Plato initiated the view that possession of absolute power inevitably has a corrupting effect.
Probably the most ancient expression of the idea that power has a corruptive effect appears in the parable of the Ring of Gyges in The Republic (c. 360 BCE) by Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE). In the parable, the otherwise virtuous Gyges indulges in corrupt behavior after finding a magic ring that renders him invisible.
However, the maxim “absolute power corrupts absolutely” originates much later, being a paraphrase of a letter written by Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834–1902), a British Catholic historian better known as Lord Acton, to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Acton scolds Creighton in the letter for his suggestion, in previous correspondence, that the pope, king, or any other person holding comparably high station ought to be judged according to standards different to those applied to common men. Acton argues that, quite to the contrary, “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (1887):
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which … the end learns to justify the means.
Acton, however, followed at least two distinguished persons in associating power with corruption: in a speech that was delivered in the British House of Commons in 1770, Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708–78), had claimed that, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, tyranny beginsl” Acton’s observation was also anticipated by French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790– 1869), who, in his essay France and England: a Vision of the Future (1848), had claimed “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free … the master himself did not gain less in every point of view .. for absolute power corrupts the best natures.” Acton, too, believed that few could resist power’s corrupting effect, asserting, “Great men are almost always bad men.”
Interpersonal influence (also identified as social influence) has transpired when the actions of one or more individuals influence the attitudes or behaviors of one or more other individuals. Relationships prosper or decline in relation to how well the partakers harmonize with one another about important decisions. Some agreements just fortuitously happen, but many of them are the result of the participants influencing one another. Recognizing the principles explained below will make one a better practitioner of influence and also more aware of how one is being influenced.
Successful managers apply each of these principles within four arenas:
Personal power. Managers must access the untapped capacity we, individually, have for personal power. Integrating our intellectual, emotional, and physical energies, the arena of personal power, is the groundwork.
Interpersonal influence. We can’t achieve organizational goals alone, regardless of how much personal power we have. Personal power does, however, enable us to achieve interpersonal influence. Influence is the impact we have on others simply because we are part of the same system. Such influence is too often undefined and undirected. Interpersonal influence connotes a specific focus of impact; that is, our ability to support others to willingly use their energy on behalf of our goals in ways that get rid of power struggles that waste energy. Instead, the focus is on improving the quality of our relationships to enhance interpersonal influence. This type of influence is pervasive and is necessary for survival. To not take cues from others would be to ignore much of the information that is available about the world.
Team synergy. A group is formed anytime people come together to accomplish something. We may call them departments, divisions, work units, teams, task forces, or committees. Meetings are a group activity. Groups must be turned into a source meaningful power. Team synergy, the most potent manifestation of group power, exists when the whole generates more power than the sum of its parts. Turning groups into high-performing, synergetic teams requires creating safe, conflict-competent, empowering groups that learn from differences and make good decisions. Teamwork has always been recognized as the backbone of leadership, but the stresses that team members now are experiencing might be one of the biggest challenges we will need to overcome to continue to think that way. Efficiency, cost-effectiveness, new technology and procedures, and multiple shifts in job responsibilities are permeating our environments during a time when teams are strained and sometimes broken.
The infinite organization. The payoff occurs in final arena, The Infinite Organization. In this arena our skills of personal power, interpersonal influence, and team synergy are applied in three areas: leadership and the executive team, structures and policies, and management practices that have created the benefits of the infinite perspective of power and its related principles. The synergy that allows an organization to give information and material and to add value through processes that they each offer is a unique quality. The resulting outcome is far greater than one that any individual could offer independently.
With these tools, managers can create the positive and self-sustaining culture that characterizes an infinite organization. When all three areas are fully developed, aligned, and congruent, the focus, energy, and success of The Infinite Organization will be evident.
Do you want to innovate with less, to see and play with patterns to achieve extraordinary results? Then stop thinking outside the box and get back into the box of your discipline, organization, and life. Rearrange what you have.
No one is going to give you more resources until you prove yourself. And the greatest outside-the-box (OTB) thinking will get you fired, discredited, and maybe killed if you can’t solve an immediate problem-now.
