How to lead organizational renewal? With courage, growth mindset, and experimentation

Blog post
Nando Malmelin
Nando Malmelin työelämäprofessori

VTT organized a series of customer events called Disruption Lab, themed “Courage to lead and renew”. Almost 200 leaders and experts from different organizations took part in the events, which tells about the topic’s importance.

In the events, we had versatile discussions with customers on how to lead organizational renewal in the future. The content of the events was based on VTT's research, where we interviewed business executives of the largest technology industry companies operating in Finland. The research focused on what inhibits companies from renewing and innovating, and what kind of leadership is needed in organizations under transformation.

These issues are becoming more and more critical as companies operate in an increasingly uncertain and complex environment where changes are fast and difficult to anticipate. The escalation of the pandemic highlighted the significance of understanding the dynamics of business renewal.

One particular topic of discussion was the importance of courage in leadership and experimentation. Participants identified the following questions as critical:

  • Where to find the courage to try out uncertain things?
  • How to create courage throughout the work community?
  • Where to find the courage to make bold decisions?
  • How to renew and innovate when current practices feel so comfortable and familiar?

If organizations want to bring these aspects to their everyday operations and management, they need people who know how to:

  • Identify and select productive new models of thinking
  • Coach others towards independent problem solving
  • Strengthen trust and discuss openly
  • Transparently share failures and learn from them
  • Create inspiring visions that guide to renewal.

Uncertainty requires the courage to act

In radical renewal, one of the biggest mistakes is to wait for confirmed information. When change is happening rapidly, verified information is often not available. And when it is finally available, it is usually too late.

Organizations must have the courage to make decisions in radically uncertain situations. However, decision-making will easily be plagued by fear and caution if people try to avoid failures. If everyone is afraid of making mistakes, nobody dares to act. 

Thanks to his statements, Michael Ryan, Executive Director at WHO, has become a messenger of bold leadership. For example, at a press conference concerning the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, he stressed the need for rapid response. Ryan stated that if people need to be right before deciding to take action, they will never win. “Perfection is the enemy of the good”, Ryan said. 

Experimentation requires a growth mindset and the ability to fail. That is why renewing organizations must have the courage to make mistakes. It requires the support of leadership that enables – or even encourages – risky experimentation. 

Leadership is a critical factor in organizational renewal. Good leadership enables change, while weak leadership is a significant obstacle to transformation. Thus, it is especially important in uncertain times for companies to have the courage to lead and act in an open-minded way. 

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Nando Malmelin from VTT was responsible for the keynote and content of the Disruption Lab events, and Erik Bäckman from Miltton was responsible for facilitating the events.
 

 

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