Move to the edge, Declare it centre with Everett Harper

“We can’t have the benefits of a diverse & vibrant company without acknowledging when it gets hard…”

Everett and I delve into the leadership of global business and societal issues and the need to constantly navigate uncertainty, and solve complex problems creatively. This starts with leading from within first and foremost.

How do we navigate when we don’t know the answer ?

How do we do ‘sense making’ in order to create the conditions for systems to thrive ?

How do we create the system and emotional infrastructure to scale the new practices or products we want to adopt ? We often fail to solve complex problems because we have forgotten the human aspect…and not knowing what to say or do is an innately human reaction to uncertainty and it’s sometimes hard.

We need to master both interior and exterior practices to sustain and lead complex systems

Everett shares his experience, personal stories and research from both building his own businesses and supporting businesses all over the globe to shift their mindset and move to their edge for more inclusive and sustainable businesses.

The main insights you will get from this episode are :

–       ‘Moving to the edge’ means navigating when not knowing the answer, an uncomfortable place to be but leaders should always do something, even if it’s saying ‘I don’t know’ – others are relieved to see leaders as human.

–       ‘Declaring it center’ means understanding how to create a system to scale the new practice you want. Creating a transition giving rise to new skills and processes to prevent innovations dying on the vine due to a lack of infrastructure – we must create systems to scale, share and sustain them.

–       Critical systems thinking is required for complex issues, but there is a difference between complex and complicated problems: complex problems involve unknown or unpredictable interactions; complicated problems involve well-known interactions.

–       Interior and exterior practices are necessary to deal with complex problems: exterior practices involve different ways of dealing with problems, e.g. premortems; interior practices require internal alignment to apply frameworks correctly.

–       We often fail to solve complex problems because we have forgotten the human aspect – we all have blind spots and the opinions of those closest to the problem must be factored into the decision-making process.

–       When it comes to evolution in technology, we must take care not to code bias into AI and machines – with deep democracy, innovation is at the edges and those voices must be heard at meetings that are inclusive.

–       There must be constant iteration to get better: as a pioneer of remote working, all-hands meetings at Truss are not in one room so it is important to have quick feedback loops – it is easy just not to get started, but the goal is to keep going.

–       Originally from the agile world but applicable to many scenarios, regular retrospectives are a useful tool for learning – what went well? what didn’t go well? Both must be discussed in a blameless environment in order to learn.

–       We should take a more systemic approach to problem-solving by starting with information gathering rather than an answer or a plan: optimization based on hypothesis enables rapid adaptation through curiosity and compassion instead of planning and linear thinking.

–       Having experience of sport brings to leadership an understanding of losing, taking responsibility, having to carry on regardless, dealing with embarrassment/shame or a disappointed/demotivated teammate.

–       Similarly, it is important to understand purpose – if we know why we are doing something, we won’t quit, we will relax and enjoy it, thereby improving our performance and resulting in success: the goal is to align with the purpose to produce results.

–       Practicing at the edge and training hard to be able to make decisions at the edge means we can then move forward where others can’t by intentionally exercising the ‘edge’ muscle – we must transition from the mastery of craft to the mastery of self.

–       Our imaginal selves pass through dark places along the way – it is easy to just keep going without rest, but recovery is essential to high performance. This can be a lonely place filled with existential questions, scary yet exciting.

–       We must seek support for doubts and ask for help and guidance earlier and more often; we should all take a few minutes to ponder on something we don’t know the answer to and see what feelings come up.

–       Being self-aware and taking a counterfactual approach – ‘trying on’ decisions as a powerful tool to learn from an imagined future and mitigate in the present in order to cultivate strong decision-making.

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Suzie Lewis

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