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:

  • Re-experience.
  • Rethink. Rethinking is the confidence to NOT know. Most are hired to know – not learn. Rethinking is awkward because unlearning is painful.
  • Restructure.
  • Reevaluate.
  • Restore.
  • Rejuvenate.
  • Reengage.

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.

  1. Play music before meetings.
  2. Have one-on-ones while walking.
  3. Add food.
  4. 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?
  5. 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?

Bonus resources:

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)