Yesterday we gathered with a large number of professionals from across the insurance industry and beyond at an iWIN event at the CASS Business School on Paradoxical Leadership – Managing Contradiction presented by Professors Paula Jarzabkowski and Marianne Lewis.
An extensive breakfast (sat taunting those fasting for Ash Wednesday) was provided to allow attendees to network and was followed by a 1 hour presentation focussed on the tensions and contradictions around ‘Core’ and ‘Explore’.
How can individuals, leaders and teams hold in tension the need to “sweat the core business” while ensuring that group think and stagnation don’t set in?
‘Explore’ which focusses on innovation ensures that new ideas come to the rescue of businesses focussed solely on ‘Core’ and gradually become the core. Explore though needs to be kept in check to avoid chaotic thinking; market confusion; loss of customers and fatigue.
If all we do is ‘Core’ then blind spots, missed opportunities and inertia are prevalent.
The keys to ensuring a successful balance between ‘Core’ and ‘Explore’ are Integration; making sure people are communicating well and understanding each other; Acceptance which comes about through this dialogue and reduces tensions and finally Dialectic Inquiry; making sure that the conversations ask new and different questions that disrupt group think.
The 2 main pillars supporting this are ‘Create Space’ simple frameworks that enable collaboration and synergy and ‘Higher Purpose’ a bold clear and consistent vision that holds it together. The example cited was Lego where over innovation as a reaction to stagnation lead to massive confusion. They created rules around products that allowed space for innovation that was manageable and in line with the purpose and vision of the company. These approaches to business sit within a model where the leader is decisive and empowering; visionary and grounded; confident and humble.
The professors provided much food for thought in an engaging and clearly well received session.