Everyone wants to think outside the box. But where’s the practical side of OTB problem-solving? It creates tension between innovative “outside” learning and the everyday constraints of a real job. Thinking OTB frustrates leaders who have to solve problems back inside the box of their work. OTB thinking denies our vital problem-solving capacity.
So I start in the toybox. I adapt lessons from how kids play to help adults at work. Play unleashes our performance innovation potential.
Unfortunately, our workplaces and our world also isolate innovators. So, thinking OTB doesn’t work for what many people need. When people return after an off-site retreat, they encounter unfinished work and resentful colleagues. Result: increased dissatisfaction with themselves, their work, and the innovation process.
We must innovate with less at work in order to see and play with patterns across multiple arenas of our lives, to achieve goals with what we have now, within the day-to-day realities.
Inside the Box: A System of Creativity
To think inside the box, choose the right box and start playing your best game. Try taking these seven steps:
See Mud, Find Grid. We work in mess. And the mess holds the key to improving our performance. If we can see and play with patterns we uncover in the mess of work, we can make decisions that will provide solid business value. No more indecision. We have to wade in the mud to grab the grid within. We have to find new ways to see and dig into our workplace mess. We must unearth powerful patterns that we can change. And we have to do it cheaply, quickly, and safely. But how? You guessed it: Think inside the box.
Accept Your Messy Box. Welcome to work in our supposedly sparkly clean and tidy “knowledge economy.” Don’t spill on your computer. Print that spreadsheet. Get your feet off the desk! Work hasn’t always been so orderly. Our modern workplaces hide our messes behind reports, delicately presented in slick slide-shows by fashionable professionals. Thus, we miss the mess. Deal with the fact that you have to work inside a messy box filled to the brim with the murky politics, limited resources, pain, and pressure that come with earning a living and making a life through work. Now use your skills, talents, expertise, and creativity within the constraints of your workplace-your box-to innovate and excel.
Name Your Mess. Mess is unfamiliar complexity. Today, leaders face more complex and unfamiliar challenges. Mess fills the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Define your stakeholders’ environment, resources, barriers, and opportunities into patterns for change, and you simplify their mess and maximize your effectiveness. Mess is unfamiliar, so fear it, right? Try again. We can’t think right when we sense fear. Innovative problemsolving inside the box defuses fear. You manage mess in a safe, familiar, dynamic, and respectful environment. Mess can be found and managed in three areas of performance: 1) internal dynamics-team-building, office politics, workplace communications, language, and culture; 2) external trends and influences-market forces, social norms, popular media; and 3) constant environmental change-restructuring, disintermediation, cultural diversity. Inbox thinking helps people change complex messes into defined barriers to excellence. With less stress, leaders identify next steps to solve messes just in time.
Find Your Crystal Question. Want some change? You gotta ask. Define a critical question (related to issues, value, urgency, and meaning) to answer for your innovation springboard. Sometimes it’s easy to do; sometimes you’ll need help. I call this the “crystal question.” Find it. Here’s how: Summarize critical needs. Prioritize. Identify a change objective in language that has meaning for you. Reframe as a question. No off-site retreat necessary. Grab some paper. Start writing it down now.
Use Only Four Words. You don’t have a lot of time. Find four key words that will crack open your box, unleash the mud, and reveal the grid. Use these four words to frame positive change in the first seven seconds of your call to action with your staff, boss, spouse, or others. An example: For one session, I wanted participants to see their creative power. The four words? “I am a poet.” The word POET then became an acronym for four activities. Whether the four words are a full sentence or four categories of change, you can use this to clarify your strategic innovation plan. The four words also help you make your message consistent when using different media (handouts, spoken word, slides, activities).
Play More. You’re in the box. You’re in the mess. You have some tools to clear things up. Now you get to work.. .right? Wrong. Now you play. Before you go cleaning up the grid, first play with the mess. If you ignore the mess, the fear remains, more mess will build, and no change will stick. But people hate mess! No one wants to talk about it, much less play. Be creative. Defuse the fear. Find a safe harbor that can stand in for the mess-as simple as a cartoon you use to “hook” your audience or as complex as a structured series of activities around a relevant metaphor. Remember the key: Ground what you use in your crystal question. Above all, practice! You must play with the mess yourself, and then try it with trusted others. Make mistakes and learn from them. Many baskets, many eggs. Find many patterns for change, and activities to purse, since some workers may not respond. Trust your gut instincts and watch your audience. If it isn’t working, do something different. Also, be aware of your own patterns and habits-they can be part of the mess.
