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Flow-based leadership exists when leaders commit to maximizing their own peak performance (“flow”) and to facilitating the flow states of others. This results in team and organizational flow. Meaning making is what binds an organization to its purpose. A recent McKinsey study shows that when people work in flow, their productivity increases by five-fold and has the effect of elevating individual, as well as organizational, well-being. However, as leaders come and go in organizations, the commitment to a model of meaning-making and sustained peak performance can be tainted through politics, silos, and personalities as varied as the leaders themselves. How can an organization sustain a flow-based culture over long periods regardless of who is leading it.
Georgia Smoke Diver (GSD) is an extreme, experiential training program in the fire service. There are over 1,000 GSDs as of this writing. At least 100 of these come back twice a year to help teach the class, which has about 40 students, on their own time and for no pay. They take time away from their families, often using precious vacation time, because they are committed to making firefighters better. This program changes lives. Since 1978, GSD practices mindful leadership development for growing and mentoring leaders. Their model of flow-based leadership fosters cultural intelligence and social capital to identify and nurture leaders over time. This chapter explores the dynamics of how GSD uses design principles to balance deliberate and organically driven leadership development.
Often the context of the twenty-first century is described as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). Influenced by this context, combined with the exponential development of new technologies, how and where we work has changed. Not only that, the VUCA context and different ways of working make it necessary to review the role of and demands on leaders, and the work environment they create.
The purpose of this chapter is four-fold. First, we explore what the changed and challenging context of the twenty-first century means for leadership. Second, we share observations on the impact and influence of the built work environment on culture, workflow, and employees. Third, we identify how and why demands on the physical workplace have changed. Finally, we outline an approach that allows leaders to get the most out of the built environment when it comes to shaping culture, supporting workflow, and contributing toward employee satisfaction.
Today’s business leaders face a global environment that is marked by increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions. Design thinking offers a proven way to navigate in a VUCA environment. I used this approach while serving as a military officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. This chapter focuses on what I learned from applying design thinking to our operations as well as on insights from businesses that have also successfully integrated design thinking. I use the framework “inspire, ideate, and implement” to describe how I utilized design thinking. I finish the chapter with key factors for successfully employing a design methodology to VUCA problems.
Design thinking empowers organizations to tackle successfully VUCA challenges. Inspiration allows designers to frame relevant problems that clients care about. With the pressing challenge in hand, designers immerse themselves in the context of a problem to empathize with a customer’s concerns. They synthesize input from a variety of diverse sources, and meet experts who can give meaning to their collected data. With this comprehensive picture in hand, design teams brainstorm new possibilities as they move into ideation. Taking their ideas out for a test run, they iterate the most promising ways to move into action. They conduct pilot projects, adapt to what works best, and share their learning from the process. Leaders with a design mindset, aligned with a collaborative organizational culture and congruent support systems, can build an innovative enterprise that is primed to thrive in a VUCA world.