As leader, entrepreneur or manager, your daily life is composed of a myriad of challenges of all sorts. These in turn become projects of small to gargantuan size, from simply adjusting procedures to a new regulation, to creating a brand new top-of-the-line-innovative product.
The outcome of such a process can be illustrated as below (1):
You are faced with a challenge, decide to take it on and will do so with a certain amount of response capabilities.
The various facts on either side will dictate your current reality about the situation. We can see this fact evaluation as a project scale
Now if we simply go with what reality tells us at the moment, the end result will be based solely on the respective weight of the facts embodied by the challenge and the response capacity.
If the challenge aspects turn out to be greater than our capacity and ability to respond to it, the outcome will probably be a failure of some sort.
On the other hand, if our response capabilities outweigh the size and complexity of the challenge, we will probably prevail in this instance.
But this simple way of looking at it does not serve us very well for two main reasons.
First, well we are leaving it all to luck and are not trying to influence the end result as a good manager and leader should do. So we need to add our input in there somewhere.
Second, we are in a win-lose scenario. If it so happens that reality is in our favour and we are presently well suited to face the current challenge, we will win, we will overcome it.
On the flip side, if we do not have all the means to face it, we will simply lose.
This is where enters responsibility, the thing which can help tip the scale towards a win-win scenario.
If you are in a good position to start with, chances are as we have seen that you will not need to do much and the challenge will be faced and dealt with. It is still your responsibility to see it through and make sure the scale does not get tipped on the wrong side while the challenge is being resolved. But not much gets learned in the process besides the fact that you were well equipped to face such a challenge.
But where it gets really interesting is in the opposite scenario.
As a leader or manager, you have two options when the going gets tougher.
You can either find a way to decrease the relative size of the challenge until your response capabilities are a match for it.
Or you can find a way to significantly increase your ability to respond to the proposed challenge
If the stars are aligned, your team and yourself work hard and you manage to apply either and/or both solutions, you will probably end up delivering on the project and overcome the various challenges.
Congratulations, job well done!
You will have been able to act responsively, deal with current realities and be proactive in finding opportunistic solutions to the current situation.
Further, and this is where it becomes really exciting, even if the challenge is found to be still too large in comparison to your collective response capabilities, and the end result ends up being a “failure” in common terms… you still win!
You win, because you will have learned how to somewhat reduce the challenge and augment in some fashion your response capabilities and in doing so, will have discovered an incredible amount of new knowledge and information about the current challenge.
Knowledge which you can now use to face once more the subsisting issues.
You will be ready to start what we call in innovation terms, your second iteration.
And from iteration to iteration, the challenge will slowly melt away and your capacities to deal with it will increase.
This is the only way to tackle large innovative challenges.
Taking full responsibility of a project, even in the face of possible failure, is the best possible move you can make.
In the end… it’s sure to be a win-win!
(1) The idea for this challenge/response scale comes from the book of Fred Kofman, Conscious Business, Sounds True, Bolder, Colorado, 2013, p.43.