Most leaders and teams want more ingenuity. I’ve yet to meet a mission-focused group of people who desire an increase in mediocrity. I have, however, met many mission-focused groups that did not consistently develop the mindsets and behaviors that increase ingenuity. “Wanting” more ingenuity is one thing. Developing the skills that lead to more ingenuity is quite another.
My book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity, explores a process and practices that increase collective ingenuity. Here’s a brief snippet from the book where I explore the critical action of “learning to SEE more moments unique.
Consider this brilliant 2006 bit from Weick and Sutcliffe in their article “Mindfulness and the Quality of Organizational Attention”:
Mindfulness, therefore, is as much about the reversal of normalizing as it is about encoding and matching situations with routines. Mindfulness is important because it weakens the tendency to simplify events into familiar events and strengthens the tendency to differentiate events into unfamiliar events. Therefore, less-mindful practice normalizes, more- mindful practice anomalizes. By anomalize we mean that mindfulness captures unique particulars, i.e., differences, nuances, discrepancies, and outliers that slow the speed with which details are normalized. (p. 518)
That statement is genius in what it uncovers about mindfulness and seeing together. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite sentence in that paragraph. But here are two of them:
Mindfulness is important because it weakens the tendency to simplify events into familiar events and strengthens the tendency to differentiate events into unfamiliar events. . . . By anomalize we mean that mindfulness captures unique particulars, i.e., differences, nuances, discrepancies, and outliers that slow the speed with which details are normalized.
Weick and Sutcliffe brilliantly reveal why so many tribes don’t see well together and what can help to correct poor vision. Tribes that don’t see well together let the routine of familiar events—and I would add, their familiarity with each other—remove the possibility of seeing anything new or novel. When a tribe tells itself there is nothing new to see, then guess what? There is nothing new to see. When it comes to mindfulness (and seeing together), the belief that there is nothing new to see is a sure way to miss ingenious solutions that move a mission froward.
If you want to see new potentialities in challenges, opportunities, and your raw materials, your tribe will have to anomalize its everyday events, situations, and views of each other. You do this by breaking a spell that likely has some sway on your tribe. This spell makes tribes lethargic and sometimes even apathetic. Let’s call it the all-is-normal spell. The all-is-normal spell convinces a tribe that today is just like yesterday.
And tomorrow will be just like today. Since everyday events are “normal,” the tribe’s need for collective seeing is unnecessary. There is no need to notice together, because there’s nothing happening that requires it. Everything is just, yep, normal. Beyond normalizing events, the all is normal spell also takes away a tribe’s ability to see each other as individuals with growth potential. Everyone has already been labeled and slotted into what they can and cannot do. Until tribes can see unique elements in their raw materials, as well as in each other, tribal seeing will be limited, to say the least.
If you want to break the all-is-normal spell, here are two anomalizing activities your tribe can practice:
- Value Your Tribe (See people as unique with growth potential, rather than as familiar and static)
- Upgrade The Moment (See every moment, especially the normal ones, as novel and mission-critical)