Mindful Leaders challenge the Status Quo. Business models are failing faster now than at any time in history. Corporate history is littered with examples of what happens when you don’t innovate and are wedded to the status quo. Blockbuster, Nokia, Polaroid, Pan Am, General Motors, and ironically the inventor of the digital camera, Kodak. You can even develop the next wave of innovation and still fail through failure to adopt. “Any business today that embraces the status quo as an operating principle is going to be on a death march”. said Howard Schulz. Harsh but non the less true.
It's almost guaranteed that the status quo on which we now operate is currently being disrupted by someone somewhere. We have to learn to disrupt ourselves and that starts with questioning the unquestionable. It's not easy. All organisations have a certain worldview and operate within a static paradigm. At the core of that is an organisational belief in some operating imperative. Unless we have a culture that allows questioning of the seemingly sacred, and an ability to have the uncomfortable conversation, then ultimately, we will be disrupted. Often our natural and understandable response, is to double down and hyper protect the status quo. However, if we are willing to challenge the status quo and mindful enough to be to allow others to do the same, then we are given the opportunity to constantly innovate, improve and grow. Embracing agility leads to longevity.
At the core of this thinking to question and question again. And, always hard for the leader, allow others to do the same, of us. At the core of this culture is a willingness to be open and be challenged consistently and continuously. Only this mindset will allow enough agility and enough continual improvement to adapt as quickly as the environment is changing. As Dwight Eisenhower said, planning is everything, the plan is nothing. The very act of planning builds in an open mind. Testing scenarios, and exploring possible futures brings with it the ability to adopt and flex. It also creates ‘future memories’ that trigger when we bump into opportunities in the future.
But challenging alone is not enough. Challenging the status quo without actually changing anything is just noise. As leaders we need to be able to make real change in a way that is constructive, open, transparent and collaborative. When we do challenge the status quo and are willing to make changes, the ramifications are enormous. It's very difficult to challenge and change consistently, and yet if we don't challenge the status quo and adopt the changes, we don't innovate and if we don't innovate, we die.
On the surface, it sounds like it's risky to challenge the status quo. However, given a truly dynamic environment and constant and consistent change, the riskiest thing we can do, is not to change. A risk averse environment where the status quo is not allowed to be challenged, is, paradoxically, the riskiest place of all. Having a strategic planning process with clear accountability and total transparency, means we can box out risk, and explore opportunities in a managed and measured way. This cognitive approach to innovation with clear accountability, and an opportunity to learn fast, all within a defined risk profile, is what leads to continual innovation, and ongoing success.
I’ll leave you with the words of living leadership legend, John Maxwell, “You cannot be the same, think the same and act the same, if you hope to be successful in a world that does not remain the same.”