There is always a ‘better way’ to do things. It is a mindset. What often serves as a roadblock in pursuing a ‘better way’ are the default setting within our organisations. Default settings dictate how we operate as a system and are learnt behaviours to secure reward, avoid conflict, create efficiencies, acknowledge status, maintain comfort, secure favour…in other words those things that shape the over-riding reality within the organisation.
The problem is that it is our default settings that inhibit or constrain an organisation’s ability to innovate and therefore adapt to changing realities. This can and usually does prove fatal. Developing the capacity to override the default settings becomes a necessary focus for leadership in times of change. Leaders need to create both the space and permission for their people to, ‘see a better way’ and then develop supporting structures and processes that explore, nurture and grow alternative ways of doing things.
Following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon the American Jewish community responded to the crisis by raising $300 million to help rebuild the northern part of Israel. A normal reaction one might reason. A default reaction is what it was in the circumstances. One senior person in the Jewish network proposed a ‘better way’ to the challenge than the default setting that had been engaged. he proposed that the money raised should also be used to help rebuild southern Lebanon which had also been devastated in the conflict. His proposal recieved no support and a fair amount of push-back. In the end, much of the help given to restore southern Lebanon came from Hezbollah and so they were able to solidify its patron-client relationship with the Lebanese in this situation.
‘Better ways’ are often unpopular as they go against the grain, the status quo; they often create discomfort and challenge the conventional wisdom. That is exactly why we need them. Smart Leaders encourage ‘better way’ thinking and practice at both an individual and organisation level and in doing so invite feedback, reflection and experimentation.
It is an essential element in becoming an adaptive organisation. It could well determine whether or not you survive the future. And of course, today’s ‘better way’ becomes tomorrow’s default setting. Such is the nature of life!