Our Core Principles

Even though Darwin didn’t coin the phrase “Adapt or Die,” he was a keen observer of the role of natural selection across generations of species. And while evolutionary biology in animals plays out over thousands of generations, organizational life requires humans to move faster to adapt to rapid change confronting our world.

Leadership is a set of behaviors; it is not positional “authority”

The implications of leadership as an activity and not a role imply that leadership can be found and cultivated anywhere in the organization. Are your people empowered to practice leadership?

Technical Problems vs. Adaptive Problems

Organizations often confuse the two – to their own peril. A broken light switch requires an electrician with knowledge of circuits and current, while confronting a global pandemic requires multiple stakeholders, necessitates that whole populations learn new behaviors, and requires the presence of leadership at many levels in order to mobilize a vast array of stakeholders. Many problems require both technical expertise and adaptive solutions. When change is required, organizational learning that goes beyond technical expertise is usually needed.

Think structurally

Depersonalizing behaviors of people and teams helps us see clearly. When we “get on the balcony” and see the activity for what it is at face value, we can assess the situation more accurately, intervene with greater awareness, and cultivate more meaningful interactions that increase leadership efficacy. In essence, thinking structurally profoundly enhances our impact to shape organizations.

Teams embody consistent behavioral patterns

We are what we repeatedly do. Identifying the behavioral patterns of a team or organization highlights the norms, tells us a story of how work gets done, and is a key predictor of the kind of outcomes we can expect. When we observe and interpret these behaviors, we can intervene more effectively allowing teams to re-write these norms to create new outcomes.

Productive conflict is…productive

Teams that engage courageously to harness conflict can become high performing teams. Think sparring rather than spatting. One is for the purpose of honing skills to strengthen the team, the other is about landing blows and dealing damage.

Experimentation is the frontier

Scientific method requires experimentation. The same goes for the social science of leadership. Organizational hypothesis and intervention should be tested in the field then iterated upon. Get your car on the track and take a lap. Replace the tires. Take a lap. Tinker with the fuel injection. Take a lap. Tighten the drive shaft. Take a lap. Continue until you have the fastest most efficient car.