Share Your Mess. See learning shift as your participants explore and manage the mess. In-box thinking allows people to use cognitive skills they may not use to solve problemsskills we use when we play.
Model Enthusiasm for Creativity, Support Success
Model learning through appreciation. Create respect. Openly express new insights. Praise ideas and new ways to think. Build excitement and commitment. Discover another way to interpret mess: “Model Enthusiasm, Support Success!” Process your mess. Devote time to debrief. Get people to apply their new clarity and ideas at work. Document and prioritize tasks, then act. Co-create responsibility. Hold each other accountable to make the patterns change after you in-box think. Here are some tips for playing in the box:
Participants will change your mess.
Be open. You can’t predict results.
Allow yourself to learn together.
Use simple, cheap, accessible stuff-pads and paper, markers, and toys.
Your passion can make it work.
Evaluate, celebrate, improve. Get feedback-formal (evaluation forms) and informal (hearsay)-on the change process. Reward yourself and your team for effort.
Congrats. You’re out of the box. Now get back in. Take the lessons you learn to make a better mess next time! The patterns you see, the ways you play, and the successes you stimulate may differ from one change effort to another. The principle remains the same: Use play to think inside your box to see patterns and options in new ways.
Our workplaces, our world, and our future depend on our ability to see and play with patterns in new ways. Luckily, we’re all experts. And, while it’s hard work, it can be a lot of fun.
That some reasonings are genuine, while others seem to be so but are not, is evident. This happens with arguments, as also elsewhere, through a certain likeness between the genuine and the sham. For physically some people are in a vigorous condition, while others merely seem to be so by blowing and rigging themselves out as the tribesmen do their victims for sacrifice; and some people are beautiful thanks to their beauty, while others seem to be so, by dint of embellishing themselves. So it is, too, with inanimate things; for of these, too, some are really silver and others gold, while others are not and merely seem to be such to our sense; e.g. things made of litharge and tin seem to be of silver, while those made of yellow metal look golden. In the same way both reasoning and refutation are sometimes genuine, sometimes not, though inexperience may make them appear so: for inexperienced people obtain only, as it were, a distant view of these things. For reasoning rests on certain statements such that they involve necessarily the assertion of something other than what has been stated, through what has been stated: refutation is reasoning involving the contradictory of the given conclusion. Now some of them do not really achieve this, though they seem to do so for a number of reasons; and of these the most prolific and usual domain is the argument that turns upon names only. It is impossible in a discussion to bring in the actual things discussed: we use their names as symbols instead of them; and therefore we suppose that what follows in the names, follows in the things as well, just as people who calculate suppose in regard to their counters.
Formal fallacies are mistakes in the logical form of an argument, independent of its semantic content. For example, in the non-fallacious form called Modus Ponens, a correct deduction can be derived from a conditional premise and a correct antecedent, regardless of the content. However, in the related formal fallacy called “affirming the consequent,” a false deduction is derived from the same correct conditional premise and a false antecedent. It follows that not every instance of the deduction would be true, even if the premise statements appeared correct individually.
It’s a tempting proposal: if you practice anything for 10,000 hours, then you will become world class. In 1993, scientist Anders Ericsson learned of a group of psychologists in Berlin who were researching violin players found that, by age 20, the leading performers had averaged in excess of 10,000 hours of practice each. Less able performers, in the meantime, clocked up just 4,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion further in his book Outliers: The Story of Success.
In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.
The Beatles ended up travelling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, of five or more hours a night. Their second trip they played 92 times. Their third trip they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg stints, in November and December 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times, which is extraordinary. Most bands today don’t perform 1,200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart.
Coined by Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule reflects the belief that becoming a superlative athlete or performer rests on a long period of hard work rather than “innate ability” or talent. As stated by Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour rule, genuine success only comes to people who are willing to put in a great many hours to become first-class at something they value. Whether it involves learning a new piece of equipment, a new language, or developing a craft, being able to cope with setbacks and stay focused on goals regardless of how far-flung they seem. And so the importance of resolve and steadiness in success.
