Organizations are "Biased towards reaction"
No wonder there is very little creativity, since it is all left to chance or work with a low utility of success
One of the terms I usually hear in organizations when coaching is that they are “Biased towards action”. In fact, I believe that inherently this is far from the truth. I believe that most organizations are “Biased towards reaction” and that is why creativity and innovation flounder. In fact, most “reactions” have often limited utility. No wonder that billions of dollars of money and associated work-effort and time are actually wasted by doing such work.
Recently, I was reading an intro by Dave Snowden for the book “The Flow System” by Nigel Thurlow et al. I only want to bring attention to an extract from his last two paragraphs (condensed for clarity):
… is a multimethod approach that allows you to learn but not imitate. It is based in both sound theory and rigorous practice, and in that context, it seems appropriate to end with my favorite quote from Lincoln’s address to Congress on December 1, 1862:
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew
If you do nothing else after reading this, note the combination: we have to both act and critically think in different ways.
— Dave Snowden
I personally believe that the focus on “flow” is hugely overrated. And that focusing on “creativity” would bring real “flow” and not the other way around. But that is a topic for another day.
I want to go back to the focus on Dave Snowden’s last line, “act, and think critically in different ways.” In most organizations, there is already a huge bias towards reaction, in fact too much of it. In fact, most of the time, the strategies, goals, and purpose are simply reacting to various things in the market place. So, my belief is simple, since one has been “acting” without much serious introspection for a long period of time - often decades, the focus needs to be to start thinking critically in different ways. And this might lead to better and “true action” instead of “reaction”
Why are we talking about action and reaction today? The first element of the Creative Work metamodel I proposed yesterday was “Creative Learning and (creative) action”
Now, this element is on a spectrum as below ranging from Action to Reaction.
If you know where you are on the spectrum related to your creative learning and action, it allows you to take steps to improve your chances before you act. I have identified four levels of stepping back to identify better action.
Level 0: Just react the way you have been doing all along.
Level 1: Stop. Step back from this task - and ask whether there is a better way to do this task before doing it? Apply learnings then act.
Level 2: Stop. Step back from tasks and look at the overall picture of the work done. What is a better way to do all of this? Create options through learning and then act.
Level 3: Stop. Step back from work done and look at a goal level. What is a better way to do this that allows us to meet our current short term goals while also be coherent to our long term goals, both at the same time? Create options through these answers and then act. Long term goals may cover alignments to mission and purpose statements, etc.
Level 4: Stop. Step back far enough to ask whether the goals and purpose themselves need updating in the context of the work being done. In the context of these changes, what changes do we need to do with the work that we are doing?
A common theme above is to only find a multitude of local to global perspectives before taking action (or reacting with the same action that one has been reacting to before). You also find that there are no prescribed tools, methods, or techniques that are recommended here. The context of the situation will determine the use of the right methods, tools, and techniques.