Someone asked me last week why I write more on organizational culture than on life strategy. These are interdependent, but not exclusive. You can have a life strategy that does not fit inside an organization, but I’d venture to wager that there is some whole (pun intended) where your strategy fits. No life strategy can operate for long as an island. We’re all part of something bigger.
I’m binging on two books right now that address the human element of innovation and strategy. One is An Everyone Culture about “Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” (DDO), by Kegan and Lahey of Minds at Work. There’s a beautiful line that perfectly captures what your life strategy looks like in a developmental organization.
As you experience yourself as incomplete or inadequate – but still included and accepted – and experience the capable people around you as incomplete or inadequate – but no less admirable – these experiences seem to unleash compassion and appreciation that all of us might hope for in our relationships, and that characterize the underlying feeling in a DDO. (p. 119)
The book details the inner life of three organizations that push people to fail, accept failure, learn from it and grow. In one organization, once you master a job you are expected to move into another job that will stretch you to grow more. In fact if you stay in a job you have mastered, you are considered a dead weight. The agility people develop in rapid growth makes them stronger, which makes the organization stronger. This is a key to innovation, which leads me to my second favorite book lately, The Invisible Element by Robert Rosenfeld & Gary Wilhelmi. I met Bob at the Center for Creative Leadership. He runs an organization called Idea Connections that addresses organizational growth and innovation from the perspective of human dynamics.
In fact the book talks about the human dimension as “the life force” that can “bind business and technology dimensions to make the whole system work.” Further to that point, “when the human dimension breaks down, the system implodes on itself or splinters and breaks apart.” (p.6)
You are the human dimension in your equation. You are the life force of your organization.
Furthermore, there is not one right equation for that human element. Chapter Five of this book describes six legends in the field of science and innovation, how they think, how they operate in a team and how you might hire them into your organization today. The punch line is that every genius is part of a team. No genius can be the whole team or the lynchpin. Each is part of the quantum whole.
Don’t sell yourself short. See your failures as learning opportunities and see your team as the force that completes what you bring to build something greater than any of you can build on your own.