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Three tips for managers in disruptive times


July 16

Femke Storm

Nowadays, it is essential for companies to disrupt if they want to survive. And since innovation doesn't lend itself to distrust and control, the era of managers managing should be over and instead; they should empower teams to take ownership. But how?

In today's challenging and uncertain environment full of volatility, complexity and ambiguity, management as "the process of dealing with or controlling things or people" has become insufficient. Not only insufficient, some ambitious teams we meet in Lab Rooms are even held back by the current management style in their company. However, they are willing to change, and that's the beginning. So as the Dutch saying goes: where there's a will, there's a way! 

Connect and mobilise people and ideas

Management is shifting from controlling to a form of leadership aiming at connecting and mobilising people and ideas. To lead transformation successfully many people focus on technology and flexible approaches like agile and lean; for change to succeed, there needs to be a fair share of focus on connecting to and collaboration with others. This outreach should not only be to customers and other stakeholders in your ecosystem. Start with an honest look at your organisation, is there a tendency to work in silos of departments? At most large companies this is today's reality. Start with finding ways to better connect with your colleagues. Then shift your attention outwards and connect to the outside world. It might be specific expertise, a company or team that's just ahead of you (don't waste energy on reinventing the wheel), or just a fresh pair of eyes providing you with the bird's eye view every project needs now and then. Make your project inclusive to detect opportunities and make the most of them.

Accelerate by bringing decision power, expertise and creativity together 

We found an interesting pattern: for the first Lab Room session, it's often hard to get all involved employees to clear their schedule and kick off in the morning with the whole team. Recently one director strikingly said, while looking around: "I can't remember the last time this whole group was together in one room." To push a new idea or project forward; expertise, creativity and decision power need to be in the same room. Not to brainstorm, but to work apart together and make instant decisions when a question arises. Get the expertise of all talented people literally on the team, instead of scheduling new meetings to get every bodies input (and create that desired internal buy-in). 

Don't overdo it

Don't worry, we're not advocating against remote working, and we don't believe everyone should fly in from over all over the world (we do care about the environment, so stay where you are if you can). Today's technologies make flying redundant: you can be in the room from anywhere. The most important thing is that you're mentally present to share opinions, make decisions when needed, and work on your part of the project on the spot. 

Stop brainstorming 

Some people swear by working in isolation, some love to be on a team and almost everybody loves brainstorming as the process of just dreaming away in possibilities. The bad news is that brainstorming - as a part of the process of really pushing your team, project or business further - doesn't work. It never did, but we like it too much. Refrain from the urge to start with a whole day of creative brainstorming (unless you need to re-energise or want to have fun with your team, then please do). Research shows that the best ideas come from individuals building on each other's ideas. Create momentum, alignment and gather the best ideas or solutions by bringing your team together and have them work on the topic separately with intervals of facilitated sharing. After the first unease, you'll be surprised by the ideas from the team. The best input might come from the people who are the least active participants in traditional brainstorming sessions. Unleash the power of all team members by giving all of them the opportunity to share their unique creativity and talent.