How to Unlock the Hidden Potential of Your Company

T here are two sides to the modern corporation. One is logical and analytical; the other is emotional and creative. The key to unlocking the hidden potential of your company is by recognizing how to keep both sides in harmonious balance.

On one side, you have the data-driven, rational and highly analytical company that is dedicated to complete business process optimization. This is the world of big data, metrics and key performance indicators. As a metaphor, this is equivalent to what many people refer to as the “left side” of the human brain, viewed by many to be in charge of reasoning and keeping your emotions in check. 

On the other side, you have the messy, chaotic everyday reality of the modern corporation. This is the world of people working late into the night to make sure that projects get done on time. Strategic priorities that seem to change on a whim. All the little everyday human interactions that seem to defy business process optimization. This is equivalent to the metaphorical “right side” of your brain, known for creativity and everyday emotional impulses.

Until relatively recently, it’s been thought that corporations should strive for complete rationality.

This was the triumph of what is known as “left-brain thinking”. Experts and gurus exhorted companies to strive for near-perfection in everything they did, and that launched the whole industry of business process optimization and all the related disciplines like Six Sigma. Then came the arrival of Big Data (always with capital letters!). The elusive goal of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack suddenly became a reality. With enough data, it might be possible to solve any problem, predict any scenario and optimize any process!

But is that really the path to business success?

What my colleagues and I have found from working with clients as a Business Consultant is that there’s usually a missing piece that corporations ignore. In short, they prefer to ignore the messy, chaotic part of business and focus only on what they can control. As a result, they ignore (or even stifle) the creativity and innovation that exists within their corporation in very unstructured formats.

Back in 1994, the famous neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (now a TED Talks favorite) proposed in his book “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain.” The idea is that the key to better decision-making was emotion. This is highly counter-intuitive, of course. Instead of trying to make every process as rational as possible, it was actually preferable to embrace emotion. As Damasio showed convincingly, emotion is a profoundly important component of the cognitive decision-making process.

At this point, you may be thinking, “But what does this have to do with my company?”

That’s a good question, and one that has a straightforward answer: Embracing the optimal mix of analytic and creative is the key to unlocking the hidden potential of your company. That is precisely what should happen as the result of any business improvement study.  

Think about the typical business meeting that your company holds during the week. It probably follows a very rigid format, typically 30 to 60 minutes in length, filled with plenty of buzzwords and jargon. There’s probably a lot of talk about objectives, metrics, and goals. But it may or may not include any creative ideas or suggestions.   

There’s a good reason for this.

Most team members don’t feel like they have permission to make bold new suggestions while in the workplace.

But get them out of the workplace – maybe at the local pub – and they’ll excitedly start telling each other about some “crazy” ideas they have for making things better. One or two drinks later, and they may have outlined an entire new product line or an entirely new strategic direction for the company!  

But those ideas rarely see the light of day. The reason is that there’s no “permission zone” where those ideas can live.  

That’s where Adapt Consulting has been able to provide so much value to companies.

We’re a team of technologists and business thinkers who also have a background in science. We’ve found that the answer is notelling companies how to think. It’s about showing companies how to capture all the thinking that occurs within the four walls of the office. In short, we facilitate teams to reach their full potential. 

Three simple steps can help to unlock the hidden potential of your company: 

  1. Give employees permission to break the rules – Understand that people are often too reluctant or afraid to discuss sensitive topics
  2. Energize your employees with debate – Remember, presenting different points of view is not the same as having a disagreement
  3. Don’t let routine kill your business – This is where it’s often helpful to bring in an outsider (who isn’t biased in your companies way of doing things) 

Each of these steps is actually relatively simple and is easy to implement by members of any team or any organization. At Adapt Consulting, we’ve seen this approach work with construction management companies, nonprofit organizations, and industrial companies. [In a series of upcoming blog posts, I’ll be explaining in greater detail how to implement each of these three steps] 

The first of these rules is the most important. It’s one thing to tell employees to think creatively and come up with innovative ideas… It’s another thing entirely to actively encourage this behavior. At some point, you might have to implement a specific policy that gives employees this permission to “break the rules”.

Here is a point of reference you might be familiar with, a point from which to pivot your thought process. The “20% time” that Google famously implemented to encourage innovation and creativity. Employees were allowed – even encouraged – to spend up to 20% of their work week thinking up cool new ideas. That’s how Gmail came to be – it was a “20% time” project. 

But how many companies actually dare to implement a policy like this?

It’s scary for any company used to optimizing processes and leading continuous improvement. How can you become a Six Sigma corporation when you’re missing 20% of the week? 

One way to get over that fear is by recognizing that the rational and the irrational will always co-exist within the modern corporation. It’s not so much that every business process needs to be optimized and improved. Often, it’s that the entire corporation needs to be optimized.  

So start thinking of the messy, “emotional,” creative side of your corporation as the connective tissue that links together all these business processes. The people on these teams are the key to making sure that your entire company is running as smoothly as possible. In short, the key to unlocking the hidden potential of your company is by creating the mechanics and processes by which you can unleash the potential to connect your company, your stakeholders, your profitability, and your market.  

The next step? Talk to an expert… 

We supply a toolbox of techniques that speed the stripping away of bias and encourage the freedom of thought necessary for your team to achieve new insights, identify new opportunities, and establish a permission zone to “break the rules” – even if only temporarily. We are “politically incorrect” enough to ask the forbidden questions. Brave enough to ask the “dumb” questions. And never fear to question organizational norms and assumptions to get YOU the best results possible.

Don’t know where to start? We can help. Talk to an improvement expert who will help you unlock your company’s hidden potential. Click here to get started.

Quote of the Day:

“Your biggest fear carries your greatest growth.”

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