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Embrace the unknown


What to do when you don’t know the answers?

One of our clients was confronted with a divided executive leadership team; some team members were convinced their environment was going to develop in a certain way, others were convinced of the opposite. And our client? He wasn’t so sure where the world was going but felt he needed to have a strong view because everyone was looking at him for the answers. He asked us to develop this vision with him. However, after we had some time to understand the nature of the challenge and the rationale behind the different views of his team members we advised him to take a different approach.

We created opposing future scenarios – based on the different views his people had – and organized a creative session to challenge them. Our client opened the meeting by explaining his ‘not-knowing’ and his need to further explore the options. He then invited two sub-groups to debate the two scenarios. Naturally, we had pre-cooked the session and designed two teams that didn’t necessarily defend their ‘own’ preferred scenario. By inviting the other team members to role-play different stakeholders and ask questions from a different perspective we were able to identify the key issues that would determine whether scenario A or B would better prepare the company for the future. This allowed us to find specific experts in other domains to invite for the next session and eventually resulted in a clear future direction that all team-members agreed on. But maybe even more importantly: by daring to admit that he didn’t know where to go (yet) our client changed the team dynamics. His vulnerability and invitation to play together created a different tone at the top that made them more effective in the long run.

It takes creative courage to deal with uncertainty and complexity. To admit that you don’t have all the answers and to try a new approach without knowing whether it will work. To let go of your perfectionism and the idea that leaders should have all the answers, and to allow yourself to make mistakes. So when this personal courage leads to tangible results it makes not only the client but also us very happy!

What does it take for you to show your creative courage? And how do you convince others to be comfortable with not knowing?

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