Last week, Dustin Schneider and Bradford Blevins attended the 2014 Organizational Development Network Conference in Philadelphia. Every year at these conferences, we walk away with notebooks full of new ideas for our clients and the way we can help them build a sustainable organizational culture that stands the test of time.
There were so many inspiring talks, it was difficult to narrow down our favorites, but these 5 stood out. Every business, no matter how big or small, should consider the concepts presented here while they are trying to plan the future of their company culture.
“In order to create an agile organization, you need to provide the permission to learn. It’s only a failure if you sweep it under the rug and don’t learn from it.” – Gib Mason, CPA, MSOD
Next time think you see a “failure” in your organization, face it head on and identify the learning opportunities. Demonstrate the importance of it to your team, and allow them time to grow and move forward. While it may take more time and effort than glossing over your organization’s shortcomings, it will ultimately help your team become nimble at using those lessons. In the longer term, your organization will grow stronger and be better equipped to bounce back from their mistakes in the future.
“To change the world we need to share and educate… You cannot change the world if the world doesn’t know who you are.” – Dr. Stacy Blake-Beard
Sharing and educating has become a lot easier with the development of more social media engaged organizational cultures. The ability – and need – to create and curate digital content, and to develop thought leadership as brand and individual, helps the collective organization share knowledge and experience, and build powerful internal and external communities of trust. Customer, investor, supplier or employee – they all remember and support those organizations that empowered their growth and learning.
“All of the systems around us are changing – education, judicial, transportation, military, government – it would only make sense that organizations are changing as well. We need to let go of our old notions about hierarchy and organizational structure to create new models.” – Judith H. Katz & Frederick A. Miller
Now more than ever, hearing someone say, “we’ve always done it this way,” should be a red flag for re-examining an organizational approach. To turn hierarchy and traditional structure upside down, leaders should step back and really listen to what employees (and not just management or leadership ranks) are saying. To change systems, you have to intentionally, almost physically, put a stick in the spokes and start anew from a full stop.
“There’s a real compatibility between collaborative values and the rules of improv – there a similar set of descriptors. The underlying values of improv can be integrated into the design of work processes to deliver great benefits.” – Sarah Fisk, PhD
Take input at face value, don’t overthink, invite feedback and participation from a broad range of stakeholders, and get comfortable not knowing what may emerge. Improvisational acting or comedy goes with the flow it is given, and organizational change should be just as open to the possibilities. Today’s emphasis on organizational collaboration fits this concept, where more team involvement and openness to trying – and learning from – all types of input leads to unexpected innovation and breakthroughs.
“Being present, expanding awareness, and assuming a beginner’s mind are tenets of mindfulness practice; those same tenets are true of facilitating successful large-scale change in organizations.” – William Tate Brendel, EdD
In a society where “wisdom” has come to mean “experienced,” assuming a beginner’s mind might seem counterintuitive. But, organizations with cultures that support the beginner’s mind theory for all employees and leaders lay the groundwork for curiosity, boldness and joy. More mindful communities lead to more relevant thinking, services and products.