Reading Time: 2 minutes
My book review is on Beth Comstock’s book, Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change. Comstock, formerly a GE lifer who rose to be GE Vice Chair, was a change maker who led GE’s push into digital and clean-energy transformation. In the book, Comstock offers guidance on how to become an emergent leader, one “who is ready to meet change early, navigate ambiguity, and help develop a future few can see.” (p. 363)
Much of her guidance includes ideas that I have written about extensively, such as having clear visions and becoming comfortable with ambiguity. Here, I’ll focus on some thoughts that seemed a little different, new, or interesting to me:
Social courage is a skill set that can be developed through practice. The concept originated with the work of Martin Seligman on “Positive Psychology,” which emphasizes the positive rather than the negative. People with high levels of social courage are good at connecting with people and listen more than they talk.
According to Comstock, “Six Sigma created a culture that venerated process, and along the way, our people lost some of their capacity to take smart risks and use personal judgment when making decisions.” (p. 68) I found this quite interesting since I’ve been writing about my Six Sigma concerns for quite some time.
Comstock advocates using business coaches to offer insights and different perspectives to speed up the individual growth process. Why wouldn’t the same benefits apply to teams?
While it’s hard to sell products that don’t address a need, the challenge facing businesses is to adopt a user mindset to find the unaddressed gaps in the market and then, “satisfy unmet—and sometimes unexpressed—needs.” (p. 92)
There is a “wide chasm” between idea discovery and a successful new product or service launch. This “Valley of Death” (the title comes from venture capitalists) is the land where project managers and their teams live. Here, “there are politics to navigate, short-term thinking to overcome, capability gaps to address, budgets to allocate, coalitions to build, and many difficult conversations to work through.” (p. 130)
Conflicts are a given in this land. Get used to that. It will improve your results. Continually work to uncover the conflicts. Avoid the personal and focus on resolving the problems. Use one-on-ones to address conflict when more appropriate. “Give the conflict a name, something funny or memorable to cut the tension.” (p. 133) “To Jeff Bezos, workplace harmony is overrated; conflict is the spice that leads inexorably to innovation.” (p. 166)
We have to get rid of the fear of failure. We have to embrace failure, celebrate failure, and perhaps grieve over our failures. And we have to learn how to fail quickly, frequently, and at the lowest cost.
Thanks for reading. Questions? Just ask.