Leadership Development

Play as a Design Tool for Leadership Development

THINK INSIDE THE BOX

THINK INSIDE THE BOX It has been shown in Australian business that only 58% goes on work that adds “real value” to organisations, with the inefficiencies costing business $109 billion in wages every year. The figures are, I have no doubt, similar in South Africa. In fact, according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook (2012), South Africa is rated 50 amongst 59 countries. When more than half of our time is spent on solving the wrong problem, surely it is time to try a different methodology?

It is frequently the case that in instructional design, a ‘red thread’ or programme director is used as the touchstone of meaning making in an organisational or leadership development process. Although this a fair way to increase the sensemaking and to develop the emergent outcomes (outcomes that only begin to appear once processes and conversations have begun), it is not enough to ensure we are focusing on the right problems.

I am currently in the middle of a MOOC on Creative Learning being run by MIT and there is an insight which I want to share. Mitchel Resnick argues that the pattern of learning in Kindergarten children are ideally suited to the needs of the 21st century.

The process that he has observed in children when they learn involves six moments: 1) Imagine 2) Create 3) Play 4) Share 5) Reflect 6) Imagine (again)

With my interest in Curiosity as a critical leadership development tool and the knowledge that we often focus on the wrong problems, I decided to experiment with his insights and used this process as a basis for the design of a one day Leadership Masterclass on Agility. I have just run it in Melbourne, Australia. Here is an example of one of the sessions in the day using Play as a design tool, matching exercises I would otherwise have run in a different order now in the structure of Play:

Imagine: X BELIEVES THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE IF... Create: CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROBLEM TO WORK ON Play: SPEEDBOAT CHALLENGE Share: POWERFUL QUESTIONS Reflect: CHOOSE ONE TO WORK ON AND WHY Imagine: IF YOU COULD CHANGE YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS WHAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT - WALKING THINKING PARTNERSHIP

What felt different from this workshop to any other I had run was the investment by the participants and the amount of laughter it generated. Kindergarten kids laugh 250 times a day. Middle aged people laugh 15 times a day. We spend so much time trying to do everything and doing it faster and not enough time laughing, reflecting, enjoying, and focusing on the important. However, it was not only laughter it generated. Using Play as the basis for a structure really helped us get to the nub of some of the complex issues in a way which did not feel fearful. Instead it generated a depth and a focus for tackling serious problems that felt had ease and congruence.

From the experience of using Play as a design tool, it is my contention that PLAY has a profoundly important role to play when it comes to identifying, tackling and solving 21st Century problems in the world of Business, Government and Education.

Deep Linking Leadership Development to Organisational Behaviour

In the past decade much of the truly transformational leadership work happening in organisations has been driven from a place of self mastery. This approach is however being challenged by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and the author of the new book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” who shows by categorising our cognitive flaws, that knowing oneself is not enough, not nearly enough to be the effectual leaders we need to be. Separate research released in September 2011 by the Minneapolis based consultancy Modern Survey also indicate a set of findings which show that the highest levels of employee engagement comes from a place other than Self. What the survey reveals is that the highest correlation between employee engagement  are not appreciation, career development and recognition which have been taken as de rigeur. Instead, it is the willingness of organisations to be transparent, honest and to instil confidence in the future of their businesses that is driving higher levels of engagement in employees.

This has a profound impact on what it is we are seeking to achieve with our leadership development programmes. It requires leadership development that is driven by the ethical positioning of organisations, and the willingness to build long term sustainable practices that employees can believe in.

It requires a realignment of how CEOs and their boards communicate but more importantly, of how they behave. This is where the real leadership development work happens and where frankly, the least is done.

Developing a sense of purpose in the work we do, managing our energy and attention at work is still critical, as is knowing how to be agile in the face of uncertain markets matters. But what seems to matter more is that we have a belief and an insight into how our leaders are running our organisations  - that they are doing it with integrity and with an eye open for the long term sustainable future of the places we work in, not just with an eye on making a quick buck.

In sum, educators need to ensure when designing processes that they do not merely work at a microcosmic level, that the values of what they teach are deeply embedded into the way they teach. For leaders, it requires that the values which they purport to uphold are significantly visible in the action of their daily practices.  And for directors of people management, talent and organisational effectiveness, it demands the procurement of  processes which start from a place of identifying how the values of their organisations can be made clearly visible and easily emulated.  This would go some way in engaging employees who as the research has shown, do genuinely want something authentic and lasting to believe in.