Desire drives the creation of 2020’s “ingenious” businesses

A living organism, sometimes even a fragile one, a business exists in and is interlinked with an ecosystem that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). The adventure must therefore be exciting, because it certainly won’t be comfortable: it may spark desire and ingenuity, but it will bring its fair share of fears too.

Leaders and their teams must therefore find a way to activate desire in individuals and teams. Desire to innovate, to take risks, to make things happen; to feel alive, empowered or simply useful. On paper it seems straightforward. In our experience working to empower organisations, however, fear often triumphs over desire. To dramatize the situation, some environments are “on their deathbeds”, trapped in blame culture and zero risk postures, incapable of renewal when circumstances demand speed and agility.

To combat this organisational sclerosis, a golden rule can be applied: P+P=P. Protection + Permission = Power. Mathematically tenuous maybe, but this formula, derived from transactional analysis, creates the conditions for successful empowerment and the realisation of desires. It may even merit a place as the primary principle of leadership taught in management schools.

  • P for Protection

Desire is hard to capture, and is very dependent on its environment. To be harnessed without being snuffed out it needs an inspiring and engaging collective vision, but it also needs a framework, rules, values and shared goals. It is this framework that gives birth to the desire to succeed and “succeed together”. To protect desire, this framework must be created and maintained. It also allows empathetic leadership – not to be confused with sympathetic leadership, which endorses incompetence and accepts complacency.

  • P+P for Permission

To allow desire to be expressed, Walt Disney said you need to allow yourself to dream first and face reality afterwards. Experiencing business as an adventure, a value-creator that reveals talents and rewards initiative, seems to be a valid approach so long as the framework is respected. This “permission” is essential to the future of the business, but it is a bold commitment that requires real human, organisational and financial investments.

  • P+P=P for Power

A business isn’t powerful just because it meets its KPIs or has a strong USP. It’s powerful because it creates a world to which other people want to belong. However complex its operating environment, an empowered organisation makes a strategic choice to protect desire and to support and sustain ingenuity as a true change and inspiration driver. Is the business of 2020 this type of company, where desire triumphs over fears so it can adjust and reinvent itself? Yes, so long as we focus on the factors that drive growth. After that, it’s up to us to make the adventure unforgettable!

Original article (in French) Agefi (16 January 2020):