By Jennifer Pesci-Kelly
What does agility mean for the talent industry? In a space where we thrive on process, measurement and discipline, how does agility fit into the mix? Josh Bersin kicked off the annual Impact conference with a challenge to all attendees to be more agile when it comes to talent to achieve organizational innovation. No one will deny that innovation is the key to the kingdom, but that mindset shift takes more than a line in a corporate vision statement. We heard over the course of the week about overhauling performance discussions, developing leaders as quickly as business is moving, and extending your leadership brand globally. The presentations focused on the willingness to throw out initiatives that aren’t working and to shift priorities to meet the needs of the business.
The final keynote gave everyone permission to experiment, to innovate, and even to fail while we’re doing it. Author Olivia Fox Cabane spoke about the mental side of innovation and the permission to fail.
On the surface, failure is in direct conflict with the idea of a high performance culture. But Cabane pointed out that you have to remove the stigma of what it means to fail, because if you are going to innovate, you are going to fail. Most innovations are actually a succession of iterations of an idea—not a single breakthrough. (This really stuck with me that we’re not trying to come to that single brilliant idea, which makes innovation a bit more approachable). So at an organizational level, it’s not just about creating an openness to new ideas, but an acceptance of failure.
Cabane concluded with the idea that leaders have a direct influence on shifting the innovation mindset, and it comes down to their charisma and how it can feed into the spirit of innovation—or the crippling of innovation. We know many leaders who have charisma, but do they all drive innovation? She points out that there are different ingredients in charisma and it can be learned (Steve Jobs learned charisma piece by piece to build the charismatic profile he finally achieved to be the innovation leader of Apple). But with the ingredients of charisma, there are also types of charisma. For example, while authoritative charisma is great in a crisis, it is stifling for innovation. It’s visionary charisma that will feed the acceptance of new ideas.
But the key is that leaders can shift the way they lead, the way they listen, respond to ideas, relate to their teams and give permission to fail to feed organizational agility—and the innovation journey.
What do you think? Can a high performance culture make peace with—even embrace—failure? Share your thoughts in the comment section.