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3 Key Lessons from Our Leadership and Innovation Bootcamp

On 22 April, together with Oslo Business Forum, we organized an online bootcamp focusing on the topics of leadership and innovation in changing times. We had the privilege to dive deep with four top experts: Gary Hamel, Paul Polman, Lisa Bodell, and Seth Godin.

Here we briefly summarize a few key insights that these coaches highlighted. Later, we will publish a more extensive summary, but as first aid until then, you can dive into these 3 lessons.

Lesson #1: Accept Change and Decide to Change

Seth Godin started his session by acknowledging that there are most likely a lot of people who long for going back to the time before the pandemic. “Many people would like to get back to normal, but there’s no going back to normal. This is normal, the next thing is normal.” Resistance is understandable – but at this point, it won’t help. It’s time to accept that things have changed and look forward.

Seth underlined that in fact, change is what we are supposed to do. “A good day is a day you make change happen.” So, he suggested you ask yourself: who are you seeking to change, and what change are you seeking to make? Focus on that.

At the end of the day, Gary Hamel also encouraged and pushed us towards change. He emphasized that leaders are actually those who make an impact regardless of their position. And anyone can make an impact if you just choose to do so. In Gary’s words, you should become an activist. And how do you become one? “With a courageous heart, a contrarian mind, a compassionate heart, and a collaborative instinct.”

“Choose to decide that you want to change the game”, said Seth Godin. Then, take action.

Lesson #2. Simplify Your Work to Make Space for Change

Probably the most practical section of the bootcamp was when Lisa Bodell shared her tips on how to actually make room for change. She highlighted that it’s impossible for people to change and innovate if meaningless work and busyness take all the time of people’s workdays.

Therefore, Lisa gave 4 techniques that you can use to ignite change:

  1. Kill a stupid rule. “If you could kill or change any 2 rules at work, what would they be and why?” So, ask your team, and come up with 2 stupid rules that you will kill in order to simplify the working culture in your team or organization.
  2. Drive curiosity. “In the future, asking the right questions will become more valuable than finding answers. Humans are for questions, machines are for answers.”
  3. Overcome obstacles. Go from impossible to possible. List your impossibles and give them to your colleague and ask them how they would solve them. You will definitely get some solutions that you would have never thought of yourself.
  4. Kill your company. Make some people in your team act as your biggest competitor. Then, force them to think like the competitors and think of ways they want to kill your company. From this exercise, you will find many ideas on what you should do in the future.

Lesson #3. Include Your Entire Organization in Innovation

“You need to turn on the creativity of every single employee”, underlined Gary. He argued that innovation cannot be successful if it only happens at the top of the organization.

He shared examples such as Nucor and Haier, who have managed to make every employee a part of their innovation process. Both of these companies are huge, but they have still managed to break their organizations into smaller independent teams that have the freedom, authority, and competence to drive change.

According to Gary, a few ways to unleash innovation in your organization are:

  • Flatten the pyramid. Cut down the number of layers in your organization.
  • Break big units into small ones. Make your organization entrepreneurial.
  • Teach everyone to think like a business person. Invest in upgrading the business skills of your employees, so that you can trust them with that responsibility.
  • Give frontline teams a genuine P&L. Instead of providing vague top-down targets, give your people a genuine P&L.
  • Encourage relentless experimentation. Push your people to take risks and try new things.
  • Give every employee a financial upside. Give a reward or compensation for your employees when succeeding in innovation.
  • Treat every job as essential to success. Include every single employee in the process and value everyone’s ideas.

Bonus Lesson: Have a Higher Purpose

What Paul Polman argued was that those companies that have a higher long-term purpose are the ones that succeed.

“Companies that drive to this higher purpose and that operate under longer-term business models are companies that frankly do better.” Paul underlined that according to research these companies really outperform their competitors. He mentioned that companies that actually improve things seem to attract the best people, have a more engaged team, have better relationships with their value chain, are more innovative, and the list goes on.

What it comes down to is again the willingness to create change for the better. “At the end of the day, it falls down to people and willpower. We lack enough courageous leaders still in the world”, Paul challenged.

We hope you are or will become one of the courageous ones.

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