Scott Page makes this claim in his book, The Difference. Specifically, he demonstrates that if organizations want to develop the capacity required to solve the challenging problems faced during transformational change efforts, leaders need to build and support diverse teams and develop diverse perspectives within individuals.
While his book is a challenging read with many fascinating ideas I want to share just a few concepts that can help leaders build the infrastructure and develop people with the capacity to successfully create and sustain transformational change.
Page’s theory and research focuses on a concept titled cognitive diversity, or the differing perspectives, heuristics, predictive models and interpretations that individuals in an organization bring with them as they solve problems. This diversity is shown to facilitate better solutions and outcomes when groups need to solve complex problems, even though it can also lead to conflict or initial resistance.
Specific project management and change infrastructure tactics include:
- Seek out and include people with diverse experiences, backgrounds, perspectives and credentials on project teams
- Expose individuals to new experiences and opportunities to develop multiple perspectives
- Encourage fun and unusual ideas
- Add external perspectives to your teams for true diversity
- Develop interdisciplinary teams
Teams and individuals with diverse perspectives need support from sponsors and leaders to take risks and experiment. Initial ideas may not be predictable or familiar to decision-makers but with support they will lead to better solutions.
Encouraging curiosity and demonstrating a sense of wonder when new perspectives are shared will set the stage for solving the complex problems we face today.
“Hit it!” is the universal water-skiing statement that says I am ready to start the transition from floating in the water to zipping across the waves behind the boat. I have the vision of the future, I have a strategy, I am engaged, I trust the driver of the boat, I am committed and ready to go. Yet, just like many change efforts, most people don’t make it up their first time. As Gary Hamel says in his forward for a new book by Scott Keller and Colin Price from McKinsey, “Changing things at scale is never easy: the endeavor is always complex, perilous and gut-wrenching.” Growing up it took me a full summer of being dragged across the water, choking and sputtering, to successfully get up on one ski. I had to develop the skills needed to actually have the ability to slalom ski.
Successful change in organizations requires new behaviors, new mind-sets, new skills and new abilities. Over the next month, Anita, Dee Anne and I will be sharing ideas and resources that focus on the topic of developing the capacity in yourself, your people and your organizations for achieving your vision. Keller and Price call this your “capability platform.”
As a leader, developing capacity for change will include a broad range of activities and responsibilities. One key issue is the resources and tools needed for the change, or the motor of the change. Do you have enough horsepower available in your organization? I learned to slalom with a 20 hp motor not the 85 hp I have now. That made it hard!
Other issues include: What skills are required for the change, how can they be developed and how will they be reinforced? What processes and infrastructure need to change and how does your culture support or interfere with successful change? Who can help, who needs to be involved and when can people take off on their own? It is a large list and takes many people.
Going back to water skiing as an example. Last summer, with my daughter in the water providing reassurance … Max’s mom in the boat holding the rope … a large motor … Max practicing … his older sister coaching … his dad taking pictures … his other sister on the dock cheering and me driving, we had the capacity for Max to become a water skier!
We look forward during the summer month of July to sharing ideas and hearing your stories on how to develop the capacity needed for a successful change. Hopefully, in a way that isn’t too gut-wrenching and doesn’t require being dragged underwater!