Trends Newsletter

ICA TRENDS December 2020

Be An Innovation Catalyst

from Why Crisis Management Can Be An Innovation Catalyst, by Barry O'Reilly

(Chinese follows English)

“I think we need to scale back, or maybe even stop…” …. Our instinctive reaction when faced with uncertainty is to hit the brakes. Most large organizations have a vast array of processes in place designed specifically to stop activity at the first sign of any unknown, risk, or uncertainty. Stopping is the safest approach—or so we’re told. But “playing it safe” is actually risky, especially at times when the world around us is experiencing massive, rapid change. Stopping activities, saying no, and shutting down is NOT the way to succeed in an uncertain environment. It’s the way to struggle, stagnate, and fall even further behind the tide of change.

So how do you make progress and push through when all your senses are telling you to stop and wait to see what happens? Here are my top recommendations for an effective plan to embrace uncertainty (while still creating safety), get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and unearth extraordinary opportunities to succeed.

Taking Effective Action in a Crisis

Rather than stop, now is the time to act. By taking action, we create results, and results are what we learn from to inform decisions, course-correct, and take better action in the new future. It’s a counterintuitive approach, because the nature of uncertainty means we don’t actually know what to do. But paradoxically, the only way to get the information we need is through action—taking your best guess, starting small, and learning your way through the chaos…. The only way to get the data you need is to take action—test and validate (or invalidate) those assumptions—and learn what is truly fact or fiction. Stopping means you’re not learning. You’re stagnating creating even more uncertainty, even fear.

Starting small lets you learn fast what works by making it safe to fail. Stop stopping and start learning what will work.

Seize the Opportunity to Shake Things Up

In normal times, it’s easy for organizations to let bad habits settle in—too many initiatives in progress, poor prioritization, and frequent context switching are hidden costs that take a toll.

Senior leaders or key contributors might have as many as 10-20 initiatives they’re concurrently assigned to. The consequence? Each initiative takes more time to complete, more time to get to results, and generally ends up with lower quality outputs. It is often in times of crisis, high stakes, and urgency that people tend to exhibit better behaviors that are focused on clear objectives that really count…. The objectives and measures of success couldn’t be clearer. There’s a high motivation to deliver, which drives prioritization to fully dedicate teams to the mission, limit work in progress, and get a result to save customers. Once businesses have alignment, context switching goes down, focus goes up, and people start finishing work. Leading organizations own their results—good and bad—and respond with better systems. Losers point fingers and blame others. Take note so you know who to avoid!

How To Fail in A Crisis

If you want to ensure you miss this opportunity to evolve your organization and lead your market, here’s what to do.

· First, make sure you have multiple, vague, conflicting goals that confuse and eat up the majority of your resources. Then you’ll need to keep initiatives, capabilities, strategies, and teams siloed so the usual bottlenecks, communication breakdowns, slow decision-making, and poor handovers remain in place.

· Have your “best” people working on multiple initiatives simultaneously and constantly context switching so they burn out, produce low-quality work, and battle to make real progress on any given initiative. When there’s mistakes, point fingers. When it goes wrong, blame others. Always highlight how great your work is. Only mention others once they’re successful, noting how they finally followed your recommendations.

· Slow down your feedback loops (or hell, just get rid of them altogether. You know what customers need, right?). That way, you’ll delay results, miss opportunities, and risk building the wrong solutions. Or you might manage to build something of value but it will be too late and have cost you too much money. Either way, you’ll fail your customers in their time of need, eroding their trust and your brand simultaneously.

There you go, disaster made easy! Urgency creates a unique type of pressure. You can’t sit on the sidelines, hoping and waiting. You need to take risks to get rewards, balancing safety and speed to succeed in the uncertainty. If you stop, you won’t learn. If you fear change, you’ll fail your customers and fall behind your competitors. The key is to create your model with explicit assumptions and test them. This process shows you the path out of a crisis, and will have a massive impact on your outcomes.

So let’s look at what goes into a Game Plan.

