I saw two very different broad type of responses to c19.
The first is was that of widespread paralysis. Like rabbits caught in headlights. Sat waiting for the ‘top’ or the ‘centre’, or ‘HQ’ to figure things out and give us clear guidance and instructions. If in doubt – do nothing and await further instructions. Or, keep doing what we have always done – but do it with greater commitment, greater risk, and greater efforts to mitigate the risk too. It is a reflection of a particular culture where organisations and individuals have formed a dependency on an ‘authority’, that will eventually ‘know the way’ and ‘show the way’. And a reliance on habits and routines that have been proven to work in the past and will surely, hopefully, prevail again. It was a culture of ‘closed innovation’ where some were paid to think and lead while others followed.
The second broad response was that of open innovation and creativity. Self organising and mutually supporting groups and networks have springing up within days and all sort of innovations being tested. Restaurants becoming take-aways. Makers clubs running online. Choirs and bands performing from the sofas using collaboration platforms and music being released at an amazing rate. GPs suddenly doing nearly all of their consultations online. New hospitals are spring up within weeks. This world is moving quickly, collaboratively and positively.
What influences which of these two reactions we get in a crisis? Well, certainly personality, history and culture play a huge part.
Some people are more prone to ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ when they face a threat – they act. They experiment. They test their assumptions by trying things out. While others are more prone to freeze. Let others take the risks. As the way forward becomes clear, guidelines will appear and we can the move with safety.
In our evolutionary history both can work.
I also think organisational culture and structure play a part.
Families with strong leaders look to the leader for assurance and guidance. Organisations with strong hierarchies look to the senior management and the board for guidance and instructions, while families with more distributed leadership start talking to each other about what next. Organisations with more empowered structures start to blossom with experiments as individuals and groups start to test the new waters in terms of what works, and share what they know.
But which is best? How should we develop our systems to better respond in the future. Well, I don’t think it is either/or.
It is both/and.
The best responses have both a strong top down influence and this blossoming of innovation. They work together – exchanging information. Listening, challenging, supporting, testing. A clear sense of direction and purpose re-stated from the top. A strong culture of connection and innovation learning and sharing how to work for this purpose in the new world.
Dependency is replaced by a healthier, more human relationship. A genuine association around a shared purpose that knows how to work with both power and love.
Take a good look at your systems. What reactions are you seeing to the crisis?
What does it teach you about the need for things to be different in the future?