This article was based on episode 176 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get a printable 5-E poster when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
You never know when a pandemic might upend everything, or some new technology will make your organization’s products obsolete. To weather the storms of business life, Brant Cooper says we need to make our teams disruption-proof. In other words, we need to make sure our teams are built to handle uncertainty and change. I spoke with the New York Times bestselling author, Brant Cooper, whose newest book is Disruption Proof: Empower People, Create Value, Drive Change. Brent explains to me the essential 5 E’s to creating a sturdy team that embraces innovation and change in order to move faster and act bolder when disruptions hit.
THE FIVE E’S
Through Brant’s research, he identified the 5 E’s that enable teams and organizations to be RAD: Resilient (capable of weathering storms), Aware (able to take in new information and changing conditions), and Dynamic (able to change course quickly).
Despite how well we think we know our market, we can’t assume we know what clients want. We must continually get to know our customers’ problems, aspirations, and needs. This type of insight generation is best done in person through observation, not through surveys or interviews. During these sessions, don’t ask your clients what they would do in a potential future scenario. People are terrible at predicting what their future selves would do. Instead, bring them into the office and watch them actually interact with the product or situation, or observe them out in the real world.
Often there’s a pressure (particularly on managers) to be the “expert”. We need to support ourselves and our teams to shift from knowing into learning mode. This requires experimentation. Brent shared one example of a company that was trying to figure out what would encourage people to take better care of their health. The team went to a subway station with coupons for the escalator, and observed how people responded, rather than relying on their personal opinions of what they predicted people would do.
The benefit of approaching your work with Empathy and Exploration is that they produce data and results that your team can leverage. Data enables us to cut through biases by providing a foundation that everyone can evaluate. Start out with hypotheses, test assumptions, and then be ready to really look at the results. The information may lead your team in a surprising direction you never would have expected.
A lot of companies will split up their functions so that some people work on “executing” while others concentrate on “innovating”. Instead of keeping those worlds separate, Brent suggests our teams shift between the two modes.
As Brent puts it, we can’t execute ourselves through a crisis. We want our team to be able to shift from execution into exploration mode and then back again. We can do this by carving out time, such as an hour a week or a full day each month, during which your team experiments. Giving people space to exercise their creativity can also do wonders for their satisfaction and productivity.
Especially in our digital age, business ethics are more important than ever. Establishing corporate values and personal ethics are critical to building a hearty, disruption-proof team. Make sure your values are visible and conveyed regularly to your team.
In an uncertain world, we can prepare our teams to handle the changes that come their way. The power of our team is not just in how much they know, but in how adept they are at learning and changing. We need to teach them how to listen to clients while also experimenting and learning out in the real world. We also need to help them carve out time from their busy work lives to shift from executing to exploring. And we always need the bedrock of ethics to be their firm foundation. If we build these disruption-proof skills, our team will be able to handle whatever life throws their way, even a global pandemic.
KEEP UP WITH BRANT
Get a printable 5-E poster when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join. Or, purchase an individual episode guide at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.
This article was based on episode 176 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.