June 26

Time to Pivot: Wicked Problems Need Wicked Solutions

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We need to get really comfortable with the idea of pivoting. To pivot simply means to change your mind about your core offering, repurpose what you’ve got and turn it into something that works.

I use the words “change your mind” on purpose as it starts with letting go of our belief in what we think our core value to the outside world is, which is often the tricky part.

Whilst the term ‘pivot’ became normalised with Lean Startup Methodology, today we use it to describe all manner of radical change and transformation. From our careers to our core business strategy, services, products, how we do what we do and even our perspective on the world.

My fascination with all things transformation began as a global headhunter based in London working with the Venture Capital community. By their very nature, many startups pivot. They try out their initial ideas only to find they are lacking and then keep pivoting until they find the sweet spot. I have also witnessed and coached thousands of people through successful career pivots. Taking their skills, expertise and experience and repurposing them into fulfilling careers.

Today, I work with leadership teams to think and act creatively and innovatively and build cultures of innovation. Practically speaking, this means finding better, smarter ways forward and creating the environment to foster and nurture new ideas into life.

The Mental Health Shock

As I write this, our world context has changed dramatically and altered the trajectory of our lives. We have weathered months of crisis management, hugely tactical, transactional thinking and action and we’re experiencing the ongoing unravelling of all that we thought to be real, true and solid. We are dealing with ‘wicked problems’, which is the term used to describe the most challenging and complex issues of our time.

We are also experiencing the Mental Health Shock of CV19 with employees around the world reporting a 42% decline (Qualtrix). From a neuroscience perspective, our physiological response to major life stressors alters our brain chemistry.

We become laser-focused on the perceived threat, shutting down our ability to think creatively, to have perspective and to connect to others.

It’s easy to understand how these conditions make it tough to think our way out of our problems and find fresh, new ways forward. So many people have said if they just knew what to do, they would throw everything at it. In other words, they feel stuck and fresh out of ideas, which is debilitating when we know we need to change.

The Novel Remix of Existing Ideas

About a month ago, on a bright, fresh, just plain new-ordinary Saturday morning, I went for a walk, got home, made a pot of tea and had one of those beautiful ‘aha’ moments. I had been grappling with how I might be able to help so many more people to pivot their careers and businesses. I just wasn’t sure how to construct something in a way that would deliver real value.

That moment of clarity, that spark of insight was a classic remix of existing ideas, which is the golden thread running through all pivots. My ‘aha’ moment was to take successful applications across different arenas and put them together in a novel way. Once I got what I needed to do, I went into action and launched “Time to Pivot” with the first in a series of virtual events.

Collective Wisdom, Intelligence and Ingenuity

The first part of my remix is all about how the best ideas usually come from outside our formal networks. I needed to find a way to tap into the Collective Wisdom, intelligence and ingenuity that exists in the people we haven’t yet had an opportunity to connect with.

Today, many businesses, industries and governments use ideas crowdsourcing platforms to spark open innovation and solve big problems. They know from research and experience that the solutions to big quandaries usually come from left field, beyond deep industry expertise.

When you’re trying to find solutions to ‘wicked problems’, “Tap into collective intelligence and the wisdom of the crowd”. McKinsey

Collaboration

The second element is all about creating the environment for collaborative creativity, innovative thought and action. I have been fortunate to be privy to the workings of a new programme from Lumina Learning, identifying and mapping the behaviours we need to be innovative and build cultures of innovation. The programme was originally developed for the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS) and is built around the principles of Ideation + Implementation = Innovation.

When we realise that no individual has all of the behaviours, skills, expertise and experience to innovate effectively, we begin to truly embrace the power of collaboration and the diversity needed to bring any ideas into fruition.

Mitigating Bias

Last but not least, I needed to find a practical way of mitigating group bias. Typically, in any team or group, people default to their unconscious biases – roles are quickly established and archetypes emerge.

After months of delivering talks online and attending zoom and teams sessions with hundreds of people, I gained an understanding of how best to use the online platforms available to us to mitigate bias and to create intimacy and psychological safety.

The Crisis of Confidence Before a Pivot

It takes courage to pivot. When we learn about people who have had a complete change in their careers or companies that have magically turned themselves into something else, it all sounds rather easy. We tend to glamorise the success stories without a real understanding of what it took to flip the switch and change direction.

The truth is, we almost always experience a crisis of confidence just before a pivot, accompanied by a tangible sense of loss as our belief in the value of our core offering alters. And at that moment, the stark realisation that we have so much to offer, we just need to change our approach.

If the Covid months have taught us anything, it’s about liberating ourselves from who we thought we should be. The careers we should have, the ladders we need to climb, the products, services and offerings we should deliver into the markets we believed were unshakable.

When we have that invaluable moment of clarity, wonderful things start to happen. We free ourselves from the ‘just work harder’, ‘get better at doing it’ hustle, grit and grind. We begin to tap into possibility thinking, actively seeking ‘now what, what else and what’s next’?

Join Us

If you’re ready to pivot your career or business or have given it a go but it’s not quite right, join us for 90-magic-minutes at our next virtual event. We’re coming together with our Collective Wisdom to support one another to take courageous action.

If you know of anyone else who would benefit from this, why not share it?

Until next time, feel free to get in touch and take good care of yourself.

Best, Louise

louise@mowbraybydesign.com


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