Earlier this year the World Economic Forum published its Future Jobs Report and the research listed ‘complex problem solving’, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘creativity’ as the most valuable skills for 2020.
Nurturing these skills will enable your business to adapt and thrive in an era of unprecedented fast paced disruption. Here are several behaviours you can implement in your business to create a culture wherein people volunteer and challenge ideas.
Shift away from adversarial thinking
If you want to find a competitive, angry battlefield to hack your way through, business certainly offers that. However, you will find it exhausting and isolating to see everyone as an adversary. It is also impossible for you to grow personally. The business may get bigger, but you will not grow. The first step to not fighting is to stop picking fights. See problems objectively as something to be solved together rather than immediately looking for who is at fault.
Hire on principle
An individual should fit the values and purpose of an organisation, not the look and personality. If you can find people you can disagree with, hire them. Then create a culture together wherein all members hold each other accountable to the values and purpose of the organisation. The people who agree with the principles of the organisation and are willing to challenge the execution of them are the people who open up the doors of opportunity for the business. The business is now open to possibilities outside your perspective.
Collaborative or competitive culture
Collaborative behaviour is not always superior to competitive behaviour, or vice versa. At the highest level, though, the organisational culture must be a collaborative one which uses the adrenaline of competition in bursts when it serves the greater good. The danger of too much competition is that the levels of adrenaline are too high for too long. This leads to stress and individuals regressing into a self-centred, fear driven, self-preservation mode of operation.
Facilitate the creative instinct
Everyone has a creative instinct. It drives our desire as a social species to contribute. When collaborators contribute ideas and the rest of the team expand on them, everyone is highly tuned and focused. If a brainstorm is facilitated well, and judgment is truly suspended by all members, then everyone feels energized. Working collaboratively for half an hour reinforces how productive we can be when we have access to resources beyond our own.
If a brainstorm is run badly, people will feel exhausted, dismissed and undermined. Also, their instincts to contribute will be extinguished by either cynical thinking (e.g. a belief that no is listening or expanding on their ideas) or fears of standing out, failing or embarrassment. Circumstances like these have the opposite effect on engagement, productivity and confidence.
Swap compliments for encouragements
Encouraging someone requires you to focus on the individual qualities unique to them that you are actually appreciating. This affects the person you are encouraging in a profound way that compliments and praise do not. Telling someone that they are “correct” or “smart” directs their attention away from their personal contribution and toward some system of assessment or metric outside of themselves. To increase the amount a person participates direct the encouragement into their heart by saying, “I love the way you think, specifically the way you…”. This will lead to them thinking more and fearing less.
Value passion over experience
When choosing what role is best suited to each team member, assign responsibility for a goal to the person who is most passionate about its achievement. Place more importance on passion than experience. If you hire people who have the most experience, you will often find that they lack the desire to challenge themselves and experiment with new ways of achieving the goal. They prefer to do it the way they have done it before.
Implement these behaviours one at a time and let the team know that its important that all members hold each other accountable to them. That includes you too. Ask them to help you become more aware of when you are encouraging people to participate and when your behavior might be unintentionally shutting them down. When team members see the leader commit to personal growth they are inspired to do the same.
About the author
Matt Jackson is the founder of affectors.com and the author of The Age of Affect, released through Richmond Publishing.