Innovation isn't an accident 🔊

The pandemic forced a global, unexpected, non-consensual remote work experiment and the results are still being analyzed. But one thing that has become abundantly clear over the past three years is that many leaders don’t believe that remote workers can innovate.

The dominant theory advanced by these leaders is that in-person work leads to serendipitous moments and those unexpected interactions create unpredictable but positive outcomes for product development.

There are two key flaws in that theory:

  1. Innovation doesn’t require serendipity.

  2. Serendipity in the office is a myth.

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Create a "pit of success"

What if there is a way to lead such that success is inevitable? What if, as a side-effect, that leadership also improved trust, intrinsic motivation, and job satisfaction? What would it mean for you, personally, to know how to do that?

You’re probably thinking, “If that existed, everyone would be doing it, and we wouldn’t have any volatility, uncertainty, chaos, or ambiguity in our work!”

Well, it does exist, and it’s remarkably simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy, and anything this important takes time and effort to achieve. If you are up to the task, you can change the way you lead forever.

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Great leaders humanize 🔊

All companies beyond a certain size are sociopathic colony organisms that regard their employees as inconvenient gut flora (to borrow an expression from Cory Doctorow).

At some point in their growth, many companies consider whether to stack-rank employees by their performance ratings; or publish management guidelines referring to groups of humans as “resources”; or undertake vast re-orgs solely on the basis of metrics-based abstractions.

These efficiency- and profit-seeking behaviors will inevitably be suggested and discussed, though they are universally dehumanizing to employees.

Your highest calling as a leader is to remember that your company requires employees in order to function, that employees are humans, and that the only thing that differentiates your company from an “immortal paperclip-maximizing artificial intelligence” is how you treat them.

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Ensure your happiness with a "pre-mortem" 🔊

One of the best ways to improve a system is to carefully and objectively analyze its failures. You’re probably familiar with getting a group of engineers together for a “post-mortem” conversation after something went terribly sideways.

A post-mortem, when done correctly, is almost magical in its effectiveness, which is why they have become so common. But when it comes to figuring out what you really want, and what will give you lasting happiness in work and life, well… Waiting until it’s over is too late!

But, interestingly enough, we can use one of the same tools we bring to bear in a post-mortem to create a clearer picture of what our values are and how we want to show up in the world.

Let’s call it a “pre-mortem.”

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To improve productivity do nothing 🔊

Let’s say you want your workers to be more productive. As the leader of a large and complex organization, there are numerous levers that you could pull… But which ones will improve the work output?

As it turns out, the answer is none of them. Or all of them.

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