Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
“What’s not working?” This question stimulates rapid conversation when asked of a group. They begin to identify many problems. They even demonstrate a visual change in their body language during this type of a discussion. After awhile, though, they will lean back; become visibly tired and need a break. It can be highly discouraging. Their leader may try a new tactic to lighten the mood. They begin to analyze the causes. This engages the team once again, particularly as they move to the discussion of possible solutions. The leader may then help everyone define an action plan. It’s likely that the team will leave the discussion feeling that their company has serious problems, but they hopefully have a sense of hope that it will be solved.
Sue Hammond states, “The traditional approach to change is to look for the problem, do a diagnosis, and find a solution. The primary focus is on what is wrong or broken; and since we look for problems, we find them. By paying attention to problems, we emphasize and amplify them.”
If the leader of this group were to approach that same team and engage them in exploring the question of what is working, they would dive into the conversation but may have a more difficult time coming up with as many items. Somehow, its always easier to think of what is not working.
As the team exhausts their ideas, the leader moves them into the line of thinking of what might be. The team will then light up and many more ideas will be expressed. The leader then suggests they move into a discussion of what should be. A team that feels the sky is the limit to the opportunities before them presents countless ideas. They are eager to plan and innovate. This group is motivated, encouraged and energized. Over the next weeks, discussion takes place of what kind of changes need to happen to make room for the new.
Change will happen through both approaches. However, the group that pursues a positive approach is likely to solve more problems and be much more innovative and successful in the process.
Jim Collins in Good to Great says, “In every good-to-great case, we found technological sophistication. However, it was never technology per se, but the pioneer application of carefully selected technologies. Every good-to-great company became a pioneer in the application of technology, but the technologies themselves varied greatly.”
Collins describes how technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. You only become a pioneer of the technologies that fit directly with your company’s Hedgehog Concept. This concept was originally based on an ancient Greek parable. Jim Collins published a management version in his influential book, "Good to Great." The concept helps your organization focus on three main areas – passion, talent and the economic engine.
Technology, in and of itself, does not create transformation
Technology needs to serve as an accelerator. Many companies seek to adapt to the latest and greatest technology to stay in the game. This not the right approach. A company needs to carefully review what they plan to do, how they want to accomplish their Hedgehog Concept and then use the most applicable able and user-friendly technology to accomplish it.
A successful and innovative leader will guide their team through many ways to accelerate that success. Below are a few ways a leader can drive this type of change in a rapid manner.
1. Affirm and encourage success
2. Create opportunity to stimulate innovative dreaming and brainstorming
3. Use technology to drive momentum
WORK what works! Accelerate it! Your customers are telling you something. Listen and respond and the problems will begin to dissipate as you focus on managing the success of what already is working.
 Hammond, Sue Annis. (2013). The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry: Thin Book Publishing Co., Bend, OR. loc 38
 Collins, Jim. (2001). Good to Great. Harper Collins Publishers, Boulder, CO. loc 2505