Bill Gates did not only have an propensity for creating software, he also had just about exceptional access as a schoolboy to a mainframe computer that the parents’ association of his local school invested in, in 1968. He got to it in eighth grade before just about anyone else in the world. Correspondingly the Beatles’ genius for melody did not come ready made. They developed it while singing in Hamburg in the early Sixties, at all-night strip clubs. In those years they dedicated more time to pop music than any of their peers. The same could be said for Mozart, or Tiger Woods. They had capability, sure enough, but they also had extraordinary family circumstances that allowed them a reasonable advantage at a very early age. They put the hours in first.
Extraordinary success depends on talent, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time, among other things. In Outliers, Gladwell contends that, to truly master any skill, leaning on various pieces of research, requires about 10,000 concentrated hours. If you can get those hours in early, and be in a position to exploit them, then you are an outlier.
When asked, “What do you think of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that the years 1953 to 1955 were the perfect ones in which to be born for the computer revolution?” by his father William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates reponds:
His book makes a lot of great points … that is that in all success stories there are significant elements of luck and tiny … I wasn’t the only kid born between 1953 and 1955, but absolutely to be young and open-minded at a time when the microprocessor was invented … in my case have a friend Paul Allen who was more open-minded about hardware type things and literally brought me the obscure article to talk about that first microprocessor and said you know this is going to improve exponentially … what does that mean and I said well at that means it we can do anything we want and then he was … you know … bugging me the rest of the time every time there’d be a new microprocessor he said can we do something yet and when we were in high school that can happen … so he came back to possible good job there and actually the microprocessor that was finally good enough came out in early 1975 and that’s why I i dropped out … so the timing was pretty important you know why didn’t older people see it … they weren’t this open open minded … they didn’t think about software is the key ingredient … now a lot of kids started doing software and … it’s not if somebody reads the book to say that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something you’ll be super good at it I don’t think that’quite as simple as that what you do is you do about 50 hours and ninety percent drop out because they don’t like it or they’re not good … you do another 50 hours and ninety percent drop out … so there’s these constant cycles and you do have to be lucky enough but also fanatical enough to keep going and so the person makes it to 10,000 hours is not just somebody has done it for 10,000 hours there’s somebody who chosen and been chosen in many different times and so all these magical things came together including who I know and that time … and i think you know that’s very important … when you look at somebody who’s good and say could I do it like them … they’ve gone through so many cycles that it may fool you that you know yes yes you could with the with the right luck, imagination, and and some some talent.
Bill Gates responds to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Apart from acknowledging luck, timing and an open mind, Gates suggests that a successful person survives many cycles of attrition to make it to 10,000 hours of experience. “You do have to be lucky enough, but also fanatical enough to keep going,” explains Gates.
Unfortunately, a Princeton study, which analyzed 88 studies, established that practice accounted for just a 12% variation in performance.
Following years of reading, appraising, and retailing business books, 800-CEO-READ creator Jack Covert, ex-president Todd Sattersten, and present general manager Sally Haldorson have selected and appraised the one hundred greatest business titles of all time—the ones that dispense the biggest payoff for today’s occupied readers. It’s a great list, and in the vein of all lists, bound by argument and long-windedness about what is and isn’t contained in this list. Each book gets a couple of pages of outline handling.
Extraverted managers can be a obligation if the followers are extroverts, tending not to be amenable to employees who make suggestions and take initiative. Introverted managers are more likely to listen to, process, and execute the ideas of an eager team. This is well aligned with the advanced leadership skill of coaching (defined as asking thought provoking questions and then truly listening to the response). Whether introverted or extraverted, a manager who has the discipline to listen to what others has to say will engage a larger percentage of employees. Many introverts find it simpler to listen than extraverts. But it certainly is a skill that can be taught, trained and institutionalized.
The greatest leaders are those who are able to leverage the talents of the people around them and raise each person to function closer to or at their full potential. Other critical attributes to leadership—authenticity, self-awareness and emotional intelligence—also have nothing to do with introversion or extroversion.
