Challenging the status quo is a way of operating that has been around for a long time. But why does it matter? And as importantly what does it mean in the context of exercising adaptive leadership?
Before we answer those questions let’s take a look at some research.
A HBR article in 2016 titled “Let Your Workers Rebel” reported results of a survey conducted of more that 2000 employees across industries enquiring about how often they were asked to think outside the box.
The results? 42% said never or almost never, 32% sometimes and 26% said fairly often or very often. Only 3% said always.
Conformity was so prevalent. And I wouldn’t think you would be surprised by these results.
We are not saying conforming isn’t necessary in some instances, but the exercise of thinking outside the box is not even enough today. That’s just the ticket to the game. To win at the game we need to shake things up and bring new and different perspectives to the way we think and lead. This helps us to challenge the status quo.
According to Harvard professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “the advanced leader can move beyond “thinking outside the box” to “thinking outside the building”, implementing transformational change not just within organisations but for society and the world”.
We are not talking about challenging everything that moves.
The art of adaptive leadership is as much about conservation as it is about reinvention. Think about the fact that we share more than 90% of our DNA with chimpanzees! Successful adaptive change will come from the work we lead in identifying what we challenge and lose, what we keep and what we innovate.
None of this is easy work. But it is critical that we look at adaptive work through these three lenses. Don’t, as the saying goes, throw the baby out with the bath water. Such a bad saying really when you put in down in words!!
In building adaptive leadership and adaptive capability in your organisations be curious, observe and be clear on what, in the DNA of your organisation, has made you successful so far and therefore what you need to protect. Bring your empathy and understanding to what needs to be challenged and be left behind as it is no longer serving you or the organisation. And then be clear on where you need to innovate to set up your future success.
When you think about this, conformity plays no role. Even if you are conserving parts of your organisation or DNA, it is because of a deliberate assessment to do so. The building of adaptive muscles to challenge the status quo is as much art as it is science. If you would like to understand how we can help your organisation build these muscles please connect with us here.