Wednesday, 4 July 2012


To paraphrase an old quote, insanity is the expectation that old approaches will still work when the context you are operating in has changed. If managers are supposed to do things right, and leaders to do the right thing, then a recession deepens the requirement to support today’s strategy, whilst crafting its innovative replacement.

But what do you do in the interim before the new, “effective” strategy is operating? Just as the 1973 oil embargo forced the adoption of lean thinking in the Japanese automotive industry, we need to adopt a fundamentally different approach to forms of waste that we may not at first be able to see or even characterize by creating new, dynamic way of thinking about the most valuable resource that organisations possess – their people. It is ultimately through people that growth will come.
We’ve all heard of Not-Invented-Here, and I have written elsewhere about “sticky” organizations and how closed Relational Capital protects the status quo, but understanding the problem is not the same as solving it. Ordinary people are like athletes in that both have all the innate assets needed to become innovative and succeed, but few dare to systematically realise this potential by developing a form of mental fitness that reduces expensive defensive, paternalistic leadership and its partner incompetence, in order to liberate new, hidden capability to innovate and grow.

Throwing money at the recession will not solve the problem. Telling the banks to lend money just begs the question of what exactly are they going to invest in, within a recession? So what is required in order to be worth investing in?

Current Recession Context & Innovation Credo

·    Growth in a recession will come from different and better use of current resources to innovate, chiefly through our people and their talents.

·    Champions are the product of the ability to focus and control their own minds and fears to deliver outstanding behaviours combined with a conscious use of technique under difficult circumstances.

·    Successful leaders in difficult times are able to lead themselves and also influence the behaviours of those around them.

·    The problem for leaders is how to get more and different outcomes for less, by understanding how to develop and apply a form of mental and behavioural fitness to manage their own attention in order to change behaviours and expectations, more.

One of the strategic imperatives that Clive Woodward brought to British Athletics (and he knows he will never be forgiven for doing it) was to focus investment on athletes in events where they were likely to win a medal. Successful growth in a recession requires a similar approach to mental fitness to enable innovation and growth.

On 19th September 2012, Graham Williams and I will be presenting a showcase workshop on this topic, entitled "Mind Fit - To Innovate for Business Growth" at the University of Greenwich's Hamilton House in Greenwich. Details to follow.