Innovators need the two Ps

Franklin Delano Roosevelt became America’s 32nd President when the Great Depression was at its worst. There were 13 million unemployed and almost every bank was closed. Under his experimental New Deal program, many Americans found work, kept a roof over their heads and the country regained hope. Roosevelt persisted in the face of skeptics and powerful entrenched interests. “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on,” he’s quoted as saying. More than 50 years later, those who buck conventional wisdom still encounter resistance. Innovators require deep perseverance and perspective, according to leadership expert and author, Meg Wheatley. “So many innovative leaders are struggling to do good, meaningful work in a time of overbearing bureaucracy and failing solutions,” Wheatley says. “Everyone is working harder, and in most cases, in greater isolation. The current pace of work and life, along with increasing fear and anxiety, make it more difficult to have the energy and enthusiasm to keep going.” In 2010 Wheatley published Perseverance for those dedicated to organisational change who seek ways to sustain their effort and peace of mind in the face of adversity. She followed this with the co-authored Walk Out Walk On, a study of innovative leadership and community-building initiatives around the world. In each case, the organisers had walked out of restrictive or confining ways of thinking, and Wheatley argues that anyone can do the same — which might mean changing jobs in some cases, but always means shifting perspective within one’s current situation. Leaders have a clear choice. “They can tap the invisible resource of people who become self-motivated when invited to engage together,” Wheatley says. “This approach has well-documented results in higher productivity, innovation, and motivation, but it requires a shift from a fear-based approach to a belief in the capacity of most people to contribute, to be creative, and to be motivated internally.”

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