There’s been enough research to show that buy-in happens when people shape the decision. There’s been enough clarity on knowing the “why” causes people to align behind decisions. There’s been enough qualitative and quantitative work to show the value of collective networks in accomplishing real change. If you followed the 3 links, you know that these are truths. Kotter, Simon Sinek, and Clay Shirky are no lightweights in the area of management, leadership and the role of social networks mattering in outcomes, respectively.
We know we ought to work with others, have shared vision, and figure out how to work better with each other. We agree in this intellectually. And we know this matters even more when it comes to the important, tough problems. Yet, we don’t do it. When push comes to shove, here’s some of what we actually do:
- Decide to just do it ourselves “cause it’s easier than involving people”.
- Go limp and deal with the issue by not cooperating.
- Form an “elite” team to work on the problem. We disenfranchise everyone else.
- Debate the ever-changing “what”, rather than know what matters to us and why.
- Act as if titles matter. Our own (I’m the boss) or someone else’s.
- We can’t decide so we do many things, spreading our resources out like too little peanut butter over too much bread.
- Look to the “leader”, rather than acting like leaders ourselves.
- Stop listening to objections. Don’t involve the naysayers, cause they’ll just slow down progress. We only listen to the comfortable voices.
- Wait to get the engraved place card to make our selves involved.
- Show up to meetings as if it’s about taking notes rather than engaging.
- Read email rather than engage one another.
- Always ready to talk but never to listen.
- Always ready to tell but never to be changed.
- Spread the notion that “things will never change”.
- Don’t wade into disagreements.
- Don’t say anything because we fear we’ll come across as ____ (a prick, an ignorant ass, stupid as all get out, arrogant, pissed, emotional, or fill in your own item).
- Don’t name the elephant in the room.
And, hey those good management principles get tossed aside.
We then move to how can we get things done, in spite of each other.
Because the reality is that we human-ities stay nice and safe inside our own ideas rather than sharing them with others, and dealing with the necessary part of what happens when ideas rub against one another. But there is a cost: progress is limited. Energy dissipates. Passion is lost. Innovation stagnates.
The root cause we must solve for: most of us don’t know how to deal with tension. We don’t know how to fight for an idea, without tearing down people. We don’t know how to fight for an idea, without making it about winners/losers. And we hate the process. Conflict is chaotic, emotional, and unsettling; and so we would rather avoid it. Maybe our families fought so we don’t want to. Maybe our families didn’t fight, so we don’t want to. We think of the fighters as the ones who have not learned better. Regardless, we never face into the wind. And, without this skill, all of us never learn how to do something that really needs to happen. We never learn how recombine, synthesize, and liberate new meaning and new ideas, together.
Until this changes, nothing ever does. “Fighting” is part and parcel of the creative process that involves other people. It is a necessary skill for a culture of innovation. It’s why I’m delighted that Joe Gerstandt and I have organized a practical work session on what we called “Let The Wild Rumpus Start!” where we won’t just talk about it; we’ll teach and problem solve on it. I’m already planning on being at SXSWi 2012 so you might as well put me to work by voting for this session. (Deadline is next 2 days). Maybe we’ll have to play The Boxer to start?