Surprised by a Crepe
One of the best things to do in Paris is walk around. That’s when, by accident, we found L’Atelier Artisan Crepier. My wife went to Amorino’s for a flower-shaped gelato. I walked around the corner and was surprised by a crepe.
The value of surprise:
The elimination of surprise is the end of vitality and innovation.
Stability is predictability and predictability is necessary to produce consistent results. But stability and predictability leads to stagnation.
The goal of traditional management is the elimination of surprise.
Managers are trained to create complacency and stagnation.
Complacency reflects our tendency to seek safe predictable stability.
You eliminate breakthrough when you ignore surprise.
Surprise is opportunity to:
- Rethink. Rethinking is the confidence to NOT know. Most are hired to know – not learn. Rethinking is awkward because unlearning is painful.
The crepe at L’Atelier Artisan Crepier was so surprising it made me laugh.
Lean into surprise:
Surprise is your response to the thing you didn’t expect.
I love hearing unexpected responses. One leader I coach is bringing a father-hat into his leadership. I asked, “What’s different for you when you take off your leader hat and put on your father-leader hat?” He said, “I would hold people more accountable.”
Listen for the unexpected.
- The need for certainty eliminates vitality.
- The thing that surprises you about something may reflect its unique value.
Embrace uncertainty. Better yet, create surprise:
Do the unexpected in simple ways.
- Play music before meetings.
- Have one-on-ones while walking.
- Add food.
- Practice perspective taking. What happens in your thinking if you’re older, younger, a different gender, or marital status? How do insights change if you WEREN’T the leader?
- Show up with low expectations on Monday.
Everything stays the same until you do something you haven’t done.
How might leaders lean into surprise?
How might leaders create positive surprise?
Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected
Why Humans Need Surprise (Berkeley)
Leap Frogging (Soren Kaplan)
6 Ways to Eliminate Complacency (Bud to Boss)
The Power of Surprise (TEDx)
How might leaders lean into surprise? Accept the surprise with open arms and enjoy the surprise provided the surprise is not detrimental to ones health or members
How might leaders create positive surprise?
Showing up when least expected, perhaps with a simple Coffee, donuts, Pizza & beverages, etc., and sit down with the workers and just have a general life/family discussion. In the end of course chime in with the real message of how they are doing, what we need to do, and how we are going to get things accomplished..
Thanks Tim. It might be surprising if the boss simply shows up and shows interest. 🙂
To experience the epiphany
Usually amounts to relearning something
We thought we already knew
“Thus, the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive
Where we began
And to know the place
For the first time.”
There may be little new under the sun,
But it sure seems different now.
Thanks for bringing your inner poet to the conversation again. I always appreciate these little dips into poetry.
This one is so funny, “Show up with low expectations on Monday.”. I always show up with low expectations for others on a Monday so in that way I’m not disappointed by outcomes. It works and I’m usually pleasantly surprised. Sort of like the mantra of under commit and over deliver and everyone feels you’ve done well. It’s really an attitude one chooses. Unfortunately I always show up on Mondays with high expectations for myself which ultimately pushes me forward. I’ve found in those cases I bat pretty well in the percentage outcomes.
I love the idea about using surprise as an opportunity, particularly to rethink and seeing the need for confidence in NOT knowing.
I really want to know what was it about your crepe that was so surprising?
Thanks Meredith. The combination of salted caramel and butter was something I’d never experienced in my life. I have a sweet tooth and this was amazing. Maybe it hit me at a special moment, but for some reason it was incredible.
I think the big challenge is finding the right balance between management–no surprises and leadership –discovering what’s possible–new surprises.
Check out my video on this topic.
Hey Paul, Thanks for extending the conversation. I was hopeful that there would be some comments about the dark side of surprise.
Hey Dan, looks like you had a ‘crepe surprise’ there. One way to lean into surprise is to treat every piece of feedback/input as a celebration – whether you think what your employee has said is stupid or brilliant it should still be celebrated that they have said it. Enjoy their thinking without mocking it, show that enjoyment and you’ll get more of what you need – engagement, excitement, and innovation.
The father-leader resonated with me. Some times when if I am tossing up whether to bring up an issue I ask myself whether I would bring it up with my kids. That usually guides me in the right direction.
I often hear managers and supervisors talk about remaining in a “state of chronic unease”, or better yet having “anticipated regrets”. I have heard these phrases so often that they have become almost colloquial. From some the use of these phrases have begun to sound involuntary and appear as though they are without meaning. The irony is that when we are constantly talking about complacency, we tend to end up complacent to the dangers of complacency. It is quite a paradox that is almost illogical in its assessment. There has got to be another way, right? You note that “managers are trained to create complacency and stagnation”. To move pass this, and find that happy balance, I think as leaders, we all need to delve into the concepts you have laid out about surprise. Leaders can lean into and create positive surprise by always thinking of ways to keep people interested in the topics they (the leaders) wish to discuss. In order for people to be interested there must be some connection to them, their specific work, and not just the work in general (what is expected of the position they hold). The key to effectively creating positive surprise is for leaders to continually embrace their subordinates’ individuality. Everyone faces new challenges every day specific to their experience; displaying your honest interest in those challenges and willingness to help will be easiest and most effective way to keep the mundane out of the business.