Why be unreasonable, and how…

“All progress depends on the unreasonable man”, so said George Bernard Shaw.

In an age where organizational leadership and collaboration requires listening and understanding is there a role for the unreasonable person to take us down a road we don’t like or trust? Certainly! Especially when people resist change.

Let’s skip the rationale for being unreasonable. Just think: Steven Jobs. Being unreasonable has to happen now and then in order for us to be helpful to people. Just don’t use it all the time and remember you’ll be praised for both when it works and held accountable when it doesn’t.

When you are clear about something that has to happen try these ideas on how to be unreasonable and get people to go along with you.

Ideas and questions for being unreasonable:

Here’s here we are going. I don’t fully know how we will get there, but we are going there.

I’m prepared to be wrong and that’s not going to lessen my resolve.

I’m going to listen to you to see if what you say adds anything to my decision.

Suppose I’m right in my view of what needs to happen. Please describe how you see it working.

Suppose we get there, how do you see yourself contributing to the outcome?

When you have been involved in an activity like this in the past, what worked?

What are the first small steps you see yourself taking in the next short while?

We will encounter setbacks and some of them may be contrary to your interests. How do you see yourself handling the setbacks?

On a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being lowest, how much have you bought into my decision? What things can I tell you that will increase your buy-in?

Why take the time to be unreasonable this way? Why not just tell them what to do? This route get you (and them) there much quicker!

As usual, the ideas are based on the Solutions Focus model.

What else would work if we were to decide to be helpfully unreasonable more often?

Why creating a culture of solutions is critical, not ‘fluff’

Should a CEO allow her people ample time to analyze problems in the usual manner? You know those meetings…what seemed like a problem last week now looks like a crisis. The players appear to collaborate, yet they explore the problem and who’s responsible for fixing it. Action might happen, but it’s rooted in managing the problem instead of focused on making progress towards a solution.

The answer to my rhetorical question is simple. No.

In times of rapid change (when is it not this way?), the CEO’s job is to get people in the organization out of problem mode and working on solutions. Because our brains are hard-wired to examine and tackle problems – scientists and engineers are best at it – we assume it’s the way to fix everything. It’s not. So, moving to solutions thinking sounds idealistic to some and, to a few, dangerous.

Einstein said ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’

The rational, problem-focused mind asks, ‘what if the solution is wrong?’ The answer is that greater risk lies in pursuing the problem through what appears as rational analysis. Unless it puts lives at risk, a ‘wrong’ solution is actually better than a deferred decision based on problem analysis which prevents decision making. Few solutions are actually ideal, so why not test and learn right away?

We don’t just make wild stabs at the solution. Fact based solutions are important. Rahul Bhardwaj of the Toronto Community Foundation constantly points to solutions built on facts. Rahul uses the quote, ‘It’s not what you look at. It’s what you see.’

What does the CEO need to do help make this happen?

  1. Start thinking of the solutions based outcomes you want, not the complexity of your staff issues
  2. Enable the staff to also think this way, i.e., think about outcomes first
  3. Demonstrate getting to solutions yourself – let the staff see you doing it
  4. Let the staff try it first on small projects and let them see the results

What’s the primary benefit of solutions-based change in organizations? Speed. Taking time to use solution thinking, painting a picture of future success, and deciding on what to do first, creates decisiveness and speeds up movement toward change. It’s that simple.

Also, resilience, an often hidden asset of the organization grows stronger as a result of moving away from problem focus. Those experiencing success find the change sustainable. Further, it improves productivity because people decide what to do and take action by circumventing the low-productivity approach created by problem-focused indecisiveness.

Speed, resilience, sustainability and productivity. Who can argue against those benefits?

What’s holding your team back from solutions?

Make the Most of Change with Solution Focus. Now!

“Organizations need to be nimble so that they can better manage and adapt to the changes that are going to happen anyway” Kevin Aguanno

A while ago I wrote that we have to not only adapt to change, but get in front of change. I advocate that Solution Focus is the way to do it. It’s not the only way, but the best way to make things happen.

As Kevin Aguanno says, change is going to happen anyway. We don’t have much of a say in that, do we! Or, do we?

Solution focus is the smart way to change. The approach is surprisingly simple, if counter intuitive. But, by leveraging our intuitive and our rational mind we can achieve a lot in a shorter period than we expect. How?

Two of the founders of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer noticed the following approach (not necessarily in this order), helped people’s problems better right away:

What’s already working (that we don’t have to change)

Suppose the problem we face went away, what would be happening instead?

Suppose we were successful, what small steps would we see ourselves taking right way

While there is nothing startling about these ideas, it’s the application of them without stopping to examine the problem that makes the difference. Overlooking the problem is often the hard part. But, by setting aside our curiosity about problems in favour of these three perspectives we open up great possibilities.

Where can we apply this in business? Unless the building is burning down, it is a stable platform for progress everywhere we seek to deal with change.

Join us November 10 (details available soon) at SFBiz to look at how this approach works and where we might apply it in our day-to-day practices.

Meantime, more on Solution Focus

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