Myth #1: Being Introverted is the same as Being Shy: While there may be a number of introverts who are shy, there are also a number of extroverts who are shy. There is no absolute association. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast.” Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Myth #2: Introverts are Socially Inept or Anxious in Social Situations: Again, while this may be true for some introverts, this can also be true for extroverts and is not directly related to one’s introversion. Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. Some people even describe themselves as ambiverts, smack-dab in the middle. Regardless of where you fall in this spectrum, it helps to be aware of how you operate and can best interact with others.
Myth #3: If I am Fearful of Public Speaking I Must be an Introvert: Studies show the fear of public speaking is the top fear people face, and that 75% of persons experience speaking apprehension. Yet less than half of all people are introverts. Again, there is no direct correlation and this affects extroverts in the same way it involves introverts. People will often use the word “introvert” as shorthand for a variety of negative stereotypes: loner, shy, socially awkward, wallflower, misanthrope. Of course, it’s possible for an introvert to be any of those things, but the same is true for an extrovert.
Myth #4: Introverts Have Communication Challenges and Difficulty Knowing What to Say: This is social anxiety, not introversion. If you research social anxiety you do not find references to introversion as a cause. The trick for introverts is to honour their styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.
Myth #5: If You Act Like an Extrovert You Can “Overcome” Introversion: The truth is best summed up by an email I received from a companion executive: “I have spent the better part of a 10-year career turning introversion into extroversion via the same technique used by people to heal bad posture—over correct it long enough and the correct posture becomes natural. This approach was certainly unforgettable but I made a fool of myself more times than I can remember, which is not conducive to long-term connections.” Because of the more reserved, private nature of introverts, people can also think they’re aloof or arrogant.
Introverted managers work against their type in order to fit in with their extroverted colleagues. Not only do individual leaders suffer the energy drains of pretending to be more extroverted but also businesses miss out many of on the contributions that come directly from the introverted qualities they do have.
Ray Williams, a well-known executive trainer and leadership guide in Canada, observes how the introvert—extrovert gulf manipulates our standpoint toward leaders:
Movies, television and the news media have significantly influenced our popular images of leaders—from Clint Eastwood, to Jim Carey, Larry Ellison, and Donald Trump—for the past three decades. This stereotypical view of charismatic, extroverted individuals, often egocentric and aggressive, has been associated with what we want and expect in our leaders. Our culture, particularly in business and politics, seems to be in love with the charismatic leader—the guns blazing, no-holds barred, center-of-attention leader, who is a super-confident if not arrogant, aggressively decisive leader of a band of star-struck followers …. The status and reputation of quiet, introverted leadership is undervalued and under-appreciated. Despite decades of research on leadership pointing to other less demonstrative skills that are needed, extroverts are still favored in recruiting and promoting decisions. Yet recent research reveals that introverted, quiet leaders may be more suited for today’s workplace. If you want an example of a successful introverted leader, you need look no further than Warren Buffett.
What Makes an Introvert
Introverts’ listening skills can be an asset when leading teams. Making sure everyone feels heard, Yeager said, is a good way to secure buy-in. When you’re trying to gain consensus, give everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion. People will be more likely to go along with your decision, even if it’s not the option they preferred, if they feel like they were heard. Susan Cain in ‘Quiet The Power of Introverts’:
Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in…. This has led to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.
Careful thinkers who look before they leap
Usually only speak when they have something to say, after processing internally
Comfort with independent thought and action
Feel at their most alive and energized in quiet situations
Need solitude to balance out social time
Active inner life, imagination and a strong creative streak
Capacity for active listening and connecting on an intimate level
Willing to put other people and their vision in the spotlight
Desire for focus and to develop a depth of understanding/mastery over a topic
Some Common Myths About Introverts
Though introverts may have a more reserved leadership style than extroverts, they possess many qualities that make them good leaders. Their capacity for listening and reflection, for instance, helps them forge strong relationships with colleagues and clients. Introverts have the ability to really take in what people are saying, process it, and come back to it in a meaningful way.
