Genius lives at the intersection of an individual’s hard assets (skills, strengths, and expertise) and soft assets (passions, creativity, and values), a place where the mind and heart click. When an individual makes his way to that sweet spot where all of those assets are in balance and in motion, there is an incredible bit of combustion that happens. Just imagine what it could mean for your organization!
Break Down Some Walls
Let’s start with breaking down traditional organizational structures. You can’t build something new without deconstructing what’s already there. Many organizations have a kind of paramilitary structure, with a chain of command that defines workflow, accountability, and operating processes. This hierarchical approach may make sense strictly from a management perspective (although even a high school debater could score an easy victory arguing against that point). From a cultural perspective, however, rigid hierarchical structures actually stifle the flow of genius across an organization. In fact, one of the greatest disruptive factors in the flow of ideas are those bulletproof layers of rank and responsibility in most organizations. When the structure is overwhelmingly dominant to the culture, innovation finds itself in a state of paralysis and genius is choked off, blocking individuals and the work they are doing from realizing potential. Why is hierarchical structure so prohibitive to individual growth and organizational innovation?
· Structure creates command-and-control types of relationships, which instill subservience or dominance rather than openness and collaboration.
· These relationships breed fear and sometimes negative competitive behavior, causing leaders to fight for visibility within the organization, rather than focusing on collaborating, problem solving, and meshing their ideas towards a shared vision.
· It takes forever for new ideas to be carried up the managerial ladder to the level of leader who can do something with them, if he’s inclined to do anything at all. And even if an idea somehow makes its way to the right people, it generally takes a long time for decisions to be made, which ultimately diffuses the energy behind the idea.
The challenge for leaders—and by leaders I mean managers at every level—is to create micro-climates where individuals and teams are not just encouraged but are required to use their hard and soft skills to solve problems, forge critical relationships, and offer original strategic thinking.
A company that’s well known for taking the flat, or “matrixed” organizational approach is Nike , each brand/department makes decisions independent of each other and the CEO. Each department has project teams responsible for handling all the tasks within each department while also responsible for coordinating approaches across departments to achieve profit and revenue goals. This matrixed approach works across geographical regions and across product lines granting managers the authority to make local decisions while also driving corporate product goals.
This think globally, act locally approach fosters innovation through great cultural fluency which impacts the bottom line better than many of Nike’s competitors. In terms of genius, it doesn’t get better than allowing cross coordination across departments to achieve goals as well as local autonomy to master their market’s needs.
As you consider the structure of your own organization and or team, consider removing some of the layers and consider a flat structure where people are free to talk, think and collaborate with each other across boundaries.
Create a Culture of Convergence
It’s time for everyone to admit that the office is no longer just a place where people come to work. The most fulfilled, productive, and genuinely happy geniuses I know are living lives where the professional is integrated with the personal, and where life and work, family and community converge. Where there is convergence there is progress, loyalty, and fulfillment. Today the best organizations are communities where Practical Geniuses work, grow, and contribute both emotionally and intellectually to multiple priorities, both personal and professional in nature, all at once. For the Practical Genius who looks for convergence and the paradox within every situation, the culture of an organization—the essence of the work environment; its personality, its values, and behaviors—matters more than any other aspect of the work experience.
How would you describe the culture of your workplace? What attributes come to mind? What about the culture of your home? What are the similarities between the two environments and what are the differences? The fact is, we carry our values, behaviors, and traditions back and forth between home and work and the workplace culture should reflect that.
How do we set out to create that sense of culture? Through employee engagement, openness, and curated experiences that capitalize on collaboration, shared interests and consciousness.
Creating a culture of convergence where an ecosystem for ideas can thrive will:
· Increase drive and morale
· Reduce “out sick” time because the culture fuels instead of drains employees
· Increase performance and excellence
· Reduces turnover and retains talent
Communicate the Value of Communication
The best companies understand that effective, purposeful communication—both internal and external—is as important to its success as any high-powered CEO or top-selling product. The worst companies ignore or mangle the communications function and the results are disastrous. From the standpoint of fostering genius, open communication—the process by which knowledge, information, and decisions are shared. both formally and informally, up, down and across an organization—is key.
The challenge for businesses today is to find ways to open up the channels of communication so they serve to improve relations, increase knowledge sharing throughout the organization, and most importantly, enhance collaborative innovation. The first step toward building a communications-forward organization is to conduct a communication audit, a top-to-bottom, door-to-door assessment of which communication approaches are working and which are destroying trust and confidence. This audit will provide a snapshot of the organization’s communications activities, style, and positive and negative habits.
This analysis of what is working and what needs fixing will enable the development of progressive open communication strategies to test and tweak to suit the organizational culture. More important than the systemic improvements to communication is the impact on employees, who now feel involved, empowered, and invested in the organization’s approach to communication.
Creating an environment informed by open communication practices will:
· Improve the communication skills of every member of the organization
· Diversify the voices at the decision-making table
· Increase morale
· Create openness, a critical factor for innovation
Organizations are a critical component of the villages of which we are all a part, as contributors, consumers, advocates, investors, and employees trying to actualize our legacies while alive and well. Instigating change in an organization can seem too hard to even think about, never mind attempt to do. But fostering genius at your own desk, on your team or department, or for a whole organization under your direction doesn’t require that you blow everything up. Genius happens when individuals align their values with their skills, their creative abilities with their strengths, and their passions with their expertise. Genius happens in an organization when environments are created—even on the smallest scale—that encourage and enable that alignment. So look at your structure, culture, and communications to identify the most immediate opportunities to foster genius.
It only takes one spark of genius to start a fire that can light up your entire organization. What are you waiting for?