By Bryan Laychak

Driving my kids to school, I glanced down to see the orange “Low Fuel” light reminding me that I chose not to fill the tank last night after flying home from business travel.

“What if we get stuck?” I thought.  “Who would we call?”  I had a tight deadline and a responsibility to deliver the kids on time.  I couldn’t afford to get stuck.

The kids and I were able to make it to the gas station and to school on time.  Crisis averted.  But this ordinary experience made me think about clients we engage with and how they often feel like they are low on fuel and are in danger of getting stuck.

Shareholders, clients/customers, and employees are depending on those driving an organization. And, just as I decided not to get the gas the night before, organizations make the wrong “today” decisions that can lead to tomorrow’s problems.

Typically, the organizations we work with are striving to reach the next level but feel they have exhausted all avenues – at least from their perspective – for gaining momentum.  Some organizations get stuck because they keep doing things the same way over and over and over again.  They end up on the short end of The Law of Diminishing Returns and are no longer helping to move the organization forward.  For others, they don’t know how to find the fuel and to make it last the journey.

In an increasingly dynamic world, organizations wanting to move forward need to be agile in their thinking and action and this means tapping into and mobilizing the potential of their employees to solve even the most complex challenges of the organization.

As humans, however, our first priority is to protect ourselves and our self-esteem.  When climates are punishing or threatening, we channel our mental energy into protecting ourselves rather than using that energy for generating solutions.  An agile organization, however, requires creating an environment that allows people to feel safe and supported so they can put their energy toward creating and actioning solutions.

As climates become more cooperative and even better, collaborative, people within organizations work in concert with each other; therefore, less energy is required to protect one’s self and more energy can be devoted to the task at hand.  The mutual trust that exists in collaborative climates also allows individuals to take greater risks in their thinking, propelling them to new levels of breakthrough.

Some ways to make your organization more agile and fuel efficient:

  • Assume and seek value in all your interactions
  • Be tolerant of ambiguity, confusion, “wrongness” – the solution is in there, it just needs to be extruded
  • Be open-minded, and use “approximate” thinking to develop solutions
  • Encourage experimentation
  • Practice, apply, and model collaboration for others
  • Recognize and reward breakthrough thinking even if the solution is not yet fully formed.

Not only will organizations realize a higher quantity and higher quality of ideas when a supportive environment is cultivated, they’ll realize that this kind of fuel is reusable.  So they’ll never run out of gas.

Has your organization ever been stuck? What kind of “gas” is your organization using to move things forward?

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