They are shy or antisocial. There are “social introverts” who are drawn to people byt need a higher ratio of solitude to social time. There are also those who more closely match the stereotypes of a strong loner.
They make poor leaders, and are best suited for jobs that limit contact with people. In fact, research shows introverted leaders often out-perform extroverted ones.
They’re always quiet and don’t talk
They’re all bookworms and nerds
They’re arrogant, aloof or stuck up
It’s important for introverts to be strategic about how they use their time and energy. Decide in advance who you want to meet and which events you want to attend. Set a goal such as having lunch with a certain number of people this quarter. What I’ve learned is that I don’t have to talk to everyone in the room. Having two to four good, meaningful conversations is enough.
No one can know everything, but you can work to understand the big important models in each discipline at a basic level so they can collectively add value in a decision-making process. Simply put, Munger believes that people who think very broadly and understand many different models from many different disciplines make better decisions and are therefore better investors.
Multidisciplinary thinking offers a schema or a philosophical template within which thinkers can find an intellectual connectedness to decompartmentalize their approach and face the new intellectual horizons with a broader perspective. Single disciplines are too narrow a perspective regarding many phenomena.
Human thought, as it has evolved in detached disciplines, and the physical systems within which we live exhibit a level of complexity across and within systems that makes it impossible to understand the important phenomena that are affecting humans today from the perspective of any single incomplete system of thought. Thus interconnected systems and high levels of complexity yield a situation in which multidisciplinary tactics to understanding and problem solving produce the real growth industry in the next generation of scholarly thought.
Disciplines develop their own internal ways of looking at the phenomena that interest them. Become broadly knowledgeable about any particular phenomenon as possible before constructing theories and asserting truth assertions. Problems arise from the lack of a viewpoint from which one can understand the relationship between various disciplines.
Multidisciplinary discourse is more than just important. We can have a complete intellectual system, one that covers all the necessary territory, only if we add multidisciplinary discourse to the knowledge within the disciplines. This is true not only in principle but also for strong pragmatic reasons. This will assure the safety of our more global ideas.
Producing and applying knowledge no longer work within strict disciplinary boundaries. New dimensions of intricacy, scale, and uncertainty in technical problems put them beyond the reach of one-thought disciplines. Advances with the most impact are born at the frontiers of more than one engineering discipline.
Multidisciplinarity refers more to the internalization of knowledge. This happens when abstract associations are developed using an outlook in one discipline to transform a perspective in another or research techniques developed in one elaborate a theoretic framework in another.
To get the most out of their R&D workforce, many organizations seek persons who comprehend a range of science and engineering principles and procedures to guarantee that work will be advanced even if a specific expert were not always available.
It is not enough to want to become more creative and to take more risks. To do so means challenging yourself, your team, and the organization. Moving out of our comfort zones is something we rarely do. Yet when we do, we gain insights into our own character. We can then reshape ourselves to the way we want. This is also the case with organizations and teams. But it means changing the culture.
The culture is reflected in what the organization or team values and how it does its business, as well as its propensity for risk taking and creativity. How does your organization view risk taking? Does your culture punish or reward people for taking risks? How willing are you to take risks at work?
Your propensity for risk taking is, in part, a function of the culture. If your boss doles out punitive measures for anyone who fails at a task, you play it safe. Or, if eyes roll when you offer an idea at a brainstorming session, you think twice about offering ideas.
The creativity or risk taking in a culture is consistent with the characteristics of one of seven orientations: Challenger, Innovator, Drean1er, Sustainer, Planner, Modifier, or Practicalizer. This composite profile becomes the group’s norm. Changing the group norm is difficult.
We need to focus on what we can influence directly: our immediate work teams and ourselves. Our efforts in these areas can yield powerful results.
Use these drivers of creativity and risk taking to build innovative capacity:
Creativity driver 1: Ambiguity and its opposite, predictability. Operating in an ambiguous situation means dealing with uncertainty and vagueness. Those who function effectively in ambiguous circumstances don’t require highly structured situations, goals, or objectives to accomplish or create things, ideas, services, or products. Growth in this area yields innovative solutions. Since dealing with ambiguity is challenging, many people try to control variables, chart alternative courses of action, and eliminate the impact of uncertainty. The opposite of ambiguity is predictability. People who demand predictability require structure, clarity, and definition.
