Thank you for reading the first and second blog. Thank you again for your reactions, the comments, and the new connections. In this third blog, I will continue in describing the Aggregation Pond (AP) and talking mostly about courage and critical positivity. There will be space for more tools and experiences sharing in this blog. I hope you will enjoy it.
Let me take a step back and re-open the topic about the safe space. Today I had lunch with Prof. George Kohlrieser, IMD emeritus, and creator of the HPL program, the High-Performance Leadership IMD program, ranked #1 in the World by Financial Times for leadership programs. I had the pleasure and honour to be one of his students last year, in the YPO cohort of HPL just before the COVID outbreak. George is exceptional and clearly changed my life. His program substantially impacted me and how I live my life and how I try to positively influence the environment and people around me. Why am I talking about him and today’s encounter? Because the importance of the safe space became evident for me during the HPL last year. In one of his bestsellers, Hostage at the Table, George explains the “secure base” concept.
Secure bases are those people, goals, places, or things to which we bond in a particular way. They give us protection, comfort, and energy, and they serve to restore ourselves whenever we are depleted of energy. The secure base helps in creating a safe space if there is none. Think about your stressful days at work and the feeling of getting home and doing your favorite things. This could be a hug, sport, a phone call, or a drink (although this may be a false safe base) and will provide a healthy environment to get over the challenges and the defeats of the day. I am not vouching for having a super stressful life, being amygdala-hijacked all the time, and taking it back home every night. I am saying that having a secure base is a way to get through those difficult moments and feel reborn.
Knowing that we have secure bases works as well for innovation. The story of Jamie Fisher is one of those that speak to the hearts. It’s a story of extreme challenges, loss, grief, courage, and new life, resulting in innovation from the ashes. All made possible by the presence of values typical for transformation and by the cultivation of secure bases. If you haven’t done it yet, go and get the book linked above.
Courage is another fundamental ingredient for innovation. It clearly directs my decisions when I have choices and options, some of which may require more courage than others. This happens in life, continuously, with me being conscious (rarely) and auto-pilot mode (mostly) while making the decisions. It has been studied that, on average, an adult makes 35000 decisions per day. On an average day, I am conscious of most likely 20 to 50 decisions, some of which are trivial, some are not. What food will I eat, what shirts to wear, whether to take the bus or the scooter… these are trivial decisions. Whether an investment is “go or no-go”, whether to hire or fire, to launch a new product or wait… these are other types of decisions.
Courage, in innovation, is not about always making bold and risky decisions. There is nothing courageous in throwing a coin to decide about one’s life. The link between courage and innovation is about making the decision, choosing to come to a conclusion. And being accountable for the decision. To be innovative, I must prepare the ground through my values, the AP’s hard work, the lubrication and maintenance of my XQs, and the growing of my network and knowledge. When all is ready, innovation depends on making the decision to decide. Take the stand and shout it out loud. And then feel the responsibility for this new thing and live it thoroughly and wholly. The courage to decide, expose me, fail, hear the laughter, and then fight and come up with an astonishing result. In this sense, I force myself to be courageous: when all is ready, and the risk is minimized (compared to the benefit), that’s the moment to unveil the innovation and bring it to the World (or the team, or the family…).
There is always the fear of the unknown. I still am fearful when I have to go to the cellar, and the light doesn’t work. What is hiding behind the corner? What risks? What is unknown and not foreseeable that makes my heart pounding, and my hands sweat? That is why, as an innovation leader, I have to look into the unknown, make sure to the best of my knowledge that there is no monster behind the corner, and then take the decision to act.
Another form of courage, probably more important, is courage that I can and have to “push” into my organization. I still remember the first time I have taken part in the R&D monthly meeting of my former company. I was baffled because no one, except for the president, asked questions and made remarks. Little did I know about the culture at that time. A culture of fear, hierarchy, rigidity, shame. The opposite of courage and what I need for innovation. After a while, the company closed a clear sign that I don’t want to run transformation and changes in that way. I have to show that courage wins, that failure is necessary, and I have to make sure that my people believe me, that I am 100% behind what I say and authentic. Then, courage will percolate and make my organization more innovative and fun to work with. Which is what’s happening, thanks to the Total-Innovation™ program.
Critical positivity is another fundamental ingredient, one that I possess in huge quantities. Especially the positivity. The “critical” part is a later addition for me, making my innovation process more bullet proof. Positivity is challenging to explain, but it is so easy to understand. Positivity is, in a nutshell, the half-full, half-empty glass of water. In truth, there is no glass of water since it is merely my mental construct. My mental map transforms a collection of atoms and forces into an object, and my perception, history, culture, etc. will provide specific attributes. I know that it is easy to speak about positivity when I have a job, a family, health, and love. I have been through difficulties, and I understand how the darkness can be impenetrable when deep inside the tunnel. That is when having created a secure base can become a lifesaver. Having built resiliency when the time is right can make it up for the difficult times. Positivity is something that I can learn and improve, knowing that not all the days will be a 10 out of 10, but my mental map and attitude can undoubtedly transform a 5 into a 7.
Positivity is linked to innovation through multiple mechanisms. First, the neurological one, by flooding the brain with positive chemistry. I can feel the flush of positivity during my meditation or while walking into a park or doing something I love. And this wave of good feeling has a tremendous effect on my creative thinking and innovation. Another consequence is related to courage, and the fact that positivity makes the dark corner in the cellar less threatening. How so? Because it tells us that there is light after the darkness. By exploiting the fact that my brains (systems 1 and 2) know I have been in the cellar millions of times, and nothing has ever happened to me. Therefore the boost in courage to take the decision to act.
When I am not facing my cellar, positivity can become a threat. It can hide, behind a fluffy, pastel curtain, the complex and threatening truth. If I cannot hear the roaring of the lion behind the corner, because my brain is flooded with dopamine or oxytocin, I may end up dead. If I cannot see that this new product that we have been working on for 5 years is doomed to fail, as we haven’t discussed it with a single customer in the development process, then I may be out of my job. Or worse, I may cause my people to be out of employment. Hence the critical part. Critical positivity means that I try to approach the glass as if it was not there, as if it was a mental construct. It is an opportunity, which can be filled even more or emptied. I have to use positivity to launch myself in the challenge of making the innovation happen. Then I have to counteract with criticality, to make sure that I have really considered the main issues and threats, and my chances are maximized. This overall process can be optimized and structure, it is fun to work with, and really creates closure in the framework of innovation. I have found this introductory course really revealing for me, critical thinking.
That’s it, I am done with the initial part of this sharing, mainly on the AP and on the values and behaviors that are conducive to innovation and happiness.
I am looking forward to your comments, reactions, suggestions, links, ideas, etc. I am using courage and positivity (in a critical sense) to publish this blog, as these are my ideas, and they may be considered rubbish. But they may inspire someone and bring more connections and innovations, and that is what I strive for, that is my vision.
Goodbye, for now, World.
Have a safe, innovative week.