We recently had the cool opportunity to interview Professor Yves Doz from INSEAD University in Paris and he had three bits of advice for those looking to make a difference: expose yourself to new environments, get curious, and challenge yourself.
He has a great story about a big company CEO who travels alone and incognito when visiting his store locations around the world, and would always use the opportunity to visit local architecture and culture. Without the entourage and fanfare he claims he gets much closer to the people who interact with customers and operate the business every day. Brad Anderson, former CEO of Best Buy, would famously disappear for weeks at a time and drive around, surprise visit Best Buy stores, and ask tons of curious questions to the associates to learn what they think is going to work best for the business.
And finally Professor Doz emphasizes the importance of getting outside your comfort zone and constantly creating new challenges for yourself. Often fear motivates stagnation. The fear of failing can drive people to not try new or challenging things outside their competence, and thus finally arrive at their own level of incompetence. A critical part of challenging oneself involves fostering environments that are unstable by design. He advises reconfiguring resources, roles and business architectures regularly to intentionally create a moderate amount of creative tension. This intentional disruption can aid strategic agility – a phrase he uses to describe the importance of being constantly strategically inventive, not seasonally. Often companies enter a periodic mode of brief strategy sessions followed by longer-term implementation and execution.
So get out, get curious, and challenge yourself!