Creativity driver 2: Independence and its opposite, dependence. Independence means not being subject to the control, influence, or determination of others. People who are independent will not subordinate themselves to others. They don’t like to be managed by others. They are self-empowered. They don’t have to be given direction. They don’t like to ask for help, believing their way to be the best way. Dependent people need direction from someone. They do not take action without prior approval.
Creativity driver 3: Inner-directedness and its opposite, other-directedness. Inner-directed people and teams feel a great sense of purpose. They often have clear vision of the future. People who are inner-directed believe that they are responsible for determining their own destiny, expectations, and norms. They are guided by their own set of values. They sometimes believe that no one really understands them. Often, they have difficulty reconciling personal agendas to corporate directives. People who are other-directed are always concerned about what everyone else thinks or is doing. Other-directed people don’t take the lead without input from others.
Creativity driver 4: Uniqueness and its opposite, conformity. Uniqueness is appreciating and valuing differences. People and teams that value uniqueness look for creativity in themselves and others. They foster it. They first look for the differences, not to accentuate them, but appreciate and take advantage of them. The opposite of uniqueness is conformity, acting in ways that conform to current styles, norms, or expectations.
Risk-taking driver 1: Authentic and its opposite, political. Authentic means being what you purport to be. Authentic people and teams live by their core beliefs; they mean what they say and say what they mean. Their actions are congruent with their espoused values. They “walk their talk” and “tell it like it is.” They take stands on issues. They are true and genuine. Its opposite is being political. Political people don’t communicate with others directly. They are always navigating or positioning for self-advantage.
Risk-taking driver 2: Resiliency and its opposite, rigidity. Resiliency is the ability to rebound, adapt, and learn, even in the face of adversity and stress. Resilient people pick themselves up after being knocked down. They believe that something good always comes out of a bad experience. They create options. They persevere. They get the job done, sometimes by the force of their will. Its opposite is rigidity or inflexibility in response to change, rejection, or setbacks.
Risk-taking driver 3: Self-acceptance and its opposite, victimization. Self-accepting means to be approving of one’s own behaviors or actions. Self-accepting people like themselves and their situations. They exhibit self-confidence. They are unlikely to say they’re sorry about much, because they have few regrets. They don’t try to be perfect. They like themselves, in spite of themselves sometimes. Its opposite is victimization. Victimized people complain and blame others.
If everyone on your team cultivated these drivers, your innovative capacity would accelerate rapidly.
Although the concept of the mind possessing a streaming consciousness can be found in early Buddhist texts, the first modern approach to the phenomenon was put forward by William James (1842-1910), one of the United States’ first recognized psychologists in his 1,200-word masterwork The Principles of Psychology in 1899.
In this book, James speaks of consciousness as being “unbroken” and states that there are no “gaps,” or as he liked to say no “intrusive alien substances,” that come along to distinguish or break up one period of consciousness from the next. For consciousness to be interrupted by gaps or intrusions, James thought, is like “expecting the eye to feel a gap of silence because it does not hear, or the ear to feel a gap of darkness because it does not see. So much,” he said, “for the gaps that are unfelt.”
Consciousness, rather than being “chopped up,” was likened instead by James to a river or stream, a process that is ever-flowing even in the event of a sudden interruption, such as an explosion or losing one’s footing and falling over. These sorts of things-a clap of thunder or the sound of a gunshot—are about as disconnected from our present thoughts as “a joint in bamboo is a break in the wood.” The thunder clap is as intrinsically a part of our continuing, unbroken consciousness as the joint is a part of the bamboo in which it grows. James believed that our cognitive experiences overlap one another and are linked by what he called “fringes,” subconscious tabs, which act as clasps that are necessary in binding our conscious thoughts together, and prevent us from living in a chaotic inner world of random, unrelated experiences.
James’s theory influenced literature and became a narrative device to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings that pass through an individual’s mind. James Joyce’sUlysses (1922) is one of the best-known examples of the stream of consciousness technique. William James wrote in Principles of Psychology (1890) that, “The attempt at introspective analysis in these cases is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks.”