Andy Grove, ex CEO of INTEL wrote a book titled Only The Paranoid Survive. Grove argued that he believed fervently in the value of paranoia. He felt that leaders must never allow themselves to get comfortable, no matter how successful they had become. They had to devise ways to dial up their curiosity, to learn, to stay connected to the competition, to customers, to people who were willing to challenge the conventional wisdom.
If you’ve been in a role for any length of time, chances are you’ve fallen in to some unhelpful routines and habits. Familiarity usually breeds complacency and before you know it, you’re operating for large parts of your day on auto-pilot. You become blind to new opportunities, threats and chances to evolve and improve.
In my last role at an innovation agency, one of our core values was ‘Freshness’. The act of constantly seeking out fresh new experiences in order to stimulate and energise our thinking. We used to encourage it in ourselves, in our teams, and as an agency. When we worked with clients, all our techniques were designed to help them think about their challenge, business model, or customer base in fresh new ways.
As an English rugby fan, I’m always fascinated by their coaching style. Despite their recent dip in results, much of their past success can be laid at the coach, Eddie Jones’ door. At 57, having accumulated 23 years of coaching experience in which he has won a World Cup, Tri-Nations, Six Nations titles, and enjoying over a 90% success rate, Jones’s thirst for knowledge remains stronger than ever. Pep Guardiola, the Orica-Bike Exchange Tour de France outfit and the coaches of the England football, cricket and women’s hockey teams are just a few of the resources that Jones has called upon since his appointment as England head coach. “I try to meet people who are smarter than me,” says Jones.
He’s been described as a shark, because he has to keep moving, in his quest to improve.
Because he leads by example it means he can then demand it of his coaching staff and players. As a result, nobody rests on their laurels, egos can’t inflate and everyone is constantly alert and alive to new opportunities, even when the chips are down.
The English football team saw a change in the attitudes of the players for the World Cup 2018. The ego-driven, complacent, burdened by history and expectation demeanor was replaced by a team who displayed humility and ’played with lightness and joy’. This new thinking has been accredited to Manager Gareth Southgate (who spent time with Eddie Jones) but also to their new team psychologist, Pippa Grange, who spent time building trust amongst the team ‘making them closer, with a better understanding of each other’. Embracing failure, emotion and empathy. The difference with the training for this World Cup is that the psychological sessions were not optional, as they had been previously. Southgate looked for fresh ideas and took a punt with a new strategy, which paid off. They may not have made the final but they impressed the nation ten-fold.
Steve Jobs once said, “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So, this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life.”
If you’re going to do something, strive to be excellent at it. To be excellent you need to possess a growth mindset, where you’re always open to new approaches and methods. In business, it’s easy to navel gaze and become distracted by internal operations and lose awareness of the stimulus that lies outside.
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