Today’s world is powered by the most diverse workforce in history. Businesses, non-profit organizations and institutions of all shapes and sizes are experiencing dramatic change in the composition of their workforce – due to alterations in the economic landscape, technological advances, globalization, and – for the first time - members of five generations working, competing, learning and leading together. The very nature of our work has changed with the continuing rise of the “knowledge worker”. In the 21st century, knowledge now moves at the speed of light, and the challenges to the modern worker are historic.
In addition to posing challenges, these changing demographics present tremendous opportunities for today’s organizations, and companies that grab a hold of their diversity can do much more than simply “accept” or “embrace” it; they can actually leverage it as a competitive advantage.
To do so, today’s leaders must set aside old practices and create new ways to lead, and some of our most valuable lessons around creation of new realities can be derived from the arts.
Creative writing has always intrigued me – and its lessons continue to play into my leadership style. In this essay I will explore the following leadership lessons, internalized through my toils in creative writing, and explain how these learnings can help today’s uniquely challenged leaders create the future, versus simply trying to predict it:
- Lesson 1: Unlock potential through empowerment
- Lesson 2: Move away from linear thinking in employee development
- Lesson 3: Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
- Lesson 4: Find your authentic voice
LESSON 3: EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT
All creative writers are born through experimentation, and in the leadership of a diverse workforce, experimentation must also be held paramount.
According to Natalie Goldberg in her book "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing your Inner Writer" one of the key pillars of being a good writer is that you just get out there and write. Just write stuff. Experiment…
Write about what you had for lunch, write about your friend's new silver plated bracelet, and write about how you think your parents met.
This experimentation is crucial to the success of today’s managers and is particularly important in these times of change.
In order to really be a good leader, you need to get out there and start leading. No, this doesn’t mean all of sudden telling people what to do. This means experimenting with new leadership methods. This means getting creative. Each leader has their own method, and to find it you need to experiment.
Organizations have a natural human tendency to cling to "yesterday's successes" rather than seeing when they are no longer useful. Peter Drucker has written on what he calls “planned abandonment’ of practice, which is crucial to progress. Leaders cannot fall in love with ideas, methods, or philosophies to the point that they don’t abandon what isn’t working.
Abandoning what isn’t working begins and ends with experimentation.
So how do we apply this? It’s important to have some structure but not too much. Here are some examples, again applied at Microsoft by Ross Smith aimed at getting the most from his diverse workforce through experimentation.
Real Examples – Experimentation