COVID-19 is an obvious challenge to us all, and we must attend to our families our friends our neighbours our communities and our societies. As leaders, we must also pay attention to one of the many crisp leadership lessons this crisis brings with it.
COVID-19 rapidly spreads through contact and interaction. Ideas also spread through contact and interaction. Creativity is inspired by deep connection. Solutions to big challenges emerge from interaction. Buy-in and alignment reach critical mass through interaction.
To flatten the curve and quash COVID, the world has deliberately doubled down on social distancing, severely limiting both the variety of people and the number of people with whom we each interact.
In our professional lives, we unintentionally flatten the curve of great ideas, powerful solutions, incredible creations, and unified organizations by intentionally limiting both the variety and number of people with whom we interact. We do so for a few reasons: conventional thinking about ‘useless meetings’, and dogma about limiting meeting size to ‘two pizzas’; norms and behaviors that favor short, small-sized, transactional group deliberations; the notion that we as individuals are most productive when seated at our desks, heads down; incentives for people, teams and business units that also perpetuate silos. While we may talk a good game about forcing cross-functional and interdisciplinary collisions, in practice, we often fall short.
Recently, we helped a financial services firm turn around customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores that were in steep decline. They had tried for over a year to no avail. By bringing together a wide variety and a large number of people – senior leaders, sales professionals, managers, customers, consultants, and experts – and colliding them effectively, it took 3 days to figure out how to reverse the decline and align everyone. One year later, their scores had surpassed those of their top competitors. This is one of the hundreds of examples with which we have first-hand experience where increasing variety, increasing the number of people involved, and optimizing their interactions led to rapid, stellar outcomes.
As you, together with the rest of humanity, comply with social distancing to flatten the curve of the virus, reflect on the norms and behaviors you encounter, or the ones you model as a leader, that ultimately hinder the speed with which your organization develops high-quality ideas, insights, and solutions, and mobilizes people for execution.
Original article posted on LinkedIn on April 1, 2020
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