  • First, you get crystal clear about your primary and secondary objectives—what counts and why it matters. Then you prioritize key initiatives to get you there, limiting both work in progress and context switching. Acknowledge that there will be many unknowns. You may be attempting tasks you’ve never done before. Set expectations that the group is embarking on a joint problem-solving mission, and everyone will be learning and creating knowledge as you go.

  • Be honest when you don’t know the answer, empathetic and aware that teams may already be suffering with exhaustion. Now is the time to live up to your values.

  • Make it as safe as possible for people to speak up, raise concerns, or bring up errors. The higher the quality of information shared, the better the quality of decisions that will be made.

  • Work backwards from the objectives to decide what steps you need to take to reach them—with the minimum effort to yield the maximum impact. What do you need to do in the next month, the next week, and next day? Define measures of success for each stage and your first small step to get started.

  • Identify the needed skills and dedicate a cross-functional team (fully allocated to solve the assigned problem). Bring in subject matter experts. Assign people to play devil’s advocate to challenge group-think. Invite productive dissent with questions such as, “What are we missing?”, “Who has a different view?” or “What happens if….”

  • Let that team refine the outcomes for success, and empower its members to make the necessary decisions to achieve them. Now, more than ever, you need to trust your employees to do right by your customers and the business … so give them the authority to do so. You’ll be amazed how much accountability they’ll show.

How you react to bad news will define what people will share—respond with, “Thanks for clarifying the issue—how can we help?” As you start small, learn fast, and quickly begin to get to results, use the information you gather to make your next prioritization calls, and repeat. The team deeply understands the problem, have defined their outcomes and are safely experimenting at speed to find workable solutions for customers in real time during rapidly changing circumstances—it’s inspiring to see.

Keeping Perspective

Sometimes we need a shock to the system to break the status quo and open up better ways of working to unlearn, relearn, and break through. Intelligently embracing uncertainty and risk leads to rewards that will save businesses, help customers, and free your team to work in meaningful ways so they can experience the positive impact of their work on people’s lives. And when the work is done, reflect. Remember the mindset and behaviors that made you successful (or not). Make them your mode-operanium going forward, not just your crisis mode.

Or to revise Winston Churchill… Don’t let your crisis go to waste!

To help with your own learning, check out my recent podcast, Being Your Best in a Crisis with Eric McNulty, head of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard. Barry O'Reilly,



作者 Barry O’Reilly

「我想我們可能必須縮編,甚至停下…」 …. 面對不確定因素時,我們的直覺反應就是踩剎車。許多組織也內建機制,在面對未知、風險或不確定因素時,透過特定流程延緩動作。停止是最安全的做法—至少很多人都這樣告訴我們。但是「打安全牌」其實很冒險,特別是我們周遭這個世界面對很大的改變時。此時停下來,閉關絕對不是在不確定環境中成功的方式,反而會讓我們辛苦、停滯、甚至被那變革的巨浪所吞噬。



與其停下來,現在才是採取行動的時候。因為有所作為,就會有成果,我們就是要從這些結果中學習,才能做出有依據的決策、走向正確的方向,也在未來能夠採取更好的決定。這是一個延續性的過程,因為不確定的本質正是如此,我們其實並不知道該做什麼。不過弔詭的是,唯一能夠收集到資訊的方式,就是行動 - 盡可能做出最正確的評估,從小處開始,慢慢從這些混亂中學習…. 唯一能夠收集到資料的方法,就是行動—測試並佐證 (或是證明無效) 這些假設—從中學習這些是真還是假。停下來就表示你沒有學習。你的停滯創造出更多的不確定,甚至恐懼。




資深領導者或貢獻者可能同時手上有10-20項計畫在進行。後果呢?每一個計畫都要花更多的時間才能完成、更多時間才能有結果,最後品質往往不如預期。通常在危機、高風險、迫切的時機中,人們會展現比較好的行為模式,更能聚焦在真正重要的目標…. 目標與成功的作法就會再清楚不過了。大家有了把事情做好的動力,就會驅動他們好好規劃優先順序,全力完成任務,克制正在進行的項目,創造出可以滿足顧客的成果。當業務整合好了,遊戲規則就不容易變動,大家更能聚焦,人們開始把事情做好。讓組織對自己的成果負責 - 好壞都一樣 - 用更好的制度來回應。失敗者彼此指責卸責。此時更該注意哪些人需要躲開!



