who has his MVV challenged and he is wanting to navigate the “rough” seas and get back on course or better yet set new goals and destinations that still resonate with the organization’s vision. Since you quoted Edison,I will provide another by him which comlements this theme. “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overhauls and it looks like work.” Leaders should run from crisis when it seriously takes them “off course” or threatens the deep moral turpitude of the organization and its stakeholders. Just because war may be profitable does not mean we will be rushing to embrace it anytime soon. I think one has to step back, look carefully at the landscape, try to understand as much and as clearly as possible the ramifications of doing nothing, waiting and watching, or continue to carefully gather data and then more data to help assess a course of action. Talk about a crisis, how about healthcare reform, and payment changes, outcome driven reimbursements, ACO formation, Gain sharing with CMS, these are all crisis in the plural to say the least. That being said I do believe the present system is not sustainable and making healthcare available to more Americans can never be a bad thing. Was it Yogi that said something along the lines of “how hard it is to predict what’s going to happen especially when it is the future.” Crisis will demand self-reflection and courage and the key for every leader is to be adaptable and ready for any change and to have the hurricane shutters available just in case! 🙂 Have a great day. Regards, Al
Your comment instructed me, challenged me, and entertained me. Wow.
Between the economy and health care we have plenty of crisis to go around.
Love that you bring the term stakeholders to the conversation. Innovating through crisis is not a one man show. Thanks for expanding the conversation.
And thanks for the quotes. You gotta love Yogi.
Al is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
What a fabulous article, and comments, and it came at the right time for me. As I was working through my thoughts this morning, as is my habit, I was struck suddenly with the feeling of hopelessness in building my business, and if it was really worth it.
So, here you have the chaos – and the challenges of being an entrepreneur in a down economy, and my wish to have a well-balanced life – is it worth it?
Absolutely – it is something I believe in and feel very strongly is needed in today’s culture – so – alignment with my mission and values, and being authentically who I am is key to working my way through, around and over this obstacle. It is placing myself squarely in the flow and defining my own success.
Thanks, my friends. You were just what I needed this morning.
I whole-heartedly believe that life is in the overcoming. And organizations, like organisms, must have and overcome challenges and struggles to thrive. The human immune system is a great example of this. Through illness, new antibodies (innovations?) are created and serve the long-term well being of the body. Through exercise, the body becomes stronger and more resistant to injury. This theme of overcoming is the basis of all life on this planet. Everything from the micro to the macro reflect this in our world.
However, there is both good stress and bad stress, even metaphorically. Chronic illness impairs the immune system. Extreme exercise can lead to permanent injury. Chronic states of stress have been proven to literally wear out our organs before their time. It’s the same for any organism. Chronic states of stress and challenge are not really the kind that feed innovation and help an organization thrive. It doesn’t mean that it cannot be overcome and transformed. But it does mean that there’s a danger there as well. Such cases are more about recovery from loss and less about adding benefit. And to a further extreme, hypochondria does not seem to transform anything.
So a question might be to surmise what kind of stress state your organization is dealing with: healthy/temporary or something more chronic/damaging? Maybe innovation isn’t what you need to seek. Maybe it’s recovery.
To add on to your question Julia,
…who best can identify the stress state of your organization, one from within or outside?
A leader who is too busy dealing with ‘injuries de jour’ will lose perspective over time and may perceive positive stress as negative stress. This seems to make the case for the importance of ongoing perspective/vision and attention to pace of change, pace of conflict along with impact of stress.
And of course, a leader who ignores those ‘injuries/chaos is perhaps more out of touch and that is a different thread.
Thanks for bringing the recovery concept into the discussion Julia, it merits inclusion.
It’s a really good point about identifying from within or outside. I agree with you about leaders who ignore. But also there are those cases where something seems to be ordinary or temporary but is actually a symptom of something else. Like coming down with a “cold” only to find out it’s really a deeper underlying condition that was too subtle to observe previously. Or perhaps problems were observed, but were attributed to the wrong causes. In either case, it warrants consideration to get expert/outside opinions. And I’m an advocate for 2nd/3rd opinions too.
I know I posted late on the Transformation thread a few days back, however I think that the Kostas N. Dervitsiotis, article on organizational change merits a repeat. (see the Transformation thread for the full article title) He does identify the ‘edge of chaos’ and speaks to several of the issues raised here, including the discomfort, the choose your battles mindset and what usually occurs in the business world. The graphics used help those who are visual learners too!
Very stimulating thread today, thanks all!!
The old expression “pick your battles” is as true today as always. I very much like your criterion — does the storm stand between you and your mission/goal.
Successful leaders, successful teams, and successful entrepreneurs know that tough times often lead to new types of success through innovation. Those that can weather the storms reach the new rainbow.
Perhaps that is the definition of a successful person.
Very interesting post today. Great ideas.
I agree that sometimes it’s just while facing the doom that we can get the last push required for real innovation. However, it’s not something I am up to do all the time.
I remember reading an article on Techcrunch about startup companies becoming a big hit just when they were about to face the end, sometimes, some of them are able to change something and progress to profitability, but most of the times, a crisis just leads to the end.
My favorite line of this post was: “Relational intimacy blossoms on the other side of hopelessness.” In all honesty, I think that depends on the nature of the relationships involved. I have been led by leaders who were such effective leaders that I would go to great lengths for them, even if I did not feel “relationally intimate” with them. I think a nuance is that sometimes it is about trust as opposed to being “relationally intimate”.
As to how leaders can innovate through crisis, I recognize that this involves a “balancing act,” but the most important thing to me is that they acknowledge the crisis (as opposed to denying it exists or telling me to “get over it,” “move on,” or “see the bright side.”) In our situation, transitioning to a new computer company and fielding an avalanche of consumer complaints, I (as a follower) was so disheartened and deflated when told, “You’ve gotta stop seeing only the negative.” It felt like the equivalent of telling someone who hasn’t had anything to drink for days, “trust me you’ll get some water in an hour.” The leader has to meet the follower somewhere in the middle and indicate they “get it” before post-crisis innovation can begin.
I appreciate your perspective of honesty and meeting followers in the middle. Deceptive leaders usually wait for things to go wrong and then intervene with lot of if and but. But the authentic leader is someone who correct the things before it happens, not just to wait it to happen and then encash his contribution. In the corporate, people usually come under first category; that is wait for things to go wrong and then they make issues and try to take advantages
That is true, Ajay – thank you for your comment!
“The world meets you where you are”. Thanks for this Dan, if I had read it yesterday morning, it would not have hit home as much as it did now. It’s a crisis and not a tragedy so just deal with it! Thanks again!