Get out of your lane & into the intersectionS

Transcript of Simon’s latest video - 22 August 2019

[Driving in the car] Hello there! I am ‘sticking to my lane’, which is something my driving instructor drummed into me many moons ago. “Keep to your lane. Don't veer too far to the left or the right. Indicate early, don't move too far into the intersection until you know you can clear it. Keep a safe distance…”. Which is all great advice for orderly traffic management and safe driving. But I'm not sure most teams in business can afford to operate that way.

[Cut to a park] Alright, I've pulled over.... Everyone is safe now! So here's my question to you. How comfortable are you and your team at getting out of your lane and moving into the intersection? See, here's the thing. Any organisation serious about continual growth I think depends on people bumping into each other, because the magic happens at the intersections - where people's lanes cross paths. It's at the intersections where discovery and co-creation happen.

It's at the intersections where difference rather than similarity can lead to innovation and it's at the intersections where people learn to see the world differently, where existing frames can be challenged and new ways of thinking can open up. Now, of course when I talk about intersections in an organisation, I'm talking about the points at which different teams, different roles, different projects, processes, fields of expertise, preferences, social groups -all these things - they kind of cross paths, they intersect... perhaps, they even collide. So for every team, the question is: how comfortable do we feel moving into those intersections and navigating them confidently and skilfully. Stepping into that space of discovery and co-creation.

So I put this question to a leadership team recently who seemed to be struggling to deal with the differences that existed at these intersections between them. For example, you had a sales leader and the customer service leader with very different perspectives and, on the face of it, the way they measure their success was at odds too. They are also very different people.

But the real problem was their tendency to tackle this by simply avoiding the intersection by staying in their lane in the hope that the other would stay in theirs too, or each time they did collide, it was kind of like a traffic accident and they'd turn to the CEO, throw their arms up and say, what do you want us to do now - as if the CEO would play the role of traffic cop.

So what to do when it comes to navigating these intersections? Well, I think the first thing is you have to name it. You have to acknowledge that there is an intersection between us and that it does feel messy, that there is uncertainty, unfamiliarity, that it’s unchartered territory. Maybe there's history, maybe we do have competing priorities and measures of success. Name it and acknowledge that. "Yeah, this is a difficult zone sometimes to navigate." There's no roundabout, there's no lines on the road, there's no traffic lights.

But then the second thing is to talk about the "big so what" - in other words to talk about why it feels important to you, to the organisation. For us to be able to step into that space and explore. Maybe it's because between us we bring two very different perspectives of what our customer's needs and expectations are and we have to be able to navigate that to be able to deliver full value to the customer. Or maybe it's because the opportunities and the problems that you and I are respectively seeing give us a great platform for discovering some opportunities, some innovation, whatever it is. You've got to know it, you've got to feel it and talk about it. Otherwise, why would we?

And the third thing is create some rules of the road. In other words, anticipate what could go wrong, what could make it difficult into the intersection and try and reach some agreement or at least principles collaboratively about how we can navigate our way through this. Perhaps that's saying, "listen, whenever you feel like I am doing something that's in conflict with what you're trying to achieve, the most important thing is for you to name it and let's just dive in and wrestle with that." In other words, it's expressing a willingness and some understandings between us. About how we have to play this game of driving into these intersections.

So there it is. Get out of your lane and into the intersections. Discover the messiness of that and start to get comfortable with the idea of navigating when there are no signposts. When there are no roundabouts and where there are no traffic lights.

I'm Simon Dowling, we're 'making bold' and I will see you next time.

Bye for now!

Don’t forget to subscribe below to be the first to receive new videos, transcripts and news!