· 首先,先讓自己有很多、模糊、互相衝突、讓人感到混淆、消耗大部分資源的目標,然後讓所有的提案、大家的能力、策略和團隊各自努力,讓所有瓶頸、不良的溝通、緩慢的決策、拙劣的工作銜接持續困擾組織。

· 讓你「最強」的人手同時進行許多的提案,並且常常更改規範,以至於他們疲勞、產出次等品質的內容,還要勉強要有進度。出錯時,大家互相指責。總是強調自己有多棒,也只在別人成功時稍微提一下,還順便說一下都是因為自己的建議。

· 延緩回饋的流程,(或乾脆直接別回饋了,你知道顧客要的是什麼啊,不是嗎?)。這樣一來,你的成果延誤,錯過契機,可能提出錯誤的方案。或者你提出的方法很有價值,只是太晚,成本太高。無論如何,你在顧客需要的時候無法回應,導致他們喪失信任,同時對你的品牌質疑。



· 首先,你要非常清楚首要與次要的目標,包括什麼是重要的,為什麼?接著,思考如何達到這些目標,並訂定各種方案的優先順序,節制進行的工作項目和規則的變化。要體認到一定會有很多未知,可能做的是以前從未做過的事項。設定期許,讓大家理解大家即將一起解決問題,也會在這過程中邊走邊學習、創造知識。

· 不知道答案時,坦白承認,同理團隊,理解團隊可能已經太過疲累。現在就是堅持自己理念的最好時刻。

· 營造安全的氛圍,讓大家願意發聲、質疑,或是找出錯誤。分享的資訊品質越高,做出的決策品質也相較越高。

· 從目標往前推,決定要成功需要採取的動作—用最少的心力來促成最大的效果。你下個月、下禮拜、明天需要做什麼?幫每一個階段、下一個開始的步驟訂定成功的措施。

· 找出需要的能力,指派專屬的跨部門團隊 (全面給予資源來解決特定的問題),召集該領域專家。指派人員擔任唱反調的人,避免大家淪落於集體思考。用一些問題來激發有建設性的反對意見,例如「我們漏掉了什麼?」、「誰有不同的意見?」或是「如果我們這樣,會如何...」

· 讓這個團隊決定成功的成果,授權讓他們做出需要的決策。現在更需要信任你的員工,相信他們可以針對顧客與業務做出最好的方案 … 讓他們有權力放手去做。他們全力以赴的模樣,肯定會讓你感動無比。

你對於壞消息的反應,將會影響其他人分享、回應的內容。回應 — 「謝謝你釐清這個議題,我們可以如何協助您呢?」從小地方著手,快速學習,就會很快開始看到成果,整理你收到的訊息,用以規劃你的下一步,然後重複這個做法。看到團隊深度理解問題,先思考會有什麼樣的成果,以安全的方式快速嘗試,在狀況不斷變化的時候,即時找出可以協助顧客的方案”--相當激勵人心。



或者我們可以修改一下邱吉爾的名言… 別浪費了每一場的危機!

如果要強化你自己的學習,可以參考我最近的podcast, Being Your Best in a Crisis with Eric McNulty,哈佛大學,全國應急領導力倡議項目負責人。Barry O'Reilly,


2021 Public Facilitation Methods Training Calendar in Taipei

March 6-7 Group Facilitation Methods 1 (GFM-1) Focused Conversation

April 17-18 Group Facilitation Methods 2 (GFM-2) Consensus Workshop

May 22-23 Dialogue

June 18-20 Wall of Wonder and Participatory Strategic Planning

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We extend our best wishes to all of you for a

challenging, peace-filled and fully human 2021


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