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‘This is not a war room and we’re not at war’.

– Kamal Sarma

The Art of War has a lot to answer for.  Then again, Sun Tzu was talking about war after all.  He wasn’t talking about nice people in nice suits going about their day.  Yet we rally the troops, we conduct war rooms and wonder about the rank and file on the front lines.  So when did we decide the language of war was well suited to business?

And then there are our corporate strategies and interventions, our mergers and acquisitions … all with their roots in military strategy.

Does it all feel a bit aggressive, a bit masculine, a bit … out of step?

As the incidence of mental health issues reaches unprecedented levels, as employees seek greater work-life balance and as businesses face new pressures from talent shortages and stark economic forecasts, we’re wondering, is it time for us to rethink our approach?

Is it time to set aside military language and practices, for a more balanced, whole-hearted approach to leadership, strategy and how we run our businesses?

As we seek out the new normal following the turmoil of the past few years, we’ve been thinking about this a lot.  At our recent client event, Kamal Sarma gave us plenty to ponder.

Looking after our mental health was a key feature, with a particular focus on the toxicity of our all-pervasive smartphones and technology; interrupting meaningful connection, quiet reflection and being present.

Excessive smartphone use, gaming, binging Netflix … is the antithesis of real human togetherness.  It inhibits our ‘happy chemicals’ (dopamine,  oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins); forms bad habits that can change our neural pathways (e.g.: replacing patience with the need for instant gratification) and, perhaps most starkly, can lead to anxiety, depression, poor sleep and poor health.  Ouch!

This harsh reality struck a chord with each of us, recognising the importance of human connection in our personal and professional lives.

We talked about the importance of ‘unlearning’ and relearning, or, as one of our favourite authors and thinkers Adam Grant suggests, ‘thinking again’.  This, we believe, is at the heart of the matter: rethinking our habits, our assumptions, how we make decisions, how we go about our personal and professional lives.  But rethinking doesn’t necessarily come easily, it is a skill to be honed and adapted.

In his book Think Again, Adam Grant has some great practical tips on how we can develop these skills. We particularly liked the following, focused on creating a learning culture, a key requisite for resilience and future-proofing organisations:

  1. Abandon best practices – best practises suggest that the ideal routines are already in place. If we want people to keep rethinking the way they work, we might be better off adopting process accountability and continually striving for better practices.

  2. Establish psychological safety – in learning cultures, people feel confident that they can question and challenge the status quo without being punished. Psychological safety often starts with leaders role-modelling humility.

  3. Keep a rethinking scorecard – don’t evaluate decisions based only on the results; track how thoroughly different options are considered in the process. A bad process with a good outcome is luck. A good process with a bad outcome might be a smart experiment.

As we challenge ourselves and each other to rethink, it is important to acknowledge that frantic schedules, ubiquitous technology and ingrained habits stand to undermine our capacity to reflect and make substantive, considered change.

So, as we plan the weeks and months ahead, let’s set aside our military metaphors and encourage each other to make time to unplug, be quiet, listen, connect and rethink.

– Mike and the Mozaic Team.

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